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Conservatory Baroque Ensemble at SFCM

Viola-da-gamba * Notes * 
The Conservatory Baroque Ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music played a recital on Wednesday. The first half of the program featured viola da gamba, both first year and second year students They played Thomas Lupo, William Byrd, Joan Ambrosio Dalza, and a harpsichord joined a bass viol in Bach's Sonata in G Major for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord. The playing was lovely, though not always precisely together.

The second half of the program started with a Vivaldi duet on Baroque cello with Elizabeth Reed, one of the directors of the ensemble. The piece was played with passion. This was followed by Michael Corrette's Concerto: Le Phénix, written for four bassoons and continuo, but played deftly by four contemporary celli instead. The evening ended with three songs from Leonardo Vinci. Soprano Georgia Duan has a pretty voice, and her duet ("Che bella nzalatella") with tenor Michael Jankowsky was cute.

* Tattling * 
The audience, which consisted of the elderly, staff, and students, was very quiet.

Eschenbach conducts Zemlinsky

Zemlinsky * Notes * 
San Francisco Symphony and Christoph Eschenbach just opened a run of 3 performances of Schumann's 4th and Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony. The Schumann had a lightness in the beginning, but the woodwinds sounded somewhat muddy in their entrance of the Romanze. The brass also were a bit rough, but improved and sounded rich at the end. Overall the piece was played rather loudly. The best moments were the oboe, violin, and cello solos.

Alarmingly, Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony was played at an even greater volume than the Schumann. The playing was not subtle in the least. The work is lush, and the soloists, soprano Christine Schäfer and bass-baritone James Johnson both seemed up to the task. Schäfer has a sweet, bird-like sound, with only a little shrillness at the top. She sang the melancholy "Sprich zu mir Geliebter" with grace. Johnson began with a bit of huskiness, and perhaps a lack of warmth, but his volume was strong and his voice is appealing.

* Tattling * 
The man next to me in H 9 was much too tall for the seat, and he bumped my left arm and side repeatedly. His companion spoke aloud on two occasions. The Zemlinsky was very challenging for the audience, and many of the rather elderly patrons left as the singers were performing.

Santa Fe Opera's 2010 Season

July 2- August 26 2010: Madame Butterfly
July 3- August 27 2010: The Magic Flute
July 17- August 28 2010: The Tales of Hoffmann
July 24- August 19 2010: Life is a Dream
July 31- August 25 2010: Albert Herring

The 2010 season at Santa Fe Opera opens with Madame Butterfly with Kelly Kaduce singing the title role. Charles Castronovo sings Tamino in The Magic Flute. The season also includes the world premiere of Lewis Spratlan's Life is a Dream with Leonard Slatkin conducting. Former Adler Fellow Alek Shrader is singing the role of Albert Herring, with Christine Brewer as Lady Billows.

Season | Official Site

Audra McDonald and SFS

Audra-mcdonald * Notes * 
Soprano Audra McDonald sang Broadway showtunes with her band and San Francisco Symphony last night. Conductor Ted Sperling kept everyone together, and even played piano and sang at different points. The orchestra sounded fine, and looked like they were enjoying themselves. The brass sounded fairly clear, and the woodwinds were especially lovely in The Carousel Waltz. The evening included a great deal of Rodgers and Hammerstein and Sondheim. McDonald is a delightful performer, and she sang with vigor. She had the audience sing with her during "I could have Danced all Night." Most of her performance was amplified but she did sing "Edelweiss" as an encore without the microphone, accompanied by guitarist Kevin Kuhn and Associate Concertmaster Nadya Tichman. McDonald also made good on her Twitter promise to sing the name of the Icelandic volcano on a high A-flat.

* Tattling * 
There was a good deal of talking aloud during the performance, especially when there was no singing. Audra McDonald did not change out of her pink and orange floral dress after intermission, and explained that she had switched out her earrings for us.

Magnificat Baroque Ensemble performs Vespro della Beata Vergine

Monteverdi_marienvespers * Notes * 
Magnificat Baroque Ensemble performed the Vespro della Beata Vergine at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco yesterday afternoon. The performers included ten singers and twelve instrumentalists. The tempi seemed a bit too measured and the sound was slightly hazy. Perhaps the music lacked clarity because the space is so large and irregular in shape. It was difficult to discern whether everyone was synchronized, but certainly the piece is quite beautiful and there was some gorgeous singing.

* Tattling * 
Axel Feldheim was nice enough to bring me to this performance, and his account of the work is probably more useful than mine, given that he read the score as it was being performed. The rest of the audience only whispered a bit, but a woman behind me was very confused about what Vespers are, what "Magnificat" signifies, and when the Baroque era was. Not only was she exceedingly surprised that there was singing involved in Monteverdi's Vespers of 1610, she excitedly exclaimed that they were performing "medieval music" during a quiet part near the beginning. Thankfully it only took one stare to silence her for the rest of the performance.

The Rest is Noise in Performance

The-rest-is-noise * Notes * 
San Francisco Performances presented a delightful lecture from Alex Ross this morning in San Francisco's Herbst Theatre. The performance included musical examples from pianist Ethan Iverson. We were basically given a tour of 20th century music, Ross would talk about Schoenberg or Stravinsky or Charlie Parker, and then Iverson would play their music for a few minutes. Highlights included Gershwin's first piano prelude and Ross quoting Theodor Adorno on Sibelius in an absolutely ridiculous voice. The 90 minute event covered twelve composers and concluded with the audience suggesting about a dozen keys for Iverson, who took them and improvised a piece for us.

* Tattling * 
The audience seemed quiet and attentive, though a mobile phone rang as Ross was speaking about Bartók. Certain people did have difficulty sitting still for the duration of the lecture, perhaps because it lacked an intermission.

After the performance Ross and Iverson hawked and signed wares in the lobby. Axel Feldheim and I stood awkwardly near their table, and then greeted the Treasurer of WSNC, who was first in line.

Jeffrey Kahane conducts SFS

Jupiter-mozart * Notes * 
Jeffrey Kahane is in town to conduct San Francisco Symphony in a program of Mozart and Mendelssohn. Kahane replaces Bernard Labadie, who withdrew due to a scheduling conflict. The evening began with Mozart's Haffner, which was played with a sprightly charm. This was followed with Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto No. 1 in G minor, with Marc-André Hamelin as the soloist. Hamelin's playing was elegant, and ranged from percussive to playful as necessary. The celli did especially well in the Andante, sounding lovely with both the violas and the piano.

After the intermission we heard a sunny rendition of Mozart's Jupiter. The woodwinds seemed to have a moment of trouble in the first movement, but recovered over the course of the piece. The brass, though not perfectly clear, sounded warm and pleasant.

* Tattling * 
Everyone was very quiet in Premier Orchestra, there was only some light talking in between movements.

Leah Crocetto's Schwabacher Debut Recital

Headshot_Crocetto-bw* Notes * 
Soprano Leah Crocetto gave her Schwabacher Debut Recital, accompanied by pianist Mark Morash, last Sunday evening. The eclectic program included works from Bellini, Rachmaninoff, Barber, Obradors, Liszt, Gregory Peeples, Gershwin, and Cole Porter. Crocetto sings with an impressive effortlessness. Bellini's Sei Ariette were very beautiful, and Crocetto's phrasing was lovely and fluid. She did sound the slightest bit compressed in the very highest note of Rachmaninoff's "Zdes' khorosho," but given how high it was, this is reasonable. The selections from the Canciones Clásicas Españolas of Obradors were very cute, especially "Chiquitita la novia." Crocetto is flexible, she sounds convincing singing jazz, and she explained she used to sing Gershwin and Cole Porter as much as she could in New York, supplementing her income by working at The Olive Garden. Morash and Crocetto did not seem as together in this repertoire, though otherwise the playing and singing were both strong. The encores were wonderful, the first being a song in Spanish, and the second an aria from La Rondine.

* Tattling * 
There was some minor whispering, but the audience was well-behaved. During the last part of the program, Crocetto tipped Morash, saying he only agreed to do a jazz set under such conditions. Afterward, someone rushed to the stage with a couple of bills in hand as tips.

Most of the other Adler Fellows could not attend this event, as they were performing with the Alonzo King Lines Ballet at Yerba Buena.

Merola's 53rd Season Participants

Janai Brugger, Chicago, Illinois
Rebecca Davis, Naperville, Illinois
Valentina Fleer, Moscow, Russia
Hye Jung Lee, Seoul, Republic of Korea
Abigail Santos Villalobos, Ciales, Puerto Rico
Nadine Sierra, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Colleen Brooks, Platteville, Wisconsin
Robyn Flynn, Orlando, Florida
Renee Rapier, Marion, Iowa

Alexander Lewis, Sydney, Australia
Daniel Montenegro, Santa Ana, California
Kevin Ray, Cornwall, New York
Eleazar Rodríguez, Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Benjamin Covey, Mallorytown, Ontario, Canada
Dan Kempson, Wilton, Connecticut
Ao Li, Shandong, People's Republic of China
Sidney Outlaw, Brevard, North Carolina

Thomas Florio, Manassas, Virginia
Ryan Kuster, Jacksonville, Illinois

Kevin Thompson, Washington, DC

Apprentice Coaches
Jenna Douglas, Barrie, Ontario, Canada
David Hanlon, Arlington, Virginia
Natalia Katukova, Klin, Russia
Michael Spassov, Ottawa, Canada

Apprentice Stage Director
Ted Huffman, Greenwich, Connecticut

Official Site | Biographies

Robertson conducts St. Louis Symphony

David-robertson * Notes * 
The Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra came to San Francisco for two performances at Davies Hall, the first of which occurred yesterday evening. David Robertson had the musicians well in hand, they seemed entirely together and produced a gorgeous, clear sound. The performance started with Christopher Rouse's Rapture, which has an apt title and did sound quite like spiritual exaltation. The trombones were particularly fine in their playing. Gil Shaham joined the orchestra as the soloist for Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor. The second movement was stunning, and the low strings were especially moving. Shaham's playing was vivid.

The second half of the program began with Sibelius' Symphony No. 7 in C Major. The brass section was lucid, and the horns were exceptionally good. The Vivacissimo was just that, spirited and brilliant, and the tempi in general seemed appropriate. The performance ended with the Doctor Atomic Symphony from John Adams, who was sitting in Loge A. The piece sounded beautiful, and the trumpet solo was absolutely ravishing.

* Tattling * 
Though San Francisco Symphony very kindly provides press tickets to me, I still have a subscription and occasionally buy single tickets in the Center Terrace. There was some light snoring during the second movement of the Prokofiev, but very little noise until the last piece. A plump, grey-haired woman old enough to be my grandmother just behind me was speaking at full volume during John Adams, and after turning around once to express my displeasure, to no avail, I was forced to hushed her. She leaned over and hissed "Bitch" into my hair, to which I could only laugh. After the ovation, I asked her if she had really hurled an expletive at me during the performance, to which she responded "Why, yes I did." I thanked her for being quiet for the rest of the performance, and her companion told me that I should hear the things she calls him.

The Tender Land at Berkeley Opera

Tenderland-berkeley * Notes *
The production of Aaron Copland's The Tender Land at Berkeley Opera is both lively and heartfelt. The music was quite cute and rather transparent, and the thirteen musicians sounded together under Philip Kuttner. The singing was consistent and the acting was convincing. The chorus sounded nice during the party scene in Act II.

Of the principals, contralto Julianne Booth (Ma Moss) was perhaps the weakest, she only sang the one performance on April 16, and she seemed off from the music at first. She also tripped at one point during the Act I. Paul Cheak sounded confident as Grandpa Moss, and even his lowest notes were not obscured by the orchestra. Lee Steward and Paul Murray were believable as the two strangers, Martin and Top, respectively. Their voices blended nicely together. Steward had some trouble with his highest notes, but managed to be heard. Amy Foote was darling as the heroine Laurie. She has a lovely voice, that has a wonderful ease until she gets to her upper register, where she does sound a bit strained. It seems that she needs to use a lot of vibrato to project her voice up at the top.

The production, directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, was tasteful and simple. Chad Owens' set was elegant, and the one major scene change in Act II was quite clever. Jeremy Knight's projections were for the most part not too cumbersome, and the switch from black and white to color near the end was effective.

* Tattling * 
The much of the audience was inattentive, talking despite being hushed many times, and generally acted as if they were in their living rooms at home. The cynical woman in Row M Seat 30 was particularly obnoxious. In the second half she spent the whole time crumpling a cellophane packet of biscuits, which she never seemed to open or to put away. Before the end of the opera, when we could hear the exposed woodwinds still clearly playing, she declared, at full volume "Is that all?" to her companion, who did not respond audibly.

Thom Yorke at the Fox Theater

Thom-yorke * Notes *
Thom Yorke and Atoms for Peace played two shows at the Fox Theater in Oakland, before heading off to Santa Barbara and Coachella this weekend. I am often at a loss about what to make of the music young people listen to or the lighting displays at such events as these. Thom Yorke has a pretty voice and an oddly graceful stage presence. Despite amplification, he was most audible when only accompanied by his own piano or guitar playing. The band played together and was very loud.

* Tattling *
The audience was rather excited at the Thursday performance I attended, and a small number of people in the front mezzanine chose to stand up instead of taking their seats. One can only imagine this blocked the view of the audience members behind them. An usher in this area stood in aisle, and I crankily mentioned to him that I hardly came to this show to stare at the back of his head. He told me that I would "catch more flies with honey," but did make efforts to get out the way. A young woman behind me thanked me for saying something, as he was in her sight-line as well.

The Adler Fellows in The Stronger & The Impresario

Adlers2010 * Notes * 
Half a dozen Adler Fellows put on Hugo Weisgall's The Stronger and Mozart's The Impresario at Livermore Valley Opera last Sunday. Pianist Tamara Sanikidze played the astringent music with aplomb, and Leah Crocetto managed to command attention despite how unsympathetic the character of Estelle could be. Maya Lahyani acted the mute role of Lisa convincingly, and without being reduced to a mime.

Allen Periello and Tamara Sanikidze were entirely adorable in their highly choreographed performance of the overture to The Impresario (Der Schauspieldirektor) on piano. This involved both high-fives and switching who played the high notes, all to hilarious effect. Periello played most of the rest of the opera by himself, quite prettily, and Sanikidze joined him again for the finale. The three singers, Austin Kness, Susannah Biller, and Sarah Gartland, took on German, French, and English accents, respectively. It was exceedingly silly and came off well. The singing was fine, though the ladies did get a bit shrill at times, though that fit the dynamic of their rivalry perfectly.

* Tattling * 
The audience was uncommonly attentive, no electronic noise was noted, and no one talked or whispered during the music. There was much laughing during the second opera.

I later heard that they were supposed to have three operas and not just two, the third featuring Ryan Belongie and Maya Lahyani. Curiously enough, Belongie was listed on Livermore Valley Opera's official site as one of the singers in the performance, though he did not appear on stage.