TDO’s Artistic Director Jonathan Pell, San Francisco I

by Megan Meister

I arrived in San Francisco on Thursday just in time to make a 7:30 curtain of Verdi’s rarely produced opera ATTILA.

The cast was headed up by veteran bass Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role and conducted by Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s music director.

I know the piece is problematic, having seen a few other stagings of it over the years, none of which made a compelling case for the work as being stage worthy, but this production was very static.

Italian director Gabriele Lavia tried to liven up the last act by projecting battle scenes from a 1950’s “B” movie about Attila the Hun, starring Jack Palance, but it didn’t help much.

Some of the singing was quite good, though, particularly baritone Quinn Kelsey as “Ezio” and of course, Ferruccio Furlanetto sounded magnificent, if not quite the magnetic, charismatic personality the part ideally requires.

I prefer him in more introspective roles, like “Filippo” in DON CARLO, in which he is unsurpassed today.

Friday afternoon I heard nine current and former Adler Fellows in audition.  The Adler Fellows (named in memory of former San Francisco Opera general director Kurt Adler) is the highly regarded young artists’ program of the opera company, which has been run brilliantly for a number of years by Sheri Greenawald, who, of course, had a major singing career herself.

The most outstanding audition was from a remarkable young soprano named Nadine Sierra.   I first heard a few years ago (I don’t think that she had yet turned twenty at the time) and she just keeps getting better and better.

Another wonderful audition was from mezzo-soprano Laura Krumm, in her first season as an Adler Fellow.  She was a winner of the Winspear Scholarship at the University of North Texas, where she just received her master’s degree in vocal performance.

Last night was a highly anticipated new production of Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE, designed by Japanese ceramic artist Jun Kaneko, who now lives in Omaha.  The production was directed by Harry Silverstein, who has staged many productions for The Dallas Opera, and featured Nathan Gunn as “Papageno” and Kristinn Sigmundsson as “Sarastro” both of whom have sung recently in Dallas.

The production was essentially an abstract light show projected on flat panels that flew in and out.  While it was very colorful and effective, I can’t help feeling that our recent FLUTE was a much better show.

I know, I know, I can’t really be objective about this, but that was how I felt.

Tonight is NIXON IN CHINA, and I am really excited about seeing this production, which originated in Vancouver.  I have seen the original Peter Sellars production both in Houston and at the Met, and the James Robinson production in Saint Louis and Denver, so this will be very interesting for me to see and compare.

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