Thursday, May 28, 2015

Music Pile-Up Weekend, June, 2015 Edition

There is too much going on the first weekend of June:
  • At San Francisco Symphony, Charles Dutoit conducts Thursday, June 4 - Saturday, June 6; the program is Ravel's Alborado del gracioso and L'Heure espagnol and De Falla's Nights in the Gardens of Spain. A Spanish theme with most of the music by a Frenchman, yep. But it should be great fun.
  • The New Esterhazy Quartet and soprano Christine Brandes perform two Haydn string quartets and two Haydn cantatas in Berkeley, San Francisco, and Palo Alto, June 5-7.
  • The International Orange Chorale sings a concert called Burning Light: Songs of Nature and the Seasons, on June 6 and 7, in San Francisco and Berkeley. Program includes works by Carter, Tormis, Weininger, and Jakobsons.
  • The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony's annual Pride concert is a doozy this year: works by Vítězlava Kaprálová, Clara Schumann, and Dame Ethel Smyth. Pianist Sara Davis Buechner is featured soloist in C. Schumann's piano concert. SF Conservatory, 8 p.m., June 6. At 3 p.m. Buechner gives a lecture/recital about her life and journey as a transgender woman, also at the SFCM.
  • And at San Francisco Opera, on Sunday, June 7, Les Troyens opens.
I'd like to see all of these programs, but I am reviewing Troyens and that is immovable unless I give up the review. What to do!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Erin go bragh!

And if you want to sit sobbing at your desk - in a good way - take a look at the Twitter hashtag #hometovote.

London Friday Photo

Former National Provincial Bank Building
(now Gibson's Hall)
Carved panel representing Shipbuilding.
Bishopsgate and Threadneedle St.
London, May, 2014

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

And a Great Sigh of Relief was Heard All Around the Bay

Mark Inouye
SFS Photo

Marvelous Mark Inouye, principal trumpet of SF Symphony, will be staying put. So says a tweet from Joshua Kosman, who has evidently heard from the orchestra on this important subject.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Also, You Know, We Need Unions.

The NY Times has printed a couple of top-notch investigative stories about worker abuses and health hazards in nail salons in NYC:

And today, they've got an editorial about how to make the system safer and more just. They mention "organized" in passing, but let's just be blunt: unions are made to protect worker safety and pay.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

What He Said.

Metropolitan Opera production photo

Over at SF Civic Center, SF Mike has a blog post called Why You Should Buy a Ticket to The Trojans. I'm here to tell you that he is right. If you are reading this blog and you can possibly get to one of the six performances coming up at San Francisco Opera, just buy a ticket. You don't need to have heard or seen it (heck, it's never been performed in full here, only in a heavily cut version 47 years ago); just go. Take our word for it. You need to see this, and it's so expensive to produce, with its immense cast and long running time, that you might not get another chance.

Les Troyens, to give it its French name, is sui generis, a giant epic that sounds like nothing else. Berlioz: a genius, so underappreciated that it wasn't until 90 years after his death that this great, great opera was performed in full.

If you need any convincing, get yourself the 1983 Met video, or the video of the Scala/ROH/SFO production (with some of the same cast members). Or get one of Colin Davis's two recordings; while you get Jon Vickers on Davis I, you also get the paint-peeling Berit Lindholm as Cassandra. I picked up Davis I, used, more than ten years ago and was hooked by the end of the first chorus.

And get yourself a ticket. There are quite a few left for the performances that Davida Karanas was originally to sing.

I due Foscari, West Edge Opera

West Edge Opera's Opera Medium Rare season has closed with Verdi's 1844 I due Foscari, which I saw last Sunday at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek.

I had never heard a note of the work before, but a look at the Wikipedia synopsis suggests that there were few or no cuts. It's typical late-early Verdi, with some big sweeping tunes, cabalettas to go with each cavatina, some requirement of florid singing, and rousing choruses. Based on a Byron play, it tells the story of the two Foscari, father and son. Father is Doge of Venice, son is...his son. Son is falsely accused of murder; Dad won't save him despite a lot of desperate pleading from his soprano daughter-in-law; son dies in circumstances not entirely clear in libretto - fleeing rather than go into exile?; someone produces evidence that son was innocent; father is forced to give up his position and dies on stage shortly after singing lines that are an invitation to God to strike you down.

Okay: the libretto does leave something to be desired. However, the music is fine and has some terrific moments. I understand completely why baritenor Placido Domingo, having done a good job as the Doge of Genoa in Simon Boccanegra,* would want to take on the Doge of Venice as well.

The WEO cast had some standouts: veteran baritone Roy Stevens as the Doge mostly sang without his score and gave an impassioned and dramatically convincing performance. Tenor Michael Paul Krubitzer has a beautiful lyric tenor and a great sense of Italian style; I look forward to hearing him again. Paul Cheak was a commanding Loredano, the bad guy in the story. He sounds like he's got a Rigoletto or di Luna in him, too. Melody King sang the difficult role of Lucrezia, the son's wife.

And as usual, the teeny orchestra was terrific. I love Jonathan Khuner's conducting, and kudos to the violinist, cellist, and clarinetist (the Medium Rare page has been taken off the web site, and I don't have the program in front of me). If you're seeing one of these operas at Rossmoor, get a seat toward the rear on the same side of the house as the band; you'll hear them better and the voices will come across fine. And you can see from there too; those back seats are equivalent to maybe Row S or T at the War Memorial.

* The first version of Simon Boccanegra, pre-Boito, pre-Council Chamber Scene, would fit very nicely in the Medium Rare series.


Lisa tossing a student at the old location

Sigh. You would think that someone who has quit a lot of Internet experience would have run a web search on her dojo's new name, right? You would be wrong, though: I left out this crucial step until after the dojo web site was updated with the presumptive new name. And then I found out that a Brazilian jujitsu dojo in Oakland was already using the name I had picked out.

D'oh! I don't want to infringe on another sensei's dojo name, and Dan Zan Ryu jujitsu is rather different from Brazilian jujitsu!

So back to the drawing board. Fortunately, my HTML skills were up to reverting the web site to the old name. Classes are still 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, and 7512 Fairmount in El Cerrito, so come by any time!

Friday, May 08, 2015

Heart of Darkness at Opera Parallele

My review of Tarik O'Regan's Heart of Darkness is up at SFCV. I am generally positive, certainly about the performances and much of the music, but I have more reservations than Joshua Kosman. Georgia Rowe calls out dramatic issues and finds it shapeless.

Philip Skinner was spooky and terrifying; I cannot wait for his Dr. Schoen in West Edge Opera's upcoming Lulu.

Media roundup:
UPDATED: Added John and Jamie.

London Friday Photo

Eldon St., City of London. May, 2014

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Good Catch!

A Google Alert sent me this:

And by the time I clicked the link, the newspaper had corrected the headline:

SFO Les Troyens Casting Update

It's NOT about Anna Caterina Antonacci (mostly); you can start breathing again.

Davida Karanas is withdrawing from her scheduled performances of Cassandre owing to her pregnancy. Two of those performances, on June 12 and 20, will be sung by Michaela Martens, American mezzo-soprano.

Antonacci is taking the third performance, on July 1, in addition to her already-scheduled performances on June 7, 16, and 25.

Here's the press release:
SAN FRANCISCO (May 5, 2015)—American mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens will make her San Francisco Opera debut as the prophetess Cassandra in the Company’s upcoming production of Hector Berlioz’s grand-scale opera Les Troyens (The Trojans) on Friday, June 12 and Saturday, June 20. San Francisco Opera today announced that Martens replaces mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas, who has withdrawn from the physically demanding role due to pregnancy.
Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, who was previously announced to sing three performances of Cassandra on June 7, 16 and 25, has now agreed to add a fourth on Wednesday, July 1. Antonacci, one of the most sought-after and acclaimed European singing artists today, also sings the principal role of Cesira in the world premiere of Marco Tutino’s lush and highly dramatic opera Two Women (La Ciociara) for five performances on June 13, 19, 23, 28 and 30.
Recent and upcoming career highlights for Michaela Martens include Gertrud (Hänsel und Gretel), Marilyn Klinghoffer (Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer), Judith (Bluebeard’s Castle), Kundry (Parsifal), and the Second Norn (Götterdämmerung) with the Metropolitan Opera; Gertrud with Munich’s Bavarian State Opera; Herodias (Salome) with Santa Fe Opera; Ortrud (Lohengrin) with the Vienna State Opera and in Graz; Kostelnička Buryja (Jenůfa) in Zurich; Judith, Marilyn Klinghoffer and Kostelnička Buryja with English National Opera; and Amme (Die Frau ohne Schatten) with Lyric Opera of Chicago and in Graz. Additional credits include performances with the Cleveland Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, Chicago’s Grant Park Music Festival, and Spoleto Festival U.S.A. She is a past winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions and holds a degree from the Juilliard School.

Santa Fe Opera 2016 Season Announcement

  • La Fanciulla del West, Richard Jones co-production with ENO. Patricia Racette in the title role.
  • Romeo & Juliette, with Ailyn Perez and Stephen Costello. (Is this still happening?)
  • Capriccio, with Erin Wall Amanda Majeski, Susan Graham, and Eric Owens
  • Don Giovanni, with Leah Crocetto as Donna Anna (missed the rest)
  • Vanessa, Erin Wall in the title role (and, editorializing, I say this should have been Racette's role, because if anyone can do something with this thing....) and James Morris as the Doctor (which I must, alas, say is not an attraction).