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February 2017

Filter Theatre's Twelfth Night at Cal Performances

12th-night-filter-theatre-2017* 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.


Hamilton in SF

Hamilton-joshua-henry* 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.

Tattling * 
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.


SF Opera at the Uptown

SFOperaLabPopUp2016_2_by Kristen LokenSan 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.

Official Site | Uptown Nightclub | Tickets


Anna Caterina Antonacci at SF Opera Lab

37A0329* 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.

37A0382Poulenc'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.

Tattling *
Many audience members were mostly quiet, though a few people had to exit during the music.


SF Symphony's 2017-2018 Season

SF-Symphony-4x6September 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

Season Highlights | Press Release