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February 2010
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April 2010

Allen Perriello's Schwabacher Debut Recital

Allen-perriello * Notes * 
Pianist Allen Perriello gave his Schwabacher Debut Recital last Sunday evening. The rather daunting program consisted of all 44 songs from Hugo Wolf's Spanisches Liederbuch. The lieder were performed in five groups by soprano Susannah Biller and baritone Austin Kness, who, for the most part, switched off each song one after another. Perriello was quite personable, introducing each of the sections, and explaining that since the songs were not part of a cycle, they were grouped by theme and their order had been determined by the performers rather than Wolf, Geibel, or Hense. Perriello's playing was supportive and he never overwhelmed the singers. The constrasts of mood and volume in the different pieces came through clearly. Biller started off slightly cold but sounded more expressive in "Weint nicht, ihr Äugelein," the sixth song of the evening. The third group of songs may have suited her voice best. She had a few slightly harsh and fragile moments, but certainly shows promise. Austin Kness sounded warm and lovely, he only pushed his voice too much a few times.

* Tattling * 
The audience whispered, but was fairly attentive. Biller lost her hair ornament between the first and second group of songs.

La Monnaie's 2010-2011 Season

September 9-21 2010: Yvonne, Princess de Bourgogne
September 21 2010: Così fan tutte (Concert Version)
October 26- November 11 2010: Kát'a Kabanová 
December 10-31 2010: La Bohème
January 27- February 20 2011: Parsifal 
March 13-30 2011: La Finta Giardiniera
April 10-16 2011: Hanjo
April 26-30 2011: Nabucco
April 27-29 2011: Intolleranza 1960
May 3-11 2011: Matsukaze
June 11-30 2011: Les Huguenots

De Munt (La Monnaie) has quite an eclectic season in store, with 3 contemporary operas, some rarities, and some standard fare. One can read more about De Munt's season on Summer is Coming In.

Official Site | 2010-2011 Season

Hamlet at the Met

Hamlet-keenlyside * Notes * 
This new production of Thomas' Hamlet had a third performance at the Metropolitan Opera last night. The set, designed by Christian Fenouillat, was pretty much just two large curved walls arranged in different orientations to suggest the changes of scene. For the most part this worked splendidly, and though the set creaked a little, it was not too distracting. I was not entirely convinced by Act IV, Ophélie's mad scene seemed to take place in a decrepit ballroom. Evidently, is space was supposed to be her apartment, but it is simply very difficult for me to imagine this scene indoors.

The orchestra sounded lovely under Louis Langrée. The clarinet solo at the beginning of Act IV was particularly beautiful. As for singing, the chorus sounded together and quite fine. Toby Spence sounded youthful and fresh as Laërte. James Morris was a shaky Claudius, but this did not seem inappropriate for the role. Jennifer Larmore looked gorgeous as Gertrude, but she gasped more than a few times in the first half of the opera, her breathing was far too audible. She did sound better as the night wore on. Marlis Petersen took over the role of Ophélie for Natalie Dessay, who withdrew due to illness. Petersen does not seem to know what to do with her arms, and at times looked rather awkward. She has a pretty, flexible voice, with only the slightest trace of rawness that appeared in her demanding mad scene. Her duet with Simon Keenlyside in Act I Scene 2 duet was stunning. Keenlyside's Hamlet was persuasive, both in his physicality and compelling singing.

* Tattling * 
People talked during singing, and naturally whenever the orchestra played alone. Watch alarms were heard at 9pm and 11pm. One woman at the back of the Family Circle seemed to be unwrapping a sandwich for much of Act II. At least she had the good sense to leave after intermission, and her companion offered me her seat, which I respectfully declined.

Some audience members tittered when Keenlyside threw himself against one of the walls at the end of Act III, just before the ghost singings "Souviens-toi...mais épargne ta mère!"

The Nose at the Met

The-nose-william-kentridge * Notes * 
The fifth performance of Shostakovich's The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera was last night. Wiliam Kentridge's production is utter spectacle, the absurdist whimsy suits the music and the plot. At times, the animated projections were a bit dizzying, but overall they came off very well. There were times when the singers were placed awfully far upstage, and were, as a result, difficult to hear. The Nose himself appeared as a projection and live, the choreography was sprightly and amusing.

The orchestra sounded clear under Valery Gergiev. The cast was uniformly strong as far as both acting and singing. Claudia Waite was convincingly shrewish as the barber's wife, and Erin Morley sounded especially beautiful in the scene at Kazan Cathedral. Gordon Gietz was ridiculous as one could want for the Nose, and Andrei Popov screeched hilariously as the Police Inspector. As our protagonist Kovalyov, Paulo Szot was extremely funny. One did not have to know any Russian to understand what was going on, yet pantomime was still avoided.

* Tattling * 
There was some dialogue that was translated in projections that were not visible to everyone in the house and were not part of the Met titles. This caused certain members of the audience to talk. There was some applause as the orchestra played by itself in Act I Scene 6.

Also, it should be mentioned that somehow our friend Herr Feldheim made sure the Tattler had at least one Manhattan-based blogger to greet her at this performance.

Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra

Mariinsky-theater * Notes * 
Valery Gergiev and the Mariinsky Orchestra performed two concerts as part of San Francisco Symphony's Great Performers Series last Sunday and Monday. The second performance began with the Royal Hunt and Storm from Act IV of Berlioz's Les Troyens. The first horn was particularly lovely, producing a smooth, milky sound, though the second horn came off slightly tinny. The musicians were very together. This was followed by Rachmaninoff's third piano concerto with soloist Denis Matsuev, a marvel of technique, without a trace of mawkishness. Unfortunately, his playing left me seasick, but the audience seemed to enjoy his playing, and he obliged by giving a music box of an encore.

After the intermission came Shostakovich's Symphony No. 15. The work is both mocking and unnerving, which came through clearly. The quotation from Rossini's William Tell Overture garnered laughter, but the allusions to The Ring and Tristan und Isolde were more disturbing. The soloists were all strong, especially the cellist. Only the trumpet sounded slightly vulnerable. The encore was a piece by Anatoly Lyadov, which required the addition of contrabassoon and bass clarinet.

* Tattling * 
At least three cellular phones rang throughout the performance. There was also some talking. There were protests against Gergiev on both Monday and Sunday, though somehow I missed this in the crowd swarming into Davies Hall.

Ian Bostridge sings Winterreise

Ian-bostridge * Notes * 
Tenor Ian Bostridge is currently finishing a US recital tour with pianist Julius Drake. As part of this, Bostridge sang Schubert's Winterreise in Berkeley last Sunday, and it was clear he has a fine rapport with his accompanist. Both Bostridge and Drake were quite intent on the work at hand, rapt even, and there was an almost alarming intensity to their performance. Bostridge's evocative voice has heft and resonance throughout his range. One never doubted his commitment to both the Schubert's song cycle nor his translucent interpretation of it. Drake's dramatic playing was never dull, but he never failed to support the singer either.

* Tattling * 
One could not help notice that some ticket holders attending the Sunday matinée might have been put off by the seriousness of the performance, not to mention the lack of intermission. I was also surprised that an usher was assigned tickets in the middle of the row I was seated in, and she actually spoke during the music to try to get to her spot. The person at the end of the row refused to get up for her, and she was forced to take a more accessible empty seat.

Emanuel Ax and Dawn Upshaw

Dawn-upshaw * Notes * 
Last night pianist Emanuel Ax and soprano Dawn Upshaw performed a recital as part of San Francisco Symphony's Great Performers Series. The evening started with a selection of Chopin's Polish Songs, Opus 74. Upshaw sounded warm and clear, she was never upstaged by Ax, who stayed with Chopin in the following Four Marzurkas, Opus 41. The playing was lively. They came back to a few more Polish Songs, the spare "Nie ma czego trzeba" (Sorrow) was particularly fine.

In contrast, Stephen Prutsman's Piano Lessons was rather wry, set to the poems of Billy Collins. This marked the West Coast premiere of this SFS co-commission of the work, hot on the heels of the American premiere on Thursday at Carnegie Hall.

After the intermission Ax played Chopin's Two Nocturnes, Opus 27. The performance was brilliant, with perfect dynamic control. Dawn Upshaw returned for twelve Schumann songs, her voice had a wonderful ease and lightness as she sang. The encore was Hugo Wolf's "Er ist's" and Upshaw mentioned that it was just the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.

* Tattling * 
There was electronic noise during the second Chopin song, "Smutna rzeka." Someone in Row K of the orchestra level was scolded for unwrapping a cough drop between two songs, and people were hushed for clapping between pieces. Otherwise, the audience seemed silent and respectful.

SF Opera Annual Meeting 2010

* Notes *
San Francisco Opera's Annual Meeting for 2010 was held yesterday afternoon, over in Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall A at the Symphony. Board of Directors President George H. Hume, General Director David Gockley, and CFO Michael Simpson gave reports as usual. Again, this year the outlook was on the gloomy side, though the endowment has recovered since last time. On the other hand, 50% of all donations to SF Opera come from just 19 people, a precarious situation to say the least. Full subscriptions continue to decline, there is an accumulated deficit, and many cuts were made.
Plans afoot to solve the various problems include recapitalization, reconfiguring of the opera schedule, reducing fixed costs, investment in facilities, and building the endowment.

Gregory Henkel, Director of Artistic Administration at San Francisco Opera, also addressed us. He spoke about the joys and challenges of casting for the company, and about how splendidly the Merolini and Adlers did at the Met auditions.

Five Adlers performed, sopranos Leah Crocetto and Sara Gartland, mezzo soprano Maya Lahyani, countertenor Ryan Belongie, and pianist Tamara Sanikidze. Lahyani sang "Va, laisse couler mes larmes" from Werther with great beauty. Belongie sang Arsamene's aria "Sì, la voglio," from Serse. His transitions between the different parts of his voice were flawless. Gartland's "Deh vieni, non tardar" was very pretty. Crocetto and Lahyani gave a heartrending performance of "Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio."

* Tattling *
I was particularly ill-behaved at this meeting, for one thing, I was at least 5 minutes late, as the BART train ahead of mine was having mechanical issues. Secondly, I answered the survey that we were to fill out in my own deadly earnest yet entirely silly manner. I hope the person who has to read that gets a good laugh. Two cellular phones rang at different points whilst people were speaking.

In other news, we may well have Fleming, Radvanovsky, and Hampson to look forward to in coming seasons.

Hesperion XXI in Berkeley

Jordi-savall-hesperionxxi * Notes * 
Jordi Savall's Hespèrion XXI performed a sold-out concert in Berkeley last Tuesday. The program, entitled Lux Feminae (900-1600): Seven Portraits of the Woman in Ancient Hesperia, featured soprano Montserrat Figueras (she also accompanied herself with the cithara); Pierre Hamon on woodwind instruments including the ney, gaita, and flutes; Dimitri Psonis playing the stringed instruments of oud, santur, and morisca; and Savall himself played rebab and lira da gamba. The recital started with Hamon playing both a wind instrument and drumming his way down the aisle from the back of the hall. The playing was rousing throughout and the instrumental pieces were particularly beautiful. Figueras was slightly amplified, and this was unnecessary in the space, being a rather small church rather than a huge concert hall. At times she was painfully loud, though her voice is quite pretty and vibrant.

* Tattling * 
The concert lasted a solid 90 minutes without intermission. This does not include the rather amusing encore of one tune played in Greek, Turkish, and Jewish versions.

Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France in SF

Chung * Notes * 
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France played a program consisting only of Ravel in San Francisco last Sunday evening. Myung-Whun Chung had the musicians well in hand, he was always ahead of them, and his cues seemed quite precise, despite the fact that he did not use a score for any of the pieces. The evening began with the quite and restrained Ma Mère l'Oye, which was followed by Shéhérazade sung by a very sweet Anne Sofie von Otter. The second half of the program brought us a very clear rendition of Suites Nos. 1 & 2 from Daphnis et Chloé. The evening ended with the wry and grotesque La Valse. In general, the playing was controlled, the brass pristine, and all the musicians were entirely together.

* Tattling * 
The audience was mostly quiet, only a slight bit of whispering was noticed, and most of this was in French.

Kissine & Tetzlaff at SFS

Kissine * Notes * 
San Francisco Symphony just finished 4 performances a program that included a world premiere of Kissine's Post-scriptum and Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto with Christian Tetzlaff. The musicians seemed quite focused during the Kissine, they were clearly paying a good deal of attention to Michael Tilson Thomas on the podium. The result was a diaphanous sound, the music itself wavered icily, and at times achieving an atmospheric, otherworldly beauty. In contrast, Christian Tetzlaff almost seemed possessed during the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto. His playing could be savage and fervid, never mawkish, but not without tenderness when necessary.

The second half of the program gave us Ravel's Valses nobles et sentimentales and Lizst's Tasso: Lamento e Trionfol. The playing was facile, and the brass was particularly clear in the Lizst.

* Tattling * 
Somehow I found myself in the first row of the orchestra, in the middle section, just slightly to the left. Everyone around me was well-behaved, though there was some minor talking aloud.