Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Seems like old times

August 06, 2008

Susanna Phillips and wig
Photo : Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera 2008

For all its reputation as a company advocating the works of Richard Strauss, the Santa Fe Opera has an even richer tradition in the operas of Mozart. Now in its 51st year, SFO has only had four summer seasons that did not include Mozart and this year isn't one of them with a new production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Like last night’s Falstaff, this is another quality production that is well sung and competently done if not particularly bold or grand. It’s a period production with little edge, but has a thoughtful and witty look with a fair amount of movement. A field of flowers that covers the stage is picked clean downstage by a group of male servants at the start of the show to make room for the actors and sets. Later they replace them piece by piece back into the stage at the opening of the final act. I’m not sure what all this is about but it is rather comic. There aren’t many surprises here overall, though, and sometimes director Joanthan Kent's stage direction is awkward and disjointed.

The cast has a number of notable singing actors including Mariusz Kwiecien as Count Almaviva, Susanna Phillips as the Countess, Elizabeth Watts as Susannah, and Luca Pisaroni as Figaro. Pretty and agile, no one disappointed but I admit Kwiecien is a real superstar and he plied his way with ease across the whole performance receiving a loud and enthusiastic reception from the audience. He was a magnificent Don Givanni in San Francisco in 2007, and I for one continue to be impressed with his cool, even baritone. Of course there is that thorny problem when the count is so much hotter than Figaro - not that it's unimaginable, it just muddies the water.

Canadian Robert Tweten was a one evening fill-in for Kenneth Montgomery who has helmed the rest of the performances here and the orchestra sounded good but could have perhaps used a little more zing overall. Of course some people are never happy. The elderly woman behind me decided to lodge a protest from the Stockhausen-fanatic contingent of the audience by augmenting the score. After her cell-phone went off during the first act she decided to allow the audible repetitive message alerting beep of the phone continue throughout the rest of the entire performance giving the entire night a rather electronic flair. She slyly joined everyone else around her in complaining about the noise during the intermission creating the impression that there was no way the sound could be emanating from her own overstuffed bag, thus creating enough social awkwardness that no one was willing to more assertively and insistently confront her. Those serialists just can't let anything go can they.

blurry photo of Kaija Saairaho in Santa Fe
Photo : mine 2008

On a brighter note, Kaija Saariaho was in the audience. She's still in town for the performances of her opera Adriana Mater as well as the world premiere of a new chamber piece that is taking place over a few shows this week with the Real Quiet ensemble and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. (I'll have more on all this later on so stay tuned.) Apparently she was eager to check out what the now-dead-over-200-years competition is up to these days which makes sense only in America. Let freedom ring.



I saw Saariaho at the Adriana dress and primo, and also at the fabulous symposium about the piece, where she and Sellars and Maalouf yakked for about two hours. I reviewed Adriana, but I was so afraid of finding myself mute if I wound up face to face with her at some point that I had to rehearse what I would say.
I know what you mean. I saw here again the next day at a chamber music concert where a new work of hers was premiering and I was very tempted, but what do I really have to say to her anyway besides "Gee, you rock"?

Plus she had this French-speaking entourage which always intimidates me.

I eventually concluded that I could tell her how much I'd loved Terra Memoria and I hoped it would be recorded soon.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?



Opera Reviews '10-'11

Opera Reviews '09-'10

Opera Reviews '06-'09

L.A. Phil Reviews '09/'10

L.A. Phil Reviews '08/'09

L.A. Theater Reviews


Follow Along


Los Angeles

Follow me on Twitter