Monday, November 21, 2011

Opera 101—Figaro qua, Figaro là

“Sans la liberté de blâmer, il n’est point d’éloge flatteur.”
(Without the freedom to criticize, there is no true praise.)
Le Mariage de Figaro by Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Once again, another San Francisco Opera season has concluded and a final assessment is in order. This year, I’ve expanded my short list of awards into a full-fledged post and, as befitting such a monumental event, I’ve decided these awards need a name. After all, all the good awards have one: Oscars, Emmys, Tonys,…

So, I present herewith the Figaros, named in honor of one of the most beloved characters in all opera, who is also responsible for the quotation above, spoken to Count Almaviva in one of the longest monologues in the history of French theater. Remember, I kid because I (tough) love.

2011 Figaro Awards

Production I would most readily see again: Serse

Heidi Stober as Atalanta, David Daniels as Arsamenes, and Lisette Oropesa as Romilda in Serse. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Favorite scene: “Batti, batti, o bel Masetto” from Don Giovanni

Outstanding performance (male): David Daniels as Arsamenes in Serse (runner-up: Michael Fabiano as Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia)

Outstanding performance (female): Leah Crocetto as Liù in Turandot (runners-up: Kate Lindsey as Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Heidi Stober as Atalanta in Serse)

Outstanding performance (trouser): Susan Graham as Xerxes in Serse

Outstanding performance (cross-dressing): Michael Sumuel as Elviro as a flower seller in Serse

Michael Sumuel as Elviro with Heidi Stober as Atalanta in Serse.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Outstanding performance (orchestra): the recitative accompaniment in Don Giovanni with Nicola Luisotti on fortepiano, Bryndon Hassman on harpsichord, and Thalia Moore on cello

Adler Fellow of the season: Ryan Kuster

Best set design: Jean-Pierre Ponnelle for Carmen

Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s set for Lillas Pastia’s tavern in Carmen.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Best costumes: Andrea Viotti for Don Giovanni

Morris Robinson as the Commendatore with costume by Andrea Viotti.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Most shocking (and yet welcome) death scene: Renée Fleming in Lucrezia Borgia

Most disruptive audience moment: the whispers as people recognized the tune of “Nessun dorma” in Turandot

Most awkward attempt at homoeroticism: Orsini and Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia

Least successful attempt at rhythmic gymnastics: the acrobats in Turandot

Most in need of a clown car: Ping, Pang, Pong in Turandot

Ping, Pang, Pong in their ridiculous costumes in Turandot.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Best imitation of Gandalf the Grey: Raymond Aceto as Timor in Turandot

Best imitation of Violet Beauregard (post-blueberrification): the chorus in Turandot

Best imitation of a Nazi: Wayne Tigges as Lieutenant Zuniga in Carmen

Best imitation of a 1980s love-child of Billy Idol and Christophe Lambert: Michael Fabiano as Gennaro in Lucrezia Borgia

Renée Fleming and Michael Fabiano in Lucrezia Borgia.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Monty Python award for most outrageous French accent: Anita Rachvelishvili in Carmen

Joyce Kilmer award for best aria sung to a tree: “Ombra mai fu” in Serse

Foreigner “Cold as Ice” award (tie): Lucrezia Borgia in Lucrezia Borgia and Turandot in Turandot

Foreigner “Hot-Blooded” award (tie): Don Giovanni in Don Giovanni and Carmen in Carmen

For my individual write-ups of these operas, see That Girl Is Poison, No Sleep Till…, Inglourious Basterd, Love Stinks, and Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. I look forward to next season when, according to OperaTattler, I’ll have to sit through Wagner!

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