Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ojai Music Director Update

Patricia Kopatchinskaja 

Okay, this is one of those good-news-bad-news posts, except that the bad news isn't that bad. Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who had been scheduled to be Ojai's music director for 2020, will instead be the music director for 2018. This is neutral; we get this talented violinist and new music advocate sooner!

The bad news is that Esa-Pekka Salonen was supposed to the MD in 2018, and he has withdrawn from that year. The embedded good news in Salonen's withdrawal is that his composition schedule is the cause. More music by Salonen is an unalloyed good thing.

It's Tough Being Young: Media Roundup, Das klagende Lied at San Francisco Symphony

"Gus" Mahler

I looked forward to the MTT/SFS semi-staged performance of Mahler's Das klagende Lied with great anticipation. While there were some darned good things about it - the orchestra's playing and the singing - I would not call the evening a success, for reasons I examined in great detail in my SFCV review.

Here's what I have found in the way of reviews. Joshua Kosman and I, with no collusion or discussion whatsoever, wrote essentially the same review. Omitted from my review, because Michael Steinberg's program notes reference Schoenberg's great oratorio, is my pre-performance observation noting that Das klagende Lied sounds an awful lot like Gurrelieder lite. (And when will SFS get to performing Gurrelieder? It is a fantastic piece and surely right in MTT's wheelhouse.)

It was nice to see Brian Mulligan at SFS; he has been a steadfastly outstanding presence at the opera since his breakout performance as Richard Nixon in Nixon in China. The baritone part in the Mahler, though, is tiny, not more than five minutes or so long; I can think of a few reasons to pay for a star for such a tiny part, including his resemblance to tenor Michael König, his general excellence, and the desire to have a full cast of stars.

Something I wish I'd mentioned: the fabulousness of the very noisy offstage banda.
  • Joshua Kosman, Chronicle
  • Georgia Rowe, Santa Cruz Sentinel ("Indeed, the musical values tended to outshine the visuals throughout the performance." Right you are.)
  • Allan Ulrich, FT (Link is to a search that will turn up the review; no direct link because I'm not a subscriber...)
  • Lisa Hirsch, SFCV
  • Opera Tattler
  • Cedric, SFist (Lotfi was totally right to try to get MTT into the pit across the street. Agree completely about Sasha Cooke in Songs of a Wayfarer.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

San Francisco Opera 2017-18 Season Announcement and Press Conference

Francesca Zambello, John Adams, Peter Sellars, Matthew Shilvock
Photo: Scott Wall, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

As I said the other week to various friends, we have known the bulk of the SFO 2017-18 season for some time. David Gockley disclosed the summer, 2018 Ring sometime in 2015, and at the time named both Evelyn Herlitzius and Greer Grimsley as daughter and father, with the full cast announced this past fall. I have already commented on the cast; the production, which will be in its third complete bring-up, is a known commodity.

Then there was the surprise announcement last June of the John Adams commission, Girls of the Golden West. Between the Ring and Le Girls*, the company pre-announced most of the season.

And then, at the David Gockley gala, Michael Fabiano and Nadine Sierra sang a duet from Massenet's Manon, and there was so much nudge, nudge, wink, wink going on that you might think some hints were being dropped. Or so I've been told, since I wasn't there.

Now they've announced the season, and here it is, briefly; see the company web site for the full press release. Yes, Manon, plus the five pre-announced operas, plus three more, making nine for the season. Details and commentary below.

The press conference started with Matthew Shilvock talking about-opera company-as-community, given how many people it takes to stage one opera, let alone a mammoth undertaking such as the Ring. He lavished praise on Nicola Luisotti, whose name is on the announcement, but who wasn't able to be present "because he is conducting Pagliacci [looks at watch] at this very moment in Turin." Shilvock thanked a lot of people as he went through the announcement, and had some witty commentary on some of the casting. Announcing Stephanie Blythe (!) as Klytemnestra, he positively relished linking that role back to her very funny turn as Mrs. Lovett. Okay, but I do not think she baked Agamemmnon into a pie!

And, while thanking David Gockley along the way, he mentioned that Gockley planned this entire season. That was a smart thing to say. Next season is far better than the current season, but we are on notice that we can't tell from 2017-18 what the future artistic direction of the company will be. And, honestly, that is what I'm most curious about right now.

The structure of the press conference unfortunately did not really allow for asking that kind of question, because the bulk of it was taken up by an extended chat/Q&A session, with Shilvock asking quite good questions of guests John Adams, Peter Sellars, and Francesca Zambello. Those three were present for obvious reasons: the upcoming Adams commission and the season-ending Ring, in Zambello's production. The connecting thread really was gold and the fact that a good chunk of Rheingold is set in the Sierra Nevada.

There was only time at the end for a few questions from the press, alas, so I didn't get to ask any of the several questions I had in mind. By then, because Peter Sellars had had a lot to say, I had pretty much given up on them, in fact. That said, the three of them had good stuff to say, as well as a lot; I noted particularly some comments by Adams about how the music of mid-19th c. American didn't have much of a national character yet, and also that what the singer have to sing is more like songs than arias in this opera. He also mentioned the California history series written by Kevin Starr, former state historian; Starr died rather young of a heart attack this past weekend. His mid-19th c. volume might make a good introduction to the period of the opera.

Here's the season:

Turandot, split presentation, with six performances in September, including opening night, and six in November/December. Nicola Luisotti conducts. Turandot: Martina Serafin/Nina Stemme; Calaf: Brian Jagde; Liu: Maria Agresta & Toni Marie Palmertree (September)/Leah Crocetto (November/December); Timur: Raymond Aceto/Solomon Howard. It is the same old Hockney production (groan). Wish they'd replace this. Not only has it been done for more than 20 years, it would be excellent to have a production that "interrogates the opera," as musicologist Mark Berry might say. I am curious about Stemme, Serafin, Agresta, and Palmertree in their roles; I've seen Crocetto's Liu; I'm....dubious about how much of a success Jagde will be as Calaf.

Elektra, six performances, September.  Henrik Nánási conducts. Elektra: Christine Goerke (cheering); Chrysothemis: Adrianne Pieczonka; Klytemnestra: Stephanie Blythe; Orest: Alfred Walker; Aegisthus: Robert Brubaker. New production by Keith Warner, co-produced with National Theatre of Prague and Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. I admit to being....dubious....about the Konzept, as described by Matthew Shilvock during the press conference. It's set in a museum that has an exhibit on the Elektra complex, and a woman who has somehow gotten stranded in the museum after hours looks it over and makes some personal discoveries. I think. This is such a deeply psychological opera that any sort of framing device adds unnecessary layers; there are already plenty of layers in the opera as written.

It's been around 20 years since Elektra was last done in SF, so, regardless of the production, it's about time. Along with the Adams, it's my pick for most interesting work of the season. Not to mention, what a great cast, with Goerke and Pieczonka both proven to be terrific with the sister act. Blythe should be an interesting Klytemnestra. The conductor is Hungarian and music director of the Komische Oper, Berlin.

La Traviata, ten performances in September and October. Nicola Luisotti conducts, and this will presumably be his last appearances as music director of SFO. (Matthew Shilvock did mention that they are in discussions with him about future guest appearances.) Curiously, Donald Runnicles' last run as MD was also in Traviata. I was at that performance, with Elizabeth Futral, David Lomeli, and Stephen Powell, and Runnicles got a bigger hand than anyone in the cast. Violetta: Aurelia Florian; Alfredo Germont: Atalla Ayan; Giorgio Germont: Artur Rucinski. The John Copley production, getting a little worn around the edges. I know nothing at all about Aurelia Florian and Atalla Ayan. I have heard Artur Rucinski at his web site, and he has a beautiful and impressive sound and style.

Manon, six performances in November. Patrick Fournillier conducts. Manon: Nadine Sierra; Chevalier des Grieux: Michael Fabiano; Comte des Grieux: James Creswell; Lescaut: David Pershall. New production by Vincent Boussard, who also designed the costumes. His work was last seen here in I Capuleti a few seasons ago; remember Nicole Cabell on the edge of a sink? It'll be interesting to see Fabiano and Sierra together. Fournillier conducted Cyrano de Bergerac, which was nicely done, a lovely but not very memorable bonbon.

Girls of the Golden West, eight performances in November and December, with the premiere - world premiere, that is - coming on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, an odd date. Grant Gershon of the LA Master Chorale conducts, his debut at SF Opera. He has conducted a lot of Adams in LA and is taking over The Gospel According to the Other Mary from Joana Carneiro at SFS. Dame Shirley: Julia Bullock; Ned Peters: Davone Tines; Josefa Segovia: J'Nai Bridges; Clarence King: Ryan McKinny; Joe Cannon: Paul Appleby; Ah Sing: Hye Jung Lee; Ramon: Elliot Madore; Lola Montez: SF Ballet dancer Lorena Feijoo. Peter Sellars directs and is credited with the libretto. Sound design by Mark Grey (amplification, as is usual with Adams). Co-production with The Dallas Opera, Nationale Opera & Ballet Amsterdam and Teatro La Fenice. In other words, miss it here, and you'll be able to see it elsewhere. The Met has never commissioned Adams - this seems inexplicable, given his history as an opera composer - but they've done three of his works, so they may well pick it up at some point.

* Le Girls, after Giacomo Puccini. There's a sketch of the opening of La Fanciulla del West at the Morgan Library in NYC on which he called the opera La Girl. I am not making this up, you know: I saw it with my own eyes many years ago.

She'll Swivel Her Hips

From the Met, Sophie Koch withdraws from her upcoming Carmen performances (title role), owing to illness:
Clémentine Margaine will make her Met debut in the title role of Bizet’s Carmen this Thursday, January 19, and will sing the role in all performances of the opera at the Met this season. The French mezzo-soprano, who was to make her company debut in the role later this season, replaces the originally announced Sophie Koch, who has withdrawn from her scheduled performances due to illness.
Koch hasn't got much presence in the US; friends who've seen her in Europe have written positively about her. I saw Clémentine Margaine in Chicago, as Dulcinée in Don Quichotte, and liked her a lot. I hope you do too, and I hope Sophie Koch recovers well from her illness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So Much for My Favorite Candidate.

James Conlon's contract as Music Director of LA Opera has been renewed. The contract was going to expire next year, but will now run through the end of the 2020-21 season.

LA's gain, San Francisco's loss. Now I can start dreaming about more realistic future SFO music directors, such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Semyon Bychkov, Alan Gilbert (well, he is available...), etc.

Dohnányi Withdraws from BSO Concerts

From the press release:

Christoph von Dohnányi, upon the advice of his physician, cannot travel at this time due to the flu and has regretfully cancelled his engagement to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra, January 26-28. Conductor Juanjo Mena will replace Mr. Dohnányi for these concerts, also featuring pianist Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, as well as the American premiere of Julian Anderson’s Incantesimi, a BSO co-commission. The program remains the same.
Thursday, January 26
Friday, January 27, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 28

Juanjo Mena, conductor
Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, piano
Julian ANDERSON Incantesimi (American premiere; BSO co-commission)
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto
SCHUBERT Symphony in C, The Great

Wishing the great conductor the best of health!

Movie Nights

Joshua Kosman has an excellent article in the Chron about symphony orchestras that are scheduling movie screenings enhanced by live performances of the film scores. He chats with orchestra administrators, conductor / composer David Newman, and some fans about these programs.

Joshua mentions the appeal of seeing these films with better sound than you will get anywhere else. I think there's the additional appeal of seeing a classic film on a really big screen. The disappearance of repertory movie theaters means it's almost impossible to see these movies other than on DVD. Yes, there are occasional special showings such as the Paramount classic film series or the unbelievably great showing of Abel Gance's Napoleon, which was also at the Paramount, under the aegis of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Alas, these are sadly rare.

The article says that SFS started its series in 2013. I have no doubt that the date is correct, but there were occasional showings of films-with-live-orchestra before that. I attended a summertime showing of great cartoons with live original scores a good long time ago, and they've done a couple of those since. There was also a showing of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times with what I recall was Chaplin's own scoring.*

Joshua has a very nice ca-CHUNG at the end of a craftily ordered sentence: "....and his cousin Randy." Read it for yourself.

Lastly, you have to wonder why on earth SFS hasn't yet done any of the films scored by Korngold:
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
  • Captain Blood (1935)
  • Anthony Adverse (1936)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • Juarez (1939)
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • The Sea Wolf (1941)
Perhaps they could even have Olivia de Havilland, still living at age 100, as a special guest. She is in a couple of the above films.

* My experience of Modern Times was not ideal; an usher refused to admit me because the lights had gone down two minutes before I got to the door to the theater. My seat was on the aisle in the last row of Davies and the film hadn't started yet. I was seated elsewhere but spent the first half-hour of the film in a pissed-off state of mind, because seating me would have disturbed no one.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cast Change of the Silver Rose

From the Met (and no, it's not her):
Kathleen Kim will sing Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the April 28 and May 1 performances, replacing the originally announced Erin Morley. Morley will sing the role as scheduled on April 17, 21, 24, May 5, 9, and 13 matinee.
Those two performance are smack in the middle of the run and it's not likely Morley is (or will be) this might be in the nature of a wedding invitation for that weekend, or even a short run of concerts elsewhere that the Met released Morley for.

Chicago Friday Photo

U-505 Stern


U-505 Bow

Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago
November, 2016

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Seattle Opera Season 2017-18

I noted a couple of weeks ago that Seattle will have Berlioz's Beatrice et Benedict next season, but I didn't write up the rest of the season.

I also want to point out that next month they've got what looks like a strongly-cast Kat'ya Kabanova, by Janacek. Cast includes Melody Moore and Corinne Winters in the title role; Victoria Livengood as Kabanicha; Joseph Dennis and Scott Quinn as Boris (Quinn was Steva in last season's shattering Jenufa in SF); Maya Lehyani as Varvara.

Here's Seattle for 2017-18; you probably know who wrote all of these, so I left out composer names:

Madame Butterfly
Performances: August 5, 6, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19, 2017
Cio-Cio-San Liana Haroutounian* (Aug. 5, 9, 13, & 18) [So if you missed her here....]
Alexia Voulgaridou* (Aug. 6, 12, 16, & 19)
Pinkerton Alexey Dolgov* (Aug. 5, 9, 13, & 18)
Dominick Chenes* (Aug. 6, 12, 16, & 19)
Sharpless Weston Hurt (All dates)
Suzuki Renée Rapier (All dates)
Director Kate Cherry*
Conductor Carlo Montanaro
Production Design Christina Smith*
Lighting Design Matt Scott*
* Company Debut

The Barber of Seville
Performances: October 14, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 25, 28, 2017
Rosina Sofia Fomina* (Oct. 15, 18, 21, & 28)
Almaviva Matthew Grills* (Oct. 14, 20, 22, & 25)
Andrew Owens (Oct. 15, 18, 21, & 28)
Figaro John Moore (Oct. 14, 20, 22, & 25)
Will Liverman (Oct. 15, 18, 21, & 28)
Dr. Bartolo Kevin Glavin (All dates)
Don Basilio Daniel Sumegi (All dates)
Director Lindy Hume
Conductor Giacomo Sagripanti
Production Design Tracy Grant Lord*
Lighting Design Matthew Marshall*

Così fan tutte
Performances: January 13, 14, 17, 20, 24, 26, 27, 2018
Fiordiligi Marina Costa-Jackson* (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Marjukka Tepponen* (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Ferrando Ben Bliss* (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Tuomas Katajala* (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Dorabella Ginger Costa-Jackson* (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Hanna Hipp (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Guglielmo Craig Verm (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Michael Adams* (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Despina Laura Tatulescu (All dates)
Don Alfonso Kevin Burdette (All dates)
Original Stage Director Jonathan Miller
and Production Design
Conductor Paul Daniel*

Beatrice & Benedict!!!!!!
[Yes, I am unusually enthused about this. Hen's teeth, etc.]
Music by Hector Berlioz
Libretto by Berlioz and Shakespeare. Singing translation by Amanda Holden.
In English with English captions [This might sound odd to you but in email Rob Gordon gave me some background about the opera that makes it sound like a good choice.]
Performances: February 24, 25, 28, March 3, 7, 9, 10, 2018
Beatrice Daniela Mack* (Feb. 24, 28, Mar. 7, & 10)
Hanna Hipp (Feb. 25, Mar. 3, & 9)
Benedict Alek Schrader (Feb. 24, 28, Mar. 7, & 10)
Andrew Owens (Feb. 25, Mar. 3, & 9)
Hero Laura Tatulescu (All dates)
Ursule Avery Amereau* (All dates)
Somarone Kevin Burdette (All dates)
Claudio Craig Verm (All dates)
Don Pedro Daniel Sumegi (All dates)
Director John Langs*
Conductor Ludovic Morlot* [He is MD of the Seattle Symphony and darned good in French music.]

[If this cast, production, and director look familiar, well.....]
Performances: May 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, 2018
Aida Leah Crocetto* (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
Alexandra LoBianco (May 6, 9, & 12)
Amneris Milijana Nikolic* (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
Elena Gabouri* (May 6, 9, & 12)
Radames Brian Jagde* (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
David Pomeroy* (May 6, 9, & 12)
Amonasro Gordon Hawkins (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
Alfred Walker (May 6, 9, & 12)
Ramfis Daniel Sumegi (all dates)
Director Francesca Zambello
Conductor John Fiore
Scenic Concept RETNA*
Set Design Michael Yeargan
Costume Design Anita Yavich*
Lighting Design Mark McCullough
Choreographer Jessica Lang*