Partenope at San Francisco Opera

Handel rules! What a genius! He is funny when tragic ( like in Julio Cesare), but he is over the top-wet-your-pants-laughing hilarious in a comic opera, especially directed by master stage director Christopher Alden. The amount of gags and jokes is astounding, but they just flow organically from the dialogue and the music. All the coloraturas and fiorituras are not an end in themselves, but rather sound effects of everyday actions like unbuttoning a shirt or shaking a cocktail. The audience really appreciates that!

The setting of the piece feels taken out from BBC’s Hercule Poirot – white architecture, high society, games of cards, drinks, cigarettes, silk pj’s…
Brilliant and foxy Danielle de Niese
pretty much dances her part from beginning to end, you cannot take your eyes off her. I never thought I would see a countertenor (Anthony Roth Costanzo) singing while hanging down from a staircase. How on earth does he “support” in this position? I am going to the gym tomorrow to see how this can be done.
All the cast top notch. It was interesting seeing how small an ensemble (orchestra) you need for Handel. This makes it easier for the lighter voices to shine (figuratively speaking) in a big theater.
Music : lovely, although no such memorable tunes as from Julio Cesare. Doesn’t matter – transports you to another time, another reality. Why, oh, why cannot contemporary composers come up with stuff like that, something that just feels great in your ear, in your muscles, in your bones… That was rock’n’roll of the 1700…

Nice touch – in the intermission the screen for the super titles showed the score of SF Giants-Cardinals baseball game. That sparked almost the same enthusiasm as some of the arias.

Very impressed and uplifted – so glad I went, in a spur of the moment…

Baroque opera is heavenly Monty Python

For a while I’ve been having a clandestine affair with Handel. Hubby out, kid at school and I’m tripping on Julius Caesar with Janet Baker from 1984. I bought the DVD not realizing this is all sung in English, but now I am glad, since I can enjoy this piece in two ways – weeping with the divine sound of Janet’s arias and rolling on the floor with laughter listening to recitatives.  One goes like this: “So I cut off this lady’s husband’s head  to win her love. Strange, but  she didn’t like it.  So I  fought with the king who gave me the order, but lost. But I have a whole army tucked away somewhere. So I can still win.  Too bad, I’m dying. You guys tell her I’m sorry.”

Another cool thing with the baroque pieces is that guys can be played by women. Sort of reverse Monty Python, where guys do all these hilarious old ladies. And opposite of Shakespeare, where originally guys did all ladies, young and old. Some contemporary productions want to bring in some balance and try to cast these operas as God intended, males doing men, females – women. But then it becomes too serious, and with the plots being silly as they are, this can’t be!

One of my most memorable operas was a drag Don Giovanni, aka “Donna Giovanni”, by Jesusa Rodriguez. The troupe was called Companias Divas, from Mexico, and it had five women and two men.  It was done with a piano. They were not even trained opera singers, and some music critic almost had a heart attack reviewing the show. But it was great theatre and proved (to me at least, at tender age of 20-something, in Edinburgh), that ANYONE can do opera. Just transpose an octave lower, get some costume… or no costume… tell the story.

Gosh, aren’t I slow reviewing shows from the 80s… but better late than never!