Opera San José puts on a good show. Last Sunday I attended their grandly staged Idomeneo. A pre-curtain supertitle informed us that the historically accurate production is based on the art of Minoan Crete, & we indeed saw scenic Minoan frescoes, period costumes & a massive 3-story temple. A super even carries on a vase authentically decorated with an octopus.
The performance lasted over 3 and a half hours & encompassed an aria for Arbace in Act III, Idomeneo's final aria "Torna la pace," & the ballet music. Conductor George Cleve was neither too fast nor too slow, & he made it easy to sit through the long acts. He established such an even flow that it felt like an abrupt interruption when Act I ended. The orchestra followed him well, though the strings predominated, & I often had a hard time hearing the winds & brass.
Soprano Sandra Bengochea was a strong-voiced, coquettish Ilia. She almost seemed to be seducing Idomeneo in her Act II aria. Mezzo Betany Coffland has a bright, high-sounding voice, but conveyed masculinity as Idamente. Tenor Alexander Boyer in the title role sounded both weighty & soft-edged. He seemed scared of the coloratura passages, but he valiantly made it through "Fuor del mar" & the punishing "Torna la pace" without incident. Soprano Jasmina Halimic had a powerful, focused sound as Elettra. She pulled out all the stops for her mad scene, reaching a frightening level of insanity in the scored laughter. Other highlights included the Act II trio & the stately opening of the sacrifice scene. Silas Elash's authoritative Heavenly Voice came down into the auditorium through an opening in the ceiling, &, instead of instead of trombones, the house's theater organ blasted the audience. It was earth-shaking.
The cast includes a good-sized chorus, a scantily-clad corps de ballet & a handful of supers, so the stage never looked under-populated. The dancers recreated poses from Minoan paintings & mimicked a bull-leaping stunt in the ballet. The staging incorporated Neptune, played by a bare-chested actor with long white hair, a crown & intimidating pecs. He looked like The Little Mermaid's father. At key moments, he walked on stage like Banquo's ghost, seen only by Idomeneo.
The San Jose audience was quiet, attentive & appreciative throughout, & they responded with a standing ovation. I attended thanks to the Opera Tattler, & it was a pleasant surprise when we ran across the effervescent Out West Arts during the 1st intermission. We also chatted with Oboeinsight, taking her break without leaving the pit & clearly enjoying this gig. Interestingly, the production is double cast, with Idamante sung by a tenor instead of a mezzo in alternate performances. The cordial Opera San José sells fresh baked chocolate chip cookies in the rear lobby, & the smell is irresistible.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Opera San José
Conductor: George Cleve
Stage Director: Brad Dalton
Choreographer: Dennis Nahat
Set DesignerL Steven C. Kemp
Costume Designer: Johann Stegmeir
Ilia: Sandra Bengochea
Elettra: Jasmina Halimic
Idamante: Betany Coffland
Idomeneo: Alexander Boyer
Arbace: Nova Safo
High Priest: Mathew Edwardsen
The Voice: Silas ElashTrojan Men: Jo Vincent Parks, Raymond Chavez
Cretan Women: Tori Grayum, Jillian Boye
Nettuno (non-singing): Paul Gemignani
Opera San José Orchestra, Chorus, Dancers and Supers
California Theatre, San José
Sun., Sept. 11, 2011 3 p.m.