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June 2014
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August 2014

West Edge Opera's Hydrogen Jukebox

Hydrogen-jukebox-west-edge-opera-2014* Notes *
West Edge Opera is currently performing a summer festival at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley. Today was the opening of Philip Glass' chamber opera Hydrogen Jukebox, with text by Allen Ginsberg. The space is not a typical performance venue, but West Edge Opera was able make suitable arrangements nonetheless. Elkhanah Pulitzer's production did not lack for ideas, in fact, the activity on stage seemed ceaseless. It was especially charming when paper airplanes were thrown at the audience, but there were also moments when it may have been more appropriate to take in the words and music without quite so much movement and busyness. The narrator, Howard Swain, was rather energetic.

For the most part the musicians were above and to the sides of the stage, though conductor David Möschler descended a ladder to play the piano in front of the stage for "Song #6 from Wichita Vortex Sutra." There were times when the balance was slightly off, as when the percussion sounded somewhat anemic in Act I. The singers gave completely committed performances. Tenor Jonathan Blalock sounded sweet and mezzo Nicole Takesono sang prettily. Bass Kenneth Kellogg sounded strong but did not overwhelm. Molly Mahoney (Soprano II) had a nice richness, while the resonances of Sara Duchovnay (Soprano I) were pleasing. Baritone Efrain Solis sang hauntingly. His voice has warmth but was beautifully ethereal at the beginning and ending of the piece.

* Tattling *
I managed to snag a front row seat at the last moment and had little to complain about as far as my adjacent audience members are concerned.

Merola's A Streetcar Named Desire

Casey Candebat (Harold _Mitch_ Mitchell) and Julie Adams (Blanche DuBois). A Streetcar Named Desire. Merola Opera Program. Photography by Kristen Loken. 2* Notes * 
André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire was performed Thursday night by the Merola Opera Program at Everett Middle School in San Francisco. The production (pictured left with Julie Adams as Blanche DuBois and Casey Candebat as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell, photograph by Kristen Loken) directed by Jose Maria Condemi, is attractive. The set has two levels and is rather detailed. The costumes are straightforward and pretty. Mark Morash conducted a reduced orchestration by Peter Grunberg. The ensemble sounded rather vigorous.

There was much beautiful singing, though the first act was somewhat rough. The performances were engaging. Baritone Thomas Gunther was a suitably brutish Stanley Kowalski. Adelaide Boedecker has a lovely sweet voice, and was a believable Stella Kowalski. Casey Candebat sounded great as Harold "Mitch" Mitchell, wonderfully lyrical. Julie Adams makes for an impressive Blanche DuBois. Her voice is well-supported and brilliant. Her acting was also spot-on.

* Tattling * 
Any missed lines were all too apparent since the libretto is in English and there were supertitles.

SF Opera's La Traviata Media Round-Up

Sf-opera-traviata-act-iiiProduction Web Site | SF Opera's Blog

Reviewers are not particularly impressed by the first cast of San Francisco Opera's La Traviata (Act II Scene 2 pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver), but find the second one better.

First Cast: San Francisco Chronicle | San Francisco Classical Voice | San Jose Mercury News

Second Cast: San Francisco Chronicle | San Francisco Classical Voice

SF Opera's La Traviata (Pérez, Costello, Kelsey)

Sfopera-traviata-2014-perez* Notes * 
The second cast of La Traviata (Ailyn Pérez as Violetta and Stephen Costello as Alfredo in Act I pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) at San Francisco Opera this season performed last night.

This performance was presented as a live simulcast. Production Director Greg Weber narrated the set changeover during the first intermission, and took questions via social media with the help of Joey Castaneda. Weber's reminder to turn off cellular devices after the presentation was much appreciated.

The change of personnel seemed to be for the better, though one is certain that it did not hurt that this was the seventh performance for most of the musicians. Maestro Giuseppe Finzi kept the orchestra together, but the tempi were still fairly rapid. The woodwinds were especially lovely. The chorus sounded more spirited.

Quinn Kelsey has a gorgeous voice, and was moving as Germont. Stephen Costello has a strong, open sound as Alfredo. Ailyn Pérez seemed well-suited to the role of Violetta, she was able to sound brilliant yet delicate.

* Tattling * 
There were again a large number of latecomers in the balcony. A few young women felt it was fine to look at their mobile telephones in the standing room area.