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The Turn of the Screw at SF Lyric

Cowell * Notes *
San Francisco Lyric Opera's production of The Turn of the Screw opened last night at Cowell Theatre. The singing was very good all across the board. Interestingly, half of the singers were also in the Oakland Opera Theater production from last October. Brooks Fisher (Miles) has grown quite a bit in the intervening months, he is now taller than Madelaine Matej (Flora). His angelic voice is somewhat louder now, but there were a few brief moments when he was difficult to hear because of the orchestra. It may have been better if he was not so far upstage when singing with all of the instruments. Madelaine Matej sounded slightly flat during the end of Act I, but was otherwise fine, her volume was always good, and her acting was strong. Soprano Lara Bruckmann did not make much impression on me as Miss Jessel, but perhaps this was because tenor Trey Costerisan was so splendid as Peter Quint. Costerisan's voice is exceedingly pretty, both warm and brilliant. Kathleen Moss, who just sang Judith with Berkeley Opera, was occasionally overwhelming as Mrs. Grose, as her voice was the most powerful in the cast. Moss was able to rein it in for the most part, and her acting was convincing. Anja Strauss was impressive in the principal role, her Governess is certainly on the frightening, hysterical side. Her tones were lucid and crystalline. The orchestra played well under the direction of Barnaby Palmer, the musicians were perfectly synchronized with each other and with the singers. The only disappointment was keyboard used instead of a real piano. The keyboard was noticeable, it sounded strange.

The production was not as creepy as the one at Oakland Opera Theater, perhaps because of the choreography and stage direction. The ending was a bit weird in this regard, it would be hard to understand exactly what was happening if one had not read Henry James' novella. As far as the scenery was concerned, the projections used were great when static, but whenever they were used to portray the spectral or mad, they veered into unintentional tackiness. At one point in Act II, a heretofore static window projection multiplied and warped, and the effect was just silly and not scary at all. Thankfully, the background was easy to ignore, as it was not in constant motion, and the otherworldliness came out best in the music. Also, Meghan Muser's costumes were a fine distraction, every one of the outfits was absolutely gorgeous.

* Tattling *
One person booed stage director Heather Carolo, presumably because he did not like the ending. Also, t
he charming person who sang along to La Bohème was there again, right next to me, as we both have subscriptions. I was able to shift one seat away from her, as the theater was half empty. She is, apparently, not terribly familiar with the work of Benjamin Britten, and was unable to accompany the singers. She did have fun during the intermission listing which operas of Britten she could remember, naming five out of fourteen, I could hardly do better. She also declared it a shame that so few people had turned out and mentioned that Joshua Kosman would be reviewing this Sunday's performance. However, the music is disquieting and is meant to make one feel uncomfortable, which is certainly not for everyone.

SF Opera's Das Rheingold Media Round-Up

Rheingold Summer Season Press Release | SF Opera's Official Site | Francesca Zambello's Official Site for this Production | Bloomberg Preview

Summer Season Previews: San Francisco Chronicle | Sentinel | Examiner

Interviews of Former Adler Fellow Mark Delavan (Wotan): KQED's The Do List [MP3] | San Francisco Chronicle | San Jose Mercury News | Contra Costa Times

Events: Opera Insight Panel Discussion (June 2, 2008) | Gold Rush – Forging The American Ring Symposium (June 14, 2008)

Reviews of Washington National Opera's 2006 Performances: New York Times | Washington Post | NPR | PlaybillArts | Ionarts | My Favorite Intermissions | More

Reviews of San Francisco Opera's 2008 Performances: The Opera Tattler | San Francisco Classical Voice | | Los Angeles Times | San Francisco Chronicle | The Rehearsal Studio | Not for Fun Only | The Reporter | SFist | BayAreaReporter | The Reverberate Hills | lies like truth | Tracy Grant | Out West Arts | Civic Center | Opera Warhorses | Prima la musica, poi le parole

Berlin Philharmonic in Tempelhof

The Berlin Philharmonic is to play in Flughafen Tempelhof tonight. Sir Simon Rattle conducts Berlioz's La Mort de Cléopâtre and Symphonie fantastique, with Susan Graham as the soloist for the former.

The damage to the Philharmonic's building last week was not as bad as feared, and the Grosser Saal was not harmed.

AP Article | AFP Article

La Scala's 2008-2009 Season

December 4 2008- January 15 2009: Don Carlo
January 16- February 3 2009: The Makropoulos Case
February 5-25 2009: Tristan und Isolde
March 10-27 2009: Alcina
March 24- April 4 2009: I Due Foscari
April 7- May 10 2009: Il Viaggio a Reims
April 24- May 17 2009: The Rake's Progress
May 22- June 12 2009: Assassino nella Cattedrale
June 6-17 2009: A Midsummer Night's Dream
June 20- July 8 2009: Aida
July 13-17 2009: Eugene Onegin (Bolshoi)
September 19- October 6 2009: Orfeo
October 15-30 2009: Idomeneo

La Scala announced their 2008-2009 season today. Dolora Zajick is singing Eboli in Don Carlo. Waltraud Meier sings Isolde, with Daniel Barenboim conducting. Barenboim also conducts Aida next season. Salvatore Licitra shares the role of Radames (Aida) with Walter Fraccaro.The production of The Rake's Progress is the same Lepage one inspired by Giant we had in San Francisco this season. David Daniels sings opposite of Rosemary Joshua in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Press Release (In Italian) | Calendar

San Francisco Opera's Summer Season 2008

In case one may have forgotten, San Francisco Opera's season returns next week to the War Memorial Opera House. They've put up new banners and posters, and are sponsoring public radio again. I've looked at my schedule for June 2nd through July 6th, and even if I only hear Das Rheingold and Lucia twice apiece, I still will go to 18 SF Opera or Merola events. This is opera escalation if I've ever seen it, and I do feel concerned. Speaking of which, last week I saw a poster for Das Rheingold at my local burrito shop. Summer madness, indeed.






Queenie Pie at Oakland Opera Theater

Queeniepie  * Notes *
Duke Ellington's Queenie Pie closes this afternoon at Oakland Opera Theater. The unfinished work was arranged and orchestrated by Marc Bolin and the libretto completed by Tommy Shepherd. The opera was extremely charming, especially the first half, which takes place in Harlem. The sets looked great, especially the city scene back drops. The costumes were comely, and included many fancy hats, gloves, and belts. Queen Pie's platinum blond wig was not convincing, but was not terribly distracting. The dancing was strong, and Tania Johnson was particularly fabulous in this regard, as the Lady Reporter. Kathleen Antonia was perfect as Queenie Pie's rival, Café Olay, completely committed to the choreography and quite self-possessed. Her voice started off slightly shaky but was entirely lovely. Amanda King's voice was also beautiful, rich and pleasant. For the most part, her acting as Queenie Pie was good, though a few words were jumbled in Act II. The rest of the cast was less even, though all the singing was pretty, some were a bit quiet when not right up at one of the many microphones.

Act II was slightly less focused than Act I, when Queenie goes off to some unnamed island in search of a
magical amulet. The quartet of sailors sang some cute drinking songs and the three moon trees sounded wonderfully ethereal. Queenie ends up shipwrecked on a tropical isle with a distinctly tiki bar aesthetic, complete with grass skirts and exotic drinks. Seaon Bristol was utterly hilarious as the Crown Prince, and was a good foil for the rather more serious King, William Tull. The ending was darkly humorous.

* Tattling *
The house was entirely full, and the audience was enthusiastic, though they talked a bit too much during the music. The seats at are still pretty uncomfortable at Oakland Opera Theater, but at least they have real restrooms now. Though all very attractive, some of the costumes were not the most flattering, a bit of upper arm cellulite was on view. Some of the dresses also looked like they could use a once over with a garment steamer. However, it was a fine performance with a lot of heart, and I only wish I could have gone earlier in the run, so that I could catch it again.

MTT Conducts Brahms at SFS

Moo * Notes *
Michael Tilson Thomas and San Francisco Symphony end a 3-week long Brahms Festival tonight. The chorus was in fine form during Friday's performance, the singers were very much together, in tune, and their German diction was fairly clear. The first half of the performance included Geistliches Lied, Opus 30 and Gesänge für Frauenchor mit Begleitung von zwei Hörner und Harfe, Opus 17. The organist for Geistliches Lied played well. The first of the Songs for Women's Chorus, "Es Tönt ein voller Harfenklang," was a bit cloying, though it was no fault of the harpist, horn players, or singers. The music for "Lied von Shakespeare" was quite pretty, and it was interesting to hear one of Feste's songs from Twelfth Night sung in August Wilhelm Schlegel's translation. The somber "Gesang aus Fingal," with a translated text from Fingal: An Ancient Epic Poem in Six Books by James Macpherson, was lovely.

The performance ended with the very grand Ein deutsches Requiem, Opus 45. Baritone Matthias Goerne sang "Herr, lehre doch mich" beautifully, his voice is rather light, but was always audible. I did not, however, care for soprano Laura Claycomb. I remember her Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos at San Francisco Opera as being well-acted but difficult to hear. This time I had no trouble hearing her during "Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit," but rather wished I did, as I found her vibrato unpleasant.

I am not sure how I arrived at the notion, but the sentimentality of Brahms inevitably reminds me of green meadows and cows at pasture. I suspect I must have formed this opinion early in life, which goes to show that early exposure to culture and high art are not an unqualified boon. In any case, such thoughts made "Denn alles Fleisch es ist wie Gras" particularly memorable. However, there were some beautiful moments in which I was able to forget my absurdity, especially during "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen" and "Denn wir haben hie keine bleibende Statt." Brahms nearly had me in the latter, the sixth movement, but the effect was ruined by the mawkish strains of harp in the seventh and final movement.

* Tattling *
Laura Claycomb's jewel-toned purple gown was becoming, the color enhanced the paleness of her skin and her pretty red hair. There was some speaking during the music, and premature applause after the third song of Gesänge für Frauenchor. Most distracting were the watch alarms marking the hour during the second and seventh movements of Ein deutsches Requiem.

Krazzy 4

Krazzy4 * Notes * 
Krazzy 4 was a bit of a disappointment, it wasn't quite as fun as it could have been and then was also strangely moralizing (society is crazy, not crazy people). It was no fault of the actors: Arshad Warsi, Rajpal Yadav, Irfan Khan, Suresh Menon were all charming as the quartet of mental patients mentioned the title. The music was not bad, but the dancing was particularly amusing, especially Shahrukh Khan's item number, "
Break Free." Certainly my favorite was "O Re Lakad," as the dance moves were just so fun to imitate. Also, goats were featured in this part of the film, which made the trip to Fremont worth the effort.

* Tattling *
Not much to say on the tattling front, the theater was close to empty, as the movie has been out for over a month. There was some giggling and dancing along.

Figaro Page to Stage

* Notes *
Les Waters moderated a discussion between Dominique Serrand, Bradley Greenwald, and David Gockley as part of Berkeley Repertory Theatre's Page to Stage program. Dominique Serrand is the artistic director of Jeune Lune, and also directs and stars in the production of Figaro currently at Berkeley Rep. Bradley Greenwald is Count Almaviva in Figaro, and adapted the music used for the production. David Gockley is the general director of San Francisco Opera. Waters started off by asking each of them questions, starting off with the "crossover" nature of Figaro, as it involves Mozart's opera, Beaumarchais' trilogy, and Serrand's scenography and video. How the music was adapted for string quartet and piano was mentioned, as was audience response, as the actors greet the audience after the performance. Many jokes were made about the appearance of opera singers versus the characters in this particular production. Questions from the audience were taken about when Beaumarchais wrote La Mère coupable, why Cherubino is played by a female, the strain of opera singers voices, and new media in opera.

* Tattling *
The crowd was fairly sparse, despite the large amounts of free coffee on offer. Serrand's mobile phone went off during David Gockley's first response, in which he mentioned Claus Guth's production of Le Nozze di Figaro. Gockley explained that this production at the Salzburger Festspiele features a silent Cupid who "sticks it to those horny people." The best quote of the evening, however came from Serrand, who said "I don't understand pyschological plays, with people on couches discussing their innards."













Berlin Philharmonic on Fire

Am Dienstag den 20. Mai um 13:57 brach oberhalb des großen Saals der Berliner Philharmonie ein Feuer aus. Die Lösch- und Sicherungsarbeiten werden aller Voraussicht nach Mittwoch früh abgeschlossen sein. Das Ausmaß des Schadens ist zur Zeit nicht abschätzbar. Bis auf Weiteres bleibt die Philharmonie geschlossen. Der Betrieb im Kammermusiksaal ist nicht betroffen. Auswirkungen auf geplante Konzerte in der Philharmonie werden wir über die Presse und auf unserer Website bekannt geben. Alle sonstigen Informationen zum Brand entnehmen Sie bitte der Presse.

Official Site | BBC Article | Reuters Article