Arts & Events

Julie Adams Debuts as Mimi in LA BOHÈME

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 30, 2017 - 03:18:00 PM

Having attended the first performance of this current production of Puccini’s beloved La Bohème, I decided to attend a second performance for two reasons. My reservations about the first performance all focused on conductor Carlo Montanaro and his tendency to smother the singers beneath all too loud orchestra. So I wanted to see if anyone had prevailed upon Montanaro to tone down his volume. Secondly, I was curious to hear Julie Adams sing her first major role on the big stage of the Opera House. I first heard Julie Adams in 2014 when she sang the role of Blanche DuBois in a Merola Opera production of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire. Though this is an opera I dislike (based on a Tennessee Williams play I detest), Julie Adams made a huge impression on me. In a difficult role, she was excellent. Next, in a Merola Grand Finale, I heard Julie Adams sing a saccharine aria from Eric Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt and, more gratifyingly, Susannah’s duet with Reverand Blitch from Carlysle Floyd’s opera Susannah. When she graduated to the main stage at San Francisco Opera, I heard Julie Adams sing minor roles such as Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Kristina in The Makropulos Case, and Karolka in Jenufa. -more-

Joshua Bell Excels in Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:46:00 PM

Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, which premiered in 1875, is not a symphony. Rather, it is for all intents and purposes a violin concerto, and a very French violin concerto at that. Although inspired by the rhythms and musical colors of Spain, Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole possesses all the essentials of French music: the clarity of expression, the richness of orchestral color, and the rhythmic vitality and melodic lyricism handed down through the centuries from Jean-Baptiste Lully and Jean-Philippe Rameau to Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. -more-

LA BOHÈME: An Opera That Never fails to Move Us

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday June 23, 2017 - 02:37:00 PM

On Saturday; June 10, Puccini’s La Bohème returned to San Francisco Opera, this time with a completely new cast never heard here before in these roles. Rodolfo was sung by Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz, whose only prior appearance here was in 2016 as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Chacón-Cruz is a lyric tenor who brings an intimate vocal warmth to his portrayal of the impoverished Parisian poet Rodolfo. Unfortunately, however, Conductor Carlo Montanaro opened Act I of La Bohème on Saturday with the orchestra playing so loud that the singers’ voices were smothered. The famed Racconto di Rodolfo, the poet’s narrative to Mimi telling who he is and how he lives, came through only due to our familiarity with the words and music of this great number. Thus we could anticipate the words even if we could not necessarily hear each word being sung by Chacón-Cruz due to the overbearing orchestral accompaniment. The same was true of Mimi’s famed “Mi chiamano Mimi,” though it was beautifully sung, albeit on a very small and intimate scale, by Italian soprano Erika Grimaldi. -more-