Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Saint Joan Has A Boyfriend

On 6/6/6, which in California at least was Satan's Election Day, the San Francisco Opera presented its second of six performances of Tchaikovsky's early Grand Opera, "The Maid of Orleans."

The Kosman review in the San Francisco Chronicle had warned that the production was "dull and misguided," and though he's right, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

The raised stage floor with a couple of moving pillars worked fine for the second half of the opera, where the story is hopping from battlefield to cathedral to village square, but the first act really needed a serious forest and the second act needed a serious palace to even begin to work dramatically.

A couple of dancers/supers with a map just didn't cut it. Plus, having the chorus sit on their behinds onstage for the entire opera doesn't make for a lot of dramatic excitement for anyone.

The first two acts are well-constructed, in a sort of "Don Carlo" lots-of-major-characters with political and ethical problems kind of way, but the last two acts are wildly ridiculous. Act Three starts with a battle where Joan of Arc falls in love with the knight Lionel, who has been pinned to the ground by her sword. Of course he falls back in love immediately, and God is not amused.

The reason to catch one of the last performances is that musically, there's hardly a weak link in the entire cast, Runnicles the conductor seems like a genuine Russian madman, and Dolora Zajick has a blast with the wildly ambitious role.

And I sort of like the idea of Joan of Arc having a boyfriend and burning at the stake a la "Norma" for him. It shows human feeling.


markleym said...

Mike, what gorgeous pix. They're breath-takikng. The colors are so rich. They make me want to hear the voices and the music. When are youo going to add a little audio to your blog?

cedichou said...

Plus, the set seemed to malfunction during the first scene, when the columns start apart and merge into a tree. It was very jerky and annoying. In defense of the set, I have to say it looked fuller from orchestra level. You are seeing a lot of hardwood from the balcony.