Thursday, October 09, 2014

SF Opera: Un Ballo in Maschera

Tuesday night I heard Un Ballo in Maschera at the San Francisco Opera. Soprano Julianna Di Giacomo as Amelia sounded strong, resonant & healthy, & the gallows scene & her pleading scene in act 3 were highlights of the evening. The production is double cast, & baritone Brian Mulligan was this evening's Renato. His voice was cushy & controlled, & he gave me the feeling he was always right on target. His "Eri tu" was firm. Tenor Ramón Vargas as the king made a consistent sound that was weighty & dark, & his singing was contained. Soprano Heidi Stober chased her hat a lot as the page Oscar. She sounded youthful, bright & a little brash. It was good to hear mezzo Dolora Zajick as the fortune teller Ulrica. Her hefty, potent voice seems to originate from somewhere beneath her feet. I also enjoyed the hearty singing of baritone Efraín Solis as one of her customers.

Conductor Nicola Luisotti led with vehemence & constantly propelled the music, sometimes pushing the singers. The orchestra played out & the string sound was heavy. The fortissimo chords at the beginning of the gallows scene were like gun shots. The English horn accompanying Amelia's "Ma dall'arido stela divulsa" evoked the darkness of night beautifully.

The production sets the action in 18th century Sweden, with the cast in opulent period dress. The audience applauded when the curtain came up on the costumed chorus in the final scene. The old-fashioned staging felt flat. Scores for the Giants vs. Nationals game were displayed via supertitles during pauses for set changes & the intermissions.

§ Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball)
Giuseppe Verdi
San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Jose Maria Condemi

Amelia: Julianna Di Giacomo
Oscar: Heidi Stober
Gustavus III (Riccardo): Ramón Vargas
Count Anckarström (Renato): Brian Mulligan
Madame Arvidson (Ulrica): Dolora Zajick
Count Horn (Tommaso): Scott Conner
Count Ribbing (Samuele): Christian Van Horn
Christian (Silvano): Efraín Solis
Judge: A.J. Glueckert
Amelia's Servant: Christopher Jackson

Tue 10/7/14 7:30pm
War Memorial Opera House

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