Saturday, January 21, 2017

Concerned About Your Personal Safety in the Trump Era?

Not what we teach beginners.

At Open Door Jujitsu, we offer two-week and six-week-self-defenses class and ongoing training in Dan Zan Ryu jujitsu. We teach self-defense to women, sexual minorities, people of color, and all who feel vulnerable follow the election. Our jujitsu classes are open to all, age 16 and up. We can arrange special self-defense classes for teens, younger children, or mothers and daughters.

Front snap kick. We teach this in self-defense classes.

Contact us about enrolling or about scheduling a self-defense class on dates that work for you and your group. (Class size minimum is six.) We can be reached by email (, comments left here, phone (510-842-6243), and at our web site (

Jujitsu classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Our next scheduled women's self-defense class is on two Saturdays, February 4 and 11, 2017, from 1 to 3 p.m.

We're conveniently located in El Cerrito, a few blocks from BART and accessible by several bus lines and from 80/580.

Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!

Cast change announcement from the Met, re tonight's Barbiere; bad news for people who bought tickets to see Peter Mattei (and who wouldn't buy a ticket to see Peter Mattei):
Edward Parks and Maurizio Muraro will sing the roles of Figaro and Dr. Bartolo respectively, in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia at this Saturday evening’s performance. They will replace the originally scheduled Peter Mattei and Valeriano Lanchas, who are ill.
Mr. Parks is a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and a 2008 winner of the company’s National Council Auditions. He made his Met debut in 2009 as Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and since then, he has sung Met performances of Puccini roles including Schaunard in La Bohème, Jim Larkens in La Fanciulla del West, and Perichaud in La Rondine, as well as a Flemish Deputy in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Later this season, he will sing Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen at the Nashville Opera, Marcello in La Bohème at the Minnesota Opera, and Steve Jobs in Mason Bates’s The [R]evolution of Steve Jobs at the Santa Fe Opera.
Mr. Muraro has been singing the role of Bartolo in the current run. Saturday evening’s performance had been intended as his one night off. Mr. Lanchas is his cover. 
Saturday’s performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia will be conducted by Maurizio Benini and star Pretty Yende as Rosina with Dmitry Korchak as Count Almaviva, and Oren Gradus as Don Basilio.

New Recording of Robert Ward's The Crucible

There is a new recording, apparently only the second, of Robert Ward's The Crucible, an opera created only a few years after its source material, Arthur Miller's play of the same name, was published.

The first recording was from NYCO and features the original cast. You can still buy it, on Albany Records.

Now Albany has collaborated with SUNY/Purchase, which has an outstanding music program, to make a second recording of the opera. I am under the impression that this opera has been done more frequently at music schools than at professional opera companies, but it was staged recently at Glimmerglass, with a cast that featured our man Brian Mulligan, so perhaps it will earn more prominence in the opera world.

I'm scratching my head at Albany's claim that it is the only American opera to win a Pulitzer Prize. Um, two Menotti operas (in English), Barber's Vanessa, Douglas Moore's Giants in the Earth, Kevin Puts's Silent Night, and other operas have won the Pulitzer for music. The big mystery in Pulitzer opera awards is the absence of operas by Philip Glass - okay, Einstein on the Beach - and John Adams from the list. (I do realize that Nixon in China was widely misunderstood back in 1987 and is now recognized as one of the greatest American operas.)

UPDATE: I've been asked where Albany claims it's the only American opera to have won the Pulitzer Prize: the yellow header above the description of the older recording. See the text outlined on the screencap below, which is from Albany's web page for the first recording.

Pure Speculation

One of the consequences of the changing of the guard at San Francisco Opera is the advent of a general director who is perfectly happy on social media and whose name is appearing on a monthly email newsletter to subscribers. I've now seen enough of his writing and speaking - and sense of humor - to be confident that Matthew Shilvock is writing the newsletter himself. (Note: you could almost play Shilvock Bingo with the newsletter and speeches. He likes "incredible" a lot. :) Between his tweets and these newsletters, we know something about his travels and what he is seeing out there.

For example, we know that Matthew was in Santa Fe last summer, and during the fall he saw Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin from the Met general director's box, in company with Peter Gelb, Kaija Saariaho, and Amin Maalouf, the work's librettist. More recently, he saw Evelyn Herlitzius, our upcoming Brünnhilde, in Barcelona, starring in Strauss's Elektra. (I will interject a small complaint here about the fact that every damn opera company in Europe seems to be producing Patrice Chereau's Elektra, his last opera staging, but we are not.)

One ought not draw conclusions based on Travels with Matthew, but if one were prone to overthinking things, one might speculate a bit. And this is complete speculation; I know nothing other than what is out there in public.

1. Santa Fe Opera has commissioned an opera by Mason Bates called The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. If I were the general director of a prominent opera company that is situated at the north end of Silicon Valley, in a city overrun with young (and not so young) nerds who work for companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, and, yes, Apple, and I had an interest in attracting more young, well-off audience members, well, I would be chatting with Santa Fe about doing the second bring-up of an opera about the loved and hated founder of Apple. Note: as announced, it also has a smallish cast, which, in these economic times, is always welcome.

2. L'Amour de Loin is among the most successful recent operas, owing to the shimmering beauty and intensity of its music. Coincidentally, it also has a small cast, with just three characters and what looked like a subset of the huge Met chorus. It can easily be done on a unit set with no scene changes. There have been enough different productions that SFO would have a choice of stagings and would not have to develop its own production.

This would be a great choice for SFO to put on, especially given (ahem) that I think the main stage has never seen an opera composed by a woman. (Rachel Portman's The Little Prince was done at Zellerbach in 2008.) Saariaho is one of the greatest composers of our age. If SFO doesn't do this one, let me heartily recommend Adriana Mater, which is what the company should have done in 2015 rather than the pretty awful Two Women, because it is a much more effective and affecting look at the consequences of war and rape.

LA Chamber Orchestra 2017-18

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 50th birthday next season. They are also looking for their next music director; Jeffrey Kahane has left that position after quite a few years.

Here's the season, which has a good helping of new music by interesting composers, including Andrew Norman:

2017-18 SEASON


Joshua Bell Plays Bernstein
Saturday, September 30, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, October 1, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Jaime Martín, conductor
Joshua Bell, violin

MOZART                      Overture to the opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio
BERNSTEIN                 Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium) for Violin and Orchestra
BRAHMS                      Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11      

Mozart in Focus: Symphony No. 40
Saturday, October 14, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, October 15, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jennifer Koh, violin

STRAVINSKY               Suite from the ballet, Pulcinella                                      
ANDREW NORMAN     Violin Concerto (LACO Commission, World Premiere)  
MOZART                      Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550                           

Bach’s Brandenburgs!
Saturday, December 9, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, December 10, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Margaret Batjer, violin and leader
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord

BACH                           The Six Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046-1051        

Midweek Mozart (Mozart in Focus: Symphony No. 41)
Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall

            Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Menahem Pressler, piano

BRAHMS                      Selected Dances
            MOZART                      Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
            MOZART                      Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 550, “Jupiter” 

Regal Classics
Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, February 25, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Douglas Boyd, conductor
Toby Spence, tenor

ELLEN REID                 TBA (LACO Commission, World Premiere)
BRITTEN                     Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31                                      
HAYDN                        Symphony No. 104 in D Major, Hob.1:104, “London”

Kahane Returns!
Saturday, March 17, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, March 18, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Margaret Batjer, violin

RESPIGHI                    Three Botticelli Pictures 
PIERRE JALBERT        Violin Concerto (LACO Co-Commission, West Coast Premiere)
HAYDN                        Symphony No. 99 in E-Flat Major, Hob.1:99

Saturday, April 21, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, April 22, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Karina Canellakis, conductor
David Fray, piano

DAI FUJIKURA             Secret Forest
MOZART                      Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
BEETHOVEN               Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36                 

Season Finale! (Mozart in Focus: Symphony No. 39)
Saturday, May 19, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, May 20, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
VIVALDI                       Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 3 #11
SHOSTAKOVICH         Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 107                                      
DERRICK SPIVA          From Here A Path       
MOZART                      Symphony No. 39 in E-Flat Major, K. 543

Thursdays, November 2, 2017, and January date TBA, March 1 and 22, and April 26, 2018, 7:30 pm, Zipper Hall, downtown Los Angeles

MUSIC + DANCE (“Formerly “Westside Connections”) 
Dates, programs and San Gabriel Valley venue TBA; and Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at The Herb Alpert Educational Village at New Roads School, Santa Monica.

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
  • Richard S. Ginell, CVNA
  • 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.