Schwabacher Summer Concert 2018

Schwabacher-Summer-Concert_2167_Kristen-Loken_website* Notes * 
The Schwabacher Summer Concert at SFCM on Thursday kicked off the 2018 Merola Opera Program's season. This is when we get to hear the more unusual voices selected for this opera training program, the ones that didn't quite fit into the two operas that will be performed in July and August.

The most striking singers were definitely both sopranos. In the first half, soprano Marlen Nahhas gave a passionate account as Giorgetta in some rather passionate scenes from Puccini's Il tabarro. Her voice is searing. Tenor Christopher Colmenero (Luigi) sang "Hai ben ragione" with fire. Baritone Jaeman Yoon was suitably tormented as Michele, the texture of his sound was unsettling.

The star of the second half was certainly soprano Kendra Berentsen as Leila from Les pêcheurs de perles. Of the four operas that were excerpted, the selections from Bizet's opera were most scattered, parts from each act appear. So we got to hear the lovely "Comme autrefois dans la nuit" from Act II in which Leila realizes she loves Nadir and the bit in Act III when she tries to save her love but only angers Zurga. Berentsen really got to show off her emotional range. Both WooYoung Yoon (Nadir) and SeokJong Baek (Zurga) gave perfectly fine performances as well, and it was great to hear the famous duet from them.

The evening started with the first scene of Vanessa and ended with the last one from Don Giovanni. The orchestra, conducted by Kathleen Kelly, was upstage behind the singers, and there were serious synchronization problems, especially by the end. All our young singers are quite loud and in the rather small space. They very gamely put on masks and got up on furniture as directed by Aria Umezawa and the blasts of confetti (pictured, photograph by Kristen Loken) at the end were wonderful fun.

* Tattling * 
The audience was attentive but certain people were unable to keep their thoughts to themselves.


SF Opera's Ring Media Round-Up

_T8A6216SF Opera's Ring Site | Production Web Site

Reviews of San Francisco Opera's Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Scene 4 of Das Rheingold pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) are trickling in.

Cycle Reviews: San Francisco Examiner | The Mercury News | San Francisco Classical Voice | Berkeley Daily Planet

Götterdämmerung Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle | Not For Fun Only | The Rehearsal Studio

Siegfried Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle | Not For Fun Only | The Rehearsal Studio

Die Walküre Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle | Not For Fun Only | The Rehearsal Studio

Das Rheingold Reviews: San Francisco Chronicle | San Francisco Examiner | Not For Fun Only | The Rehearsal Studio


SF Opera's Götterdämmerung Cycle 1

_37A5168* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's first Ring cycle this summer came to a glorious end with Götterdämmerung (Act II pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) this evening. The singing was strong and the playing exquisite.

Maestro Donald Runnicles had the glittering orchestra sounding better than ever. The tempi are exciting without being rushed. The brass was vibrant, and the solo horn player deserved being singled out at the final ovation.

In this opera, soprano Iréne Theorin had fewer harsh notes as Brünnhilde. Her quieter singing in Act III could have had more warmth and vulnerability. Tenor Daniel Brenna somehow makes the unlikable character of Siegfried winsome. He pushed his voice somewhat in Act II as he recounts his history, but was otherwise in fine form, light and pleasing.

Baritone Brian Mulligan is a conflicted Gunther, his voice is very pretty and nuanced. The bottomless depths of Andrea Silvestrelli make him a perfect match for the villain Hagen. His scene with bass-baritone Falk Struckmann (Alberich) showed off both their voices. Soprano Melissa Citro minced around hilariously as Gutrune, fluffing pillows in Act I and growing more dignified as the dark events of the opera unfold.

Jamie Barton is an appealing Waltraute, her sound has a lot of colors to it. She began the performance splendidly as Second Norn, singing beautifully with Ronnita Miller (First Norn) and Sarah Cambidge (Third Norn). The Rhinemaidens Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, and Renée Tatum sang brilliantly.

The set changes were remarkably quiet. The staging holds the attention with physical humor and jumbled projections during the instrumental parts of the music. The little girl planting a sapling at the end of the final scene was unnecessary though.

Tattling * 
The house manager clarified that standees save at most two spots at the rail.

There was a lot of audience attrition during the long first third of the opera, there was some talking also. A latecomer forced to wait in orchestra standing room for this part of the opera had a lot of trouble with her purse, it made a lot of metallic sounds.

An alarm rang incessantly during a soft part near the end of the opera.


SF Opera's Siegfried Cycle 1

_37A3596* Notes * 
San Francisco Opera's current Ring cycle continued with beautifully played Siegfried (Act II pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) last night. There was also much fine singing.

The orchestra seems more settled than in the previous two performances of the cycle, there were fewer intonation errors in the brass, and the horn solo in Act II was nearly perfect. Donald Runnicles seems to bring out the best in the musicians. I especially loved the harps. The singers were never overwhelmed by the orchestra, and almost always synchronized.

Tenor Daniel Brenna is a confident Siegfried, with a sweet, well-nuanced sound. He projects a youthful aplomb that suits the character. Soprano Iréne Theorin is a powerful Brünnhilde, some of her top notes can be harsh but she has a lot of strength.

Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley's Wanderer is likewise incisive and the contrast between him and the warm brightness of tenor David Cangelosi (Mime), the richer tones of bass-baritone Falk Struckmann (Alberich), and the lush timbre of mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller (Erda) all worked well.

Bass Raymond Aceto is effective of Fafner, his death scene conveyed both a sense of wonder and regret. Soprano Stacey Tappan sounds wonderfully bird-like as the Forest Bird, though I still don't think having her be a studious girl that gestures a lot makes much sense.

Other elements of the staging have the same holes as before too. It isn’t clear what Fafner’s hiding place is exactly, Grane is referred to but isn’t represented, and so forth. The colors of the projections — many are of clouds or fire — look much brighter, I noticed a lot more lime, pink, and purple.

Tattling * 
I was scolded for taking all the spaces in orchestra standing room by someone looking for a spot at the rail because I was saving a place for a friend rushing over from work. I could see the woman's point, but on the other hand, I bought two tickets and ran out the door right after nursing my one-year old at 7:30am to secure a good position in line.

There wasn't much talking around us during the performance, and no electronic noise either. I thought I heard a crying infant in the first act at the back of the orchestra level, but it seems the baby was taken out into the lobby fairly quickly. I can only guess this was the child of one of the singers.

I think there were two mishaps onstage. One of Mime's eggs in Act I dropped and bounced off the floor. The Wood Bird tripped near the end of Act II. In both cases, the singers involved handled themselves with admirable calmness.


Boris Godunov at SFS

_T8A8435* Notes * 
The opening of San Francisco Symphony's Boris Godunov was a gratifying way to spend the gap day between San Francisco Opera's Ring performances. The semi-staged production (Scene 2 pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) from James Darrah is sleek and makes efficient use of the space. Most importantly though, the singing and playing was all exceedingly beautiful.

Michael Tilson Thomas had the orchestra in hand, the strings shimmered, the woodwinds were lovely, and the brass was clean. There was only one moment, when the solo trumpet entered from the audience in the last scene, that seemed out of sync. The Russian bells played by Victor Avdienko were especially wonderful and the orchestra did best when playing the jauntiest passages, as with the inn scene.

The cast is strong, the dozen and a half soloists all sang very well, as did the chorus. Bass Philip Skinner (Nikitch) is always a great villain, and he was intimidating as ever here. Mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook is sympathetic as the Innkeeper. Bass Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev has an open and bright sound as the scholarly monk Pimen, while tenor Sergei Skorokhodov is pleasantly reedy as the novice and Pretender Grigory.

On the other hand, tenor Yevgeny Akimov used his pretty voice to unsettling effect as Prince Shuisky. His account in Scene 6 of the dead Dimitri was perversely dulcet. Another fine tenor is Stanislav Mostovoy, his plaintive quality is perfect for the Holy Fool.

The only soprano principal is Jennifer Zetlan, who sounded petulant and whiny as Xenia. As her brother Fyodor, mezzo-soprano Eliza Bonet is rather more winsome. Stanislav Trofimov played the tormented Boris to a tee, his voice is powerful and has a warm richness.

The set includes projections on three odd-shaped circular scrims, all very tasteful with Russian inflected designs. There were also six actors/dancers that ripped books, moved cloths around, and tormented boyar Krushchov and two Jesuits. The last scene was all the more chilling because of them.

* Tattling * 
There was so much talking from the audience in the back of the orchestra, it was unbelievable. I heard both Russian and English at full volume. A woman next to me at the end of Row Y kept looking at her phone to check the time during the first half, and finally left with her companion before the intermission and didn't come back. Someone in one of the side orchestra boxes near the back (probably H) fell asleep and snored audibly during Scene 6

On a happier note, I saw many people take this chance to hear four operas in a row. Even Brünnhilde (Iréne Theorin) was there.


SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 1

T8A6791 * Notes * 
As with the previous installment of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera, Die Walküre (Act I pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) has beautiful playing from the orchestra and a powerful cast. Donald Runnicles drove a propulsive performance with very bright and exultant brass. The woodwinds were plaintive, especially the clarinet and bassoon.

The cast for Die Walküre has a lot of new singers compared to Das Rheingold since its last outing in 2011, most notably soprano Iréne Theorin. As Brünnhilde Theorin is able, she is icily strong and has good control of her dynamic range. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley (Wotan) could match Theorin in volume. While he's very good at sounding angry and authoritative, he did lack tenderness (at least in his voice) in the last scene as he says good-bye to Brünnhilde.

Soprano Karita Mattila's distinctive creamy tones are wonderful, but her voice isn't convincing as Sieglinde, a young woman. This was especially odd when she sang with Brandon Jovanovich (Siegmund), as he sounds sweetly youthful. But I still found her "Du bist der Lenz" moving, and her singing in Act III was poignant. Mattila also played well off of bass Raymond Aceto, who is a menacing Hunding.

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton was most impressive as Fricka, sounding bold and secure. As with everyone in the cast, she also moves well, every gesture or turn of the head conveying emotion with clarity.

The Walküren reminded me of a chorus from a Merola production, all the singers are great but very loud, and their voices did not cohere into a blended sound. In fact, most are former Merolini, only Lauren McNeese (Rossweise) is not, if memory serves. I could definitely recognize the voice of Melissa Citro as Helmwige, her piercing soprano is unmistakable, even though they are all costumed as paratroopers.

Mezzo-soprano Renée Tatum stood out as Waltraute. Laura Krumm (Siegrune), Renée Rapier (Grimgerde), Sarah Cambidge (Ortlinde), Julie Adams (Gerhilde), and Nicole Birkland (Schwertleite) all were easy to hear and distinct. Their entrance got the most reaction from the audience as they parachute in for the Walkürenritt.

Director Francesca Zambello definitely has a good sense of humor and it is a welcome part of the production. The singers are all very fine actors and the various sight gags have their charm. The projections did not look noticeably different in content to me, the first scene still reminds me of The Blair Witch Project, but the colors do look brighter and more saturated.

* Tattling * 
The audience in standing room on the orchestra level was quiet. I heard some electronic noise during some of the softer parts of Act I.


SF Opera's Das Rheingold Cycle 1

_37A1480* Notes *
An exuberant orchestra and strong cast in Das Rheingold opened a revival of Francesca Zambello's Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Scene 4 pictured, photo by Cory Weaver) last night at San Francisco Opera.

It is a joy to hear Maestro Donald Runnicles conduct the orchestra, which sounded driven and robust. The brass, though not perfectly precise, sounded especially bright and effusive. The harpists and percussionists also did a very fine job.

The cast is solid. Since more than half the soloists are the same as in the premiere of this production (at least as a whole cycle) seven years ago, it is fascinating to compare the different singers. For me, the standouts are still tenor Štefan Margita as Loge and mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller as Erda, both of whom had these roles in 2011. Margita’s voice is incisive without being the least bit harsh, he embodies his cunning role as demigod with a graceful ease. Miller is nothing less than a force of nature, the sumptuousness of her sound emerging from the floor of the stage as she rises from below for her entrance is very effective.

Also ably reprising their roles were the lovely Rheinmaidens Lauren McNeese (Wellgunde), Renee Tatum (Flosshilde), and Stacy Tappan (Woglinde). Their last scene with Margita is haunting and gave me chills.

As for those new to the cast, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is particularly promising, her Fricka is lush-voiced. I also look forward to hearing more of both bass-baritones Falk Struckmann (Alberich) and Greer Grimsley (Wotan). Struckmann has a richer tone than Grimsley, but there were heavily orchestrated moments in which I had difficulty hearing him. Grimsley is a secure presence and a good actor.

Zambello's production is wonderfully human, there's lot of great humorous moments, as when Loge tricks Alberich into becoming a toad in Scene 3 or the gods frolic in the beginning of Scene 2 and as they ascend Valhalla in Scene 4.

Revamped by S. Katy Tucker, the overwrought video projections are still the weakest link. It makes sense that visuals are needed between scenes, but it is gratuitous to add in effects that are perfectly handled by the music, as when Alberich curses the Ring. Also the descent into Nibelheim with scenes of moving through mountains paths and into caves looked especially awkward. Images of water, clouds, and fire looked best.

* Tattling *
I definitely annoyed myself the most during the performance and can hardly complain about anyone else, as I have a slight but lingering cough from asthma that's acting up because of a fire we had in our house a few weeks ago.

A woman had a seat in front of us in orchestra standing room, but she has a back condition at the moment and had to stand rather than sit. She was very apologetic when she explained her situation, saying she was the wife of "the main guy" in the opera. I wondered if she was Alberich or Wotan's wife, but it was very clear right away that it was the former.


Preview of Boris Godunov at SFS

Boris-ScenicPreliminarySketchJune is going to be a very opera-heavy month in San Francisco this year, with the return of Der Ring des Nibelungen starting on Tuesday at the War Memorial Opera House. For those intimidated by Wagner's 15-hour epic (or maybe you don't think going to 12 operas in three weeks is enough), San Francisco Symphony is performing Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov this Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.

The semi-staged production (preliminary sketch by Mac Mock Design pictured) was conceived by Michael Tilson Thomas and  is directed by James Darrah, who has had great success with previous work at SFS including Peter Grimes in 2014 and On the Town in 2016.

Based on Pushkin's play, this tense political drama will be heard in its 1869 original version. The cast of 18 vocal soloists, many of whom are Eastern European -- bass Stanislav Trofimov is the title character -- also includes local favorites such as mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook (Innkeeper) and bass Philip Skinner (Nikititsch).

San Francisco Symphony | Learn More


NCCO Plays Philip Glass' Piano Concerto, No. 3

SimoneDinnerstein7_byLisaMarieMazzucco* Notes *
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein (pictured left, photograph by Lisa Marie Mazzucco) gave the West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' Piano Concerto No. 3 with New Century Chamber Orchestra last night in Berkeley. The piece is sedate and dreamily meditative, written for Dinnerstein, her sensitive and unflashy playing certainly suits it well. She was finely supported by NCCO with guest concertmaster Zachary De Pue, who radiated geniality.

The ensemble seems equally at ease with the contemporary Glass as with the Bach Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G Minor that opened the second half of this performance. The playing was together and smooth, with characteristic high energy throughout. The shifts from various tempi and dynamics are always perfectly clear.

The first half of the concerto featured Bryce David Dessner's Aheym, a piece from 2009 which has many emphatic arpeggios. Dessner is best known as one of the twin guitarists for indie rock band The National, and it was fun to hear his work sandwiched by a brightly played Purcell's Chacony in G Minor and a crisp rendering of Geminiani's Concerto Grosso No. 12 in D Minor, "La Folia."

Tattling * 
Someone on the left side of the hall was desperately trying to open a lozenge during the Dessner, while a watch alarm rang four or five times on the right side during the Geminiani.

I was surprised that the only talking I heard during the performance was during the Glass, a bit of whispering behind me in Row H, perhaps Seats 102 and 104.


Iréne Theorin in SF Ring

Iréne Theorin_3_Chris GloagSoprano Iréne Theorin (pictured left) replaces Evelyn Herlitzius as Brünnhilde in San Francisco Opera's Der Ring des Nibelungen this summer. Herlitzius has withdrawn for health reasons. This will be Theorin's first complete Ring Cycle in the United States. She was most recently heard on the War Memorial stage as Turandot in 2011.

Der Ring des Nibelungen | San Francisco Opera Press Release


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.