Hoffmann, Santa Fe Opera….Finally onstage!!

Not really sure what I am seemingly complaining about in the title of this post. We rehearsed Hoffmann at the ‘Santa Fe Opera standard’ of 3 weeks or so. But it was nothing short of amazing what Christopher Alden has done in that short amount of time for such a large scale work.  And this, the expanded Michael Kaye critical edition, being done for the first time in the States; and the first time in its storied 53 years that Santa Fe Opera has mounted any production of Hoffmann.  By all initial accounts, it was a rousing success, despite the many obstacles we faced (see earlier posts).  Hats off to our wonderful cast for working so hard and staying with it right through the opening last night.  It should be a spectacular run.

While we all complained in the dressing room about the difficulty of singing last night….it WAS dry despite a bit of humidity provided by a brief rain shower….and we shuddered when the wind blew and billowed our silken table drapes about the stage early on (which could have been a negative harbinger of things to come), we pressed on with necessary abandon.  Even the fact that a packed house (always a good thing) absorbed much of the sound we were sending out into the audience (leaving little to return to us onstage) worried us bit; I think we can all say with certainty that it was a great night in the theater.  The standing ovation from the opening night audience, and their more than generous applause for each character at bows, led us all to believe that we had accomplished something worthwhile.  Christopher Alden, no stranger to “boos” from audiences past, was warmly received along with his design team at the curtain calls.  This led some of us to jokingly conjecture that Mr. Alden may have been cursing himself for now entering the “mainstream” when it comes to his directing choices…which were, as I have said in earlier posts, rather brilliant in my opinion.  I have my doubts, however, as to whether this production will receive any real critical acclaim, as its somewhat abstract presentation and nuanced implications may not translate across the footlights.  We will see.  Standouts among the cast were Kate Lindsey, with her perfectly sung/portrayed Nicklausse, and Wayne Tigges, who triumphed as a last minute replacement for the “Four Villains” (roles which were vacated by Gidon Saks–see earlier blog posting).

The passage of time will be the final arbiter on this production, and its potential after-life; but suffice it to say that this cast will long be remembered for what transpired on July 17, 2010 at the Santa Fe Opera…for better or for worse.  My compliments to Paul Groves, Erin Wall, Kate Lindsey, Wayne Tigges, Mark Schowalter, and Jill Grove, respectively; wonderful colleagues all!!

An additional personal note: Matthew Epstein (semi-retired CAMI super agent and artistic consultant, former Artistic Director of Lyric Opera of Chicago, and “opera’s biggest fan”) provided a rather comforting presence in the theater throughout the week as we put the finishing touches on the production, and struggled with getting it on the stage and up to performance grade. His patented “bravo’s” which he liberally doles out from the house…but only when deserved…added much to our level of confidence. Mr. Epstein has been a stalwart supporter of mine for the last 15 years; and it was with great respect that I expressed my thanks to him after yesterday’s opening.