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March 2013
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June 2013

Merola's 56th Season Participants

Linda Barnett, Greeneville, Tennessee
Aviva Fortunata, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Alisa Jordheim, Appleton, Wisconsin
Jacqueline Piccolino, Palatine, Illinois
Maria Valdes, Atlanta, Georgia

Kate Allen, Dublin, Ireland
Rihab Chaieb, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Daryl Freedman, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Katie Hannigan, Newburgh, New York
Zanda Švēde, Valmiera, Latvia

Casey Finnigan, Austin, Texas
Matthew Newlin, Georgetown, Illinois
Pene Pati, Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand
Issachah Savage, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Robert Watson, Kansas City, Missouri

Chris Carr, Quasqueton, Iowa
Alex Descocio, Wichita, Kansas
Joseph Lattanzi, Mableton, Georgia
Efrain Solis, Santa Ana, California

John Arnold, Cumming, Georgia
Thomas Richards, Burnsville, Minnesota
Rhys Talbot, Cedar Falls, Iowa
David Weigel, Asheville, North Carolina

Apprentice Coaches
Timothy Cheung, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Noah Lindquist, Brooklyn, New York
Sahar Nouri, Tehran, Iran
Michael Shannon, London, Ontario, Canada
Jeremy Weissman, Culver City, California

Apprentice Stage Director
George Cederquist, Ann Arbor, MI

Official Site | Press Releases

Opera Parallèle's Trouble in Tahiti

Trouble1772* Notes *
This weekend, Opera Parallèle is performing Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti (Lisa Chavez and Eugene Brancoveanu pictured right; photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo) at Z Space in San Francisco. The performances open with Samuel Barber's ten-minute Hand of Bridge and simply flow into the Bernstein. Director Brian Staufenbiel's production makes the most of limited space by employing a quartered turn-table set and three screens for video projection. The scenes included a kitchen, an office, a theater, and a gym; each furnished beautifully. The images made a suitable backdrop, amusing rather than overwhelming.

For Friday's opening performance, Maestra Nicole Paiement held the small orchestra together, and the sound was clean. The singing was fine, the intimate venue made it easy to hear everyone. Krista Wigle, Andres Ramirez, and Randall Bunnell sang as The Trio with much energy. Lisa Chavez (Dinah) has a distinctive mezzo-soprano, a bit steely and very strong. As Sam, Eugene Brancoveanu sang with his usual warmth and vim. The acting went smoothly, and taken together the performance certainly did delight.

* Tattling * 
The audience was ideal. No one spoke, there were no electronic devices heard, and there did not seem to be any latecomers.

In the lobby, after the performance, we were treated to a reprise of Hand of Bridge, the singers precariously perched above the patrons.

Eschenbach conducts Wagner & Dvořák

CE-IMG_2186-Eric-Brissaud* Notes * 
This week Christoph Eschenbach (pictured left, photograph by Eric Brissaud) conducts San Francisco Symphony in performances of Wagner and Dvořák. The two Wagner pieces included "Die Frist is um" from Der Fliegenden Holländer and Wotans Abschied from Die Walküre, with baritone Matthias Goerne as soloist. Goerne sounded characteristically legato. He was drowned out by the brass, and in fact the whole volume of the orchestra was rather loud. There was an obvious sour note in the second piece. There were moments when the first violins had a lovely, open sound, but the low strings were a bit muddy.

After intermission came Dvořák's Symphony No. 9, From the New World. Again, the powerful volume of the orchestra was impossible to ignore. I found myself distracted by the absence of William Bennett's oboe playing, as this was the first time I have heard San Francisco Symphony since his death.

* Tattling * 
There was some chatter, but nothing too obnoxious.

David et Jonathas at BAM

David-et-jonathas-2013* Notes * 
William Christie and Les Arts Florissants are currently performing Charpentier's David et Jonathas at BAM. The production is from Festival d'Aix-en-Provence and is directed by Andreas Homoki of Opernhaus Zürich. The set consists of wooden walls that can shift and move along two Cartesian axes. The blond wood used for walls and furniture has a clean simplicity. The lighting design likewise is elegant. The costumes reflected the updated setting of the Mediterranean in the 1930s or thereabouts.

The singing was pleasant enough. The chorus sounded harmonious. Dominque Visse certainly sounded unnatural as La Pythonisse, and seemed to relish his role. Neal Davies raged as Saul. Ana Quintans made for a clear-toned Jonathas and Pascal Charbonneau sang David with vibrancy.

Best of all was the ensemble itself. Under the direction of William Christie, Les Arts Florissants sounded wonderfully sprightly. The precision of the playing did not suffer from the lively beauty of the performance.

* Tattling * 
The three people in Row N Seats 35 through 39 on the orchestra level were monstrously ill-behaved. First of all, they were in the wrong seats and had to be asked to move over. Then the three talked aloud, despite being hushed by more than one person. One of them had some sort of noisy and possibly unhygienic habit, another one fell asleep and snored.

Giulio Cesare at The Met

Giuliocesare_10052s* Notes *
David McVicar's production of Giulio Cesare (Act III pictured left, photograph by Marty Sohl) had a fourth performance at the Metropolitan Opera last night. Having attended no less than six performances of the Met's previous production, it was nice to see that McVicar's offering is much less staid. The shifts in costumes must have been confusing for those not familiar with the music, especially if one was seated far from the stage. Cleopatra, for instance, had everything from a long braid to a bob. The set, designed by Robert Jones, is both quite simple, in that it is transformed using sumptuous cloths, and elaborate, given the mechanized seascape used as a background. Andrew George's campy choreography is a delight. There were many dance moves that I will be practicing at home to Händel's music for hours to come. The more serious scenes did not come off as nicely, Cornelia's blood lust in Act III was alarming, and hearing audience members laugh at this even more so.

Maestro Harry Bicket kept the orchestra in line, neat and square. Having the violin soloist on stage for Act II's "Se in fiorito ameno prato" was charming. One of the horns in the finale did not play particularly well, but the horn soloist made very few errors during "Va tacito e nascosto." The chorus, relegated to the pit, sang well as usual. Guido Loconsolo (Achilla) sounded gritty. Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo) continues to improve as a singer, he is an excellent villain. His voice tends toward pretty and girlish, but he was able to convey the cruelty of his character. Alice Coote's voice contrasted perfectly with Patricia Bardon's, though both are mezzo-sopranos. Coote gasped slightly as Sesto, but was sweet and light, yet still had good volume. Bardon sang a rich, deep, and tragic Cornelia. The gravity of her role is a bit at odds with the production.

Natalie Dessay seemed to be giving the role of Cleopatra her all. She is fully committed to all her movements, and she is a pleasure to watch. She is vocally less consistent, there is an undercurrent of frog-like ugliness to her sound. Her high tessitura can glitter without any harshness, but there were times when her voice seemed to disappear. One of her notes in "V'adoro pupille" was rather strange and out of place. However, her "Piangerò la sorte mia" was lovely. David Daniels was perfectly fine as Giulio Cesare, his singing is robust, though he does have a lot of vibrato. There is a certain smoothness to the transitions between different parts of his voice.

* Tattling *
There were some problems with the white curtains during "Tu la mia stella sei."

In Family Circle there were many watch alarms at each hour and people chatted during the music.

Opera San José's Suor Angelica & Gianni Schicchi

James-callon-birkland-cast-rinuccio-zita-cast-2a* Notes *
A double-bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi (pictured left, photograph by P. Kirk) closes the 2012-2013 season at Opera San José. Charlie Smith's cunning set is used for both operas, but somehow the space seems completely transformed for each. The costumes, from Elizabeth Poindexter, look completely appropriate. Lorna Haywood's production is straightforward and of the period for each pieces. It says a lot that this was a little jarring for this reviewer.

Maestro Joseph Marcheso kept the orchestra together, but was slightly ahead of the singers at times. The young cast seemed eager and were all rather loud. Cecilia Violetta López embodied Suor Angelica, her emotions seemed intensely genuine. As Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, her "O mio babbino caro" was quite nice. Nicole Birkland has a deep, rich voice, she sang La Zia Principessa with much care, and seemed somewhat more comfortable as Zita in Gianni Schicchi.

Jo Vincent Parks seemed to have fun with Betto di Signa. James Callon sang Rinuccio with sweetness. Evan Brummel gave a spirited performance as Gianni Schicchi, but perhaps could have been a bit more searing or sly at certain points.

* Tattling * 
There was much whispering from the audience, but also much enthusiasm.

Händel's Teseo at PBO

Amanda-forsythe* Notes * 
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra is currently performing Händel's Teseo in the Bay Area. The opera certainly has some very silly moments, and this semi-staged version simply embraced the absurdity. The orchestra is set up around the two harpsichords, with Maestro Nicholas McGegan at one and Hanneke van Proosdij at the other. As a result, a number of the musicians are facing the stage, making it easier for them to engage with the singers. This keeps the orchestra and singers together, and the vocalists have a clear rapport with the instrumental soloists. Because the pit in Herbst Theater for Thursday's performance is so small, theorbo player David Taylor played from the stage. For Clizia's aria "Risplendete, amiche stelle," both Clizia and Arcane interact with Taylor, to amusing effect.

The cast featured many high voices. The two countertenors had opposing problems, Robin Blaze (Arcane) with his upper range, and Drew Minter (Egeo) with his lower notes. They did both act well. Blaze has some sweetness to his voice, but the quality of his high notes has a strained, whooping quality. Minter has a pleasant resonance in the middle of his voice, but the transitions between his head and chest sounds were jarring.

The four sopranos also have sounds distinct from one another, but fared better. Céline Ricci (Clizia) was committed to her acting. As Agilea, Valerie Vinzant started off a bit squeaky, but smoothed out over the course of the performance. Her "M'adora l'idol mio" with the oboe soloist conveyed the conviviality of the evening's proceedings. In the title role, Amanda Forsythe (pictured above) sounded secure and well-supported. Dominique Labelle relished playing the villainess Medea. Labelle's voice is sturdy and rich. She was able to explore an array of emotions, and express these through her sound.

* Tattling * 
There were many loud whispers and outright talking in the first half. Quite a few people left at the interval, so the second half was much quieter.

PBO's 2013-2014 Season

PBO_byRandiBeachOctober 2-6 2013: Pergolesi's Stabat Mater
November 15-19 2013: Berezovsky, Facius, Fomin, Glinka
December 6-10 2013: Stanley, Croft, Boyce
December 14-15 2013: Händel's Messiah
February 5-9 2014: C.P.E. Bach, Haydn
March 5-9 2013: Muffat, Schmelzer, Schein, Biber, Benda, Bach, Telemann
April 10-14 2013: Vivaldi's Juditha Triumphans

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra's 2013-2014 season was announced on today. Carolyn Sampson and David Daniels are the soloists in Stabat Mater. Cécile van de Sant, Vivica Genaux, Diana Moore, Dominique Labelle, and Virginia Warnken are featured in Juditha Triumphans.

Official Site