Thursday, January 19, 2012

Sneak Preview of The Great Gatsby

Tuesday evening Ensemble Parallèle held an informative preview event for their up-coming production of John Harbison's opera of The Great Gatsby. Composer Jacques Desjardins gave us a detailed explanation of his reorchestration for chamber ensemble. His challenge was to use fewer instruments yet preserve the original score's orchestral colors. He proudly showed us pages of the score demonstrating his solutions for replacing the "singular voice of the harp" with other instruments. Harbison himself has sanctioned Mr. Desjardins's work.

Conductor Nicole Paiement laid out the opera's structure & pointed out musical motifs & places where the orchestra foreshadows the story. Her close study of the score was evident. 6 members of the cast were on hand to perform excerpts, accompanied by the piano. All the singers dropped easily into their roles. Soprano Susannah Biller is a strong & steady-voiced Daisy, & I liked the sultry passage we heard with her & mezzo Julienne Walker as Jordan. Tenor Dan Snyder sounds appropriately firm & muscular as Tom Buchanan. Mezzo Erin Neff was a very direct actress as Myrtle in her Train Aria, & baritone Jason Detwiler fittingly reflective in one of Nick Caraway's arias. Tenor Marco Panuccio as Gatsby sounded suave & was lightly comic in a short dialogue accompanied by one of Harbisons' original jazz tunes. We also heard an ensemble with multiple characters expressing their differing thoughts, which Ms. Paiement described as Mozart-like.

Finally director Brian Staufenbiel discussed the staging. He claimed to "abandon realism" in the set design, though the pictures he showed us clearly indicated the locations, but without filling them up with realistic details. Video projections will animate the sets both from behind & in front, & Mr. Staufenbiel showed us a video for the eyeglasses billboard, which comes to life & watches the characters. The presentation ended with a brief Q&A & a reception with the musicians & production staff.

Ensemble Parallèle presents The Great Gatsby By John Harbison on February 10, 11 And 12, 2012 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center For The Arts.

§ Sneak Preview of The Great Gatsby

Ensemble Parallèle
Conductor, Nicole Paiement
Director, Brian Staufenbiel
Pianist, Keisuke Nakagoshi

Susannah Biller (Daisy Buchanan)
Marco Panuccio (Gatsby)
Dan Snyder (Tom Buchanan)
Jason Detwiler (Nick Carraway)
Julienne Walker (Jordan Baker)
Erin Neff (Myrtle Wilson)

January 17 2012, 6:00pm
Sol Joseph Recital Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music

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