Wednesday, September 22, 2010

SFO: Figaro

Last night I was glad to be at the first night of SF Opera's Figaro. I enjoyed the strong casting in both the large & small roles. Luca Pisaroni has a fresh, bright-sounding voice, & his Figaro is youthful, swaggering & angry. Danielle de Niese is a plucky Susanna, both vocally & visually pretty. She & Figaro were a frisky couple. Lucas Meachem's warm & even voice was a good contrast to Pisaroni. His Count was often frustrated but not too menacing. Ellie Dehn's Countess was civilized & restrained, in both singing & acting. John Del Carlo was terrific as Dr. Bartolo, & Greg Fedderly was hilariously distateful as Don Basilio, in Act I sniffing the Countess's laundry & grotesquely squeezing a pimple on his face. Even in the minor part of the drunkard Antonio, Bojan Kneževiċ raised the level of the ensembles with his copious bass-baritone.

Nicola Luisotti led a reduced orchestra, & the tempos were consistently fast. For the first time, his lack of precision bothered me, though the speedy pace did give me the feeling that the whole opera takes place in one frenetic day. In the last act the music did pause briefly for a moment of pathos for the Countess. Maestro Luisotti also manned the fortepiano for the recitatives, occasionally interjecting with a sassy musical aside or a bit of a Mozart piano sonata.

The familiar staging by John Copley is traditional & good-humored, & the audience laughed in all the right places. With only 1 intermission, the whole thing lasts just under 3 1/2 hours. During the 5 minute scene changes, many members of the audience stood like it was the 7th inning stretch. Following the performance, General Director David Gockley presented Mr.Copley with the San Francisco Opera Medal. Since 1982, only 6 seasons have passed without one of his productions. After citing some of the famous singers who have received the medal in the past, Mr. Copley said he was proud to be on the diva list at last.

I spent part of the evening in the tow of the Opera Tattler, who introduced me to Adler Fellows David Lomeli & Leah Crocetto as if they were old friends, which I guess they are! Ms. Crocetto is covering the Countess for these performances. I also witnessed the Opera Tattler & the Last Chinese Unicorn, those partners in crime, plotting their next opera star interview on their trip to LA Opera this weekend.

Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: John Copley

Figaro: Luca Pisaroni
Susanna: Danielle de Niese
Countess Almaviva: Ellie Dehn
Cherubino: Michèle Losier
Count Almaviva: Lucas Meachem
Marcellina: Catherine Cook
Don Basilio: Greg Fedderly
Doctor Bartolo: John Del Carlo
Don Curzio: Robert MacNeil
Antonio: Bojan Kneževiċ
Barbarina: Sara Gartland
First bridesmaid: Mary Finch
Second bridesmaid: Erin Neff

War Memorial Opera House
Tue Sep 21 2010 8pm


David Lasson said...

Two related points:
1. I think that your sense that "the whole opera takes place in one frenetic day" is a great compliment to the production. And while some of this may be due to Luisotti's brisk tempos, it is likely there are other factors in play--though it may be difficult to ascertain exactly what they are. We know this from comparing different recordings of the same piece: sometimes one performance is longer than another, but sounds faster--or more frenetic, as the case may be. Then, too, it is possible to imagine a performance with extremely fast tempi, but no sense of the frenetic at all.
2. An outstanding performance of this opera would sound frenetic without any loss of precision--but those performances are rare.

Axel Feldheim said...

It is true that actual real-time speed does not always correspond to perceived speed. The tempos certainly seemed fast to me. Maybe I just wish this evening had at least one more intermission.

The Opera Tattler said...

Golly, Herr Feldheim, surely I've known Mr. Lomelí and Ms. Crocetto only a scant 2 years, at best!

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, that is still more than a casual acquaintance. Mr. Lomeli clearly follows you on line, at any rate.