- A.C.Douglas liked the conducting about as much as I did. (Try Furtwangler's entrance of the giants to see why Levine's was a facepalm moment for me.)
- Alex Wellsung was in the house.
- Sieglinde was too.
- Alex Ross gives the nod to Eric Owens in advance of publishing his full review (I agree with this).
- The pseudonymous Octavian, writing at Parterre Box, was less than thrilled, for good reasons.
- Richard Garmise in Opera Britannia
- An Unamplified Voice has remarks.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Not real happy with how Bryn Terfel sounds, but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt until the end of the show.
For a video preview, which shows bits from a piano/staging rehearsal, see the video here. Ooo!
I took him to lunch and told him he should be proud to be music director of a house with excellent conductors, like Gergiev, Donhnanyi, Schneider, Santi, and Pappano. But he wasn't. He was jealous, especially of anyone he suspected might be better than he was. He showed absolutely no intellectual ambition. Other conductors are voracious readers, but I never saw Donald pick up a book. When I worked with him on an incredibly profound piece, such as 'Death in Venice,' we couldn't discuss the deeper aspects.
What I replied at the time: "So Donald's Wagner would be better if he read Nietzsche?"
Then La Cieca noticed an outright and significant error of fact; see the Parterre Box posting That is what fiction means
Today, Opera West publishes comments about Mansouri by former SFO Managing Director Michael Savage. His description of Mansouri sounds an awful lot like Mansouri's description of Runnicles. This is similar to the Republican name-calling tactics: if you watch and listen closely, you find that the Republicans are doing whatever they claim the Democrats are doing. (Running up deficits, for example.)
Oh - and it turns out Runnicles does read.
And if you have a chance to see her debut as Ortrud in LA Opera's upcoming Lohengrin, well, please do and let me know how it is. I have no idea why she's waited this long to try Wagner on for size, considering how well-equipped she is for his mezzo and crossover roles.
Now, the last two runs of Aida at San Francisco Opera were dispiriting affairs, with the wholly inadequate Michele Crider in the title role and, on the last go-round, the dull-as-dishwater Richard Margison as Radames. I can't say I cared much for Patrick Summers's conducting; the only bright spot was the excellent Amneris of Larissa Diadkova (who is coming soon to a Ring cycle near you).
The reviews for SFO's new Aida production were not very encouraging, to the point that I thought seriously about swapping the ticket for Werther. Then I thought, well, how many chances am I going to have to see Dolora Zajick live in one of her signature roles? And a reliable friend reported that the performances she heard, the second of the run, had been just fine, thankyouverymuch.
That was encouraging, and she was right. To start with, the production is a complete hoot, coming as close to camp, or maybe kitsch, as it's possible to get and still keep a straight face. Zandra Rhodes throws great swathes of brilliant color all over the stage, mostly blues, turquoises, and golds, in the costumes, the curtains, the sets. The one exception to all this brightness was the earth-tone costume for Amonasro (Marco Vratogna), who looked, alarmingly, like Genghis Khan, no, Atilla the Hun in Fritz Lang's Die Niebelungen.
The sets are surprisingly minimal and mostly effective; I especially liked the temple scene at the end of Act I and the irising diagonal curtains used to delineate space. About the only place the curtains did not work well was in the tomb scene, where there was little sense of the lovers being entombed, nor was there a stone for Radames to put his shoulder to in a vain attempt at escape.
Oh, yeah, the elephant. The photos on the opera web site don't do it justice, but sfmike at Civic Center got a good shot of it at the ballpark broadcast last Friday. The colors are washed out - check the opera's photo page to get a better sense of them - but you can see the elephant well enough.
The down side of the production: poor directing from Jo Davies. Sorry! A lot of standing around and singing, little interaction, none of it at all interesting. This is what I imagine opera productions of the 1920s to have been like.
The musical side was mostly well done. Nicola Luisotti is very much in his element here, and did all sorts of interesting things with the score, bringing out the counterpoint and beautiful scoring, supporting the singers, and conducting with both grandeur and flexibility. Try to catch one of his performances, if you can; Giuseppe Finzi won't be nearly as good, based on having heard his Fanciulla del West over the summer.
In the smaller roles, Christian van Horn shone as the King of Egypt. They should have swapped him in for Hao Jiang Tian, who sounded wooly and woofy as Ramfis, and gotten Philip Skinner in for the King. This was half a surprise: Tian never sounded very good to me on Met broadcasts, then sounded great as Chang the Coffinmaker in the disastrous Bonesetter's Daughter two years ago. Maybe Stewart Wallace hit his vocal sweet spot, maybe I caught him on a good day. But I would have liked more of van Horn, less of Tian. David Lomelli's brief turn as the Messenger was not good; the role lies too low for him and he, too, sounded uncharacteristically wooly.
I hope the opera can find a couple of baritones better in Verdi than Dmitri Hvorostovsky (wrong kind of voice, too wooden in general) and Vratogna, who sang Iago last season. Vratogna has a short top, shouts and pounds the line, can't maintain a good legato. Please, someone else.
Micaela Carosi was better than I'd expected, based on her O patria mia from last spring in London - with Luisotti - but but but. She was weirdly inconsistent in the performance I saw, at her best singing full out in the concerted numbers and, sometimes, in the quieter moments. I can't tell if it's lack of technique or lack of confidence, or both, leading to variable control. She was reasonably effective, certainly a big improvement over the inadequate Crider, but can't anybody sing this role well??
Marcello Giordani, making his role debut, did very, very well, turning in a good, solid Radames, well-sung and reasonably consistent, though he won't make you forget Caruso or Martinelli or Bergonzi. He has a healthy, well-placed tone, and will very likely improve in the role over time.
Best for last: has there ever been a better Amneris than Dolora Zajick?? This is a role for the history books. She has it all: a splendid voice still in superb condition at age 58, after a quarter-century of singing the most wearing roles in the repertory, stupendous dynamic control, immense volume and immense delicary when called for, tremendous authority. A subtle singer she's not, but this isn't a subtle opera or a subtle role. What I would give to hear an Aida with a quartet of singers as good as she is. Yes, she is worth the price of admission.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
California Symphony founding Music Director Barry Jekowsky says that yesterday’s announcement by Michael Soza, president of the Board of Directors, that “Jekowsky will leave the organization to pursue other interests,” came as a complete surprise. Not only had the board failed to notify him of any departure, Jekowsky was never told that that such an action was even being considered, although the conduct of a few Executive Board members led him to believe that something was awry.
Only seven out of 25 board members were in attendance during Tuesday's executive session at which the decision was allegedly made. Indeed, according to various board members who were not present, no notice had been given that Jekowsky’s employment was being reviewed, much less in jeopardy.
Upon hearing of the announcement, Michael Wiener, one of the California Symphony’s most active board members, stated in a letter to Soza that “it is with great dismay and disbelief that I heard about the Board's decision to terminate its relationship with Barry Jekowsky…. When was the decision to terminate Barry introduced, by whom, in what forum, and what discussions were entertained before bringing the matter to the entire Board for a vote? At what point was the consideration to hire a guest conductor made? Was that before or after the board was asked to terminate Barry? There are clearly many other questions that emanate from these. Please provide me some background to permit a rational understanding of the value of this decision, both for the California Symphony and Barry Jekowsky.”
According to Jekowsky, several weeks ago the Symphony Executive Board presented him with a written contract proposal and a demand that it be negotiated within days, even though the Music Director had been asking to negotiate a written agreement for the past eight years. He requested, and was refused, an opportunity to discuss the terms with Soza, Jekowsky says; instead, Soza left a voicemail message that a guest conductor had been hired for the first concert, only two weeks away.
"While I am sad at the recent turn of events, I am profoundly grateful to have been a part of the California Symphony’s unique legacy,” Jekowsky says. “Twenty-four years ago, I had a vision of an orchestra that would celebrate American music, nurture the next generation of American composers, showcase extraordinarily-gifted young musicians, and help redefine the classical experience to appeal to a broader audience. For nearly a quarter of a century, I have been lucky enough to live my dream of making that happen. But it would not have been possible without the dedication of our talented musicians, who are the very fiber of the California Symphony; the scores of volunteers and donors who kept the lights on during tough economic times like these; an amazing staff and the many board members, past and present, who absolutely made it happen.”
So, just to get this straight: the California Symphony's music director and founder learned that he was leaving to pursue other interests when he read it in a press release and only 7 of the 25 members of the organization's Board of Directors were present when the decision was made to tell him he was leaving. Which was done by press release. Oh, there was that voicemail message telling him he wasn't conducting the first concert, and also that contract...uh...negotiation.
I mean, I would find something to say, but, honestly, I'm speechless. Fortunately, the Board's behavior speaks for itself.
Update: As I predicted yesterday, the California Symphony web site no longer has the photo of Barry Jekowsky or his bio posted. It no longer has much of anything. Click any link and you'll see the text "We are currently updating our web site, and will publish the new content shortly." You can't even buy tickets at the moment, even though the first concert of the season is in ten days.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
On October 15 to 17, the Italian Academy at Columbia University presents performances of composer Jonathan Dawe's new opera, no, Dramma per Musica e Fractals, Cracked Orlando.
Now, what initially caught my eye is that the libretto is drawn from Ariosto's epic poem Orlando Furioso, which is the source of many, many libretti. Get this cast of characters:
- Anthony Roth Costanzo, countertenor, Orlando
- Mary Elizabeth Mackenzie, soprano, Angelica
- Hai-Ting Chinn, mezzo-soprano, Alcina
- Karim Sulayman, tenor, Medoro
In his new piece, Dawe has created a work that re-forges early eighteenth century music through compositional workings based upon fractal geometry. Fractal-psychoanalyst Terry Marks-Tarlow has fashioned a new libretto merged with fragments by Grazio Braccioli (1727) and re-constructed it using Fibonacci growth patterns. London-based Alastair Boag directs.
That's because I have in hand a rather remarkable press release announcing that the California Symphony's first concert, which is on October 3, yes, end of next week, will be led by Asher Raboy ("former conductor of the Napa Valley Symphony"), not by Jekowsky, who is "leaving the organization to pursue other interests." (This is not yet on their press release page, which has not been updated since January, 2010. Um, see my Web Site Basics page, guys.)
Hello. It's ten days before the season opener, the founding music director, who has 20 years' standing, is leaving, and it's to "pursue other interests"? Ten days before the season opener, really? I presume it's not because he needs back surgery....
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Sanford Dole Ensemble is poised for growth on several fronts. We are expanding our concert season and beginning a serious fund raising program. It's now time to expand our board to help us grow wisely and quickly. Can you help us?We are seeking nominations for additions to our board of directors. We thought we'd start by looking to you -- the people who already know and love us. Some working knowledge of nonprofit organizations is required. Other professional expertise -- financial, legal, promotion, event planning -- will be good. Foremost is the willingness and ability to advocate for us in fund raising.
If you don't have deep pockets yourself, you must be willing to ask people you know for money. We'll craft the message for you, but we need you to reach out to your friends and contacts on our behalf. Could be as simple as bringing them to concerts, hosting a house concert or other gathering, or introducing them to another board member who is comfortable making a contribution request.2010-11 is going to be an exciting year for the Ensemble with new venues and our first commission. If you would like to be considered for board membership (or can recommend someone), please contact RuthE. Wells at RuthE@MyDutchUncleSF.com by September 17.
Don't wait. Put your hat in the ring right now. We've got work to do! Thank you for your support of SDE.SDE is a small professional chorus that performs an interesting repertory, including quite a bit of new music. I've never heard them, but plan to hit at least one of their programs this year.
The SDE board meets approx 8x/year. Our meeting calendar has been driven by the development of the concert season, growing from two single-performance concerts our first season to six performances of four programs this coming year. Meetings are generally Sunday at 1:00 pm in the Potrero Hill neighborhood (near Sanford’s church gig, St. Gregory of Nyssa Church), scheduled at the convenience of a majority of board members. Meetings generally conclude in an hour and a half.In addition to board meetings, board members are expected to assist with concert production details: various aspects of publicity, providing singer hospitality, organizing ushers/ticket management, sometimes providing reception food (or paying for catering), greeting audience members, etc.
Sanford handles all artistic arrangements, with advice/consent from the board. We’ve talked about creating a separate artistic advisory board, but our current recruitment is focused on the operating board. Because there is no organizational staff other than Sanford, the board is directly involved in the functions of promotion, fundraising and concert production.We anticipate doing more with board members in the coming year with respect to hosting/staffing house concerts as a fundraising mechanism, as well as working on a donor cultivation campaign and grant writing.
I guess it’s a way of saying, it’s not enough to be a fan of choral music. The most effective board members will be people with an understanding of the ways in which nonprofits operate differently than for profit companies. We also need the expertise of people who have current communications technology experience – e.g., know something about Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps the most important understanding for prospective board members is the need to provide or actively participate in the cultivation of contributed income.
The SDE board has never had a set expectation of monetary support. Currently, everyone makes a financial donation of some kind, plus contribution of time/skills (e.g., getting the brochures mailed out, distributing news releases, researching donor prospects, etc.). In our upcoming season, we need to raise approximately $90,000 from new sources.
Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, Placido Domingo, the world's most multitasking tenor/baritone/conductor/general director, has signed on for another term as general director of LA Opera. Considering their financial situation - losing $6 million on the Freyer Ring, the $14 million bond issue they floated on an emergency basis - I would think they'd want a full-time general director. One waits to see whether Washington National Opera also re-hires him.
No tickets needed - just show up at one or more of the venues.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Lower Sproul Plaza
There's more information here.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
- Aida, on Sunday, Sunday, September 19 (that is this Sunday), at approximately 5:15 p.m.
- The Makropoulos Case, Sunday, November 28, at approximately 4:15 p.m.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Visual Banquet, Audible Buffet!
Of note: I like the music a lot and am sorry I'll be missing this. Perhaps it will come to SF some day. On the other hand, missing from the video, which is labeled "first musical rehearsal," a certain aging tenor. And I was dismayed when Cristina Gallardo-Domas opened her mouth; wobble, wobble, wobble. She is in her mid-40s, I'd say; too bad.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I'm going to suggest, going into this election season, that you read both these smart guys' thoughts on the election. The Votemaster is, in reality, a mild-mannered expat American computer scientist residing in The Netherlands, while Nate is a highly successful statistical analyst. (I wonder if he ever looks at public health issues.) Both of their models did well in the 2008 Presidential campaigns. In 2004 (sigh), the Votemaster showed Kerry winning. So keep an eye on 'em.
The reviews for Aida are not encouraging:
- Janos Gereben on opera-l
- Jason Victor Serinus in SFCV
- sfmike at Civic Center
- Joshua Kosman at the Chron
- Opera Tattler at Opera Tattler
The Witch of Endor, by Henry Purcell
October 30 and 31, 4 p.m. (yay! So you can get to other events those events if you like)
$50 premium (advance purchase only)/$30 general
Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin
2325 Union St. at Steiner
The program also includes some liturgical music by Purcell and excerpts from the composer's The Indian Queen and King Arthur. Shawnette Sulker, Colby Roberts, Lindsey McLennan, and John Minagro are the featured singers.Chip Grant directs and conducts.
Mostly Motets, which rehearses in San Francisco and Berkeley on Sunday afternoons, is auditioning singers for all parts. Email the group at Auditions@MostlyMotets.com; audition details are here....San Francisco Renaissance Voices (Todd Jolly, Dir.) has another great season of Renaissance choral music and early opera coming. There's a Spanish music concert built around two major works by Juan de Esquival Barahona; a Boar's Head concert and feast; a program called The Music of Joy, featuring works of Josquin, Victoria, Byrd, Gibbons, Banchieri, Tallis, and Purcell (it doesn't get much better than that lineup); and an early opera program....For that matter, catch SFRV's opening gala concert, on October 2 at 7 p.m.: An Evening at Elizabeth's Court.Music, food, and drink will be involved....At 8 p.m. tonight, Sunday, September 12, Nic McGegan hosts a one-hour program on Mozart on KDFC, 102.1. It's an advance for Phil Baroque's opening program, which features fortepianist and improviser extraordinaire Robert Levin. Additional radio shows follow, all at 8 p.m. on Sundays on KDFC, except when that slot is taken by San Francisco Opera broadcasts...Dane Ruhdyar week is coming up at Other Minds: Monday, September 27 at Swedenborgian Church (2107 Lyon St., SF, 7 p.m. panel, 8 p.m. concert) and Wednesday, September 29, at Valley Presbyterian Church (945 Portola Road, Portola Valley, 7:30 concert).
Out of Town
Met benefactor and board member Dr. Agnes Varis donated $250,000 to Opera Orchestra of New York (OONY) to support their upcoming production of Meyerbeer's L'Africaine. The performance is in memory of tenor Richard Tucker and dedicated to Dr. Varis's late husband Karl Leichtman. Marcello Giordani and Chiara Taigi star in the March 2, 2011 performance....One World Symphony of NYC opens its season on September 17 and 19 in Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively, with a program that includes Lennon (John), Strauss, Messiaen, Shostakovich, Sung Jin Hong, and others. I am intrigued especially by the orchestration of part or all of the great Quartet for the End of Time.
I've put links to both their blogs in my Bay Area Music Blogs and Such sidebar. Welcome!
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Friday, September 10, 2010
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Here's what's on the postcard, also visible at the "great programs" link above:
Sunday, Sept. 19, 4 p.m.
Bach and His French Contemporaries
With many performers - music of Bach, Marais, Leclair, Telemann, and Couperain
Friday, Oct. 1, 8 p.m. (Free)
Darius Milhaud and Lou Harrison: In Praise of Melody
Eclipse Quartet, Robert Schwartz, William Winant
There's also a screening of a film about Milhaud at 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, October 9, 8 p.m.
Lore of Moments
Joel Ryan and Evan Parker, sax and electronics improvisations
Saturday, October 23, 8 pm.
Friday, October 29, 8 p.m.
Rock and a Hard Place
Featuring Jack of the Clock, Molly Thompson, and other special guests
Saturday, November 13, 8 p.m.
Perfomer, choreographer, composer, and scholar CK Ladzekpo and master drummer Thione Diop from Senegal
Saturday, November 20, 8 p.m.
Eclipse Quartet with the Mills Percussion Group
Monday, Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m.
Monday, October 25, 7:30 p.m.
Jim Denley/Kim Myhr
Monday, November 15, 7:30 p.m.
Putting it another way, Intermezzo has been blogging about opera in London and around Europe for a few years now, and has published many interesting and informative reviews of productions and performances at the Royal Opera House.
Intermezzo got email from the ROH asking her to take down all photos included in her postings that are "referenced to performances at the ROH." In response, she took down all of her ROH postings. She also published the correspondence she received, and her replies. (Do follow that link!)
Look at it this way: the ROH got a lot of good, free publicity from someone who was paying for tickets. Their action has resulted in the loss of that publicity and, I bet, any future publicity.
Way to go, ROH!
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
And take the time to read this sobering article about how welfare "reform" has hurt the poor and reduced their chances of leaving poverty behind (h/t DeLong).
Sunday, September 05, 2010
It is in the Wagner repertory that Ms. Brewer has truly frustrated her fans. She has sung Isolde magnificently, though so far only in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s “Tristan Project,” which used Bill Viola’s videos, while Ms. Brewer and the other lead singers performed as in a concert, with music stands and vocal scores.Funny, here's the Independent covering the concert performances in London that were recorded for the Runnicles/Treleavan, Brewer, Peckova recording, not to mention that run of stage performances at San Francisco Opera in the fall of 2006.
Saturday, September 04, 2010
They staged a spare and magnificent Dido and Aeneas last year in freezing outdoor conditions a little too close to San Francisco Bay. I've been hoping they'd be back, but it's been a tough year for opera companies large and small.
John Marcher has the skinny on their 2010 plans: Purcell's The Witch of Endor, on October 30 and 31, somewhere in San Francisco. This information is not on their web site, and I haven't gotten email from the company, so I envy John his sources!
Friday, September 03, 2010
Dan Wakin has the rest of the story today. It seems that dealing with the U.S. visa bureaucracy was hard, and the Met didn't do enough to reassure Stein that he was wanted and that nothing like the boorish treatment he got from an official would happen again. Note: the Met flew an employee to Europe to help Stein get a visa.
Thursday, September 02, 2010
I own Hesperion XXI's Villacicos y Danzas Criollas, from which Alex takes the recording of Juan Aranes's "Un sarao de la chacona." It's a marvelously addictive CD that's rarely been far from my car's CD player since I bought it. Hesperion's big-band version of the Aranes, with strings, chorus, and brass, opens the CD and pulls you right in. I heard an unaccompanied rendition in 2008 by the men of the Concord Ensemble, and I can report that it works just as well in the sparer arrangement.
I'm surprised that Alex's audio guide doesn't (yet) include the mighty conclusion of Brahms's Fourth Symphony, a chaconne of overwhelming power. Furtwangler and Carlos Kleiber conduct it on YouTube.
Wednesday, September 01, 2010
I bought my donor-priority tickets to the Live in HD Telecasts last night. Dear me. I can think of something that would have made the user experience even worse, but as it is...Here's what it took, and keep in mind that I bought five sets of tickets. It would have been seven if I hadn't been so damn annoyed that I gave up before ordering ticket to my two low-priority operas. Yes, the bad user experience cost you quantifiable money.
1. Click the link on the Met web site.
I might have put "Log in" in the wrong step. I just don't remember - but I do remember that I had to log in to the movie theater/chain web site for every purchase.
I understand, I really do, why it works like this. Patrons might want to go to different theaters for different operas, or the first choice location might not be available. And the Met itself does not want to screw around with ticketing for 1,500 different locations.
But look at it this way: some of us, like me, paid you money for advance access. All of us are used to better ticket-buying experiences, even if we've had to deal with the myriad frustrations of web site timeouts, Tessitura minus the choose-your-own-seat module, and excessive 'convenience fees.' More importantly, you're selling at least 3 million tickets annually for movie theaters all over the world, many of them at times the theater would otherwise not be in use.
(How did I get that number? Well, there are 24 broadcasts, two of each opera, one live, one "encore." The Met says there are around 1,500 theaters. I'm assuming each theater sells at least 100 tickets per showing, and I'm sure that is conservative. Do the math.)
Those millions of tickets mean you have some influence. You also have an IT staff. Use your heads and make it easier for your loyal viewers.