Monday, September 22, 2014

Conductor Change, SF Opera Partenope

I am not familiar with the work of either of these conductors, so here it is from the San Francisco Opera press release:
San Francisco Opera today announced that Grammy-nominated American conductor Julian Wachner will make his San Francisco Opera debut conducting George Frideric Handel’s Partenope, presentedOctober 15–November 2, 2014 at the War Memorial Opera House.  Mr. Wachner replaces British conductor Christian Curnyn, who has withdrawn from the production for personal reasons. 

More on Klinghoffer

Over at New York Magazine, Justin Davidson has a lengthy analysis of the libretto and music of John Adams's The Death of Klinghoffer, which opens next month at the Met. I'd call it a must-read; he clears away a fair amount of the accumulated past discussion of the opera, and clarifies what is actually going on.

Meanwhile, protestors are already out there on the Lincoln Center plaza, because it's opening night at the Met.

ASO Lockout Continues

Well, the headline speaks for itself. Here are some links.
The Atlanta musicians accepted cuts after a lockout two years ago....and now they are locked out again.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

All Over in Scotland, More or Less

With 30 of 32 councils reporting their votes, NO is ahead, around 55% - 45%. Scotland remains part of the UK rather than becoming an independent country.

I'm glad about this, given what I've read about the huge economic risks to Scotland if they broke away.

Scottish Referendum



If you're following the Scottish independence referendum - and how could you not? - here's the page to keep an eye on, at the Grauniad. They've got a running total, a map showing which councils have reported, and a list showing the by-council vote.

More Metropolitan Opera Cast Changes

A busy week of withdrawals and changes in Lincoln Center! My commentary is in [square brackets].

James Morris and Michael Volle will share the role of Hans Sachs in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, replacing Johan Reuter, who has decided not to add the role to his repertory. Morris will sing the role on December 2, 6, 17, 20, and 23, and Volle will sing it on December 9 and 13 (matinee). The December 13 performance will be transmitted live as part of the Met’s Live in HD series, which now reaches more than 2,000 movie theaters in 69 countries around the world. [My advice: Get a ticket to see Volle. Morris was sounding mighty dry already when he sang Sachs more than 10 years ago in SF.]
 American soprano Tamara Wilson will make her Met debut in the title role of Verdi’s Aida this season, replacing Latonia Moore, who has withdrawn due to pregnancy. Wilson will sing the role on December 26, 29, January 5, and January 10 matinee. [I saw Tamara Wilson as Miss Jessel in Turn of the Screw a few years ago and she was terrific. Beautiful voice, and a big one. I am suddenly a little more interested in this Aida run than I otherwise would be.] Aleksandra Kurzak will sing Gretel in the Met’s English-language holiday presentation of Hansel and Gretel onDecember 18, 23, 27, and 30, replacing Christine Schäfer, who has decided to take a sabbatical from performing this season. As previously scheduled, Andriana Chuchman will sing the role on January 8; casting for January 1 and 3 will be announced at a later date.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Compare & Contrast 27: ENO Otello

Reviews are coming in for the ENO Otello, and about all that is clear so far is that the direction left something to be desired. Apply your knowledge of the various reviewers to calibrate what they are saying, and bear in mind that this was a role debut for Stuart Skelton in one of the most difficult tenor roles.

Update: The first three reviews listed below are the least positive; some reviewers love the direction and production and are more impressed with the singing all around.
  • Keith McDonnell in What's On Stage. Down on director David Alden; feels Stuart Skelton has the voice for Otello but isn't quite there yet, Leah Crocetto warm-voiced and with "more mettle" than Desdemona usually has, Jonathan Summers snarling and barking through Iago. Likes Edward Gardner.
  • Andrew Clements in The Guardian. Feels Alden's approach leaves an emotional vacuum, terms Skelton's singing magnificent but feels it doesn't connect, finds Crocetto "tremulous," likes Summers dramatically, "superb" conducting.
  • Rupert Christensen in The Telegraph. "Impressed but curiously umoved." Skelton "vocalised the role superbly." "This Otello didn’t begin as the majestic triumphant commander and end as the pathetic human wreck; he was just a decent bloke misled." Likes Summers and Crocetto.
  • Mark Ronan, personal blog/web site. Happy with the production and singing, thinks there is plenty of emotional resonance.
  • Michael Church in The Independent. "Superb production," conducting at "white heat," Summers' Iago "a brilliant creation," Crocetto "lovely" (after some initial tremulousness), Skelton singing with "heroic burnish."
  • Mark Pullinger in Bachtrack. Production "of searing intensity," Skelton "anguished," "visceral," "thrilling," a little mixed but mostly positive on Crocetto, likes Summers, loves the conducting.
I'd go see this show, myself, since superbly sung Otellos are few and far between. And after seeing Skelton's magnificently sung and acted Peter Grimes in June, I expect his Otello will sooner or later be a great one.

Opera Parallele 2014-15 Season

Another two-opera season for Opera Parallele, with some notable casting, plus a benefit cabaret:

Cabaret with soprano Sheri Greenawald
When: October 2, 2014 6:00 p.m.Where: Marines’ Memorial Club609 Sutter Street, San Francisco


Tables of 10: $2500 and $5000
Individual Tickets $250

For table reservations and sponsorship opportunities:
Contact: Executive Director Tod Brody at 415-626-6279

Dead Man Walking, by Jake Heggie

Cast: Jennifer Rivera (Sister Helen Prejean), Michael Mayes (Joe DeRocher), Catherine Cook (Mrs. DeRocher), Talise Trevigne (Sister Rose), Robert Orth (Owen Hart) plus Kristin Clayton, Michelle Rice, Joseph Mayers, Mark Hernandez, Jonathan Smucker, and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus

Directed by Brian Staufenbiel
Conducted by Nicole Paiement

YBCA Theatre, SF:
Friday, February 20, 8 p.m.
Saturday, February 21, 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 22, 2 p.m. 

Broad Stage, Santa Monica:
Saturday, March 7
Sunday, March 8

Tickets: $45-125

Heart of Darkness, by Tarik O'Reagan

Cast:  Isaiah Bell (Marlow), Matthew Stump (Kurtz), Jonathan Blalock (Manager/Secretary), Thomas Glenn (Accountant/Helmsman), Daniel Cilli (Thames Captain), Crystal Kim (Fiancée), Shawnette Sulker (River Woman), Jonathan Boyd (Harlequin)  and John Bischoff (Doctor/Bowlermaker)

Directed by Brian Staufenbiel
Conducted by Nicole Paiement

Z Space, San Francisco:

Friday, May 1, 8 p.m.
Saturday, May 2, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday, May 3, 2 p.m.

Tickets: $30-75

Kronos Quartet Program, Bing Hall, October 5, 2014

Not too likely I can get to this, but what a program:

What:                         Kronos Quartet

When:                        Sunday, October 5, 7:00 p.m.

Program:                   Missy Mazzoli: Harp and Altar (2009)
                                    Santa Ratniece: silsila  (2013, world premiere)
                                    Aleksandra Vrebalov: …hold me, neighbor, in this storm… (2007)
                                    Geeshie Wiley (arr. Jacob Garchik): Last Kind Words (ca. 1930)
                                    Traditional (arr. Judith Berkson and Jacob Garchik): Ov Horachamim
                                    Margarita Lecuona (arr. Osvaldo Golijov): Tabú (1941)
                                    Mary Kouyoumdjian: Bombs of Beirut (2013)

Where:                       Bing Concert Hall, 327 Lasuen Street, Stanford University


Tickets:                      $30-$65

Geeshie Wiley as in The Ballad of Geeshie and Elvie, I believe.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Additional Cast Changes, SF Opera Norma

You might have expected this one: Jamie Barton will sing Adalgisa in all performances of the opera.

You probably didn't expect this one: tenor Marco Berti has withdrawn from the production "for personal reasons." He will be replaced as Pollione by American tenor Russell Thomas, who makes his Sf Opera debut and role debut.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

San Francisco Opera and Musicians' Union Ratify Four-Year Contract

I'm going to put the press release in full below the cut, but the highlights are:

  • Contract runs through July 31, 2018
  • Musicians get 3% increase per year, 28 weeks, 69 musicians (I take that to mean full-time employees; an expanded orchestra may be necessary for some works, for example, Elektra)
  • Changes were made to the health plan that will save the company $300,000 to $400,000 annually
  • The pit lighting and sound shields will be improved.
  • They've worked out something, but don't go into any details, to cover performances at the 299-seat theater being built in the Veterans Building.
The orchestra made some concessions in the last negotiations, in 2011, and sounds pleased with the new contract.

You'll note that unlike certain other negotiations we've seen in the last few years, there were no loud public pronouncements, no threats, no complaints, from either management or the musicians. Instead, they talked, and whether the talks were as collegial as the press release states or not, everything was done professionally and quietly, with an announcement at the end. As evidence that maybe there were some sticking points, I quote this: "Joel Schaffer, Commissioner of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, participated in the latter part of the negotiations." 

In any event, hats off to everyone who participated in reaching this agreement. You have my admiration and gratitude. 

Masterpieces of Music Guides

A friend in the business called the new Masterpieces of Music guides to my attention a couple of months ago, and I have finally taken a look at the first of the guides. It's an electronic book introduction to Beethoven's Symphony No. 3, "Eroica." The text and analysis are by music writer Matthew Rye, and the guide includes Andrew Manze's Harmonia Mundi recording with the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra. (All of the guides will include Harmonia Mundi recordings, in fact.)

The audience for this type of guide is a listener who can read music and knows a little bit about keys and key relationships, and who wants a detailed walk-through of the symphony. The bulk of the 125 pages of the ebook is taken up with the score, analysis, and various musical examples. The analysis looks fine from a technical standpoint. I would say that if you're going to claim that there is something special and elemental about the key of Eb, you need to say something about the theory behind keys and key relationships before equal temperament took over.

Although the press kit touts "the latest scholarship," there can't be more than about ten to twenty printed pages on the history and reception of the "Eroica," and I could not find any references in the ebook to additional books or articles. To state the obvious, there is a vast literature on this symphony and Beethoven himself. If you want to take a serious look at the literature, start with the New Grove article on Beethoven, or Lewis Lockwood's biography, which must have an extensive bibliography.

I looked at this book in a browser on my desktop machine and didn't try to download the book to my phone or tablet. It looks pretty good (except for those huge and oddly-spaced block quotes and a couple of pages with white print on red - yech), although the sound clips interspersed with the text sometimes overlap the text when you change the size of the browser window. Some additional information is presented as a pop-up window; other information appears in a new tab. The new tabs weren't always obvious, and at one point I found myself wondering where the hell the main text had gone.

I also looked around for a while trying to figure out whether you can play the whole symphony through, rather than just the excerpts, and never did figure it out.

I am not the audience for this kind of book, but you might be. If you try out one of these - and there is a new book for the Bach Mass in B Minor, with the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1 forthcoming - let me know what you think. For around $8, they're not a bad deal.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Kind of Mail You Don't Want to Receive from Me

Or from any other music journalist or blogger:

[Redacted]:

I've attempted to unsubscribe from your mailings multiple times. It hasn't worked. Your email amounts to spam: mail that keeps coming because the unsubscribe link does not work.

I've emailed you a couple of times and even gotten a response once, assuring me that I would be removed from your mailing lists.

As I have explained, I don't cover the type of music you publicize. And now I know that basically you are a spammer, not really a publicist. Good publicists do what they can to maintain good relations with members of the press and bloggers. You are unable to manage your mailings in a professional manner, and what does that make you?

All the best,

Lisa Hirsch

[In response to this, I received an auto-response from Spam Arrest, a spam-blocker. Further nerve: acts like a spammer, treats everybody else like a potential spammer.]

A Book I am Going to Press into All of Your Hands



A couple of weeks ago, I posted a quotation from Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes. I have finished the book, and now I am going to quietly, insistently, suggest that you pick up a copy and read it yourself.

De Waal, a famous ceramicist and the son of an Anglican priest, is also a grandson of the Ephrussi family, Jewish grain merchants and bankers who became fabulously wealthy in the 19th century. They built palaces in Paris, Odessa, Vienna, Switzerland. Charles Ephrussi, art collector and connoisseur, was one of the models for Charles Swann.

The author inherited a collection of 264 Japanese netsuke, tiny sculptures used to attach small containers to men's clothing, from his great-uncle Ignace Leo von Ephrussi. Fascinated by the netsuke, he traced their history, and his family's, from the early19th century to the present. He is a marvelous writer telling a riveting and very moving story.

Read it.  You won't regret it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Hot on the Heels of the Lockout

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has a new release, of music by Ralph Vaughan Williams, on their own label. It comes complete with a self-congratulatory press release. Here's what CEO Stanley Romanstein has to say:
“This has been an exciting time in the Orchestra’s history of performing great music and presenting great artists,” Atlanta Symphony Orchestra President and CEO Stanley E. Romanstein, Ph.D, has said.  “We are especially thrilled to have a distribution partnership with Naxos as we grow ASO Media. Together, we will ensure the Orchestra’s recordings are available to music lovers around the globe.” 
Yes, it's an exciting time when nobody will get to hear the ASO live because of the lockout.

The timing leaves just a bit to be desired and certainly leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Fall Concerts at the Italian Academy, Columbia University, NYC

As always, Columbia's Italian Academy for Advanced Studies has a lineup that I wish were down the block from me. Just a copy & paste here; the performers and repertory speak for themselves. 


BERIO IN NYC
(1965-1972)
Two concerts featuring music Luciano Berio composed while living in New York

ensemble mise-en
Moon Young-Ha, Director
Sequenza III, IV, V, VI, VIIb,
Chemins IV
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
7 PM


SARAH CAHILL and
ADAM TENDLER, piano
Wasserklavier, Rounds, Sequenza IV, 5 Variazioni, Erdenklavier, Memory
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
7 PM

JACK QUARTET
New music by William Anderson, Jonathan Dawe, Matthew Greenbaum, Charles Wuorinen
With Miranda Cuckson, violin and Jay Campbell, cello
Thursday, October 30, 2014
7 PM


BENJAMIN HOCHMAN, piano
Music of Bach, Berio, Busoni, Dallapiccola, and Schumann
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
7 PM



IN THE TEATRO OF THE ITALIAN ACADEMY
1161 AMSTERDAM AVENUE, NYC

Monday, September 08, 2014

Magda Olivero



The great Italian soprano Magda Olivero has died at the age of 104. She was the other surviving member of her generation of singers, along with Licia Albanese, who died last month at 105.

Olivero had an odd career: debut in 1932, a successful career that included singing Liu on the first commercial Turandot, more than a decade of retirement, from about 1939 to 1950, a return to the stage around age 40 followed by a good 30 years more on the operatic stage. She made her Met debut at 65 as Tosca, and sang ten performances over two seasons there. She sang a couple of Toscas and five performances of La voix humaine here in San Francisco.

She was a great singer with a voice more compelling than beautiful, a superb technician with a deeply-felt and natural sense of Italian verismo style. That Turandot is well worth hearing, for Olivero, and also for Francesco Merli and Gina Cigna, and will give you a good sense of Olivero's style. In fact, here is an excerpt:



A friend seems to find it impossible that she only sang seven performances at SF Opera, but it's important to consider her repertory and who was available to sing it, both here and at the Met, after Olivero's return from retirement. I looked through the archives of both companies at Tosca from 1950 to 1970 - but not all of the Met performances - and found that at the two houses, that role was sung by Dorothy Kirsten,  Licia Albanese, Renata Tebaldi, Lucine Amara, Giulia Barera, Marie Collier, Regine Crespin, Jeanine Crader, Stella Roman, Zinka Milanov, Maria Callas, Antoinetta Stella, Mary Curtis-Verna, Leontyne Price, Leonie Rysanek, and others. A couple of those singers are obscure, but that's a lot of competition. Not to diminish Olivero's genuine greatness, I understand why an opera company might stick with Tebaldi or Kirsten or Price rather than hire a singer with an odd voice who isn't so well known in the US.

RIP, Magda Olivero.

Update: NY Times obit by Margalit Fox

Barlow Endowment Awards Commissions to 11 or 12 Male Composers

Report in NewMusicBox: the Barlow Endowment at Brigham Young University has awarded 11 or 12 commissions. There were 100 applicants; all awards went to men. NMB did not publish the gender breakdown of the applicants. Two members of the judges' committee were women, Stacy Garrop and Leilei Tian.

Barlow Prize: $12,000 to Ben Hjertmann
Honorable Mention: Steven Bryant (He's the possible No. 12 - I cannot tell whether he got a commission or not.)


GENERAL COMMISSION RECIPIENTS (And group for which they are composing)
Dan Trueman (So Percussion and Jack Quartet)
Mikel Kuehn (Spektral Quartet)
Peter Van Zandt Lane (EQ Ensemble)
Christopher Fisher-Lochhead (Spektral Quartet)
Ted Hearne (Roomful of Teeth)
Mark Engebretson (Bent Frequency)
LDS COMMISSION RECIPIENTS
Chad Cannon (Farallon Quintet)
Steven Ricks (Manhattan String Quartet)
Matthew Nielsen (BYU Singers)
Curtis Smith (Bryan Lew/violist)

Here We Go Again

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has locked out its musicians....again. Read all about it at Adaptistration.

Notice, in particular, that they have run deficits for the last 12 years. For seven of those years, Alison Vulgamore was the chief executive of the organization. You will recall that she was eventually hired by the Philadelphia Orchestra, which she then led into bankruptcy.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Season Announcements, 2014-15: Berkeley Symphony

Berkeley Symphony's 2014-15 season opens in a month, and as usual they have a fine balance of old, new, and commissions, with soloists including Jennifer Koh and Sasha Cooke. Here's the orchestral season:

Zellerbach Hall Concert Series

Season Opener: Program I
Thursday, October 2, 2014 at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $74

Performers Joana Carneiro, conductor
Jennifer Koh, violin

Program Oscar Bettison: Sea Shaped (World Premiere Commission)
Sibelius: Violin Concerto
Elgar: Enigma Variations

Program II
Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $74

Performers Joana Carniero, conductor

Program Thomas Adès: Asyla (Bay Area Commission Premier)
Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 6 in B minor, Op. 74, “Pathétique

Program III
Thursday, February 26, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $74

Performers: Joana Carneiro, conductor
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano

Program Ravel: Mother Goose Suite
Jake Heggie: Camille Claudel: Into the Fire for Orchestra and Mezzo-Soprano
(World Premiere Commission)
Brahms: Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98

Program IV
Thursday, April 30, 2015 at 8:00 p.m.
Tickets: $15 to $74

Performers Joana Carneiro, conductor
Soloist from the Adler Fellowship Program, San Francisco Opera Center
University and Chamber Choruses of the University of California, Berkeley
Marika Kuzma, director

Program John Adams: Choruses from The Death of Klinghoffer

   Mozart: Requiem Mass in D minor

(There is also a chamber music series, but programs and performers are still TBA, as far as I know.)

New Esterhazy String Quartet: Haydn, Mozart, & Pleyel

I've said for a long time that we need to know second-string composers to understand the context in which the first-string composers worked. The New Esterhazy String Quartet, which I wrote about a couple of months ago, offers a fascinating opportunity to hear such a composer, with an upcoming program that will include a quartet by Ignaz Pleyel, who was a composer as well as a renowned piano maker. Here are the details:

Masonic Brotherhood: Mozart, Haydn, and Pleyel
Pleyel: Quartet in D minor, Op. 8, No. 3 (1786)
Haydn: Quartet in D, Op. 50, No. 6 “The Frog” (1787)
Mozart: Quartet in Bb, K. 589 (1790)
 
Friday, September 26, 2014, at 8pm, Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street (at Spruce), Berkeley, 94709 tickets for this Friday concert are $20, and sold only at the door
 
Saturday, September 27, 2014, at 4pm, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church,
1111 O'Farrell Street (at Franklin), San Francisco, 94109

SundaySeptember 28, 2014, at 4pm, All Saints’ Episcopal Church,
555 Waverley Street (at Hamilton), Palo Alto, 94301
 
Tickets for Saturday & Sunday are $25 (discounts for seniors and students)

Friday, September 05, 2014

New on the SFO Web Site

San Francisco Opera has posted videos for the first couple of this season's productions, Norma and Susannah. I note the following:
  • Barton and Radvanovsky sound pretty damn great together.
  • Luisotti will probably manage to stay with the singers in the actual performances.
  • Berti sounds like Richard Margison, hooking into every even moderately high note. Maybe they should have put Jovanovich in this one instead of Susannah.
  • The Norma costumes & wigs are, uh, dubious.
  • Racette sounds pretty good in the Susannah excerpts.
  • Sounds like the pit/stage coordination problems are similar to those in Norma, and one expects, etc.
  • Chorus sounds less sure of themselves in Susannah but admittedly the "Guerra" chorus is not especially challenging.
  • Sets and costumes look good.
  • I listened to about half of Susannah a couple of weeks ago, and it's very beautiful! Buy a ticket if you haven't got one.
The fake audience applause at the end of each video is obviously fake and should be removed, though!

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Met Cast Changes

The curtain isn't up yet, and already....
  • Amanda Majeski sings the Countess in the opening night Nozze di Figaro and throughout the September/October run. Marina Poplavskaya has withdrawn for health reasons.
  • Rachel Willis-Sørensen will sing the Countess in the December Nozze performances, which Majeski was originally going to sing. (Both casts look pretty good to me, although Danielle de Niese as Susanna? Dunno.)
  • Tobias Kehrer takes the role of Sarastro in October and November performance of The Magic Flute that would have been sung by Franz-Josef Selig, who has withdrawn for health reasons.

Worth Reading

Irontongue linkspam:

  • Are We Witnessing the Birth of Music Director Activism?, asks Drew McManus, after Robert Spano (Music Director) and Donald Runnicles (Principal Guest Conductor) write an open letter about the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra's contract negotiations.
  • Heather Brown on getting to know Modern Music.
  • Facebook Ate My Blog, by Kenneth Woods. You've undoubtedly read a certain amount of commentary about the effects of Twitter and FB on blogging. Kenneth Woods has the most solid analysis of what's going on that I have seen.
  • Two by Alex Ross: The Classical Cloud and As if Music Could Do No Harm. (Currently available without New Yorker subscription, I believe, but this won't last forever.)
  • A whole bunch of good stuff on Elaine Fine's Musical Assumptions. Just start at the top (or a couple of weeks back.)

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

A Couple of Good Causes

Off-topic, because they're not musical, but anyway, a couple of Indiegogo campaigns I'm donating to:
  • LOL Makerspace & Hackerspace is a maker/hackerspace in Oakland led by people of color. They have already reached their funding goal, but more money means they'll be able to stay open longer.
  • Laurel Book Store relocation and expansion. Laurel Book Store is the little book store that could, a very small store walking distance from my home. They're moving (wah!) to downtown Oakland, which is now a happening part of town. Give them a helping hand!
Note that Indiegogo campaigns, unlike Kickstarter, do not need to be fully funded to accept  your money. That is, on Kickstarter you are not charged unless the project is fully funded. On Indiegogo, partially-funded campaigns can charge you.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

SF Symphony Personnel Updates

SFS has announced personnel changes for the coming season. I'll save the most interesting for last.

In the violin section:
  • Dan Carlson is named Principal Second Violin.
  • Paul Brancato continues as Acting Associate Second Violin.
  • John Chisolm and Chen Zhao are Co-Acting Assistant Second Violins.
  • Elina Lev joins as a section second violinist.
  • Sarah Knutson continues as a one-year substitute.
In the trumpets, Mark Grisez is a one-year substitute as Acting Associate Principal Trumpet. 

In the trombones, Tim Owen is a one-year substitute in the new position of Acting Associate Principal Trombone.

In the timpani, Alex Orfaly continues as a one-year substitute as Acting Associate Principal Timpani. (Remember, auditions are scheduled for next month.)

Here's the most interesting part: there is not yet an appointment as principal oboe. Instead, "various musicians will perform with the oboe section throughout the season."
  • Jonathan Fischer ("currently on leave from the Symphony") will be one of the guests. (He is on leave as second oboe while playing first oboe in the Houston Symphony, and was acting principal for much of last year.)
  • Jeffrey Rathbun, Assistant Principal of the Cleveland Orchestra, will play principal during the SFS US tour in November.
  • Eugene Izotov will play principal for the first two weeks of the season before his season with the Chicago Symphony, where he is principal oboe, starts.
  • Chris Gaudi continues as Acting Associate Principal.
Okay. Fischer is obviously a known quantity to the orchestra and MTT. The longer stints by Rathbun and Izotov, though not billed as tryouts, give the orchestra and MTT a closer look at two obviously accomplished oboists and how they might fit in. 

We shall see.




Monday, September 01, 2014

Somebody Will Have to Explain this to Me

I'm having some difficulty parsing this statement, in a NY Times article by Adam Nagourney, by the former president of the San Diego Opera board of directors, Karen S. Cohn:
“I cannot support what is going on,” she said of the new coalition and its efforts. “This is a group of people who are not focusing on going forward. They are focusing on ruining people who spent 31 years doing wonderful things for San Diego. I don’t want to ruin their chance of going forward, but I don’t appreciate how they have handled this.”
Okay, a person who voted to close the company is calling the people keeping the company going "a group of people who are not focusing on going forward." That is what I need explained to me. Can someone help? Somehow I am not smart enough to make sense of the paragraph I quote above. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

That Was Something.

If you didn't happen to be at your computer or other Internet-connected music player this morning and early afternoon (Pacific time), today's Proms Elektra is available for the next four weeks. So is last night's Salome with Nina Stemme, conducted by Donald Runnicles. Just click through to the Proms archive.

Now about that Elektra. Great conducting by Semyon Bychkov, very beautifully detailed in the orchestra, top-notch playing from the BBC SO, and an Elektra from Christine Goerke that has me almost at a loss for words. Plenty of decibels, which, goodness knows, this role needs. But everyone who sings the role has volume. Goerke has, in spades, what too many sopranos lack: a warm and richly colored voice; dynamic control from those gigantic triple fortes down to piano, pianissimo; a beautiful line; depth of characterization, from sarcastic to exultant to terrifying (sometimes at the time!); the ability to sing this long and difficult role with grace and beauty.

I've seen her on stage and I can imagine what this looked like - stunning, because she is a tremendous physical actor as well as a marvelous singer. I can't wait for her Met Elektras; we know from a Times article last November that she is under contract to sing at some point in the incoming Chereau production. Well, I'll be there.

I want to also single out the astounding Dame Felicity Palmer for her Klytemnestra. Wikipedia says she is 70. She sounded great, and she gave a vocally detailed and dramatically powerful performance. Yes, my eyes bugged out when I saw her birth year, because she sounded as good as most mezzos in their 30s and 40s. Well, sterling technique will take you a long, long way in the singing business.

Johan Reuter was a strong and sympathetic Orest; Gunn-Britt Barkmin sounded very good most of the time as Chrysothemis, though occasionally taxed at extremes of range and volume. I think she'd probably make a terrific Kaiserin in Frau. Robert Künzli sang a vivid Aegisth.

A Look Back

Anthony Tommasini's prescient ear:
The soprano Sondra Radvanovsky brought a vulnerable quality to her portrayal of the insecure, needy Gutrune, though her voice was somewhat tremulous. The Rhine Maidens and the Three Norns were strongly cast, with Christine Goerke, as the Third Norn, especially splendid. When is the Met going to promote this excellent soprano who came from its own training program?
Dateline April 24, 2000, in a review of that year's Ring at the Met, focused on Jane Eaglen. I'm listening to Georke's fantastic Elektra from the Proms, and you should be too.