Casting in depth (or being lucky) means that you get and then lose
Anthony Dean Griffey for the lead in Stravinsky's "Oedipus Rex," but
end up with a young, talented, appealing tenor instead, and all is well
with the world. Stuart Skelton - a Merola participant 10 years ago,
Adler Fellow in 1996 - used to have a problem with his voice breaking,
but tonight, in Davies Hall, there was none of that, not in a demanding
role. With a smallish but well-projected voice, perfect for Faust,
Skelton even had the additional steel for a good Oedipus.
Michael Tilson Thomas and the SF Symphony paired two wildly different
Stravinsky works, the pastel-colored, delicate "Le Rossignol" and the
visceral, riveting music of Oedipus the King. The combination of a
nightingale and a condor, in avian terms, worked fine, although something
weighty at both ends of the program might have been better. While
"Oedipus Rex" had a straightforward concert presentation (directed by
Carey Perloff), with minimal staging (albeit with unnecessary masks and
red gloves for the chorus, which - apart from the accoutrements - sang
sensationally), but somebody went to town dressing up "Le Rossignol" in
and against faux-Chinese imperial attire and background. "Stand and
deliver" would have been more economical, less bothersome, than Patricia
Birch's fussy direction.
MTT did better with "Le Rossignol," getting into and staying with the
heart of the music. "Oedipus" was fine, but the excitement in the music
was not always there... mostly not, in fact. When Michelle DeYoung
appeared as Jocasta - and delivered a solid performance of her great
aria - the introductory music and the orchestral accompaniment kicked
into a higher, more pulsating gear, where it should have stated all the
The Symphony managed to feature not one, but two Armenian basses, both
called Martirossian (but probably not related) - Tigran and Ayk, the
former singing the Emperor, the Bonze, Creon and the Messenger; the
latter the Chamberlain and Tiresias. Tigran is well known here, after
"Mlada" and the Glagolitic Mass, and of course "Arshak II."
Voices in "La Rossignol" were outstanding: Olga Trifonova in the title
role, Paul Groves as the Fisherman, "our" Catherine Cook as, yes, the
Cook (and Death), in an especially fine performance. The "courtesans"
(court fixtures, not ladies of easy virtue) had little to sing, but if
they had to, each and every one *could* - Saundra DeAthos, Sonia Gariaeff,
Valentina Osinski and Darla Wigginton.
Roger Rees was the Speaker in "Oedipus Rex," doing well with the bizarre
role. The brief, spotty narration doesn't add much to the piece, and
with the Latin text (translation provided both in the programs and on
supertitles, in examplary communication), perhaps the best thing to do
with it is to use a recording by Jean Cocteau, who wrote it.
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