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Cretian Formula

November 01, 2008

Act I of Idomeneo
Photo: Terrence McCarthy/SFO 2008

It’s Halloween and what better way to celebrate than the final performance of Mozart’s Idomeneo at the San Francisco Opera this season. Apparently I’m the only one who thought so considering the house was just a tick above half-full from the looks of it. I suppose everyone was out having fun elsewhere or too intimidated to marshal their way through everyone else’s fun to get to the opera house in the first place. Those who did make it were quiet, tired, and by their response clearly nonplussed by the performance.

And it’s hard not to blame them. San Francisco has chosen to mount yet another of those oddly kitschy yet dull John Copley-directed and John Conklin-designed monstrosities (as they did earlier this year with a grotesque Ariodante). Their Idomeneo has a little more uumph but is still laughable in many spots, including a large stained bed-sheet that is supposed to represent a sea monster or blood in the streets, or something like that. The production is the aesthetic equivalent of a Saturday afternoon Dynasty marathon on TV Land. Not a good thing in the Turkish bath-like heat of the War Memorial Opera House.

The singing was a mixed bag. Alice Coote, the production’s Idamante, called in sick the last night as she had in the prior few performances being replaced with first-year Adler fellow Daniela Mack who was game, but I think a might overwhelmed by the part. Kurt Streit’s Idomeneo was much more satisfying but the vocal standout was the beautiful light and clarity of Genia Kühmeier’s soprano. Her Ilia was gorgeous, as was she, causing everyone to understandably fall in love with her. The evening’s other bright spot was, not surprisingly, Donald Runnicles who gave a bang-up performance with the orchestra. Light and clear, the music held everything else together even through the weak spots. This did flag a bit in the third act slowing to near Parsifal like proportions, but aurally, it retained it’s beauty. I’m sure going to miss him when he leaves San Francisco.



I'll be missing Runnicles too, especially since he really is in his prime right now. Hated the "Idomeneo" though, and didn't make it past the first act.
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