Saturday, March 14, 2009

San Francisco Opera 2009-10 Season

I just finished annual ritual of renewing my half-season subscription to San Francisco Opera. The 2009-10 season boasts a few exciting productions and singers and some "chestnuts" to save the company in these financially challenging times.

I'm looking forward to seeing Verdi's Il Trovatore. I've seen it before but the new David McVicar production inspired by Goya's paintings boasts a cast that's hard to resist: Dmitri Hvorostovsky, Sondra Radvanovsky, Stephanie Blythe. I don't know much about tenor Marco Berti, hopefully, he won't let his colleagues down.

Ewa Podleś tries for the second time to make her SFO debút, alas, in a minor role in Il Trittico by Puccini, a composer I often find too emotionally manipulative. I'll trade this production for Verdi's Otello.

For the second time, I'll skip Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail - I love the opera but it stubbornly stayed at the bottom of my wish list - too little time.

La Fille du Régiment by by Donizetti will bring Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Flórez together, with the well traveled production by Laurent Pelly. I had the good luck to hear Juan Diego Flórez twice, but on both occasions his original female leads canceled due to illness. I really hope to hear the amazing Damrau. This opera was not in the half-season series I signed up for, so I purchased added-on single tickets in order to beat the crowd. Count this opera as a possible sold-out.

Delicious Salome will finally be staged for the first time since I moved to the San Francisco area. The combination of Oscar Wilde and Richard Strauss is irresistible. My favorite mezzo-soprano Irina Mishura (I saw her as Carmen in Cincinnati and Adalgisa in SFO) will return as Herodias. The beautiful Nadja Michael will sing Salome. I hope her voice will be as beautiful.

Otello was not in my series but I don't want to miss Johan Botha's Otello. He might be stiff but I do hope his voice will knock me out. I'm also looking forward to hearing his co-stars Svetla Vassileva and Marco Vratogna, all making their respective local debút.

I love Gounod's Faust - call me old fashioned. I do hope they keep the Walpurgisnacht ballet.

Another Puccini of the season is a spaghetti western - La fanciulla del West. Even Deborah Voigt won't be able to entice me to see that one.

The last offering is Richard Wagner's Die Walküre, conducted by Donald Runnicles. The first installment of the Francesca Zambello production was terrible. She might have done wonders elsewhere to earn her huge fame, but all her works here are mediocre. Even the good nights, such as Jenůfa, were due to composer's and singer's strength. I'm so envious of Los Angeles where people can see an Achim Freyer's amazing production. The only reason I want to keep this is Runnicles and his forces - Christopher Ventris (Siegmund), Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde) and Nina Stemme (Brünnhilde). I'm not taken by Mark Delavan's Wotan in Das Rheingold but he was at least competent.

Die Walküre will be conducted by my favorite Wagnerian Donald Runnicles, who is deserting us, as Pamela Rosenberg did. But who can blame them? This entire season had no edgy works, no contemporary opera, unless you count Salome. The few new works Gockley is considering all stay in the vicinity of Bernstein, Copland, Menotti and Barber - tuneful Americana, unchallenging, inoffensive. Or, we got the silly east-meets-west The Bonesetter's Daughter. Where are the proven masterworks by Thomas Adès, Harrison Birtwistle, Osvaldo Golijov, Hans Werner Henze, Poul Ruders , Kaija Saariaho, Aulis Sallinen and Mark-Anthony Turnage, to name a few?

Maybe I am being too harsh. At least Gockley gave us Erich Wolfgang Korngold's Die Tote Stadt. Hopefully, more.

San Francisco feels so provincial.

Limelight - 36" x 30", Oil on Canvas
© Matthew Felix Sun

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