Saturday, November 28, 2015

Etsy Holiday Crowds

This Saturday afternoon around 3pm, I showed up at Pier 35, thinking I would check out the free Etsy Holiday Emporium. Instead I came upon 2 long lines extending from either side of the entrance.

Staff were admitting people in waves of 50 at 5 minute intervals. A woman near the head of one line said she had been waiting 40 minutes, & more people kept joining the lines.

I was agape at both the crowds & the eager willingness to wait.

According to facebook posts, the venue became dangerously over-crowded within an hour of opening this morning, & some called the event a fail. Apparently Etsy was unprepared to have such an insane hit on its hands.

§ SF Etsy Team Indie Holiday Emporium
Sat–Sun, Nov 28–29, 11:00am–5:00pm 
Pier 35

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

SFO: Meistersinger

Last Wednesday night I attended the opening performance of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg at San Francisco Opera. Starting with a languidly paced overture, conductor Mark Elder led with slow, measured tempos that seemed chosen to give every note of the score its full value. The resulting music had a dull, even sheen. There were many beautiful instrumental solos, but the slow tempos may have strained the musicians. There was a surprising blooper from the off-stage band in act 3, & the violins sometimes sounded tired. The violas had a warm, velvety tone, & the harp had an emphatic clarity.

Tenor Brandon Jovanovich as Walther sounded lyrical, masculine & ardent & was convincing as a young, noble military officer. He nearly missed a high note during the 1st act song trial, & before the 3rd act it was announced that he was singing through a cold. He sounded slightly cautious but made it through fine. Baritone James Rutherford was a mildly gruff Hans Sachs & sounded firm & youthful. His singing was impressively consistent & taut throughout. The production asks for naturalistic acting, & Martin Gantner's Beckmesser was eager, foolish & vain but not cartoonish. HIs singing was crisp & characterful & felt stylistically correct.

Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen had a solid, steely voice & portrayed a grown-up Eva. Bass Ain Anger sang Pogner with weight & a natural ease. I enjoyed the Magdalene of mezzo Sasha Cooke, whose bright, sparkling voice had a powerful presence. Tenor Alek Shrader was an appealing David. His voice was high & nimble, & he moved with agility. It was marvelous to hear bass Andrea Silvestrelli as the night watchman. His resonant, cavernous voice wafted easily through the auditorium, even though he remained at the back of the stage.

David McVicar's production, originating from Glyndebourne, is set during the Napoleonic Wars, & the attractively costumed cast look like they are in the latest Jane Austen adaptation. The entire opera takes place under an ornate vaulted ceiling, & the chorus & the Meistersingers were all distinct individuals, members of a small, lively community. Twice in act 1 the apprentices break into a synchronized dance routine with knee slaps & stomping. The stage fighting during the act 2 riot is rough & vigorous. In a surreal moment in act 3, shoe boxes in Sachs's workshop come to life. The busy meadow scene features stilt-walking jugglers & an extended dance routine. Many scenes had strong lighting coming in from the wings.

The performance ran 5 & 3/4 hours, not including the curtain calls. I noticed considerable attrition in the balcony by act 3. The remaining audience gave an appreciative ovation, cheering the cast & orchestra.

§ Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Richard Wagner

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Mark Elder
Production: David McVicar
Revival Co-Directors: Marie Lambert, Ian Rutherford

Eva: Rachel Willis-Sørensen
Magdalene: Sasha Cooke
Walther von Stolzing: Brandon Jovanovich
David: Alek Shrader
Sixtus Beckmesser: Martin Gantner
Veit Pogner: Ain Anger
Hans Sachs: James Rutherford

Balthasar Zorn: Joel Sorensen
Ulrich Eisslinger: Joseph Hu
Hermann Ortel: Edward Nelson
Konrad Nachtigall: Sam Handley
Kunz Vogelgesang: AJ Glueckert
Fritz Kothner : Philip Horst
Hans Foltz: Matthew Stump
Hans Schwarz: Anthony Reed
Augustin Moser: Corey Bix
An apprentice: Laurel Porter
A night watchman: Andrea Silvestrelli

Wednesday, November 18, 6:00PM
War Memorial Opera House