Cal Performances

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


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.


Cal Performances 2015-2016 Season

September 11-12 2015: National Circus of the People's Republic of China
September 18 2015: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
September 24-25 2015: Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela
October 1-4 2015: Mariinsky Ballet & Orchestra
October 9 2015: Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club
October 11 2015: Takács Quartet
October 11 2015: Bollywood Masala Orchestra and Dancers of India
October 16-18 2015: Twyla Tharp
October 23 2015: eco ensemble
October 24 2015: Bach Collegium Japan
October 29-30 2015: Circa
November 6-7 2015: Ensemble Intercontemporain
November 7 2015: Youssou N'Dour
November 8 2015: Leila Josefowicz, violin and John Novacek, piano
November 13-14 2015: Compañia Flamenca José Porcel
November 19-22 2015: Rude Mechanicals
November 22 2015: Danish String Quartet
November 27-29 2015: Mummenschanz
December 6 2015: Garrick Ohlsson, piano
December 12-13 2015: Three Acts, Two Dancers, One Radio Host
January 22-23 2016: Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
January 24 2016: Yefim Bronfman, piano
January 24 2016: Monterey Jazz Festival On Tour
January 29-30 2016: St. Louis Symphony
February 14 2016: eighth blackbird
February 21 2016: Takács Quartet
February 26 2016: Jordi Savall, viol and Frank McGuire, bodhrán
February 27-28 2016: Chitresh Das Dance Company
February 28 2016: Danish String Quartet
March 5 2016: Renée Fleming, soprano
March 6 2016: Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder of SERIAL
March 6 2016: Yefim Bronfman, piano
March 11-13 2016: Mark Morris Dance Group and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale
March 18-19 2016: Trajal Harrell
March 19 2016: Buika
March 19 2016: L'Arpeggiata
March 20 2016: Savion Glover with the Jack DeJohnette Quartet
March 26 2016: Montreal Symphony Orchestra
March 29- April 3 2016: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
April 2 2016: Musicians from Marlboro
April 9 2016: The Tallis Scholars
April 10 2016: Brentano String Quartet
April 14 2016: Gil Shaham, violin
April 17 2016: Murray Perahia, piano
April 26 2016: Matthias Goerne, baritone and Alexander Schmalcz, piano
May 1 2016: Kronos Quartet
May 5-8 2016: Edgar Oliver
May 7 2016: David Finckel, cello and Wu Han, piano
May 12 2016: Philippe Jaroussky, countertenor and Jérôme Ducros, piano

Cal Performances announced the 2015-2016 season on April 20, 2015. The Koret Recital Series includes Renée Fleming, Matthias Goerne, and Philippe Jaroussky.

Official Site | Brochure


Cal Performances 2014-2015 Season

MT_katwade_outsideZHAugust 12 2014: Yo-Yo Ma performs Bach's Cello Suites
September 13 2014: Eco Ensemble
September 25-28 2014: Mark Morris Dance Group Music Ensemble
October 10 2014: Art Spiegelman and Phillip Johnston perform WORDLESS!
October 11 2014: Afropop Spectacular: Bassekou Kouyate and the Krar Collective
October 12 2014: Takács Quartet and Marc-André Hamelin, piano
October 16-19 2014: Australian Ballet performs Swan Lake
October 24-25 2014: Sasha Waltz & Guests
October 26 2014: Richard Goode, piano
October 30 2014: Mavis Staples, vocals
November 2 2014: Jorge Federico Osorio, piano
November 7-8 2014: Théâtre de la Ville performs Six Characters in Search of an Author
November 9 2014: Czech Philharmonic Orchestra
November 13 2014: Apollo's Fire plays Monteverdi's Vespers for the Blessed Virgin
November 14-15 2014: Curlew River – A Parable for Church Performance
November 15 2014: Academy of Ancient Music plays Bach's Complete Orchestral Suites
November 15 2014: David Sedaris
November 16 2014: San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and Tony Arnold, soprano
November 16 2014: Irvin Mayfield and the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra
November 21-23 2014: Mikhail Baryshnikov and Willem Dafoe perform The Old Woman
November 23 2014: St. Lawrence String Quartet
December 4 2014: Cantus performs All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914
December 5-6 2014: Paul Dresher Electro-Acoustic Band and Amy X Neuburg perform They Will Have Been So Beautiful: Songs and Images of Now
December 6 2014: Audra McDonald, soprano
December 7 2014: Takács Quartet and Erica Eckert, viola
December 10 2014: Yo-Yo Ma, speaker
January 13 2015: Gidon Kremer, violin and Daniil Trifonov, piano
January 18 2015: The Kronos Quartet and Wu Man, pipa
January 24-25 2015: Peking Acrobats
January 25 2015: San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and Nicolas Hodges, piano
January 31 2015: Matthew Polenzani, tenor
January 31- February 1 2015: Kodo
February 4-7 2015: Les 7 Doigts de la Main Circus performs Sequence 8
February 8 2015: Peter Nero Trio
February 15 2015: Olli Mustonen, piano
February 19 2015: The Nile Project
February 20 2015: Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI
February 22 2015: San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
March 1 2015: Susan Graham, mezzo soprano
March 1 2015: Cassandra Wilson, vocals
March 6 2015: The Intergalactic Nemesis: Book Two: Robot Planet Rising
March 8 2015: David Finckel, cello and Wu Han, piano
March 11 2015: Hugh Masekela, trumpeter, vocalist and Vusi Mahlasela, singer-songwriter
March 12 2015: Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano and Tamara Stefanovich, piano
March 14-15 2015: Joffrey Ballet
March 15 2015: Jennifer Koh, violin
March 19 2015: Chick Corea, piano and Herbie Hancock, piano
March 20-22 2015: Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
March 28 2015: Davitt Moroney, harpsichord
March 29 2015: San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
March 28-29 2015: Chitresh Das Dance Company performs Shiva
April 10-11 2015: The Tallis Scholars
April 13 2013: Ray Kurzweil
April 12 2015: Ian Bostridge, tenor
April 17 2015: Arlo Guthrie
April 21-26 2015: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
May 1-3 2015: Handspring Puppet Company performs Ubu and the Truth Commission
May 1 2015: Les Arts Florissants
May 8 2015: Donal Fox Trio
May 10 2015: Christian Tetzlaff, violin and Lars Vogt, piano
May 15 2015: Sérgio Assad, guitar and Odair Assad, guitar
June 2015: Ojai North!

Matías Tarnopolsky announced the new Cal Performances season today.

Official Site | Brochure


Plácido Domingo Concert in Berkeley

7-placido-8849Plácido Domingo is performing at UC Berkeley's Greek Theatre on Saturday, September 7, 2013 at 8pm. He will be joined by guest sopranos Angel Joy Blue and Micäela Oeste and guest conductor Eugene Kohn. Presale tickets are available Tuesday, July 9, at 10am until Saturday, July 13, at 11:59 pm online only through Another Planet Entertainment and Ticketmaster. The presale password is "GREEK."

APEConcerts | Ticketmaster


World Premiere of The Secret Garden

Sf-opera-secret-garden-wm-2013* Notes *
San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances presented the world premiere of Nolan Gasser's The Secret Garden (Act II pictured left, photograph by Betsy Kershner) last night in Berkeley. The music features a tiny ensemble of ten instrumentalists, lead by conductor Sara Jobin. The rhythms employed are of interest, particularly in the prologue, which is set in India. Carey Harrison's libretto has some awkward moments, somehow the narrative of the book does not always work well as sung text. This is evident in the Cholera scene and when Colin sings about how he will live to adulthood. Other parts are more successful. The letter scene between Susan Sowerby and Archibald Craven is quite beautiful. The production, directed by José Maria Condemi, moves along nicely. The costumes are of the period, and are perfectly serviceable. Naomie Kremer's hallucinatory visual designs range from cartoonish to Impressionistic.

The singing has much to recommend it. Ao Li (Ben Weatherstaff), Erin Johnson (Mrs. Medlock), and Laura Krumm (Martha Sowerby) all made charming contributions to the performance, both vocally and dramatically. Tenor Scott Joiner was a winsome Dickon, but had some trouble with the high notes in his first duet with Mary. Philippe Sly impressed as Archibald Craven, and his aforementioned duet with Marina Harris (Susan Sowerby) was splendid. Boy soprano Michael Kepler Meo convinced as spoiled, sickly Colin Craven. His voice is pretty, but the amplification used was obvious and slightly distracting. Bright-voiced Sarah Shafer deftly portrayed Mary Lennox. Her sound is pleasant and her acting was not overwrought.

* Tattling *
There were many children in attendance, and for the most part, they were more well-behaved than the adults. Two women in Row P Seats 5 and 7 of the Orchestra Level talked repeatedly during the music when there was no singing. Oddly, they knew the maestra, and vehemently cheered her when she took her bow.

One of the boys in Row N was the son of either the composer or the librettist and he was absolutely delighted to see his father during the ovation. His enthusiasm was adorable.


Eric Owens at Cal Performances

Eric-owens_01_credit_dario-acosta* 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.


Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela

Bolivars-dudamel-2012* Notes * 
Gustavo Dudamel and the Orquesta Sinfónica Simón Bolívar (pictured left, photograph by Scott Grieder) played the first of two concerts at Cal Performances last night. The program the orchestra is touring right now is entitled "¡MUSICA! A Celebration of Music from Latin America," thus featuring, in this instance, Carlos Chávez, Julián Orbón, and Silvestre Revueltas. The orchestra is huge, so the intensity of the volume is likewise impactful. The orchestra members seemed earnest and serious in playing Chávez's Sinfonia india, the rhythms were all clear. Orbón's Tres versions sinfonicas was, in turns, jaunty, stately, and charming.

The orchestra had fun with the Revueltas that followed the intermission, La Noche de los Mayas, which sounded, as one would expect for a concert suite based on a film score, cinematic. The playing was vigorous and all the musicians seemed present in the moment.

The two delightful encores were La Conga del fuego nuevo by Arturo Márquez and "Mambo" from Bernstein's West Side Story. During the latter, the musicians spun around their instruments and even got up to dance.

* Tattling *
Most of the audience was quiet and attentive. There was some of talking between a few elderly people who must not realize how audible their conversations are to those with unimpaired hearing.


Philharmonia Orchestra's Wozzeck

Philharmonia-orchestra-peg-skorpinski* Notes * 
Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra (pictured left, photograph by Peg Skorpinski) stopped at Cal Performances this weekend as part of a US tour. Last night's program was a semi-staged version of Wozzeck. The lack of set and costumes allowed the music to take precedence, and the drama of this piece remained vivid and clear.

Joshua Ellicott (Andres) sang prettily, while Hubert Francis (the Drum-Major) was strong. Tijl Faveyts was a creepy doctor, his voice has a dryness that makes for a good contrast with the other low voices. He did have a tendency to blend in with the more highly orchestrated parts of the music. Peter Hoare's Captain is mocking and bright. 

Angela Denoke has a sound few rough or sharp edges, yet was able to faithfully portray Marie's anguish. Johan Reuter made for a sympathetic Wozzeck, piteous and crazed. His voice is warm.

* Tattling * 
There was some light talking from long-time patrons in the orchestra section. An iPhone (Apple's personal assistant application) was heard when the Idiot sings "Lustig, lustig...aber es riecht." Someone's phone rang when Wozzeck sang about death in the last act.


Einstein on the Beach

Einstein-on-the-beach-cristina-caccone* Notes * 
Cal Performances presented the West Coast premiere of Einstein on the Beach (Act I Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cristina Caccone) last night in Berkeley. This collaboration between director Robert Wilson and composer Philip Glass, first performed on July 25, 1976 at the Festival d'Avignon, feels like a product of its time. This is noticeable in the cut of the costumes and certain aspects of the scenic design. Nonetheless, the monumental opera, which clocks in just under four and a half hours, has a timeless quality as well, and is rather mesmerizing.

There is never a dull moment, each second seems packed with some combination of tones, words, light, or movement. The surreal humor of the piece keeps the proceedings from dreary pretension. The endurance of all the performers is striking. The Philip Glass Ensemble and the chorus held together under the direction of Michael Riesman. The singing was hauntingly beautiful. Jennifer Koh likewise impressed as Einstein, her violin playing never flagged. The choreography, from Lucinda Childs, fits the music perfectly. The two dance scenes are a riveting visualization of the vocal and instrumental lines.

* Tattling * 
Though Wilson and Glass insist that the audience members may come and go as they please, it was difficult to decide where a good stopping point might be, and several people never left their seats. Somehow the lack of formal intermission made others feel that they could speak whenever they wished.