Wednesday, July 1, 2009

La Traviata, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco 28. Jun 2009

La Traviata
Giuseppe Verdi
Francesco Maria Piave

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco
Sunday 28. June 2009

Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Director and Designer: Marta Domingo*
Choreographer: Kitty McNamee
Chorus Director: Ian Robertson
Lighting Designer: Mark McCullough

Violetta Valéry: Anna Netrebko
Alfredo Germont: Charles Castronovo
Giorgio Germont: Dwayne Croft
Flora: Leann Sandel-Pantaleo*
Gastone: Andrew Bidlack
Baron Douphol: Dale Travis
Marquis D’Obigny: Austin Kness
Grenvil: Kenneth Kellogg
Annina: Renée Tatum*
Giuseppe: Dale Tracy
Messenger: Bojan Knezevic
Flora’s Servant: William Pickersgill
Matador: Jekyns Pelaez*

Orchestra and Chorus of the San Francisco Opera

About the Opera
The Traviata Saga

On-line Press Reports
Anna Netrebko's glamorous closing of her "La Traviata" at SFO with two hour CD signing - Cindy Warner, San Francisco Opera Examiner, 30. June 2009 [English]
Anna Netrebko, after her final performance of La Traviata in San Francisco - The Opera Maniac [English] [Photos]
Runnicles’ Conducting, Netrebko’s Glamorous Violetta Inspire San Francisco Opera “Traviata” – June 28, 2009 - Opera Warhorses, 2. July 2009 [English]

Our blog friend Howard attended this performance of La Traviata and he kindly wrote the following report for the blog:

On a very noisy and crowed day in San Francisco on the occasion of the "Gay Pride Celebration" there was a gem of a La Traviata production taking place in the War Memorial Opera House that was novel and breathtaking.

During a pre-concert lecture, it was stressed that in Verdi, the music is the underpinning only to support the singer. Several selections from an old production with Monserrat Caballé and Plácido Domingo were played to introduce the audience to this early gem by Verdi. The lecturer pointed out how unique Netrebko is in her ability to paint her voice to express the inner feelings and mood of Violetta and how this changes throughout the opera.

While the cast with Dwayne Croft as Giorgio Germont was superb, Charles Castronovo as Alfredo Germont (improved as production progressed) and Donald Runnicles (last performance of his tenure) was noble, the evening belonged to Ms. Netrebko. From the opening moment of her arrival in a lavish 1920's style car, it was clear that she not only ruled the stage, but loved every moment of this production.

From the opening scene dressed in a white sequined gown, followed by a black evening dress at the gambling parlor to her final dying scene in negligee, she epitomized elegance, grace, and astonishing beauty. Her voice has become fuller with ample power in all octaves. She has incredible dynamic range from a poignant whisper to full exclamatory willpower, with joy and angst. At times, she had to hold back somewhat so as not to over sing Alfredo.

The highlight of the opera was her acting ability in being able to portray a dying courtesan who does not want to leave her lover. Dying of consumption, she just became limp on several occasions that were most believable. Her cough similar to La Boheme was not only believable, but your heart skipped a beat with the rising tension. You could hear a pin drop as you heard her dying moments collapsing on a couch to the familiar high violin accompaniment.

My only concerns that need to be expressed were the amplification of the orchestra which was totally unnecessary, but the incessant delivery of amplified violin section attributed to poor microphone placement was obtrusive and annoying. At least on one occasion Mr. Runnicles overpowered the singers in his zealous enthusiasm.

On one occasion Ms. Netrebko transposed a high note with little detraction. She displayed ample power, coloratura bravura with a marvelous tone. Having recently heard Natalie Dessay sing Sempre Libera at the Met Gala, one was impressed by the legato nature of Netrebko's portray in contrast to Dessay's intentional staccato, fragmented phrasing interpretation. Having also seen photos of Renée Fleming in her current Violetta at the ROH, one can only marvel at Netrebko's resilience, endurance and commitment to bel canto opera. She is made for this type of role.

From the moment of the curtain falling on the final scene, you then witnessed the incredible transformation of Netrebko joyously waving to the crowd with her signature smile and hand-waving to her kiss for the conductor.

Since this was San Francisco, a town near to her heart since had her American debut in the War Memorial Opera house, it was a joyous reunion. There were banners on street poles, tote bags declaring we love Anna to photos in the cafeteria of her debut in Ruslan and Lyudmila (Glinka).

Perhaps the greatest surprise of the day was her autograph signing for approximately > 300 people. Anna came out with colorful beads used in New Orleans in white Bermuda shorts and stiletto heels. Everyone was given the opportunity to customize their autographs by filling out a note for Anna. She sat there sipping Champagne with Balalaika music and a small Russian group providing mood setting music for these accolades.

My wife and I were particularly struck, not only by her beauty, but graciousness in her conversation. My wife Paula was so nervous she could not snap a photo and Anna told her not to be nervous at all. Paula said that she hoped to see Villazón's return (also acknowledged by Netrebko) and I told her how much I loved her recording of I Capulets and Montecchi by Bellini. She agreed that this was the most beautiful score. She was quite surprised to hear that we had traveled to Abu Dhabi to hear her in concert with Elina Garanca and Erwin Schrott.

My wife and I sat in the orchestra to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary and did we have a memorable performance. The only challenge was buying a CD which I did not own already! The mezzanine gift shop was mobbed in anticipation of the CD autograph signing following the performance. We met many wonderful people who enjoyed the performance and some can with nearly every CD and DVD for autographs.

How Ms. Netrebko can sing her heart out, sign autographs, be a full time mother and travel the world defies understanding. She is clearly raising the bar as a model of modern day opera and has clearly expanded an ample repertoire. Her career with many counterparts, e.g. Garanca, Villazon, Alagna, Beczala, Castronovo, Cutler and others seems to be a joyous tribute to a young girl growing up in Krasnodar of modest means. This is truly the story of modern day princess.

Photos [1-15] by Howard

Radio Broadcasts
La Traviata will be broadcast on Saturday, October 17, 2009 at 10:30 AM on WFMT and Sunday, December 06, 2009 at 8:00 PM on KDFC.

Related posts
Anna Netrebko lights up stage in "La Traviata", San Francisco Examiner 8. Jun 2009
Sultry soprano Netrebko prepares for "Traviata" in S.F., Mercury News 8. Jun 2009
Anna Netrebko - an opera star but not diva, San Francisco Chronicle 12. Jun 2009
La Traviata, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco 13. Jun 2009
La Traviata, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco 19. Jun 2009
Anna Netrebko CD signing in San Francisco

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  1. Fantastic REPORT !!!
    Thanks ! Anna is the best ... anyone can sing Violetta like her... !!!

  2. Thanks Howard for a great review! I was amazed to hear that the orchestra was amplified - is this due to a particular architectural imbalance in the house?

  3. Fantastic report and great photos at the signing session. Anna looks very relaxed, satisfied after an outsatnding performance (the last of the run for her) and stunning as always.

  4. Thanks Howard for your very interesting report, and also the great photos at the signing session.She looks very happy and relaxed.

  5. To get an additional insight on how is Anna, you may like to take a look at the following blog post...

  6. The fact that the fan had a pack of just bought CDs and DVDs and he asked for Anna, just signing one is IMO a nice detail... well maybe 2 would be acceptable also... but I do not like to be there with tens of photos, CDs or DVDs pretending to be all signed...

    So, it was even nicer the reaction of Anna, seeing that he had asked to sign just one, while he had a whole pack, and telling him that she would sign all of them!!!

    Wonderful history!

  7. Thanks to Howard and Paula for a lively report from SF!
    Anna seems to be in a very good mood there.

  8. Neither in Zürich, Wien or San Francisco, Anna sang the 2nd part of "Addio del passato"... while she did it, for instance, in Berlin or London... Why she is not singing this part now? Who uses to take those decissions? The soprano, the conductor, the director...?



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