Previous month:
August 2015
Next month:
October 2015

Upcoming Ted Hearne West Coast Premiere at SFS

Ted-Hearne-(c)-Nathan-Lee-Bush4x6-colorTed Hearne's Dispatches is having a West Coast premiere at San Francisco Symphony next week starting Wednesday night as part of the New Voices project which fosters the careers of emerging composers. Hearne (pictured left, photograph by Nathan Lee Bush) is perhaps best known for setting U.S. Army private WikiLeaks leaker Chelsea Manning's words to music in a piece entitled The Source. Christian Reif conducts Dispatches, each of the five movements takes music that Hearne first heard in various settings and filters it through his musical language.

The program also features Samuel Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 with soprano Susanna Phillips and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Pathétique. Both of these pieces will be conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas.

San Francisco Symphony

Matthew Shilvock Next SF Opera General Director

ShilvockSCR1537photoCoryWeaverMatthew Shilvock (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) has been named General Director of San Francisco Opera and will become the Company's seventh director on August 1, 2016 with a five-year contract through July 2021. Mr. Shilvock is currently SF Opera's Associate General Director since 2010 and has been with the Company since 2005.

Press Release | SF Opera

More SF Opera Fall 2015 Casting Changes

LuciaAs rumored, Diana Damrau has withdrawn from San Francisco Opera's upcoming Lucia di Lammermoor, in order to remain on vocal rest for the next six weeks. She is replaced by Nadine Sierra, who in turn will be replaced as Pamina in the first four performances of The Magic Flute by Sarah Shafer.

Lucia di Lammermoor | The Magic Flute | San Francisco Opera Press Release

NCCO and Ailyn Peréz

074_Ailyn_Perez_by_Paul_Marc_Mitchell_PMM_2056R-e1438108110214* Notes *
Dazzling soprano Ailyn Peréz (pictured left, photograph by Paul Marc Mitchell) replaced Susanna Phillips in New Century Chamber Orchestra's 2015-2016 season opener last night in Berkeley, traveling to the Bay Area between her performances of La Bohème at La Scala and the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Great Scott in Dallas. The program, which will be performed in Palo Alto, San Francisco, and San Rafael in the following days, features Russian composers and Jennifer Higdon.

Peréz, dressed in a sparkly silver gown with matching heels, sang a limpid Vocalise by Rachmaninoff, every note vivid and beautifully colored. Her voice is exceedingly bright. The performance of the Letter Aria from Eugene Onegin was similarly evocative and NCCO sounded full and lush, especially for such a small string ensemble.

Lead by the inimitable Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, NCCO is a well-oiled machine that plays with a lot of fire. The concert also included Pärt's stately Trisagion, some Jennifer Hidgon pieces that went from dramatic to serene and back again, and Shostakovich's Elegy and Polka, the former played with elegant grace and the latter with sardonic verve. The encore of Schnittke's Polka was great fun.

 * Tattling * 
Lots of talking in the second half from the man in L 101.

SF Opera's Sweeney Todd

Sweeney-todd-2015* Notes *
My review of San Francisco Opera's Sweeney Todd is up on KQED Arts.

Perhaps I'm not high-brow enough for Sondheim's work, normally at the opera I am swept off by the music — the drama, though important, tends to be secondary and the words are rarely a concern. I found myself exhausted by focusing on all of Sondheim's lyrics and marveling at how intelligent it all was. It is much more like a play that happens to have music, while most operas, at least in my view, are the exact opposite of that. It was a relief to hear Tosca the next day at Opera San José, even if I'm no fan of Puccini.

* Tattling *
Meat pies (pictured above) were served in the press room.

SF Opera's Luisa Miller

Luisa-miller-lc-mf-2015* Notes * 
The 93rd season of San Francisco Opera opened Friday with Luisa Miller, a Verdi rarity only seen on the War Memorial stage a dozen times before. The opera has a quintessentially Verdian plot: a protective father, an innocent daughter, a secret identity, and a love triangle that ends in a protracted death scene. Part of Verdi's middle period, Luisa Miller does not have the lively tunes of Rigoletto, La Traviata, or Il Trovatore that followed soon after. But there was some beautiful singing in last night's performance.

The two leads (pictured above, photograph by Cory Weaver) were clearly strongest. Local favorite Leah Crocetto sang the title role without a hint of strain. Her pianissimi were gorgeous. Tenor Michael Fabiano is a dashing Rodolfo, and his voice is similarly attractive, very bright and pretty.

As Luisa's father, baritone Vitaliy Bilyy had a fine San Francisco Opera debut. Bilyy's voice has a pleasant weight, the right mixture of heft and lightness. Mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk (Federica) also had a good first performance on the War Memorial stage, her dark tones contrasting nicely with Crocetto.

Daniel Sumegi wobbled as Count Walter, while Andrea Silvestrelli was a powerfully evil Wurm.

Maestro Nicola Luisotti conducted the orchestra with grace and as usual the woodwinds sounded great. The members of the chorus pulled together well.

Francesca Zambello's production, directed here by Laurie Feldman, involves background panels that make up a dreamy forest scene. The panels can move vertically and help change scenes. There is also a very weird beam crosswise above the stage that holds a large panel depicting various images, including a cottage and a hunting tapestry. This was less successful than the background panels, often it seemed awkward and in the way.

Ungainliness might have been inevitable for this opera, the plot is truly absurd and the final death scene was not convincing, despite the lovely singing.

* Tattling * 
I was shocked to be the first person in the standing room line when I arrived after 8am with my 1.5 year old in tow.

The remarks by San Francisco Opera's General Director, President, and Chairman of the Board were uncharacteristically brief and articulate. The audience was mild this year, and most of the extraneous noise heard during the performance came from the lobby after intermission.