Friday, October 31, 2014

Separated at Birth?

Eminent Victorians:

Cincinnati Music Hall

St. Pancras Station, London

Jefferson Market (Courthouse) Library, NYC

Jefferson County Courthouse, Port Townsend, WA

Now We Are Ten

My first posting introduced me, and some of the details are still true. In my third posting, I blamed opera-l.

But actually, I should have blamed Alex Ross. I started blogging because I saw that he had a blog (and a very good blog it is). In the last decade, I've had years with more and fewer postings, depending on my energy at any given moment or in any week, or my determination to stick with a story. Or even depending on whether I'm on a shuttle to work that has tables. (Maybe you can use a laptop on your lap, but I can't.) I've occasionally thought about shutting down the blog and putting my energy elsewhere, but invariably that just means I need a short break.

It's been a great ten years. I've loved meeting my readers and fellow bloggers, whether by email or in comments or in person or on the phone. You energize me, goad me, make me think, and occasionally enrage me. Thank you for reading me, and I hope to still be doing this in another ten years.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Domino Effect: Met Cast Changes

Marina Poplavskaya has withdrawn from her scheduled Met Traviata performances (as Violetta, natch). The results:
  • Sonya Yoncheva sings the tubercular courtesan on January 14, 17, 21, and 24, making her North American and Met role debut. (She would have originally sung this role in San Francisco in June, but withdrew because of pregnancy.) 
  • To sing Violetta, Yoncheva withdrew from some Boheme performances, where she was to sing Musetta.
  • Marina Rebeka sings Musetta on January 15, 19, and 24.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

All That AND Joyce Di Donato!

Awright, that was some series, and I say that as someone who hadn't watched a baseball game in years. Hunter Pence! Pablo Sandoval! (Pay him what he wants!)

And what about that Madison Bumgarner?!?! Three Two wins and one save in this series! Pitching five innings in relief after going to whole nine on Sunday! Terrifying consistency and absolute cool!

The Royals are a terrific team and it was a great series.

SF Opera Cast Change: La Cenerentola

Baritone Efrain Solis, an Adler Fellow, will sing Dandini in the upcoming run of La Cenerentola, replacing Fabio Capitanucci, who has withdrawn for health reasons. Cenerentola opens on November 9 and runs to the 26th.

Solis had a memorable couple of minutes on stage in Un Ballo in Maschera, somehow upstaging everybody else on stage as Christian, a sailor. "Everybody else" included Dolora Zajick, so you can imagine.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Compare & Contrast 27

Some disagreement about LA Opera's Dido & Aeneas/Bluebeard's Castle double bill, directed by Barrie Kosky.
  • Out West Arts: "You should see the double bill that LA Opera just opened on Saturday night at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It’s not just that it is one of the best productions the company has mounted in the last four years. It’s also evidence that the company has without question transitioned into a new artistic era." [There follows a lot of praise of Kosky, the productions, and the singers.]
  • David Gregson's Opera WestAttending Los Angeles Opera’s current double bill on opening night Saturday, I was mildly surprised to discover that many people do not know Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas very well — or, indeed, at all. If they had the slightest affection for it, stage director Barrie Kosky’s hideously misguided contribution would perhaps have enraged the audience. But I detected nary a boo and Kosky’s ludicrous travesty was met with warm approval.
  • Mark Swed, LA Times: Tough to excerpt this one!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Rubin Institute for Music Criticism

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is hosting the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism November 5-10, with a host of events at various places. I have some thoughts, which I'll try to get into a separate posting, but there's a press release below the cut. I also received a press release about the Rubin Fellows, a talented group of most-double-majors from four colleges and universities. (That in itself is interesting: does this mean it's tough luck if you go to Brandeis or Reed?)

Honoring Jonas Salk

The great scientist's 100th birthday is on October 28, 2014, and there's a Google Doodle in his honor:

The polio vaccine has prevented thousands of cases of polio annually just in the United States. 

Welcome Back!

After much too long a break, I am so happy to see that new postings are appearing at Out West Arts, the fabulous Los Angeles (and world-spanning) music, opera, theater, and sometimes art blog. Welcome back, Brian!!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Revelations about Suzuki

Violinist and teacher Mark O'Connor reports on research showing that Shinichi Suzuki, creator of the Suzuki (violin) method, fabricated his musical resume. He has more a few critical things to say about the method itself, too.

Update: I should have waited to post on this subject or not posted at all. See my follow-up posting.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Key Man Insurance

Key man insurance [sic] is what companies buy when the death of a particular individual would have a severe impact on a company's business operations.

I report up to Urs Hölzle, not Alan Eustace, but I have to admit that when I saw the news that Alan had made a parachute jump from 136,000 feet, my first thought was to wonder what happens to a company's key man insurance when an executive does something like that. (This is undoubtedly because I spent the first six years of my work life in the insurance business.)

Because I am a ghoul, my second thought was to be grateful that he was on the front page of the Times because he'd survived, rather than on the obits page because he hadn't.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Cast Change: Carmen

Same as on the 13th:

Aleksandrs Antonenko is ill, and rather than calling in the regular cover, they've got Brandon Jovanovich singing Don Jose in tonight's performance of Carmen. Jovanovich is currently rehearsing for Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why We Need Proofreaders

Received in the mail, a fund-raising letter over David Gockley's name and signature. Somewhere in the bowels of the War Memorial Opera House, someone is grimacing, and it's not over the missing serial comma, either:
We were able to present a superb roster of performers that day, all of whom will grace our main stage this fall. What a line-up! Thomas Hampson, Brandon Jovanovich, Brian Mulligan, Heidi Stober, Ramon Vargas and the powerhouse soprano Dolora Zajick, as well as our own recent Adler Fellow Brian Jagde. San Francisco Opera is one of the few opera companies in the world that can deliver that kind of star power in one place at one time.

The Death of Klinghoffer Media Roundup

Reviews are coming in; watch for updates:

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Klinghoffer Sock-Puppetry

I hardly ever read opera-l these days, but happened to take a look because of all the Klinghoffer opinions flying around. And what do you know, the first alphabetic posting is by our friend "Genevieve Castle Room," and it cites something a lot like what I found on my blog the other day:
  • GCR quotes "John Blackburn on Twitter": "Sad that Adams is held in such esteem. Musically bland pabulum spiced withprogrammatic narrative. By programmatic narrative, I mean his fondness for political libretti and such—cover for light musical thought"
  • "Carrie Theuring" on my blog: "It's sad that Adams is held in such esteem. Musically bland pabulum spiced with programmatic narrative."
Update: John Blackburn is real. I'll assume that "Carrie Theuring" is one of many pseudonyms used by "Genevieve Castle Room," so "Carrie" is the sock puppet here, quoting Blackburn without attribution.

Guest Post: Death of Klinghoffer Review

Pamela McCorduck, author of Machines Who Think and co-author of The Futures of Women, was at the Met opening of The Death of Klinghoffer and sent me this review, which I am publishing with her permission:

Arrived to a tremendous police presence, which saddened me, but which also reassured me. Ticket holders had to enter at the side of the plaza, which was otherwise completely sealed off; the demonstrators were out toward Columbus Avenue. Plenty of purse-checking once inside the house too.

The production was given a tremendous ovation (which it earned) at the end. The disruptions - one guy yelling out during a quiet moment in the first act (a well-educated voice) that "the murder of Klinghoffer will not be forgiven" seemed to me entirely self-aggrandizing. No one in that auditorium could, or probably would, be forgiving anyone, nor had they the right. The Times says he was escorted from the house and arrested; likewise a woman who screamed "a vulgarity" and though I was seated in the orchestra, as was she, I couldn?t tell what she yelled. 

The opera opens with two choruses in succession, one the exiled Palestinians, one the exiled Jews. Each is an exquisite piece of music (and as my Juilliard instructor pointed out, each lasts to the
minute the same time as the other). After the exiled Palestinians sing, people actually booed. Not because the music wasn?t beautiful and beautifully performed, but because Palestinians in New York
deserve to be booed on principle, apparently. This dismayed me, but there you go. No Palestinians in the audience to boo the chorus of the exiled Jews.

The first act seemed a bit abstract?the choral music was always superb, but the arias less so. I?d have to hear them again to say more. But the second act! It took hold and didn?t let you go. I was utterly wiped out at the end.

Does the opera humanize the terrorists? Yes, it does. Are they admirable human beings? Glamorous? Not in the least. But to acknowledge their pain in exile is only to acknowledge the unpleasant facts, and the opera would make no sense as drama if we didn?t have a little backstory. 

Whereas Klinghoffer and his wife are altogether admirable: from a wheelchair, he speaks truth to power, in the old phrase, a guy standing in front of him with a machine gun--a hugely courageous
thing. The conjugal love between them is beautifully delineated. The captain is subtly characterized (a peacemaker, and a courageous man who, even at gunpoint, lies about Klinghoffer's death to the
authorities on land because he suspects that if the death is reported, mayhem will come from land and many more will be killed). He offers his own life to the terrorists, because as "host" on his ship, he has failed his "guests."

Before, at intermission, and after the performance, an electronic bulletin board told how the opera differed from the facts, and what happened to the main characters, including the terrorists (they were
eventually released from prison). The program itself had a page-long statement from the Klinghoffer daughters, which was heartfelt, but contained a major confusion between art and real life. It was their father; they're entitled to the confusion. 

Even Rudi Giuliani, who was outside leading the protestors, admitted that he loves the music, and listens to it "without listening to the words"? I can't think why. This is in no way propaganda. It's a
deeply moving piece of art. 

How it got the reputation of being anti-Semitic just baffles me. Yes, one of the terrorists talks about "Jewish exploitation of the poor," but that's the stuff you've heard since you were four, and in
this case, it quickly changes to "American exploitation." But the Jewish characters themselves are portrayed with deep sympathy and subtlety, which the Palestinians are not. Their sorrow has
degenerated into fanaticism, which may be human, but isn't to be admired. 

To me, it was an irony that fanatics were outside protesting an opera which nearly none of them had seen nor knew anything about.

 My report from the field,

Monday, October 20, 2014

Curtain Up!

The latest on The Death of Klinghoffer, which opened this evening at the Met. Here are the latest articles about this opera.
Here's a Twitter feed for Klinghoffer (no hashtag). Zerbinetta: "Protestors are yelling “shame on you! Despicable!” as we enter the plaza."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Metropolitan Opera Cast Change: Aida

From the Met:
George Gagnidze will sing the role of Amonasro in five performances of Verdi’s Aida this season, replacing the originally announced Andrzej Dobber, who has withdrawn from the performances. Gagnidze will sing Amonasro on December 26 and 29 and January 2, 5, and 10 matinee. 
Gagnidze first sang Amonasro at the Met in 2012. He will sing the role in a new production at La Scala this spring. The Georgian baritone made his Met debut in 2009 in the title role of Verdi’s Rigoletto, a role he repeated with the company in 2010 and 2013. His other Met performances have included Scarpia in the 2010 season-opening new production of Puccini’s Tosca, the title role in Verdi’s Macbeth, and Shaklovity in Mussorgsky’s Khovanshchina. This April, he will add a new role to his Met repertory when he sings Tonio in a new production of Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci.
 The December and January performances of Aida are conducted by Marco Armiliato and also star Tamara Wilson and Marjorie Owens, both in their Met debuts, in the title role; Violeta Urmana as Amneris; Marcello Giordani and Carl Tanner as Radamès; Dmitri Belosselskiy as Ramfis; and Soloman Howard as the King.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Congratulations to A Beast in a Jungle!

The San Francisco Bay Guardian* has named fellow blog A Beast in a Jungle as the winner of its readers' poll for Best Arts/Music site! Congratulations to blogger John Marcher.

Note Beast's Coming Up, Calendar, and Half-Price Ticket links. You might find this stuff useful.

* Just in time to go under. We know, we know.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Evidence-Driven Pentagon

The extreme left-wingers at the Pentagon say that global climate change is an immediate threat to national security. I look forward to the climate-change-denying Republicans in Congress trying to cut or deny Pentagon funding to deal with related issues.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Temporary Header

I probably won't leave the musical header up there for too long - I can't figure out how to make it a background image for the blog title and colophon - but I hope at least some readers recognize it.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Satya Nadella Puts His Foot in His Mouth

Microsoft's new CEO may never get his foot out of his digestive system. Addressing the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, here's what he said:
“It’s not really about asking for the raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will actually give you the right raises as you go along, That’s good karma. It will come back. That’s the kind of person that I want to trust, that I want to give more responsibility to.”
Right. We should just trust a system that has been screwing women forever. As we all know, men get ahead in computing by waiting patiently to be given the "right raise" by "the system" and by being the kind of person executives just want to give more responsibility. (That superpower business is also stupid. Please don't insult me by saying I have special superpowers as you tell me not to ask for a raise.)

Actually, men get ahead by asking for what they want, whether it's the right raise or more responsibility. Women are far more likely to doubt themselves and their qualifications for a particular job. Here's an article in the Times explaining just how wrong Nadella is.

Dr. Maria Klawe, computer scientist and president of Harvey Mudd College, was interviewing him, and what she told the audience was how her poor negotiating skills may have cost her $50,000/year when she was at Princeton. 

He tried to backtrack on Twitter, but really, he might consider a real apology.
“Was inarticulate re how women should ask for raise,” he wrote in a Twitter post. “Our industry must close gender pay gap so a raise is not needed because of a bias.”
What bullshit. He was perfectly articulate and he wasn't discussing either bias or how women should ask for a raise.

Nadella just set back diversity at Microsoft by I don't know how much - what sensible woman in computing would want to work for a company whose CEO says something so stupid? I would just assume that he is accurately reflecting the corporate culture, and I'd stay far, far away. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Going Around

There's a meme of sorts going around, or maybe two: one is to name ten pieces you never want to hear again (see Slipped Disc for about 120 examples), the other is to name ten pieces you want to hear more often.

I'm going to pass on the first, which would consist of overplayed 18th and 19th c. standards, La Traviata, Madama Butterfly, etc., and generalize a lot about the second.

For starters, you might take a look at my Fantasy Opera series. Most of the operas I listed are rarities of one kind or another. I'm sure Svanda Dudak is performed more often in the Czech Republic than outside it (although I see that it's being done in Palermo shortly).

After that, really, it's all new and old music. I believe I have never heard a Dufay mass performed live, and there is a huge wealth of music before 1700 that I would love to hear in person. Of 20th and 21st century music, I'm interested in modernists such as Crawford, Carter, Boulez, and Babbitt; Europeans such as Haas and Birtwistle; Feldman; women whose music has been overlooked or ignored; etc. I'm interested in music by the second- and third-string composers; the better-than-competent composers whose music is buried under the top layer. I'd like to hear almost everything that's off the beaten track.

Norma and Some Catching Up

Knowing that I am among the world's biggest Patricia Racette fans, you might have wondered why no review of Susannah, which I'd been looking forward to since rumors of its local appearance first hit my inbox several years back. Well, I was scheduled to review it for SFCV. But on August 20, I came home from work a couple of hours early, feeling under the weather. By the end of the week, I had a fever and a cough that would not go away. Ten days later, I had a pneumonia diagnosis, which knocked me out until after the run was over.

That's how it goes. Fortunately, I was able to get to Norma, which opened the season, at the next to last performance. Let me tell you, if you missed this one, especially after Russell Thomas replaced Marco Berti, I do feel for you. You are not going to hear singing of this quality, in this opera, very often.

And I should know. When I started getting serious about opera 20 years ago, I got myself a couple of Callas's recordings, and I figured I would probably never see it, because it was rarely done and anyway nobody could sing it.

Boy, was I wrong. This was my fifth Norma:
  • Los Angeles, 1996, Eaglen, Mentzer, Cura, unfortunately conduced by Placido Domingo
  • SFO, 1998, Vaness, Antonacci, Sylvester/Summers
  • Met, 2001, Eaglen, Zajick, Margison/Rizzi
  • SFO, 2005, Nagelstad, Mishura, Todorovich/Jobin
  • SFO, 2014, Radvanovsky, Barton, Thomas/Luisotti
Fifth time's a charm, I guess. The 1996 was very good, the conducting excepted; at that point in her career, Jane Eaglen could trill and do the runs well; you could hear the trills at "Adalgisa fia punita," unlike almost everyone else. She and Susanne Mentzer had worked out beautiful variations for the second verse of "Si, fino al'ore." Cura was a convincing Pollione, too.

The 1998 SFO bring-up was bad, with Ana Caterina Antonacci giving the impression that she was the only person on stage who could sing. Of Carol Vaness and Michael Sylvester, I can only say that Gary Rideout, singing Flavio, was three times as heroic-sounding as Sylvester. My notes say that Patrick Summers conducted very well. The 2005 was also dismal;, worse; somewhat flabby conducting. Again, Adalgisa saved the day, with Irene Mishura giving a fine performance indeed. As for Met 2001, by then Eaglen had lost much of the flexibility in her voice, and Margison was mediocre and inaudible next to the women's gigantic voices. Well, at least it had decibels.

We'll never know the full story of how this year's SFO Norma was cast. The announced trio of principal principals was Sondra Radvanovsky, Davida Karanas, and Marco Berti. Karanas withdrew during the rehearsal period, replaced by Cardiff Singer of the World winner Jamie Barton. Berti withdrew after the second performance, replaced by Russell Thomas.

It's lucky that Jamie Barton was more or less free: she withdrew from a single engagement in London to be able to sing the full run. (I seriously doubt that she was covering Karanas, though odd things do happen in the opera world.) And Thomas was evidently Berti's cover.

By the time I saw it, at the next-to-last performance, the whole thing had come together very nicely, at least vocally. I do not expect to hear this opera sung any better than it was on September 27, which is to say, pretty close to flawlessly. 

Barton, especially, is lavishly gifted, with an extremely beautiful, round, warm mezzo soprano, very even and with high notes in place. (The tessitura for Adalgisa is the same as for Norma; the latter is just up there in the heavens a lot more. But Adalgisa does need to be strong above the staff.) No complaints at all about her. She was dignified, she moves well on stage, and she sang like an angel. She also sounded great with Rad in the duets; their voices are oh so different, but sounded good together.

Russell Thomas has a good, strong tenor voice, well-placed, clarion, tireless, and with all the notes there, cleanly. He was audible in the trio and sounded good with both Barton and Rad.  I liked hearing him a lot and hope his career gets a big boost from this. 

And then there's Sondra Radvanovsky. I am not, unlike some, going to say this was flawless, but it was damn close. I will be lucky if I hear this role better sung in my lifetime, and those flaws I heard? They are fixable: her trills aren't great, and honestly, that thing she does where she sings so softly her voice practically disappears? It is an overdone mannerism that calls attention to itself; if she simply diminished the sound to a piano with some body, it would be more beautiful and just as impressive. And we know she can do this, because "Son io" was breathtaking and sung exactly the way I wish she'd sung all of her piano phrases.

Now that I've got that out of the way: she was enormously impressive. I like her voice, which is not beautiful in the Ponselle mold, but which has a lot of character. She has tremendous control of dynamics, from that teeny piano up to ff that sounded as though she could have been even louder. Beautiful, supple, phrasing; good fioriture, plenty of dramatic presence: that's what this role takes, and she had it.

If only the direction and production had been better. Holy silly costumes, Batman! I understand there was an explicit attempt to have a Game of Thrones ambiance, and uh well....nothing in GoT quite accounts for the hideous wig Rad was wearing, the leftover Star Trek uniform they stuffed Thomas into, or the Modern Cabana where Norma's children were living.

For reasons unclear to me, the Druids lived inside a stockade, rather out in the woods, crediting them with a different level of technology than the usual Norma production. Perhaps the idea was to imply that they really could successfully take on the Roman empire? If so, the production could have taken this idea further. (Why someone hasn't done the obvious and created a radical feminist Norma production, I don't understand, because the most intense personal relationship does seem to be between the priestesses.)

Worst of all were the ghastly props and stage furniture, and the supers/stage hands constantly moving them around. The Modern Cabana came and went a few times; there was an unnecessary platform that Oroveso and Norma both sang from; there was that....horizontally suspended tree that Norma cuts the mistletoe from; the gong that had to be brought forward and then removed; the Druid bull, a wheeled statue that looked as if it was made out of huge tongue depressors. 

These props usually took up about a third of the stage, forcing the singers, including the chorus, to maneuver around them. The constant movement on and off stage of the props was very, very distracting, especially from my seat in the Dress Circle. 

And Kevin Newbury's Personregie left a lot to be desired, as in, he did almost nothing interesting with the characters. So many opportunities for scenery chewing missed! I mean, nothing happened dramatically when Rad turned on Pollione, after discovering his betrayal of her. Almost nothing happened when she confessed and walked into the fire, or when she was furious with Adalgisa, or about the kill the children, or...

There's plenty of room for drama in this most voice-focussed of operas, and yet.....most of the drama went for nothing.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Un Ballo in Maschera at SF Opera, Media Roundup & Commentary

Not your usual list of reviewers, as you'll see:
Yes, you are reading that right: my review is in the Chron. And the first thing I have to do is apologize, because 90 minutes after I filed, I realized I'd forgotten to remark on the performances by singers in smaller roles, and by then it was too late for a change. Those singers would be Christian Van Horn and Scott Conner as the conspirators; they sang very well, and I wish Jose Maria Condemi's direction had given them more distinct physical presences. Efrain Solis, a current Adler Fellow, had a lot of personality - and voice - as Christian, a beneficiary of Gustavus's generosity during the fortune-telling scene. A.J. Gluekert was fine as the Chief Magistrate, but is this character traditionally a buffoon out of G&S? I would have thought him a serious foil to Oscar.

Other remarks: 
  • The press materials and program say that Christian Van Horn is singing Count Horn, the web site says he's singing Count Ribbing, and I don't know which is correct, but you can tell from reading the reviews who believed which source.
  • To hear an Italian Verdi baritone as Renato/Anckarstrom. try Gino Bechi on the 1943 Serafin/Gigli, Caniglia, Bechi, Barbieri set. For that matter, Gigli is a stunning beautiful and convincing Riccardo.
  • That scene at the gallows? Somebody please throw a black or brown cloak over Julianna Di Giacomo, please: it is within the realm of the possible that the man she's married to will recognize that pretty blue outfit.
  • Heidi Stober makes such an adorable leggy teenaged boy that it is obviously time to revive the practice of casting sopranos as Cherubino and Octavian.
  • My appearance in the Chronicle will be a rarity or even one-time event; this review happened because the usual reviewers, three of them, were unavailable.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Not Exactly News

Last Saturday, I received a printed invitation from San Francisco Opera to an Important Company Announcement, to be held Friday morning in the lounge behind the opera shop. I figured it must be one of three things:

1. Announce David Gockley's successor, since we've all known for the last year that he planned to retire after the 2015-16 season.

2. Announce Nicola Luisotti's departure and his replacement, though the news that he has quit his Italian job made this less likely.

3. Announce a gigantic gift to renovate or replace the elderly and space-constrained War Memorial Opera House.

But I was wrong.

The press conference was to formally announce Gockley's retirement and to chat a bit. "At the request of the Board," he'll be planning the two seasons after his departure, because you have to sign singers and conductors now for four years out. So he is planning 2016-17 and 2017-18. He confirmed that there will be a Ring revival in 2017-18, meaning summer 2018. He didn't mention who is conducting, but it's not Nicola Luisotti.

He mentioned that when he joined the company, he told the Board he was committed to ten years, more or less, and thinks that is a good tenure for an opera company executive. (Says the man who ran the Houston Opera for 33 years!) Asked what he was proudest of in his time here and which of his commissions he was proudest of, he mentioned first, the 2011 Ring, and second, said he was very proud of The Bonesetter's Daughter, Heart of a Soldier, and Dolores Claiborne. He did say the critics didn't always agree. (You bet: I thought Bonesetter was an embarrassment with one good scene and a horrid libretto.)

(If I were him and I'd been asked that question, the slam-dunk answer is Nixon in China. It's a great piece, it has entered the repertory, and he took a big chance on Adams when he commissioned it, at a time when Terry McEwan was saying it would appear in the War Memorial Opera House over his dead body.)(Oh, and by the way, Appomattox is being performed in DC a couple of years out.)

Opera Association President Keith Geeslin and Gockley both discussed the challenges facing the company, including:

  • The ever-rising cost of presenting opera
  • The shrinking subscriber base. (See this SFCV report for figures Gockley discussed earlier this year.)
  • The need for a huge amount of fund-raising
Asked about mistakes he'd made that he would counsel his successor to avoid, he said more or less the following:
  • We're space and facilities challenged in a 1930s house. There are ways to create productions for the house, but you have to be careful.
  • It's challenging to co-produce with other houses because of the size of the house and the facilities. He specifically mentioned Covent Garden, a much small house with a smaller stage.
  • Keep the constraints in mind and be creative.
  • It's very labor intensive to move sets on and off stage because of the space constraints, and this increases costs.
  • No new house in the offing.
  • Spend time in Europe and put in time talking face to face with the artists of the day, because that's the only way to persuade some of them to perform in San Francisco.
At this point, Nicola Luisotti pointed out that in the 1980s, weak European currencies made European artists eager to work in SF. Now that the Euro is strong against the dollar, they'd rather work closer to home and get paid better.

Luisotti's contract has been extended through 2017-18. He is conducting three operas that fall. This gives Gockley's successor the opportunity to replace Luisotti if he or she wants to. (You may recall that on her way out the door, Pamela Rosenburg signed Donald Runnicles to a new contract, extending well into Gockley's tenure. I'm glad to have had Runnicles around for that extra time, but I own that it was not exactly a collegial act.)

Also - the only real news - there is another commission out to Jake Heggie, date and subject not known.

Un Ballo in Regie

You could have some fun by moving Ballo into the early 21st century, shifting it a bit to the south of Boston, and making up the characters to look like the following real-life personages:

Riccardo - Gov. Chris Christie
Renato - Robert Menendez or Cory Booker
Amelia - Menendez or Booker's spouse
Ulrica - Maureen Dowd or Gail Collins, or maybe the biggest gossip-monger in NYC
Tom & Samuel - NJ State Troopers

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Offer Made

It's been reported in a couple of Chicago papers, and SFS has confirmed to me, that an offer for the open principal oboe seat at San Francisco Symphony has been made to Eugene Izotov, currently filling the same position at the Chicago Symphony and formerly of SFS.