Apollo's Fire L'Orfeo

Cal-performances-apollos-fire-5-roger-mastroianni* Notes * 
Apollo's Fire (pictured left, photograph by Roger Mastroianni), an idiosyncratic Baroque orchestra from Cleveland, is touring Monteverdi's L'Orfeo with a reconstruction of the lost Bacchanale ending, and made a stop at Cal Performances last night.

The orchestra, lead by Jeannette Sorrell, sounded quite cheery. In particular, the wind band of various sackbuts, cornetti, trumpets, and such were impressively together and tuneful.

The singers, most of whom sang multiple roles, were uniformly great and very clear. Soprano Erica Schuller sounded utterly pure and beautiful as Musica and Euridice. Soprano Amanda Powell had a tender warmth as the Messagiera (she seemed near tears but sounded lovely) and Proserpina, and was more fiery as a Bacchante.

The two tenors singing shepherds, Owen McIntosh and Jacob Perry, had a gorgeous duet that ended Act II, their voices blended wonderfully. They did not upstage, however, the lead tenor, Karim Sulayman, who sang Orfeo with such light prettiness.

The semi-staged production from Sophie Daneman, who also directed Les Arts Florissants' double-bill last year, is droll and neat. Many of the entrances came through the audience. The dancing from choreographer and principal dancer Carlos Fittante seemed unnecessary. Otherwise, I enjoyed the simple costumes which seemed to be gowns with lots of draping and shirts suitable for Renaissance re-enactment.

I was bemused by the reconstructed ending, the music is from René Schiffer, who is also a cellist in the ensemble. The scene is a very odd one, and it was a relief that the depiction of violence was stylized rather than graphic.

* Tattling * 
There were a few comments from the couple next to us in Row FF Seats 109 and 110. My date noted that our friend in the first row had his opera glasses at the ready, and I pointed out that much of the staging happens behind the orchestra, and thus magnification could be useful.


Cal Performances' 2018-2019 Season

Cal-performances-jimmy-lopez-dreamers-jimmy-lopez-and-nilo-cruz-1-franciel-bragaSeptember 23 2018: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guest Jon Batiste
September 28-30 2018: Mark Morris Dance Group; Pepperland
September 30 2018: Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Bach Suites
October 5 2018: Max Richter with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble
October 6 2018: Aida Cuevas with Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlán; A Tribute to Juan Gabriel
October 7 2018: Sandeep Das and the HUM Ensemble; Delhi to Damascus
October 12-13 2018: Schaubühne; An Enemy of the People
October 13 2018: Jerusalem Quartet with Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth
October 13 2018: Soweto Gospel Choir; Songs of the Free
October 20-21 2018: Sasha Waltz & Guests; Körper
October 25 2018: An Evening with Pat Metheny
October 26-28 2018: Barber Shop Chronicles
November 1 2018: Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, pianos
November 3 2018: Jordi Savall; The Routes of Slavery (1444 –1888)
November 10 2018: Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
November 16-17 2018: Compagnie Käfig; Pixel
December 2 2018: Shai Wosner, piano
December 7-9 2018: Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company; Custodians of Beauty
December 8 2018: Charles Lloyd & The Marvels, and Lucinda Williams
December 13-16 2018: Big Dance Theater; 17c
January 18-20 2019: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
January 20 2019: David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano
January 25 2019: Kronos Quartet; Fifty for the Future
January 27 2019: Nicola Benedetti, violin; Alexei Grynyuk, piano
February 1 2019: Yefim Bronfman, piano
February 2-3 2019: Kodo; One Earth Tour: Evolution
February 8 2019: Cantus; Alone Together
February 17 2019: Danish String Quartet
February 20 2019: Joyce DiDonato; SONGPLAY
February 22-24 2019: The 7 Fingers; Reversible
February 24 2019: Takács Quartet
March 2-3 2019: Akram Khan; XENOS
March 3 2019: Takács Quartet
March 10 2019: Nicolas Hodges, piano; Jennifer Koh, violin; Anssi Karttunen, cello
March 15-17 2019: Philharmonia Orchestra, London; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
March 22-24 2019: Quote Unquote Collective; Mouthpiece
March 23 2019: An Evening with Ira Glass; Seven Things I’ve Learned
March 31 2019: Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion
April 3 2019: Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour; 60th Anniversary Celebration Starring Cécile McLorin Salvant
April 4 2019: The Tallis Scholars; Music Inspired by the Sistine Chapel
April 7 2019: So Percussion; Mallet Quartets and the Keyboard Reimagined
April 9-14 2019: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
April 13 2019: Havana Cuba All-Stars
April 15 2019: Murray Perahia, piano
April 26-28 2019: Théâtre National de Bretagne; Julius Caesar
April 29 2019: Gil Shaham, violin; Akira Eguchi, piano
May 1 2019: Alisa Weilerstein, cello; The Complete Bach Suites
May 3 2019: Silkroad Ensemble; Heroes Take Their Stands
May 5 2019: Michael Barenboim, violin
May 11-12 2019: Song of the Goat Theatre; Songs of Lear and Hamlet: A CommentaryMay 17 2019: Los Angeles Master Chorale; Lagrime di San PietroMay 31-June 2 2019: Eifman Ballet; Pygmalion

Cal Performances announced the 2018-2019 season on today, the final season curated by Tarnopolsky before he departs to become CEO and president of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Of greatest interest is Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, London, performing the world premiere of Dreamer, composed by Jimmy López (pictured above), next March.

Press Release | Official Site


Merola's 61st Season Participants

8.18.17_Finale-1845_resizedSopranos
Kendra Berentsen, Portland, Oregon
Cheyanne Coss, Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Marlen Nahhas, Houston, Texas
Brittany Nickell, Coral Springs, Florida
Patricia Westley, Santa Barbara, California
Meigui Zhang, Chengdu, China

Mezzo-Sopranos
Megan Grey, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Anne Maguire, Washougal, Washington
Simone McIntosh, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Alexandra Urquiola, Bergenfield, New Jersey

Tenors
Zhengyi Bai, Linyi, Shandong, China
Christopher Colmenero, Burlington, Vermont
Addison Marlor, Salt Lake City, Utah
Brian Michael Moore, Cincinnati, Ohio
Christopher Oglesby, Woodstock, Georgia
Charles Sy, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
WooYoung Yoon, Seoul, South Korea

Baritones
SeokJong Baek, Jeon-Ju, South Korea
Jacob Scharfman, Boston, Massachusetts
Jaeman Yoon, Seoul, South Korea
Xiaomeng Zhang, Wenzhou, China

Bass-Baritones
Andrew Moore, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
Ted Pickell, El Dorado Hills, California

Apprentice Coaches
Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad, Kyiv, Ukraine
Annie Brooks, Seattle, Washington
Matthew Gemmill, Ames, Iowa
James Maverick, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Thomas Morris, Atlanta, Georgia

Apprentice Stage Director
Marcus Shields, Charleston, South Carolina

The Schwabacher Summer Concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is on Thursday, July 5 and July 7 at Bing Hall.

The Merola artists perform Mozart's Il re pastore on Thursday, July 19 and Saturday, July 21 and Stravinsky's The Rake’s Progress on Thursday, August 2 and Saturday, August 4. All of these operas are to be performed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The season ends with the participants singing in the annual Merola Grand Finale (last year's performance pictured above, photograph by Kristen Loken) on Saturday, August 18 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Official Site | Press Releases


LA Opera's Orphée et Eurydice

La-opera-orpheus-2018* Notes * 
Choreographer John Neumeier's production of Orphée et Eurydice (final ovation pictured left) opened at Los Angeles Opera last week. Dance companies seem to love this opera by Gluck, and this co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet is no exception. The reworking of the libretto to be contemporary, with Orpheus as a choreographer and Eurydice a star dancer is compelling, but it seems pretty brutal for the lead soprano, it would be a rare thing indeed for an opera singer to also be a prima ballerina as well.

Joffrey Ballet is indeed impressive, the dancers mastery of various dance forms -- from classic to modern -- is obvious. There were only the tiniest sloppiness with some angles not being precisely the same from person to person. The male dancers that portrayed dark spirits in Act II (pictured below, photograph by Ken Howard) were especially effective. By the end of that act in fact, I felt as if I were floating on a cloud of beauty, it all did come together very well.

Orph_0857prThe singing was uniformly clear and beautiful, while the acting was more mixed. As Amour, soprano Liv Redpath is adorably cherubic with a lithe voice. Soprano Lisette Oropesa (Eurydice) has a lovely warmth and clarity. As athletic and graceful as she is, even when she walked barefoot it was conspicuous that she is not a dancer of the same caliber as the others on stage. Neumeier really put her on the spot, it doesn't seem fair to expect an amazing opera singer also fit in with professional dancers. On the other hand, Maxim Mironov was convincing as Orphée, he also sounds great, so open and even from top to bottom.

The chorus was very nice and cohesive as it sang in the pit with the orchestra. I enjoyed James Conlon's conducting, what it might have lacked in exactitude it made up for in liveliness.

* Tattling * 
The women next to me in Row B Seats 14 and 15 were at the performance because they must have known one of the dancers, and consequently they didn't seem that interested in the music and occasionally spoke to each other at full volume even though they were a few feet from the Maestro. The man next to me in 12 either fell asleep or was concentrating very hard on the music with his eyes closed in Act II.


San Diego Opera's Florencia en el Amazonas

Jkat_Amazonas_031418_202* Notes *
A vibrant production of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas opened at San Diego Opera last night. The sets and singing had much to recommend it, and it was easy to see why this piece has been revived multiple times in the almost 22 years since its premiere in Houston.

The music is lyrical and exuberant, and most of the singing was absolutely lovely. Only baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco (Riolobo) seemed underpowered, though he is a fine actor and boasts an impressive physique.

I liked the range of emotions portrayed by mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala as Paula, part of a bickering couple seeking to renew their love, she was frighteningly shrill at the outset and charmingly warm at the end. Her other half, baritone Levi Hernandez as Alvaro, was affable. Baritone Hector Vásquez (Capitán) sang with authority.

Tenor Daniel Montenegro and soprano María Fernanda Castillo sang beautifully together as they fall in love as Arcadio and Rosalba. Montenegro's voice is sweet, while Castillo's is brilliant. As opera singer Florencia Grimaldi, soprano Elaine Alvarez seemed perfectly suited, her rich, vivid voice was very convincing.

The set, from Mark F. Smith, is essentially a steamboat on a turntable, and this is effective, especially with the lighting. It definitely had a resemblance to Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, which is fun, since both works deal with the Amazon and opera. Much of the chorus wore unitards some festooned with elaborate accessories to represent the water of the Amazon and various jungle beasts. This was in keeping with the libretto, which takes inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (perhaps Love in the Time of Cholera is most obvious) and has a dreamy, surreal quality.

 

* Tattling * 
The audience fairly quiet, though two men behind me in the center of Row S did make some loud comments.


SF Symphony's 2018-2019 Season

SF-Symphony-4x6September 5 2018: Open Night Gala with MTT; Itzhak Perlman, violin
September 13-16 2018: MTT conducts Castiglioni, Ravel, Copland; Yuja Wang, piano
September 21-23 2018: MTT conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone and The Firebird
September 27-30 2018: MTT conducts Stravinsky's Petrushka, Violin Concerto, and The Rite of Spring; Leonidas Kavakos, violin
October 11-13 2018: Manfred Honeck conducts Prokofiev and Dvořák
October 14 2018: Evgeny Kissin plays Beethoven and Rachmaninoff
October 18-20 2018: Pablo Heras-Casado conducts Ravel, Bartók, and Debussy; Javier Perianes, piano
October 21 2018: Olivier Latry, organ
October 21-22 2018: Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra
October 25-27 2018: Cristian Mӑcelaru conducts Anna Clyne, Lalo, Kevin Puts, and R. Strauss; Ray Chen, violin
November 1-3 2018: Jurassic Park film with live orchestra
November 4 2018: Hilary Hahn, violin
November 8-10 2018: Jakub Hrůša conducts Shostakovich, Borodin, and Bartók; Karen Gomyo, violin
November 11 2018: Semyon Bychkov conducts the Czech Philharmonic; Alisa Weilerstein, cello
November 15–18 2018: MTT's From the Diary of Anne Frank
November 23–25 2018: MTT conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 9
November 30- December 1 2018: The Nightmare Before Christmas film with live orchestra
December 2 2018: Gautier Capuҫon, cello with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
December 14-15 2018: SoundBox curated by MTT
December 14-15 2018: Jane Glover conducts Messiah
January 5-6 2019: Mary Poppins film with live orchestra
January 11-13 2019: Jaap van Zweden conducts Mozart and Bruckner; Eugene Izotov, oboe
January 14 2019: Itzhak Perlman, violin
January 18-20 2019: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Tchaikovsky and Sibelius; Gabriela Montero, piano
January 22 2019: Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
January 24-26 2019: Christian Reif conducts R. Strauss, Andrew Norman, Prokofiev; Johannes Moser, cello
January 27 2019: Leonidas Kavakos, violin
January 31- February 2 2019: Herbert Blomstedt conducts Beethoven and Mendelssohn
February 7-9 2019: MTT conducts Steven Mackey, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky
February 14-17 2019: András Schiff conducts Bach and Mendelssohn
February 22-24 2019: Daniel Harding conducts Schumann; Lars Vogt, piano
February 27-28 2019: La La Land film with live orchestra
March 1-2 2019: Close Encounters of the Third Kind film with live orchestra
March 3 2019: Mikhail Pletnev conducts the Russian National Orchestra; George Li, piano
March 7-9 2019: Franҫois-Xavier Roth conducts Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms; Cédric Tiberghien, piano
March 10 2019: Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin with Lambert Orkis, piano
March 14-17 2019: MTT conducts Ravel, Mozart, and Sibelius; Christian Tetzlaff, violin
March 31 2019: Marc-André Hamelin, piano
April 7 2019: Midori, violin and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
April 11-14 2019: Andrey Boreyko conducts Brahms and Zemlinsky; Emanuel Ax, piano
April 18-20 2019: Fabio Luisi conducts Glinka, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov; Mario Brunello, cello
April 25-27 2019: James Gaffigan conducts Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, and Barber; Hélène Grimaud, piano
May 2-4 2019: Marek Janowski conducts Mendelssohn, Bruck, and Wagner; James Ehnes, violin
May 9–11 2019: MTT conducts Debussy and Ligeti; Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
May 12 2019: Joshua Bell, violin; Steven Isserlis, cello; and Jeremy Denk, piano
May 16-18 2019: MTT conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 7
May 23-25 2019: Krzysztof Urbański conducts Elgar, Bacewicz, and Mendelssohn; Vilde Frang, violin
May 30- June 1 2019: Juraj Valčuha conducts Bach and Shostakovich; Alexander Barantschik, violin
June 6-8 2019: TBD conducting Bartók, Grieg, and Saint-Saëns; Nikolai Lugansky, piano
June 9 2019: Christopher Houlihan, organ
June 13-16 2019: MTT conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 9
June 20-22 2019: MTT conducts Steve Reich and Prokofiev; Yefim Bronfman, piano
June 27-30 2019: MTT conducts Noye's Fludde and L'Enfant et les sortilèges

Season Highlights | Press Release


ABS performs St. John Passion

Abs-2018* Notes *
American Bach Soloists finished a run of St. John Passion (1725 version) concerts last weekend, ending with a matinée performance in San Francisco on Sunday. The singing was excellent.

Tenor Aaron Sheehan has a bright sound as the Evangelist. Though much of his part is obviously on the declamatory side, he has a lovely legato as demonstrated at the end of "Er leugnete aber." Baritone Jesse Blumberg has a particularly fine voice also, and his Christ is very dignified.

My favorite was certainly contralto Robin Bier and loved hearing her strong, tawny tones in "Von den Stricken meiner Sünden" in the first half and "Es ist vollbracht!" in the second. Soprano Hélène Brunet sounded as pure and lovely as ever in her arias.

This performance, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, did seem to start off with less precision than usual. The woodwinds sounded unfocused, but the orchestra was much more together by the end of the first half.

* Tattling *
There was very little extraneous noise from the audience, at least around me in Row K Seat 116. It was rather crowded, both the people around me expressed concern for me, especially because the person in front of me was at least a foot taller than me. I did not mind not seeing that much, and was able to concentrate well on the music.


Opera Parallèle's Trouble in Tahiti

OSTO4959* Notes *
Opera Parallèle is performing a very charming production of Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti again, this time presented with Jake Heggie's At the Statue of Venus as a single narrative. As an added bonus, we heard some Bernstein songs from West Side Story as people milled around the museum setting for the Heggie piece, and even Charles' Ives The Unanswered Question with dancing from living statue Steffi Chong (pictured, photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo) as Venus.

Maestra Nicole Paiement conducted with elegance and spirit, the orchestra sounded absolutely great. The only time things felt a little off was when baritone Eugene Brancoveanu was a bit ahead during "Something's Coming," when he was up above the stage in the Center Terrace of SFJAZZ's Miner Auditorium and Paiement was not conducting.

At the Statue of Venus involves only one mezzo, in this case Abigail Levis (Rose), singing as she waits for her blind date to arrive. The character is extremely neurotic and insecure, she goes on and on about how she shouldn't have worn slacks. Levis has a pretty voice, clear and bright. She's double cast with Renée Rapier, whose sound is perhaps richer and warmer, it's hard not to be curious about what Rapier's take is on the role. Steffi Chong's Venus, statue though she is, gave a sympathetic performance as Levis anticipated who was coming to meet her. I also really liked Sherry Parker's mixed media collage projected on the upstage screen that comprised most of the museum's works. Her work never could be mistaken for a screen saver or video game scene.

The Trouble In Tahiti is much like what we saw in 2013, when the company performed it at Z Space with Samuel Barber's Hand of Bridge, though Venus wanders in for Scene IV, as after Sam and Dinah run into each other. Director Brian Staufenbiel's production uses a similar quartered turn-table set with a kitchen, an business man's office, an analyst's office, and a gym. The theater ends up being up above in the Center Terrace where there is a large screen showing projections of little perfect houses falling into place on lawns and amusing print advertisements of the period.

Tahiti3351OriginalKrista Wigle, Andres Ramirez, and Bradley Kynard (pictured, photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo) are jaunty as The Trio, cheerily singing about suburbia. Eugene Brancoveanu, who along with Wigle and Ramirez reprises his role from 2013, is as funny as ever as Sam, he can be callous and impatient yet has a roguish warmth. Abigail Levis is lovely as Dinah, never shrill, and it was easy to feel compassion for her character.

* Tattling * 
Many of the audience members on the left side of Row L seemed to chatter quite a lot.


Met Opera's 2018-2019 Season

MetoperaSeptember 24 2018- March 28 2018: Samson et Dalila
September 25- November 13 2018: La Bohème
September 26 2018- March 7 2019: Aida
October 4-27 2018: La Fanciulla del West
October 25 2018- April 6 2019: Tosca
October 19- November 10 2018: Marnie
October 30 2018- February 8 2019: Carmen
November 8- December 1 2018: Mefistofele
November 44- December 8 2018: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
November 23- December 15 2018 Il Trittico
December 4 2018- April 27 2019: La Traviata
December 14 2018- January 10 2019: Otello
December 19 2018- January 5 2019: The Magic Flute
December 31 2018- January 26 2019: Adriana Lecouvreur
January 15-31 2019: Pelléas et Mélisande
January 16- February 17 2018: Iolanta and Bluebeard's Castle
January 30- April 18 2019: Don Giovanni
February 7- March 2 2019: La Fille du Régiment
February 12- May 10 2019: Rigoletto
February 22- March 16 2019: Falstaff
March 30- April 20 2019: La Clemenza di Tito
May 3-11 2019: Dialogues des Carmélites
March 9- May 6 2019: Das Rheingold
March 25- May 7 2019: Die Walküre
April 13- May 9 2019: Siegfried
April 27- May 11 2019: Götterdämmerung

The Met announced the 2018-2019 season today, the first for Yannick Nézet-Séguin as Music Director. The new productions are Samson et Dalila, Nico Muhly's Marnie, La Traviata, and Adriana Lecouvreur (which is a co-production with San Francisco Opera, among others). Philippe Jordan conducts the Lepage production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, which stars Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde.

Press Release with Casting | Official Site


Opera San José's Der fliegende Holländer Review

10* Notes *
Opera San José kicked off a new year last weekend with an ambitious production (Act II pictured, photograph by Pat Kirk) of Der fliegende Holländer. The very loud performance on Saturday night was enjoyably and unapologetically grand.

Steven C. Kemp's set features wood planked walls that took on projections by Ian Wallace. Most of the time these were simple backdrops of the Norwegian coast, very cobalt blue and icy white. In the more supernatural and ghostly scenes the projections would illustrate the text. We saw fire and annihilation when the Dutchman sings ""Die Frist ist um, und abermals verstrichen sind sieben Jahr," for instance.

Brad Dalton's direction is straightforward and unambiguous, he gets in the humor of both the Steersman and Daland, and he created dramatic tension in Act II by having Senta face upstage so long, with only her black curls and the folds of her deep blue gown visible. The last scene was perhaps the most abstract, it was also blinding, but it was unequivocal and effective.

Maestro Joseph Marcheso had the orchestra go all out, the music was powerfully played. There were some beautiful shimmery and clear moments, but mostly it was vibrantly thunderous. This seemed to pose no problems for the singers, who could match the volume perfectly well. The chorus had a little trouble staying exactly on beat in Act III, but sang with force and charm.

This opera is nicely suited to the young singers cast. Tenor Mason Gates' Steersman was very sweet and bright, and he can walk on his hands and even did a backwards somersault in Act III. Bass Gustav Andreassen was an amusing and lovable Daland. His German was easy to understand, though the rest of the singers were also intelligible. Soprano Kerriann Otaño makes for a winsome Senta, her voice is lovely and very strong. Baritone Noel Bouley's Dutchman felt grave and human.

* Tattling * 
This audience was obviously the normal Opera San José crowd, so full of excitement for the singers and perhaps less concerned about Wagner. It was refreshing, I don't think I've ever heard an aria applauded in the middle of Der fliegende Holländer, even the performers looked slightly confused when this happened near the end of Act II.

The woman in Row E Seat 102 was (naturally) less tolerant of a very noisy person in Seat 104 of the same row who exclaimed loudly throughout the performance. She had to switch her seat with her companion, who had the aisle seat further away from the offending patron.


Circa's Il Ritorno

Circa-il-ritorno-2018* Notes * 
Following a decades long tradition, Cal Performances presented yet another fascinating hybrid work, this time a combination of contemporary circus arts and Baroque opera last weekend from the Australian troupe Circa.

Those expecting to hear Monteverdi's Il Ritorno d'Ulisse in patria might have been taken aback to hear Quincy Grant's 75 minute arrangement, which included arias from the opera along side electronic stylings composed by Grant himself.

The spare ensemble only had four musicians: cellist Pal Banda, violinist/violist Nicholas Bootiman, harpist Cecilia de Santa Maria, and music director/keyboardist Natalie Murray-Beale, who really did seem to have everything perfectly in hand as she moved seamlessly from one genre to another. The two singers, mezzo-soprano Kate Howden and baritone Benedict Nelson, were amplified, heightening the sense we were hearing something rather different than Monteverdi's work.

The performance was much more about theatrics of the body than of music and tellingly, the audience often clapped over the music. The seven acrobats featured were hard to look away from, and seemed to push the very boundaries of the body to disturbing and devastating effect. Bodies were flung against the floor or against an upstage wall, balanced upon one another or on ropes, loops, and a swing. Bridie Hooper had a segment in which she seemed to be fighting her own arm, she seemed almost possessed, yet this was somehow engrossing and even beautiful.

* Tattling * 
In the second row, I was right behind a fellow blogger, who was of course very quiet. The woman next to me (FF 107) talked a little at the outset but was silent for the rest. The man next to my date (FF 110) had his phone out for much of the performance.


Island City Opera's Rimsky Korsakov Double Bill

Rimsky-korsakov-alameda-2018* Notes *
Island City Opera just finished a run of the obscure operas by Rimsky-Korsakov at the Elks Lodge in Alameda yesterday. The performance was one of the best I've heard from them, not in small part because of the conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya and the fine cast.

Music Director of the Chicago Opera Theater, Maestra Yankovskaya had the orchestra sounding spirited and together. She has an elegant authority, and though the orchestra was occasionally ahead of the singers, it was impressive how different the musicians sounded with her in the lead. The harp was particularly nice.

 The first piece was Mozart and Salieri, a very talky affair with only two singers that was thus done in English rather than Russian. The libretto is comes from Pushkin's play based on the rumor that Salieri had poisoned Mozart, and baritone Anders Froehlich's Salieri is suitably jealous but uptight. Darron Flagg is a sweet, amiable Mozart. Both singers had clear diction, I hardly needed the supertitles to understand them. The translation, by stage director Richard Bogart and conductor Yankovskaya, was natural enough with colloquialisms of American English peppered though it.

The second opera, Kashchey the Immortal, is more stereotypically Russian and involves a princess trapped by a villainous wizard whose death hides in his daughter's tears. The singing here was in Russian, and marked an American premiere of the work. Alex Boyer was transformed convincingly into the title role, the tips of his fingers covered by metal claws, his face covered with theatrical makeup. Soprano Rebecca Nathanson sang the princess (Tsarevna) with an almost outrageous beauty.

I very much enjoyed the touches of humor in the piece. Kashchey has Tsarevna look into a magic mirror and asks what she sees. She describes herself, as the mirror has not yet shown her Kashchey's daughter Kashcheyevna, who enchants and murders knights looking to destroy Kashchey. There's also a storm knight, played perfectly by baritone Bojan Knezevic, who is very amusing, blustering around in a cape covered with clouds.

The production in both operas was very straightforward yet effective. The metamorphosis of Kashcheyevna into a weeping willow was particularly artful. A few dancers arrayed in green wrap her with a trunk and arrange her boughs.

* Tattling *
The last performance was sold out and I had to put myself on a waiting list, but got in right before curtain. It was fun to see so many San Francisco Opera regulars in Alameda.


Candide at SFS

Candide-sfs-2018* Notes *
San Francisco Symphony and Michael Tilson Thomas celebrate the birth centennial of Leonard Bernstein with a delightful rendering of his Candide that opened last night. The concert version was animated and very funny with fine playing and singing all around.

Though done as a concert, this version of the operetta was made for the Scottish Opera in 1988. It was striking how theatrical and engaging the piece is despite a lack of frills, only a few props and costumes here and there.

Most of the comedy and drama came through simply in the gestures and interactions of the soloists, chorus, orchestra members, and even conductor with each other and the audience. Of course, this could only work because the piece itself is charming and was played and sung with clarity and vim. The sound design from Tom Clark was flawless, we could hear the narration and asides without squeaks or other distractions.

The music sounded vibrant, even when soprano Meghan Picerno (Cunegonde) harassed some of the brass players and the timpanist at the end of Act I. MTT infused both the orchestra and chorus with a nice ease and effortless cheekiness.

The soloists are all clearly talented singing actors. Even from the first tier, the cheerful shrugs or coy head tilts of tenor Andrew Stenson in the title role read plainly. His voice is pretty and sweet. Meghan Picerno's Cunegonde is amusing, her high notes soared and she conveys emotion not only in her body but with her sound. Both Stenson and Picerno brought a certain gravity to the end of the piece, after all the silliness, the contrast was stark and effective.

All the other singing was great, though baritone Michael Todd Simpson did trip over a few words as narrator, he is endearing and his Pangloss was perfectly pompous. It was fun to see and hear the artistic director of Merola Sheri Greenawald as the Old Lady, she really moves gracefully and has perfect comedic timing.

Tattling *
I did not hear any talking or electronic sounds where I was in the First Tier. There were a few people who left the hall in the middle of the performance during both acts, odd given the short 2 hour run time.

I had to run several blocks in the rain to this performance, traffic was worse than I expected and the Performing Arts Garage was full, so I only got into my seat at 7:59pm.


LA Opera's 2018-2019 Season

Chandler_balconiesSeptember 22- October 14 2018: Don Carlo
October 20–November 11 2018: Satyagraha
October 27–31, 2018: Joby Talbot's Vampyr
November 17–December 15 2018: Hansel and Gretel
November 29–December 2 2018: Ellen Reid and Roxie Perkin’s Prism 

February 22-23 2019: David Lang’s the loserMarch 2–24 2019: La Clemenza di Tito
April 27–May 19 2019: Manuel Penella's El Gato Montés
June 1–22 2019: La Traviata

Los Angeles Opera announced its next season on today.

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