Archive for September, 2010

Opera San Jose’s Anna Karenina

Monday, September 27th, 2010

We went to Saturday night’s performance of Anna Karenina at Opera San Jose, certainly this company’s most ambitious undertaking.  The action was fast paced, aided by numerous set changes, and retained its suspense throughout Tolstoy‘s  intricate story.  I was captivated by so many aspects of the performance, especially the sets, lighting and stage action, and my fellow audience members were equally excited at intermission.

We heard the cast headlined by Jasmina Halimic, who has joined the resident cast this season.  She fully portrayed the complex nature of the title character and gave a fabulous performance.  I greatly look forward to her future performances.

I always find the unfamiliarity of contemporary music a challenge, and this West Coast premiere was my first time hearing it.  I found much of the score to be repetitive, though the orchestra played well, and some of the sounds were very evocative of the scenes (though not quite as evocative of trains as the Orange Blossom Special).  The singers were given primarily recitative, which perhaps provided opportunity for greater artistic expression. But without  melodies or a big chorus hooks, there was nothing musically memorable. In fact, 15 minutes after leaving the theater, Randy Newman‘s Political Science popped into my head, so the score hardly filled a void).

So what made this opera compelling was the dramatic tension, stunning sets and lighting and stage direction.  A minor distraction was the use of large mirrors that faced the audience, giving us a view of the conductor and audience.  Also the libretto repeatedly foreshadowed the “tapping” of the train, but the score didn’t use this motif as the train approaches in the penultimate scene.

Nevertheless , I would very much enjoy seeing Anna Karenina again.