In the midst of comings and goings, rumors and uncertainties, Orange County's Opera Pacific still managed to raise the curtain on its 11th season at Costa Mesa's glitzy Performing Arts Center. While the initial offering of its four-opera season fell somewhat short of the company's usual middling-to-high standards, the sheer musical volume at the end of Puccini's fairy-tale opera seemed to convince the cheering, black-tie-and-sequins audience that something monumental had taken place. Original plans called for sopranos Jane Eaglen and Alessandra Marc to alternate in the upper screeches of the title role, evoking visions of two battleships of imposing tonnage steaming toward the same port. Then Eaglen simultaneously involved as the L.A. Opera's Norma, a role no less demanding opted out, leaving the sea lanes to Marc alone. Eaglen, by the way, is slated to sing the role with the San Diego Opera in April. Further spice to the undertaking came with the announcement, practically at curtain time, that Opera Pacific founder and general director David DiChiera had resigned his post after 10 years. In a reportedly amicable reshuffling, the company announced yesterday that DiChiera would stay on in the newly created post of "artistic director," and that Patrick L. Veitch, a battle-scarred veteran of operatic warfare on several continents (including the Australian Opera, where L.A. Opera honcho Peter Hemmings had also endured his share of run-ins), would assume the reins. A proper script would have called for the opening-night "Turandot" to ride triumphantly through the many storms, but such, alas, was not quite the case. Marc, German by birth and American by choice, has her following mostly from that part of the operatic lunatic fringe that worships sacred monsters. To these eyes and ears she is a shockingly inept, badly trained, double serving of raw material woefully misdirected. The voice, of which there is certainly plenty, wandered in and out of register; the body, of which ditto, tottered frighteningly on the grand staircase that is the focus of any "Turandot" production. Among the supporting cast Craig Sirianni's Calaf both bland and squally, Riccardo Ferrari's woolly Timur there wasn't much to sing about, either; the charming Liu of Guiping Deng, who in any case is allotted the opera's best music, made some amends. (Tenor Eduardo Villa is slated to alternate with Sirianni during the run, which ends Sunday.) Both Peter Wolf's candybox set (originally fashioned for the Arizona Opera) and Roman Terleckyj's staging turned everything into the kind of old-fashioned symmetrical blocking that had gone out of style (or so one might have hoped) about the time of Herbert Hoover. John Mauceri's conducting, vivid and spirited, provided some semblance of competence. He restored most of the final scene no great shakes, if truth be known that Franco Alfano contrived after Puccini's death. Given a superior cast, this might have had its interesting moments; this time it didn't. Alan Rich

In the midst of comings and goings, rumors and uncertainties, Orange County’s Opera Pacific still managed to raise the curtain on its 11th season at Costa Mesa’s glitzy Performing Arts Center. While the initial offering of its four-opera season fell somewhat short of the company’s usual middling-to-high standards, the sheer musical volume at the end of Puccini’s fairy-tale opera seemed to convince the cheering, black-tie-and-sequins audience that something monumental had taken place. Original plans called for sopranos Jane Eaglen and Alessandra Marc to alternate in the upper screeches of the title role, evoking visions of two battleships of imposing tonnage steaming toward the same port. Then Eaglen simultaneously involved as the L.A. Opera’s Norma, a role no less demanding opted out, leaving the sea lanes to Marc alone. Eaglen, by the way, is slated to sing the role with the San Diego Opera in April. Further spice to the undertaking came with the announcement, practically at curtain time, that Opera Pacific founder and general director David DiChiera had resigned his post after 10 years. In a reportedly amicable reshuffling, the company announced yesterday that DiChiera would stay on in the newly created post of “artistic director,” and that Patrick L. Veitch, a battle-scarred veteran of operatic warfare on several continents (including the Australian Opera, where L.A. Opera honcho Peter Hemmings had also endured his share of run-ins), would assume the reins. A proper script would have called for the opening-night “Turandot” to ride triumphantly through the many storms, but such, alas, was not quite the case. Marc, German by birth and American by choice, has her following mostly from that part of the operatic lunatic fringe that worships sacred monsters. To these eyes and ears she is a shockingly inept, badly trained, double serving of raw material woefully misdirected. The voice, of which there is certainly plenty, wandered in and out of register; the body, of which ditto, tottered frighteningly on the grand staircase that is the focus of any “Turandot” production. Among the supporting cast Craig Sirianni’s Calaf both bland and squally, Riccardo Ferrari’s woolly Timur there wasn’t much to sing about, either; the charming Liu of Guiping Deng, who in any case is allotted the opera’s best music, made some amends. (Tenor Eduardo Villa is slated to alternate with Sirianni during the run, which ends Sunday.) Both Peter Wolf’s candybox set (originally fashioned for the Arizona Opera) and Roman Terleckyj’s staging turned everything into the kind of old-fashioned symmetrical blocking that had gone out of style (or so one might have hoped) about the time of Herbert Hoover. John Mauceri’s conducting, vivid and spirited, provided some semblance of competence. He restored most of the final scene no great shakes, if truth be known that Franco Alfano contrived after Puccini’s death. Given a superior cast, this might have had its interesting moments; this time it didn’t. Alan Rich

Turandot

Segerstrom Hall, Orange County Performing Arts Center; 3,100 seats; $ 85 top

Production

Opera Pacific presents Giacomo Puccini's three-act opera, final scene completed by Franco Alfano, libretto by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni. Conductor, John Mauceri; director, Roman Terleckyj; designers, Peter Wolf, Stephen Ross, Malabar Ltd. Opened, reviewed, Sept. 21; runs through Sept. 29. Time: 2 hours, 50 min.

Cast

Cast: Alessandra Marc (Turandot), Craig Sirianni (Calaf), Guiping Deng (Liu), Riccardo Ferrari (Timur); Max Mendez, Christopher Campbell, Frank Hernandez, Howard Bender, Ray Hornblower, Julie DeVaere, Marcia Whitehead, David T. Kim.
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