Monday, October 10, 2011

SF Opera: Lucrezia Borgia

SF Opera: Lucrezia BorgiaThough receiving scant encouragement, I attended SF Opera's Lucrezia Borgia on Saturday night. The opera is in 3 short acts, & the music is agreeably melodic though not very memorable. I heard Renée Fleming sing half-voice in the dress rehearsal, but in performance her voice turns out to be not that loud. It is comfy, natural & easy on the ears, though not as mellifluous as one would expect for bel canto. She effortlessly sustained a lovely mezzo-forte note at the end of act 1.

Mezzo Elizabeth DeShong, looking like a 12-year old boy in the pants role of Orsini, demonstrated power in all parts of her range & gave an intensely focused performance. I liked tenor Michael Fabiano's ringing sound & dramatically convincing stage-presence as Lucrezia's unacknowledged son. His costumes expose his well-developed pecs, making him a dishy Gennaro. Bass Vitalij Kowaljow was an intimidating Duke of Ferrara. His voice is solid & dark & his singing nicely connected. Also fine was the posse of male singers, many of them Adlers, playing various courtiers. Conductor Riccardo Frizza made large round gestures, & I thought the orchestra played well, but I wished the music had more punch.

The production has a period Renaissance setting dominated by a broad staircase & high stone walls. Every scene seems to take place outdoors in the middle of the night. I found act 3 to be particularly arbitrary. I don't think it made sense for Gennaro to be making out with his buddy Orsini. Lucrezia enters wearing armor, a cape & a sword, looking like a Renaissance super hero. I also didn't understand why her poisoning victims were carried out, only to be dragged back on stage during the final moments. And Lucrezia's gory suicide felt unprepared for.

My opera companion & I were in standing room at the orchestra level, then lucked out when 2 old ladies gave us their excellent center orchestra seats for act 3. When my companion saw the Borgia's bull statue in act 2, she whispered, "Wall Street." She was also upset when I gave away the "surprise" revelation that Gennaro is Lucrezia's son.

§ Lucrezia Borgia
by Gaetano Donizetti

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Director: John Pascoe

Apostolo Gazello: Austin Kness
Ascanio Petrucci: Ao Li
Maffio Orsini: Elizabeth DeShong
Jeppo Liverotto: Christopher Jackson
Oloferno Vitellozzo: Brian Jagde
Gubetta: Igor Vieira
Gennaro: Michael Fabiano
Lucrezia Borgia: Renée Fleming
Duke Alfonso: Vitalij Kowaljow
Rustighello: Daniel Montenegro
Jeppo Liverotto: Christopher Jackson
Astolfo: Ryan Kuster
Princess Negroni: Blance Hampton
Ladies of the Court: Mary Finch, Claire Kelm, Sally Mouzon, Sally Monro
A Voice: Jere Torkelsen

Sat 10/8/11 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

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