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July 2014
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September 2014

Jamie Barton in SF Opera's Norma

Jaime-BartonMezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, who was scheduled to appear at San Francisco Opera as Adalgisa in Norma this fall, has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons. She is to be replaced by Jamie Barton (pictured left) for five of the opera's seven performances. A casting update for the September 19 and 23 performances will be announced at a later date.

Production Web Site | Press Release

The Met Reaches Agreement With IATSE Local One

The Met has secured a new labor agreement with IATSE Local One, the union representing the company's stagehands. Final negotiations are to take place with eight smaller unions representing behind-the-scenes Met personnel. All are expected to reach agreements, preventing a potential labor crisis at the nation's largest performing arts organization.

Press Release | Official Web Site

The Met Reaches Agreement With AGMA and Local 802

According to a press release from this morning, the Met has reached agreements with two of its largest unions, AGMA and Local 802. The contract deadline has been extended through midnight on Tuesday, August 19 to allow Local One and the other remaining unions with unsettled contracts more time to secure new deals with the institution.

Press Release | Official Web Site

Merola Grand Finale 2014

Tutti Merolini. _Un coro e terminiam la scena…Tutto nel mondo è burla_ from Falstaff by Verdi. Merola Grand Finale. Photography by Kristen Loken. * Notes *
The Merola Opera Program concluded 2014 with the Merola Grand Finale last night. The standouts were certainly sopranos. Amanda Woodbury's Ophélie was translucent in "Hélas! votre âme" and her duet ("Doute de la lumière") with Edward Nelson as Hamlet. Karen Chia-Ling Ho made for an impressively deranged Margherita in "L'altra notte in fondo al mare" from Boito's Mefistofele. Adelaide Boedecker was a sweet Gilda in "Ah padre mio!" Julie Adams sounded resonant in "Suzel, buon di...Tutto tace" from L'amico Fritz. This duet with Casey Candebat was quite lovely. Candabat sounded clear and warm.

Mezzo-sopranos Shirin Eskandani and Eliza Bonet also gave memorable performances. Eskandani sang "Sie Hält Ihn für den Todesgott...Ein Augenblick Ist Wenig" with Talya Lieberman as Zerbinetta. Bonet has a lot of personality and was hilarious as the Duchesse in "Vous aimez le danger...Ah! que j'aime les militaires!"

Bass-baritone Matthew Stump showed much charm as Nick Shadow in "Come master" from The Rake's Progress and as Falstaff in "Un coro e terminiam la scena....Tutto nel mondo è burla" (pictured above, photograph by Kristen Loken).

Stage director Omer Ben Seadia used the set for Susannah and seemed to favor the use of many props.

* Tattling *
There was some talking from an aggressive couple next to me in Row F Seats 6 and 8. They did not have tickets for these seats, but managed to find even nicer ones on the center aisle after intermission. They were rather concerned about the brass being out of tune and the unexplained omission of "Nel veneto corteggio lo ravvisasti?...Vieni la mia vendetta" in the first half of the program.

Julie Adams Interview

Adams, JulieSan Francisco Conservatory of Music alumna Julie Adams (pictured left) was one of the winners of Met Council Auditions this year. She sang the role of Blanche DuBois in André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire as a participant of the Merola Opera Program this summer. The program concludes this Saturday with the Grand Finale.

What was the first opera you sang in?
I was in the chorus of Die Fledermaus at L.A. County High School for the Arts. I initially went there for musical theater, but I don't dance, so that didn't work out so well. Stephanie Vlahos, who is in the music faculty there still, introduced me to opera.

Did you go to the recent performance of A Streetcar Named Desire in Los Angeles?
Yes, I managed to go to the last performance. I was on the edge of my seat, since I knew the music and was curious to hear how Renée Fleming tackled the role of Blanche. Her artistry is amazing.

How was it singing Blanche for Merola?
It was really hard but so rewarding. It was difficult to learn and I had to rely on muscle memory to get the starting pitches, as Previn didn't score things so that the orchestra is there to help. I miss the role now as I was living with it for so long. It was very intense. The movie version is obviously iconic, we had to bring something different to the roles and to make them our own.

What are your favorite operas?
I love Puccini. Bohème is one of my favorites and Mimì is a dream role for me. I also love Marriage of Figaro. Magic Flute, I know not everyone likes that one, but I do. Mozart is, of course, a genius. Traviata. Manon. Susannah. I am so excited that San Francisco Opera is doing this one. This is another dream role. I love Carlyle Floyd.

Is there a particular singer to you look up to?
Pat Racette. I admire her with my whole heart. She always gives 110 percent. She always moves me, and I think that is why people go to the opera, to be moved.

What do you think of musical theater as opera?
I think it is great, it gets people into the opera house. Obviously the opera wouldn't take on contemporary Broadway works. For Rodgers and Hammerstein, Kern and Hammerstein, or Gilbert and Sullivan, it completely makes sense. It is great music and is accessible.

What was it like to sing at the Met?
It was a great experience, very glamorous and thrilling. I was so nervous, so it was hard to be in the moment, but my favorite part was the Sitzprobe, when we rehearsed with conductor and orchestra. I sang "L'annee en vain chasse l'annee" from Debussy's L'Enfant Prodigue, which the orchestra wasn't familiar with, obviously, as the opera isn't done that much. The conductor, Marco Armiliato, asked me to bear with them, but the Met Orchestra is incredible. The musicians are such lovely people too.

What are you singing for the Merola Grand Finale?
The "Cherry Duet," "Suzel, buon dì…Tutto tace," from L'amico Fritz with Mr. Casey Candabat. I am also singing Alice in the final piece, "Volgiti e mira…Tutto nel mondo è burla." We are singing on the Susannah set, so we are all in formal wear on a desolate, stark stage.

One of your interests is watching professional hockey games. Do you support a particular team?
The Los Angeles Kings, sorry Sharks fans. Hockey is exciting and I enjoy watching games with my dad and brother.

West Edge Opera's The End of the Affair

West-edge-opera-end-affair-2014* Notes *
West Edge Opera's summer festival continued at the Ed Roberts Campus in Berkeley last weekend. Yesterday was the Bay Area premiere of Jake Heggie's The End of the Affair. Again West Edge Opera was able make the most of the venue, despite the fact that the space is unconventional. The production, from General Director Mark Streshinsky, is efficient. A few key props (couch, bench, lectern, and prie-dieu) are put into place by stagehands or by the singers themselves. The bombing scene at the end of Act I was particularly fine, employing painted paper on a canvas stretcher and flying bits of paper thrown by two people sitting under the stage.

The orchestra is house left, alongside the audience. This seems like it would be challenging, but conductor Jonathan Khuner managed to keep everyone together rather well. The singers were all impeccably cast. Mezzo Donna Olson was amusingly brash as Mrs. Bertram. Philip Skinner was a suitably pathetic Henry Miles. Keith Phares sounded strikingly warm as Maurice Bendrix. The contrast of the two baritone voices worked beautifully. Carrie Hennessey gave a nuanced performance as Sarah Miles. Her voice can sound prettily delicate or rather robust in accordance with the music.

As for Heggie's work, the music is agreeable and there are bubbly, bright tunes. The last scene felt slightly awkward somehow.

* Tattling *
This time around there was assigned seating in the VIP section. There was a little too much talking from the third row before the singing started in Act II.

Merola's Don Giovanni

  Merola-don-giovanni-2014* Notes *
Merola Opera Program's latest production of Don Giovanni (pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) opened with the first of two performances on Thursday night. Director James Darrah's production goes against the text and the drama, with most of the action taking place in an artist's studio, designed by Emily MacDonald and Cameron Mock. There is lots of face touching, crawling about, and getting up on tables. While enjoyably amusing, this does little to elucidate the narrative. I did laugh a lot when the chorus banged on the table in the last scene.

Admittedly, there are some effective devices and times when the space was used inventively. It is cute when Leperello walks out into the audience for the line "Anch'io, caro padrone, esibisco la mia protezione" and chooses someone to "protect." Also, Don Giovanni's descent to the netherworld is handled convincingly enough, with the chorus simply overwhelming him.

Martin Katz conducted a tentative and somewhat muddy sounding orchestra. The strings were problematic. Act II was an improvement over Act I, however. In any case, the impressive singing was certainly the main attraction, as it is for all Merola events. Yujin Kim and Rhys Lloyd Talbot made for a perfectly nice Zerlina and Masetto. Kim was particularly jaunty. Szymon Wach was a roguish but not especially lovable Leporello. His voice has a husky quality but is sufficiently loud. Scott Russell sang the Commendatore with power. Karen Chia-Ling Ho made for a strong Donna Elvira. She definitely seemed unhinged.

Benjamin Werley sang Don Ottavio's two arias with great beauty, there were times when his voice truly seemed seamless. Amanda Woodbury (Donna Anna) has a bright, lovely voice. Her arias were some of the best moments of the evening. Edward Nelson has an attractive voice and radiated confidence as a rather unlikeable Don.

* Tattling *
The audience was fairly silent and still. A girl in E7 had to exit the hall in Act I but returned quickly. The most ill-behaved person I observed was myself, as I had difficulty containing my mirth at the production.

As we were leaving, I also got in the way of the director as he rushed out of the theater to take his bow on stage. While this was happening, we admired an adorable sleeping newborn in a young woman's arms backstage, oblivious to the ovation.