The cognocenti come prepared for vagaries of weather---shirt-sleeves these balmy evenings, and wraps for the late-season chills. Sometimes an umbrella too. The adventure of the high-desert weather more than compensates for the frequently Spartan productions on stage. It all adds up to the impetus of opera-going, which devotees consider an indispensable ingredient of the ritual..
Strauss's "Arabella" (1933) recaptured the glories of earlier
romanticism, reprising the spirit of "Rosenkavalier" of a generation
earlier, without quite matching the intoxicating melodiousness of
scene set in pre-World-War-One
The ultimate excess of the family’s pretentions was in dressing up Arabella's sister Zdenka as a young man so as to focus all male attention on the other eligible girl.
Strauss quite clearly fell in love with his heroines, Arabella being glorified as few heroines on stage today. He (and his brilliant librettist Hofmannsthal) idolized the image of the perfect eligible virgin, surrounded by suitors, unblemished by innuendo, heroic on her own way.
The mainstay was Mark Delevan playing Mandryka the outsider, showing the robust well-founded bass-baritone that has made him a formidable Wotan in various "Ring" cycles around the world. He showed the contrasting facets of the swain: Inhibited before Arabella, confident with the father, generous in his spending, and totally cowed with the seeming infidelity of his fiancee.
Faced with possible suicide of another swain who was spurned, Arabella's sister Zdenka plays the boy role and gives the latter the alleged key to Arabella's room, where Zdenka plays the stand-in under cover of darkness. (We will conveniently overlook the fact that she is about 6 inches shorter than the sister.) When the whole cast meets up in the lobby at midnight, every one is duped as well until Zdenka confesses to her ruse to save a man's life, and to save her sister's betrothal as well. Just like "Rosenkavalier," this plot was seen as pretty racy for the early 20th century.
The Canadian soprano Erin
Wall, heard at the S.F. Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth in June, played
role with a serviceable voice that finally opens up attractively above
staff, and did Arabella convincingly when heard Aug. 1. She was abetted
eloquently by mezzo Victoria
Francisco Opera devotees have a real treat in store in the upcoming
and Montagues," as the superb young lyric soprano Nicole Cabell
her talents in Bizet's "Pearl Fishers" here. There was not much to
praise about the show visually, with its skimpy, mishmash of sets and
superficial cultural fidelity to
Fe Opera in repertory. Strauss' "Arabella," through Aug. 23, three
Bizet's "Pearl-Fishers," 2.5 hrs. English translations provided. Opera
©Paul Hertelendy 2012
Paul Hertelendy has been covering the dance and modern-music scene in the San Francisco Bay Area with relish -- and a certain amount of salsa -- for years.
These critiques appearing weekly (or sometimes semi-weekly, but never weakly) will focus on dance and new musical creativity in performance, with forays into books (by authors of the region), theater and recordings by local artists as well.