Monday, November 14, 2011

La Voix Humaine/Pagliacci

This weekend I attended the opening performance of this Opera San José double bill. I'd never heard La Voix Humaine before, & it doesn't even get an entry in my old edition of Kobbé's Complete Opera. In this hour-long monodrama, a suicidal woman desperately tries to stay in contact with her lover over an unreliable phone line. He has recently abandoned her, & her extreme neediness is both pathetic & annoying. The performance moved at a careful pace & the staging began with a long, uncomfortable silence. Mezzo Betany Coffland sounded secure, controlled & grounded despite her character's near-hysteria. The vocal line is speech-like, & there are no arias. The orchestra punctuates in short bursts, & it seems like they have more rests than notes. At the end, I felt like I'd sat through a play rather than an opera. The supportive audience gave Ms. Coffland a warm reception, & the front row stood for her. The set nicely represented The Woman's posh 1940s apartment without needing to depict every detail.

The set for Pagliacci was minimal, so the attractive costumes instead provided the visual interest. The staging made the action so clear that I never felt the need to read the supertitles. I enjoyed the performance of baritone Evan Brummel, who has a belting, resonant voice & was a skulking & malevolent Tonio. In the final moments, he hands Canio the knife used to kill Nedda & Silvio. Tenor Alexander Boyer as Canio has a pleasant & somewhat light voice, & his high notes are bright & ringing. I felt he rushed through "Vesti la giubba." Soprano Jasmina Halimic is a forceful singer & a fully invested actress. I liked watching her Nedda's wary reactions during Canio's "Un tal giocco, credetimi." Baritone Krassen Karagiozov was convincing playing Silvio as a handsome country bumpkin. I also liked the spirited children's chorus, who have a lot to do during the play scene. The orchestra's playing was uneven at times, though the woodwinds, & especially the flute, sounded fine. The brasses were clean & blended. An error message of some sort appeared on the back projection in the last moments of the show. The audience gave the performance an immediate standing ovation.

During the 1st intermission my opera companion & I stopped by the pit for a chat with the delightful Oboeinsight, who told us that the counting was actually the hardest part of playing the Poulenc. She also alerted us to the intermission during Pagliacci, which we had not noticed in the program.

§ Pagliacci & La Voix Humaine
Opera San José

§ La Voix Humaine
Conductor, Bryan Nies
Stage Director, Layna Chianakas

The Woman, Betany Coffland

§ Pagliacci
Conductor, Bryan Nies
Stage Director, Cynthia Stokes

Canio, Alexander Boyer
Nedda, Jasmina Halimic
Tonio, Evan Brummel
Silvio, Krassen Karagiozov
Beppe, Michael Dailey

Sat., Nov. 12, 2011 8 p.m.

§ Production Photos: P. Kirk

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