Saturday, October 20, 2012

SFO: The Capulets & The Montagues

San Francisco Opera, 10.19.2012 View of City Hall in orange lights on the outdoor balcony of the San Francisco Opera.I was at SF Opera on Friday night to catch the last performance of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi & to hear the 2 principals that everyone has been raving about. Mezzo Joyce DiDonato & soprano Nicole Cabell both gave terrific singing & acting performances. Ms. DiDonato made her part very interesting, singing with expressive intensity & a wide dynamic range. Her brief, dying note was uncanny. Ms. Cabell's voice is sultry, luscious, & full, & her low notes matched DiDonato's well. The production presents Giulietta as a crazed woman, & Ms. Cabell sang fervently yet securely, even while standing in a sink or walking along a ledge. The love duet in act I, scene 2 received prolonged applause.

Tenor Saimir Pirgu reliably hit his high notes with the strength & clarity of a trumpet. I enjoyed baritone Ao Li as a permanently anguished Lorenzo. The character has the best intentions but fails to achieve anything. Conductor Riccardo Frizza led a punctilious & controlled performance. I liked the various long-lined solos from the clarinet, French horn & cello.

I was distracted by the Eurotrash production, which was austere, static, & did not tell the story well. The abstract sets represented featureless, enclosed spaces & required long pauses with the curtain down between scenes, even though the stage did not look that different when the curtain went up again. A bleachers-like staircase, descending to below the lip of the stage, is the main element in 2 scenes. Men uniformly wore grey frock coats, gigantic cravats, & top hats. The only colors were on the mute female guests in the wedding scene, who wore bright, garish dresses & had flowers stuffed in their mouths. Romeo & Tebaldo each wore one sleeve-length glove, Michael Jackson-style, during their confrontation in act II, scene 2.

Many plot points simply went by unacknowledged. Giuletta remains facing a wall instead of reuniting with Romeo in act I, scene 2. At the end of the opera the pair remain standing even though they have died according to the plot. At times Romeo & Giulietta sang into the walls, which was like displaying a painting behind a smudged pane of glass.

I attended the performance in upstairs standing room. There was plenty of space on both sides of me up until the house lights went down, when the rail suddenly became packed. Before the house lights came down for act II, there was spontaneous applause & laughter, but I did not see the cause.

§ I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Music by Vincenzo Bellini
Libretto by Felice Romani

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Director: Vincent Boussard
Set Designer: Vincent Lemaire
Costume Designer: Christian Lacroix

Tebaldo: Saimir Pirgu
Capellio: Eric Owens
Lorenzo: Ao Li
Romeo: Joyce Didonato
Giulietta: Nicole Cabell

Fri 10/19/12 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

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