Santa Fe Opera’s 61st sea­son, in re­view

These are ab­bre­vi­ated ver­sions of longer re­views that ran in The Santa Fe New Mex­i­can im­me­di­ately fol­low­ing the open­ing of each Santa Fe Opera pro­duc­tion this sea­son. The orig­i­nal re­views can be found at www.santafe­newmex­i­can.com.

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - James M. Keller

Pay­back in three-quar­ter time DIE FLEDERMAUS

Di­rec­tor Ned Canty’s new pro­duc­tion of Die Fledermaus, the op­eretta by Jo­hann Strauss II, of­fers pretty much what one ex­pects from the work: hand­some sets and cos­tumes, some lovely sing­ing of en­tranc­ing tunes, mul­ti­ple dry stretches, and at­tempts to punch things up with an over­lay of funny busi­ness.

Two im­plied rooms are in play dur­ing in Act 1 — a late 19th-cen­tury boudoir and par­lor in the home of Gabriel and Ros­alinde von Eisen­stein (tenor Kurt Streit and so­prano Devon Guthrie). Above the set looms a huge bat. Die Fledermaus, of course, means “The Bat,” re­fer­ring to a prank Gabriel played on his friend Dr. Falke (bari­tone Joshua Hop­kins) that left the lat­ter wan­der­ing the streets in full day­light still garbed in the bat out­fit he wore to a cos­tume party the night be­fore. The op­eretta traces Falke’s re­venge, an elab­o­rate scheme that cen­ters on a ball given by his friend Prince Orlof­sky (mezzo-so­prano Su­san Gra­ham). The event en­snares ev­ery­one in the Eisen­steins’ or­bit, most promi­nently their cham­ber­maid Adele (so­prano Jane Archibald) and Ros­alinde’s suitor Al­fred (tenor Dim­itri Pit­tas), to ex­pose Gabriel as a wom­an­izer — which, in the end, no­body cares about one way or the other. The over­head bat re­mains in place above the red-plush ball­room of Act 2 and the chaotic jail of Act 3.

The work is given in Charles Lud­lam’s adap­ta­tion of the stilted English-lan­guage ver­sion crafted in the mid-20th cen­tury by Ruth and Thomas Martin. Lis­ten­ers will have to rely on the seat­back texts to de­code the syl­la­bles some of the char­ac­ters emit. Hop­kins at least scored a great mo­ment by de­liv­er­ing the ex­cru­ci­at­ing cou­plet “Come along to the ball; it will boost your morale” — and then turn­ing to the au­di­ence with a com­bi­na­tion of quizzi­cal amaze­ment and help­less ex­as­per­a­tion. That was a sin­cerely funny touch, and one wished for more wit on its level.

Con­duc­tor Ni­cholas Carter led the Over­ture with verve. The opera’s slen­der mu­si­cal sub­stance was made pal­pa­ble when, well into Act 2, Archibald sang her Laugh­ing Song with joy and élan. Apart from her rock-solid pro­fes­sion­al­ism, lis­ten­ers must also have been re­lieved to fi­nally hear Strauss pro­vide some­thing to sink their teeth into.

Guthrie’s ren­di­tion of “Voice of My Home­land” was af­fect­ing, though one re­gret­ted the dis­trac­tion caused by un­nec­es­sary bal­leri­nas swirling about. Prince Orlof­sky was aced vo­cally by Gra­ham, who kept busy mod­el­ing robes and ki­monos over her silk pa­ja­mas. The women out­sang the men with the ex­cep­tion of Hop­kins, whose beau­ti­fully mod­u­lated bari­tone made him an im­pres­sive Falke. Kevin Bur­dette’s shtick as the jailer Frosch was some­thing to be en­dured. With two in­ter­mis­sions, the evening ran nearly three and a quar­ter hours, and au­di­ence re­sponse grew ap­pro­pri­ately tepid dur­ing Act 3.

Ad­di­tional per­for­mances of “Die Fledermaus” take place at 8 p.m. on Mon­day, Aug. 7, Aug. 14, Aug. 19, and Aug. 26.

The bride wore blood LU­CIA DI LAMMERMOOR

Santa Fe Opera’s new pro­duc­tion of Gae­tano Donizetti’s Lu­cia di Lammermoor, directed by Ron Daniels, pro­vides a tour de force for so­prano Brenda Rae as the hap­less hero­ine forced by her brother to aban­don the man she loves and marry the groom he has cho­sen, shed­ding her san­ity in the process. Her col­oratura dis­played re­laxed mas­tery that al­lowed her to bend the tempo without break­ing it, with a fluid re­sult that was re­spect­ful of the stylis­tic in­ten­tions of bel canto ex­pres­sion. In her Act 2 “Il pal­lor fu­nesto,” she un­leashed text­book ren­di­tions of high-ve­loc­ity scales as­cend­ing and de­scend­ing, di­a­tonic and chro­matic, all finely cal­i­brated.

The role re­quires se­ri­ous stamina, but Rae re­mained vo­cally fresh for her heart­break­ing in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the fa­mous Mad Scene, an ex­panse of sur­pass­ing vir­tu­os­ity in which, hav­ing killed her bride­groom, she raves lu­nati­cally in front of stunned on­look­ers. She held the au­di­ence rapt in the palm of her bloody hand, main­tain­ing sonic bal­ance with the in­stru­ment that was her ob­bli­gato part­ner through much of that stretch: the ver­ro­phone, a mod­ern take on the glass har­mon­ica, whose ethe­real tones sym­bol­ized in­san­ity to lis­ten­ers of the time and re­main eerily evoca­tive to­day. In the scene’s con­clud­ing sec­tion, “Spargi d’amaro pianto,” Rae in­ter­po­lated dif­fi­cult or­na­men­ta­tion, all of it cleanly and with im­pres­sive mu­si­cal­ity. She at­tacked the top notes fear­lessly, all the way up to a high E-flat.

The cast was well-matched in terms of vo­cal heft and blended well in en­sem­bles. As Lu­cia’s beloved Edgardo, tenor Mario Chang brought par­tic­u­lar pas­sion to his fu­ri­ous out­bursts. One might watch for more nu­anced fi­nesse as this young singer moves for­ward in his promis­ing ca­reer. Zachary Nel­son of­fered his cul­ti­vated bari­tone to the role of Lu­cia’s brother, En­rico, en­tirely con­vinc­ing in the per­sona of his sis­ter’s op­pres­sor. Bass­bari­tone Chris­tian Van Horn, as chap­lain Rai­mondo, proved ever-at­ten­tive to the score as writ­ten and took on an in­creas­ingly vivid dra­matic pres­ence as the evening pro­gressed. Car­los San­telli’s light, well­pro­duced tenor brought punch to the part of the rather un­der­writ­ten char­ac­ter of Ar­turo, Lu­cia’s bride­groom.

Con­duc­tor Cor­rado Ro­varis kept things mov­ing fleetly. A longer pause in the wed­ding ju­bi­la­tions would have boosted sus­pense as the guests re­al­ize the enor­mity of the sit­u­a­tion they are wit­ness­ing, a mo­ment of ten­sion that might have been sa­vored be­fore re­solv­ing into the fa­mous sex­tet. In any case, that en­sem­ble un­rolled glo­ri­ously once it be­gan.

Visual in­ter­est comes less from the ab­stracted sets than from the 1840s-era cos­tumes, which are stun­ning in the wed­ding scene — women in sub­tly shim­mer­ing taffeta gowns of muted tones (plum, moss, light egg­plant), the groom and his gen­tle­man friends ar­rayed in gor­geous black coats richly em­bel­lished in gold. This should be your des­ti­na­tion wed­ding for the sum­mer.

“Lu­cia di Lammermoor” con­tin­ues with per­for­mances at 8 p.m. on Tues­day, Aug. 8, Aug. 12, Aug. 16, and Aug. 24.

Tsar power THE GOLDEN COCK­EREL

Santa Fe Opera’s ra­di­ant pro­duc­tion of Niko­lai Rim­sky-Kor­sakov’s The Golden Cock­erel, over­seen by Paul Cur­ran, con­veys its folk­ish­ness with loopy charm and visual splen­dor be­fore go­ing off the rails try­ing to un­der­score its rel­e­vance to to­day’s in­ter­na­tional pol­i­tics.

Its two ba­sic stage sets are born of the same Fu­tur­ist Con­struc­tivist sen­si­bil­ity. The first, tow­er­ing high on the au­di­ence’s left and sweep­ing down to the area of the main ac­tion, re­sem­bles the three-di­men­sional graph of some ad­vanced math­e­mat­i­cal func­tion; the sec­ond looks more like a roller coaster. They sup­port a gauze cov­er­ing onto which land­scape de­tails, pri­vate dreams, and the cock­erel it­self are pro­jected. The cos­tumes are stun­ning: vivid folk-in­spired dresses, cloaks, and head­gear sprung from a lav­ishly chro­molithographed chil­dren’s book.

Some oper­a­go­ers may find in this tale a moral that res­onates in the United States to­day: a vain, child­ish king (with two bungling sons) who proves easy prey to a wily for­eign sov­er­eign who wrests con­trol of the coun­try through strate­gic guile rather than mil­i­tary force. Cur­ran’s oc­ca­sional di­rec­to­rial un­der­scor­ing would have seemed suf­fi­cient — Tsar Dodon us­ing his golden scepter like a golf club, for ex­am­ple — but in Act 3 he turned the tsar into an es­sen­tially new char­ac­ter. He struts among his sto­ry­book courtiers wear­ing a red neck­tie and a pin-striped suit un­flat­ter­ing to his over­weight fig­ure, with his eye­candy Queen at his side in a glam­orous, up-to-date en­sem­ble. Its aes­thetic dis­so­nance dis­tracted from what was oth­er­wise a clearly pre­sented stag­ing of a fa­ble.

Most of the singers fa­vored for­ward vo­cal pro­duc­tion and strap­ping tim­bres, which fit well with Rus­sian oper­atic tra­di­tion and with Rim­sky-Kor­sakov’s mu­sic. Tim Mix, as Tsar Dodon, boasts a solid bari­tone but not the sonorous bass the com­poser called for. He joined the cast as a re­place­ment for a deeper-voiced singer who with­drew, and he as­sumed the part worthily, prov­ing an ap­pro­pri­ately bird­brained leader.

So­prano Ven­era Gi­madieva, as the Queen of She­makha, walks on­stage for the first time in Act 2 and has to dom­i­nate the en­su­ing 35 min­utes, which are filled with leaps and roulades. She took a good while to find her cen­ter, but once she did her voice as­sumed ap­peal­ing rich­ness and im­pres­sive elas­tic­ity.

Barry Banks’ po­tent voice scaled the Astrologer’s strato­spheric “tenore-al­tino” heights with ab­so­lute se­cu­rity. Con­tralto Mered­ith Ar­wady im­bued the part of royal house­keeper Amelfa with amus­ing bon­homie, her reedy voice boom­ing out most im­pres­sively in its low­est reg­is­ter. The Golden Cock­erel is not a per­fect opera — Act 2 seems to have not enough sub­stance to fill its ex­panse, and Act 3 not enough ex­panse to work out its sub­stance — but it has a beau­ti­ful score. Em­manuel Vil­laume elicited lovely play­ing in the pit, and the com­pany’s vo­cal ap­pren­tices served as the top­notch cho­rus.

Per­for­mances of “The Golden Cock­erel” con­tinue at 8 p.m. on Wed­nes­day, Aug. 9, and Aug. 18.

In­side Jobs THE (R)EVO­LU­TION OF STEVE JOBS

If opera is go­ing to grow as an art form in the 21st cen­tury, it’s go­ing to need more than direc­tors im­pos­ing quirky con­cepts onto fa­mil­iar reper­toire or com­posers re­trac­ing well-worn tracks of neo-Ro­man­ti­cism. It will need the kind of mu­si­cal and dra­matic per­sua­sive­ness that en­thralled the Santa Fe Opera’s au­di­ence at the world pre­miere of The

(R)evo­lu­tion of Steve Jobs, a brac­ing opera by com­poser Ma­son Bates and li­bret­tist Mark Camp­bell.

This is an Amer­i­can tale told with Amer­i­can bravado. Both adored and vil­i­fied, Jobs was the vi­sion­ary be­hind the Ap­ple com­puter em­pire whose iGad­gets

Opera re­dux, con­tin­ued from Page 27

be­came defin­ing ar­ti­facts of mod­ern life. The opera’s sce­nario ex­tracts 20 sem­i­nal chap­ters from his life story, cast­ing him as both hero and vil­lain, a man at war with him­self. Li­bret­tist Camp­bell shuf­fles these cra­dle-to-grave episodes and ar­rives at a non­lin­ear nar­ra­tive that nonethe­less un­rolls with a sense of clar­ity and mo­men­tum.

Di­rec­tor Kevin New­bury seems to have made Jobs’ “sim­ple, clear-cut, un­clut­tered, and clean” de­sign goals his own watch­word. The imagery of Jobs’ life is pro­jected onto back­ground sets, of­ten in en­er­getic jux­ta­po­si­tion (cir­cuit boards, press clip­pings, Zen cal­lig­ra­phy), and a scene where he does LSD in an ap­ple (!) or­chard gets woozy in­deed.

Bates’ mu­sic tends to be pow­er­fully op­ti­mistic, trad­ing to some de­gree in sus­tained tran­scen­dence. The score’s vi­va­cious­ness owes much to high-en­ergy rhythms, of­ten re­peated in a post-min­i­mal­ist way, and a vivid sonic pal­ette. Elec­tronic sounds weave in and out of the or­ches­tral tex­ture with a sense of in­evitabil­ity. Michael Christie con­ducted with piz­zazz, and a cou­ple of or­ches­tral in­ter­ludes truly got the adren­a­line pump­ing.

Bari­tone Ed­ward Parks pre­sented the ti­tle part in­ti­mately, as a lieder singer might, with ex­em­plary dic­tion. Am­pli­fi­ca­tion un­der­scored all the singers — a log­i­cal use of elec­tronic tech­nol­ogy in a score such as this. As Jobs’ wife Lau­rene, mezzo-so­prano Sasha Cooke’s rich, warmly cov­ered tone was put to finest use in her cli­mac­tic aria “Hu­mans are messy,” an an­them to em­pa­thy that may be­come em­braced as a stand­alone piece. A sim­i­larly touch­ing per­for­mance came from Wei Wu, as Jobs’ Bud­dhist men­tor Kobun Chino Oto­gawa. His vel­vety bass in­fused a role that en­com­passes both wis­dom and wry hu­mor with a feel­ing of pro­found com­fort. Gar­rett Soren­son con­veyed sub­stan­tial char­ac­ter de­vel­op­ment as Jobs’ fel­low in­ven­tor and busi­ness part­ner Steve Woz­niak, his bright tenor let­ting loose fully in the tense­ness, and then fury, of his aria “Go­liath.”

The (R)evo­lu­tion of Steve Jobs will surely ap­peal to mil­len­ni­als, thanks to its dy­namism in har­ness­ing the tech­nol­ogy of to­day to tell the story of tech­nol­ogy’s yes­ter­day. But more tra­di­tional opera-lovers are bound to em­brace it, too. Like all the finest op­eras, it is an­i­mated by a stim­u­lat­ing plot, it is brim­ful with com­pelling mu­sic, and — not less im­por­tant — it has an am­ple heart.

There are ad­di­tional per­for­mances of “The (R)evo­lu­tion of Steve Jobs” at 8 p.m. on Fri­day, Aug 4, Thurs­day, Aug. 10, Aug. 15, Aug. 22, and Aug. 25.

En­chanted isle AL­CINA

Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del’s Al­cina is a fantasy about how peo­ple distinguish de­cep­tion from re­al­ity when they are en­chanted by love and magic. The com­poser crafted this piece to cap­i­tal­ize on sur­pris­ing stage ef­fects, and at its pre­miere in 1735, the au­di­ence tac­itly agreed to sus­pend re­al­ism and go along for the ride to the mag­i­cal is­land of a sor­cer­ess.

Di­rec­tor David Alden asks the same of to­day’s oper­a­go­ers in his hy­per­ac­tive, lightly sur­real in­ter­pre­ta­tion. The prin­ci­pal stage set — a minia­ture prosce­nium the­ater on one side, a mu­ral of Hoku­sai’s The Great Wave Off Kana­gawa on the other — sig­nals the in­ter­sec­tion of the en­chanted isle of Han­del’s opera and the the­ater in which Alden’s con­cep­tion un­rolls.

The ob­ject of sor­cer­ess Al­cina’s af­fec­tions is Rug­giero; un­der her spell, he has ne­glected his fi­ancée Bradamante, who (dis­guised as her own brother) ar­rives pur­su­ing him. Al­cina’s sis­ter, Mor­gana, has a crush on the cross-dressed Bradamante, and sub­plots present fur­ther en­tan­gle­ments. Un­less view­ers ce­ment the nar­ra­tive in their minds be­fore­hand, they may find them­selves won­der­ing what on earth is go­ing on. In that sense, they will be hand­i­capped much as the char­ac­ters are, forg­ing on through un­cer­tainty and hop­ing to find solid foot­ing.

The stage is al­most never de­void of ex­tra­ne­ous ac­tion. Among the at­trac­tions are a half-skele­tonized hippo to ride on, beasts eat­ing ba­nanas, an ape with a disco ball, and so much more. By the time this long opera ended, three hours and 40 min­utes af­ter it be­gan, I found the visual on­slaught di­vert­ing but ex­haust­ing.

Mezzo-so­prano Paula Mur­rihy was su­perb as Rug­giero. She brought the to­tal pack­age to the part both vo­cally and dra­mat­i­cally: beau­ti­ful tim­bre, gor­geous phras­ing, so­phis­ti­cated tech­nique, sen­si­tiv­ity to Baroque style. She im­pressed in both sus­tained and florid sing­ing, even in­flect­ing some chal­leng­ing col­oratura with sur­pris­ing stac­catos.

So­prano Elza van den Heever drew on an un­usu­ally broad dy­namic spec­trum, her voice be­com­ing pierc­ing at high vol­ume. She man­aged her fast mu­sic well, al­though it was dif­fi­cult to fo­cus on her per­for­mance of the aria “Ma quando tornerai” with an on­stage crowd jerk­ing about as if in­fected by Saint Vi­tus Dance. So­prano Anna Christy brought pert soubrette sing­ing to the part of Mor­gana and acted the role vi­va­ciously.

There was much to ad­mire in the sup­port­ing cast — mezzo-so­prano Daniela Mack, tenor Alek Shrader, bass-bari­tone Chris­tian Van Horn, and so­prano Jac­que­lyn Stucker — and Harry Bicket led the orches­tra with stylis­tic in­sight and at­ten­tion to in­stru­men­tal bal­ance. It was, how­ever, Alden’s stage di­rec­tion that was front and cen­ter all evening. Things about it an­noyed me as it was go­ing on, but af­ter the house lights went down I found my­self ob­sess­ing about it and per­haps lik­ing it more. There was prob­a­bly too much to take in at one sit­ting.

“Al­cina” con­tin­ues at 8 p.m. on Aug. 11, Aug. 17, and Aug. 23.

Su­san Gra­ham, Die Fledermaus; all im­ages Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera, 2017

Ven­era Gi­madieva and Tim Mix in The Golden Cock­erel; top right, Brenda Rae in Lu­cia di Lammermoor

Daniela Mack and Paula Mur­rihy in Al­cina; top left, Ed­ward Parks in The (R)evo­lu­tion of Steve Jobs

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