After staying up late to pack up my Fiesta Room at the Bobcat Inn, I slept little and woke up out of sorts at an all too early hour. While my assistant back in the Eastern Time zone, two hours ahead of the New Mexican time zone, was earnest in her desire to get work done on a Friday morning, her early call did nothing to clear my head. An hour later, at , I was enjoying a fresh cup of Amy’s brewed coffee and more wafting smells of grilled bacon. I kept the breakfast repose light this morning because I have a meeting with an agent friend, Ana de Archuleta, at the Tesuque Market, just down the hill from the opera house. Shaded from the bright morning sun, Tesuque maintains its hidden charms as a favorite breakfast or lunch escape for meetings. Following a cup of good joe and a great plate of American Fries, Ana and I wrapped up some quick business and proceeded back up the hill for the second day of the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Auditions.
Now for a couple of thoughts on last night’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd. Having gathered a strong cast for this production, one of Britten’s most tragically intense opera’s, Santa Fe Opera baited our anticipation as they sought to make their mark on this powerful and complex composition. The cast, led by the lyric baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, and joined by Richard Stilwell, Timothy Nolen, John Stevens and William Burden, absorbed their roles and created the ensemble necessary to manifest the tension in the relationships that fatefully move the conflict forward. They didn’t perform Britten’s masterful score as much as they became willing partners with the music, losing themselves in the passion and drama, in such a complete manner that pulled the audience into the fray. All onstage, including the accurately prepared men’s chorus, deserved the ovation they received at the end of the performance.
I finished the auditions on Friday a little after one, offered several surprises, particularly with the baritones. I headed back to
Later in the afternoon, I met up again with my friend, Franco, to set off into the hills above
While much could be said about Friday evening’s production of Handel’s Radamisto, controversial it was not. Vocally, one could describe it as stellar fireworks with countertenor David Daniels exceeding all expectation in the title role and supported by a truly exceptional cast of unparalleled vocal beauty. This writer would be remiss toward the tremendous talent in this production if I left unmentioned all onstage rose to challenge Mr. Daniels’ pure artistry in the act one, including: Lucas Pisaroni as Tiridate, Heidi Stober as Tigrane, Laura Claycomb as Polissena, young bass Kevin Murphy as Farasmane and finally, mezzo Deborah Domanski, a sudden replacement in the role of Zenobia. Kudos to all. One final comment about the evening’s event: the stage director of this production has a reputation in the industry for being unconventional, perhaps at times controversial, but certainly, no one would expect to see the usual in his work. That said, I was disappointed in how unemotionally moved I was throughout the first act of this production, neither connecting with the dramatic intent nor repelling from a contentious interpretation. It just wasn’t, and in that, I felt satisfied in having experienced an incredible performance of baroque opera by an exceptional group of artists, and headed out for a nightcap of Woodford on the rocks.
Photo: by Garry Smith, Seattle Opera's Billy Budd