SF Opera's Die Walküre Cycle 1

T8A6791 * Notes * 
As with the previous installment of Der Ring des Nibelungen at San Francisco Opera, Die Walküre (Act I pictured left, photo by Cory Weaver) has beautiful playing from the orchestra and a powerful cast. Donald Runnicles drove a propulsive performance with very bright and exultant brass. The woodwinds were plaintive, especially the clarinet and bassoon.

The cast for Die Walküre has a lot of new singers compared to Das Rheingold since its last outing in 2011, most notably soprano Iréne Theorin. As Brünnhilde Theorin is able, she is icily strong and has good control of her dynamic range. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley (Wotan) could match Theorin in volume. While he's very good at sounding angry and authoritative, he did lack tenderness (at least in his voice) in the last scene as he says good-bye to Brünnhilde.

Soprano Karita Mattila's distinctive creamy tones are wonderful, but her voice isn't convincing as Sieglinde, a young woman. This was especially odd when she sang with Brandon Jovanovich (Siegmund), as he sounds sweetly youthful. But I still found her "Du bist der Lenz" moving, and her singing in Act III was poignant. Mattila also played well off of bass Raymond Aceto, who is a menacing Hunding.

Mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton was most impressive as Fricka, sounding bold and secure. As with everyone in the cast, she also moves well, every gesture or turn of the head conveying emotion with clarity.

The Walküren reminded me of a chorus from a Merola production, all the singers are great but very loud, and their voices did not cohere into a blended sound. In fact, most are former Merolini, only Lauren McNeese (Rossweise) is not, if memory serves. I could definitely recognize the voice of Melissa Citro as Helmwige, her piercing soprano is unmistakable, even though they are all costumed as paratroopers.

Mezzo-soprano Renée Tatum stood out as Waltraute. Laura Krumm (Siegrune), Renée Rapier (Grimgerde), Sarah Cambidge (Ortlinde), Julie Adams (Gerhilde), and Nicole Birkland (Schwertleite) all were easy to hear and distinct. Their entrance got the most reaction from the audience as they parachute in for the Walkürenritt.

Director Francesca Zambello definitely has a good sense of humor and it is a welcome part of the production. The singers are all very fine actors and the various sight gags have their charm. The projections did not look noticeably different in content to me, the first scene still reminds me of The Blair Witch Project, but the colors do look brighter and more saturated.

* Tattling * 
The audience in standing room on the orchestra level was quiet. I heard some electronic noise during some of the softer parts of Act I.


SF Opera's Das Rheingold Cycle 1

_37A1480* Notes *
An exuberant orchestra and strong cast in Das Rheingold opened a revival of Francesca Zambello's Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Scene 4 pictured, photo by Cory Weaver) last night at San Francisco Opera.

It is a joy to hear Maestro Donald Runnicles conduct the orchestra, which sounded driven and robust. The brass, though not perfectly precise, sounded especially bright and effusive. The harpists and percussionists also did a very fine job.

The cast is solid. Since more than half the soloists are the same as in the premiere of this production (at least as a whole cycle) seven years ago, it is fascinating to compare the different singers. For me, the standouts are still tenor Štefan Margita as Loge and mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller as Erda, both of whom had these roles in 2011. Margita’s voice is incisive without being the least bit harsh, he embodies his cunning role as demigod with a graceful ease. Miller is nothing less than a force of nature, the sumptuousness of her sound emerging from the floor of the stage as she rises from below for her entrance is very effective.

Also ably reprising their roles were the lovely Rheinmaidens Lauren McNeese (Wellgunde), Renee Tatum (Flosshilde), and Stacy Tappan (Woglinde). Their last scene with Margita is haunting and gave me chills.

As for those new to the cast, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is particularly promising, her Fricka is lush-voiced. I also look forward to hearing more of both bass-baritones Falk Struckmann (Alberich) and Greer Grimsley (Wotan). Struckmann has a richer tone than Grimsley, but there were heavily orchestrated moments in which I had difficulty hearing him. Grimsley is a secure presence and a good actor.

Zambello's production is wonderfully human, there's lot of great humorous moments, as when Loge tricks Alberich into becoming a toad in Scene 3 or the gods frolic in the beginning of Scene 2 and as they ascend Valhalla in Scene 4.

Revamped by S. Katy Tucker, the overwrought video projections are still the weakest link. It makes sense that visuals are needed between scenes, but it is gratuitous to add in effects that are perfectly handled by the music, as when Alberich curses the Ring. Also the descent into Nibelheim with scenes of moving through mountains paths and into caves looked especially awkward. Images of water, clouds, and fire looked best.

* Tattling *
I definitely annoyed myself the most during the performance and can hardly complain about anyone else, as I have a slight but lingering cough from asthma that's acting up because of a fire we had in our house a few weeks ago.

A woman had a seat in front of us in orchestra standing room, but she has a back condition at the moment and had to stand rather than sit. She was very apologetic when she explained her situation, saying she was the wife of "the main guy" in the opera. I wondered if she was Alberich or Wotan's wife, but it was very clear right away that it was the former.


Preview of Boris Godunov at SFS

Boris-ScenicPreliminarySketchJune is going to be a very opera-heavy month in San Francisco this year, with the return of Der Ring des Nibelungen starting on Tuesday at the War Memorial Opera House. For those intimidated by Wagner's 15-hour epic (or maybe you don't think going to 12 operas in three weeks is enough), San Francisco Symphony is performing Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov this Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.

The semi-staged production (preliminary sketch by Mac Mock Design pictured) was conceived by Michael Tilson Thomas and  is directed by James Darrah, who has had great success with previous work at SFS including Peter Grimes in 2014 and On the Town in 2016.

Based on Pushkin's play, this tense political drama will be heard in its 1869 original version. The cast of 18 vocal soloists, many of whom are Eastern European -- bass Stanislav Trofimov is the title character -- also includes local favorites such as mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook (Innkeeper) and bass Philip Skinner (Nikititsch).

San Francisco Symphony | Learn More


NCCO Plays Philip Glass' Piano Concerto, No. 3

SimoneDinnerstein7_byLisaMarieMazzucco* Notes *
Pianist Simone Dinnerstein (pictured left, photograph by Lisa Marie Mazzucco) gave the West Coast premiere of Philip Glass' Piano Concerto No. 3 with New Century Chamber Orchestra last night in Berkeley. The piece is sedate and dreamily meditative, written for Dinnerstein, her sensitive and unflashy playing certainly suits it well. She was finely supported by NCCO with guest concertmaster Zachary De Pue, who radiated geniality.

The ensemble seems equally at ease with the contemporary Glass as with the Bach Keyboard Concerto No. 7 in G Minor that opened the second half of this performance. The playing was together and smooth, with characteristic high energy throughout. The shifts from various tempi and dynamics are always perfectly clear.

The first half of the concerto featured Bryce David Dessner's Aheym, a piece from 2009 which has many emphatic arpeggios. Dessner is best known as one of the twin guitarists for indie rock band The National, and it was fun to hear his work sandwiched by a brightly played Purcell's Chacony in G Minor and a crisp rendering of Geminiani's Concerto Grosso No. 12 in D Minor, "La Folia."

Tattling * 
Someone on the left side of the hall was desperately trying to open a lozenge during the Dessner, while a watch alarm rang four or five times on the right side during the Geminiani.

I was surprised that the only talking I heard during the performance was during the Glass, a bit of whispering behind me in Row H, perhaps Seats 102 and 104.


Iréne Theorin in SF Ring

Iréne Theorin_3_Chris GloagSoprano Iréne Theorin (pictured left) replaces Evelyn Herlitzius as Brünnhilde in San Francisco Opera's Der Ring des Nibelungen this summer. Herlitzius has withdrawn for health reasons. This will be Theorin's first complete Ring Cycle in the United States. She was most recently heard on the War Memorial stage as Turandot in 2011.

Der Ring des Nibelungen | San Francisco Opera Press Release


Apollo's Fire L'Orfeo

Cal-performances-apollos-fire-5-roger-mastroianni* Notes * 
Apollo's Fire (pictured left, photograph by Roger Mastroianni), an idiosyncratic Baroque orchestra from Cleveland, is touring Monteverdi's L'Orfeo with a reconstruction of the lost Bacchanale ending, and made a stop at Cal Performances last night.

The orchestra, lead by Jeannette Sorrell, sounded quite cheery. In particular, the wind band of various sackbuts, cornetti, trumpets, and such were impressively together and tuneful.

The singers, most of whom sang multiple roles, were uniformly great and very clear. Soprano Erica Schuller sounded utterly pure and beautiful as Musica and Euridice. Soprano Amanda Powell had a tender warmth as the Messagiera (she seemed near tears but sounded lovely) and Proserpina, and was more fiery as a Bacchante.

The two tenors singing shepherds, Owen McIntosh and Jacob Perry, had a gorgeous duet that ended Act II, their voices blended wonderfully. They did not upstage, however, the lead tenor, Karim Sulayman, who sang Orfeo with such light prettiness.

The semi-staged production from Sophie Daneman, who also directed Les Arts Florissants' double-bill last year, is droll and neat. Many of the entrances came through the audience. The dancing from choreographer and principal dancer Carlos Fittante seemed unnecessary. Otherwise, I enjoyed the simple costumes which seemed to be gowns with lots of draping and shirts suitable for Renaissance re-enactment.

I was bemused by the reconstructed ending, the music is from René Schiffer, who is also a cellist in the ensemble. The scene is a very odd one, and it was a relief that the depiction of violence was stylized rather than graphic.

* Tattling * 
There were a few comments from the couple next to us in Row FF Seats 109 and 110. My date noted that our friend in the first row had his opera glasses at the ready, and I pointed out that much of the staging happens behind the orchestra, and thus magnification could be useful.


Cal Performances' 2018-2019 Season

Cal-performances-jimmy-lopez-dreamers-jimmy-lopez-and-nilo-cruz-1-franciel-bragaSeptember 23 2018: Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guest Jon Batiste
September 28-30 2018: Mark Morris Dance Group; Pepperland
September 30 2018: Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Bach Suites
October 5 2018: Max Richter with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble
October 6 2018: Aida Cuevas with Mariachi Juvenil Tecalitlán; A Tribute to Juan Gabriel
October 7 2018: Sandeep Das and the HUM Ensemble; Delhi to Damascus
October 12-13 2018: Schaubühne; An Enemy of the People
October 13 2018: Jerusalem Quartet with Pinchas Zukerman and Amanda Forsyth
October 13 2018: Soweto Gospel Choir; Songs of the Free
October 20-21 2018: Sasha Waltz & Guests; Körper
October 25 2018: An Evening with Pat Metheny
October 26-28 2018: Barber Shop Chronicles
November 1 2018: Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich, pianos
November 3 2018: Jordi Savall; The Routes of Slavery (1444 –1888)
November 10 2018: Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
November 16-17 2018: Compagnie Käfig; Pixel
December 2 2018: Shai Wosner, piano
December 7-9 2018: Pavel Zuštiak and Palissimo Company; Custodians of Beauty
December 8 2018: Charles Lloyd & The Marvels, and Lucinda Williams
December 13-16 2018: Big Dance Theater; 17c
January 18-20 2019: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
January 20 2019: David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano
January 25 2019: Kronos Quartet; Fifty for the Future
January 27 2019: Nicola Benedetti, violin; Alexei Grynyuk, piano
February 1 2019: Yefim Bronfman, piano
February 2-3 2019: Kodo; One Earth Tour: Evolution
February 8 2019: Cantus; Alone Together
February 17 2019: Danish String Quartet
February 20 2019: Joyce DiDonato; SONGPLAY
February 22-24 2019: The 7 Fingers; Reversible
February 24 2019: Takács Quartet
March 2-3 2019: Akram Khan; XENOS
March 3 2019: Takács Quartet
March 10 2019: Nicolas Hodges, piano; Jennifer Koh, violin; Anssi Karttunen, cello
March 15-17 2019: Philharmonia Orchestra, London; Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor
March 22-24 2019: Quote Unquote Collective; Mouthpiece
March 23 2019: An Evening with Ira Glass; Seven Things I’ve Learned
March 31 2019: Zakir Hussain and the Masters of Percussion
April 3 2019: Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour; 60th Anniversary Celebration Starring Cécile McLorin Salvant
April 4 2019: The Tallis Scholars; Music Inspired by the Sistine Chapel
April 7 2019: So Percussion; Mallet Quartets and the Keyboard Reimagined
April 9-14 2019: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
April 13 2019: Havana Cuba All-Stars
April 15 2019: Murray Perahia, piano
April 26-28 2019: Théâtre National de Bretagne; Julius Caesar
April 29 2019: Gil Shaham, violin; Akira Eguchi, piano
May 1 2019: Alisa Weilerstein, cello; The Complete Bach Suites
May 3 2019: Silkroad Ensemble; Heroes Take Their Stands
May 5 2019: Michael Barenboim, violin
May 11-12 2019: Song of the Goat Theatre; Songs of Lear and Hamlet: A CommentaryMay 17 2019: Los Angeles Master Chorale; Lagrime di San PietroMay 31-June 2 2019: Eifman Ballet; Pygmalion

Cal Performances announced the 2018-2019 season on today, the final season curated by Tarnopolsky before he departs to become CEO and president of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Of greatest interest is Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Philharmonia Orchestra, London, performing the world premiere of Dreamer, composed by Jimmy López (pictured above), next March.

Press Release | Official Site


Merola's 61st Season Participants

8.18.17_Finale-1845_resizedSopranos
Kendra Berentsen, Portland, Oregon
Cheyanne Coss, Eaton Rapids, Michigan
Marlen Nahhas, Houston, Texas
Brittany Nickell, Coral Springs, Florida
Patricia Westley, Santa Barbara, California
Meigui Zhang, Chengdu, China

Mezzo-Sopranos
Megan Grey, Cedar Falls, Iowa
Anne Maguire, Washougal, Washington
Simone McIntosh, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Alexandra Urquiola, Bergenfield, New Jersey

Tenors
Zhengyi Bai, Linyi, Shandong, China
Christopher Colmenero, Burlington, Vermont
Addison Marlor, Salt Lake City, Utah
Brian Michael Moore, Cincinnati, Ohio
Christopher Oglesby, Woodstock, Georgia
Charles Sy, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
WooYoung Yoon, Seoul, South Korea

Baritones
SeokJong Baek, Jeon-Ju, South Korea
Jacob Scharfman, Boston, Massachusetts
Jaeman Yoon, Seoul, South Korea
Xiaomeng Zhang, Wenzhou, China

Bass-Baritones
Andrew Moore, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
Ted Pickell, El Dorado Hills, California

Apprentice Coaches
Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad, Kyiv, Ukraine
Annie Brooks, Seattle, Washington
Matthew Gemmill, Ames, Iowa
James Maverick, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Thomas Morris, Atlanta, Georgia

Apprentice Stage Director
Marcus Shields, Charleston, South Carolina

The Schwabacher Summer Concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is on Thursday, July 5 and July 7 at Bing Hall.

The Merola artists perform Mozart's Il re pastore on Thursday, July 19 and Saturday, July 21 and Stravinsky's The Rake’s Progress on Thursday, August 2 and Saturday, August 4. All of these operas are to be performed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

The season ends with the participants singing in the annual Merola Grand Finale (last year's performance pictured above, photograph by Kristen Loken) on Saturday, August 18 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Official Site | Press Releases


LA Opera's Orphée et Eurydice

La-opera-orpheus-2018* Notes * 
Choreographer John Neumeier's production of Orphée et Eurydice (final ovation pictured left) opened at Los Angeles Opera last week. Dance companies seem to love this opera by Gluck, and this co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet is no exception. The reworking of the libretto to be contemporary, with Orpheus as a choreographer and Eurydice a star dancer is compelling, but it seems pretty brutal for the lead soprano, it would be a rare thing indeed for an opera singer to also be a prima ballerina as well.

Joffrey Ballet is indeed impressive, the dancers mastery of various dance forms -- from classic to modern -- is obvious. There were only the tiniest sloppiness with some angles not being precisely the same from person to person. The male dancers that portrayed dark spirits in Act II (pictured below, photograph by Ken Howard) were especially effective. By the end of that act in fact, I felt as if I were floating on a cloud of beauty, it all did come together very well.

Orph_0857prThe singing was uniformly clear and beautiful, while the acting was more mixed. As Amour, soprano Liv Redpath is adorably cherubic with a lithe voice. Soprano Lisette Oropesa (Eurydice) has a lovely warmth and clarity. As athletic and graceful as she is, even when she walked barefoot it was conspicuous that she is not a dancer of the same caliber as the others on stage. Neumeier really put her on the spot, it doesn't seem fair to expect an amazing opera singer also fit in with professional dancers. On the other hand, Maxim Mironov was convincing as Orphée, he also sounds great, so open and even from top to bottom.

The chorus was very nice and cohesive as it sang in the pit with the orchestra. I enjoyed James Conlon's conducting, what it might have lacked in exactitude it made up for in liveliness.

* Tattling * 
The women next to me in Row B Seats 14 and 15 were at the performance because they must have known one of the dancers, and consequently they didn't seem that interested in the music and occasionally spoke to each other at full volume even though they were a few feet from the Maestro. The man next to me in 12 either fell asleep or was concentrating very hard on the music with his eyes closed in Act II.


San Diego Opera's Florencia en el Amazonas

Jkat_Amazonas_031418_202* Notes *
A vibrant production of Daniel Catán's Florencia en el Amazonas opened at San Diego Opera last night. The sets and singing had much to recommend it, and it was easy to see why this piece has been revived multiple times in the almost 22 years since its premiere in Houston.

The music is lyrical and exuberant, and most of the singing was absolutely lovely. Only baritone Luis Alejandro Orozco (Riolobo) seemed underpowered, though he is a fine actor and boasts an impressive physique.

I liked the range of emotions portrayed by mezzo-soprano Adriana Zabala as Paula, part of a bickering couple seeking to renew their love, she was frighteningly shrill at the outset and charmingly warm at the end. Her other half, baritone Levi Hernandez as Alvaro, was affable. Baritone Hector Vásquez (Capitán) sang with authority.

Tenor Daniel Montenegro and soprano María Fernanda Castillo sang beautifully together as they fall in love as Arcadio and Rosalba. Montenegro's voice is sweet, while Castillo's is brilliant. As opera singer Florencia Grimaldi, soprano Elaine Alvarez seemed perfectly suited, her rich, vivid voice was very convincing.

The set, from Mark F. Smith, is essentially a steamboat on a turntable, and this is effective, especially with the lighting. It definitely had a resemblance to Werner Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, which is fun, since both works deal with the Amazon and opera. Much of the chorus wore unitards some festooned with elaborate accessories to represent the water of the Amazon and various jungle beasts. This was in keeping with the libretto, which takes inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez (perhaps Love in the Time of Cholera is most obvious) and has a dreamy, surreal quality.

 

* Tattling * 
The audience fairly quiet, though two men behind me in the center of Row S did make some loud comments.


SF Symphony's 2018-2019 Season

SF-Symphony-4x6September 5 2018: Open Night Gala with MTT; Itzhak Perlman, violin
September 13-16 2018: MTT conducts Castiglioni, Ravel, Copland; Yuja Wang, piano
September 21-23 2018: MTT conducts Stravinsky's Perséphone and The Firebird
September 27-30 2018: MTT conducts Stravinsky's Petrushka, Violin Concerto, and The Rite of Spring; Leonidas Kavakos, violin
October 11-13 2018: Manfred Honeck conducts Prokofiev and Dvořák
October 14 2018: Evgeny Kissin plays Beethoven and Rachmaninoff
October 18-20 2018: Pablo Heras-Casado conducts Ravel, Bartók, and Debussy; Javier Perianes, piano
October 21 2018: Olivier Latry, organ
October 21-22 2018: Valery Gergiev conducts the Mariinsky Orchestra
October 25-27 2018: Cristian Mӑcelaru conducts Anna Clyne, Lalo, Kevin Puts, and R. Strauss; Ray Chen, violin
November 1-3 2018: Jurassic Park film with live orchestra
November 4 2018: Hilary Hahn, violin
November 8-10 2018: Jakub Hrůša conducts Shostakovich, Borodin, and Bartók; Karen Gomyo, violin
November 11 2018: Semyon Bychkov conducts the Czech Philharmonic; Alisa Weilerstein, cello
November 15–18 2018: MTT's From the Diary of Anne Frank
November 23–25 2018: MTT conducts Beethoven's Symphony No. 9
November 30- December 1 2018: The Nightmare Before Christmas film with live orchestra
December 2 2018: Gautier Capuҫon, cello with Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
December 14-15 2018: SoundBox curated by MTT
December 14-15 2018: Jane Glover conducts Messiah
January 5-6 2019: Mary Poppins film with live orchestra
January 11-13 2019: Jaap van Zweden conducts Mozart and Bruckner; Eugene Izotov, oboe
January 14 2019: Itzhak Perlman, violin
January 18-20 2019: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts Tchaikovsky and Sibelius; Gabriela Montero, piano
January 22 2019: Leif Ove Andsnes, piano
January 24-26 2019: Christian Reif conducts R. Strauss, Andrew Norman, Prokofiev; Johannes Moser, cello
January 27 2019: Leonidas Kavakos, violin
January 31- February 2 2019: Herbert Blomstedt conducts Beethoven and Mendelssohn
February 7-9 2019: MTT conducts Steven Mackey, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky
February 14-17 2019: András Schiff conducts Bach and Mendelssohn
February 22-24 2019: Daniel Harding conducts Schumann; Lars Vogt, piano
February 27-28 2019: La La Land film with live orchestra
March 1-2 2019: Close Encounters of the Third Kind film with live orchestra
March 3 2019: Mikhail Pletnev conducts the Russian National Orchestra; George Li, piano
March 7-9 2019: Franҫois-Xavier Roth conducts Schumann, Liszt, and Brahms; Cédric Tiberghien, piano
March 10 2019: Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin with Lambert Orkis, piano
March 14-17 2019: MTT conducts Ravel, Mozart, and Sibelius; Christian Tetzlaff, violin
March 31 2019: Marc-André Hamelin, piano
April 7 2019: Midori, violin and Jean-Yves Thibaudet, piano
April 11-14 2019: Andrey Boreyko conducts Brahms and Zemlinsky; Emanuel Ax, piano
April 18-20 2019: Fabio Luisi conducts Glinka, Tchaikovsky, and Rimsky-Korsakov; Mario Brunello, cello
April 25-27 2019: James Gaffigan conducts Wagner, Beethoven, Mozart, and Barber; Hélène Grimaud, piano
May 2-4 2019: Marek Janowski conducts Mendelssohn, Bruck, and Wagner; James Ehnes, violin
May 9–11 2019: MTT conducts Debussy and Ligeti; Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano
May 12 2019: Joshua Bell, violin; Steven Isserlis, cello; and Jeremy Denk, piano
May 16-18 2019: MTT conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 7
May 23-25 2019: Krzysztof Urbański conducts Elgar, Bacewicz, and Mendelssohn; Vilde Frang, violin
May 30- June 1 2019: Juraj Valčuha conducts Bach and Shostakovich; Alexander Barantschik, violin
June 6-8 2019: TBD conducting Bartók, Grieg, and Saint-Saëns; Nikolai Lugansky, piano
June 9 2019: Christopher Houlihan, organ
June 13-16 2019: MTT conducts Mahler's Symphony No. 9
June 20-22 2019: MTT conducts Steve Reich and Prokofiev; Yefim Bronfman, piano
June 27-30 2019: MTT conducts Noye's Fludde and L'Enfant et les sortilèges

Season Highlights | Press Release


ABS performs St. John Passion

Abs-2018* Notes *
American Bach Soloists finished a run of St. John Passion (1725 version) concerts last weekend, ending with a matinée performance in San Francisco on Sunday. The singing was excellent.

Tenor Aaron Sheehan has a bright sound as the Evangelist. Though much of his part is obviously on the declamatory side, he has a lovely legato as demonstrated at the end of "Er leugnete aber." Baritone Jesse Blumberg has a particularly fine voice also, and his Christ is very dignified.

My favorite was certainly contralto Robin Bier and loved hearing her strong, tawny tones in "Von den Stricken meiner Sünden" in the first half and "Es ist vollbracht!" in the second. Soprano Hélène Brunet sounded as pure and lovely as ever in her arias.

This performance, conducted by Jeffrey Thomas, did seem to start off with less precision than usual. The woodwinds sounded unfocused, but the orchestra was much more together by the end of the first half.

* Tattling *
There was very little extraneous noise from the audience, at least around me in Row K Seat 116. It was rather crowded, both the people around me expressed concern for me, especially because the person in front of me was at least a foot taller than me. I did not mind not seeing that much, and was able to concentrate well on the music.


Opera Parallèle's Trouble in Tahiti

OSTO4959* Notes *
Opera Parallèle is performing a very charming production of Leonard Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti again, this time presented with Jake Heggie's At the Statue of Venus as a single narrative. As an added bonus, we heard some Bernstein songs from West Side Story as people milled around the museum setting for the Heggie piece, and even Charles' Ives The Unanswered Question with dancing from living statue Steffi Chong (pictured, photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo) as Venus.

Maestra Nicole Paiement conducted with elegance and spirit, the orchestra sounded absolutely great. The only time things felt a little off was when baritone Eugene Brancoveanu was a bit ahead during "Something's Coming," when he was up above the stage in the Center Terrace of SFJAZZ's Miner Auditorium and Paiement was not conducting.

At the Statue of Venus involves only one mezzo, in this case Abigail Levis (Rose), singing as she waits for her blind date to arrive. The character is extremely neurotic and insecure, she goes on and on about how she shouldn't have worn slacks. Levis has a pretty voice, clear and bright. She's double cast with Renée Rapier, whose sound is perhaps richer and warmer, it's hard not to be curious about what Rapier's take is on the role. Steffi Chong's Venus, statue though she is, gave a sympathetic performance as Levis anticipated who was coming to meet her. I also really liked Sherry Parker's mixed media collage projected on the upstage screen that comprised most of the museum's works. Her work never could be mistaken for a screen saver or video game scene.

The Trouble In Tahiti is much like what we saw in 2013, when the company performed it at Z Space with Samuel Barber's Hand of Bridge, though Venus wanders in for Scene IV, as after Sam and Dinah run into each other. Director Brian Staufenbiel's production uses a similar quartered turn-table set with a kitchen, an business man's office, an analyst's office, and a gym. The theater ends up being up above in the Center Terrace where there is a large screen showing projections of little perfect houses falling into place on lawns and amusing print advertisements of the period.

Tahiti3351OriginalKrista Wigle, Andres Ramirez, and Bradley Kynard (pictured, photograph by Steve DiBartolomeo) are jaunty as The Trio, cheerily singing about suburbia. Eugene Brancoveanu, who along with Wigle and Ramirez reprises his role from 2013, is as funny as ever as Sam, he can be callous and impatient yet has a roguish warmth. Abigail Levis is lovely as Dinah, never shrill, and it was easy to feel compassion for her character.

* Tattling * 
Many of the audience members on the left side of Row L seemed to chatter quite a lot.


Met Opera's 2018-2019 Season

MetoperaSeptember 24 2018- March 28 2018: Samson et Dalila
September 25- November 13 2018: La Bohème
September 26 2018- March 7 2019: Aida
October 4-27 2018: La Fanciulla del West
October 25 2018- April 6 2019: Tosca
October 19- November 10 2018: Marnie
October 30 2018- February 8 2019: Carmen
November 8- December 1 2018: Mefistofele
November 44- December 8 2018: Les Pêcheurs de Perles
November 23- December 15 2018 Il Trittico
December 4 2018- April 27 2019: La Traviata
December 14 2018- January 10 2019: Otello
December 19 2018- January 5 2019: The Magic Flute
December 31 2018- January 26 2019: Adriana Lecouvreur
January 15-31 2019: Pelléas et Mélisande
January 16- February 17 2018: Iolanta and Bluebeard's Castle
January 30- April 18 2019: Don Giovanni
February 7- March 2 2019: La Fille du Régiment
February 12- May 10 2019: Rigoletto
February 22- March 16 2019: Falstaff
March 30- April 20 2019: La Clemenza di Tito
May 3-11 2019: Dialogues des Carmélites
March 9- May 6 2019: Das Rheingold
March 25- May 7 2019: Die Walküre
April 13- May 9 2019: Siegfried
April 27- May 11 2019: Götterdämmerung

The Met announced the 2018-2019 season today, the first for Yannick Nézet-Séguin as Music Director. The new productions are Samson et Dalila, Nico Muhly's Marnie, La Traviata, and Adriana Lecouvreur (which is a co-production with San Francisco Opera, among others). Philippe Jordan conducts the Lepage production of Der Ring des Nibelungen, which stars Christine Goerke as Brünnhilde.

Press Release with Casting | Official Site