Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Repertory Madness

The three big presenting organizations in the Bay Area -- Cal Performances, SF Performances, and Stanford Lively Arts -- have announced their 2018-19 seasons. I will try to get some thoughts posted this week, but no promises as I've got a couple of reviews to write.

However, something jumped out at me, because it's unmissable: there are three cellists performing the complete Bach suites this season. Here they are:
  • Yo-Yo Ma - September 30, 2018, Greek Theater (the perfect venue, right?) (Cal Performances)
  • Jean-Guihen Queyras - October 30, 2018, Herbst (SF Performances)
  • Alicia Weilerstein - May 1, 2019, First Congo (Cal Performances)
Yeah, I had to check to see whether Stanford Live had the same program with a fourth cellist. Nope. Maybe it's not too late for them to engage Clemens Hagen, or, for a little novelty, a Baroque cellist such as Pieter Wispelwey.

Does anybody think about the ticket sales implications of this? Especially when Ma is one of the cellists?

SF Opera Annual Meeting

I was able to go to the annual meeting of San Francisco Opera this year. It was held on Wednesday, April 11, at Herbst Theater, just across the courtyard from the opera house.

There were financial and artistic reports, and also some singing. I don't have the program in front of me, so this is largely from memory. I may make some updates when I find the program.

The company's financial condition is improving, in that the endowment has been going up, owing to both contributions to it and the stock market, and the draw on it is going down. After two seasons of 9.5% draw (gulp - that is a big, bad number), the next report will show a 4.5% draw on the endowment. Ticket sales are....as projected, producing about 21% of income. As recently as the 90s, this number was much higher, and there's no denying that everybody would like that number higher.

Someone asked, during the Q&A, about getting younger people into the house, and I was not thrilled by John Gunn's answer, which was along the lines of "Young people are often raising kids, and when their time and money frees up, then they come into the house." Sorry, won't do: young technical people making $150,000/year and up often have the time and disposable income, and really can afford to hire sitters, and many of them are making that kind of salary for years before they have kids.

Matthew Shilvock talked about the artistic side of things. He mentioned three pillars of the company's artistic vision: Community, Total Art, and Cutting Edge, if I have this right. Unfortunately, he picked the company's new Tosca production to introduce how these concepts apply, and, you know, every big company has to have a Tosca production and nobody expects it to be especially visionary. The opera is too damn grounded in specific locations on a particular day in time. Everybody knows what the Castel Sant'Angelo looks like. This was....not very convincing.

Things were a little livelier during the Q&A. I got in line with a question, and I know the poor man was thinking "OMG DO I HAVE TO HEAR ANOTHER BIRTWISTLE QUESTION FROM HER" because I could practically see the sigh of relief when I asked about Opera for All Voices instead. 

No, actually, I couldn't; he has a good poker face. (I sort of regret not asking about Birtwistle. :) In any event, a few people later, Ilana Walder-Biesanz asked about diversifying the repertory and got a non-answer from, I think, John Gunn, who dodged around a bit to mention performers, which was not her question. Shilvock jumped in at this point, without any specific repertory to name, to say that "we're in discussions with a very exciting woman composer," which of course left us guessing. 

Here are some plausible candidates for the composer they're talking to - and bear in mind that Shilvock's phrasing was vague enough that we should presume there's no contract yet. In alphabetical order, and I'm listing these composers because they're all composed well-received operas:
  • Unsuk Chin
  • Jennifer Higdon
  • Laura Kaminsky
  • Missy Mazzoli
  • Meredith Monk
  • Olga Neuwirth
  • Rachel Portman
  • Kaija Saariaho
  • Du Yun
And there are a whole bunch of women out there who've written important or interesting works in other genres that SFO might be willing to commission (remember, Jake Heggie had not written an opera when he got the commission for Dead Man Walking).

In any event, I hope the discussions lead to a finished work, and I'm looking forward to more news about this.

UPDATE: Of course, I'd be happy to see performances at SFO of existing operas by any of the above composers. L'Amour de Loin, Breaking the Waves, Alice in Wonderland, Atlas, Adriana Mater, etc.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Museum Mondays

Head in a Helmet
Gods in Color exhibit
Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco, December 2017

Friday, April 13, 2018

San Francisco Ring Tickets Available for Cycle 1

A co-worker of mine won't be able to see the Ring this June after all, and he is trying to rehome them. They're for Cycle 1:

Das Rhengold, June 12 7:30 p.m.
Die Walküre, June 13 7 p.m.
Siegfried, June 15, 6 p.m.
Götterdämmerung, June 17, 1 p.m.

The seats are in Balcony 1, which is the frontmost section of the Balcony. The seats are D-115 and 117. Here's a seating chart. I am not sure how easy it is to see the OperaVision screens from there.

I can put you in touch with him. Email me at lhirsch@gmail.com or DM me on Twitter and I'll pass along his email address.

Friday Photo

Bay Bridge from 345 Spear St.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Richard Tucker Foundation Award to Christian Van Horn

Christian Van Horn, from his personal web site

Congratulations to bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, who has appeared in mostly big roles in SF since 2010, on being awarded the Richard Tucker Foundation Award!

Monday, April 09, 2018

Museum Mondays

Gods in Color exhibit
Palace of the Legion of Honor
San Francisco, December 2017

Friday, April 06, 2018

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Lawrence Brownlee in Recital

Tenor Lawrence Brownlee gave a recital Saturday night, only his second local appearance, following his San Francisco Opera debut the other year in Don Pasquale. He was delightful in that bonbon -- it's pretty silly even as opera plots go -- and was seriously good the other night. Here are the reviews and some further thoughts that wouldn't fit into my review.

We're pretty much on the same page here; Brownlee is new to Dichterliebe and it'll be very different hearing him a couple of years down the road. 

The thoughts I couldn't get into the review: Brownlee is such a consistent vocalist that I would be willing to bet that he sings for a good long time. His comfort in florid music, standards, and contemporary music somewhat puts me in mind of the late Hugues Cuénod, who died at the remarkable age of 108 and performed until his early 90s. Like Cuénod, Brownlee has a light tenor of the sort that seems like it wouldn't change much even with some age-related wear. He is 46, meaning he's been singing professionally for around 20 years, and there is no audible wear at all. 

Here you've got an opera tenor who has a serious interest in contemporary music. New music groups should be falling all over themselves to hire him and commission more work for him. And the Cuénod comparison suggests to me that early music groups should be trying to hire him too; the late tenor sang pretty much everything. I mean, Brownlee would be fabulous in Bach, Monteverdi, Machaut, the troubadours.

Lastly, I hope a recording of Cycles of My Being will be forthcoming.

Upcoming Performances I Can't Attend (Volti, Cowell, John Luther Adams)

I'll be out of town this coming weekend (doing jujitsu) and the first weekend of May (professional conference), and thus I am missing a few events I'd love to attend

  • Bard Music West: The World of Henry Cowell. Once again, they're at Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez at 23rd, SF, CA. Dates are April 6 and 7. I attended one of the concerts last year and wow, it was great.
  • Volti is singing a work by Ruth Crawford (Seeger) at Bard West on Friday night....
  • ....and on Saturday, they're the chorus for John Luther Adams's new orchestral work, "Become Desert," which Seattle Symphony is performing at Zellerbach Hall (Cal Performances).
  • I will be back in time for Sunday's Seattle Symphony program, which includes JLA's "Become Ocean" and oceanic works by Sibelius and Britten.
  • Out into May, Volti has a great program on May 4 and 6, called Bay and Beyond.

Monday, April 02, 2018

Monday Miscellany

Various odd ends I've had floating around.