The ghost of former general director Pamela Rosenberg was hovering above when a man dressed in a gray business suit was the first to come on the stage. We feared for a second the Hundred Year war been relocated to Wall street for the sake of modernizing the opera. It actually turned out to be a relatively neat trick, not one where you go wow, but one you can live with: the choir should be in turn peasants for the Meuse, nobles in the French court in Chinon, soldiers in the battlefield, English soldiers at the stake, and angels talking to Joan. Having the large choir enter and leave the stage, change costumes, etc., we can imagine the headache for the production director. The solution chosen here is to have them as modern spectators of the period opera, just like you and me, except with better view, sitting on low benches on two sides of an elevated incline where the action takes place. The show within the show conceit ends up working quite well, and it is quite economical. Oh, and some wear berets, thus they must be French. At least they are not wearing that Jean-Paul Gautier white-with-thin-blue-stripes sailor sweater. Maybe they were supposed to be accessorized with baguettes and bottles of red wine, but thought it was a pre-performance spread.

Pictures by Terrence McCarthy, courtesy of SF Opera