Cher Public

Fou fighter

It is easy to become overly identified with opera—as a cleverer friend of mine once noted: being a sports fan is an interest, but if you like opera, everyone thinks of it as a crippling obsession. Les Troyens doesn’t help matters; “I’m going to a four hour opera,” you tell someone, trying to convey the magnitude of Troyens, but somehow it seems not to hint at the right degree of lunacy, so the next time, you include intermissions and say “I’m going to a five hour opera” and up and up it goes until you admit, between puffs on your gauloise, that everyone was right and you must be tres fou.  

The second chunk of the season is upon us here in the bay (as they locally say, glug glug) and off to a raging start with the first local production of Berlioz’ masterpiece since the late 60s. I noticed no real attrition over the opera’s seven hours, which I will go ahead and attribute to a cast with much to please anyone and propulsive conducting which made the nearly day-long score fly by. On occasion, Donald Runnicles’ touch was more fleet than probing, but overall it was a strong and convincing reading.

Though Anna Caterina Antonacci was the singer I was most curious to hear, given how many intelligent listeners I know that rate her highly, her Cassandre I would have to call a partial success. As a physical actress, she’s as good as anyone lately on these boards. Every gesture has a through-line, so you don’t end up in that situation where Diva X thinks “I will express shock by putting my hand over my mouth” and then walks around for twelve minutes looking like she’s about to sneeze because she can’t think of a convincing gesture for getting it back in its holster. Vocally, though, the role seemed either to lie not entirely advantageously for her—or perhaps it’s an iffy match for her in a house the size of the War Memorial. It was skillfully sung, and there were no mishaps, but the intensity of physical gesture didn’t often find a match in vocal shading.

As ably as Antonacci and Brian Mulligan (Chorèbe, handsome of tone) filled their roles in the first act, the vocal temperature in the room changed perceptibly upon Bryan Hymel’s entrance and I’d swear the audience palpably sat up to take notice. I would like to call his singing of Énée incredible and stress that I mean it almost literally; rare enough that we hear this music but to hear it sung without compromise feels for a moment like someone is kidding you, and then like a reward for unspecified good behavior. Think of Ben Heppner at his best, before every performance became a nail-biter. The tone is less warm, but by the same token, more incisive. I would compare his best lyric moments to Nicolai Gedda’s on record, but then I’m afraid Norman Lebrecht would show up and do him in for page hits.

Susan Graham has had great success in French music and I can certainly see why, without ever quite really feeling it. She continues to sing with a vocal solidity and freshness that belies her years on the stage, and if her art has rarely grabbed me by the lapels, that would seem to be my own foible. Clearly, in the great farewell, she was holding little back, and the audience roared its approval. By the end, even this not-quite-a-fan was struck by her commitment to the role. (After the final curtain, Graham was presented with the San Francisco Opera Medal in honor of 25 years with the company.)

Smaller roles were consistently cast from strength. Sasha Cooke, already an accomplished artist, was a rich-voiced and sympathetic Anna, wonderful in her scene with an equally solid though hideously bewigged Christian van Horn as Narbal. René Barbera, impressive in last year’s Cenerentola, was exquisite as Iopas, gentle in his phrasing and fearless scaling the heights of “O blonde Ceres!”

David McVicar and Es Devlin’s kitchen -ink postmodernism, directed in revival by Leah Hausman, worked a good deal of the time. The stylized motions of the Trojan Women fit well with Antonacci’s larger-than-life phsyicality, and clunky period-mixing tended to be overshadowed by the end of the act by some truly impressive theatrical coup like the steampunk Trojan Horse that looked like it might be piloted by a motor-oil-smudged Charlize Theron. And since opera directors know their audience, we were given a ballet that might well have been about Helen of Troy’s lesser known twink cousin—we’ll call him “Brandon of Troy”—whose face might not have been anything to write an epic poem about, but whose abs launched a thousand sailors at least.

Les Troyens will be presented Friday, June 12 and four more times through the month. Michaela Martens steps in for Antonacci on June and 20.

Photos: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

  • laddie

    An absolutely delightful review, Mr. Freed. Thank you.

    • Greg.Freed

      Any time! Probably this Saturday, in fact!

      • Flora del Rio Grande

        Beautiful work Mr Freed; best before the San Francisco public.
        I highly recommend you review opera for the Chronicle.
        You may quote me.

        • Greg.Freed

          I’m afraid the post is already admirably filled by my pal Mr. Kosman!

  • Patrick Mack

    “….because she can’t think of a convincing gesture for getting it back in its holster”.

    Classique. Bravo!

  • guy pacifica

    Thanks for the review — I’m looking forward to seeing this next week. Can’t wait!

  • DonCarloFanatic

    Lovely review. Makes me want to hop on a plane and get out there to see it. As I understand it, all SFO productions are recorded, so perhaps we’ll get a chance to see this on DVD sometime.

  • Beautiful review! I’ve always felt the same way about Susan Graham’s Didon. She certainly did all the right things but I never felt it. Efficient is my word for it.

    • Greg.Freed

      Thanks! It actually made me sad not to be more moved by it, but what can you do? Not every singer makes it happen for every listener. She certainly has plenty of enthusiasts without my help.

    • olliedawg

      PI: I think I see where the disconnect might come in re: SuzyG’s singing and her dramatic commitment, but this is speculative and I’m not standing in your shoes, etc., etc., but here goes:

      There’s Graham the singer: Technically wonderful, bigger voice now than in years past, intense focus on text, physically imposing. Then there’s Graham as “personality”: Warm, witty,self-deprecating, easy-going. This dichotomy, if you will, puts her at odds with herself, particularly in a heavily romantic and tragic role like Didon. I knew the role from watching Troyanos in the DVD, and thought, “Really? SuzyG in the same part?? I know she can sing it, but…” When she stepped up to the plate, however, which I thought she did in space at the Met, I sorta snapped to, as in, “Wow, there’s something about this role that gets under her skin, something in this part that gets her into a darker place.” I thought she was terrific and a revelation.

      Anywho…just random thoughts on a lovely June morning here in the Hudson Valley…hope you are having a wonderful day, too!

      • olliedawg

        “which I thought she did in spades at the Met,

        • Ilka Saro

          I know what you mean about Graham. She is hands down one of the finest musicians around. She takes any piece she sings and makes it subtly, skillfully and authentically her own. But there is something dispassionate about her, too, which makes Didon an odd fit.

          I think Graham brought a lot to the part, and I don’t look to compare her to Troyanos (whose Didon was the very first perf I ever saw at the Met, with Domingo and Norman). Troyanos brought a kind of electric intensity to everything she did. What’s interesting to me is that each of them approached the French classicism of the part in a different way. The last aria’s text is so similar to the style of Racine and Corneille. Troyanos’ presentation was one of utter defeat and fragility. Graham’s more focused on how her self-immolation was a kind of vengeance. BOTH very noble, very queenly, in totally different ways, both in strict keeping with the text and the style. Which was correct? Qui sait?

          • armerjacquino

            Both times I’ve seen Graham (Komponist, 2004/ Octavian 2010) I’ve just been blown away by how rich and strong and secure the voice is. It’s just a lovely plush sound to get a bit lost in. As an actor I don’t think she does anything wrong, but she doesn’t do anything massively right either. I can see how in a part like Didon there might be a smidge of intensity missing.

            • Ilka Saro

              When I first heard Graham as Idamante, she had already been singing at the Met for a decade. I was dazzled. I find Idomeneo rather slow going, but Graham’s singing was so well-turned and so engaging that she brought me round. And yes, plush is precisely how to describe her Octavian. But her Octavian is a good example of that quirk. She very plays the role like a good sport, like someone who understands how to pull it off for the team, vocally a dream come true, without ever quite crossing the line into a convincing character. But I would gladly hear her sing it again and again.

          • olliedawg

            Yes, IS, agreed about Graham’s musical chops. I don’t know Graham, haven’t even had the opportunity (or nerve) to chat her up, ask for an autograph, so again, all speculation and naive observation here….

            I think she’s managed her repertoire, public persona, and physical health with diligence and intelligence. Her willingness to be the funny/party girl masks a hugely impressive artistry and a really fine mind. IMHO you can’t be that fast on your feet without substantial smarts to back it all up.

            Re: Troyanos…she brought me to opera, no question about it. She made the art form come alive. She rescued many a dull afternoon or evening at the Met. Her voice was distinctive. She appeared to took no prisoners — from her onstage colleagues, from the audience. You could not take your eyes off her. She was great. I want to print a sign that says, “Honk if you loved Tatiana Troyanos.” I hope she is remembered, and fondly, too.

          • PCally

            I thought Graham’s met Didon was considerably superior to her earlier effort in Paris. She was deeper in the role and the voice currently has a darker hue which I quite liked. However, there’s something about her that is so polished that she rarely comes off as spontaneous are truly digging deep. I also find the voice, though lovely, rather plain and cool. Though she’s a soprano, her voice is fuller and warmer (at least it was in 2012) and she was MUCH more interesting as interpreter. Her Didon was rather shy and insecure from the outset which only made the ending sadder.

            • olliedawg

              Hi, PCally, interesting viewpoint, and I understand how (over?) polished Graham can sound. Last I heard, however, Graham is a mezzo soprano ;-)

            • When I use the word “efficient” I don’t mean mediocre exactly. It’s just that her Didon was one role where I think she checked all the boxes vocally and many of the boxes dramatically, but for whatever reason she didn’t overwhelm. I remember how overwhelming, for instance, LHL was in the role. Graham just didn’t get there for me.

              I mean, this happens with great singers all the time (for me). For instance, I felt that way about Diana Damrau’s Violetta. She checked all the boxes vocally, and made some good dramatic choices. But for whatever reason I just didn’t respond much to her Violetta.

            • PCally

              olliedwag, I was referring to Westbroek in that comment. That’s my bad, sometimes I don’t finish or complete the thought in my head. Anyway, my description was Westbroek, whom I preferred to Graham

            • Camille

              Over the years I have heard Graham in a variety of roles, commencing with a Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette, followed by a Kitchen Boy in Rusalka, on through to many others, including Idamante and Oktavian, and she has always impressed me mightily as the consummate professional and company woman who turns in a more than competent and fully committed job, and she has almost always bored me to tears. With one exception, a youtube I have seen of Dido’s Lament, so I do think her capable of digging deeper, it’s just that I have not witnessed much of it. Therefore, do think the Countess Geschwitz might be a delightful change for her and look forward to her finally being something other than a game gal and a good sport. And, actually, she was a most gracious guest honoring the almighty Barbara Cook, at Carnegie Hall. At that event, she was a genuinely lovely person and charming lady. She seemed to be far more relaxed and in her element there.

              Recently was seated near her at a concert and her self-possession and presentation as the UnDiva was consonant with the image she has projected on stage all these years, at least that which I have gleaned, with one interesting detail—

              —the one interesting detail? Her perfectly manicured hands were painted a rather retro red. Was it “Jungle Red”? Alas, that I would not know since The Women was in black and white, (but perhaps La Cieca would). Perhaps, as well, we will be seeing more of those red nails when she claws her way out of jail to intone that sublime line: “Lulu, mein Engel”, this season coming up. Chi lo sà?

            • Krunoslav
            • Camille

              Close, but no cigar.

              This tonality is far too bloody and blue.

              Had no idea NARS had a “Jungle Red” in the works and still would like to know the shade used in the old film version, NOT that terrible update from the early eighties.

            • Camille

              That’s early “aughties”, if autocorrect doesn’t overtake me once more………………..

    • I feel similarly about Graham’s Didon based on the Met broadcast. As well as being a tasteful and musical intepreter, I think she’s somewhat moving in it (I wouldn’t use efficient) but not overpoweringly so. And Didon is the kind of role that allows a great artist to be overpowering in the part (Norman, Verrett, Troyanos — even LHL who didn’t posses as ideal an instrument as Graham but was deeply moving in the part).

      • olliedawg

        Hiya, kashania, nice to “hear” your voice in the conversation.

        I thought as you do, that Graham’s “Adieu, fiere cite” at the Met was darned good, but not overwhelming. Where she really got my attention was the moment in Act V when Enee tells her he’s gotta split for Italy (the dope). Graham pounded her chest and shouted/hissed, “Ne sois pas plus longtemps par mes cris arrêté…” (Do not let my tears delay you further…). Contemptuous, mocking, totally contemporary in its interpretation of anger and hurt. If you live long enough, who hasn’t been hurt, been dumped or felt abandoned? It’s a question of personal revelation, I suppose, but that’s the moment when this Didon became real and Graham’s interpretation took off.

  • Krunoslav

    How was Hylas and how was--Susan Graham’s old part- Ascagne, Greg?

    • Laura Amorosa

      Ascagne and Hylas were both casted with current Adler Fellows Nian Wang and Chong Wang respectively. Both sang really well, but the tenor showed some real promise as you can tell this was not just a light lyric voice, but something that hopefully will develop into something major.

  • 98rsd

    I had the tremendous pleasure of seeing both the dress rehearsal and opening of Troyens with Verrett/Verrett/Vickers. Jessye Norman’s first Troyens Dido years later was beyond great.

  • vilbastarda

    Thank you, Mr Freed for this wonderful review. I am very much looking forward to seeing it next week, and hearing Hymel for the first time.

    In regards to Antonacci, I think that her vocal shortcomings are very noticeable, she is not a technician, and it shows right away. And I agree that there is a disconnect between the very intense and powerful physicality and vocal production. But when all settles down, and I am able to listen to her on recordings without getting the direct emotional contact of the performance, I actually find her voice quite moving. It has a certain beauty and intensity, but even more, it has an immense musicality. I do believe that it is this musicality that actually guides her physicality as well, and her very clear enunciation. Even the audio recording of Troyens sounds good and moving, and intense.

  • Satisfied

    Yes! Thank you so much…I’m even more excited to see this Tuesday.

    Need help from Bay Area Parterrians! Attire for opera in San Fran: on par with the Met? More? Less? Trying to avoid taking a suit, if possible.

    Thanks!

    • Operngasse

      The dress “code” at SF Opera, especially during the June/July run is more relaxed that the Met. That said, people would tend to be more formally dressed in the Box and Orchestra sections as compared to Balcony Circle and Balcony.

      Seeing that it is the summer, for most seats a nice shirt and slacks would be sufficient.

      Two tips:

      During intermission it is possible to step onto the balcony on the front of the house -- the fresh air is very welcome.

      The bathrooms on the Box Seat level are public bathrooms, and almost always have much shorter lines than elsewhere in the house. They are found off the inner lobby on that level.

      • Satisfied

        Love you guys :-)

        K. Last question: meeting my husband after Troyans and need good bar suggestions after. And close by. Also, coming from Napa afternoon of show…any recommendations on where to eat at (or in) opera house? Seeing Two Women on Friday so a good recommendation for dinner nearby would also be appreciated.

        • Greg.Freed

          With the caveat that I live in the East Bay because I’m not a tech billionaire and only know this and that in the West Bay, there’s a great German place called Suppenkuche not too far off, but if you don’t get there early there’s a long line. A little lower maintenance is Arlequin on Hayes by Gough. Friends who were in for the Troyens prima and who are serious about food went to Jardiniere, but I suspect it’s $$$.

          • olliedawg

            Suppenkuche rocks. Fabulous beer. Excellent food. A bit noisy. Reasonable prices.

        • guy pacifica

          Monsieur Benjamin in Hayes Valley is another good spot for late night eats and drinks, open to 1am. It’s just a short stumble from the opera. I’m always surprised how early SF eateries shut down!

        • Krunoslav

          Very good nouvelle Thai, 5 minutes or less from both Davies ( SFS) and the Opera House:

          http://lersros.com/

          • Satisfied

            Thank you, all! I’ve looked at all of your suggestions and will certainly be hitting up a few!!

        • Feldmarschallin

          Well I haven’t been in SF for almost 20 years but there used to be a great place called Fountain Court and they had the best Orange Chicken. It was somewhere towards the Pacific Ocean. Then there were two great places in Chinatown one had an eggplant dish that was out of this world and also a scallop dish. Then there were two places South of Market near to each other and both were also quite good but I forget the names of them. Again these places might not exist anymore.

    • It is also acceptable to come dressed as your favorite character.

  • Batty Masetto

    Since so many Parterrians seem to be planning on making the pilgrimage to SF this coming week, would there be interest in a meet-up at some point? (This turned out to be lots of fun during the Ring.) Would need to know who will be here and when. And especially need to know which local Parterrians would be interested.

    A holler sent to battymasetto {at} [sonic-dot-net] would reach me.

    • laddie

      Oh, I so wish I could come, Batty. I hope everyone has a GREAT time!

    • fletcher

      I’m not a very frequent commenter but I’ll be there -- coming up from Los Angeles for my birthday / Troyens (June 25th) / Pride weekend -- and it would be lovely to meet some of you.

      • guy pacifica

        Ha! I started looking for hotel reservations back in December and was shocked at the shortage of rooms and the prices asked for June 25 (plus a long weekend) at the lodgings I usually stay at in SF. Only after I snagged a room via AirBnB did I realize that the competition for rooms wasn’t other opera lovers but Gay Pride goers. It should be a festive weekend. BTW, I’d be happy to meet up with other Parterruvians if you’re going on Thursday night.

        • auracentral

          In addition to Gay Pride there are also 10,000+ librarians arriving for American Library Association Annual convention. Considering most library salaries, the pressure on reasonably priced accommodations worse than ever. Some of us are all three, but I decided to stay on the right coast this summer.

          • Krunoslav

            “In addition to Gay Pride there are also 10,000+ librarians arriving for American Library Association Annual convention.”

            Gee, no overlap there! :)

      • opera_newbie

        also not a frequent commenter but will be there on the 25th if anyone cares to join me out on the balcony with a glass of the crappy champagne they sell :)

        • Vergin Vezzosa

          I will also be at Troyens on Thurs. 6/25.

  • Krunoslav

    Y’all do know that, besides the SFO offerings, there is- across the street-- the SFS’s Beethoven series under Tilson Thomas including:

    MISSA SOLEMNIS w/ J. Harvey, S. Cooke/Boulianne, Jovanovich, Shenyang

    http://www.sfsymphony.org/Buy-Tickets/2014-2015/Beethovens-Missa-solemnis.aspx

    Ah, perfido! w./Mattila

    http://www.sfsymphony.org/Buy-Tickets/2014-2015/Beethovens-Pastoral-Symphony.aspx

    FIDELIO with Stemme, Jovanovich, Held, K. Langan, J. Harvey, Phan, Pisaroni

    http://www.sfsymphony.org/Buy-Tickets/2014-2015/Fidelio.aspx

    • fletcher

      Thanks for the reminder, Krunoslav. I’ll be at the Fidelio on Friday too, looking forward to hearing Ms Stemme for the first time.

      • Feldmarschallin

        Well I just Nina Stemme in the Fidelio in Wien on Saturday and have to say I was disappointed. I find she should drop the role. First she just stood around the whole time like a wax flower and did nothing and I think she might have sung too many Brünnhilldes since she can no longer sing the high H in erreichen. She can still manage to sing B and H if she just sings the note (Töt erst sein Weib) but in the aria where it it is in a phrase gebunden it does not work. I was surprised at how good Robert Dean Smith sounded and was not expecting much from him. The rest of the cast was mediocre with the best being Norbert Ernst as Jacquino and Lars Woldt. Schmeckenbecher was disappointing as Pizarrro and no one would have been scared of him. Fischer conducted beautifully and the highlight of the evening was the Leonore 3 played exquisetly by the Wiener Philharmoniker.
        But the highlight of the trip was for me the Götterdämmerung and Evelyn Herlitzius as Brünnhilde certainly ranks in my top 10 in 35 years of opera going. It didn’t start out that way since she needed the duet to warm up and had a very brief high C at the end. By the time of the Waltrauten Scene you could only watch her since she was the interesting one to watch even when she was not singing. She was 150% Brünnhilde and the changes in her charachter was amazing to watch from the radience in her duet with Siegried and when she was expecthing him to come back to the utter devastion when Günther drags her in and she looks like 100 years old and completely destroyed. Certainly one of the great stage portayals today and with Elektra she owns the role. Gould was also in excellent voice but the rest of roles were much better cast in München. Von Otter has little voice left and von der Damerau was much more moving as well. I never thought I would be missing Anna Gabler as Gutrune but Caroline Wenborne was utterly boring with an uninteresting voice. Struckmann samg Hagen for the first time and he is no Schwarzbaß. Daniel was ok as Günther. Rattle got booed by one or two people for no reason. I personally prefer Petrenkos faster tempi and with more dynamics and it was a warmer style which also worked. But what was very evident that the Wiener Staatsoper is not a top tier player when it comes to productions. Both could have been done in concert version. The Götterdämmerung is not as old as the Fidelio but just as dull from the stage and from the non-existant Personenregie. It was a wonderful weekend in Wien with temperatures reaching 35 both days. Good food at Witwe Bolte again and the obligatory stop at Alexander McQueen. Oh on Sunday morning we went to the Zentralfriedhof and saw the graves of Beethoven, Mozart, Gluck, Rysanek and many more. Tried to find Welitsch but had no luck.

        • fletcher

          Well unfortunately, as a Californian, I can only hear the finest European artists once they’re past their prime (see: Antonacci, Stemme). Maybe Herlitzius will visit in 2022 once I’m past mine.

          • scifisci

            mm that’s not really true. I saw Stemme two years in a row in SF (2010-2011) in her absolute prime and her performances as brunnhilde were for me pretty much ideal.

            • Camille

              Yes, you are correct, so far as I was concerned. Her characterisation of Brünnehilde in 2010 was as close to the real thing as I’ve ever seen and heard, not that I have gone out of my way to see many of them. I do not feel Elektra will be as good and I have no intention of hearing her as Turandot, all wrong for that role. But her Brünnehilde, then, was as marvelous, shining, and human an accounting of the role as one could ever hope to see and hear of the role,and never to be forgotten by myself and countless others.

            • PCally

              I saw Stemme in Gotterdammerung in Munich and she started strung and pretty much ran out of gas by the end of Act 2

            • Don_Dano

              I agree. I was at opening night of Die Walkure in San Francisco and thought Nina Stemme was as close to perfect as I could expect, and then the following Sunday matinee, she did it again. (Although I enjoyed Christine Goerke in Houston this past Spring, I didn’t think she matched Nina Stemme in San Francisco.)

              The next summer’s San Francisco’s Ring Cycle was also awesome as well; as were two Isolde’s in Houston.

              I expect, I will be making a trip to NYC next Spring to hear her Elektra.

          • Camille

            How does one “stand around like a wax flower?”, Feldmarschallin? A very picaresque metaphor, or something! I imagine that H was excruciating as she was only getting them five years ago. The warm middle is so schön, leider—
            Also, die “Töt erst sein Weib” ist ein si bemoll.
            Cannot imagine Struckmann as Hagen…why? Wie? Was? Entsetzen!

            How is your Garten? Grüner, Schöner!

            I was thinking of you the other day because of the 150th anniversary of Tristan und Isolde. It still thrills me to death—even though I am not the perfekt Wagnerite.

            Happy Sommer holidaze und Viel Spaß, gnädige Resi!

            • Batty Masetto

              Camille adorée, I am so happy to see you back here, I was getting worried. I hope all is well at the Camillatorium.

            • Camille

              Sei ruhig! Bad grass never dies.
              Just old, tired, and preoccupied with the dreary and the mundane details of my former abode. Yuck, as Clita del Toro would have said!

              The SF Opera should be inserting FREE TROJANS into all programs this month. Gockley, get with it!!! Perhaps someone is listening?

              Hoping Michaela Martens will do well as I think this role could be a good fit for her voice.

              Thinking of the September Luisa Miller, but still unsure and unclear if feasible….

        • spiderman

          I saw the first Götterdämmerung and watched the second via the stream -- and i have to say that in both Performances Herlitzius -- whom I love very much -- ran out of steam that she had to omit some high notes during the immolation. In the first performance even to the point it got really worriesome.

        • Feldmarschallin

          BTW in regards to seats we sat in 3 different areas over the past two months and have to say the Galerie has great accoustics but there is too much riff raff there coming and going during performances for my taste. Wiener Staatsoper seems to be on the list of tourist things to do and they can buy cheap tickets on the day of the performance and if they decide they had enough and made their selfies they just go during the performance even if it only has 5 more minutes until the end of the act. The Balkon is better but even better was the 2 Rang Loge 1 Reihe which you have since you are in a box more privacy and don’t get the noise which you have upstairs.

        • pasavant

          I thought H was silent in most European languages . How did she not sing H?

          • Feldmarschallin

            No she sang it but it was not smooth and under the pitch slightly. She ran out of breath. She can still sing it (I think) if she blasts it out but the phrase is very difficult if you look at the score. Sort of like the C in Aida which is certainly different than the C in Norma which one can also just sing as a C alone and not in a phrase. The voice has just become less flexible.

          • Krunoslav

            By ‘H” , Feldie means what we in the US would call B [natural]. As Wikipedia explains:

            “In parts of Europe, including Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary, Norway, Denmark, Serbia, Croatia, Finland, Iceland and Sweden, the Gothic b transformed into the letter H (possibly for hart, German for hard, or just because the Gothic b resembled an H). Therefore, in German music notation, H is used in lieu of B? (B-natural), and B in lieu of B? (B-flat). Occasionally, music written in German for international use will use H for B-natural and Bb for B-flat (with a modern-script lowercase b instead of a flat sign). Since a Bes or B? in Northern Europe (i.e., a B elsewhere) is both rare and unorthodox (more likely to be expressed as Heses), it is generally clear what this notation means.”

            • Feldmarschallin

              Thanks Kruno but I don’t think it is the note per se but how the note is presented here which causes her the trouble. For example last year in Götterdämmerung she sang H without a problem but the C was iffy. But in G the notes are sung squarely on. There is of course the B towards the end of the second Act G which also is sung in a phrase but that is easier than in the Fidelio.

            • Bluebeard

              To be fair to Stemme though, that B is one that many identify as probably the greatest challenge in the entire opera. Didn’t Christa Ludwig write about that in her autobiography, that she would only know if she could really do the role well depending on how that note came out? I’ve recently listened to about ten different live Fidelios, and few, if any soprano, sounds entirely comfortable on that note (some singers just missing it entirely), with exceptions along the lines of Rysanek and Nilsson, who both had supernatural upper registers. Unlike Herlitzius (who, despite her acting, sounded rough as Brunnhilde), Stemme really only comes to full life when she gets to work with a director, and that Schenk production is painfully quaint.

              I’m guessing Fidelio is one of those roles she does so that she can keep on singing Brunnhilde and other dramatic roles. Even on the Abbado recording from a few years ago, it doesn’t sound entirely fluid. She is pretty clear that there are some roles she keeps in her repertoire to maintain certain aspects of her voice, such as Turandot. Unlike Turandot though, she really doesn’t sing this part often, with the only other staged performances being in London. Since the Fidelio in Wien was only three or four performances, it probably seemed like an easy enough commitment. Nothing like her first Kundrys in two years in Wien!

              Now that I think about it, who are the great Leonores of today? I presume Mattila’s not going to do it in the opera house anymore. Anja Kampe’s been singing it everywhere, but I can’t say the voice interests me that much (she is a committed performer though), and I think Malin Bystrom’s been starting to do it. I suppose Schwanewilms does it. Pieczonka is the only one I can think of who really meets the criteria right now. I’d imagine Harteros ideal in it, a more enticing prospect to me than a potential Kaiserin. If Layla Claire is smart about her career, I’d imagine her being a perfect fit for the role in five or ten years.

            • armerjacquino

              Yes, Pieczonka is the only Fidelio casting that would really excite me at the moment. Westbroek would have been a good fit a few years ago but I don’t think she did it.

              One singer who not only manages the B with no trouble but manages to blossom and expand on it is Vishnevskaya. It’s why I couldn’t resist using her for that section of the Abscheulicher quiz a while back.

        • PCally

          It’s a shame about Stemme but I’ve noticed that the voice has gotten a bit heavier and less flexible as the years go on. It’s great that Herlitzius has such a success. I’m so excited to be seeing her Elektra this summer.

          • Buster

            You’ll be in Zürich too? I go the final performance, looking forward hearing Hanna Schwarz live for the first time. Next season Schwarz sings Gaea in Hamburg -- same weekend as Haveman’s Minnie.

            • Krunoslav

              Jeez-- I first heard Hanna Schwarz *30* years ago, as San Francisco’s RHEINGOLD Fricka and SIEGFRIED Erda. More power to her.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Maybe PCally will see the Elektra in München. She sings two during the Festspiele. I will only be at the first one since Schwanewilms will be giving a Liederabend on the night of the second. But as a consolation prize they will be singing three together next April and I will be at all three of those.

            • PCally

              It will be in Munich on the 19th. I’m super excited. Even with Meier’s current vocal estate in mind, the combination of here, Herlitzius and Pieczonka is too good to miss. I will say that having seen Jane Henschel in the Baden-Baden dvd, I’m very curious to see how Meier will fit into the same production. I’m wondering if she does her usual response to Orest’s death.

            • PCally

              Buster, I hope you enjoy Schwarz. A very underrated singer IMO. Before Meier came along, I thought hers was the most intriguing interpretation of the role I’d ever seen. Very subtle and eerie, and exceptionally glamorous. That was over ten years ago so I have no idea what she’s like now, but I’ve read mostly positive things.

            • Feldmarschallin

              PC is that all you have in München. I have Schwanewilms that night but will be at the Arabella on Friday night. Kaufmann on Monday etc. I already have several friends coming for the Arabella so I would prefer Monday if possible. Lohengrin can join us perhaps for that. Buster Herlitzius will be singing Erwartung hier next week and I will see her on Thursday.

            • Lohengrin

              Looking forward to Kaufmann-Liederabend!! Meetingpoint as usual.
              Still NO program………..

            • PCally

              I also have Tristan on the 12. I go back right after the Elektra. I hope the Arabella is wonderful. I really can’t stomach that opera but Harteros sounds ideally cast.

            • PCally

              Krunslav, Schwarz was my first Fricka in the Schenk production. Really changed my perceptions of the role and she really held her own against the Domingo-Voigt pair.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Yes ok on the 12th then will be at that Tristan too. Will you be at Roberto on the 15th?

            • PCally

              No I will not

            • Feldmarschallin

              Ok you will have to come up to the Galerie because my old friend whom I started going to the opera with is here that weekend and she is staying with me. Where will you be sitting?

            • Buster

              Erwartung is one of the few things Herlitzius has done in the USA. One Marie and one Erwartung, that is all, I believe. She cancelled her Chicago Isolde with Salonen.

              Great to read people fondly remember Hanna Schwarz here. She did a Herodias recently, Kashania was very enthusiastic about.

              In this clip she looks a little like Michelle Pfeiffer in a seasick dress with funny hair:

          • PCally

            Don’t know off the top of my head. Will check later

        • Buster

          Thanks for the report, Feld. Glad Herlitzius had such a success, and survived more ore less intact. Her schedule looks gruesome, by the way, with a summer full of Elektras, immediately on to three difficult new roles (Emilia Marty, Renata, Lady Macbeth), with some big Wagner in between.

          • PCally

            Whatever she’s doing must be working for her. I’m not a fan of her voice by any means but she’s been singing Brunnhilde and Isolde for a while now and Elektra for at least five year.

    • Satisfied

      Thank you, Krunoslav! I knew about Mattila performing with the SFO but somehow missed the the Stemme/Jovanovich Fidelio! I just bought great orchestra tickets (which were discounted from their top price for some reason…not complaining!) Any opportunity to see Stemme is an opportunity not to be missed.

      Even if she’s no longer at her prime :-p

    • Camille

      Nota bene: The San Francisco Symphony has a special Rush Tickets telephone number which one may call on the same day of performance to purchase drastically reduced tickets. And unfortunately, I have deleted the number from my list so cannot provide it but if one pokes their nose around a bit…it’s pretty sure to turn up. I think the tix were $10 and in some pretty good seats, too. Sorry about no longer having the number.

      • Batty Masetto

        It’s 20 bucks now, but still:

        “A limited number of $20 Rush tickets for select performances will be sold in person at the Box Office window during regular business hours on the day of the concert.

        Rush Hotline at (415) 503-5577

        Rush ticket availability will be recorded on this hotline by 6pm on the day before the concert or by 6pm on the Friday before weekend concerts. Limit: 2 Rush tickets per person.”

        • Camille

          Oh many thanks, munificent benefactor, BM!

          My, already they are twice the price I paid a few years back, but still in all, a big bang for your buck. The Louise Davies Hall is an accommodating and cordial experience, in toto, unlike the very yucky AF Hall, the one I like the least and avoid unless I absolutely have to.

          It was also my experience that those tickets went quickly at some performances and for others, one could stroll up to the box office a little before performances and snag one. Also, be persistent and consistent in calling because sometimes there will not be tickets for things and then all of a sudden there will be again with no rhyme nor reason, at least, that’s how it was then.

  • Henry Holland

    Well hello gentleman under Ms. Graham’s left breast, how YOU doin’?

    I too would be going to this but persistent money woes are preventing it. The only production of this I’ve seen in the theater was at Los Angeles Opera in 1991. The first part was fine, but the second was very poor. It included a ballet section, without any visible abs alas, that had the dancers mostly swinging around on ropes. It elicited laughter, I’m sure not what Berlioz intended.

    • Camille

      Carol Neblett in a pith helmet?
      Yeah, I passed, too. No big loss maybe.

  • Laura Amorosa

    Yes great review, and one that I subscribe in many ways. My impression was that the problem with Antonacci’s performance was definitely the size of the house, and that therefore a lot got lost. Interestingly, from my seat (up up in the balcony, a choice I regretted) Hymel also sounded a bit underparted, and not at the level of strength and heft I experienced at the MET, a couple of years ago.

    Which leaves us with Graham. Hers was the only voice that up in the rafters came fully projected, with body and color. She cancelled the performance I attended at the MET 2 years ago, and I was grateful and happy to hear her finally in the role. I thought it was glorious singing, even if one could have asked for a bit more emotional intensity.

  • PCally

    Much to my surprise I actually preferred Westbroek to Graham and I wish she’d came over with the rest of the cast.

    • Feldmarschallin

      I also prefer Westbroek over Graham.

      • Lohengrin

        Have seen the “original London cast” with Westbroek as Dido in ROH. W was very good then.
        Love the YT-clips with Graham and Kunde!
        So sorry that we have to miss JK as Äneas……..

        • Feldmarschallin

          No I didn’t see it live but have the DVD.

        • PCally

          I too wish Kaufmann hadn’t have cancelled. The combination of him, Westbroek, and Antonacci would have been simply unreal. This isn’t meant as a slight to Hymel who did a stellar job.

          • Satisfied

            Hymel was indeed phenomenal in New York shortly after CG. I look forward to hearing how his voice has matured since. The San Fran and CG Cassandra is quite the improvement and Graham is simply exquisite in this role. And despite the mixed response to this McVicker production, I’ve been quite impressed by the visuals. It has to be better than the Met’s very tired-looking Zambello production.

            Ugh! Can’t wait until Tuesday!!!

            Back on the topic of Kaufmann: has he altogether dropped plans to sing Enée? I recall that he dropped out of the CG because of vocal problems, but I don’t recall him saying either way whether he would take on the role though I don’t see anything in the future lined-up in his schedule.

            • PCally

              I think it would probably be a little to high for him.

            • Feldmarschallin

              Well you might not be wrong about it being too high for him but he will be singing Kaiser which is quite high as well in 2019.

            • PCally

              Well the Emperor is considerably shorter. And 2019 is a long way off. Do you know who is Empress will be (Harteros).

            • Lohengrin

              Kaufmann had no vocal problems but health-problems. God thanks he took time to recover (2012)
              Where and when should he sing Enée? I am only waiting for the wonderful love-duett in one of his rezitals……………

  • Feldmarschallin

    It will be in Wien. Stemme is the Färberin. Have no idea who Meyer will hire as die Kaiserin? She keeps saying no to the Kaiserin. It is my wish role if I could choose one role for her it would be Kaiserin.

    • PCally

      Perhaps she feels it lies a little to high? The best option would probably be either Pieczonka or Schwanewilms. I’d probably take Pieczonka but both are solid choices. I can’t say that Stemme excites me much but I’m just not a fan in general.

  • Quanto Painy Fakor

    This is by far one of the most brazen pirated videos of all time

    • phoenix

      amazing -- she looks just like Angela Lansbury!
      -- Here’s the rest of it:
      httpV://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4yi5PBCDdjI

      • phoenix