Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh, Manon, oh, Man, oh!

Due to scheduling conflicts, my opera half-season literally occured in one week, with the productions of "Manon Lescault" and "The Barber of Seville".

"Manon Lescault" (Composer: Giacomo Puccini; Conductor: Donald Runnicles; Stage Director: Olivier Tambosi; Production Designer: Frank Philipp Schlössmann; Lighting Designer: Duane Schuler; Production from Lyric Opera of Chicago; 3 hours) looked great, and I PREFER Puccini operas over most, but I just can't toss this one on my pile of favorites, i.e. "Turandot". He usually has a knack for 'tunes', however I found myself becoming bored and the final scene, what seemed like a 30 minute death aria, was just too ludicrous for me to accept. Vocally, Karita Mattila's 'Manon Lescault' was quite lovely and her performance captured the adolescent zeal in which the character escapes a convent, is seduced by the wealth of 'Geronte' (ably performed by Eric Halfvarson), only to be imprisoned and exiled to her death in the "Louisiana desert". Her love interest, 'Des Grieux', was sung with chainsaw-like buzz by Misha Didyk. So annoying was his vocal placement that it has been described as "bellowing" by the local papers. It is a BIG voice, however that buzzing overtone was nearly painful to listen to. Not to mention, that as far as being the 'ingenue love interest' he was physically and vocally shown up by one of the lesser roles, 'Edmondo', who was performed by a stunningly handsome and vocally appealing Sean Panikkar. Panikkar is part of the SF Opera's "Adler Fellows", which is sort of the apprentice program. With his combination of matinee-idol looks and his solid voice, he has a fabulous future ahead of him, not unlike Nathan Gunn. Speaking of...

"The Barber of Seville" (composer: Gioachino Rossini; Conductor: Maurizio Barbacini; Production: Johannes Schaaf; Stage Director: Roy Rallo; Set Designer: Hans Dieter Schaal; Costume Designer: Yan Tax; Lighting Designer: Robert Hill; Original Lighting Design: Paul Pyant) features Nathan Gunn as 'Figaro', and quite a striking Figaro he is! Gunn and the entire cast were actually a hoot. Bruno de Simone was possibly the BEST 'Dr. Bartolo' I will ever get to see! He was almost an operatic Phil Silvers. Allyson McHardy did more than fulfill the role of the ditzy 'Rosina'. If anyone were a bit 'off' it would have been John Osborn's 'Almaviva'. Some of his music is incredibly difficult, though, and the role itself is perhaps the least interesting of the lot (the 'heroic ingenue'). However, he did give a few good comic turns when he appears in disguise in the second act. It just isn't fair, though, to have him strip down in the presence of Mr. Gunn, who so totally 'out-hunks' him that you can't help but wonder why Rosina isn't throwing herself at Figaro instead. Catherine Cook, who stole the show in the 2003 production, seems to have been reigned in a bit this time as the maid.

The cast is not the only gorgeous element of this production. The set features a carousel of a modern Italian home. It. Is. MASSIVE! And it spins to nearly dizzying effect during the finale. Costuming, particularly Rosina's gowns, are quite beautiful. And the lighting of this outrageously difficult set is outstanding, though Mr. Osborn seemed to have a problem finding his light at times.

I have to admit that I was hesitant to see "Seville" again so soon since it's last production was only 3 years ago. However, it was well worth it!

1 comment:

Maxxxxx said...

re: "Manon Lescault": "Is it bedtime?"

re: "Barber of Seville": "doobie doobie dooo-oooo!" and a wolf whistle!