Sunday, September 30, 2012

Dumb and Dumber

But with some great singing: reviewing I Capuleti e i Montecchi at San Francisco Opera. If you don't believe me about Nicole Cabell "standing in a sink:"

Photo: Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

She spent most of the first scene up against one or the other of the walls. I really thought Lotfi Mansouri was back for minute; singers leaning on walls is one of his directorial tics, and not a good one.

Here are some of the Tim Burton escapees, surrounding Joyce DiDonato, who is doing a Fred Astaire imitation.

Photo: Cory Weaver, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

I have nothing against Regietheater, and would love to see, for example, Stefan Herheim's Parsifal or Rusalka, which sound brilliant and illuminating. But maybe you need Germans or other northern Europeans for this; the French team responsible for Capuleti has no clue what they are doing.

The opera itself is in the second or maybe third tier of Bellini's operas; it sounds superficially like his greatest, Norma, but doesn't come close to that opera's power and impact. Don't go looking for Shakespeare, because it's based on different sources and misses the boat dramatically.

But you definitely should hear Joyce DiDonato, Nicole Cabell, and Riccardo Frizza. I know, I know, it's not exactly a conductor's opera, but Frizza is the real deal. If only SFO had had Cabell in last year's Lucrezia Borgia, and Michael Fabiano in Capuleti! Nicola Luisotti has a lock on the major Italian operas at SFO, but Frizza is so good in these second-rate operas that I would just love to hear him in one of the greater works by Donizetti, Bellini, or Verdi.

DiDonato is an interesting singer, which I mean in a good way. She isn't exactly beautiful - I think of her as appealing - and neither is her voice, but she is distinctive in a way that gets your attention. The voice is focused and penetrating rather than lush; I find the reediness and flicker vibrato truly arresting. She moves beautifully on stage and is hot hot hot because of the sexual ambiguity of her pants roles. (I find her a lot hotter than Susan Graham, who sings a similar repertory.) I loved her in Le Comte Ory, where her dramatic seriousness and focus played off so well against the froth and farce of Damrau and Florez.

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