Friday, June 01, 2007

Something to talk about

So the announcement of Hope Briggs dismissal from the SF Opera's Don Giovanni (opening night tomorrow) was picked up even by the NY Times.

Hopeless in San Francisco

Frankly, there is something fishy about this whole affair. What I don't understand is how they can possibly have decided to replace Hope Briggs with a younger (albeit quite talented) and less proven singer to fill the shoes of the prima donna on opening night. Ms. Briggs is an exciting singer, a memorable voice with beautiful Leontyne-like colors. Her replacement, Adler Fellow Elsa van den Heever is a pretty songbird-type singer. While Ms. Briggs has sung the role of Donna Anna many times before (internationally even), Ms. Van der Heever has sung it at, um... Napa Valley.

So yes, maybe Anna is not the best role for Briggs, but it is implausile that she would be entirely incompetent in its delivery. Unless Gockley just wanted to give us something to talk about, the outcome of this decision seems a lot riskier than allowing Briggs to fulfill her contract.

Otherwise, Donna Anna is ill-suited to 99% of the sopranos who choose to sing it. Save for Mozart's spectacular bravura writing, it is a difficult and ungrateful role. Once her purpose is served as the victim which triggers the plot, she really doesn't do much else for the rest of the opera. Anna is a doormat just like Ottavio -- prone to exaggerated outbursts of coloratura, entirely disproportionate with the situation at hand. Do you really need to sing several octaves worth of scales and high tessitura ostinatos, because your boyfriend has called you "cruel"?

© 2007 C. Chang


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