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March 2009
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May 2009

Merola's 52nd Season Participants

Susannah Biller, Georgetown, Tennessee
Lara Ciekiewicz, Winnipeg, Manitoba
Kate Crist, Agency, Iowa
Sara Gartland, St. Paul, Minnesota
Lori Guilbeau, Golden Meadow, Louisiana

Margaret Gawrysiak, Geneseo, Illinois
Caitlin Mathes, Dayville, Connecticut
Ellie Jarrett, Dallas, Texas
Maya Lahyani, Hod-HaSharon, Israel

Suzanne Hendrix, Charles City, Iowa

Ryan Belongie, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin

Eleazar Rodríguez, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico
Gregory Carroll, Des Moines, Washington
Brian Jadge, Piermont, New York
Alex Mansoori, Seattle, Washington
Nathaniel Peake, Humble, Texas

Aleksey Bogdanov, Odessa, Ukraine
John Chest, Greenville, South Carolina
Paul Scholten, Muskegon, Michigan
Michael Sumuel, Odessa, Texas

Yohan Yi, Pohang, The Republic of Korea

Evan Boyer, Louisville, Kentucky
Benjamin LeClair, Royal, Iowa

Apprentice Coaches
Keun-a Lee, Seoul, The Republic of Korea
Stephanie Rhodes, Alpine, Utah
Tamara Sanikidze, Tbilisi, The Republic of Georgia
Suzy Smith, Medicine Hat, Alberta
Miaomiao Wang, Lanzhou, Gansu, China

Apprentice Stage Director
Fernando Parra Bortí, Chihuahua, Mexico

Die Walküre at the Met (Schenk)

Marty-Sohl-Met-Opera * Notes * 
Last night's performance of Die Walküre at the Met was more impressive than Das Rheingold. For the most part, the orchestra continued playing rather cleanly, though there was noticeable trumpet error in Act I. The singing in this act was especially strong. René Pape sounded very different as Hunding than as Fasolt the previous night. Adrianne Pieczonka sang Sieglinde with great beauty, she has a big voice with a controlled vibrato. Her German is clear, especially in contrast to Plácido Domingo's mumbling. Diction aside, Domingo was incredible as Siegmund, very heroic, with lovely high notes and fine volume. The rest of the cast sounded hale as well. Albert Dohmen was distinguished himself by singing his farewell to Brünnhilde quite exquisitely. Yvonne Naef was strident as Fricka, though this is appropriate to the role. As for the Valkyries themselves, they were a disparate bunch, some voices were quite pretty, others rather shrill, and they did not always blend perfectly when singing together. Katarina Dalayman is promising as Brünnhilde, her low notes are warm and pleasant.

The stage was dark for much of the opera, at least from the Family Circle. As a result, it was difficult to discern what exactly was going on, though the characters did pace about the stage quite a bit.

* Tattling * 
One of the Walküren did a face-plant during Act III. This provoked some gasps and titters.

There were two watch alarms at 7pm, and a telephone rang during Act III. Standing room was tight during Act II, and I simply stopped looking at the stage during that act, since it was not of much interest anyway. I noted much whispering from the people next to us, which continued during the singing, and was still audible after they found seats during Act III. The rest of the audience was fairly quiet.

After the first intermission, one of my companions overheard someone say "I either have to go home or die quickly." I hope the person in question got home safely.

Das Rheingold at the Met (Schenk)

Ken-Howard-Met-Opera * Notes * 
The second cycle of the Met's Der Ring des Nibelungen began yesterday night. The orchestra sounded very clean and restrained under James Levine. The tempi were often rather slow. All of the singing was solid, though not terribly exciting. As Wotan, Albert Dohmen did well, though his voice was a bit thin at times. Yvonne Naef had
some very lovely, pleading moments as Fricka. Wendy Bryn Harmer (Freia) had some shrillness, as did the Rheintöchter. Richard Paul Fink (Alberich) gave a particularly convincing performance, he was brutish, and his singing in Scene 4 was heartrending. Dennis Petersen failed to steal the show as Loge, as can happen in this opera, but did not sing poorly. The giants were grand, their voices are distinct, René Pape (Fasolt) was sweet, John Tomlinson (Fafner) was mean, and all was as it should be, one supposes. Wendy White's Erda was most moving, though she was a bit shaky at first, she sang her words of warning with much authority.

The Otto Schenk production is amusingly campy, though I imagine that this was not the intent. Though servicable, the rock formations of the set look especially dated. One does appreciate how quickly the sets are changed, and without all the banging and such that we hear at some other opera houses. The staging itself was occasionally hilarious, from Freia's fey bouncing back and forth across the stage to Alberich's transformations in Scene 3. Fasolt's death did not have the appropriate gravitas, having Fafner throw him off stage, and then attack him with a walking stick/scepter was somehow ridiculous.

* Tattling * 
The performance began 10 minutes late, and the line to get in the house was enormous. Certain people in the last row of the Family Circle refused to be quiet. They spoke at full volume all night, despite repeated admonitions from fellow audience members and even an usher. A watch alarm sounded the hour of 9, as Loge made his first appearance. There were many buzzes and squeaks throughout the evening, perhaps from either hearing aids or microphones.

My companion in standing room guffawed at Fasolt's death. He did have to cope with my jet-lag induced antisness, I was constantly fidgeting for the first half, and did not get a second wind until the anvil part that opens the third scene.

Athalia at PBO

Dominique-labelle * Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra just finished a run of Händel's Athalia. The orchestra has a fastidious, jaunty sound, and Nicholas McGegan is always consistent. None of the singers were outstanding. Marnie Breckenridge as Josabeth had too much vibrato, and though it was clear her voice could be beautiful in some repertoire, it was not shown to best effect here. The countertenor Robin Blaze was very bright and loud, at times he was not quite precise. The title character, Dominique Labelle, sang with a ferociousness that was at least interesting, but the full bloom of her voice was a bit much at times. Roderick Williams (Abner) was good, very solid, though some of his low notes in his last vocal appearance were weak. Thomas Cooley sang his Act III aria beautifully. Céline Ricci was piercing and unpleasant as Joas, but she was boyish. Thankfully the chorus was heroic, they sang very well and together.

* Tattling * 
The audience was fairly good, there was some whispering, but no electronic noise except for a single watch alarm at 8pm.

Andreas Scholl at Zellerbach

Andreas-scholl * Notes * 
The Australian Chamber Orchestra played at Zellerbach Hall this afternoon in Berkeley. Lead by the disarming violinist Richard Tognetti, the orchestra navigated the rather disparate program very well. The energy of Haydn's Symphony No. 44 was strong, the piece was grave and even strident. This was followed by the violently lush Footwork by Roger Smalley. This United States premiere showed how tightly-knit the group is, the various dance-like figures were impressively played. The cello parts were of particular interest.

Before the intermission came three Händel arias, from Rodelinda, Giustino, and Giulio Cesare. The soloist, Andreas Scholl, started off a bit rough and thin in "Dove sei, amato bene?," but recovered quickly. His voice is incredibly sweet and warm, and his volume was fine throughout. The horn in "Va tacito e nascosto" was the best I have heard in some time, at least for this work. There were only about half a dozen notes that were off.

After the break Scholl sang three more arias, these from Saul, Giulio Cesare, and Rodelinda. The pure, effortless sound was beautiful. Pavel Haas' From the Monkey Mountain Suite, in contrast, was a disappointment. Though the musicians played gamely, the cinematic work was oddly pentatonic at times, and jazzy at other points. The percussion played by slapping the double bass and the cello was entertaining. The encore, an overture by Rameau, was dizzying and almost sounded on the verge of becoming unhinged.

* Tattling * 
The hall did not look full, but someone was quite audibly just as the concert was to start. Tognetti joked that the person might just talk a little louder so that we could all hear. The house was silent, except for an unhappy child, and a man behind me commented that it was not suitable for children to be there. Oddly enough, a small child was in front of me, but he was not troublesome. He was taken home after the first half.

A cellular phone rang during "Se parla nel mio cor," but was silenced immediately. Another cellular phone or rogue hearing aid was heard at the end of "Va tacito."

Magdalena Kožená Recital

Kozena-mathias-bothor-deutsche-grammophon * Notes *
Magdalena Kožená opened gave an abbreviated recital on Tuesday night in San Francisco. She was ill, and the low notes in her opening Purcell songs were a bit rough. Her accompanist, Karel Kosarek, seemed to lose his place during Schumann's Frauenliebe und -leben, but Kožená sang well. Her voice is rich and hefty. After the intermission it was announced that she would not being singing Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder, as her lower register was giving her trouble. She did sing Duparc's L'invitation au Voyage, and only one or two notes were problematic.

* Tattling *
The balcony of Herbst Theatre was nearly empty, and the audience was silent nearly the entire time. This performance did demonstrate why I had to be goaded into going. Recitals can be rather unsatisfying, even when the performer is quite talented, as was the case here.

Cal Performances' 2009-2010 Season

September 17-20 2009: Mark Morris Dance Group
September 22 2009: Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
September 26-27 2009: A House in Bali 
September 27 2009: Christine Brewer, soprano
September 30 2009: Michael Pollan
October 11 2009: Takács Quartet 
October 17 2009: Wayne Shorter Quartet
October 18 2009: Michael Schade, tenor 
October 24-25 2009: Davitt Moroney, harpsichord
October 24-25 2009: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet
October 28 2009: Garrison Keillor
October 30 2009: Alfred Brendel 
November 1 2009: Louis Lortie, piano
November 1-6 2009: Love's Labour's Lost
November 8 2009: Brentano String Quartet
November 12 2009: Youssou N'Dour
November 15 2009: Nuccia Focile, soprano and David Lomelí, tenor
November 18-22 2009: Druid Ireland
November 19 2009: Mariza
November 21 2009: Taylor Eigsti & Julian Lage Duo
November 22 2009: China Philharmonic Orchestra
December 4 2009: The Tallis Scholars
December 5 2009: Ira Glass
December 6 2009: Renée Fleming, soprano
December 11-20 2009: The Hard Nut
December 13 2009: Kronos Quartet
January 10 2010: Garrick Ohlsson, piano
January 23-24 2010: Peking Acrobats
January 23 2010: Europa Galante
February 13 2010: Masters of Persian Music
February 14 2010: Takács Quartet 
February 19 2010: Russian National Orchestra
February 20 2010: Angélique Kidjo
February 21 2010: Joshua Bell, violin
February 26-27 2010: Lyon Opera Ballet
February 28 2010: Swedish Radio Choir
March 6-7 2010: Dan Zane and Friends
March 9-14 2010: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
March 16 2010: Hespèrion XXI
March 17 2010: Gilberto Gil
March 19 2010: Altan
March 20 2010: Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra
March 21 2010: Ian Bostridge, tenor
March 26-27 2010: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
March 28 2010: Julia Fischer, violin
April 1 2010: Saimir Pirgu, tenor
April 20 2010: Baaba Maal
April 22 2010: Sweet Honey In The Rock 
April 23 2010: Arlo Guthrie 
April 24 2010: Pat Metheny, guitar
May 1 2010: Concerto Köln
May 2 2010: Ballet Folklorico "Quetzalli" de Veracruz
May 7-8 2010: Laurie Anderson

Cal Performances just announced their next season yesterday.

Official Site | Press Release [PDF]

ROH's 2009-2010 Season

September 7-14 2009: Linda di Chamounix
September 15- October 1 2009: Don Carlo
September 19- October 18 2009: Tristan und Isolde
October 3 2009- June 26 2010: Carmen
October 17-28 2009: L'Heure Espagnole /Gianni Schicchi
October 30- November 14 2009: Artaxerxes
November 20- December 8 2009: The Tsarina's Slippers
December 7-22 2009: Der Rosenkavalier
December 19 2009- January 11 2010: La Bohème
January 22- February 3 2010: The Rake's Progress
January 29- February 17 2010: Così fan tutte
February 11-27 2010: The Gambler
March 5-20 2010: Tamerlano
March 19- April 1 2010: The Cunning Little Vixen
April 3-19 2010: Il Turco in Italia
April 26- May 12 2010: Powder Her Face
April 27- May 16 2010: Aida
May 11- July 17 2010: La Traviata
May 17- June 4 2010: La Fille du Régiment
May 31- June 30 2010: Le Nozze di Figaro
June 22- July 10 2010: Manon
June 29- July 15 2010: Simon Boccanegra
July 3-16 2010: Salome

Covent Garden just announced their season this week. Eglise Gutiérrez stars in Linda di Chamounix. Stephanie Blythe sings Baba the Turk in the revival of The Rake's Progress. Kurt Streit shares the role of Bajazet in Tamerlano with Plácido Domingo. Streit also sings in The Gambler, and Domingo sings the title role in Boccanegra. Dmitri Hvorostovsky returns as Germont for the May performances of La Traviata. Natalie Dessay stars opposite of Juan Diego Flórez in La Fille. Erwin Schrott sings the title role in Le Nozze, with Mariusz Kwiecien and Jacques Imbrailo sharing the role of the Count.

Press Release [PDF]| Official Site

Gabriel Kahane and Holcombe Waller

Gabriel-kahane * Notes *
Gabriel Kahane opened for Holcombe Waller at Café Du Nord last night. Though his banjo playing was less than impressive, his piano playing and singing were not unpleasant. It might have been nice had he not been amplified and been playing an actual piano, rather than the monstrous keyboard that was present, as the venue is small. Kahane's Craigslistlieder are exceedingly entertaining, he spoofed the nineteenth century Late Romantics with aplomb. The eighth and last piece, "Opera Scene," gave me a fit of giggles that I only barely recovered from.
Holcombe Waller was perfectly charming. His lovely, flexible voice is quite bright, and his songs are pretty. His rendition of "Nothing Compares 2U" was particularly rousing, and his dancing was great.

* Tattling *
The rather small audience seemed attentive and enthused.

Emerson String Quartet

Emerson-quartet * Notes *
Since Angelika Kirchschlager canceled her Berkeley recital for yesterday afternoon, I stayed in San Francisco and heard an evening performance of the Emerson String Quartet instead. They began with a spirited rendition of Mozart's Quartet in B-flat Major, K. 589, the playing was sumptuous without being too showy. In contrast, Beethoven that came next, Quartet in F minor, Op. 95, was rather more strident but still sublime. The last movement was particularly vehement. Webern's Six Bagatelles, Op. 9 were light and amusing, though the audience's distaste for the Second Viennese School was palpable. Ravel's Quartet in F major was a good foil, being lusher and prettier than the Webern. The percussiveness of the second movement was great fun, and it was clear what a fine rapport the performers had with one another. The performance ended with an encore of the eleventh song in Dvořák's Cyprise, transcribed for string quartet.

* Tattling * 
The audience was highly respectful of the Mozart and Beethoven, only a few people whispered between movements. Someone was roundly hushed during the Webern. As far as I could tell, there was no electronic noise of any kind during the performance.

Peter Grimes at San Diego Opera

Peter-grimes * Notes *
A revival of Peter Grimes opened at San Diego Opera yesterday evening. The production was originally built for San Francisco Opera and the Lyric in 1973, and the set has a certain grey brutality. Gary Marder's lighting was appropriately stark and moody. The costumes, from the Met's old production, are also perfectly traditional.

Steuart Bedford conducted straightforwardly, the orchestra was together, but not always with the singers. The musicians had some lovely, delicate moments during the overtures. The chorus likewise was not quite together in the beginning, but did focus in at the end of the first act. Their vigor flagged after this, and the following two acts were less precise.

The casting was apt, up and down the line. Priya Palekar and Priti Gandhi sang prettily as the nieces, and their auntie, Judith Christin, certainly embodied her role. Rod Gilfry was a stern but sympathetic Captain Balstrode. As Ellen Orford, Jennifer Casey Cabot began rather coldly, her voice is metallic and a bit light. However, her acting was strong, and her scene with the apprentice in Act II was beautiful. Anthony Dean Griffey proved convincing in the title role. His voice is exceedingly sweet, his volume is good, and yet he can be quite forbidding.

* Tattling * 
There were more young people than usual at San Diego Opera for Peter Grimes. The audience spoke aloud during the music, though more so in the beginning than at the end. There was significant attrition in attendance, a couple next to us left at the first intermission, as did 6 people in front of us.

Charlie Brown at SFCM

Charlie-brown  * Notes *
Last night the Musical Theatre Ensemble of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music gave a student performance of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, which they will repeat tonight with a different cast. The performance certainly was heartfelt and sweet. The vocalists used microphones, as to be heard over the instrumentation, which, at times, involved electric bass, saxophone, and rather heavy percussion. The simple staging was suited to the venue, and the choreography was very good, though not perfectly together. The musical itself is a bit too kitschy in the wrong sort of way, it has all the earnestness of Schultz's Peanuts, but is somehow not as poignant.

* Tattling * 
The audience did talk and text during the performance, but was for the most part fairly well-behaved. At the end of the performance, the stage directors came out and danced with the students, and Michael Mohammed did 555 95472's moves convincingly.

SF Opera's Annual Meeting 2009

* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Annual Meeting for 2009 was held yesterday afternoon, over in one of the rehearsal halls in Davies. Board of Directors President George H. Hume, General Director David Gockley, and CFO Michael Simpson all gave reports. The mood is considerably more gloomy than last year, the endowment is down by some $30-35 million, though ticket sales are quite strong. The Netrebko performances of La Traviata are sold-out, and Porgy and Bess will undoubtedly sell out as well. It was admitted that the cinemacasts have not been a success, and that the Met has a stranglehold on distribution to the major cinemas.

In addition to canceling Peter Grimes next season, San Francisco Opera has reduced the number of performances, limited rehearsal times, cut a revival of La Bohème, and is not putting on family performances next year. However, three cycles of Der Ring will be performed in 2011, in the style of Bayreuth.

The War Memorial Veterans Building is slated to be seismically retrofitted, and an annex may be added to alleviate some of the space limitations the opera has. Apparently San Francisco Opera has storage space out in Potrero Hill, a costume shop in SOMA, and an annex on Ivy Street. SFJAZZ has plans to move over to a new venue on Franklin near Fell, so it may also be the case that some smaller scale works may have a chance to be performed by San Francisco Opera in Herbst.

There were five Adlers that performed, sopranos Leah Crocetto and Tamara Wapinsky, mezzo Daniela Mack, tenor Alek Shrader, and pianist Allen Perriello. Shrader's diction and control were good in "Ich baue ganz," though he sounded constrained at the top of his voice. Crocetto gave a powerful performance of "My man's gone now," she really sounded like she could shatter glass with her voice. Wapinsky sang "O mio babbino caro" fairly well, she has a lot of vibrato, but she stayed in tune. Mack and Shrader were perfectly charming in "Un soave non so che," both were deft and light in their approach.

* Tattling *
A cellular phone rang as Gockley introduced Crocetto. Also, it was confirmed that Le Nozze di Figaro is slated for 2010-2011, with Luisotti conducting. We also may well hear Dead Man Walking in the next 5 or 6 years.

Portland Opera's 2009-2010 Season

September 25- October 3 2009: La Bohème
November 6-14 2009: Philip Glass' Orphée
February 5-13 2010: Così fan tutte
March 26 -April 3 2010: Trouble in Tahiti
May 7-15 2010: Il barbiere di Siviglia

Monteverdi's Il Ballo Delle Ingrate and Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda are also being performed with Trouble in Tahiti.

2009-2010 Portland Opera Site