Cyrano de Bergerac by Franco Alfano: San Francisco Opera
Review by JANOS GEREBEN:San Francisco, Sunday, October 24, 2010
If you come to see and hear Plácido Domingo — as the majority of audiences at sold-out San Francisco Opera performances do — you may find several bonuses.
More than a star vehicle for the great tenor approaching his 70th birthday, the San Francisco premiere of Franco Alfano’s 1936 Cyrano de Bergerac also offers a spectacular show and the irresistible pathos of Edmond Rostand’s 1879 drama about the swashbuckling, romantic hero with the large nose he feels cannot allow the return of his love for Roxane.
The first act is especially striking in its lavish scene from the backstage of an extravagant opera production. Designed and directed by Petrika Ionesco, the production comes from Paris, as is the conductor, Patrick Fournillier; both men are making their San Francisco debut.
As for the star of the evening, there was a potential crisis that might have stopped the show at the Sunday matinee. About 50 minutes into the opera, Domingo singing beautifully, his voice turned slightly raspy.
After a long pause following Act 2, Scene 1, General Director David Gockley made an announcement before the curtain about Domingo “becoming indisposed after the beginning of the performance,” but that he decided to continue, asking for the audience’s indulgence.
As Domingo returned, the roughness in the voice was gone, he finished the performance without any noticeable difference, except for a small reduction in volume, producing a less ringing tone. But the sheen of the voice, the ever-thrilling element of Domingo’s singing, was gorgeous as ever.
With its Les Miz look-and-feel, “Cyrano” depends heavily on the chorus, and Ian Robertson’s Opera Chorus is having one of its best turns ever, both vocally and dramatically.
Spanish soprano Ainhoa Arteta’s Roxane is brilliant — in voice, musicality, dramatically and even looking like a romantic painting of Rostand’s heroine. Brazilian tenor Thiago Arancam is an appealing Christian. There are many excellent performances in the large, well-rounded cast, which also features such Adler Fellows as Leah Crocetto, Maya Lahyani, and Austin Kness, singing multiple small roles.
The music of “Cyrano” explains why it never became a popular opera. Eminently pleasant, the score moves forward relentlessly, rising and falling. It serves the plot almost as a film score, but it doesn’t contain memorable melodies, only a rather repetitive tension-resolution structure.
No matter, there is Domingo, still a remarkable singing star, in a fascinating musical show, very well done.
San Francisco Opera, November 13. Note by David Gregson.
I enjoyed this production immensely and cannot imagine a better staging or better cast of singers. Alfano is not, of course, as fine a composer as Puccini, but this is a well-crafted and enormously effective opera. DG
War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
7:30 p.m. Oct. 27, Nov. 9; 8 p.m. Oct. 30, Nov. 2, Nov. 12; 2 p.m. Nov. 6
Tickets: $25 to $320 [return tickets and standing room available only]
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com