Appropriately enough at the last performance of the San Francisco Opera's
summer-season production of "Don Giovanni" tonight, there were some
- Donald Runnicles: Having watched his work here for 17 years (my!
how time is going...), I took special notice tonight of what a peerless
accompanist he is. The orchestra - although overall not as brilliant
as on opening night - embraced and supported every voice, every ensemble
with passionate artistry. Not only did Runnicles cradle Charles
Castronovo's gorgeous semi-whispered "Dalla sua pace," but in the quiet
duets and trios channeling "Cosi fan tutte" the conductor made the music
shimmer underneath the voices, giving them a special glow. It may be
just my impression, but the always outstanding Wagner/Britten "specialist"
has grown greatly in Mozart.
- Mariusz Kwiecien: Once again, this swashbuckling, super-macho Don
favored a gently beguiling voice where appropriate, making putty of both
Claudia Mahnke's Zerlina and most of the audience with a double-X
chromosome-filled "La ci darem la mano." Mahnke, in turn, did her own
seduction of Masetto (Luca Pisaroni, in mediocre vocal performance
tonight) both effectively and hilariously.
- Elza van den Heever: Unlike the opening-night substitution-hoopla,
this eighth performance showed a decidedly promising Donna Anna in the
making. She pulled back on volume and improved on musicality, "showing
off" the big voice moderately. It may be a passing phase, but the singer
with all the chest voice in the world relied mostly on head voice in "Or
sai chi l'onore." Once the voice comes from the right place and more in
service of the composer, she will be an awesome Donna Anna (and all-purpose
- David Gockley: Qualitatively and quantitatively, this has been an
outstanding summer season, even though it was the general director's
first almost-fully owned one (with just a few leftovers from the previous
administration). It was a full house - for Mozart, in summer, at the
end of the run, after seven previous performances! Wading through an
unusually large standing-room crowd made me curious about facts and
figures, and this is what I got from the box office: all 3,148 seats
sold, all 200 standing-room tickets gone. Add a good crowd of standees
with house passes, and you were looking at some 3,500 people - for Mozart,
in summer, at the end of... etc.
With ticket prices ranging from $25 to $205, even allowing for $30
discounted seats for students and seniors (who, by the way, are 65-and-up,
unlike the S.F. Ballet's arbitrary and unfriendly demand for 68 and
over), $10 for standing room (vs. the Ballet's $20), filling this huge
house is still a great challenge, and these summer sellouts constitute
just one proof of Gockley's seduction of the city.
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