By JANOS GEREBEN
San Francisco: Friday, September 8
If it be “Turandot,” let us have a surfeit of it. Check!
Strangely, there was a sense of continuity between the San Francisco Opera summer-season “Ring” cycle and the fall-season opening “Turandot” Friday night. Both times the walls of the War Memorial shook with the power — not just excessive volume — then of Wagner and now of Puccini. Then the SFO Orchestra whipped into a frenzy under the baton of Donald Runnicles, and now tonight under Nicola Luisotti.
At this umpteenth revival of David Hockney’s color-saturated production, the air shook with Ian Robertson’s SFO Chorus riding the waves of Luisotti’s orchestra, and then — another surprise — Marco Berti, former lyric tenor, gave the clarion calls of a true heldentenor, singing better than ever here.
How strange it was then, that against Berti’s evening-long star performance, to hear his mediocre “Nessun dorma,” the tired hit-parade aria not getting any applause — a first in my experience.
Back to the “Ring” theme again, in the title role: Iréne Theorin, the Swedish Wagnerian soprano in her San Francisco debut. Another big voice, fitting well into the color and sound-impregnated evening, although the voice often turned mildly but clearly sharp.
Among the many musical moments, Adler Fellow Leah Crocetto’s wonderful appearance as Liu. She especially impressed with her Act I aria, sung with precision, feeling, and restraint. Crocetto has the power to blow down the walls, and in this first important “hometown” role, there must have been a temptation to sing big. Instead, she sang well, surpassingly so.
Rarely have I heard such a fine Ping-Pang-Pong trio as Hyung Yun, Greg Fedderly, and Daniel Montenegro. It was a joy to have an audible Emperor (Joseph Frank) and Timur (Raymond Aceto).
Garnett Bruce’s direction followed the original from the early 1990s closely, adding only some unpleasant crowd bouncing; there is much to be said for standing or crouching, but not for pretending to be on a trampoline.
Lengthy pre-curtain announcements included news of General Director David Gockley’s contract being extended by another five years; and acknowledgment of Jan I. Shrem and Maria Manetti Farrow donating $3 million to the company to promote Italian repertory.
Turandot: Iréne Theorin * Sept/Oct
Calaf: Marco Berti Sept/Oct
Liù: Leah Crocetto Sept/Oct
Timur: Raymond Aceto Sept/Oct
Ping: Hyung Yun * Sept/Oct
Pang: Greg Fedderly Sept/Oct
Pong: Daniel Montenegro Sept/Oct
Emperor: Altoum Joseph Frank SEPT/OCT
A Mandarin: Ryan Kuster * SEPT/OCT
Turandot: Susan Foster * Nov
Calaf: Walter Fraccaro Nov
Liù: Leah Crocetto Nov
Timur: Christian Van Horn Nov
Ping: Hyung Yun Nov
Pang: Greg Fedderly Nov
Pong: Daniel Montenegro Nov
Emperor: Altoum Joseph Frank NOV
A Mandarin: Ryan Kuster NOV
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti Sept/Oct
Conductor: Giuseppe Finzi Nov
Director: Garnett Bruce
Set Designer: David Hockney
Costume Designer: Ian Falconer
Lighting Designer: Christopher Maravich
Chorus Director: Ian Robertson
Choreographer: Lawrence Pech
* San Francisco Opera Debut