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Subject: manon in san francisco
From: k youngmann <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:k youngmann <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 11 Nov 2017 16:28:21 -0600

text/plain (35 lines)

Just back home from San Francisco where I enjoyed the Manon performance which was most enjoyable.

When I saw that the running time was estimated at 3 hours & 15 minutes (it lasted somewhat longer) I assumed that the Hotel Transylvanie scene would be cut but, no, they included it. Numerous other cuts were made, judicious ones IMO because this opera has much tedious music along with the parts that I’ve always loved. I had some worries about the production because the ads gave the impression that it might be a crazy modernized “relevant” approach. I’m not going into details but it wasn’t objectionable; nor did it add anything of interest. It was just a set - nothing more, nothing less.

Ellie Dehn, whom I’d not heard of before, was announced as a replacement Manon when Nadine Sierra opted out almost immediately after the casting was announced. Someone had mentioned to me that Ms. Dehn has a small voice and could be hard to hear. This was not the case. Her voice is quite lovely and she sounds very young, a positive considering the character’s age. There were some problems at the very top but all-in-all it was a well sung performance. She projected the character extremely well. My ideal Manon would combine a Renee Fleming voice with a Natalie Dessay characterization.

I’ve been following Michael Fabiano’s career since that Met audition film several years ago but this is only my second time seeing him. The first was also in San Fran when he sang Gennaro very impressively. I had hoped to see his Don Carlo there last year but was unable to travel due to illness. I did have a chance to hear the broadcast of the performance which showed that I really missed out on something special. My problem with his des Grieux was due to the SFO set which featured a curved wall in all scenes that affected the acoustic - more with him than with the rest of the cast. Fabiano’s voice has a very forward placement in what I believe is called the mask. The curve in the wall seemed to reflect his voice and cause a brightness that didn’t show the richness I’ve heard before in the theatre and on broadcast recordings. That’s the best I can do to describe what I heard. 

Most impressive was bass James Creswell as Le Comte. He has a gorgeous voice and played the part so dignified and likable that one could almost forgive him for arranging his son’s kidnapping. 

Patrick Fournillier’s conducting was excellent.

Change of subject:

The photo gallery on the lower level of the War Memorial Opera house has always had a great fascination for. It features some of my favorite singers (Gobbi is one of them) and I never get tired of strolling along the wall and reminiscing. However, I found out that there’s another photo display available for viewing. This one is next door at the Herbst Theatre on the 4th floor and occupies two corridors. The first features singers and productions of the 1920s through the 1940s. It’s almost a who’s who of the great singers of the day, including Ezio Pinza who sang there often, more than I realized. This section brought tears to my eyes. Corridor two is devoted to color photos of recent times. I was pleased to see pictures of some of the productions I’ve seen. Admission is free. Just check with the security guard on the main floor before taking the elevator up.

Not opera related, but for anyone who may be interested in classic automobiles as an art form - I discovered the Automobile Museum of the Academy of Art University on the southwest corner of Van Ness and Washington. Cars have never been a topic of interest for me but this place shows them as high art. <> It’s open for self-guided tours on Tuesdays from 11:00 - 1:00 and Thursdays from 2:00 - 4:00. (I’ll be happy to share some photos I took; just contact me off list and I’ll send a few).

One more note: after having visited San Francisco at least once a year for quite some time until missing the last two years, I was amazed at how expensive the city has become! Yes, it’s always been costly to visit but when a pizza and a soft drink in a modest neighborhood restaurant costs $30.00 that’s a bit much. Not only that, but my two favorite Chinese restaurants, where I’ve been dining for over 40 years, are gone! And so is my favorite place for breakfast.

Kurt Youngmann

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