Sunday, May 29, 2016

Carmen Media Roundup, San Francisco Opera, June 2016

©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

I just sent off my review to Classical Voice North America; no idea when it will be posted, but here's the really short version: shockingly conventional and dull, singers without much drama on opening night. Why tell everybody for a year about how provocative Calixto Bieito is, then deliver this??

Here's what everybody else thinks:
(About the photo: if you're wondering what a giant bull is doing behind the smuggler's lair, I wondered too.)

Friday, May 27, 2016

Levine, Met Orchestra, Goerke, Vinke

James Levine at Carnegie Hall
Photo via Parterre Box

Reviews are starting to arrive for last night's Met Orchestra program at Carnegie Hall - perhaps the last to be conducted by James Levine, a sad milestone.
I expect a few others to weigh in.

Germany Friday Photo

Streetcorner, Bayreuth
August, 2015

Friday, May 20, 2016

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Luisotti to Leave San Francisco

Nicola Luisotti
copyright Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco Opera
used courtesy of San Francisco Opera

Well, well: here´s a surprise in my mailbox: Music Director Nicola Luisotti will leave San Francisco Opera in two years, at the end of the 2017-18 season. When David Gockley´s retirement was announced, the press conference also announced a two-year extension of Luisotti´s contract, presumably to provide continuity for the incoming General Director, now known to be Matthew Shilvock.

So, one of his first big jobs will be to find a new Music Director for the company.  As Joshua Kosman´s Chron article says, Luisotti was appointed in part to strengthen the company´s commitment to Italian opera. The end result of this is next season, with seven Italian operas out of nine productions. I´d say it´s time to strengthen the company in other areas.  I have not been impressed by Luisotti´s ventures into Mozart, Wagner, or R. Strauss.

I also note, with interest, that as of now Luisotti has no other full-time appointment. I suggest thinking about the possible implications of this. And there´s this in the press release:
I want the Company’s General Director Designate Matthew Shilvock to be able to move freely into the future with his ideas, his artistic interests and to take San Francisco Opera into a new direction.
Best of all, I can now tout my favorite candidate for the Met job for this one: James Conlon, a terrific conductor with broad interests and great skill across an extremely wide repertory.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Don't Forget: The Amazons are Coming!

That's the Ars Minerva production of Le Amazzoni nella Isole Fortunate (The Amazons in the Fortunate Islands) is on May 21 and 22, at the Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco. Be there or be square!

Friday, May 13, 2016

San Francisco Opera Cast Change: Carmen

Maxim Aksenov has withdrawn from the upcoming San Francisco Opera production of Carmen "for personal reasons." Brian Jagde replaces him in four performances, Adam Diegel in one. This means Jagde is singing Don José in 10 of the 11 performances. This is director Calixto Bieito's US opera debut; the production is being staged in SF by Joan Anton Rechi.

Note that there's a free simulcast to the ball park on July 2.

Additional Thoughts on the Met, James Levine, and YN-S

Last month, when James Levine's retirement was finally announced by the Met, Anthony Tommasini and Alex Ross had a mind-meld on one matter.

Alex Ross in The New Yorker:
The chief failing of the Levine era at the Met was the company’s sparse, spotty record with contemporary opera. Not until 1991 did Levine get around to presenting a world première, in the form of John Corigliano’s “The Ghosts of Versailles.” That piece has found a footing in the American repertory, but its successors at the Met—Philip Glass’s “The Voyage,” John Harbison’s “The Great Gatsby,” Tobias Picker’s “An American Tragedy,” and Tan Dun’s “The First Emperor”—are a rather miscellaneous group. Levine’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for such major opera composers as John Adams, Thomas Adès, and Kaija Saariaho seemed to delay their progress toward the Met. Latter-day masterpieces like Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s “Die Soldaten,” Ligeti’s “Le Grand Macabre,” and Messiaen’s “Saint François d’Assise” have gone unheard there.
Anthony Tommasini in the Times:
Still, over the years Mr. Levine conceded that he had not done enough to make the Met a vibrant space for new opera. He described the company as a big, hard-to-push institution, which in many ways it is. Yet in 2013, I was dismayed to hear him address this topic on “Charlie Rose.” Some people, Mr. Levine said, have argued that the Met should present a new opera every year. To that he answered, “I wish I really thought there was a new opera good enough for the Met every year.”
That last is very sad that what comes to mind as a response is "Jimmy, you needed to get out more." There is no paucity of new operas good enough for the Met. The Met should have been commissioning the great composers of our day and building a repertory of great works.

This brings us to Zachary Woolfe's article in the Times about his interview with Yannick Nézhet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra and widely rumored to be the prime candidate to succeed Levine. First, there's the dismaying line about Philly being among the most conservative American orchestras: one longs for the days of Leopold Stokowski and his unending thirst for the new. Just look up the number of important early 20th c. works that got their first US performances under him.

Then there's this:
When I asked him, though, which underappreciated composers, works or corners of the repertory he might seek to champion — the Nézet-Séguin equivalents of Mr. Levine’s advocacy for Berg, marginalized Mozart or “Moses und Aron” — he seemed slightly at a loss.
“It’s still a bit at the beginning,” he said of his career. “I’m still at the stage when I enjoy so much broadening my repertory and the orchestra’s. If someone was someday to say, ‘Yannick has helped bring back this composer,’ I’m not sure who it would be.”
I love their operas, but it's sad that Woolfe has to reach for Berg, Mozart, and Schoenberg to find Levine's advocacy for the new and unusual, considering how long Berg and Schoenberg have been gone.

And unfortunately, if it is to be YN-S at the Met, don't expect heaps of commissions or the sudden prominence of, say, Schreker. For that, the Met ought to hire my favorite candidate, James Conlon.

Germany Friday Photo

Floor tiling outside Tannhauser Apotheke
Bayreuth, August, 2015

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Babbitt Centennial Concert

Next week in New York City, Cygnus Ensemble presents a lovely program in honor of the late Milton Babbitt's 100th birthday.

  • “Milton Babbitt Centennial Concert,” featuring Cygnus Ensemble and Elizabeth Farnum
  • When: Thursday, May 19, 2016 at 7:30pm
  • Where: Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space (2537 Broadway at 95th Street, New York, NY 10025)
  • Tickets: $5. Click here to purchase
  • Live stream: (free, no sign-in necessary)
Works Presented
  • BABBITT  Swan Song No. 1 // Vision and Prayer
  • WUORINEN  Cygnus
  • LANSKY  Just Once
  • KONRAD KACZMAREK  Toggles and Triggers
  • JONATHAN DAWE  Glass Harmonica
  • BRICKLE  Ab nou cor // Piazza Piece // City of Orgies
  • DAVID CLAMAN  To the Master of the Meteor

Global Live-Stream
The concert will also be live-streamed globally, free of charge, at

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Germany Wednesday Photo

Street Signs, Bayreuth
August, 2015

As D. noted, I accidentally posted the photo of Cosima's sewing kit twice. Oops! Here's a bonus photo to make up for it.

If you take a look at a map of Bayreuth, you'll find lots and lots of streets near the Festspielhaus named after Wagner characters, operas, and personages, including conductor Karl Muck. Not a lot of other composers, but Heinrich Schütz quite rightly made the cut. I wish I had taken photos of more street signs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Prepositions are Hard

Or so you might think, if you listen to KDFC at all. Their announcers have a bizarre new tic: "And next we'll hear music from Claude Debussy." "That was [some work or another], from Antonin Dvorak."

No, no, a thousand times no.

Here are some definitions produced by a Google search on the preposition from:

  1. 1. indicating the point in space at which a journey, motion, or action starts.
    "she began to walk away from him"
    • indicating the distance between a particular place and another place used as a point of reference.
      "the ambush occurred 50 yards from a checkpoint"
  2. 2.
    indicating the point in time at which a particular process, event, or activity starts.
    "the show will run from 10 to 2"
  3. 3.
    indicating the source or provenance of someone or something.
    "I'm from Hartford"
  4. 4.
    indicating the starting point of a specified range on a scale.
    "men who ranged in age from seventeen to eighty-four"
  5. 5.
    indicating the point at which an observer is placed.
    "you can see the island from here"
  6. 6.
    indicating the raw material out of which something is manufactured.
    "a varnish made from copal"
  7. 7.
    indicating separation or removal.
    "the party was ousted from power after sixteen years"
  8. 8.
    indicating prevention.
    "the story of how he was saved from death"
  9. 9.
    indicating a cause.
    "a child suffering from asthma"
  10. 10.
    indicating a source of knowledge or the basis for one's judgment.
    "information obtained from papers, books, and presentations"
  11. 11.
    indicating a distinction.
    "the courts view him in a different light from that of a manual worker"

"We'll hear music from Claude Debussy" implies that Debussy sent this music to the announcer or KDFC, as in, "I'm going to read a letter from Barack Obama now." 

"We'll hear music by Claude Debussy" is the right way to put it.

{Yes, I'm ashamed to admit, by implication, that I've listened to KDFC recently, but I was in the car at the time! Really!)

Kahane's Last Season at LA Chamber Orchestra

Jeffrey Kahane goes out with a season any music director should be proud of -- although I wish there were more than one work on the season that was composed by a woman.

2016-17 SEASON


Saturday, September 24, 2016, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, September 25, 2016, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Joélle Harvey, soprano
David Washburn, trumpet
Movses Pogossian violin
BACH                                                 Cantata No. 51, “Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen”
MOZART                                           Exsultate, jubilate: “Alleluia”
TIGRAN MANSURIAN                   Violin Concerto No. 2, “Four Serious Songs”
BEETHOVEN                                   Symphony No. 7

Saturday, October 29, 2016, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, October 30, 2016, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Henning Kraggerud, violin
ALBERT SCHNELZER                   A Freak in Burbank (West Coast premiere)
SIBELIUS                                          Six Humoresques
BEETHOVEN                                   Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

Saturday, November 12, 2016, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, November 13, 2016, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Alexandre Bloch, conductor
Project Trio, ensemble
MOZART                                           Symphony No. 38, “Prague”
ADAM SCHOENBERG                   Scatter (West Coast premiere)
MENDELSSOHN                             Symphony No. 3, “Scottish

Saturday, January 21, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, January 22, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

This concert is also a feature of LACO’s Lift Every Voice project 
Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Daniel Hope violin
Storm Large vocalist
Hudson Shad vocal quartet
WEILL (arr. Paul Bateman)          Suite for Violin and Orchestra (US premiere)
BRUCE ADOLPHE                          Violin Concerto “I Will Not Remain Silent” (West Coast premiere)
WEILL                                               The Seven Deadly Sins

Saturday, February 25, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, February 25, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Carlos Kalmar, conductor
Brian Mulligan, baritone 
LUTOSLAWSKI                               Musique funèbre  
JOHN ADAMS                                 The Wound-Dresser
HAYDN                                             Symphony No. 98
ROSSINI                                            The Italian Girl in Algiers Overture

Saturday, March 18, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, March 19, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
Jon Kimura Parker, piano
JULIA ADOLPHE                            Sound Investment commission (world premiere)
MAHLER                                           Selections from Rückert Lieder
MOZART                                           “Deh, per questo istante solo” from La clemenza di Tito
HANDEL                                           “As with rosy steps the morn” from Theodora
BRAHMS                                           Piano Concerto No. 2

Saturday, April 22, 2017, 8 pm, Ambassador Auditorium
Sunday, April 23, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Kathryn Mueller, soprano
Suzanna Guzman, mezzo-soprano
Paul Appleby, tenor
Justin Hopkins, bass
Los Angeles Master Chorale
BEETHOVEN                                   Symphony No. 9, “Choral”

Saturday, May 20, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, May 21, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor & piano
CHRISTOPHER CERRONE                           LACO commission (world premiere)
MOZART                                                          Piano Concerto No. 27
SCHUBERT                                                      Symphony No. 9, “The Great C-major”

Thursdays, October 6 & November 3, 2016; February 9, March 2, April 13, 2017, 7:30 pm, Zipper Hall, downtown Los Angeles

Thursdays, February 23, April 6, May 4, 2017, 7:30 pm, Ann and Jerry Moss Theater
at The Herb Alpert Educational Village at New Roads School, Santa Monica


Sunday, October 16, 2016, 7:30 pm, USC’s Bovard Auditorium 

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor & piano
Pamela Frank, violin
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Margaret Batjer, violin
Andrew Shulman, cello
Co-presentation of LACO and USC Thornton School of Music
HAYDN                                                Piano Trio in G major, “Gypsy”
BRAHMS                                              Cello Sonata No. 2 in F major
BEETHOVEN                                       “Triple” Concerto

Saturday, January 28, 2017, 8 pm, UCLA’s Royce Hall
Sunday, January 29, 2017, 7 pm, UCLA’s Royce Hall

“Lost in the Stars”
Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Anne Bogart, director
co-presentation of LACO and CAP UCLA
WEILL                                                  Lost in the Stars

Monday, May 09, 2016

Check Archive Before Hitting Send.

San Francisco Opera keeps trying to sell me a subscription of some kind for 2016-17 season. I am now up to two emails and three printed letters saying NO NO NO, so I am going to stop replying, but I'm amused by the error in today's attempt: Olivier Tambosi's production of Vec Makropoulos is listed under the rubric Premieres and New Productions.

Funny, I saw the production twice in 2010-11, with Karita Mattila, and even wrote a review of it. Perhaps someone confused it with the incoming new production of Jenufa?

Ursula Mamlok

A post to mark the passing of Ursula Mamlok, a composer whose work I am ashamed to say I do not know at all -- this despite a CD of her music that's been here for years and years.

Her family was Jewish and she was born in Berlin in 1923 -- so you can see much of the story coming just from those two facts. They fled to Ecuador in 1939; Mamlok, her talent already obvious, was admitted to Mannes with a full scholarship, and she was able to move to the United States, where she lived for most of her life. Margalit Fox's Times obit reports that she was a fixture on the NYC avant-garde scene.


Root, Root, Root for the Home Team!

Updated, May 9, 2016: David Gregson's review of the San Diego performances.

Jake Heggie's new opera, Great Scott, with libretto by Terrence McNally, opened this past week in Dallas. Now, I always cringe when I see McNally's name on the marquee, because I still have not forgiven him the gross distortions of Master Class. Yes, I know that art isn't biography, but Callas was a smart, professional, and insightful teacher, not an abusive, self-centered monster - the audio of the classes has circulate for years, so you can hear for yourself.

The reviews are in, or most of them, and whaddaya know, the Dallas critics are a lot happier than the out-of-towners.
  • Olin Chism, Star-Telegram. He describes Heggie's style as "lyrical and atmospheric while respectful of tradition." Note that this reviewer has not cottoned on to the fact that Joyce DiDonato is a mezzo-soprano...and he says little about the quality of the singing and staging.
  • Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News. Describes Heggie's music as "thoroughly tonal and often tuneful."
  • Heidi Walseon, WSJ. Her one-sentence summary: "A clumsy, overstuffed cross between a backstage comedy and a show-off exercise in compositional appropriation, wrapped in Mr. Heggie’s trademark singer-friendly but treacly tunes, Great Scott seems designed to make audiences feel smug about being insiders."
  • Joshua Kosman, SF Chron. Says about what Waleson says, only a lot funnier.  On Heggie, "There are stretches of elegantly alluring music, and others where Heggie’s writing turns derivative or mundane."
  • David Gregson, Opera West. Note the presence of local favorite Philip Skinner in two roles. Gregson liked it, and the performances, but: "It often seems like a collection of clever scenes, many of them far too cute, all strung together without a really strong thread."
I've got a tweet out to certain persons in NYC asking which of them has a ticket to Dallas. After reading these reviews, I suspect that I'd be in the Waleson/Kosman camp, with the tone of my review depending on the mood of the day. 

The opera sounds like it's at least partly lightweight, meaningless fun. There's room for a good comedy in modern opera, or ought to be (I keep touting Lysistrata, which has a serious side, and hoping it will get performed hereabouts), but this sounds as if it's got a lot of problems. 

Ideally, if it gets performed elsewhere, Heggie and McNally will tighten it up. Everybody complains about the length, which isn't so much about the actual length as about an overly busy plot where some plot strands have no justification. This was also an issue in The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, speaking of Mark Adamo, and, to a much lesser extent, Two Women

Among the new operas I've seen in the last 20 years, the best libretto was that of Tobias Picker's Dolores Claiborne, in which J.D. McClatchy turned a 300-page monolog of a novel into a taut and dramatic libretto. Going back further, to see how it's done, ahem, Tosca or Rigoletto for the swift gallop, or La Boheme, for a more discursive and episodic libretto where you still can't reasonably cut anything.

There's a reason I'm pointing to those older libretti: Puccini and Verdi knew what would work and hammered their librettists mercilessly to get what they wanted. Current composers might consider doing exactly the same thing.

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Don Carlo Version, SFO

Verdi's great opera Don Carlo(s), by far his most ambitious work, went through many revisions, starting with the excision of some music during rehearsals at the Opera de Paris. The composer prepared additional performing versions of the score; sometimes it is presented in French, sometimes in Italian.

For your preseason research pleasure, I asked San Francisco Opera which version they'd be performing. It is the five-act Modena version of 1886. It includes the Fontainebleau scene, but not the scene where Elisabetta and Eboli change veils, which explains the subsequent scene where Carlo mistakes Eboli for Elisabetta. You can read the official synopsis on the SFO web site.

(I am reasonably sure that at some point SFO presented a version that included the scene in the Fontainebleau act with Elisabetta and the woodcutters, but who knows? I may be making this up. It was one of the pre-premiere cuts that Verdi himself made.)

Volti: Paging Through

The magnificent contemporary music chorus Volti closes its season with a program called Paging Through. On the concert:

Tonia Ko, From Ivory Depths              Volti Commission, World Premiere

Kui Dong, Painted Lights                    Volti Commission, 2010, With Ensemble from Piedmont East Bay Children’s Choir

John Muehleisen,  … is knowing …     Volti Commission, 2011

Eric Banks, The Paths of Peace 

Paolo Longo,  Quare Fremuerunt Gentes 

Friday, May 13, 2016, 8 PM
St. John’s Presbyterian Church

Saturday, May 14, 2016, 8 PM
First Unitarian Universalist Center

Tickets and More Info: may- may-2016//

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

You'll Need a Scorecard for This

Anna Netrebko withdrew just last week from upcoming  Norma productions at both the Metropolitan Opera (opening night, 2017-18) and the Royal Opera (fall, 2016-17). Now the Met has announced what will happen instead. Presumably the ROH, Dallas Opera, and Vienna State Opera (just wait) have done the same.

  • Sondra Radvanovsky replaces Netrebko in the Met opening night 2017-18 production. (In my opinion, this was a predictable and desirable casting, and let me say that Rad was terrific in SF the other year.) She is also singing Leonora in Calixto Bieito's new staging of La Forza del Destino in the same season, which will be her company role debut.
  • For this to happen, the Vienna State Opera released Radvanovsky from her scheduled appearances as the Trovatore Leonora....
  • ....which will instead be sung by Anna Netrebko. In other words, they are swapping engagements.
  • Netrebko is still singing the Trovatore Leonora and Tosca at the Met in 2017-18.
  • MEANWHILE in London, Sonya Yoncheka (!) will sing Norma at the ROH in the fall of 2016-17. I did not see this one coming.
  • The Met released Yoncheva from scheduled appearances as Mimi in La Boheme so that she could sing Norma in London.
  • Ailyn Perez is available to sing Mimi in the Met performances originally to be sung by Yoncheva....
  • ...because she decided to postpone her role debut as Tatiana at the Dallas Opera this fall.
Whew! Fast work, y'all.

What I want to know (not covered in the Met's four-company press release): when will Sonya Yoncheva sing in San Francisco, and what will she be singing?

Monday, May 02, 2016

Media Roundup: The Lighthouse

I think it'll be fairly slim pickings on The Lighthouse, unless my fellow bloggers weigh in. Briefly, I liked the opera more than Joshua Kosman, but there are some points of congruence in our reviews anyway. Okay, I admit that the comparison to Turn of the Screw was completely obvious.

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Production Error

Found in today's San Francisco Chronicle pink section on page 3:

Here is an enlargement of the critical section:

The program listed for May 12-14 is Pablo Heras-Casado's program from April 20, 22, 23 (Rameau, Haydn, Biber, Beethoven), although the Don Juan part in diaplay type on the left is correct for the dates on the right.

Here is the complete program for May 12-14.....some of which is list on a full-page ad on page 7 that has the conductor's name too:

Juraj Valcuha, conductor
Prokofiev, Suite from The Love for Three Oranges
R. Strauss, Don Juan
Webern, Im Sommerwind
R. Strauss, Suite from Der Rosenkavalier

I understand that my frequent calling-out of this kind of thing looks like unnecessary nitpicking to some of my readers. A production error such as this is expensive on its own - a display ad in the Chron's pink section can't be cheap, even with frequent-advertiser discounts. You don't want to waste the money! And it makes it that much harder for customers to buy tickets, because they don't have correct information about what is playing when. 

More personally, having an eye for a typo comes in handy when you find one in a letter your lawyer's office wrote and is about to mail out.