Tuesday, October 13, 2015

PBO: Scarlatti’s Glory of Spring

Last Friday night I heard Philharmonia Baroque's performance of Scarlatti's La Gloria di Primavera, a sort of extended secular cantata original written to celebrate the birth of the male heir of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1716. PBO touted these performances as the 1st in nearly 300 years. 5 soloists represent the seasons plus the god Jove. The text is fulsome, sycophantic & dramatically static, but the singers did a nice job creating characters & having fun with it where possible.

All the roles are virtuosic, & the entire cast displayed agility & charm. Mezzo Diana Moore was stable & rooted throughout her fancy coloratura passages. Soprano Suzana Ograjenšek's singing was youthful, clean & flirtatious. Countertenor Clint van der Linde's voice sounded firm & well-inflated. Tenor Nicholas Phan was wonderfully expressive & sang his rage arias colorfully. His rich, smooth timbre seemed well-suited for this music. Baritone Douglas Williams made the audience laugh the moment he stepped on stage & gave an engaging & comic performance as the pompous god Jove. HIs acting made the woman next to me downright giggly. His voice was solid & had some weight, & he gamely executed his music's unwieldy leaps. An additional 5 singers joined the soloists for the choruses & blended in neatly.

Everything felt tidy & well-rehearsed. Conductor Nicholas McGegan was a vivacious leader & kept the music spry & sparkling. The orchestra sounded bouncy & adroit. The orchestra was on the floor in front of the stage, except for 2 lutes & the flute & trumpet soloists who joined the singers on the stage. I sometimes felt that the music had a lot of filler, & the evening ran long, the 1st half lasting an hour & the 2nd half running 85 minutes. The performance was being recorded for a CD to be released next year.

The audience was attentive & respectful, applauding only at the end of each half. A man at the end of our row was particularly vocal in expressing his approval at the end. No printed libretto was supplied, but there were supertitles. As the lights went down at the start, an outside door squeaked loudly as it closed, which caused some titters

It was good to be back in the renovated Herbst Theatre, which looked spruced up & brighter. The acoustic sounded clearer to me as well. There is now a downstairs bar, & I enjoyed having a drink during intermission with friends who had all attended SF Opera's Lucia the previous night.

§ Scarlatti’s Glory of Spring
La Gloria di Primavera
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 - 1725)

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Suzana Ograjenšek, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
Clint van der Linde, countertenor
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Douglas Williams, baritone

Members of the Philharmonia Chorale
Heidi Waterman, soprano
Jennifer Ashworth, soprano
Katherine McKee, alto
David Kurtenbach, tenor
John Bischoff, bass

Fri. 9 Oct. @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco

No comments: