The one good thing about missing the opening night Gala --and we'd have looked absolutely stunning in a tux-- is that we got to read the underwhelmed reports of the premiere of Verdi's Un Ballo en Maschera. We attended the performance last night with lowered expectation, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We will not second guess our estimable colleagues, since we did not see the same performance, and since we came in having integrated their feedback. In order for all of us to converge, we would have to visit the opera house a couple times, and adopt the same ethical reviewing guidelines as a food critic. And still, we'd find ways to disagree.

We have a unifying theory of the complaints from Friday's performance: the stage direction just brings the piece down. The parts which can be carried solely on the singers' shoulders are beautiful. Deborah Voigt's aria in the opening of Act II is a wonder. Well, Deborah Voigt is a wonder by herself: she inhabits the role of Amelia with such intensity, such fire, such passion. She does not sing Amelia, she is Amelia. Every note she sings comes not from the whims of the composer, but from the heart of the character. She sings these notes because she needs to, not because she has to. Even in the thralls of love or in the midst of despair, she sings with gut-wrenching emotion, but technical clarity, and always a luminous tone. She makes the opera work on her sheer talent.

Picture courtesy of SF Opera/Terrence McCarthy. In front at left, Deborah Voigt; lying down and slooooowly agonizing, Marcus Haddock.