Dawn Upshaw

El Niño at SF Symphony

Adams_john_175x175 * Notes *
John Adams is conducting his nativity oratorio El Niño at San Francisco Symphony this week as part of Project San Francisco. The work was modestly staged, with direction from Kevin Newbury, set from Daniel Hubp, costumes from Paul Carey, and lighting from Kirk Bookman. The most charming bit might have been the Charlie Brown Christmas tree downstage for the second half. Adams kept time impressively, but for the most part had an introverted conducting style. Much amplification was used and the overall effect was richly textural and rather loud.

The chorus sounded pretty, but did not always seem together. It was especially difficult to discern what they were singing in the beginning. The soloists were amplified, so did not have to contend with being lost under the rest of the music. The trio of countertenors did sound angelic, as did the San Francisco Girls Chorus that came in at the end. Bass-baritone Jonathan Lemalu seemed to have a good heft to his voice. His sibilants were somewhat whistled. Mezzo Michelle DeYoung created a pleasant, pewter-like sound. Soprano Dawn Upshaw was bright and also very lovely. Everyone sounded so comfortable singing in English that when they occasionally switched to Spanish, it was noticeably stilted. There were small errors in Spanish pronunciation, initial voiceless stops were aspirated and some vowels were not clear.

* Tattling * 
There was light talking in the first half, but the most of the offenders left at intermission so that the audience was unusually quiet for the second part.

Cal Performances' 2010-2011 Season

September 24 2010: Bayanihan Philippine National Dance Company
September 26 2010: Fall Free for All: Open House at Cal Performances
September 30- October 3 2010: Mark Morris Dance Group
October 7-10 2010: Circus Oz
October 10 2010: David Finckel, cello & Wu Han, piano
October 14 2010: Alex Ross
October 15 2010: Jerusalem Quartet
October 22 2010: Gamelan Çudamani 
October 24 2010: Jeremy Denk, piano 
October 26-27 2010: Benjamin Bagby's Beowulf
October 29-30 2010: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
October 31 2010: Kremerata Baltica
October 31 2010: Alfred Brendel
November 13-14 2010: Zenshinza Theatre Company
November 20 2010: Bryn Terfel, bass-baritone
November 5 2010: Buika
November 7 2010: Ensemble Zellig
November 21 2010: Will Shortz
November 26-28 2010: Mummenschanz 
December 4, 2010: Christian Tetzlaff, violin
December 5 2010: Pomegranates and Figs
December 5 2010: Takács Quartet
December 11 2010: John McLaughlin, guitar
December 12 2010: Nicolas Hodges, piano
January 21 2011: Tango Buenos Aires
January 22 2011: Joshua Redman, saxophone
January 23 2011: Wallace Shawn
January 26 2011: Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
February 3-4 2011: Kodo
February 9-10 2011: Ex Machina
February 12-13 2011: Zukerman ChamberPlayers
February 20 2011: Paul Lewis, piano
February 25-27 2011: Vienna Philharmonic
March 3-5 2011: Merce Cunningham Dance Company
March 4 2011: Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin
March 6 2011: Scharoun Ensemble Berlin
March 6 2011: Balé Folclórico da Bahia
March 11 2011: Branford Marsalis, saxophone & Terence Blanchard, trumpet
March 13 2011: Les Percussions de Strasbourg
March 13 2011: Jonas Kaufmann, tenor
March 18-19 2011: Nederlands Dans Theater
March 20 2011: Joyce Yang, piano
March 24-26 2011: Castleton Festival Opera
March 26-27 2011: The Tallis Scholars
March 29- April 3 2011: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
April 3 2011: Jessica Rivera, soprano
April 6 2011: The Silk Road Ensemble, with Yo-Yo Ma
April 19 2011: Afro-Cuban All Stars
April 23 2011: Kurt Elling, vocalist
April 28-29 2011: Cirque Éloize
May 1-3 2011: Les Violons du Roy
May 7-14 2011: Druid Theatre Company
May 31-June 4 2011: Royal Danish Ballet
June 13-16 2011: Ojai North!

Matías Tarnopolsky announced Cal Performances's 2010-2011 season at a press conference today. We were seated on the stage and the presentation involved several videos. Tarnopolsky seemed charmingly self-effacing, and at one point he said Schumann" instead of "Stockhausen," and made a joke about how they were easily confused for one another. The 2010-2011 Web site of Cal Performances goes live tonight at 12:01am.

Next season includes two Britten operas, The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring will be performed by Castleton Festival Opera in February 2011. Byrn Terfel and Jonas Kaufmann are both coming to Berkeley for their respective tours, Terfel in the Fall and Kaufmann in the Spring. Dawn Upshaw, the Maria Schneider Orchestra, The Australian Chamber Orchestra, and Peter Sellars are all involved in Ojai North!

Official Site | Press Release [PDF]

Emanuel Ax and Dawn Upshaw

Dawn-upshaw * Notes * 
Last night pianist Emanuel Ax and soprano Dawn Upshaw performed a recital as part of San Francisco Symphony's Great Performers Series. The evening started with a selection of Chopin's Polish Songs, Opus 74. Upshaw sounded warm and clear, she was never upstaged by Ax, who stayed with Chopin in the following Four Marzurkas, Opus 41. The playing was lively. They came back to a few more Polish Songs, the spare "Nie ma czego trzeba" (Sorrow) was particularly fine.

In contrast, Stephen Prutsman's Piano Lessons was rather wry, set to the poems of Billy Collins. This marked the West Coast premiere of this SFS co-commission of the work, hot on the heels of the American premiere on Thursday at Carnegie Hall.

After the intermission Ax played Chopin's Two Nocturnes, Opus 27. The performance was brilliant, with perfect dynamic control. Dawn Upshaw returned for twelve Schumann songs, her voice had a wonderful ease and lightness as she sang. The encore was Hugo Wolf's "Er ist's" and Upshaw mentioned that it was just the 150th anniversary of the composer's birth.

* Tattling * 
There was electronic noise during the second Chopin song, "Smutna rzeka." Someone in Row K of the orchestra level was scolded for unwrapping a cough drop between two songs, and people were hushed for clapping between pieces. Otherwise, the audience seemed silent and respectful.