Thursday, June 16, 2011

SF Opera Ring Cycle I: Das Rheingold

SF OperaStandees cheered when the usher at the north entrance of the War Memorial Opera house announced "Welcome to the Ring!" & opened the doors for us. It was 2 deep in upstairs standing room, where I stood at the railing behind a young lady wearing a bowler hat. The orchestra played out, starting with the overture, which seemed to begin mezzo-forte instead of emerging imperceptibly from silence. Ensemble is sounding better, especially in the strings & woodwinds. The violin solos representing Freia were supple & beautiful. The articulation of the sword motif by the bass trumpet was very clean.

Stefan Margita was terrific as Loge, & his smooth, crystalline voice seemed to get more clear & flexible as the evening progressed. Andrea Silvestrelli, with his bottomless voice, was a brutish yet love-sick Fasolt. I liked that he & Daniel Sumegi, as Fafner, had such different-sounding voices, which helped differentiate the characters of the 2 brothers. Elizabeth Bishop was a sympathetic, bourgeois matron as Fricka, her voice strong & secure. Mark Delavan plays a very human Wotan, & his delivery communicates reasoning rather than force. Brandon Jovanovich as Froh sang lyrically when greeting the return of Freia in scene 4. Ronnita Miller has powerful low notes & was a stately Erda. She rises vertically through a trap in the stage floor but is otherwise nearly motionless.

The staging seems pretty much the same as what I saw 3 years ago. The projections have been updated, though I wasn't sure how to interpret the spinning image representing the trip to Nibelheim. The audience was amused by Alberich's transformation into a frog puppet, especially when Loge grabbed it & tossed it in the air. Donner's flame-spewing croquet mallet in the final scene is an unlikely spectacle.

Erda attending SF Opera Ring CycleWe heard banging, clomping & shouting during every scene change. The audience laughed when someone behind the scrim yelled "Hurry up!" during the transition to scene 4, yet after all that commotion the curtain came up on a bare stage. Amazingly, we in the balcony could often hear the voice of a female prompter, especially during scene 2. The Opera Tattler attended in downstairs standing room, wearing her prize-winning Erda costume, though she was frequently mistaken for a Rheinmaiden instead.

§ Das Rheingold
San Francisco Opera Ring Cycle 2011

Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Director: Francesca Zambello

Woglinde: Stacey Tappan
Wellgunde: Lauren McNeese
Flosshilde: Renée Tatum
Alberich: Gordon Hawkins
Fricka: Elizabeth Bishop
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Freia: Melissa Citro
Fasolt: Andrea Silvestrelli
Fafner: Daniel Sumegi
Froh: Brandon Jovanovich
Donner: Gerd Grochowski
Loge: Stefan Margita
Mime: David Cangelosi
Erda: Ronnita Miller

War Memorial Opera House
Tue 06/14/11 8:00pm

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