Monday, July 07, 2014

SF Opera: La Traviata

Over the weekend I heard the 2nd cast of San Francisco Opera's summer production of La Traviata. All the principals were solid. Soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a high-energy performance in the title role. I felt the same power behind both her big high notes & her soft, quiet ones. Her Violetta was a strong woman, even in capitulation. Tenor Stephen Costello sounded resonant, vigorous & free, & he portrayed a convincingly youthful & inexperienced Alfredo. Baritone Quinn Kelsey sang Germont with an attractive smooth, supple sound that was nicely colored. He might have made the character more sympathetic than he should be. Conductor Giuseppe Finzi led briskly & with clearly accented phrasing. The oboe & clarinet solos were beautifully legato & delicate.

The production from the 1980s is traditional & uses a lot of crinoline. It was nice to recognize Adler Fellows past & present filling the party scenes. Flora's party was particularly lively, featuring a flashy trio of alarmingly good-looking flamenco dancers as well as a public spanking. The curtain was up during the 1st intermission so the audience could watch the set change, while Production Director Greg Weber gave a live color commentary from the stage & took questions via Twitter. Someone wanted to know if Violetta drank real wine on stage.
This was also the performance being simulcast live to several thousand at AT&T Park for Opera at the Ballpark. The video cameras are so cunningly concealed that it looked like a normal perfomance to those of us in the house, except that the cast donned Giants gear for their curtain calls. I was in upstairs standing room & saw a lot of latecomers taking their seats in the balcony during the overture. A gentleman in the 2nd-to-last row kept flopping his head backward, & I was worried that he was going to snap his neck.

§ La Traviata
Music By Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Giuseppe Finzi
Original Director: John Copley
Director: Laurie Feldman

Violetta Valéry: Ailyn Pérez
Doctor Grenvil: Andrew Craig Brown
Baron Douphol: Dale Travis
Flora Bervoix: Zanda Švēde
Marquis d'Obigny: Hadleigh Adams
Annina: Erin Johnson
Gastone: Daniel Montenegro
Alfredo Germont: Stephen Costello
Giuseppe: Christopher Jackson
Messenger: Bojan Knežević
Giorgio Germont: Quinn Kelsey
Flora's Servant: Torlef Borsting

Solo Dancers: Fanny Ara, Devon LaRussa, Timo Nuñez

Sat 07/5/14 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

4 comments:

Michael Strickland said...

I love the phrase "alarmingly good-looking flamenco dancers," though I disapprove of public spanking scenes on opera stages because it always looks stupid.

As for all the crinoline, I actually saw this Copley production on its opening night when it was a vehicle for the debut of the British soprano Valerie Masterson, and the evening was one hilarious disaster after another.

In the first act, Violetta's white shawl somehow made its way to the stage floor where people kept dragging it unintentionally across the stage with their big costumes. Finally, a chorister or super picked it up after about ten minutes and a number of us applauded, loudly. The second act was supposedly set in winter and there was to be snow outside the large French windows but it was snowing inside the room instead, so a stagehand was dispatched to sneak behind the window and fix something, but all the audience in the balcony saw was a butt slowly bobbing up and down in the window. In act three, the energetic but nondescript flamenco dancers piled their tambourines on a table and of course the soprano playing Flora, during her one little aria, got one of them caught by a bow on her huge crinoline dress, and the damn thing rattled away for five minutes while the poor woman looked bewildered about where the sound was coming from. The last act was disappointingly disaster-free unless you count Violetta's death scene, and I never do.

Axel Feldheim said...

Those flamenco dancers were definitely ready for their simulcast close-ups, &, yes, it is very silly for a grown-person to be spanked.

Those debut night mishaps are too funny, specially Flora's extra tambourine accessory! They could have just let it snow inside the room & called it Eurotrash afterward.

David Lasson said...

Is Giorgio Germont a sympathetic character? I think so. Although the elder Germont is a member of the social class that treats women like Violetta as chattel, Verdi takes pains to individualize--and, not unrelated, to "sympathize" him: hear especially the beginning of his aria's second verse as sung my the incomparable Lawrence Tibbett: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSccp2GRhs4
How is this accomplished? I see Verdi's use of what we might call "individualizing melody" as continuing a tradition started by Beethoven during his middle period, in such works as the slow movements of the "Emperor" concerto and the "Appassionata" sonata. In both Verdi and Beethoven, this aspect of their art (though evident in their earlier works: Verdi's "Macbeth" and "Nabucco" and the slow movement of Beethoven's first string quartet, for example) becomes emblematic of their middle period maturity. While Beethoven invented this kind of melody in order to individualize himself, Verdi pressed it into service for the sake of characters he wanted to sympathize.

Axel Feldheim said...

Well, I must try to be more understanding of old Germont the next time around!