Cher Public

Roman holiday

Big changes in San Francisco’s Norma: Jamie Barton is now on for all performances of Adalgisa, and Marco Berti is out “for personal reasons.” Russell Thomas will sing the remaining performances of Pollione. [via Iron Tongue of Midnight]

  • Krunoslav

    Boy, those are two MAJOR upgrades from the inexplicable Karenas and the thoroughly mediocre Berti. Good for SFO!

    • Balvi

      San Francisco is lucky to have Russell Thomas. He was top-notch in Boccanegra at Covent Garden….

      • turings

        He was also great as Don Carlo in Berlin – endearingly young and generous-voiced opposite the queenly Elisabetta of Harteros.

  • MontyNostry

    Good news! Russell Thomas was also very fine in a concert Belisario in London late in 2012. Clean and shining tone with suitable heft.

  • ML

    She should have stuck to her *prior* London *Schools* Symphony Orchestra commitment, and forced SF Opera to give *someone else* the spotlight for those two affected nights.

    Down a point!

    • MontyNostry

      There were loads of tickets left for that London Schools SO concert, ML. If I’d have known about it before I read about the SF commitment on here, I would certainly have bought a ticket. Her programme was rather fabulous too. But had anybody marketed the event at all?

  • Rowna

    I have never heard of Russell Thomas -- so I looked him up on youtube. Hardly anything. However, here he is the soloist of a Verdi Requiem from Barcelona. The Ingemisco starts around minute 31. I enjoyed him very much. He is a work in progress with a lot of promise.

    • FragendeFrau82

      Rowna, he sang the Prince in our North Carolina Opera Rusalka this spring. He was wonderful. (Heidi Melton, Joyce El-khoury, and Tom Fox were also in the cast) NC Opera has had some wonderful casting.

      • Rowna

        Thanks, FragendeFrau! Which leads to 2 side discussions -- regional operas and Russalka.
        1. It seems like every couple of years, a new, not so standard opera gets a big boost. It has happened to Pearl Fishers and Russalka of late. Even Eugene Onegin all of a sudden became a popular choice when it had been a rarity before. In the last couple of decades, baroque -- esp Händel operas are done more. Which will be the next flavor du jour? I nominate Bartered Bride. No one ever does it. Why???? I love that opera. Delicious music all around.
        2. Now that there are fewer regional operas and even big opera houses are doing musical comedies, some of the better singers are doing more gigs outside the usual bigger venues. You had a great cast there for your Russalka. My hometown of Pittsburgh has several Met starts this year: Angela Meade (in a recital with Carl Tanner and Marianne Cornetti), Carl Tanner in Otello and Brownlee and Oropesa in English Daughter. Not bad IMHO.

        • SilvestriWoman

          I love Bartered Bride! Marenka was one of my most rewarding roles. My guess on why it isn’t done more often -- cast size. It’s not an opera that a cash-strapped house can throw together. Sadly, I’ve long thought that’s why major houses rarely do it, which is a shame. Every time we came to the a cappella sextet, you could hear a pin drop in the hall. To me, that’s always better than any ovation.

        • Operngasse

          Let me second the suggestion for The Bartered Bride. In all of the decades of opera going (sigh), I’ve only had one opportunity to see a live performance. It was the Met in the late 1970’s. The Marenka was Teresa Stratas, who was so wonderful, paired with Nicolai Gedda, who was likewise.

          However, perhaps the high point was the tenor in the bear costume, Jon vickers. When he was taking the curtain calls in the costume, holding the bear head in his arm, I never saw him look so delighted and happy; perhaps he never simply enjoyed a role more than that.

          I hope to see it again some time.

          • Rowna

            I saw this production on TV. It was what made me first love the opera. And then I learned Marenka’s aria . . . just lovely. Here is a clip from the Met production, complete with a stuttering Jon Vickers.

            • Bill

              Bartered Bride is frequently done in Germany
              and Austria. I last saw it this past April
              at the Volksoper. Many wonderful sopranos have sung Marenka and of course in Prague, Brno and
              Bratislava it is never out of the Repertoire.
              I even saw it a few years back in Debrecen,
              Hungary sung in Hungarian (not a felicitous
              production but quite good singers and it is
              an opera I do go out of my way to here --
              wonderfully cheerful. That said it does
              require good singers, a fine chorus, dancers and a splendid orchestra. It should appears more frequently at the Met and there was talk at one time of a project at Julliard and the Met under Levine -- but that project seems to
              have disappeared on the horizon. Pity

            • semira mide

              Bill, that Met-Juliard Bartered Bride did in face happen. I can’t link to a review, but if you Google there is a NYTimes review.
              It is a wonderful opera and I’ve often thought that the problem might be the rhythms which fit well with Czech, but seem an awkward fit with other languages. i would have loved to have heard it in Hungarian!

            • marshiemarkII

              Of course it happened with none other than the sublimest Layla Claire!!!!! she was breathtakingly glorious!

      • Krunoslav

        I heard that RUSALKA too- very fine, and Thomas was the best thing in it.

        He was also outstanding in I MASNADIERI at the Washington Concert Opera last year.

    • MontyNostry

      Belisario with Russell Thomas (and Joyce El-Khoury, superb as Antonina) is available on the Opera Rara label.

    • Kenhere

      Russell Thomas was in John Adams’ “The Flowering Tree.”

    • I started it and the first section I heard was his solo like in Kirie Eleison and my first reaction was HELLO! (AND THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING)

      I had not heard of him and my god is he wonderful! Love the voice, nice production, very musical. I could not be more impressed!

    • and can someone PLEASE get that soprano off the stage and bring a real one out?

      And while you are out, when the bass is done, give him my address and phone number.

      • Ivanhoe1960

        Oh my God, the soprano (Maria Luigia Borsi) was Robert Dean Smith’s Desdemona in his first ever OTELLO last Thursday night in Orviedo, Spain. Poor RDS!

      • steveac10

        Per her bio, her principal accomplishment is touring with Bocelli. She really needs to stick with that gig…and find a stylist pronto. She looks like soccer practice ran late on prom night and she threw on a hand me down dress without showering or doing her hair and face. If you’re going to pick up a few thousand Euro for a night’s work, you should at least hide your bra straps. Komlosi’s contribution might be a bit effortful and under pitch, but at least she bothered to look like she was performing a major concert gig.

    • There’s not a lot of Russell Thomas on YouTube, but check out his web site for a choice selection of clips, including some excellent work in Das Lieb von der Erde and opera. Beautiful voice, sounds like solid technique and style.

    • laddie

      If you are like me and can never remember how to create a new start time for a YT video (&t=), I found website that does it for you:

      I keep it handy in bookmarks. Here I have created the video above to start at 31:00 minute mark.

      • laddie

        Except that it didn’t work. LOL

        I will try one more time (I’ve used it before):

        If this doesn’t work then,…never mind.

  • Loge

    Our two Atlantans singing together! It does gall me (or maybe Gaul me considering the subject) that NC Opera does Rusalka, parts of Tristan, Birmingham does Hamlet and Atlanta can’t get too far from Boheme and Rigoletto in its mainstage productions. (To their credit they are doing Three Decembers at a smaller venue--a massive risk for the director considering the attitude of the board.)

  • Nell TuoCuor

    Very true, Rowna. We will be getting a Jenufa in Des Moines next June (with Brenda Harris and Joyce Castle). And Three Decembers in.. December. The most interesting is Rappaccini’s Daughter by Daniel Catán … to be performed in the dome of the recently remodeled Botanical Center.

    • Loge

      I love Des Moines’ video “commercials”. Very clever.

  • manou

    Getting Russell Thomas instead of Marco Berti is like getting lobster instead of tinned sardines.

    • Those of us with shellfish allergies have to forgo lobster and be satisfied with tinned sardines. Which perhaps explains why I ended up at Norma this past Wednesday with the hapless Berti.

      • [Artist’s conception]

      • derschatzgabber

        I attended opening night. Berti was better than expected, but still less than good. I went to the Sunday matinee after being tipped off about the cast change. Russel Thomas was a major improvement. Unlike Berti, he received a lot of applause after his Act 1 aria. I hope he comes back to SF Opera soon.

        m. croche, how was Sondra on Wednesday? On opening night and at the Sunday matinee she briefly lost control of her voice during a couple of pianissimo phrases. Her voice has a lot more metal in it than I remember from her Trovatore in SF. In Act 1 of the matinee, she sounded a bit harsh, but her voice sounded a lot better in Act 2. I liked her performance, with a few reservations. She sang the role better than I have heard it sung in SF in the 30 years I have been attending opera in SF (but the competition is Vanness and Naglestad).

        • SF Guy

          I was there Wednesday as well--Radvanovsky had the same occasional problems on pianissimo phrases, but was otherwise excellent vocally; not an inherently beautiful sound, but she uses it with great intelligence. Berti showed more dramatic involvement than usual, and apart from a few squally high notes, was vocally adequate; going in with low expectations helps. I’m going again Friday and look forward to hearing Thomas; I expect he’ll pair better with Barton than Berti did.

        • Radvanovsky hit the ball out of bounds a couple times during the opera and had to take the extra penalty stroke and drop in on a new note. Considering the length and difficulty of the role, one forgave her. I agree that Radvanovsky and Barton are about as great as one can hope to hear in SF in these roles, and I found much to enjoy in their musical interpretations (dramatic, perhaps less so.). Orchestra sounded ragged, even accounting for the usual wayward brass. I think Luisotti must take some blame for them not performing better than they do.

          Memorable quotation of the evening: plummy voiced British lady at intermission intoned “It’s just so pecuuuuullllliiiiiiaaaaarrrr, isn’t it?” I swear that “peculiar” lasted four-five bars….

          • SF Guy

            If the lady was discussing the production, it was indeed a good five bars worth of peculiar--Druid priestesses costumed like the Twenty Lovesick Maidens. Norma costumed like Martita Hunt’s Miss Havisham before the dress became a fire hazard, a Macy’s Xmas window of a forest, Norma’s roll-away hut, the Trojan Bull…I’m not making this up, you know.

            • Made more puzzling by the fact that there are several thing that happen onstage which are incomprehensible until you reach the final tableau. At one point I decided they were going to construct Tom Sawyer’s picket fence to keep out the Roman scum, but I was wrong….

              Also: I just can’t help it, but some small part of me, one of which I am not proud, wishes that Norma would murder those mugging, scene-stealing bastards in their sleep.

            • SF Guy

              “She plays Medea later this week.”

            • derschatzgabber

              There was a lot of peculiar stage direction. It is no wonder that the Romans can dominate the Gauls, when all a Roman has to do is to turn his back toward a Gaul or stand against the set wall and he becomes magically invisible to the Gauls.

              Did anyone else attend Opera in the Park on Sunday the 7th? The musical low point was Thomas Hampson and Marco Berti singing the Act II duet from Otello. I hope Mr. Hampson sounds much better in Ballo.

            • MontyNostry

              Judging by his Boccanegra in London last year, schatzi, that’s probably unlikely.

    • ML

      Vous exagérez, Madame.

  • Donna Anna

    In 2010, Cincinnati Opera’s production of Otello featured RT as Cassio. He was superb and earned the biggest ovations of the evening.