San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Spring Opera: The Rake's Progress by Igor Stravinsky
Fully-staged student opera
Saturday, April 10, 7:30 PM
Richard Harrell, Director
Bruno Ferrandis, Guest Conductor
Sonja Krenek, Anne Trulove
Eleazar Rodriguez, Tom Rakewell
Cole Grissom, Nick Shadow
Melissa Hight, Baba the Turk
Molly Mahoney, Mother Goose
James McGoff, Father Trulove
Michael Desnoyers, Sellem
Daniel Epstein, Jailor
I saw the 3rd of 4 performances of The Rake's Progress put on by the SFCM at Cowell Theater over the weekend. The staging had many ideas very fitting to the opera. The action takes place in front of a giant gilded picture frame that gradually collapses as Tom's life spirals downward. The entire cast was in attractive 18th century costumes, & Baba the Turk's possessions included a mummy, a giant tortoise & a 3 foot penguin. Nick Shadow progresses from a young man in livery to the stereotypical image of Mephistopheles & makes his final exit through an open grave spewing stage smoke.
Tenor Eleazar Rodriguez was excellent as Tom Rakewell. His voice is a dark & earthy, & I enjoyed listening to it. He has a genuine desire to communicate with the audience, & he gave a mature performance. In the auction scene, tenor Michael Desnoyers gave a brilliant characterization of Sellem, his voice bright & his diction very clear. In fact this whole scene, with the chorus playing a diverse crowd of greedy buyers, was a highlight of the evening.
The pit band was of chamber ensemble proportions, & this suited Stravinsky's baroque-inflected score very well. Conductor Bruno Ferrandis uses very clear gestures, & he often elicited incisive playing from the orchestra. I liked the playing of both flutes in particular.
I was seated next to an older gentleman who claimed that the only other opera he had ever been to was a Zauberflöte in Salzburg. He pronounced the Conservatory's performance "amusing", though he did not come back to his seat after the 2nd intermission.