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Subject: West Bay Opera Hits the Mark (without selling its soul)
From: janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:janosG <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sun, 21 Feb 2010 23:23:22 -0800

text/plain (65 lines)

For a small company to tackle Carl Maria von Weber’s "Der Freischütz" is 
challenge enough. West Bay Opera (, California's 
second-oldest opera company (54th season vs. SFO's 87th), is going far 
beyond that.

Presenting an original, home-grown production in Palo Alto's tiny 
(400-seat) Lucie Stern Theater, music director José Luis Moscovich and 
stage director Yuval Sharon open the opera like gangbusters. In a scene 
from "The Wolf Man," Claude Rains explains lycanthropy: "... most 
anything can happen to a man in his own mind."

The overture begins after the film clip, and Yannis Adoniou's 
KUNST-STOFF dancers illustrate the opera's story. On the stamp-sized 
stage, Jean-Francois Revon's wonderfully simple and effective sets 
provide such flexible devices as three rows of fences for the chorus to 
hide behind, appear on top of, change costumes, intermingling with the 
KUNST-STOFF dancers. It's the biggest production on the smallest stage 
in my experience.

Today's matinee had a special daredevil act - bold and dangerous, 
eventually triumphant. Ben Bongers, the Max, sang through a bad cold, 
coughing at times, and producing a few - very few - off notes. But on 
the whole, it was a strong, impressive performance, making the listener 
wonder what Bongers can do when in good health (and hoping such a 
trapeze act won't jeopardize his career).

Paula Goodman Wilder (Agathe) and Patrycja Poluchowicz (Annchen) sang 
exceptionally well, both individually and in their duets. Wilder was 
outstanding throughout, sang Agathe's scene and aria ("Wie nahte mir der 
Schlummer") with an impressive combination of restraint and star power.

Polish-born, San Francisco-trained Poluchowicz is a young singer with a 
big, flexible, well-projected voice that promises an important career.

Peter Graham (Kaspar), Eric Coyne (Kuno), and Gregory Stapp 
(Samiel/Hermit) contributed well. Moscovich got a big sound from the 
24-piece orchestra. The equally small chorus tried hard, but didn't 
reach the same professional level.

The subtitles used Moscovitch's new translation - a big improvement over 
traditional texts. It aimed for completeness in the rapid spoken 
dialogue, requiring a degree of speed-reading. Awkward as English 
dialogue with German text for the music may be, it might have been a 
better approach.

Remaining performances are on Feb. 27 and 28; highly recommended.

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