San Francisco Symphony's principal oboist William Bennett (pictured left) has died of a brain hemorrhage. Mr. Bennett had been hospitalized since Saturday, February 23, 2013, after collapsing onstage during his performance of the Strauss Oboe Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall.
September 23- December 12 2013: Eugene Onegin
September 24 2013- May 8 2014 : Così fan tutte
September 28- October 26 2013: The Nose
September 30- November 1 2013: Norma
October 11-31 2013: A Midsummer Night's Dream
October 21- November 14 2013: Two Boys
October 29- December 28 2013: Tosca
November 7-26 2013: Die Frau Ohne Schatten
November 11- December 7 2013: Rigoletto
November 22- December 13 2013: Der Rosenkavalier
December 6 2013- January 11 2014: Falstaff
December 16 2013- January 4 2014: The Magic Flute
December 31 2013- February 22 2014: Die Fledermaus
January 9- February 1 2014: L'elisir d'Amore
January 14- April 18 2014: La Bohème
January 16- May 9 2014: Madama Butterfly
January 23- February 15 2014: Rusalka
February 6- March 8 2014: Prince Igor
February 18- March 15 2014: Werther
February 26- March 20 2014: The Enchanted Island
March 6-22 2014: Wozzeck
March 14- April 1 2014: La Sonnambula
March 24- April 12 2014: Andrea Chénier
April 3-24 2014: Arabella
April 17- May 10 2014: I Puritani
April 21- May 10 2014: La Cenerentola
The Met announced the 2013-2014 season today. The 6 new productions are Eugene Onegin, Nico Muhly's Two Boys, Falstaff, Die Fledermaus, Prince Igor, and Werther.
Mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao died of cancer yesterday at age 46 in San Francisco. Cao was a participant of the Merola Opera Program in 1994 and was an Adler from 1995 to 1996. Cao was seen in 16 productions at San Francisco Opera including roles in The Bonesetter's Daughter (pictured left as Ruth Young Kamen, photograph by Terrence McCarthy), Madama Butterfly, The Mother of Us All, The Rake's Progress, Parsifal, Idomeneo, Le Nozze di Figaro, Elektra, Salome, Rusalka, and Faust.
* Notes *
François Girard's production of Parsifal opened at the Metropolitan Opera on Friday. The contemporary set features stark imagery. The red lake that dominates the second act (pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) is particularly striking. The angular choreography fits nicely with the staging and the clean costuming. The video is difficult to view in Family Circle, but seems benign and includes images of clouds, aurora borealis, and water. At times, the rippling effects were a bit overblown. The lighting is pleasing. The last scene involves Parsifal putting the Holy Spear in the Grail held by Kundry, a nod to the pagan fertility rituals that may have given rise to the Arthurian romances on which this work is based. For some reason this struck me as clumsy compared to the sleek modernity of Act II.
Conducted by Daniele Gatti, the orchestra played moderately, sounding neither austere nor sprightly. The brass was clear. The chorus was as impressive as ever: perfectly synchronized, strong, and full. Katarina Dalayman was not an alluring Kundry, but she did seem more than half-mad. Evgeny Nikitin was a convincing Klingsor. Peter Mattei was likewise believable as Amfortas, and his voice is immediately appealing. René Pape shone as Gurnemanz. His voice is warm and rich, and he sounds imposing. Jonas Kaufmann did well with the title role, though I find his voice less readily likeable than others, perhaps because of his nasality. Kaufmann was riveting in Act II Scene 2. He has a keen understanding of what he is singing and can convey this to the audience.
* Tattling *
Every sort of bad behavior was on display for the prima. Watch alarms sounded, mobile phones rang, photographs were taken, some talked, others snored, and there was applause after the first act. During the performance of Act I, someone in Family Circle demanded, at full volume, that he not be touched again.
* Notes *
A sneak preview of Opera Parallèle's next production, Ainadamar, was held at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music last month. Conductor Nicole Paiement took us through several musical examples with pianist Keisuke Nakogoshi and half a dozen singers. Lisa Chavez (pictured left as Federico García Lorca, photograph by Steve Di Bartolomeo), Marnie Breckenridge (Margarita Xirgu), and Maya Kherani (Nuria) sang various selections and a trio of singers from the women's chorus also participated. Osvaldo Golijov's music is textured and percussive.
Director Brian Staufenbiel discussed the set design, which sounds like Opera Parallèle's most ambitious to date and involves a stage divided into two layers. The staging includes the flamenca La Tania and her troupe, and they danced for us, accompanied by Nakogoshi. I, for one, am quite disappointed that I cannot make it to any of the three performances. Opera Parallele's Ainadamar will be presented starting Friday, February 15 until Sunday, February 17 at the Novellus Theatre, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
* Notes *
Cal Performances presented baritone Eric Owens (pictured left, photograph by Dario Acosta) in recital with pianist Warren Jones on Sunday. The first half of the performance consisted of German Lieder and the second half French chansons. Owens and Jones started with Wolf's Drei Lieder nach Gedichten von Michelangelo, which were performed with sensitivity. The four Schumann songs that followed were all rather dark, especially Muttertraum. The three Schubert songs that rounded out the German section of the program seemed sinister. The French section of afternoon had a more dream-like quality, particularly the three songs by Debussy. Ravel's Chanson a boire had particular appeal. Owens was able to establish an immediate rapport with the audience, and though he was not always precise in his intonation, his winning musicality more than made up for this.
* Tattling *
The audience was fairly quiet. The encores were Purcell's "Music for a While" and Robert Lowry's "Hanson Place." For some reason, I found the former somewhat surreal to hear from Owens, perhaps because the last four times I have heard this piece live it has been performed by counter-tenor.
* Notes *
West Edge Opera's L'incoronazione di Poppea (Act II with Christine Brandes and Emma McNairy pictured left, photograph by Jamie Buschbaum) closed last Sunday at the Performing Arts Theater at El Cerrito High School. Maestro Gilbert Martinez lead half a dozen period instrumentalists in a neat, compressed performance. The violins had a slight tendency to be out of tune, but otherwise the playing was crisp.
The singing was strong. Bryan Thorsett made for a funny Arnalta, his singing is lovely, and one only wanted to hear more from him. Ryan Belongie sang Ottone with grace. Tonia D'Amelio was a charming Drucilla. Erin Neff made for an incisive-toned Ottavia. Emma McNairy was a cheery, girlish Poppea. Her sound is bright and sweet. As Nerone, Christine Brandes' sound is a bit compressed at the top, and somewhat harsh, but this was perfectly fine for the role.
The production, directed by Mark Streshinsky, offered many repeated images. One appreciated how this did help condense the action and cut down on time needed for scene changes.
* Tattling *
I was entirely unable to find my seat, O-A17. As it turns out, they had taken the seat out to accommodate patrons in wheelchairs. The house manager was very kind about the whole thing, apologizing, and also re-seating me nearby.
October 5 – November 2 2013: Otello
October 15 2013- January 26 2014: Madama Butterfly
November 9–29 2013: Parsifal
November 20- December 20 2013: La traviata
December 10 2013-January 18 2014: Die Fledermaus
February 1–28 2014: Il barbiere di Siviglia
February 22- March 16 2014: Rusalka
March 5–23 2014: La clemenza di Tito
Spring 2014: The Sound of Music
Anthony Freud announced Lyric Opera of Chicago's 2013-2014 season yesterday.
* Notes *
West Edge Opera's L'incoronazione di Poppea opens tonight at the Performing Arts Theater at El Cerrito High School and runs through Sunday. The final dress rehearsal (Act I with Emma McNairy and Bryan Thorsett pictured left, photograph by Jamie Buschbaum) was held on Tuesday. The performances are a collaboration with MusicSources, and conductor Gilbert Martinez leads a small ensemble of period instrumentalists. Taken together, the sound of the two harpsichords, theorbo, triple harp, viola da gamba, and two violins is rather dry and spare. The cuts pare the opera down to a mere two hours, which distills the story into its essentials.
The singing is consistent all around. The cast includes Christine Brandes (Nerone), Emma McNairy (Poppea), Erin Neff (Ottavia), Tonia D'Amelio Drucilla), Ryan Belongie (Ottone), Bryan Thorsett (Arnalta), and Paul Thompson (Seneca).
Director Mark Streshinsky offers a production set in 1962, complete with pill box hats and square handbags. Much video projection is employed, which is occasionally dizzying, but keeps the scenes moving without having to physically change the sets.