Stunning new production launches the David Gockley Era
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel
Some operas compel one’s brain to be left at the door. As with our hero, “Tannhäuser” – a wandering minstrel who has been the potent boy-toy of Venus since the previous spring of 1360 – the willing and winning ticket holder simply bids auf wiedersehen to the Real World, kicks back for four hours, and permits an absolute Beauty to consume the mind, heart, spirit – and libido. When it comes to the Wagnerian repertoire, it’s futile to fight it, defend it, or inflate it. TANNHÄUSER has plenty of plot, political fodder and backwater piety to simultaneously offend and tantalize just about everybody. No guessing here about its astrophysical aerobics and cosmological conflicts! A couple of politically incorrect thoughts and – bam! – the sacred tree becomes a burning bush, the x-rated votives of Venus are crawling up from way-downtown, and papal infallibility declares the soul anathema. But with an act of contrition and a mighty song of the Vaterland – why, the blue-mantled white-wimpled silver crowned marianites from way-uptown spring into four-part harmony, the veracious hunters return with mounds of fresh barbecue, and the Pope’s barren rod sprouts a spray of fertile blossoms. Hallelujah!
JAMES RUTHERFORD (Wolfram) and PETER SEIFFERT (Tannhäuser)
This first new production of the David Gockley era also marks Company debuts for visionary British director Graham Vick, who garnered international acclaim with Wagnerian productions at Covent Garden and the Glyndebourne Festival, as well as innovative British designer Paul Brown. San Francisco Opera Associate Conductor Donato Cabrera will conduct tonight’s performance at 7:00 PM and Principal Conductor Donald Runnicles the final performances – Sunday, October 7th at 1:00 and Friday, October 12th at 7:00 PM.
MEET THE ARTISTS
PETER SEIFFERT, as “Tannhäuser”, makes his San Francisco Opera debut this season in a role he has sung with the Metropolitan Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Zurich Opera, and the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. His recent recording of TANNHÄUSER with conductor Daniel Barenboim garnered a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording. An acclaimed recital singer, Seiffert recently collaborated with his wife Petra Maria Schnitzer on a recording of LIEDER AND DUETS by Robert and Clara Schumann.
PETRA MARIA SCHNITZER (Elisabeth) and ERIC HALFVARSON (Hermann)
PETRA MARIA SCHNITZER, as “Elisabeth”, makes her Company debut this season in a role she has sung at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Los Angeles Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, and Paris’s Théâtre du Châtelet. A native of Vienna, she studied at the Salzburg Mozarteum and the Vienna Conservatory, and was a member of the studio at Vienna State Opera. Ms. Schnitzer’s discography also includes recordings of DER FREISCHÜTZ and DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG.
ERIC HALFVARSON has sung over fifteen roles with San Francisco Opera ranging from the Marquis de la Force (Dialogues des Carmelites) to Fafner (Das Rheingold and Siegfried), Fasolt (Das Rheingold), and Hagen (Götterdämmerung) in the 1990 and 1999 Ring cycles. He was last seen as Geronte de Ravoir in last season’s Manon Lescaut. Future engagements include Banquo (Macbeth) with the Dallas Opera, as well as King Marke and Lodovico (Otello) with Los Angeles Opera. Mr. Halfvarson’s recordings include the role of the “Grand Inquisitor” in DON CARLOS with Thomas Hampson.
PETRA LANG, as “Venus”, makes her San Francisco Opera debut in a role she has sung at La Scala, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Baltimore Opera, and most recently at the Netherlands Opera. Lang is currently in great demand for her interpretation of Brangäne (TRISTAN UND ISOLDE) with which she made an acclaimed North American debut with the Opera Orchestra of New York. She has sung the same role at the Bayreuth Festival; Vienna State Opera; Bavarian State Opera; Royal Opera, Covent Garden; and Deutsche Oper Berlin.
VENUS (Petra Lang) ensnares TANNHAÜSER (Peter Seiffert) in her Ring of Fire
JAMES RUTHERFORD, as “Wolfram”, read Theology at Durham University before commencing studies at the Royal College of Music and the National Opera Studio in London. James has been a Kathleen Ferrier Award prizewinner and a BBC New Generation Artist. A noted recitalist James is a frequent broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and given recitals at the Wigmore Hall, the Wallace Collection and St. John’s Smith Square, London, the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, the Royal Dublin Society and at the Bath, Buxton, Chester and Isle of Man International Festivals. Recently James has performed Schubert’s Winterreise with Eugene Asti for Welsh National Opera, the Buxton Festival and St. George’s Brandon Hill, Bristol. His recordings include the FAURÉ REQUIEM and the role of “Swallow” in PETER GRIMES.
See Seán’s YouTubes: SAMSON & DELILAH meet Seán Martinfield
Seán’s recommendations for your Classical Library:
CD – TANNHÄUSER. Peter Seiffert sings the title role. Conducted by Daniel Barenboim
CD – LIEDER and DUETS. Husband and wife team Peter Seiffert and Petra-Maria Schnitzer perform works of Robert and Clara Schumann
CD – DER FREISCHÜTZ. Petra Maria Schnitzer sings the role of “Agathe”; Bruno Weil conducts.
DVD – DIE MEISTERSINGER VON NÜRNBERG. With Petra-Maria Schnitzer; Franz Welser-Möst conducts the Zurich Opera Orchestra.
CD – DON CARLOS. With Eric Halfvarson as The Grand Inquisitor; Antonio Pappano conducts
CD – TRISTAN UND ISOLDE. Petra Lang sings the role of Brangäne; Christian Thielemann conducts.
CD – FAURÉ REQUIEM, featuring James Rutherford, Baritone; Yan Pascal Tortelier conducts the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
CD – PETER GRIMES. Featuring James Rutherford as “Swallow”; Sir Colin Davis conducts the London Symphony Orchestra.
See Seán’s recent articles and interviews:
OPERA AT THE BALLPARK – SF GIANTS Welcome SAMSON and DELILAH To AT&T PARK
GIRLS WILL BE BOYS – Continues at Pacific Film Archive
MAHLER’S DAS LIEDE VON DER ERDE – Prime Property At San Francisco Symphony
SAN FRANCISCO SYMPHONY OPENS 2007 SEASON WITH A FLOURISH
SAMSON AND DELILAH – L’Amour et Glamour On the Re-Bound at SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
SWEENEY TODD – Sheared Ennui At A.C.T.’s 41st Anniversary
MOSCOW SRETENSKY MONASTERY CHOIR
THE SCULPTURE OF LOUISE NEVELSON: Constructing a Legend
A CONVERSATION WITH JIM BROCHU AND STEVE SCHALCHLIN – The New Conservatory Theatre extends “The Big Voice: God or Merman?” until August 26th
An Interview with PASCAL MOLAT, Principal Dancer of the San Francisco Ballet
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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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