Remember when I wrote about my issues with my eyes? Well, I am writing this publicly so the next time I have issues focusing someone who reads this will remind me of what the issue is really about:
It’s “eargraine” time!
Yeah, a few days of out of focus eyes means that eventually I’ll get an ear migraine. It arrived in its special wonderfully strong way this morning. Included in this little issue of mine is a painful outer ear (to the point where I can barely touch it) and incredibly loud night pitch screeching. I have to wait it out and while it hurts I know it’ll eventually go away. I just hope that it goes away before the next opera performance. It’s difficult to teach, but performing is even more difficult.
Meanwhile, I’m coping and I’m learning a new instrument!
Holst’s The Planets uses three oboes and English horn, and the third oboe part also includes bass oboe. What a section! Symphony rented it from Forrests, and I picked it up from the office yesterday. The fingerings are the same as oboe, and it sounds an octave lower. Thankful it’s written in treble clef so I don’t have to relearn bass clef. (I can play bass clef if I’m sitting at the piano, but otherwise my brain doesn’t really like to read it. At all.)
I’ll see if I can get someone to record me at some point so you can see and hear it. Meanwhile, here’s a photo for comparison:
We’ve probably gotten more reviews for Idomeneo than anything in a long while! Here’s a part of Mr. Kosman’s review:
The result, in Tuesday’s performance at the California Theatre, was a stretch of elegant pageantry, not always particularly animated but vividly colorful and done with a keen sense of Mozartean style.
That latter quality came courtesy of conductor George Cleve, who led the performance with a combination of assiduous care and theatrical panache. The orchestral playing was streamlined and shapely throughout, and a crisp rhythmic style predominated.
Throughout the three acts of the opera there are spectacular sets, paintings and objects which are authentically in the character of bronze age Crete. Costumes by Johann Stegmeir, wigs by Jeanna Parham and a careful color palate integrate perfectly with the set designs of Steven C. Kemp. Director Brad Dalton maintained a graceful flow of the 73-person cast, largest in the history of the company in keeping with the Opera Seria limitations.
Musical forces radiated from the magical spells cast by Maestro George Cleve, one of the great Mozartians of our era. He led both singers and instrumentalists with finesse.
The weekend ended in the same tone and fashion as all that had preceded it – with Trojan women lamenting their lot and an opera about another heart of another soldier. Opera San Jose opened up their 2011/2012 season on Saturday with Mozart’s Idomeneo. The company relies on its own in-house resident vocal artists for all of its shows and usually presents performances more frequently over a shorter time period than other companies using two different alternating casts. This system provides some benefits in terms of more protracted rehearsal times and better integration among performers who work together repeatedly over a season in many different productions. When Opera San Jose opens a show, they are good and ready, which was apparent on Sunday when I saw the second performance in the run, which was the first with its particular cast. It was ironic in a way that on September 11, I felt as if Mozart had more to say to me about heroism and loss than Heart of a Soldier did. Within moments of the opening bars of Idomeneo all the insanity of the world seemed to organize itself in a manner humanity could comprehend.
I am happy to say that even the orchestra had extra rehearsals for this particular opera. We usually get one “orchestra only” rehearsal. This time we had four, although they weren’t truly just us, as the Maestro had singers come in; I believe I mentioned earlier that the chorus master sang the first few, blowing us away with his stamina. Following that the cast members sang, and before the sitzprobes they sang from the front of the hall where we could see and hear them very well. I wish we had the opportunity to hear them (and see them) like that for every opera. It does make a big difference to us. Or to me, at least.
I think you have to subscribe to read the whole thing, but here’s a snippet (you can get a free 7 day trial and read it all, which is what I just did.):
The opera is worthwhile, regardless, for a view of Mozart’s most ambitious production, including a decided emphasis on choruses and dance. The company takes full advantage of these elements. Andrew Whitfield’s chorus performs as robustly as I’ve ever heard them, particularly in the opening chorus, “Godiam la pace.” A 15-member dance troupe, meanwhile, performs rustic, athletic interludes – notably in the final coronation scene – choreographed by Ballet San Jose director Dennis Nahat.
It was interesting to see how some of OSJ’s now-familiar voices matched up with the opera’s roles. A perfect example is Sandra Bengochea, who should probably travel the world, seeking out chances to sing Ilia, surviving daughter of the fallen Troy. Ilia’s lilting, lyric lines are a perfect match for Bengochea, and I have never heard her sound more vibrant, particularly in Ilia’s third-act farewell to Idamante, “Zeffiretti lusinghieri.” She makes the most of her phrasing, notably in several beautifully shaped sustenatos, and sings with a relaxed optimism that matches Ilia’s resilient demeanor.
I have been to most of Opera San Jose’s productions of the past couple of years, and the orchestra has never sounded better. Augmented in number and sounding crisp and swift under George Cleve’s efficient direction, the sound was full but never overbearing. It was a little strange to hear Mozart with a bigger orchestra than previous productions of Puccini and Verdi. There’s no turning back to smaller orchestras now! How puny would Verdi’s La Traviata (later this season) sound with only 3 or 4 strings per section after hearing 6-7 per section in Mozart? These orchestral reinforcements, along with the high-quality set design were only possible through the generosity the Packard Humanities Institute. I wholeheartedly join the San Jose Mercury and San Francisco Classical Voice’s praise for this production. Bravo to all, and good luck on the 2011-2012 season!
In truth our string numbers in all our other operas are 6 first violins, 6 second violins, 4 violas, 3 cellos and 2 basses, per our contract, but yes, there are 4 more firsts, 4 more seconds, 2 more violas and 1 more cello if I’ve counted correctly. I love the increased numbers, but it’s doubtful they’ll keep the orchestra that large due to the cost. I’m not sure how we’d fit all the strings in the pit when we add harp and more brass, either. (I can’t imagine that Mr. Packard would be footing the bill for every opera. That would be asking a bit much, don’t you think?)
But how grateful I am that Mr. Packard put this opera on. It’s great music. The production is outstanding, and it’s well worth attending … more than once! (And don’t tell me you can’t come to at least two; I’m going to eleven. Just a bit of patty humor there.) Reviews have been incredibly positive. Photos of the stage have blown me away. Thanks, Mr. Packard!
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