Monday, June 28, 2010

SFO: Fanciulla

San Francisco Opera
La Fanciulla del West

Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Lorenzo Mariani

Minnie: Deborah Voigt
Dick Johnson a.k.a. Ramerrez: Salvatore Licitra
Sheriff Jack Rance: Roberto Frontali
Nick: Steven Cole
Sonora: Timothy Mix
Ashby: Kevin Langan
Joe: Brian Jagde
Harry: David Lomelí
Trin: Matthew O’Neill
Handsome: Austin Kness
Sid: Kenneth Overton
Jake Wallace: Trevor Scheunemann
Happy: Igor Vieira
Larkens: Brian Leerhuber
Wowkle: Maya Lahyani
Billy Jackrabbit: Jeremy Milner
Pony Express Rider: Christopher Jackson
José Castro: Bojan Kneževiċ

Sun Jun 27 2010 2pm

After being on the stage before the curtain went up on the Sunday matinee of Fanciulla, I was in the balcony for the actual performance. The orchestra makes a thunderous impression right from the opening chord, & the excitable Maestro Luisotti continued to get a big, lush sound from the orchestra. His conducting evoked the spaciousness of the opera's western setting better than the set, which consists of huge vertical cliffs for all 3 acts.

The singing of all 3 principals was strong. Roberto Frontali's singing & acting projected self-assured power without making Jack Rance into an evil, Scarpia-like, heavy. Deborah Voigt's high notes were big & secure, especially in the finales of Acts II & III. Salvatore Licitra has a beautifully smooth, classically Italian voice. His high notes are very full, & his Ch'ella mi creda was terrific. Even though Puccini does not stop the proceedings for applause, someone yelled a hearty "Bravo!" at the end. I also enjoyed the characterful singing of Timothy Mix as a long-haired Sonora.

The staging of the ending had changed since the dress rehearsal I saw 3 weeks earlier, perhaps because they did not want Minnie's horse to misbehave as he did then. Now, after Minnie dismounts, the horse is led off. Also, the lovers simply walk offstage at the end, instead of riding upstage in a wagon.

During the card playing scene in the Act II, a cell phone rang repeatedly in the last row of the balcony. Everyone in the row dove for their phones, but it kept ringing. Finally, an usher had to ask the offending patron to turn off her phone, as she was evidently not able to hear it herself. During the intermission, this much embarrassed woman approached me, & I helped her disarm the phone.

During the intermission I also had time to read the program notes by the ever-erudite Entartete Musik, who references Gershwin, John Adams & Bernstein, & even manages to find a connection to the Second Viennese School.


Stephen Smoliar said...

Beyond those erudite notes, where do you come down on
Luisotti's comments
that connect this score to Salome and Pelléas? My own
is that he had a point, but the only Salome connection had to do with the through-composed style. (That same conclusion also argued that the connections had far less significance than Luisotti presumed them to have!)

More interesting is the very idea that Puccini would have a connection to the Second Viennese School. If we go by what we grasp on the "surface structure" of the listening experience, there is definitely evidence; but I am not convinced it is in Fanciulla. My own
is that there are passages in Turandot that could easily have been influenced by Gurrelieder; and I take this as an endorsement of both Schoenberg's impact and Puccini's listening acuity! (Of course there is also that choral passage in Gurrelieder that suggests that Schoenberg was studying Verdi's Requiem while working on his own composition!)

Axel Feldheim said...

I am fascinated when Mr. Plumley & others are able to find interesting connections, but to me Fanciulla sounds like... like Puccini: The short phrases, the oriental orchestral coloration, the feeling of a deep-vista. And I find it funny that the one thing it does not sound is American!