Note from William: This post continues my series of observances of the 50 year anniversaries of the historic performances that I attended at San Francisco Opera during the general directorship of Kurt Herbert Adler. This is the fifth of 13 such observances of performances from the company’s 1964 Fall season.
Experiencing, within a three week period a new production of Wagner’s “Parsifal” and production revivals of Verdi’s “Otello”, Richard Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” and “Die Frau ohne Schatten”, the next opera was a revival of the first of Mozart’s three masterpiece operas with libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte – “Le Nozze di Figaro”.
Sir Geraint Evans’ Figaro
In the title role was the Welsh baritone Geraint Evans, in yet another of his San Francisco Opera trumphs of the 1960s. [See also my comments on his Paolo [50 Year Anniversaries: “Simon Boccanegra” with Tito Gobbi, Giorgio Tozzi – October 6, 1960] and his Beckmesser [50 Year Anniversaries: Schoeffler, Della Casa, Uhl, Geraint Evans in “Die Meistersinger” – San Francisco Opera, October 21, 1961].
See also my observances of his Wozzeck [50 Year Anniversaries: Geraint Evans, Marilyn Horne, Richard Lewis in “Wozzeck” at San Francisco Opera – September 15, 1962],
[Below: Sir Geraint Evans as Figaro in the 1964 San Francisco Opera production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”; edited image, based on a photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]
Equally noteworthy were his Falstaff [50 Year Anniversaries: “Falstaff” with Evans, Simionato, Stewart – San Francisco Opera, October 11, 1962] and his Leporello [50 Year Anniversaries: “Don Giovanni” with Tozzi, De Los Angeles, Schwarzkopf, Evans and Lewis in Zeffirelli’s Production – San Francisco Opera, October 20, 1962].
Every Evans performance was a work of art. The five characters – Paolo, Beckmesser, Woxxeck, Leporello, Falstaff and Mozart’s Figaro – each have strongly etched personalities. Geraint Evans was attune to each one’s psychological characteristics.
The music the characters sung – by Mozart, Wagner, Verdi and Berg – was, in each case, composed in a different musical style. Evans’ sturdy bass voice was employed to make each a unique creation.
Geri Grist’s Susanna
Reri Grist’s transformation from Broadway performer (Bertstein’s “West Side Story”) to the San Francisco Opera’s leading soubrette was fully realized in her first season (1963) at the War Memorial Opera House, with her performance of Rosina [50 Year Anniversaries: Grist, Valletti, Prey in “Barbiere di Siviglia” – San Francisco Opera, September 28, 1963].
In her debut season in San Francisco she was also Despina [50 Year Anniversaries: “Cosi fan Tutte” with Schwarzkopf, Vanni, Valletti, Prey, Wolovsky, Grist – San Francisco Opera, October 19, 1963] and Blanche [50 Year Anniversaries: “Dialogues of the Carmelites” with Venora, Resnik, Ericsdotter – October 26, 1963].
[Below: Reri Grist as Susanna in the 1964 San Francisco Opera production of Mozart’s “The Marriage of Figaro”; edited image, based on a photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]
If there were doubters in the 1963 season about Reri Grist to hold her own in the large-sized (but acoustically friendly) War Memorial Opera House, her first two efforts of 1964, Sophie [50 Year Anniversaries: Schwarzkopf, Seefried, Edelmann, Grist in “Der Rosenkavalier” – San Francisco Opera, September 24, 1964] and Susanna dispelled it. She proved to be an ideal Susanna, brilliant in Susanna’s arias, duets and ensembles, and exhibiting the charm of Figaro’s streetwise fiancé.
Eberhard Waechter’s Count and Pilar Lorengar’s Countess
Two artists new to the season (each of whom I had heard at lerast once already), Austrian baritone Eberhard Waecter as Count Almaviva and Spanish soprano Pilar Lorengar as his Countess, who provided a touch of European elegance (with marital discord seething underneath).
[Below: The Count Almaviva (Eberhard Waechter, left) escorts the Countess Almaviva (Pilar Lorengar, right) from her bedroom; edited image, based on a photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]
Both Waecther and Lorengar proved to be impressive Mozarteans, the Countess a better role for her, I believed, in this large opera house, than Desdemona [50 Year Anniversaries: “Otello” with McCracken, Gobbi and Lorengar – September 19, 1964].
In three weeks time I had seen Waechter sing Wagner [50 Year Anniversaries: Konya, Dalis, Waechter, Tozzi in “Parsifal” – San Francisco Opera, September 12, 1964], Richard Strauss [50 Year Anniversaries: Ella Lee, Dalis, Kuchta, Waechter, Martell in “Frau ohne Schatten” – September 26, 1964] and Mozart, and was yet to observe him in one more role (the Elder Germont in Verdi’s “La Traviata”. Even conceding that 1964 was the only season he performed with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, I felt that I had a good measure of the artist’s vocal and histrionic gifts that assured the high regard that audiences felt for him in the mid-20th century.
American soprano Lee Venora played Cherubino. The conductor was Ferdinand Leitner. Paul Hager was stage director. The production by Leni Bauer-Ecsy dates from 1961.