Nadja Michael, center, is captivating in San Francisco Opera’s production of  Leoš Janáček’s “The Makropulos Case.” (Courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

Nadja Michael, center, is captivating in San Francisco Opera’s production of Leoš Janáček’s “The Makropulos Case.” (Courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

Nadja Michael gives timeless performance in SF Opera’s ‘Makropulos Case’

German soprano Nadja Michael, singing the lead role of San Francisco Opera’s revival of Olivier Tambosi’s riveting production of Leoš Janáček’s “The Makropulos Case,” is exceptional as a woman who has lived for more than 300 years, sweeping men off their feet, possessing extraordinary powers and, quite likely, the elixir of life.

Last seen at the Opera House in 2010, the production marked the 50th anniversary of the U.S. premiere in San Francisco of Janáček’s penultimate opera.

A wall clock onstage symbolically ticks off the time left in the life of a mysterious woman who was born in 1537, yet nonetheless appears lively and magnetic in 1920s Prague to advocate the inheritance claim of Albert Gregor in the case Prus v. Gregor.

The woman in question is prima donna Emilia Marty, neé Elina Makropulos, the daughter of Austrian Emperor Rudolf II’s court physician Hieronymus Makropulos.

Makropulos devised a potion for immortality that the emperor forced him to test on his daughter. Though initially causing Elina to fail ill — and land her father in prison — the elixir succeeds in extending her life through centuries and several identities, all with the initials E.M.

On Friday night, Michael delivered a commanding, seductive performance, secure throughout her range, in powerful voice, and strikingly attired. The vampish platinum blonde was splendid in her Act 3 Givenchy cream-colored strapless gown as she offered her exquisite farewell to the world.

Marty desperately seeks her father’s formula (for a much-needed pick-me-up), but instructions for the elixir were left with the contested will at the center of the inheritance case; the case affects a descendant of the son born of her liaison with Baron Prus (when she was 19th century Scottish singer Ellen MacGregor).

Marty captivates men in her quest for the elixir and brushes them off when she is done with each.

Tenor Charles Workman is an ardent, though somewhat forced, Gregor; authoritative baritone Stephen Powell is the current Baron Prus; and the appealing tenor Brenton Ryan is Prus’ son Janek.

Solid contributions also come from bass-baritone Dale Travis as suspicious attorney Dr. Kolenaty; tenor Joel Sorensen as law clerk Vitek; soprano Julie Adams as Vitek’s daughter Kristina; tenor Matthew O’Neill as Count Hauk-Sendorf; mezzo-soprano Zanda Svede as a cleaning woman and a chambermaid; and bass-baritone Brad Walker as a stagehand.

Ian Robertson’s chorus effectively echoes Marty’s final adieu as the potion formula literally goes up in smoke, and making his SFO debut, Mikhail Tatarnikov decisively conducts the orchestra with precision and flair.

REVIEW
The Makropulos Case
Presented by San Francisco Opera
Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Oct 18, Oct. 26 and Oct. 29, 2 p.m. Oct. 23
Tickets: $26 to $333
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com

Classical MusicJanacekMakropulos CaseNadja MichaelOlivier TambosiSan Francisco Opera

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco Police Officer Nicholas Buckley, pictured here in 2014, is now working out of Bayview Station. <ins>(Department of Police Accountability records)</ins>
SF police return officer to patrol despite false testimony

A San Francisco police officer accused of fabricating a reason for arresting… Continue reading

Riordan Crusaders versus St. Ignatius Wildcats at JB Murphy Field on the St. Ignatius Prepatory High School Campus on September 14, 2019 in San Francisco, California. (Chris Victorio | Special to the S.F. Examiner)
State allows high school sports to resume, but fight is far from over

For the first time since mid-March 2020, there is hope for high… Continue reading

A nurse draws up a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine at the Mission neighborhood COVID-19 vaccine site on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
SF expands vaccine eligiblity, but appointments ‘limited’

San Francisco expanded eligibility for COVID-19 vaccinations Wednesday but appointments remain limited… Continue reading

The now-shuttered Cliff House restaurant overlooks Ocean Beach people at Ocean Beach on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. (Sebastian Miño-Bucheli / Special to the S.F. Examiner)
History buffs working to keep Cliff House collection in public view

Funds needed to buy up historic building’s contents at auction

Perceived supply and demand in the Bay Area’s expensive rental market can play a big part in determining what people pay. (Shutterstock)
Bay Area rental market is rebounding — but why?

Hearing about people leaving town can have as big an effect as actual economic factors

Most Read