Love from the hinterlands: San Francisco Opera’s “Arabella”

Arabella, lovely Arabella, positioned to buy her family out of debt through marrying off her beauty to the highest bidder, but searching wistfully for Mr. Right. Can the two inharmonious approaches to love resolve into one happy ending? In Richard Strauss’ opera they do indeed. And in the San Francisco Opera production that opened on Tuesday they resolve, like Tobias Hoheisel’s production design, from black and white into varieties of gray. Nonetheless suggesting, somehow, that an...

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A sumptuous “Tosca” at San Francisco Opera

The Opera House curtains open on an elaborately decorated Roman church, its walls deep scarlet, the religious paintings over the altar and on the left side of the apse painted in the fleshy and darkly sensual style of the late Renaissance. There, in front of an easel, the painter Cavaradossi contemplates his portrait of Mary Magdalene and sings about feminine beauty and love. In San Francisco Opera’s Sunday performance of Puccini’s Tosca, “Recondita armonia” revealed all the...

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Honor in the streets of Buenos Aires

San Francisco Opera opened its season with two of the most famous one-acts of verismo opera, which are often presented together: Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. In a well-considered version of these two operas, production and set designer José Cura linked the two operas by placing them in the same neighborhood of Buenos Aires and interweaving the characters. Cavalleria opens the evening’s performance. As the day dawns in the colorful streets of La Boca, a...

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Long live Donizetti’s fiery Queen!

Don’t go to the opera for historical fact. That’s a time-tested axiom. And one San Francisco Opera’s production of Roberto Devereux not only supports but makes a virtue of. Donizetti’s 1837 opera is said to be based on a history and a tragedy, but at its heart it’s a simple Italian love triangle with exotic celebrity characters. Exotic because Queen Elizabeth I and her court were distant in both time and place from Donizetti’s operatic Naples. Director Stephen Lawless...

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The darkest corners of opera shine through in West Edge Opera’s “Quartett”

Beginning their 2018 Festival with Debussy’s only opera, a love triangle sketched in delicate sensuality, West Edge Opera closed its summer offerings with Luca Francesconi’s Quartett, an operatic staging of Heiner Muller’s 1982 play of the same name, both inspired by Laclos’ 18th-century novel, Les liaisons dangereuses. Very different fare. There are crucial similarities, however, not only the operas’ focus on love and sexuality, suppressed or distorted, but more...

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Mata Hari, an offering to the exotic and the difficult

Always open to radically new and contemporary writing, West Edge Opera opened its second production of the season this past Sunday with the 2017 opera by Matt Marks and Paul Peers, Mata Hari. The opera, which premiered at New York’s Prototype Festival, combines spoken voice with classical singers. At the Craneway Conference Center, West Edge Opera’s current venue, Emily Senturia conducted the opera’s four-member instrumental ensemble of violin, piano, accordion and electric...

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