Reviews of San Francisco Opera's Rigoletto (Act I Scene 1 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) praise Quinn Kelsey in the title role.
Bass-baritone Erwin Schrott (pictured left) and bass Erik Anstine will share the role of Leporello in Don Giovanni at San Francisco Opera this summer. Both artists are making their debuts with the company and are stepping in for previously scheduled bass Marco Vinco, who has withdrawn for health reasons. Schrott is scheduled to sing the first six performances from June 4 to 21 and Anstine the last two on June 24 and 30.
The piece is part of the 2019-20 season at San Francisco Opera and the 2018-19 season at Seattle Opera.
* Notes *
It is a shame that Rameau's Le Temple de la Gloire at Cal Performances (Prologue pictured left with Aaron Sheehan as Apollo and his muses from New York Baroque Dance Company, photograph by Frank Wing) only has three performances this weekend. The music is delightful, and I could have happily gone again today after hearing the first two on Friday and Saturday nights.
The pretty production is historically informed, lead by Artistic Director of the New York Baroque Dance Company, Catherine Turocy. It is a nice contrast between the usual contemporary versions of Baroque operas I've seen from Mark Morris or Pina Bausch, but it becomes very clear very quickly why traditional stagings aren't the norm. It is a lot of ballet music, and Turocy's dancers are tame compared to the acrobatics and antics we've grown accustomed to.
The movements are understated, lots of swaying and swishing, and what I'm guessing is the precursor to petit battement. For myself, I liked that the dancing didn't compete with the playing, I would rather listen to PBO play Rameau's beautiful music without any elaborate distractions.
Nonetheless, there was a lot to look at, the costumes are eye-poppingly bright and feature lots of feathers. A dancer dressed as an ostrich in Act III was a hit. The set uses tasteful projections of painted scenes within a painted proscenium. I enjoyed very much that the UC Berkeley mascot, Ursus arctos californicus, was painted on the shield at the top.
Nicholas McGegan conducted with his characteristic bouncy cheer, the orchestra sounded clean but lively. Even the horns were mostly in tune. The flutes had some gorgeous, exposed moments. The chorus was off to the side, stage left, but sounded robust. There were a few brief moment of asynchrony, but mostly on the first night rather than the second.
The soloists, mostly from the Centre de musique baroque de Versailles, have lovely voices, very light and flexible. Of the two haute-contres, I preferred Aaron Sheehan (Apollon, Trajan) to Artavazd Sargsyan (Un Berger, Bacchus, Premier Roi) though both were nice, the latter did sound more fragile. The standout was definitely soprano Chantal Santon Jeffery who sang Lydie, Une Bacchante, and La Glorie herself. Her sound is absolutely clarion.
* Tattling *
On Friday night, my date had me sit on the aisle of Row S so that I didn't have to hear the two chatty Germans in Row T Seats 104 and 105. He did giggle a lot at the dancing though. Also, someone near us wore a watch that was 10 minutes fast and chimed on the hour.
For the second performance, the first half was fine but during the second, a woman in Row J Seat 4 could not stop fidgeting (she also briefly talked to her companion on the aisle). She tapped her fingers to parts that did not have percussion and repeatedly rustled the paper in her Altoid box. Many pointed glances were shot her way but she seemed mostly oblivious to this. At least she did keep quiet for the last five minutes of the show. I felt badly for the man directly in front of her, he was obviously bothered and trying hard to focus on the performance instead.
Either she or her neighbor pressed and kicked my seat more than once as well, but it was easy to ignore since I'm being pressed and kicked internally by a 37 week old fetus. I expected the woman behind me to be infirm or elderly, but she was simply a slim middle-aged person with a blond bob and fringe.
* Notes *
My preview of Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's The Temple of Glory up on KQED Arts. The opera, with music by Rameau and libretto by Voltaire, has a modern premiere of original 1745 version this Friday.
* Tattling *
I got to interview Maestro Nic McGegan for this piece, which was both exciting, because I love PBO, and embarrassing, because I'm particularly awkward on the phone. McGegan talked for nearly an hour and was as charming and jaunty as he seems on stage. It was adorable when he cheekily explained that The Temple of Glory is "A wonderful opera, but not in the sense of sopranos dying in garrets."
August 5 2017: Asian Youth Orchestra with Sarah Chang, violin
September 21 2017: Gustavo Dudamel and the National Youth Orchestra of Venezuela
September 23-24 2017: Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group; Moses(es)
September 30 2017: Lila Downs
October 7 2017: Matt Groening and Lynda Barry
October 11 2017: ODC/Dance; boulders and bones
October 13-15 2017: Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Riccardo Muti
October 21-22 2017: Théâtre de la Ville, Paris; State of SiegeOctober 22 2017: Olli Mustonen, piano
October 23 2017: Garrison Keillor
October 27 2017: Dorrance Dance
October 28 2017: Korean National Gugak Center Traditional Orchestra
October 29 2017: Anssi Karttunen, cello; Nicolas Hodges, piano
November 4-5 2017: Mariinsky Orchestra and Valery Gergiev
November 9 2017: Les Arts Florisssants and William Christie
November 10 2017: Ian Bostridge, tenor and Wenwen Du, piano
November 11 2017: Tango Buenos Aires; The Spirit of Argentina
November 12 2017 Tetzlaff Quartet
November 12 2017: Festival of South African Dance
November 17-19 2017: The Joffrey Ballet
November 24-26 2017: Imago Theatre; La Belle
December 2 2017: Claire Chase, flute
December 2-3 2017: Ragamala Dance Company; Written in Water
December 2-3 2017: Simon O'Neill, tenor
December 8-10 2017: Camille A. Brown & Dancers; BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play
December 10 2017: Takács Quartet; Garrick Ohlsson, piano
December 15-24 2017: The Hard Nut; Mark Morris Dance Group
January 27-28 2018: Peking Acrobats
January 28 2018: Musicians from Marlboro
February 3-4 2018: Circa; Il Ritorno
February 9-11 2018: St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Joshua Weilerstein with Jonathan Biss, violin
February 16 2018: Dorothea Röschmann, soprano and Malcolm Martineau, piano
February 18 2018: St. Lawerence String Quartet
February 21 2018: Tony Kushner and Sarah Vowell
February 24-25 2018: Company Wang Ramirez; Borderline
February 25 2018: Sérgio & Odair Assad and Avi Avital
February 28 2018: Emanuel Ax, piano; Leonidas Kavakos, violin, Yo-Yo Ma, cello
March 4 2018: Kronos Quartet; Rinde Eckert; Vân-Ánh Võ; My Lai
March 7 2018: Eva Yerbabuena Company; ¡Ay!
March 11 2018: Wu Man and the Huayin Shadow Puppet Band
March 16-18 2018: Manuel Cinema; Ada/Ava
March 18 2018: David Finckel, cello and Wu Han, piano
March 22 2018: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Chick Corea
March 25 2018: Julia Bullock, soprano and John Arida, piano
April 6-7 2018: Spectrum Dance Theater; A Rap on Race
April 7-8 2018: Seattle Symphony and Ludovic Morlot
April 10-15 2018: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
April 14 2018: Armenian State Chamber Choir
April 20 2018: Apollo's Fire; Monteverdi's L'Orfeo
April 21 2018: Gala at the Greek III
April 22 2018: Richard Goode, piano
May 4-5 2018: Ex Machina; 887
April 4 2018: Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
May 6 2018: TAO; Drum Heart
Cal Performances announced the 2017-2018 season on today. Lots of Baroque opera in the season including Purcell's Dido and Aeneas and Charpentier's Actéon from Les Arts Florissants; Monteverdi's Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria from the circus arts group Circa; and a semi-staged L'Orfeo by Monteverdi played by Apollo's Fire. The Koret Recital Series includes Ian Bostridge, Simon O'Neill, and Dorothea Röschmann.
October 14-22 2017: The Pirates of Penzance
November 10-12 2017: Laura Kaminsky's As One
January 26-28 2018: Ástor Piazzolla's Maria de Buenos Aires
February 24- March 4 2018: Turandot
March 17-25 2018: Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas
The 2017-2018 season at San Diego Opera was announced April 23.
* Notes *
The Schwabacher Debut Recital Series continued yesterday with an unusual twist: Adler Fellow Aria Umezawa directed a narrative for mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier and bass Anthony Reed entitled The Woods: A Rom-Com Recital. Set in a bar called "The Woods," the plot (put together by Reed) involves an encounter between a lovelorn barkeeper and an unhappily married patron, pieced together with about twenty American songs including contemporary composers such as Ned Rorem, Thomas Pastatieri, and Stephen Sondheim and older favorites from Cole Porter and George Gershwin.
The staging was simple, a projection of a neon bar sign, a bar, a karaoke stage, a couple of tables and chairs, and of course the piano upstage played by John Churchwell. Clocking in at an hour, with no intermission, it was a quick and engaging evening. The pieces went together nicely and the young singers gamely played their roles.
It was especially nice to see Reed in a role that he's not ridiculously young for, as many of his bass parts on the War Memorial stage he plays are of characters seem at least three times his age. His voice is fresh and youthful despite how deep it is. Rapier too has a flexible, balanced sound that is attractive in this rep. The two sang the duets Gershwin's "I've got a crush on you" and Sondheim's "Move On" particularly well.
The next Schwabacher at the end of the month goes back to the normal recital format with pianist Warren Jones and three current Adler Fellows, but it was fun to get a taste of something different and perhaps more operatic. I had wondered how San Francisco Opera would handle having a director as an Adler Fellow, and it seems that Ms. Umezawa is bringing a lot of creativity to the fore, having recently also put together an SF Opera Lab pop-up in Oakland involved audience participation in a manner that was actually fun and not annoying.
* Tattling *
I sandwiched myself in the front row between two avid opera fans, both of whom were very quiet.
* Notes *
Filter Theatre brought a manic 90-minute multi-media version of Twelfth Night to Cal Performances last night as part of a tour of the state. Directed by Sean Holmes, Shakespeare's comedy — already chock full of love triangles, cross-dressing, and mistaken identity — involves a lot of music and takes audience participation to a new level.
The stage has no real scenery and is littered with instruments, microphones, and various props. Alan Pagan sat at a drum kit stage left, while Ross Hughes, who shares music and sound responsibilities with Tom Haines, played ukulele and attended to other effects.
The evening was carefully controlled chaos and very engaging. From the very beginning, the unconventional nature of the production was obvious. Jonathan Broadbent, as Orsino, starts us off by wandering around the audience with a cup of mint tea, then comes to the stage with the first words of the play "If music be the food of love, play on" but in an agonizingly slow way, as if he is composing the poetry on the spot. Our Viola, Amy Marchant, wearing a damp rain poncho, asks for a man's hat and jacket, and rejected someone's rain coat in favor of something "smarter, like a blazer."
The high point of the piece is certainly the riotous Act II Scene 3, it was basically a party set to the song "What is love? 'Tis not hereafter." Jonathan Broadbent plays a very silly Sir Andrew Aguecheek here, wearing a velcro-covered cap that he catches balls on, and a ridiculous amount of balls were thrown out to the crowd so we could all try. A dozen audience members were taken on stage to dance about. A pizza from La Val's was passed around.
The most comic scenes work best. Ferdy Roberts was completely ridiculous and absurd as Malvolio when he gets the fake letter from Olivia, and his two pairs of yellow stockings with tiny yellow short shorts provoked a ton of laughs.
While I definitely appreciate how captivating the performance was, the cuts to the text are extensive. Antonio does not appear at all, and Viola's brother Sebastian only shows up at the very end. The Clown and Fabian are condensed into Feste, played charmingly by Gemma Saunders, who also is Maria. I wondered the whole time what was going to happen when Sebastian and Viola appear on stage together, since they both are played by Marchant, who simply said the lines of both parts from the stage. I don't know if this works for people that don't know the play well, but seems like it could be confusing.
* Tattling *
The audience loved this performance and it was hard to imagine anyone there was bored in the slightest.
* Notes *
The first U.S. tour of Hamilton started in San Francisco on March 10 and already looks like a huge success. There are only two more previews before the show official opens this Thursday but it very much seems like most of the kinks have been worked out, Sunday's evening performance was tight and synchronized.
Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical is sharp, he brings these distant historical figures to life with hip-hop, humor, and an excellent multi-ethnic cast. It is incredible how many words he got into the 2 hours and 30 minutes of music. There's only one set which includes a revolving section in the middle, some movable staircases, and a small balcony above. The staging involves all the fancy dance numbers you would associate with any musical, with the ensemble members all singing as well.
Michael Luwoye's Hamilton is charismatic, especially in Act I. Solea Pfeiffer has a bright sound and is a lovely, sympathetic Eliza Hamilton. Joshua Henry (pictured left, photograph by Joan Marcus) does a fine job with the role of Aaron Burr, and is much more than a one-dimensional villain of the story.
It always impresses me that musicals have such tiny orchestras, in this case two keyboards (one played by conductor Julian Reeve), drums, percussion, bass, guitar, and a string quartet.
It was such fun seeing how excited all the audience members were to be there. One young fan in Row M clutched the Hamilton: The Revolution book, which she seemed to have brought to the show. The woman next to me in Row N Seat 10 knew every song and often sang along. A woman behind me clapped her hands with such vigor she made contact with my head twice, her companion loved the piece so much she wanted to see it again. As I walked back to our car with my date, a couple behind us talked about putting the musical soundtrack on as they drove home.
Personally my take ways were the following: I don't think I like musicals (which is so weird, since I love opera so much) and I remember an alarming amount from U.S. history class in high school even though I haven't really thought about the American Revolution since I was about 15.
San Francisco Opera is having its first pop-up (pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken/San Francisco Opera) in the East Bay at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland. Entitled "Hands-on Opera," there will be lots of audience interaction at this event on Thursday March 23, 2017 at 7:30pm.
Curated by Adler stage director Aria Umezawa, the evening will feature sopranos Sarah Cambidge and Amina Edris; tenors Amitai Pati and Kyle van Schoonhoven; baritone Andrew G. Manea; bass-baritone Brad Walker; bass Anthony Reed; and pianists Jennifer Szeto and Ronny Michael Greenberg. Tickets are 25 dollars, available at Event Brite or at the door.
* Notes *
Last night the arresting soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera) gave the first of three performances of songs by Berlioz, Debussy, and Poulenc paired with a piano version La Voix Humane at SF Opera Lab. Antonacci gave a compelling renditions of the various French songs, all the more impressive since it was only her voice and the spare accompaniment of Donald Sulzen's piano.
Part of her appeal is certainly her voice, which is far from your garden variety clean, pure soprano, and in fact Antonacci started her career singing mezzo roles, especially Rossini, which doesn't seem particularly well suited to her sensual sound. She did great with Berlioz's "La mort d'Ophélie", very emotionally on point and haunting. Likewise her "Le tombeau des Naïades" from Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis was particularly strong.
Poulenc's 1958 La Voix humane is essentially a monologue of a suicidal woman on the telephone with her former lover. Its success as a piece of drama rests heavily on the the one singer, and Antonacci delivered, she is an incredible actress and it was hard to look away.
Simple and concise, the 40 minutes flew by, and we experience everything from the petty annoyances of being on a party line to the utter depths of despair of being abandoned and unloved.
The plain, stripped down staging of a simple rain drop covered window with a view of Paris with only a table, chair, and a few pillows was perfect and matched the simplicity of the opera itself.
Antonacci's costume was a bit odd, it looked like a 70s floral house dress, with panels that opened in the front and a cut-out in the back. I was also confused by (though also enjoyed) her gown for the songs, which looked to be a long grey leotard-inspired tunic whose sleeves covered her hands and had the saddest tulle tutu-like skirt.
Many audience members were mostly quiet, though a few people had to exit during the music.
September 14 2017: MTT conducts Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Ravel; Yo-Yo Ma, cello
September 22-24 2017: MTT conducts Bernstein
October 6-8 2017: Krzysztof Urbański conducts Penderecki
October 13-15 2017: Jakub Hrůša conducts Dvořák, Smetana, and Janáček
October 26-28 2017: Osmo Vänskä conducts Sibelius
October 31 2017: Zubin Mehta conducts Israel Philharmonic Orchestra
November 2-5 2017: MTT conducts Bernstein's The Age of Anxiety, Symphony No. 2
November 5 2017: Lu Jia conducts China National Centre for the Performing Arts Orchestra
November 10–12 2017: MTT conducts Ives' Psalm 90 and Symphony No. 4
November 16–18 2017: MTT conducts Ives' Symphony No. 3, The Camp Meeting
December 1-2 2017: North By Northwest film with live orchestra
December 9 2017: Masaaki Suzuki conducts Bach Collegium Japan
December 16-17 2017: Home Alone film with live orchestra
January 19-21 2018: MTT conducts Bernstein's Candide
January 28-29 2018: Charles Dutoit conducts Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
February 1-3 2018: Bernstein's West Side Story film with live orchestra
February 8-10 2018: Herbert Blomstedt conducts Stenhammar
February 15-17 2018: Herbert Blomstedt conducts Mozart and Beethoven
February 22-24 2018: Andrey Boreyko conducts Bernstein and Shostakovich
March 1-3 2018: Pablo Heras-Casado conducts Esa-Pekka Salonen's Helix
March 8–10 2018: Edward Gardner conducts Tippett, Gershwin, and Rachmaninoff
March 11 2018: Academy of St. Martin in the Fields; Joshua Bell, violinist and leader
March 15–17 2018: MTT conducts Charles Wuorinen
March 16 2018: Itzhak Perlman, violin and Martha Argerich, piano
March 27–29 2018: West Coast tour with Gil Shaham, violin
March 30 2018: Ragnar Bohlin conducts San Francisco Symphony Chorus
April 4-5 2018: Batman film with live orchestra
April 6-7 2018: Amadeus film with live orchestra
April 14-15 2018: Daniel Harding conducts R. Strauss and Beethoven
April 19-21 2018: Charles Dutoit conducts Ravel; Susan Graham, mezzo-soprano
April 26-29 2018: Charles Dutoit conducts Holst's The Planets and Liszt; Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, piano
May 3-5 2018: Juraj Valčuha conducts Andrew Norman's Unstuck
May 10-12 2018: Stéphane Denève conducts Saint-Saëns and Connesson
May 17-20 2018: Itzhak Perlman conducts Bach
May 25-26 2018: David Robertson conducts Brett Dean's Engelsflügel
May 31–June 2 2018: Semyon Bychkov conducts Taneyev and Tchaikovsky
June 7–9 2018: Susanna Mälkki conducts Saariaho
June 14-17 2018: MTT conducts Boris Godunov
June 28-30 2018: MTT conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 3
* Notes *
Yesterday SF Opera Lab opened a second season with Ted Hearne's disturbing oratorio The Source. The 2012 piece concerns Chelsea Manning's disclosure to WikiLeaks of classified material about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unconventionally staged with the four singers dispersed in the audience (Isaiah Robinson pictured left, photograph by Stefan Cohen) and with enormous video projections on each side, the experience was completely immersive.
Mark Doten's libretto uses primary source texts, tweets from Manning and Adrian Lamo (the former hacker that ultimately turned Manning in), chat logs from Manning and Lamo, interview questions posed to Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange, and random cultural artifacts from the time period ranging from an interview of Steven Hawking to Big Boi's "Shutterbugg." The collection is unsettling, and all the more so because the repetitive vocals are highly processed by Philip White in real time.
The music is often loud and cacophonous, and the ensemble hidden above, behind one of the video screens, consisted of what amounts to a string trio plus keyboard, guitar, bass, and drums. The playing and singing seemed to come off tightly together, most impressive given the lack of conductor. It wasn't at all clear to me how this was accomplished.
Most of the videos used were of people's faces as they watched the leaks, gleaned from footage of nearly 100 people taken by director Daniel Fish and production designer Jim Findlay. It is all very unsettling. When we finally see the gunsight footage of the July 12, 2007 Baghdad airstrike, known as "Collateral Murder," we understand all too well what these people have been reacting to and experience it for ourselves. The dead silence at the end lasted an uncomfortable and imposing amount of time.
Many audience members (I saw at least five at one time) fell asleep despite the volume of the music and fact that they may have been next to one of the vocalists. This was all the more obvious because the two halves of the audience faced one another.
* Notes *
Last weekend San Francisco Symphony continued celebrations for John Adams' 70th birthday with The Gospel According to the Other Mary. The oratorio was tastefully semi-staged (Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings, Nathan Medley, Jay Hunter Morris, Kelley O'Connor, and Tamara Mumford pictured left; photograph by Stefan Cohen) and featured a truly resplendent cast.
The libretto, compiled by Peter Sellars, is a mish-mash of the Bible and texts from Dorothy Day, Rosario Castellanos, June Jordan, Louise Erdrich, and Primo Levi. The collage makes for a narrative that is disjointed and jumps from different time periods, but essentially recounts the story of Mary Magdalene, Martha, and Lazarus and their interactions with Jesus.
The music is vivid with textures and rhythms, and there is much for the three percussionists to do, as they share a dozen instruments including timbale, almglocken, and cimbalom. Not a note of this seemed gratuitous in the least, though it did seem very difficult. Maestro Grant Gershon looked as if he was counting and cuing constantly, and this did give the music a bit of a square feel.
The singers were unreal. In the title role, mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor showed off some alarmingly low notes and beautiful clear high ones as well. Mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford also displayed a dark richness as Martha. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris was able to navigate choppy lines as well as ones more lyrical and legato.
The trio of ghostly countertenors Daniel Bubeck, Brian Cummings, and Nathan Medley were effective as was the small chorus, whose members were very together. Everything was impressively loud, and microphones were used but were not distracting in the least.
The audience was quiet but there was a noticeable amount of attrition during intermission.