Friday, December 07, 2007

Opera Season Wraps Up

The repertory system at the San Francisco Opera means up to four shows share storage space for sets, costumes, casts, and their makeup, and it can get cramped quickly to say the least, but the season is thinning out.

This week there are only two shows left, the superb production of "The Rake's Progress" which has no supernumeraries, children or dancers in Dressing Room 7, and five performances of "Madama Butterfly" with two casts.

The second cast made their debut tonight and I felt sorry for Marie Plette having to follow Patricia Racette's performance on Saturday afternoon, which was an instant legend partly because a lot of opening performance journalists saw it. Ms. Plette sang beautifully tonight and played the part as a much more vulnerable character than Racette, but following that legendary performance from Saturday afternoon must have been difficult. In fact, even Racette herself couldn't duplicate it on Wednesday evening, when her voice wasn't doing everything the diva was wanting it to do. (She's an intelligent, veteran singer who knew how to "make it work.")

Opera is much closer to athletics than most people realize. (The Chinese have always known this.) Great singers are like tennis players or a baseball hitter who sometimes get into a rare zone on a particular day, which is why people pay to go to live events. Nobody really knows when the magic is going to happen.

If you're in the mood, check out the Racette matinee on Saturday at 1 PM. Maybe her instrument will be willing again, and she can take down the house in a paroxysm of sound and emotion. And I'm definitely going to be standing for the final performance of the season on Sunday afternoon for the superb "Rake's Progress" which may have been this year's highlight.


Ced said...

Wednesday was pretty darn good, Saturday must have been really spectacular.

Civic Center said...

Dear Ced: Saturday was spectacular but that's actually the wrong word, because both the opera and the production are pretty simple and stripped down. Racette came on for her first entrance on Saturday with the geishas about fifteen minutes into the opera, and when she started singing with a huge, perfectly on-pitch soprano over the female chorus, my initial reaction was "holy shit, she's starting at that strong place, how is she going to sustain it over three hours?" Well, she not only sustained it but like a golfer or a tennis player who is in some weird kind of zone, she just went with it and got stronger with every moment. This is where the familiarity of the conductor and Zheng Cao as Suzuki was beyond invaluable. Both of them stopped being bored with their roles and went way up a notch. The cute debuting tenor was swept up in the moment, and by the suicide at the end the entire opera house was about to go mad. Yes, it really was that kind of afternoon.