Friday, September 15, 2006
There are a few operas whose music I can listen to repeatedly on a CD, but which I generally avoid seeing live, because they just don't work for me as theatre.
Mozart's "Magic Flute" is one example and Johann Strauss, Jr.'s "Die Fledermaus" is another.
It seems that not a lot of other people are clamoring to see this latest production of "Die Fledermaus" at the San Francisco Opera either, because on Thursday the 14th you could have shot off a cannon in the balcony without harming anyone.
The 1874 operetta has a libretto that's like a coarse, dumbed down version of Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" with a licentious upper-class husband in Vienna married to a pretty woman who has a young admirer, along with a savvy chambermaid who dresses up in one of her lady's gowns to go to the big ball.
There are a whole series of would-be comic male characters and everyone spends the evening in a series of masks, disguises, and mistaken identities.
Unfortunately, the opera is German + comic which = oxymoron in my experience, and though the music is J. Strauss at his most exquisite, the going can get a bit thick.
However, I read a few reviewers who found themselves surprised at how much they enjoyed the production.
Kosman in "The Chronicle" and Cedichou at "SFist" were right. From top to bottom, the cast was in top form and the music director, Donald Runnicles, turned out to be an impressive Straussian, waltz-division (who knew?).
Who really carried the production, however, was Wolfgang Brendel who used to be the reliable barihunk of the San Francisco Opera in the early 1980s. His local debut in 1979 as Rodrigo in Verdi's "Don Carlo" was one of the sweetest and sexiest performances of anything in my lifetime.
So after much too long an absence, he's back at age 60 filling the stage with energy.
His wife was sung by the debuting Christine Goerke, who has an awesome soprano at her disposal, and the maid Adele was played expertly by Jennifer Welch-Babidge.
It's a great time in the theater, but there was no way I was going to tempt fate and stick it out through Act Three, which is one piece of comic drunken jailer schtick after another. Some things are unredeemable.