Scene transitions had beautiful choreography. The grand hall of the Jia family is appropriately ostentatious, & as its multi-plane backdrop rose into place, I felt like I was floating above the landscape. The transformation of Granny Jia's deathbed into a funeral bier was efficient & clever. The costumes were opulent.
The cast was uniformly strong & ardent. Tenor Yijie Shi as Bao Yu sounded open & clarion & acted befittingly like a feckless teenager in act 1. Soprano Pureum Jo as his love interest Dai Yu sang with a consistent, solid sound & had nice soft notes. I liked mezzo Hyona Kim as the imperious Lady Wang. Her singing was expressive & emphatic. Soprano Irene Roberts was a pragmatic Bao Chai. Her sound was full, & she was impressively resolute in her act 2 monologue. Soprano Karen Chia-ling Ho was a rueful Princess Jia & sang confidently. The soloists are almost all high voices, so it was nice hearing the male voices of the chorus.
George Manahan, & the clarinet solos were especially lovely.
The choppy storyline includes elements of romance, domestic drama, politics & Buddhist philosophy. Mr. Hwang's English language libretto is prosaic & even bald, particularly in the erotic dream scene. Supertitles & program notes were accommodatingly provided in both English & Chinese, & there were definitely more Asian faces in the audience than I am used to seeing at the opera.
open curtain during intermission, with director Stan Lai talking about the production & taking questions via Twitter. The audience seemed attentive. Mr. Sheng was present to take a curtain call at the end of the performance.
§ Dream of the Red Chamber
Music by Bright Sheng
Libretto by David Henry Hwang and Bright Sheng
San Francisco Opera
Conductor, George Manahan
Director, Stan Lai
Production Designer, Tim Yip
Lighting Designer, Gary Marder
Choreographer, Fang-Yi Sheu
Chorus Director, Ian Robertson
Fight Director, Dave Maier
Flower/Dai Yu, Pureum Jo
Stone/Bao Yu, Yijie Shi
Lady Wang, Hyona Kim
Bao Chai, Irene Roberts
Granny Jia, Qiulin Zhang
Princess Jia, Karen Chia-ling Ho
Aunt Xue, Yanyu Guo
The Monk/Dreamer, Randall Nakano
Lady-in-Waiting/Flower, Toni Marie Palmertree, Amina Edris, Zanda Švēde
Eunuch/Stone, Pene Pati, Alex Boyer, Edward Nelson
Tuesday 09/13/16 7:30PM
War Memorial Opera House