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Temple of Glory at Cal Performances

PBOTempleGloire3711_4x6_FrankWing* 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.


Temple of Glory Preview

001 Original (2)* 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."


Cal Performances' 2017-2018 Season

Cal-performances-alvin-ailey-american-dance-theater-2-andrew-ecclesAugust 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.

Press Release | Official Site


The Woods Schwabacher Debut Recital

Woods-schwabacher-2017* 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.