Mystery score

Mystery score

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Rigoletto, Opening Night at SF Opera

I've got a Rigoletto review up at Classical Review in Chicago. Herewith the ancillary material that would not have been appropriate in a formal review.

One problem with opening night is the speechmaking. Okay, the heavy-hitting donors need to be thanked in front of their social peers, and I'm as grateful to anyone for the Gunns and Mrs. Littlefield. But I wish David Gockley could do the thanking. He's got good stage presence and knows what to do with a microphone in his hand. John Gunn was extremely ill at ease and meandering; George Hume did better. Maybe they'd rather not be on stage.

I just don't know what the story is with SFO and tenors in this opera. Nearly every lyric tenor knows the role of the Duke of Mantua, and a fair number of tenors up into the spinto range - but in three of the last four presentations of Rigoletto, the tenors have been forgettable. I saw Tito Beltran in 1997; Giuseppe Gipali in 2006; Francesco Demuro this year. 

I don't doubt the company's commitment to hiring the best possible singers, and I'm not expecting them to put Pavarotti on stage for every bring-up, but heavens. Frank Lopardo, in 2001, was excellent (and, sadly, cast with a weak Gilda and poor Rigoletto); he isn't the most glamorous tenor of his generation, but he is a solid singer with great style and no vocal issues. I've also liked him greatly in two performances of the Verdi Requiem. He's a pleasure to listen to, and I've never missed him more than last night. David Lomeli, who withdrew from the Vratogna/Shagimuratova cast, was a fabulous Rinuccio in 2009's Trittico, and surely he can sing rings around Demuro as the Duke, as could Michael Fabiano, who sensationally took over the tenor lead in last season's Lucrezia Borgia. I'll be interested in what folks think of Arturo Chacon-Cruz in the other cast.

Meanwhile, the generally dispiriting performance last night: I wonder how much of it stemmed from trying to rehearse two casts in a warhorse production in its fourth and possibly last staging. I certainly hope the subsequent performances get better. I also find myself fearing that I'll never again hear a Rigoletto as good as Gavanelli/Swenson in 1997, however forgettable Tito Beltran was. 

6 comments:

Joshua Kosman said...

Please go hear Chacón-Cruz (three more chances), if only to, y'know, hear the role sung. He's terrific, secondo me.

Lisa Hirsch said...

There's some enthusiasm for Albina Shagimuratova as well, though I thought Kurzak quite good. The question is whether I can bear to sit through Rigoletto again. Great opera with great bones and music, but I don't like it enough to want to see it more than once a decade or so.

Sibyl said...

This is exactly what I feared, and why I didn't buy tickets. At this point in my curmudgeonhood, if I can hum an opera all the way through (instrumental parts included), then I am only willing to drag myself out of the house to see a production if the cast is one for the ages. I can hum Rigoletto all the way through.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Sigh.

Sibyl said...

Just realized how sniffy my post sounds. I suppose I am hoist on that particular petard, but I feel compelled to add that I am often champing at the bit to get to productions of things I have rare opportunities to see, even when I can hum 'em. Onegin, for example, or Hoffman. I would knock down little old ladies and small children to get to Khovanschina or Jenufa. I want to be enlightened or opened up, if you will, by my experience in the theater, whether by a score that I do not know well, or by performers/directors bringing something new to my understanding of a work. Like the Vick Hansel and Gretel, or the recent Makropoulous Case. I may never see a Boheme in the theater again, but that's ok, because I'll occasionally get something that alters my being, like Nixon in China.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I didn't think you sounded at all sniffy. I really understand the sentiment; there are a bunch of operas I'm giving a rest for, say, ten years unless I can see an incredible cast in it. Boheme isn't quite there yet but plenty of other operas are....