Monday, September 26, 2011

"Lucrezia Borgia" with Renée Fleming at SFO Gets Reviewed

"Ask Miss Manners and I'm sure she'll agree: When a company like the San Francisco Opera adds a work to its repertoire specifically as a vehicle for your return, it's only right to pitch in and give a fiercely committed performance, one that will justify the decision. Yet here was Donizetti's implausible tragedy Lucrezia Borgia, taking the stage of the War Memorial Opera House on Friday night for the first time. And here was soprano Renée Fleming, returning to the company for her first opera in a decade, and turning in a lazy, theatrically vacuous performance in
the title role. Seriously? Is that how the game is played in the big leagues? Permit me to doubt it. Fortunately, there was enough strong vocalism on display from the rest of the cast to make Friday's opener seem like more than just a misguided vanity vehicle. And in the pit, a brisk, responsive company debut by conductor Riccardo Frizza helped give the evening a sense of streamlined momentum that was otherwise absent. But Fleming - swanning about distractedly as if reprising her role of Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire - added little to the mix, and director-designer John Pascoe's nonsensical and unsightly production, imported from the Washington National Opera, only made the evening more dispiriting." [Source]
"A few strange things happened to Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia on the way to its first performance Friday at the San Francisco Opera, a mere 178 years after its La Scala premiere. First is that Renée Fleming in the title role of this star vehicle picked up a dozen hitchhikers, who sang gloriously. Costumed sensationally, La Fleming looked gorgeous and sang in a range from fine to diva-great. Yet she had lots of company
in that department. Second, that the star and passengers - the whole thing - sank. John Pascoe’s clueless direction drained whatever life the work - three hours of generic Donizetti and melodrama in the class of The Drunkard - might have offered. The sets were impressively professional, if needlessly moving, and the costumes opulent. Yet the stage direction recalled the “Amateur Hour,” with goose-stepping "troops" of four or five, fascist salutes, Roman salutes, Etruscan salutes, lighting striking every time something of significance happened, and plentiful awkward or ridiculous mechanical movements." [Source]
[Above images feature Renée Fleming in the title role of Lucrezia and tenor Michael Fabiano as Gennaro. Photos: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera]