But where else in the Bay Area can you immerse yourself for five and a half hours in the greatest sounds in the world but the San Francisco Opera? By the end of it you feel like you’ve learned a new language, the language of song. This meta-tale about a singing contest between suitors of a young maiden was light and winsome, if you could stomach the 19th century chauvinism. Rachel Willis-Sørensen’s sublime soprano luckily compensated, surging to an absolutely thrilling crescendo in the third act, bringing a much needed contrast to the jousting tenors and baritones who dominated the story. Despite the plot’s celebration of archaic social values, the three acts and two intermissions rolled by easily, due to the captivating richness of the music . Instrumental interludes supported an interesting theatrical excess: lingering, playful, ambivalent gestures. These non-verbal displays of favoritism, embarrassment, pride were quite charming, stalling the plot and filling up the stage while violin Wagner melodies caught up to the action. A full layered finale included a chorus of a hundred caped and wreathed players thronging a public square for the final showdown between singing masters, a feast for both eyes and ears.
Photo by Kristin Cato