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Larry Hancock's Opera Tour -- February 27 to March 6, 2005
By Alma Taylor

I thought last year's tour, which I called the "Dream Tour" couldn't be improved upon, but this year it was even better. Each day we had a different tour or other activitiy, followed by an evening opera or other musical event. Monday's opera was Turandot at the Met, where my friend Earle Patriarco was singing Ping. The title role was sung by Andrea Gruber, whose vibrato was too fast and wide, if that is possible, for my liking, sounding at times like a trill. Johan Botha was a very good Calaf, having a ringing high note in "Nessun Dorma" and Hoa Jiang Tian's Timur was very sonorous on the low tones. The Liu was nice but not nearly as good as I have heard in other venues. The sets were absolutely magnificent and massive, including one scene of glittering gold and white. Rodica Cailean, my lovely and long-suffering roommate for the trip, went backstage with me to see Earle after the performance. When Earle told us he was rehearsing for Figaro in Il Barbieri di Sevilla because the scheduled Figaro, Franco Vassallo, was ill with the flu, I wished Vassallo no ill but hoped Earle would be singing the title role. We had purchased tickets for the Barber before we left San Jose, as it was not included in our tour.

Tuesday's opera was Samson and Delila with the title role sung by Denyce Graves, who was magnificent. A more sexy Delila may never be seen, with a voice marvelously suited to the sensuous role. Jose Cura was a very believable Samson, with a commanding tenor voice. However, the sets were outlandish and indescribable, with three huge varying sized mounds, more pointed than haystacks, of who knows what, with sticks coming out of them at all angles, and not a bench or a rock or a chaise to sit on for the lovers as they were wrapped in each other's arms.... .on the floor.

Wednesday was Nabucco by Verdi. The sets for this spectacular opera were such that I held my breath whenever the soprano had to walk up and down about 20 steep steps, at the top of which was the God Dagon. The incredible soprano singing Abigaille was Maria Guleghina. Of all of the singers I've ever heard, she has the most volume, though spread at the top notes and slightly under pitch in the first scene. She is a beautiful and shapely woman with a commanding presence, and a truly magnificent voice. The other singers were all excellent, but Maria overshadowed them, knocking us all for a loop with her powerful voice, which could be quite lyrical and tender as well. The audience went wild at her curtain calls. The famous chorus, "Va Pensiero" had to be encored, as the audience would not stop clapping. Thursday evening was a wonderful all-Strauss concert by the New York Philharmonic, conducted by Lorin Maazel. On Friday, we went to see Barber of Seville while the rest of the group went to see a Broadway show. Earle did sing Figaro to much-deserved vociferous applause. Rosina was Katarina Karneus, a lovely coloratura, perfect for the role.

On Saturday, we saw a matinée performance of Bernstein's Candide at New York City Opera. The stage sets were ingenious and costumes and singing exceptional, especially that of the soprano. The music was wonderful Bernstein. A more fabulous opera tour I cannot imagine!

(SJOG Newsletter April, 2005 Issue)

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