Troyens

Troyens

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Luisotti, Then and Now

Nicola Luisotti
Photo by Terrence McCarthy; courtesy San Francisco Opera

It's only been four years since Nicola Luisotti assumed the music directorship of San Francisco Opera, so a bit short of the usual five-year lookback, but perhaps some of us were overly optimistic in 2007 when the appointment was announced:

2007: 
  • Joshua Kosman: It's Nicola ("Anyone who can shape a performance like Luisotti's Forza — and inspire the confidence of the excellent but somewhat demoralized Opera Orchestra — can only be a force for good.")
  • Me: Dream Come True ("jumped up and down a lot when he conducted Forza here during the 2005-06 season. I'm so glad about this decision.")
2013: 
  • Joshua Kosman, reviewing Mefistofele: "Music director Nicola Luisotti's tendency to linger fondly over every phrase and transition...." 
  • Me, discussing Cosi fan tutte: "Nicola Luisotti does not understand what Mozart conducting requires...."
  • I hated his Salome. Lohengrin was better, but still lacked sufficient Wagnerian pulse.
I missed Luisotti's Butterfly and Fanciulla del West; the Boheme was very good and so was Rondine
(which Luisotti did not conduct). I detect a certain lack of skill in diverse repertory, which Joshua was concerned about in his 2007 blog posting. You could say that I have had my moments of missing Donald Runnicles in the last four years.

5 comments:

John Marcher said...

His Fanciulla was superb the first night I caught it, way too loud the 2nd, but overall the impression left was very positive. But I thought he did an excellent job with Lohengrin -not "Wagnerian," but certainly beautiful, and I recall reading somewhere a claim that Lohengrin is Wagner's most "Italianate" opera and that element came to the fore under Luisotti's conducting. Also, I found his Salome to be ravishing,and I entered the house very skeptical he could pull off Strauss. I think those three, of the operas I've heard him conduct, are the high points so far of his tenure. The rep with which he was supposed to excel(Italian) largely leaves me cold in his hands.

It could be worse- thankfully we haven't seen the dreadful Marco Armiliato around for awhile and I hope it stays that way. IMO the most talented conductors to appear in the house since Runnicles' departure are Emmanuel Villaume and Patrick Summers, in that order.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I think the best we've heard have been Riccardo Frizza (bel canto stuff), Jiri Behlohlavek (Makrapoulos), and Cornelius Meister (Abduction from the Seraglio), myself. Guy who conducted Nixon in China was also good.

John Marcher said...

Nixon's conductor was Renes- yes, he was also very good, outstanding actually, as was Behlohlavek, but they had more to work with as far as the operas they conducted. Villaume and Summers had "Werther" and "Heart of a Soldier" to contend with and still managed to make the orchestra and singers sound good despite execrable material. Summers also conducted "Moby Dick" among other assignments. Villaume also conducted something else locally that really impressed me (not at SFO) but what it was escapes me at the moment. Frizza has one win - Capuleti, and one loss- Lucrezia, by my score.

Lisa Hirsch said...

What are you talking about? "Werther" is a good opera. Summers has conducted a bunch of things in the last few years, including Xerxes, Trittico, Ariodante, and Moby-Dick. I think he is an extremely competent and professional conductor who hasn't got such a strong interpretive profile, although, hmm, I liked his Traviata (with Swenson) a great deal and nabbed him for his autograph.

CK Dexter Haven said...

That photo reminds me of a youngish Mehta