The incoming 2017 Adler Fellows are soprano Sarah Cambidge; tenor Amitai Pati and Kyle van Schoonhoven; baritone Andrew Manea; stage director Aria Umezawa; and apprentice coaches John Elam and Jennifer Szeto. They join current Adlers Amina Idris, Toni Marie Palmertree, Pene Pati, Brad Walker, and Ronny Michael Greenberg. The outgoing 2016 Adler Fellows are Julie Adams, Zanda Švēde, Nian Wang, Edward Nelson, Matthew Stump, Anthony Reed, and Noah Lindquist.
Adler Fellowship Program
* Notes *
SF Opera Lab held the first event at the new Taube Atrium Theater last night. The evening was open to certain San Francisco Opera donors but involved having to call the box office to reserve tickets, as the space only has 299 seats.
The theater is part of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, which consolidates SF Opera's operations on the fourth floor and basement of the Veterans Building. The space, which originally housed SFMOMA, includes an education studio that can also be used as a rehearsal venue, a costume studio, the San Francisco Opera Archive, exhibition galleries, and administrative offices. The opera moved in two weeks ago, though not everything is quite done, there has been painting and such in the interim.
The performance ended up being a salon curated by members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, part of SF Opera Lab's ChamberWORKS series. The intimate setting had a casual feel, performers addressed the audience and introduced many of the pieces. There was no printed program, instead titles were projected over digital wallpapers from the Cooper Hewitt.
The performance started with cellist Thalia Moore playing Vivaldi's Sonata No. 6 in B flat major, RV 46 accompanied by Adler Fellow Ronny Michael Greenberg on harpsichord who were joined by flutist Stephanie McNab, percussionist Rick Kvistad, and mezzo-soprano Adler Zanda Švēde, who sang a setting of ten Shakespeare sonnets to music by Pauls Miervaldis Dambis. Dambis seems to have a penchant for the Renaissance, hence the harpsichord rather than the piano.
Greenberg did shift to playing piano, and one of the highlights of the evening was certainly Robert Muczynski's Sonata for Flute and Piano Op. 14. Played with verve by Stephanie McNab, Greenberg's playing was crisp and supportive. We also got to hear a piece of Kvistad's called "Blues for Wilsey," in which the percussionist plays a drum set along with the other musicians playing their respective instruments. Greenberg played piano in this and McNab played both flute and piccolo.
The performance was capped by the Habanera and Seguidilla from Bizet's Carmen, accompaniment arranged for vibes, cello, flute, and piano by Peter Grunberg. Švēde is brilliant, getting the emotional import of all the words through her voice. She made her entrance through the audience, and it was a testament to how great the Meyer Sound system is, because it sounded nicely balanced -- not too loud or dry.
* Tattling *
The audience was extremely focused and quiet. It was fun hearing the musicians speak, especially Kvistad, who joked the more he studied music, the less notes he was allowed to play, especially at the opera, where he must be the highest paid musician per note.
The theater can get rather warm, and the controls to the AC system have apparently not been handed over to the opera yet, as we learned from the Q&A with the performers and Elkhanah Pulitzer, Director of Programming for the SF Opera Lab (pictured above). Also, one of the lenses of the projection system needs replacement, most of the images were pretty blurry.
The incoming 2016 Adler Fellows are sopranos Amina Edris and Toni Marie Palmertree; tenor Pene Pati; and bass-baritone Brad Walker. They join current Adlers Julie Adams, Zanda Švēde, Nian Wang, Edward Nelson, Matthew Stump, Anthony Reed, Noah Lindquist, and Ronny Michael Greenberg. The outgoing 2015 Adler Fellows are Jacqueline Piccolino, Maria Valdes, Chong Wang, and Efraín Solís.
* Notes *
A number of San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellows (pictured left) performed with conductor Nicholas McGegan and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra last night at the SFJazz Center. The evening was a delight from beginning to end. The first half of the program featured four instrumental pieces interspersed with four vocal pieces, all by Mozart. The Overture in D major, K. 106 was played with grace, while Contredanse No. 1 in D major, K. 106 sounded rather cheery. I enjoyed the emphatic playing of the repeated notes in Contredanse No. 3 in B-flat major, K. 106.
Soprano Julie Adams sang "Nehmt meinen Dank" with clarity. Her voice has much strength and not a trace of strain. Baritone Edward Nelson was terribly charming in "Con un vezzo all'italiana" from La finta giardiniera. The quartet "Dite almeno, in che mancai" with Adams, Nelson, tenor Brian Thorsett, and bass Anthony Reed was brilliant as well.
The second half of the show was devoted to Rossini's first produced opera, La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract). The piece is concise and quite amusing. The orchestra played with verve and McGegan looked pleased throughout as he conducted. Some of the Baroque instruments seemed less well-suited to Rossini than others, but the enthusiasm of all those involved never waned.
The singing was wonderful. Mezzo-soprano Nian Wang sang Clarina's aria ("An'chio son giovine") with conviction. Bass Matthew Stump makes for a wonderful, blustering Tobia Mill. Baritone Efraín Solís is hilarious as Slook. Tenor Brian Thorsett sings Edoardo Milfort with effortlessness. Soprano Jacqueline Piccolino is a dulcet-toned Fannì. Her sings with a certain subtlety that is appealing for this role.
* Tattling *
The first five rows were removed to provide the orchestra with a pit.
San Francisco Opera is taking over the Rickshaw Stop for pop-up event entitled "Barely Opera" on March 2, 2015 at 8:00pm. The evening will feature famous arias, Broadway tunes, and more performed by the Adler Fellows. Tickets are 10 dollars, available at Event Brite or at the door.
* Notes *
A sixth Metropolitan Opera performance of John Adams' The Death of Klinghoffer (Act II, Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Ken Howard) was held last Saturday. There were a handful of protesters with signs reading "Shame on Peter Gelb Met Opera" and so forth. The opera itself is not particularly contentious, if anything, it is a mild, mournful piece. The characters are shown as rather human, and of course there was a choice line from Leon Klinghoffer regretting his hatlessness. One imagines that this production might not be as well-attended were it not for the vehemence of the demonstrators.
The orchestra had a graceful clarity under the baton of David Robertson. The strings were particularly lucid, as were the woodwinds. The Met chorus also sounded strong and cohesive.
The principal singers all seemed suited to their roles. It was a joy to hear former Adler Fellows Sean Pannikar (Molqi) and Maya Lahyani (Palestinian Woman). Bass-baritone Aubrey Allicock had a strikingly disturbing aria as Mamoud in Act I, Scene 2. Baritone Paulo Szot made for an appropriately conflicted Captain. Baritone Alan Opie (Leon Klinghoffer) sang his finale aria with gravitas. Mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens was poignant as Marilyn Klinghoffer, her voice is rich and full.
Tom Morris' production makes use of projected text and historical photographs. The text is somewhat burdensome, and the photographs less so. The effect of the bright sun in Act II is haunting. The dancing, choreographed by Arthur Pita, is impressive, especially in the case of Jesse Kovarsky (Omar).
* Tattling *
I repeatedly hushed the woman behind me in Family Circle, as she spoke during the quietest parts of the music at the beginning of Act I. She informed me that she was reading the projected text that she could see to the two blind women she was with, and I sheepishly apologized at intermission.
I moved down to the right side of the last row of the Grand Tier to sit with some friends. A young composer seated near us may have spoken quite a lot during the music, but it was difficult muster annoyance at this, having already been so mortified by my own previous behavior.
The incoming 2015 Adler Fellows are mezzo-soprano Nian Wang, tenor Chong Wang, baritone Edward Nelson, bass-baritone Matthew Stump, bass Anthony Reed, and coach and accompanist Ronny Michael Greenberg. They join current Adlers Julie Adams, Maria Valdes, Zanda Švēde, Efraín Solís, and Noah Lindquist. Soprano Julie Adams joined the 2014 class of Adler Fellows in Fall 2014 and will continue as a first-year Adler Fellow in 2015. The outgoing 2014 Adler Fellows are Erin Johnson, Jacqueline Piccolino, A.J. Glueckert, Chuanyue Wang, Hadleigh Adams, and Philippe Sly.
* Notes *
The artistic director of New York Festival of Song, Steven Blier, presided over a Schwabacher Debut Recital entitled In the Memory Palace yesterday evening. The program included diverse selections from song cycles and vocal quartets with an underlying theme of courtship. Blier accompanied four Adler Fellows on piano.
The structure of the evening was divided in fourths, starting with a quartet, then featuring each singer in turn. We began with Heitor Villa-Lobos, first "Canção da folha morta" followed by soprano Maria Valdes singing three songs from Floresta do Amazonas. All four singers have powerful voices, but they were able to blend their sounds nicely. Valdes has an airy lightness but has a tawny warmth as well. She showed her versatility in these cinematic songs. Next we traveled to Northern Europe with the ensemble singing a Danish text set by Swedish composer Wilhelm Stenhammar, Jens Peter's poem "I seraillets have." Then mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde sang four Grieg songs with German texts. Her voice is incredibly rich and gorgeous, with a brilliant clarity.
After intermission we heard exclusively songs in English, starting with "Come live with me" by William Sterndale Bennett. Tenor AJ Gluekert did a fine job bringing his voice out for particular phrases, and then blending back in with the ensemble. Gluekert went on to sing four rather distinct songs by Frank Bridge, showing a range of emotions and styles. The fourth part of the program commenced with Sondheim's dizzying Two Fairy Tales. The singers were clearly listening to one another and working together. The last series of songs were by Gabriel Kahane, from the cycle The Memory Palace. Baritone Hadleigh Adams seemed at ease with both music and text. The last piece on the program was Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold On Me," and it was slightly awkward, as Glueckert and Adams seemed perfectly comfortable singing this, but Valdes and Švēde simply sounded like opera singers. The encore, from Bernstein's Candide, was much more convincing. One would love to hear the Adlers sing the entire opera.
* Tattling *
Blier was characteristically amusing despite the many electronic interruptions from the audience while he went through the pieces with us.
* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Annual Meeting for 2014 was held Thursday afternoon at Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall in San Francisco. Chairman of the Board John A. Gunn, Board of Directors President Keith B. Geeslin, CFO Michael Simpson, and General Director David Gockley all spoke. Both Geeslin and Gockley expressed concern over San Diego Opera's closing, since it has been well-run and has presented world-class talent. San Francisco Opera ran a deficit again, subscriptions continue to drop off, but the endowment is at an all-time high. The new Opera Center in the Veterans Building will start being built in January of next year. Once it opens, the plan is to program a Baroque opera each February, a family opera in March, and a contemporary opera in April. We also learnt that the DVD of San Francisco Opera's Porgy and Bess will be released next Tuesday.
Composer Carlisle Floyd joined us for the meeting, and was interviewed by David Gockley. Floyd's Susannah will be performed next season, and we were told about the composer's career. His next opera premieres in Houston. Three Adlers and one Adler alumna performed four pieces from Susannah: pianist Noah Lindquist; tenor A.J.Glueckert; baritone Hadleigh Adams; and soprano Rhoslyn Jones. Jones sang "Ain't it a Pretty Night" with particular poignancy.
* Tattling *
During the reception after the meeting David Gockley asked me where I had been and I assured him I would make myself less scarce given that a Baroque opera is programmed this fall.
* Notes *
Bass-baritone Philippe Sly (pictured left, photograph by Adam Scotti) gave a recital with guitarist John Charles Britton for the Salons at the Rex series Wednesday evening. The evening's music consisted of fifteen Schubert Lieder, including ones from Die schöne Müllerin and Winterreise. Instead of providing the text in the program, Sly read translations of each before singing. The guitar arrangements were done by Britton himself, some worked better than others, since the instrument is so different from piano. The quietness of guitar is quite lovely in a salon setting. Sly's voice is youthfully exuberant, but he has control of his volume and is able to scale it down for a small room. "Du bist die Ruh" was particularly lovely. The encore was Chanson romanesque from Ravel's Don Quichotte à Dulcinée, which Sly sang with much vim and perhaps sounded best with Britton's guitar.
* Tattling *
Nearly every seat was taken, and I felt quite lucky to have gotten a ticket for the performance. A mobile phone rang while Sly was reading one of the translations, but otherwise there were few disturbances to the music.
The incoming 2014 Adler Fellows are Maria Valdes, Zanda Švēde, Pene Pati, Efraín Solís, and Noah Lindquist. They join current Adlers (pictured left) Erin Johnson, Jacqueline Piccolino, A.J. Glueckert, Chuanyue Wang, Hadleigh Adams, and Philippe Sly. The outgoing 2013 Adler Fellows are soprano Marina Harris, mezzo-sopranos Laura Krumm and Renée Rapier, baritone Ao Li, bass-baritone Joo Won Kang, and coach and accompanist Robert Mollicone.
* Notes *
The Adler Fellows for 2014 will not be announced for a few months, but Merola just ended, so one may as well speculate on which artists (pictured left in the 2013 Grand Finale, photograph by Kristen Loken) will return to San Francisco. Robert Mollicone will have completed two years as an Adler, so we will get a new collaborative pianist. As for singers, the outgoing Adlers are soprano Marina Harris; mezzo-sopranos Laura Krumm and Renée Rapier; and baritones Joo Won Kang and Ao Li.
This year there were many fine mezzos and tenors. Certainly mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde was most impressive. Tenors Pene Pati and Issachah Savage are both marvelous. For sopranos, of course Jacqueline Piccolino will be an Adler next year, as she already filled in for Jennifer Cherest this summer. As for another choice, perhaps soprano Maria Valdes or soprano Aviva Fortunata. Valdes is very light, and Fortunata might use a bit more control.
* Tattler Guesses *
The incoming 2013 Adler Fellows are Jennifer Cherest, Erin Johnson, A.J. Glueckert, Chuanyue Wang, Hadleigh Adams, and Philippe Sly. They join current Adlers (pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) Marina Boudart Harris, Laura Krumm, Renée Rapier, Joo Won Kang, and Robert Mollicone. The outgoing 2012 Adler Fellows are soprano Nadine Sierra, tenor Brian Jagde, bass-baritone Ryan Kuster, and coach and accompanist David Hanlon.
* Notes *
Love/Hate, a chamber opera by composer Jack Perla and librettist Rob Bailis, premiered to a sold-out ODC Theater on Thursday night. The collaboration between ODC Theater, American Opera Projects, and Music Without Walls features the San Francisco Opera Center's Adler Fellows singing, playing, and even conducting. The piece calls for only four musicians: a violinist, a cellist, a clarinetist, and a pianist. Likewise there are only four singers, each a different voice type. Conductor David Hanlon kept everyone together with grace.
The singing was all quite powerful. Tenor Thomas Glenn was clear and his movements smooth. Soprano Marina Boudart Harris was winsome. Ao Li (baritone, pictured above with Laura Krumm, photograph by Laura Kudritzky) was able to switch from awkward George to confident Casanova without missing a beat. Laura Krumm's mezzo-soprano voice has a lightness that does not lack for volume.
The opera itself has a wry sensibility, starting off with popular cellular phone rings, and continuing in this amusing vein for most of the evening. The words were prominent. The set, designed by Bethanie Baeyen, is effective, evoking changes in time and space with the same drollness as the libretto and music. M. Graham Smith's direction was entertaining, though the choreography from Chris Black tended toward artificial.
* Tattling *
The audience talked, especially during the beginning of the piece.
A thunderstorm during the opera was audible in the theater, but it suited the piece, since it seems our protagonists are at Muni bus stop on a rainy day.
It seems to be the season for contemporary opera in San Francisco, as Erling Wold's Certitude and Joy and David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion had both opened last week. San Francisco Opera Center and ODC Theater are also presenting a world premiere of Love/Hate. This chamber opera, by composer Jack Perla and librettist Rob Bailis, will be performed three times between April 12 and 15. The performances will feature soprano Marina Harris, mezzo-soprano Laura Krumm (pictured left, photograph by Laura Kudritzky), tenor Thomas Glenn, and baritone Ao Li.