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Category: Opera

‘DON GIOVANNI,’ DEFTLY SUNG AND ACTED BY NEWCOMERS

‘DON GIOVANNI,’ DEFTLY SUNG AND ACTED BY NEWCOMERS

Despite all the unfamiliar names and unknowns in the cast, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is getting sparkling performances at the S.F. Opera, among the most inspiring encountered in our regular SFO visits since 1960. The greatest difference with earlier times is in the acting and stage direction. Circa 1949 rehearsing the title role here, Met star Ezio Pinza called to the stage director, “Canto cui?” (Do I sing here?). Whereupon he planted his feet firmly and launched into his aria. We…

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MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OPERA GOING FROM MISCHIEF TO MAYHEM

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OPERA GOING FROM MISCHIEF TO MAYHEM

I guess I could accept a full-grown male baritone playing a child as long as the opera is full of surreal concepts, and/or fantastic, other-worldly Cocteau-esque settings. But this production of “Les Enfants Terribles” (The Holy Terrors) proved instead to be down-to-earth, lost in every-day realism and crime-blotter chaff. In the end, it failed Cocteau. Jean Cocteau had written the 1929 book, now converted into a 1996 Philip Glass chamber opera with narration, film and dance—performance dimensions going beyond Cocteau’s…

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THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

SAN JOSE—-A new kind of opera, in which groups of the military play as big a role as the individuals, made its moving West Coast premiere via “Silent Night” by Kevin Puts. While the singing by the 14-member Opera San Jose cast pushing their voices was uneven, the Feb. 11 opening night got a prolonged reception from the sell-out crowd. They witnessed a dramatization of a trench-warfare event that featured an operatic reenactment of the spontaneous Christmas-Eve 1914 cease-fire, with…

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ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT UTOPIA

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT UTOPIA

Can you shape a viable opera scenario out of law suits and legal offices? Janacek’s answer was yes, if you thrust into the middle of the muddle a whirlwind femme fatale powering the drama and driving all the men mad as well. Janacek’s improbable 1926 opera “The Makropulos Case” ties in an intriguing fable: Because of a longevity potion, the seemingly youthful lady is now 337 years old, remembering intimate details about relationships and documents established by people long since…

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AN ARRESTING NEW AMERICAN-AND-CHINESE OPERA

AN ARRESTING NEW AMERICAN-AND-CHINESE OPERA

With the SFO’s “Red Chamber” World Premiere By Paul Hertelendy  artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance  Week of Sept. 14-21 , 2016 Vol. 19, No. 2 The new Chinese opera-tragedy “Dream of the Red Chamber” offers high drama after a lengthy, opulent prologue, turning a classic novel into an opera that is closer to a musical feast than to consistent theater. The emigre Chinese composer Bright Sheng has created a rich, listenable score astutely…

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‘JENUFA:’ COMPELLING NATIONALIST OPERA

‘JENUFA:’ COMPELLING NATIONALIST OPERA

  Janacek’s Wrenching Drama at the S.F.O. By Paul Hertelendy artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance Week of June 17-24, 2016 Vol. 18, No. 72 The powerful human drama of old-time village morality “Jenufa” returned to bolster the San Francisco Opera summer season after a 15-year hiatus. The work is sincere and compelling, built around the bigger-than-life role of the morally ambiguous Stepmother, as played by the magnetic star, dramatic soprano Karita Mattila. The…

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OPERATIC ‘STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ IN SAN JOSE

OPERATIC ‘STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ IN SAN JOSE

With Focus on a New Soprano as Blanche SAN JOSE—Happy to say, André Previn’s wrenching opera “Streetcar Named Desire” has benefited from a streamlining with a smaller orchestra and trims in the libretto. Yet the drama remains as violent as a 8.0 earthquake, following closely the searing Tennessee Williams play. Despite some miscalculations, Opera San Jose has brought off the work with fiery impact, propelled by a powerful Blanche Dubois (spinto soprano Ariana Strahl in her OSJ debut) who patterned…

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SEX RULES THE OPERA STAGE

SEX RULES THE OPERA STAGE

The Raw English Hit ‘Powder Her Face’ in Oakland By Paul Hertelendy  artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance  Week of Jan. 6-13, 2016 Vol. 18, No. 11 OAKLAND—Thomas Adès’ opera “Powder Her Face” is a devastating social critique condemning women’s inequality as well as the excesses of the Idle Rich, based on fact. Or, it’s a two-hour exercise in audience titillation showing various freelance sexual practices, some of them more natural than others. Take…

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RIGHTING RODERICK IN POE’S SHORT STORY, USHERED IN

RIGHTING RODERICK IN POE’S SHORT STORY, USHERED IN

Getty’s ‘Usher’ Opera in SFO Double Bill Gordon Getty, who terms himself a 19th -century man, shakes hands with a long-gone Edgar Allan Poe in his mind-trip opera “Usher House” (2014), given its US premiere at the S.F. Opera Dec. 8. Getty and Poe walk the tantalizing lines between reality, fantasy, life and death distilled out of the nebulous outlines of Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This is an engaging one-act opera of spooks, cadavers…

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MEDIEVAL NUREMBERG BARGING INTO THE 19TH CENTURY

MEDIEVAL NUREMBERG BARGING INTO THE 19TH CENTURY

Wagner’s Opulent ‘Meistersinger’ in Vivid Dimensions The San Francisco Opera got its act together in more ways than one for Wagner’s “Meistersinger” opera, serving up music theater instead of the old-fashioned static sequence of singers. Furthermore, if any one could tone down the overachieving brass section in the pit, we’d be close to perfection for this massive 5½ hours show. This marks the eighth time since 1960 that the SFO has presented the quasi-historical work. Having seen/heard each reprise, I…

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