Thursday, September 15, 2016

Andrea Chenier at SF Opera

Last Friday I heard Andrea Chénier at opening night of San Francisco Opera's 2016 - 17 season. The evening began with remarks by the new General Director Matthew Shilvock, President Keith Geeslin & Chairman of the Board John Gunn. They thanked sponsors & donors, & Mr. Gunn brought the event to a halt when he forgot the name of Music Director Nicola Luisotti for several long seconds.

Tenor Yonghoon Lee in the title role sounded reliably strong & projected bravery. He had a slightly dark timbre & shaded his drawn-out notes nicely. I enjoyed hearing soprano Anna Pirozzi as Maddelena. Her voice was agile & penetrating & had a pleasing friction. Her top notes emerged with seeming ease, & she sang "La mamma morta" with control & nice dynamic contrast. Baritone George Gagnidze as Gerard had an unwavering, weighty & consistent sound.

Smaller roles were all cast from strength. Mezzo Catherine Cook was a characterful & sneering Contessa di Coigny, & baritone Edward Nelson had a smooth & pretty voice as the dandy Fleville. Bass Robert Pomakov as Mathieu was fittingly boisterous & hearty, & the clear-voiced tenor Joel Sorensen was a lively Incredibile. Baritone David Pershall as Roucher made a firm & appealing sound.

Though Giordano's score is scintillating & often loud, from orchestra level standing room the orchestra seemed subdued & cushioned. Maestro Luisotti's tempos did not feel too hurried. I liked the clarinet & violin solos, & the harp was assertive. Director David McVicar's production is attractive, & the scenes sometimes looked like neo-classical paintings. The period costumes had an authentic feel & looked easy to move in. The use of child supers in every act added liveliness to the staging, but it was an antiseptic picture of the French Revolution overall. The set changes with the curtain down after acts I & III were long.

Considering that this was opening night, there was surprisingly little audience attrition after intermission, though a pod of young people in tuxedos & gowns exited the orchestra level in the pause after act III. Competition for standing room was light, & 2 of our opera companions were offered seats before the end of the performance.

§ Andrea Chénier
Music by Umberto Giordano | Libretto by Luigi Illica

San Francisco Opera
Conductor, Nicola Luisotti
Director, David McVicar
Chorus Director, Ian Robertson

Carlo Gérard, George Gagnidze
Major-Domo, Anders Fröhlich
An Old Gardener, Charlie Lichtman
Maddalena di Coigny, Anna Pirozzi
Bersi, J’Nai Bridges
Contessa di Coigny, Catherine Cook
Pietro Fléville, Edward Nelson
Flando Fiorinelli, Matthew Erikson
Andrea Chénier, Yonghoon Lee
The Abbé, Alex Boyer
Shepherdess, Laura Alexich
Shepherd, Michael Levine
Mathieu, Robert Pomakov
L'Incredibile, Joel Sorensen
Roucher, David Pershall
Madelon, Jill Grove
Madelon's Grandson, Graham Isom
Fouquier-Tinville, Matthew Stump
Dumas, Brad Walker
Gravier de Vergennes, Charlie Lichtman
Laval-Montmorency, Susan Anderson-Norby
Idia Legray, Tatiana Bookbinder
Schmidt, Anthony Reed

Friday, 09/09/16, 8:00PM
War Memorial Opera House

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