Friday, May 22, 2015

Erin go bragh!

And if you want to sit sobbing at your desk - in a good way - take a look at the Twitter hashtag #hometovote.

London Friday Photo

Former National Provincial Bank Building
(now Gibson's Hall)
Carved panel representing Shipbuilding.
Bishopsgate and Threadneedle St.
London, May, 2014

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And a Great Sigh of Relief was Heard All Around the Bay

Mark Inouye
SFS Photo

Marvelous Mark Inouye, principal trumpet of SF Symphony, will be staying put. So says a tweet from Joshua Kosman, who has evidently heard from the orchestra on this important subject.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Also, You Know, We Need Unions.

The NY Times has printed a couple of top-notch investigative stories about worker abuses and health hazards in nail salons in NYC:

And today, they've got an editorial about how to make the system safer and more just. They mention "organized" in passing, but let's just be blunt: unions are made to protect worker safety and pay.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What He Said.

Metropolitan Opera production photo

Over at SF Civic Center, SF Mike has a blog post called Why You Should Buy a Ticket to The Trojans. I'm here to tell you that he is right. If you are reading this blog and you can possibly get to one of the six performances coming up at San Francisco Opera, just buy a ticket. You don't need to have heard or seen it (heck, it's never been performed in full here, only in a heavily cut version 47 years ago); just go. Take our word for it. You need to see this, and it's so expensive to produce, with its immense cast and long running time, that you might not get another chance.

Les Troyens, to give it its French name, is sui generis, a giant epic that sounds like nothing else. Berlioz: a genius, so underappreciated that it wasn't until 90 years after his death that this great, great opera was performed in full.

If you need any convincing, get yourself the 1983 Met video, or the video of the Scala/ROH/SFO production (with some of the same cast members). Or get one of Colin Davis's two recordings; while you get Jon Vickers on Davis I, you also get the paint-peeling Berit Lindholm as Cassandra. I picked up Davis I, used, more than ten years ago and was hooked by the end of the first chorus.

And get yourself a ticket. There are quite a few left for the performances that Davida Karanas was originally to sing.

I due Foscari, West Edge Opera

West Edge Opera's Opera Medium Rare season has closed with Verdi's 1844 I due Foscari, which I saw last Sunday at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek.

I had never heard a note of the work before, but a look at the Wikipedia synopsis suggests that there were few or no cuts. It's typical late-early Verdi, with some big sweeping tunes, cabalettas to go with each cavatina, some requirement of florid singing, and rousing choruses. Based on a Byron play, it tells the story of the two Foscari, father and son. Father is Doge of Venice, son is...his son. Son is falsely accused of murder; Dad won't save him despite a lot of desperate pleading from his soprano daughter-in-law; son dies in circumstances not entirely clear in libretto - fleeing rather than go into exile?; someone produces evidence that son was innocent; father is forced to give up his position and dies on stage shortly after singing lines that are an invitation to God to strike you down.

Okay: the libretto does leave something to be desired. However, the music is fine and has some terrific moments. I understand completely why baritenor Placido Domingo, having done a good job as the Doge of Genoa in Simon Boccanegra,* would want to take on the Doge of Venice as well.

The WEO cast had some standouts: veteran baritone Roy Stevens as the Doge mostly sang without his score and gave an impassioned and dramatically convincing performance. Tenor Michael Paul Krubitzer has a beautiful lyric tenor and a great sense of Italian style; I look forward to hearing him again. Paul Cheak was a commanding Loredano, the bad guy in the story. He sounds like he's got a Rigoletto or di Luna in him, too. Melody King sang the difficult role of Lucrezia, the son's wife.

And as usual, the teeny orchestra was terrific. I love Jonathan Khuner's conducting, and kudos to the violinist, cellist, and clarinetist (the Medium Rare page has been taken off the web site, and I don't have the program in front of me). If you're seeing one of these operas at Rossmoor, get a seat toward the rear on the same side of the house as the band; you'll hear them better and the voices will come across fine. And you can see from there too; those back seats are equivalent to maybe Row S or T at the War Memorial.

* The first version of Simon Boccanegra, pre-Boito, pre-Council Chamber Scene, would fit very nicely in the Medium Rare series.


Lisa tossing a student at the old location

Sigh. You would think that someone who has quit a lot of Internet experience would have run a web search on her dojo's new name, right? You would be wrong, though: I left out this crucial step until after the dojo web site was updated with the presumptive new name. And then I found out that a Brazilian jujitsu dojo in Oakland was already using the name I had picked out.

D'oh! I don't want to infringe on another sensei's dojo name, and Dan Zan Ryu jujitsu is rather different from Brazilian jujitsu!

So back to the drawing board. Fortunately, my HTML skills were up to reverting the web site to the old name. Classes are still 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 7512 Fairmount in El Cerrito, so come by any time!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Heart of Darkness at Opera Parallele

My review of Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness is up at SFCV. I am generally positive, certainly about the performances and much of the music, but I have more reservations than Joshua Kosman. Georgia Rowe calls out dramatic issues and finds it shapeless.

Philip Skinner was spooky and terrifying; I cannot wait for his Dr. Schoen in West Edge Opera's upcoming Lulu.

Media roundup:
UPDATED: Added John and Jamie.

London Friday Photo

Eldon St., City of London. May, 2014

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Good Catch!

A Google Alert sent me this:

And by the time I clicked the link, the newspaper had corrected the headline:

SFO Les Troyens Casting Update

It's NOT about Anna Caterina Antonacci (mostly); you can start breathing again.

Davida Karanas is withdrawing from her scheduled performances of Cassandre owing to her pregnancy. Two of those performances, on June 12 and 20, will be sung by Michaela Martens, American mezzo-soprano.

Antonacci is taking the third performance, on July 1, in addition to her already-scheduled performances on June 7, 16, and 25.

Here's the press release:
SAN FRANCISCO (May 5, 2015)—American mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens will make her San Francisco Opera debut as the prophetess Cassandra in the Company’s upcoming production of Hector Berlioz’s grand-scale opera Les Troyens (The Trojans) on Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 20. San Francisco Opera today announced that Martens replaces mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, who has withdrawn from the physically demanding role due to pregnancy.
Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, who was previously announced to sing three performances of Cassandra on June 7, 16 and 25, has now agreed to add a fourth on Wednesday, July 1. Antonacci, one of the most sought-after and acclaimed European singing artists today, also sings the principal role of Cesira in the world premiere of Marco Tutino’s lush and highly dramatic opera Two Women (La Ciociara) for five performances on June 13, 19, 23, 28 and 30.
Recent and upcoming career highlights for Michaela Martens include Gertrud (Hänsel und Gretel), Marilyn Klinghoffer (Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer), Judith (Bluebeard’s Castle), Kundry (Parsifal), and the Second Norn (Götterdämmerung) with the Metropolitan Opera; Gertrud with Munich’s Bavarian State Opera; Herodias (Salome) with Santa Fe Opera; Ortrud (Lohengrin) with the Vienna State Opera and in Graz; Kostelnička Buryja (Jenůfa) in Zurich; Judith, Marilyn Klinghoffer and Kostelnička Buryja with English National Opera; and Amme (Die Frau ohne Schatten) with Lyric Opera of Chicago and in Graz. Additional credits include performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, and Spoleto Festival U.S.A. She is a past winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and holds a degree from the Juilliard School.

Santa Fe Opera 2016 Season Announcement


  • La Fanciulla del West, Richard Jones co-production with ENO. Patricia Racette in the title role
  • Romeo & Juliette, with Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello
  • Capriccio, with Erin Wall, Susan Graham, and Eric Owens
  • Don Giovanni, with Leah Crocetto as Donna Anna (missed the rest)
  • Vanessa, Erin Wall in the title role (and, editorializing, I say this should have been Racette's role, because if anyone can do something with this thing....) and James Morris as the Doctor (which I must, alas, say is not an attraction)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Orchestral Auditions

That photo of Mark Inouye playing in London with the NYPO doesn't mean he is out the door at SFS. Here's how the orchestral audition process works:
  1. Open call for musicians to send tapes.
  2. The tapes are used to cull the field down to those who will audition in person.
  3. Live auditions take place.
  4. If the audition committee and MD don't like any candidates enough, another round is scheduled. (This is currently SFS's situation for timpani and associate principal trumpet)
  5.  If any candidates were good enough, they're offered trial weeks. (This is what Inouye is currently doing with NY. We had Eugene Izotov and a couple of other oboe players sitting in last fall.)
  6. After the trial weeks, the orchestra might make someone an offer. (But not always: Erin Keefe, concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, did trial weeks at the NYPO last year, but was not ultimate offered the job.)
  7. If the player accepts the offer and has a job elsewhere, such as Inouye or Izotov, the player usually goes on leave for a year. Izotov will be on leave from the CSO next season. David Herbert, though, is not on leave from SFS. He resigned outright to go to the CSO, and that's why SFS has held timpani auditions this season.
  8. At the end of the year, the player has to either stay with the new orchestra or go back to the old one. Jonathan Fischer is still on the SFS roster (weirdly, on the web site, he is still listed as acting principal even though Mingjia Liu has played most of this season). This is because of the disarray in the oboes, with Fischer in a trial year at Houston when Bill Bennett died. With Izotov's appointment, Fischer has to decide whether he is staying as Houston's principal or coming back as associate principal. I bet he stays in Houston. He has no chance of becoming principal here unless Izotov doesn't work out. Even then, he may well have auditioned for principal and not gotten tapped.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

More on the Pulitzers

I tweeted my last post, the one about the Pulitzer Prize and the graphs that someone anonymous posted elsewhere on the web. Joshua Kosman was politely skeptical about the value of the data, noting the small data set of 20. Well, there's only one winner annually, so....

So I dug up a file sent to me a few years ago, a file containing the jurors from 1943 to 2007, and I started making up a spreadsheet. It isn't quite complete, but as of today, the spreadsheet shows the winning work and composer and the jurors for each year. I've also indicated which composers serving on a jury are also Pulitzer winners.

A few things stand out, assuming I've gotten everything right.
  • Chalmers Clifton served on every jury from 1943 to 1960. The Word doc I have claims that he was the only juror in 1947. I hope that is a mistake in the Word file, even though the Pulitzer went to Ives's third symphony. (Who was Clifton? A composer. Has anyone reading this heard any of his music? If so, what is it like?)
  • Robert Ward served on 16 (!) juries between 1954 and 2004 (!).
  • Because there are so many repeat jurors, only 106 jurors have served in the 73 years since music was added to the Pulitzers.
  • The first woman to serve was Miriam Gideon in 1975. Since then, Ellen Taafe Zwilich, Vivan Fine, Joan Tower, Melinda Wagner, Shulamit Ran, Ingrid Monson, Maria Schneider, Anne Midgette, Jennifer Higdon, Carol Oja, Caroline Shaw, and Julia Wolfe have served. That's 13 of 106 jurors.
  • I haven't put in affiliations yet, but it sure does look as thought a large majority of the jurors have been based on the East the extent that West Coasters such as Martin Bernheimer, Mark Swed, and Olly Wilson stand out.
  • You could say that a few composers didn't get the award for their best works. John (Coolidge) Adams for On the Transmigration of Souls? Well, would you expect him to have won for Nixon in China, given the amount of derision when it was new?
  • It'd be mighty interesting to do a reception history of each of these works. Which had legs? When did you last hear a symphonic work by Hanson or Piston programmed? (Not that I wouldn't like to hear them, but...)
  • And of course it's rather interesting who isn't on the list at all, though again, I would not have expected Einstein on the Beach, one of the greatest theatrical works of the postwar era, to have received the Pulitzer in the year it was eligible. 
  • No prize was awarded in three different years. I will note that Satyagraha debuted in one of those years. Hindsight, I know, but I do have to wonder how much the jurors got out in those three years.
  • A few composers won more than one Pulitzer, if I'm remembering this correctly: Walter Piston, Elliott Carter, Gian-Carlo Menotti, and Samuel Barber. Anyone else?
Oh, yeah, the spreadsheet is here, and it's world-readable. Have fun - I'm sure this stuff would be even more interesting presented graphically.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Concerned About the Music Pulitzers? You Should Be.

I have no idea who put together this set of graphs, but holy cow, it raises more than a few questions about the Pulitzer Prizes in music. Just so you don't have to click through, here are the graphs:

If you've been paying attention, you're probably not too surprised by the gender and race composition of those receiving awards. There's plenty more to worry about in the following:

  • The geographic location of the jurors. Fifty-three jurors, 41 from the east coast. Hello! I know that many of us have The New Yorker's View of the World, and I know that the Pulitzers have their home at Columbia, but there are composers, lots of them, who don't live on the east coast and would make good potential jurors. Try for a little geographic diversity here.
  • The geographic location of schools attended by Pulitzer winners. Eighteen of twenty (90%) attended Columbia, Juilliard, Harvard, or Yale. Anyone with a degree from Chicago or Rice or UC Berkeley can just give up! They weren't educated within the correct 250 mile radius.
  • Symphonic works are getting the largest percentage of awards. This preference naturally restricts the award to those few who get orchestral commissions.
  • Minimalism wins, so I hope not to ever hear another complaint about the hegemony of those awful serialists, considering that serialism is nowhere to be found in the last 20 years.

Friday, April 24, 2015

London Friday Photo

St. Bride's, London, May, 2014

Found in the NYPO's Tour Photos

From a photo by Chris Lee 

Photo taken at the Barbican, London. 'Nuff said.

The Heinrich Schütz of English Literature

Anthony Trollope is 200 today. Celebrate by reading The Way We Live Now, Can You Forgive Her?, He Knew He Was Right, or one of his other 43 novels.

H/T Joshua Kosman for the title. Read his blog posting about Trollope, buy a book, then listen to some Schütz. For example:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

"Gloire, gloire à Didon!"

Listening to Davis II and concluding that Les Troyes is, in fact, the greatest opera ever, a belief I will hold until my visit to Bayreuth, come the summer.

That said, Davis I vs. Davis II: discuss.


Here's a great posting at Song of the Lark, a blog that I have read sporadically and need to be reading all the time.

It is a thorough takedown of a particularly egregious blog post by Greg Sandow. He starts from the straw man premise that audiences read press releases. No, they don't! Press releases are...wait for it...directed to the press. If he were seriously writing about new audience development, he'd look at orchestral marketing materials, not their season announcements.

Also, starting out with "I don't mean to beat up on X" means that you are about to beat up on X.

The rest of the carnage I leave to Emily Hogstad. Somebody please hire her to write about music. She's that good.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Berkeley Symphony 2015-16

Berkeley Symphony has a great season coming up too. Their schedule includes about 33% new or recent music, continuing their long commitment to the music of our time. I am lazy and will copy/paste, but I am happy to see that the first program is on a Wednesday, though whether I want to attend concerts Monday and Wednesday that week and teach classes on Tuesday and Thursday remains to be seen. Pavel Haas Quartet or Berkeley Sympony: perhaps I have to flip a coin...or take a day off that week.

From the press release:

Zellerbach Hall Concert Series
Program I: Magical
Wednesday, October 14, 2015 at 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$74
Joana Carneiro, conductor
Simone Osborne, soprano
BerliozLes nuits d'été
Kaija SaariahoLaterna magica (West Coast Premiere)
RavelLa Valse
Program II: Mystical
Thursday, December 3, 2015 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$74
Joana Carneiro, conductor
Geir Draugsvoll, bayan
GabrieliCanzon septimi et octavi toni
GabrieliSonata pian e forte
GubaidulinaFachwerk (U.S. Premiere)
MussorgskyPictures at an Exhibition
Program III: Majestic
Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$74
Joana Carneiro, conductor
Conrad Tao, piano
Lutosławski: Concerto for Orchestra
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, “Emperor”
Program IV: Monstrous
Thursday, May 5, 2016 at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $15-$74
Joana Carneiro, conductor
Simone Porter, violin
Beethoven: Overture to The Creatures of Prometheus
Mark Grey: Frankenstein Symphony (West Coast Premiere, co-commission with Atlanta Symphony)
Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35
Berkeley Symphony & Friends Chamber Music Series
Artists and repertoire to be announced at a later date.
Program I
Sunday, September 20, 2015 at 5 p.m.
Piedmont Center for the Arts, Piedmont
Tickets: $25
Program II
Sunday, November 15, 2015 at 5 p.m.
Piedmont Center for the Arts, Piedmont
Tickets: $25
Program III
Sunday, February 21, 2016 at 5 p.m.
Piedmont Center for the Arts, Piedmont
Tickets: $25
Program IV
Sunday, April 10, 2016 at 5 p.m.
Piedmont Center for the Arts, Piedmont
Tickets: $25
Under Construction New Music Program
Saturday, February 6, 2016 at 3 p.m.
Sunday, February 7, 2016 at 3 p.m.
Osher Studio, Berkeley
Tickets: $10
“Meet the Symphony” Family Concerts
Saturday, November 14, 2015, 10 a.m. & 11 a.m.
Malcolm X Elementary School, Berkeley
Tickets: Free (Suggested donation: $10)
“I’m a Performer” Family Concerts
Saturday, April 23, 2016, 10 a.m. & 11 a.m.
Malcolm X Elementary School, Berkeley
Tickets: Free (Suggested donation: $10)

San Francisco Performances Season Announcement

San Francisco Performances has a dynamite season of recitals, chamber music, and other performances coming up in 2015-16. (Full season at the link in the previous sentence.)

Some of the high points are bullet lists in the press release:

  • JAMIE BARTON(SF recital debut)
  • DUO PARNAS (SF recital debut)
  • IGOR LEVIT(SF recital debut)
  • TETZLAFF TRIO (SF debut)
  • Jake HeggieThe Work at Hand (West Coast premiere) performed by Jamie Barton, WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 16, 2015, 7:30pm, San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall
  • Shulamit RanGlitter, Shards, Doom, Memory (West Coast premiere) - performed by Pacifica Quartet, FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2016, 7:30PM, Herbst Theatre
  • Lera AuerbachNew work for solo cello (West Coast premiere) performed by Amit Peled, TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2016, 7:30PM, Herbst Theatre
  • Vijay IyerBridgetower Fantasy – in conversation with Beethoven’s Kretuzer Sonata (Bay Area premiere) - performed by Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner,WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2015, 7:30pm, Herbst Theatre
  • Andrew NormanNew work for violin and piano - performed by Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 30, 2016, 7:30pm, Herbst Theatre
  • Anthony CheungNew work for violin and piano - performed by Jennifer Koh and Shai Wosner, SATURDAY, APRIL 2, 2016, 7:30pm, Herbst Theatre
New music composed by women! Anna Caterina Antonacci! (San Francisco, in general, is extremely lucky that this great artist performs here at all.) The Tetzlaff Trio is the great violinist Christian Tetzlaff, Tanja Tetzlaff, his cellist sister, and pianist Lars Vogt. Not too shabby, eh (although their program is nothing unusual)?

And some of the others, in my opinion:
  • Pavel Haas Quartet, Beethoven, Bartok, Prokofief (October 12)
  • Thomas Ades & Gloria Chen, piano, Nancarrow, Ades, Barry, Messiaen (October 30)
  • Jennifer Koh, violin, and Shai Wosner, piano, in a four-concert series called Bridge to Beethoven, pairing Beethoven and recent works
  • Alexander Quartet and Joyce Yang, piano, play piano quintets by Schumann, Schnittke, and Brahms (November 10 - this might be my Tuesday program for the season)
  • Anonymous 4, two programs (October 18 and November 15)
  • Fredericka von Stade (supposedly retired) and Jake Heggie (May 13)
  • Roger Woodward, piano, and Robert Greenberg explore the late Beethoven piano sonatas (various dates). (Well, depends on your enjoyment of Greenberg's lecture style.)
  • Duo Parnas plays piano & cello works by Tcherepnin, Honneger, Ravel, and Cassado (April 10)
  • Mark Padmore, tenor, and Paul Lewis, piano; songs by Schumann, Brahms, Schubert, and Wolf (April 14)
  • Quartetto di Cremona plays works of Boccherini, Resphighi, and Beethoven (April 16)
 Some of you will want to see Ian Bostridge's May 21 Schubert recital, with the wonderful Wenwen Du, but I do not expect to be there.

Personal to "Girona Balie"

1. I'm not publishing your comment.

2. The first reason is that it's off-topic. A post noting that Julia Wolfe won the Pulitzer in the here and now is just that.

3. The second reason is I'm not debating someone's bullshit view of feminist scholarship on this blog. If you want to discuss, or, rather, diss, feminist scholarship, start your blog.

4. The third reason is that you have no web footprint at all, and therefore I conclude that you're someone else's pseudonym.

Another Publicity No-No

Email from a prominent opera company dropped into my inbox yesterday, among other things announcing their next season announcement and changes and additions to this season's casts.

The problem is that the document containing changes and additions is an updated version of last year's season announcement PDF....without any indication of what the changes and additions are. I see that there are no apparent changes to the higher-profile leads, but the only reason I know this is that I looked over the company's web site last week. Which means that I have no idea what might have changed, if they've been updating the web site regularly.

Folks, don't do this. If you're announcing changes and additions, add a paragraph to your press release about it, or boldface the changes.