A conductors effect on an opera is quite remarkable, they can turn it from a fun, lively, well cordinated, dramatic, immense, thrilling experience to one of utter and complete disastear. I think this is what Maestro Runnicles did to Strauss quite entertaining opera. Apart from the fact that it was 3.5 hours with two intermissions, so 2 hour and 45 minutes of play time, the orchestra and the singers weren't coordinated. In fact somtimes the orchestra was coordinated within themselves, it was sad to see this quite good orchestra perform so lackluster. The choir, which did a fantastic job with Rigoletto sounded flat and uninspring, again I blame the conducting. As a comparison, my CD version of Fledermaus is around 2 hours long. Runnicles conducting is generally slow, and while I have seen him do good jobs at times, (Butterfly was generally good, but parts where just mindblowling boringly slow), for an Operette this is completely unwarranted, it is supposed to be ligh and funny, it is about as far from Wagner as you can get. (And that said, slow Wagner is pretty horrible too). I think perhaps the reason the singers where so bad was the combination of English and this slow conducting, but I am not sure.
So, it was sung in English, with a pretty cleverly translated liberetto, but dear Mr Gockley, if it is sung in English, please warn us, especially us subscribers about it. Yes, the webpage mentions it, but really it needs big flashing SUNG IN ENGLISH warning. Not because I don't want to listen to it, but I want to be prepared for it. And when I in the break complained that Opera in the US rarely pulls in modern day events to reflect over, I wasn't looking for lame references to American Idol and Martha Stewart!
Now, lets go on to the singers. I can understant that sometimes you make a misstake and miss a high note, or even better, to skip it. It is another to continously sing incorrectly. Vale Rideout as Alfred was just bad, I mean, bad enough that I question if he can sign and why he is allowed near the stage at all, he opened up the opera and made me just feel sad.
Christine Goerke as Rosalinde, while I believe she is good, and sometimes did sing well, her performance was abmyssal for most of the time. I understand she is pregnant and am cutting her slack for that, but I saw Katarina Dalayman pregnant singing Brunhilde in Stockholm and she was spot on. For the last act I had shivers going down my spine continously and bite marks on my thumb. Not because it was soo good, but because she was continously off key, either completely or not in sync with the orchestra!
Jennifer Welch-Babidge as Adele was just flat, completely boring and not worth mentioning.
Now, I am only going to write about one more singer, since the rest of them where okay but not brilliant. Countertenor Gerald Thompson as Prince Orlovsky was quite good, whenever he sang I actually was entertained, he managed to be fun and brilliant and hit his quite difficult musical score very well, even with the orchestra not helping, I would gladly go and see him sing again which is more than I can say about anyone else in the list.
Now, the set, why is the set morphing from a 17th century house to a semi modern day prison while the costumes are the same, if there is any deeper meaning to the set it was lost on me completely. I am wishing for more avant garde sets and more interesting interpretation generally, but at least the sets should be good, I also got the feeling the first set impaired the singers voices pretty badly. (The second set was quite a lot better).
We contemplating leaving after the first act, stayed for the second, got fooled by how much better it was than the first and sadly stayed for the third act which was horrendous.
Now for a note to Mr Gockley again.
I have been proud of the San Francisco opera, I took my uncle Stefan Johansson to it this summer for all three plays, I happily took friends to the opera without fearing that the experience would be bad, I bought a full subscription and I donated money , however after this Fledermaus I have to question where this is going. It is the first opera you put on the schedule and if this is the trend then I am very dissappointed. I feel that I now have to go check out operas before I take friends to them because the quality control is not where it should be.
Thanks for reading my rambling.