Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Eight in Twelve

We interrupt the Bernard Holland discussion with late-breaking news: Madama Butterfly comes to San Francisco Opera yet again. Here's the record:

October, 1995 - 8 performances
December, 1995 - 4 performances
June, 1997 - 20 performances (with several rotating casts)
January, 1999 - 8 performances
June, 2002 - 9 performances
January, 2003 - 5 performances
May/June, 2006 - [some number of performances I don't have handy]
December, 2007 - 5 performances

Perhaps this clarifies why I think it's a good idea to give the classics a rest once in a while. I would actually like to see Patricia Racette in this role, but, you know, it'll only encourage them if I buy a ticket.


Anonymous said...

Testify, sister. Would that the SFS be willing to give Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony an equally well-deserved rest.

Unknown said...

I agreed in principle with this notion until Saturday evening's performance of the Beethoven 7 by the Tallahassee Symphony. It was astonishing.

Lisa Hirsch said...

The last Butterfly I heard was also astonishing, a serendipitous meeting of great singing and conducting. STILL. I'd rather hear something completely new than hope for a great performance of an overplayed warhorse.

Unknown said...

Well, when you put it that way...

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I complain enough on my own site about repertory repetition, so here I'd just like to wonder if the Opera has actually conducted a rigorous financial examination of these constantly repeated operas: do they sell out? make a profit? and if so, enough to fund other, less popular works? do they bring new people to the opera, and do those people go on to buy tickets to other things? do the new people offset the ones who don't go because they've seen the work in question so many times?

Did you get the recent on-line survey from SF Opera? Many questions about singers and mainstream operas we'd like to see or not -- one question asked how often we'd like to see particular works, with answers from every year to every five years. Some they mentioned, like Boheme, I could happily not see for twenty years, but that wasn't a choice.

By the way, Racette is a wonderful Butterfly -- she was the only good performer last time they did it.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I did not get asked to complete the survey. I'd love to answer it - maybe I will email them and say "why not?" I'm not currently a subscriber, so maybe that's why I didn't get asked.

Was Zheng Cao not good as Suzuki? I like her and she was excellent with Miriam Gauci as Butterfly a few years back.

I assume Butterfly gets done all the time not only because it's popular, but because it's comparatively inexpensive (4 leads) and tons of singers know the parts, plus, presenters can toss second- and third-rate tenors into Pinkerton.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

I double-checked the e-mail and it said the survey was sent to "current and prospective SF Opera patrons" -- I don't know if they're using patrons in the usual sense or in their "if you give us X amount of money we'll call you a patron" sense. I regularly mislead opera houses by buying expensive tickets and making donations when I can, which makes them think I have a lot more disposable income than I do.
Zheng Cao was very good as Suzuki -- I wrote in haste, thinking only of the male leads, whom I didn't much like. You make excellent points about why Butterfly gets put on so often, and it's too bad about the inferior tenors as Pinkerton -- I personally think it's an intriguing role with some truly beautiful and moving moments (Addio fiorito asil) and if Pinkerton is just an unappealing oaf or villain the opera doesn't really work.

Henry Holland said...

Ah, Butterfly. It's one of my desert island operas, the only Italian one, but I likely will never go hear it in an opera house again, too many mediocre, thrown together performances early in my opera going career did it in for me.

I heard Galina Gorchakova do it years ago here in Los Angeles. It was soooo nice--a big healthy voice that filled the theatre and had no trouble with the Entrance Scene or Un bel di. I also heard probably the best conducted opera performance I've ever heard live at SFO when Sir Charles Mackarras did it years ago.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Patrick, I'll have to call SFO at some point and ask about the survey. I need to get the Gigli Butterfly - well, okay, the dal Monte Butterfly one of these years, for a great Pinkerton and idiosyncratic Cio-Cio-San.

Henry, wow, Mackerras. I think that was in the mid-90s and he was alternating with Runnicles? I should check who I heard, but I have loved Mackerras in almost everything I've heard him do. The last Butterfly I saw was with Miriam Gauci, and she was tremendous, as was Runnicles.