Wednesday, June 13, 2018

SFO Rheingold 1

At last night's opening of San Francisco Opera's Ring Cycle, there was confusion as to which door was for standing room ticket holders. It turned out that the system of lining up on numbered spaces on the pavement has been scrapped, & we had to organize ourselves at the door closest to Van Ness instead. There was a bit of agitation in line, but I was fortunate that friends slightly ahead of me were able to secure spots at the downstairs rail.

The orchestra & singers all performed vigorously. Even the Rheinmaidens were somewhat manful. Bass-baritone Falk Struckmann as Alberich had a secure & inviting tone, his singing articulated & clear. He was both villainous & giddy in the Nibelheim scene, especially when he picked up & threw a tiny Nibelungen. Tenor Štefan Margita's effortlessly supple & reedy voice is a marvel & a constant pleasure to listen to, & he portrayed Loge convincingly as an absolute snake.

As Wotan, bass-baritone Greer Grimsley sounded confident & direct. His sturdy voice made me think of a tree trunk. Mezzo Ronnita Miller's Erda was commanding, her voice firm, wide & majestic. It was great hearing the distinctively cavernous bass voice of Andrea Silvestrelli as a lovesick Fasolt. I also really enjoyed mezzo Jamie Barton's beautifully even & shimmering singing as Fricka. She communicated imperiousness as well as tenderness. Tenor Brandon Jovanovich sang lyrically and was a funny actor as an effete Froh.

The orchestra played out for conductor Donald Runnicles, especially the brasses, who were bold even when there were bloopers. I'd forgotten how funny the staging by director Francesca Zambello is. When Erda descends back into the Earth, there's a slapstick moment when Wotan practically falls in head-first after her.

The mythological characters are all completely human here, wearing costumes that evoke the California Gold Rush & The Gilded Age. The production relies heavily on large, constantly moving, video projections of fog, clouds, water, fire & rocky landscapes, that seem to have been upgraded from the 2011 version. I was glad that Donner's sparkler-shooting croquet mallet has been retained. The young Nibelungen supers were excellent screamers, truly shrill & terrifying.

Conductor, Donald Runnicles

Alberich, Falk Struckmann
Fricka, Jamie Barton
Fafner, Raymond Aceto
Freia, Julie Adams
Woglinde, Stacey Tappan
Wellgunde, Lauren McNeese
Flosshilde, Renée Tatum

Tuesday, 06/12/18, 7:30PM
War Memorial Opera Houes

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