Music: Merola's Requiem

Like its rivals, from Milan to Manhattan, the San Francisco Opera makes most of the popular stops on the grand-opera highway, e.g., Carmen, Aïda, La Bohème. But San Francisco takes peculiar pride in traveling the byways as well. For its opener last week, San Francisco characteristically chose a seldom-heard version of the Faust legend, Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele, instead of Gounod's war horse, Faust.*

The audience glittered, for San Francisco takes first nights with silk-and-sable seriousness. But the best show was onstage. The Devil (Italian Basso Nicola Rossi-Lemeni) was gusty enough to shake the...

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