Thursday, December 07, 2017

Girls of the Golden West, San Francisco Opera World Premiere

Davóne Tines (Ned Peters) and Julia Bullock (Dame Shirley)
Cory Weaver photo, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

AND it's December 12 and I've added John Rockwell.

It's December 9 and I've added John Masko and Patricia Wallinga to the list.

It's December 7 and I think I've got everything that will be published. If you spot someone else, let me know. Added today: Alex Ross, Hugh Canning, Batty Masetto, Michael Strickland.
I'm planning to read these soon and try to respond to a few comments in various reviews.


Anonymous said...

At Kosman's suggestion, I went and read from the original Dame Shirley letters (they're on Project Gutenberg). He and you are both right: they look like excellent reading, but completely unsuited for the texts of opera libretti. They could, however, have been the basis of a great libretto if handed over to a creative writer who could make proper use of the material.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I haven't read the Shirley Letters yet, though I have the same edition Joshua is carrying around, because SFO gave them out at the season announcement this past January. I will get to them eventually!

And yeah, there's clearly a great libretto in the story. It's just not the one Sellars assembled.

emilie said...

I totally agree. So great to have an honest reaction to this pretentious bloated opera which I saw on opening night. The libretto is so flawed that it was impossible to feel any empathy for the characters. The story line seemed to meander in too many directions to allow for connection. The music did not rise above this heavy weight of words.

CruzSF said...

FYI: Mark Swed's review is up at the L.A. Times. He liked it a lot.

Lisa Hirsch said...

That explains why a member of the SFO communications staff is asking on Twitter for hard copy of the LA Times. :)

Anonymous said...

Mark Swed's review is up now on the LA Times website. His tone is respectful but guarded.

I liked it better than many, I imagine partly because your review and the others suitably adjusted my expectations. The second act rises to a fine climax at the end, and Dame Shirley's postlude is beautiful. But it sure takes a while to get there. I was repeatedly ready for a section to end before it did, and I imagine that the whole show could easily lose 20 minutes without anyone noticing anything missing. And it is a problem that the prose text has been set to mostly prosaic vocal lines.

The cast is uniformly magnificent. The LA Phil raided them in October for its series on Mozart's last year: in the Magic Flute program, Paul Appleby sang Tamino, Julia Bullock Pamina, and Elliot Madore an excessively winsome Papageno. On the other program (which I didn't hear), J’Nai Bridges sang Parto, Parto. (I wonder if Davóne Tines has Sarastro in his voice, or if he would make a better Speaker. For sure, Hye Jung Lee would be a great Queen of the Night.) I hope to see all of them many times for years to come.

Chanterelle said...

I wonder whether the NYTimes will weigh in. In their season preview they called it "eagerly awaited."

Lisa Hirsch said...

I linked to Swed earlier this morning, and I need to change my characterization of his review.

The singers are terrific, for sure.

Chanterelle, yes, me too. No sign of Tommasini or Woolfe so far. Maybe it's time to nudge them on Twitter again.

Anonymous said...

So Swed says you'll get it if you attend three performances. Who goes to the same opera production three times, except someone who's already a big fan, or a critic who's being paid?

There's also an undercurrent of "This is important, so it's good" in his review.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I have no problem with the idea that some musical works need repeated listenings or viewings to fully understand them. But I think he's dead wrong that this is one of them.

Jim said...

Tommasini's review is up. He likes the music, the singers, and the set. He is not happy about Sellars' contributions.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I linked to Tommasini over the weekend - he's right below Ulrich. I think he's basically unwilling to express too strong an opinion and especially unwilling to say much negative about Adams.