Classical Music Reviews
Every week, our professional critics attend concerts throughout the Bay Area to let you know what went well...and occasionally what didn't. Let their insights enrich your musical experiences, and feel free to share your own views!
Have you seen La favorita lately? If you live in the Bay Area, the answer is probably no. Even in the best of times, Donizetti's 1840 melodrama has never ranked among the composer's greatest hits, and these days, with opera companies forced to bank on box office certainties, new productions are woefully few and far between.
The production may be unique, but it’s not just the computer animation, puppetry, and “authentic” musical approach that make this week's staging of a great Baroque opera so special. William Kentridge’s once-in-a-lifetime restaging of The Return of Ulysses (Monteverdi's Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria), which runs at San Francisco’s Theater Artaud only through this Saturday, lets the wisdom of Monteverdi’s 1640 masterpiece speak to our souls as perhaps no other production can.
Even in these tough economic times, the Bay Area’s regional opera companies continue to spread their wings. Midway through its 53rd season, West Bay Opera presented its first Orfeo ed Euridice last weekend in a well-conceived production that caught much of the radiant splendor of Gluck’s 1762 masterpiece.
For the second time in a year, I have been fortunate enough to attend a chamber opera production superior to any work I have seen from the Bay Area’s smaller companies. The culprit was Composers Inc., a contemporary chamber music collective that expanded its forces last Wednesday to mount a staged chamber opera in San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre. On a diminutive budget, Composers Inc. attracted first-rate singers, a top-notch band, an ideal performance space, and a production team capable of putting the whole thing together in eight days.
Così fan tutte is often described as an effervescent comedy, but beneath the froth is a deliciously dark and poignant vision of the human heart. There’s a happy ending in the 1790 Mozart–da Ponte dramma giocoso about a pair of besotted naval officers who enter into a wager to test the fidelity of their girlfriends. But observers can’t help feeling that resolution comes at a price; these young lovers, once they’ve emerged from the fire, may never love, or trust, quite so deeply again.