Friday, May 26, 2006
Summer Opera Preview
Banners for the San Francisco Opera's three-opera summer season, which is being marketed as "The Return of The Divas," have sprouted all over the Civic Center.
The campaign implies a bit of a slap toward the previous Pamela Rosenberg regime which prided itself on its seriousness and Germanic intellectual integrity rather than on its abundance of songbirds.
Two of the first three operas of new General Manager David Gockley's regime are actually pretty tried and true productions from the earlier McEwen and Mansouri eras ("The Marriage of Figaro" and "Madama Butterfly" respectively), while the lone novelty is a rarely produced Tchaikovsky grand opera about Joan of Arc called "Maid of Orleans."
I've been listening to a scratchy old 1946 recording from St. Petersberg of the "Maid" that has caused me to fall completely in love with the music, so please don't be discouraged by the opera's rarity. The music is simply wonderful, with huge, patriotic choruses galore and a wonderfully over-the-top role for a mezzo-soprano.
Joan will be sung by Dolora Zajick, who according to all accounts out of New York and backstage at the San Francisco Opera, is in absolutely prime career voice. If you're a serious opera queen at all, it shouldn't be missed.
Also not to be missed is tomorrow (Saturday) night's opening of "Madama Butterfly" with its free simulcast on a huge video screen in the Civic Center Plaza.
Gockley started these videocasts on opening nights as a popularizing tool while he was in charge of the Houston Opera company, and it's a great idea.
A meeting was going on Friday afternoon with the concert organizers advising various employees from the opera where the VIPs would be sitting, where the media went, what security would be like, and so on.
They are expecting about 5,000 attendees by the 8PM start, but in truth they really don't have a clue how many people will be showing up.
Though "Madama Butterfly" is not my favorite opera by a long shot, it's a good one to start with, and will be perfect for the public simulcast.
Bring blankets, sleeping bags, low-lying beach chairs (nothing higher), many layers of clothing, food, and a couple flasks of cognac, and enjoy some free opera under the stars.