Apparently Dan Brown attended the this season's opening of La Scala, a performance of Carmen, and mentioned that he could imagine the opera house as a setting for his writing.
* Tattling *
Marino Formenti's recent performance at Los Angeles Philharmonic convinced me to get a ticket for his performance of Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus in Berkeley yesterday, although I neither like nor understand Messiaen. Unfortunately, it turned out that I had to return to Southern California on Saturday morning for personal reasons, but was able to goad someone into taking the ticket I had purchased. As it happened, I arrived back in Berkeley in plenty of time for Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's holiday performance. In fact, I was so early I was able to to over to St. John's where Formenti was playing to meet up with some of my favorite bloggers at the recital. I had thought it was unlikely I could go into the hall, since there was probably no intermission.
I was surprised to be able to hear some of the music from outside of the building, and when I entered the lobby, the person selling tickets asked if she could help me. Seeing the sign that said there was no intermission, I remarked that the piece had gone on for an hour already, declined buying a ticket, and sat in the hallway to wait for my friends. From what I could tell, I was missing a great performance, Formenti's playing is so appealing. I could only hear the forte bits of the music, as I was sitting by a rather loud water heater.
I do not know how long I was there before the ticket seller came up to me and said something about it being unfair that I was listening to the music and had not paid for a ticket. This was completely discombobulating to me, and I found I really had no response. I had been listening to what was audible to me, and maybe I should have paid for half a ticket, as she suggested, for sitting in a hallway. I did say in no uncertain terms that I was not going into the hall, as I think that would have been unfair, to disrupt the performance whilst it was going on. The person was placated when I told her I was waiting for friends that were in the hall. However, perhaps she has a point, I did listen to snippets of Formenti playing Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus, and to that end, I have made a nominal donation to San Francisco Performances. I also have a strong suspicion that I will not attend a performance presented by San Francisco Performances this season.
* Notes *
The Tallis Scholars started their latest US tour in Berkeley yesterday evening. The first half of the program consisted of Josquin's Missa De beata virgine, which was sung with remarkable clarity. The nine singers were perfectly synchronized under the direction of Peter Phillips. After the intermission we heard impeccable singing of Nesbett's Magnificat. Only seven of the singers took part in the Tunes for Archbishop Parker's Psalter by Tallis, yet they still produced a great deal of sound. Three pieces from Byrd with the full ensemble followed: Ye sacred muses, Tribulationes civitatum, and Vigilate. The singing was gorgeous, the voices blended together beautifully, and the tempi were crisp.
* Tattling *
There was electronic noise at the beginning of the performance, some talking, a little more whispering, and a wailing hearing aid. All of this more or less subsided in the second half.
* Notes *
Last night Berkeley Symphony played a program of Steven Stucky, Sibelius, and Stravinsky. The program was quite coherent, the pieces all hung together well, each having a certain ethereality. The orchestra shimmered under Joana Carneiro, though perhaps lacking precision, the musicians did produce a lovely, hazy sound. Stucky's Radical Light started off almost like white noise, and was generally inoffensive and rather pretty. Its relationship to Symphony No. 7 of Sibelius that followed was clear. Likewise, "Elegy" from August 4, 1964 was harmless enough, and not unattractive as a piece. Stravinsky's The Firebird Suite glittered as the finale of the performance.
* Tattling *
There was very little whispering, at least at the sides of the orchestra level, where there also were not that many people.
* Notes *
The final performance of the year for San Francisco Opera was Verdi's Otello last Wednesday. The orchestra continued to sound fine, especially the woodwinds. Luisotti's interpretation of the music came through, his choices in tempi and dynamics were strong. The chorus also did wonderfully. Vocally, the performance was consistent with the opening, Renée Tatum (Emilia) and Eric Halfvarson (Lodovico) stood out in the smaller roles. Beau Gibson was quiet as Cassio, and Marco Vratogna (Iago) was also a little thin vocally. Zvetelina Vassileva (Desdemona) had good volume but a great deal of vibrato in her highest notes. Her voice is, however, not unpleasant. Johan Botha sang beautifully, but his stage presence is lacking, and the audience openly laughed at him at the end of Act III when he sings "Quella vil cortigiana ch'è la sposa d'Otello." Perhaps the supertitles were to blame.
* Tattling *
The audience ill-behaved. For one thing, some of the technical staff were about, and I heard their talking aloud, and their walkie-talkies. Someone read The Hobbit during the overture of Act III, oblivious to the fact that he was blocking my light for reading the score. The same person rustled a plastic bag, but at least had the good sense to leave after Act III. Some else snored loudly on the middle bench of the back balcony throughout Act III, naturally the only one with light back there.
* Notes *
Last Sunday Il Barbiere di Siviglia opened in a matinée performance at Los Angeles Opera. The orchestra sounded unfocused under Michele Mariotti, often not with the singers. As Fiorello, José Adán Pérez sounded fine, as did Kerri Marcinko (Berta). Andrea Silvestrelli was an amusing Don Basilio, his throaty, resonant tones were spot on. Bruno Praticò looked and acted convincingly as Doctor Bartolo, but could not always be heard over the orchestra. both lacking heft and fullness.
Nathan Gunn (Figaro) moved so well, and he really has the physicality to pull off the humorous choreography in this production. His voice seemed just a little thin, especially for a baritone. Juan Diego Flórez was perfectly sweet as the Count, never straining. He started off slightly quiet, but seemed to warm up as the afternoon progressed. On the contrary, Joyce DiDonato (Rosina) was wonderful from the beginning. Full of sass, she sang with a gorgeous ease and good volume, but not overwhelming anyone else.
Emilio Sagi's production, directed by Javier Ulacia, was certainly informed by The Wizard of Oz, starting off monochrome and ending in lurid colors. The scenic design, from Llorenç Corbella, was perhaps overly precious. It was all terribly cute, especially Doctor Bartolo's tiny dog.
* Tattling *
Everyone on the left side of Handrail Obstructed Balcony B was quiet, no talking, hardly any whispering. Unfortunately there was talking from the center, and of course, cellular phones rang during Act II, some more than once, even though we had all been reminded to turn off our electronic devices.
Ensemble Parallèle's Artistic Director and Founder Nicole Paiement is giving a musical presentation about Berg's Wozzeck and a behind the scenes glimpse of the upcoming production. Bojan Knezevic and AJ Glueckert will offer musical examples and director Brian Staufenbiel will be on hand for a question and answer session on staging concepts.
This event occurs on December 10 at 6:30 p.m. at San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street, San Francisco) and is followed by a reception. Seating is limited and responses will be counted on a first come, first served basis. One should contact Lucik Aprahamian at [email protected] or by phone 831 252-0573.