Sunday, August 21, 2011

Merola Grand Finale 2011

Saturday night Merola Opera ended their 2011 season with an abundant 3 hour concert in the War Memorial Opera House. 20 singers presented 17 scenes. The cast, in formal evening wear, performed on the cartoonish set of SF Opera's up-coming Turandot. Director Ragnar Conde staged each scene as a miniature play, often with props & mute characters. This year's Merolini have been a consistently strong group, & this event is a sort of graduation exercise for them. Bass-baritone Philippe Sly sustained great dramatic tension in his scene from Handel's Ariodante. He is a simply captivating performer. After more than an hour of 18th & 19th century music, it was startling when the 1st half ended with the 21st century Dr. Atomic. Baritone Jonathan Michie sang "Batter my heart" with a big sound, big gestures & a biting enunciation of his k's. He was absolutely shattering. He was accompanied on stage by fellow Merolini waving flashlights, which seems a bit weak for a scene that refers to the atom bomb.

The 2nd half opened with bass Peixin Chen & soprano Suzanne Rigden hamming it up shamelessly in the soprano/bass duel from Entfürung. Mr. Chen got laughs showing off his outrageously effortless bass notes. Tenor Cooper Nolan sang fervently & communicated urgency in his scene from Lucia. Baritone Joo Won Kang involvingly expressed the torment of his character in his scene from the Pearl Fishers. Soprano Marina Boudart Harris was a mature & poised Arabella, & I liked her full, matronly sound. In a call-to-arms scene from I Puritani, bass Adam Lau was a reliable warrior, sounding loud but controlled.

The evening ended raucously with the Act I finale from L'Italiana in Algeri, featuring mezzo Renée Rapier as a hip-wagging, piece-of-my-mind Isabella. She made me want to see her do the whole role. Mr. Sly was a hilarious Mustafà, dancing around her with mincing steps while his voice bounced just as agilely. When chaos breaks out, everyone starts moving in slow motion, & Mr. Nolan displayed comic aplomb with his slowly rotating arabesque. By the end, the cast, manipulating spears, umbrellas & banners in synchrony, turns into a spinning, blinking machine. Even the program's accompanists got in on the act, singing as part of the chorus.

§ Merola Grand Finale 2011
San Francisco Opera Orchestra
Conductor - Johannes Debus
Stage Director - Ragnar Conde

Semiramide by Gioachino Rossini

"Au fond du temple saint" from Les pêcheurs de perles by George Bizet
Nadir - Scott Quinn
Zurga - Mark Diamond

"Suis-je gentille ainsi?...Je marche sur tous les chemins" from Manon by Jules Massenet
Manon - Elizabeth Zharoff
Chorus - Cooper Nolan, Scott Quinn, Mark Diamond, Joo Won Kang

"Zazà, piccolo zingara" from Zazà by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Cascart - Guodong Feng

"Bel raggio lusinghier" from Semiramide by Gioachino Rossini
Semiramide - Laura Krumm

"Andiam, fidi, al consiglio...Invida sorte avara" from Ariodante by G. F. Handel
Il Rè - Philippe Sly
Odoardo - Daniel Curran
Harpsichord - Robert Mollicone

"Sei tu?...Minacciata è la mia vita" from Lucrezia Borgia by Gaetano Donizetti
Orsini - Renée Rapier
Gennaro - Heath Huberg

"Vy tak pichalni...Ya vas Lubyu" from The Queen of Spades by Pyotr Tchaikovsky
Lisa - Elizabeth Zharoff
Yeletsky - Suchan Kim

"Batter my heart" from Dr. Atomic by John Adams
Oppenheimer - Jonathan Michie

"Ich gehe doch rate ich dir" from Die Entfürung aus dem Serail by W.A. Mozart
Blonde - Suzanne Rigden
Osmin - Peixin Chen

"Divinités du Styx" from Alceste by Christoph Gluck
Alceste - Deborah Nansteel

"Lucia, perdona...Sulla tomba che rinserra...Verranno a te" from Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti
Lucia - Xi Wang
Edgardo - Cooper Nolan

"L'orage s'est calmé...O Nadir..." from Les pêcheurs de perles by George Bizet
Zurga - Joo Won Kang

"Das war sehr gut Mandryka" from Arabella by Richard Strauss
Arabella - Marina Boudart Harris
Mandryka - John Maynard

"O patria...O tu Palermo" from I vespri siciliani by Giuseppe Verdi
Procida - Peixin Chen

"Tornami a dir che m'ami" from Don Pasquale by Gaetano Donizetti
Norina - Xi Wang
Ernesto - Daniel Curran

"Il rival salvar tu dêi...Suoni la tromba" from I Puritani by Vicenzo Bellini
Riccardo - John Maynard
Giorgio - Adam Lau

"Oh che muso" from L'Italiana in Algeri by Gioachino Rossini
Elvira - Suzanne Rigden
Isabella - Renée Rapier
Zulma - Deborah Nansteel
Lindoro - Cooper Nolan
Mustafà - Philippe Sly
Taddeo - Suchan Kim
Haly - Joo Won Kang

Musical Preparation: Timothy Cheung, Robert Mollicone, Ana María Otamendi, Clinton Smith

Saturday, August 20th, 7:30pm
War Memorial Opera House

§ Photo credit: Stefan Cohen

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