Merola Grand Finale
War Memorial Opera House
Saturday, August 22, at 7:30 pm
Antony Walker, Conductor
San Francisco Opera Orchestra
Fernando Parra Borti, Stage Director
The 23 singers in this summer's Merola Opera Program presented a mixed program of 20 operatic numbers on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House on Saturday night. It was a user-friendly program with extracts from Handel to Rachmaninoff. All the performers seemed to be having a good night & to be enjoying the rewards of 3 months of intensive work. The setting was a stage within the stage, & good use was made of the entire space.
Clear audience favorites included seduction scenes from Rigoletto & Carmen. Nathaniel Peake as the Duke had a big, supple voice which rose comfortably to the high notes. Maya Lahyani was a sexy, confident Carmen & took complete command of the jailbreak scene. She looked & sounded ready to sing the role tomorrow & make it her own.
I liked Suzanne Hendrix's authentic contralto sound as Cornelia in Giulio Cesare. Margaret Gawrysiak put intense dramatic weight into her scene from Tchaikovsky's Joan of Arc. I was intrigued by the monologue from Aleko, sung musically & with a nice dramatic flow by Yohan Yi. The orchestra accompanied him with some wonderfully lush string playing. I did not even know that there were Rachmaninoff operas, but now I want to hear them. Caitlin Mathes & Paul Scholten gave genuinely amusing performances as Rosina & Figaro in their Act I duet from Barbieri. Kate Crist & Gregory Carroll seemed to pick up where they left off in the Schwabacher Summer Concert, performing a later scene between Senta & Erik from Holländer. This time Senta was angry enough to throw the only chair to be found on stage. The evening ended with the finale of Verdi's Falstaff, with all the singers lined up to call us fools.
And there was a bit of foolery in the air that night. A Beast may have been hot on the heels of the best-dressed woman from the moment she entered the house. SFMike kept appearing & disappearing & then was almost personally offended to discover that there does not seem to be a row Q in orchestra seating. During the performance, a woman in my row insisted on conversing, despite repeated reprovals from those around her. Perhaps she was hard of hearing & was unaware that there was singing going on & that her own voice could be heard.