Friday, March 31, 2006

Not since Ponselle?

The wonderful Karita Mattila isn't singing tomorrow's Met matinee - and thus broadcast - of Fidelio; instead, her cover, Erika Sunnegardh is singing. She is 40 and making her Met debut (!); she's also under contract to cover Mattila's Elsa, and she's taking part of a run of Turandot a season or so down the road. I'm rather astonished to find this in the Times article about tomorrow; the quotation is from Joe Volpe's not-yet-published memoir:

"Not since Rosa Ponselle's debut in 1918, opposite Caruso in 'La Forza del Destino,' has the Met given an unknown singer such an opportunity," Mr. Volpe wrote.

I guess that's about her upcoming starring role and the covers, but I wonder how that plays in the context of Astrid Varnay's 1941 debut, covering Sieglinde for an indisposed Lotte Lehmann, followed by singing Bruennhilde the following week covering for Helen Traubel.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

In the East

I'm unexpectedly home on family business, completely with laptop so that I can get some work done while I'm here. So I will be blogging, I expect, and will also be attending some performances in NYC, I hope.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Peter Craven Rants

An entertaining rant by Peter Craven, in The Age, about the recent, awful film Tristan and Isolde, complete with a fine discussion of Wagner's opera.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Fredosphere in San Francisco

Fred Himebaugh's choral piece The Evidence will be performed in the San Francisco Bay Area by San Francisco Choral Artists in concerts on March 25 (St. Mark's Episcopal, Palo Alto), April 1 (St. Gregory of Nyssa, San Francisco), and April 2 (St. Paul's Episcopal, Oakland). SFCA is a superb group! Congratulations to Fred - and I'm hoping to be at one of those concerts.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Link Roundup

I have a couple of interesting links in my mail box, but no postings to hang on them, so:
  • Bridge Records sends me mail about once a month with new releases. Music for cello and piano by Chopin and Liszt, anyone? Tone poems by 19th and early 20th century American composers? Check out their Web site and get on their mailing list.

  • Duo 46 is a violin & guitar duet (Beth Schneider and Matt Gould, respectively). They've commissioned many interesting works and are charismatic performers of an unusual repertory. Listen to the many samples of their work.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

How It Went

The inaugural concerts of the Haydn Singers this weekend went well. Palo Alto was a little more ragged than we would have liked, and the turnout was fairly small, at least in part owing to the ghastly weather. Apparently thunderstorms tend to suppress the audience, and who can blame them? I might have stayed home myself. But my friend David Bratman, who reviews for San Francisco Classical Voice, came, and wrote us up on his LiveJournal.

The Berkeley concert went splendidly, and we had an excellent turnout, especially considering that we were performing opposite Hesperion XXI and the San Francisco Bach Choir.

We will very likely be performing this same program in the fall, in venues to be announced later, with other programs to follow. Catch us then!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Haydn Singers This Weekend

I'm thrilled to report that the Haydn Singers, conducted by Paul Flight, are debuting this weekend, in Palo Alto and Berkeley, CA. Our first program includes:
  • The obligatory Mozart: Misericordias Domini, K. 222, and Missa Brevis, K. 192, both very dramatic indeed

  • The eponymous Haydn: some delightful part songs and a Salve Regina by Franz Josef, plus Christus Factus Est by FJ's brother Johann Michael

  • The unknown Gasparini: a remarkable setting of Adoramus Te

Tickets are inexpensive ($15 general admission, $12 seniors, $10 students, all at the door), the music is delightful, the venues excellent:

(Moved to the top of the heap on Friday, March 10; first published several days ago.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dojo space sought

A posting from my non-musical life.

I'm just starting to look around for space for my jujitsu dojo, which I plan to open....well, let's say June or July, maybe as late as September.

You might know a space that would work for me! Here's what I'm looking for; some of the requirements are more flexible than others, and might change if I can't find what I want where I want it, but for now, these lists are it.


Shared space of some kind (I cannot rent a storefront on my own)
In Berkeley, CA or Oakland, CA (Not Laurel District)
On BART or a major bus line
750 s.f. open space minimum (no columns dividing the space); the
bigger, the better up to 1200 s.f.
At least 17 feet wide
8-10 foot ceilings (The higher end of the range is better)
Space has mats already or has storage space for mats
Storage space for other stuff (I am willing to buy Ikea-type storage
closets, etc.)
Available 2 or 3 evenings a week in 3-hour blocks (class will be 2
hours but I need setup & takedown time)
Changing rooms

Would be nice:

Available for a couple of weekend classes a month
Within walking distance of a BART stop, with walking distance defined as 10 blocks/15 minutes
Wooden or raised or sprung floor
Ability to hang bags
Room for me to have a desk
Wheelchair accessible

This space can be in a dance or movement studio of some kind; it can
be shared with another martial art; it can be in warehouse space; it
can be in a Y or recreation center or church or synagogue or other
house of worship (as long as I don't have to convert :-).

If you point me to a space I ultimately take, you get six months of
free jujitsu classes, which you may transfer to another person if you
don't want classes. (I'm planning to teach anyone 14 and up; no
children's classes, some flexibility on 14 depending on the individual

The Numbers

Greg Sandow posted some fascinating numbers on his ArtsJournal blog last week, covering the number of concerts and number of attendees annually at some 1200 American orchestras between 1990 and 2004. His posting focusses on the attendence patterns, but to me that's not the most interesting aspect of the numbers.

What caught my eye is the enormous increase in the number of concerts in that time period: from 25,210 to 37,263. Folks, that's a 50% increase in the number of concerts! There's an amazing story buried in that! Who is giving those additional concerts? Where are they? Does this mean that somewhere, new orchestras are attracting new audiences? That existing orchestras are overextended? That too many organizations are chasing the same butts to get them in the seats? In what segment are those additional concerts? (Greg raises that question.) What on earth do those numbers mean?

Monday, March 06, 2006


I really ought to have pushed this past weekend's Soli Deo Gloria concerts a little harder. It's not my favorite repertory, but yesterday's concert, especially, went quite well.

And the chorus sounded great. I arrived at the venue, Zion Lutheran in Piedmont on the late side; the rest of the chorus was already running through some openings - wow. A beautiful sound, well-blended and balanced, and way more sound than you'd expect from 35 singers. (I must say that Soli Deo Gloria has many excellent voices in it it!)

Our other two venues were First Lutheran Church in Palo Alto and St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church in San Francisco.

If you've never been to St. Gregory's, you really do need to go. The building itself is beautiful, delightful, and unusual: the sanctuary is two very high-ceilinged connected rooms that are round, rather than square; it seems either can be configured with an altar; the iconography of the dancing saints is nothing like you'll see anywhere else. It's a fabulous venue for listening to music or for singing; the sanctuary is lively without being overwhelmingly resonant, and it's easy to hear yourself and the whole chorus. Sight-lines are also very good. The seats are comfortable as well.

First Lutheran is small, traditionally-configured and very fine to sing in as well, though I think you wouldn't want a really big chorus in there, or a group with an orchestra - that would overwhelm the space.

What I'm thinking about most is Zion Lutheran and how different it sounded to me a week ago and yesterday. My initial impression at our rehearsal last Monday was "dead space, unresonant, too muffled because of the carpeting and padded pews." I couldn't hear myself so well, and the chorus sounded to me like a bunch of disconnected voices. But we sounded great yesterday. I have to assume that was mostly a result of how I was feeling a week ago, with the balance being the extra week of rehearsal and two performances we had under our collective belts.