Monday, April 12, 2010

SFCM: The Rake's Progress

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Spring Opera: The Rake's Progress by Igor Stravinsky
Fully-staged student opera
Cowell Theater
Saturday, April 10, 7:30 PM

Richard Harrell, Director
Bruno Ferrandis, Guest Conductor

Sonja Krenek, Anne Trulove
Eleazar Rodriguez, Tom Rakewell
Cole Grissom, Nick Shadow
Melissa Hight, Baba the Turk
Molly Mahoney, Mother Goose
James McGoff, Father Trulove
Michael Desnoyers, Sellem
Daniel Epstein, Jailor

Cowell TheaterI saw the 3rd of 4 performances of The Rake's Progress put on by the SFCM at Cowell Theater over the weekend. The staging had many ideas very fitting to the opera. The action takes place in front of a giant gilded picture frame that gradually collapses as Tom's life spirals downward. The entire cast was in attractive 18th century costumes, & Baba the Turk's possessions included a mummy, a giant tortoise & a 3 foot penguin. Nick Shadow progresses from a young man in livery to the stereotypical image of Mephistopheles & makes his final exit through an open grave spewing stage smoke.

Tenor Eleazar Rodriguez was excellent as Tom Rakewell. His voice is a dark & earthy, & I enjoyed listening to it. He has a genuine desire to communicate with the audience, & he gave a mature performance. In the auction scene, tenor Michael Desnoyers gave a brilliant characterization of Sellem, his voice bright & his diction very clear. In fact this whole scene, with the chorus playing a diverse crowd of greedy buyers, was a highlight of the evening.

The pit band was of chamber ensemble proportions, & this suited Stravinsky's baroque-inflected score very well. Conductor Bruno Ferrandis uses very clear gestures, & he often elicited incisive playing from the orchestra. I liked the playing of both flutes in particular.

I was seated next to an older gentleman who claimed that the only other opera he had ever been to was a Zauberflöte in Salzburg. He pronounced the Conservatory's performance "amusing", though he did not come back to his seat after the 2nd intermission.


CruzSF said...

I was at the same performance you attended. I agree with your evaluation of the evening, but want to add that I had trouble hearing much of Hight's "Baba the Turk." I sat in the third row and fear I might have been in one of the space's "dead zones" (although I did hear everyone else, despite my spitting distance to the cellists). Could you hear Baba well?

y2k said...

That sure is odd regarding your "neighbor". Zauberflöte in Salzburg (Salzburg Festival???) and a student production of The Rake's Progress? What a strange choice. And it doesn't sound like he knew anyone in the student production, or he would have at least had the courtesy to stay till the end.

Axel Feldheim said...

CruzSF: I was farther back than you, but I too did not always hear Baba. Ms. Hight's voice may not be very large. On the other hand, I often find that Babas are hard to hear, so I wonder if this is partly a problem of the part being very low for a lot of singers.

y2k: Yes, I thought his choice of performances was rather unusual too, though I suspect that personal choice had nothing to do with it. If he knew someone in the production, he never mentioned it. He also talked about how each of us plays a role in his own life story (he himself is a "ronin") & said that the brothel scene reminded him of an adage that went something like "Women want to touch it or talk to it. Men want to fuck it or fight it."

I guess one never knows who one will meet at an opera.

Civic Center said...

That must have been Larry Ellison. Who else could it have been?

Axel Feldheim said...

sfmike: Gosh, how could I have been so blind? Perhaps he left early because he had to move his yacht from the Fort Mason pier.