Francesco Cavalli's Il Giasone, the 17th Century's Biggest Opera
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The last date listed for Il Giasone was Sunday July 21, 2013 / 2:30pm.
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Featured review from D. Ch'an-MoriwakiRed Velvet
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What The Heck Is OAC?
by D. Ch'an-Moriwaki
That’s the acronym for Opera Academy of California (pronounced like “oak,” as in oak tree), and No, it Does Not stand in the shadow of the big-time Merola, Adler, Opera Center training organizations. Instead, it can be said that the OAC is to San Francisco Opera rather like what Off-Broadway is to Broadway --- as purposefully dedicated to excellence in mission, ambition, artistic and administrative talent, and in performance level, being only more moderate in scale and means. In other words, this group is nothing to sniff at. It’s got names and associations of international renown and high repute on its staff and faculty, and attracts and auditions young talent from all over, to train as emerging artists for the future of opera and musical theater.
So, if you love opera and are an old hand, or if you’re new to opera and curious about it ... if you don’t believe that very hip young people actually study and train for professional operatic careers with utter seriousness ... if you aren’t aware that operatic careers involve way more than vocal arts in classical music performance ... well then, opera staged by Opera Academy of California is your ticket to being impressed, astonished, and uplofted by the level of artistic excellence, not just musically, but in production values as well. Prepare to be totally swept away.
Last year I was at OAC’s production of a modern, Twentieth-Century opera, the Poulenc “Dialogues of the Carmelites.” This year it was “Il Giasone” by Francesco Cavalli, written in the mid-1600s. These are highly contrasting productions in musical period, mood and atmosphere, emotional content, and each was handled with polish, conviction, and imagination ... especially Il Giasone, for which there is perhaps no performance tradition established as yet.
Wondering about the capabilities in young, emerging artists’ singing of Baroque opera, I was lucky to catch OAC’s last performance of Il Giasone (“[The] Jason,” the Argonaut story with a twist and a happy ending), and was not disappointed in the least. The vocal flexibility in Baroque style was met with aplomb and assured presence, the imaginative staging and direction brought out the opera’s engaging charm, and the instrumental ensemble was superb, especially conductor and harpsichordist. The one and only miss was that the supertitles were too dimly lit to be easily visible. Isifile’s costume was simply fabulous, and she looked great in it. I want it. To actually wear ... headgear, neck torque and all.
But after all the aforementioned having been said, what is so disappointing to realize is that there may be inadequate promotion and marketing for OAC’s mission, as well as for its wonderful stage productions. It is simply heartbreaking that audience is so small, even despite the tiny size of the theater --- especially this being Il Giasone’s closing performance and, most particularly, when one considers the joyous, devoted work that created all the performance’s superlatives. Maybe attendance was sparse due to Cavalli’s and Il Giasone’s being relatively unfamiliar composer and work to most music lovers. Did Mozart’s “Le Nozze de Figaro,” which was on the boards first, before Il Giasone, have a better turnout? Last year’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” didn’t seem to be heavily attended either ... or could that be because the Poulenc Carmelites is a grim story that doesn’t indulge the senses with colorful and elaborate setting and costuming, or entertaining circumstances of love and lust?
Gratefully, there is still more to OAC’s summer season coming up, but you’ve got to hurry. Goldstar is offering opera scenes Wednesday evening . OAC’s third staged opera of the current season is running this week into next weekend, Act I of Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and Jacques Offenbach’s “Daphnis et Chloe.” via Goldstar tix: via BrownPaper tix: And their summer Aria Recital has one more evening, tonight at Old First Church, Tuesday, 23 July, at 7pm. So, please, go to these OAC performances before their summer season is over. Make a donation. Visit their website and discover what they offer.
Gee, if we can all support them full-heartedly, maybe there could be some good, hot, far-flung PR for their gigs. Wouldn’t that be cool? :::
Performed by a rotating cast of students of the Opera Academy of California Summer Program
Directed by Yefim Maizel, a guest stage director of the New York Metropolitan Opera and Artistic Director of the Opera Academy of California
Conducted by Maestro Jun Nakabayashi, a Principal Conductor for the Taconic Opera