Elektra

Elektra

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Opera Saratoga 2017

Here's another small opera company presenting a thoughtful season:

OPERA SARATOGA ANNOUNCES
2017 SUMMER FESTIVAL PROGRAM

Falstaff
Music by Giuseppe Verdi Libretto by Arrigo Boito
Directed by Chuck Hudson; Conducted by Craig Kier
Featuring Craig Colclough and Caroline Worra
July 1 - 15, 2017

Zémire et Azor (Beauty and the Beast)
Music by André Grétry; Libretto by Jean François Marmontel
Directed by James Ortiz; Conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya
Featuring Janai Brugger and Andrew Bidlack
July 2 - 14, 2017

The Cradle Will Rock
Music and Libretto by Marc Blitzstein
Directed and Choreographed by Lawrence Edelson; Conducted by John Mauceri
Featuring Ginger Costa-Jackson and Christopher Burchett
July 9 - 16, 2017


Wondering whether I can fit in a trip to Saratoga, next year's Bard Festival, and Santa Fe Opera.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Tomatoes

This year's tomatoes, a couple of weeks ago. They're bigger now.
Photo: me


For the first time in more than ten years, I've got tomato plants going.

I know, I know, between our weekly CSA box, local stores, and the farmers' markets, do I really need my own tomatoes?

Not really! But I loved watching them grow and I love having varieties you can't necessarily get even at farmers' markets. I've got these planted:

  • Stupice
  • Flamme
  • Gold Nugget
  • Druzba

Two are early-season, one mid-season, one late, so we should have home-grown tomatoes into October.

I won't be doing a weekly post about them, but once in a while, yes.

sfSoundFestival: [ Notations } [ Orientations ]



Here's the superb programming at the upcoming sfSoundFestival, held in SF July 8 through 10. I'm hoping to get to all of these mouth-watering concerts, although Sunday, 8 p.m....we'll see about that one.

FESTIVAL PROGRAM

PROGRAM I - FRIDAY JULY 8 - 9pm
featuring Lucie Vítková

JOHN CAGE - Cartridge Music (1960) 
amplified sounds

KRZYSZTOF PENDERECKI - Actions (1971)
free jazz orchestra

IANNIS XENAKIS - Charisma (1971)
clarinet and cello

JAMES TENNEY - Critical Band (1988/2000)
16 or more sustaining instruments

JOHANNA BEYER - Music of Spheres (1938) 
electronics (custom built iPhone app) and percussion

LUCIE VÍTKOVÁ Piece for Accordion and Tap Shoes (2015)
tapdancing accordionist

KYLE BRUCKMANN - Following Orders (2014)
oboe, bass clarinet, alto saxophone

MATT INGALLS - Study for Hilbert Transforms (2016) 
bass clarinet, alto saxophone, trumpet, and trombone

SFSOUNDGROUP - Improvisation (2016 )
chamber ensemble


PROGRAM II - SATURDAY JULY 9 - 9pm
in surround sound

PIERRE BOULEZ - Étude 1 (1951)
tape

PIERRE BOULEZ - Anthèmes 2 (1997)
violin and live electronics

STEVE REICH - Reed Phase (1966)
saxophone and live electronics

EARLE BROWN - December 1952 (1952)
instrumentalists surrounding the audience

SALVATORE SCIARRINO - Esplorazione del bianco II (1986)
flute, bass clarinet, guitar, and violin

GREG SAUNIER - Secret Mobilization (2010/2016)
english horn, alto saxophone, violin, viola, and cello

PHILL NIBLOCK - Disseminate (1998)
chamber ensemble and electronics

SFSOUNDGROUP - Improvisation (2016)
chamber ensemble


PROGRAM III - SUNDAY JULY 10 - 8pm
sfSoundOrchestra

PIERRE BOULEZ - Domaines (1968/1969 : 30m)
solo clarinet and six ensembles

MORTON FELDMAN - Marginal Intersection (1951) 
chamber orchestra, oscillators, and sound effects of riveting

MORTON FELDMAN - Out of “Last Pieces” (1961)  
chamber orchestra

EARLE BROWN - Available Forms I (1961)
chamber orchestra

PAULINE OLIVEROS - The Inner/Outer Sound Matrix (for sfSound) (2007)
chamber orchestra

PAULINE OLIVEROS - Sound Patterns (1961)
voices (performed by sfSound chamber orchestra)

SFSOUNDGROUP - Improvisation (2016)
chamber ensemble


FRIDAY  JULY 8 2016   9pm
SATURDAY  JULY 9 2016   9pm
SUNDAY  JULY 10 2016   8pm

$15 [$10 underemployed] each concert
$30 festival pass

2665 mission st san francisco



Saturday, June 25, 2016

Tell Me More

Michael Fabiano (Don Carlo) and Mariusz Kwiecień (Rodrigo)

©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


In my review of the San Francisco Opera Don Carlo, I wrote that the most intense and intimate relationship in the opera is between Carlo and Rodrigo. I think it's baked into the score, given that Elisabetta and Carlo do not truly get to express their love for each other, and given that the cause of Flanders is noble and just, not clouded by adultery or incest-by-marriage. (Okay, there is heresy!) Rodrigo has the purest motives and purest heart in the opera.

And, for whatever reasons, that's how it's being played in SF. It could be done many other ways; in this production, the two characters hug and sing arm in arm a lot, and of course Rodrigo dies in Carlo's arms. And of course practically anyone could fall in love with the fabulous Mariusz Kwiecien.

But I am extremely curious how this relationship read in the 19th century and earlier in the 20th c., before it became very easy, perhaps too easy, to see the potential homoeroticism in the relationship. Research pointers, anyone? I'd love to read a paper or two, or a chapter in a longer volume, on the subject.

And yes, I should see how it plays in the Schiller as well.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Shakespeare at the Opera



A fantasy opera entry; a long, long season of operas based on Shakespeare, including Doppelgangers and also a....what the heck would those trios be called?
  • Britten, A Midsummer Night's Dream
  • Purcell, The Fairy Queen
  • Thomas, Hamlet (even though I consider it mediocre at best!)
  • Verdi, Otello
  • Rossini, Otello
  • Bellini, I Capuleti
  • Gounod, Romeo et Juliette (hey, on record it sounds a lot better than Faust)
  • Berlioz, Romeo et Juliette
  • Verdi, Falstaff
  • Nicolai, Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Vaughan Williams, Sir John in Love (even though it doesn't sound that good on record)
  • Reimann, Lear
  • Verdi, Macbeth
  • Bloch, Macbeth (a belated entry, August, 2016)
  • Adès, The Tempest
  • Hoiby, The Tempest
  • Berlioz, Beatrice et Benedict
  • Wagner, Das Liebesverbot

A Few Post-Brexit Links and Thoughts


The right-wing xenophobic sentiments in the UK and the US are hugely worrisome to me, because of my fear that right after the hate directed at immigrants and Muslims lurks hatred of Jews. And you know how well that worked out last time around.

The EU is a troubled organization (Paul Krugman spelled out why the other day) and yet its unifying capabilities have been a bulwark against a repeat of the disasters of World Wars I and II. People of the UK, did you bother to review that history before you voted, narrowly, to leave the EU? All you need to do is look around at the war memorials in every church and village in the land.




Germany Friday Photo


Bicycles, Munich
August, 2015

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Choreography

Michael Cooper, fighting the good fight, has a new article at the NY Times on the subject of female choreographers and the underrepresentation of their work at major ballet companies.

Sound familiar? It should; a number of us have been beating the drum for years over the failure of large musical organizations - symphony orchestras and big opera companies - to perform the works of female composers. It's great to see this examination of the same subject in the world of dance.

Deep in the article there's a quotation that really caught my eye:
But while the Royal Ballet has presented works by a number of female choreographers in recent years, they have tended to be done at its smaller Linbury Studio Theater, not on the main stage. The lack of women having their work performed has become a topic of conservation in London. Kevin O’Hare, the director of the Royal Ballet, said in an email that “commissions are about the right fit for the company, whether by male or female choreographers.”
I'm very curious about this. If an organization commissions a musical work from a composer, the organization gets to specify quite a bit about that work, perhaps including the instrumentation, form, and length. The Kronos Quartet isn't going to commission a brass quintet, for example. Well, it might commission a work for string quartet plus brass, but you see my point, I'm sure.

So what exactly does Mr. O'Hare mean by "the right fit for the company"? One common reason for not hiring people is known to be "not a good cultural fit," which is rather loose and nonspecific and can cover a multitude of sins, excluding people are different but qualified from being hired for an open position. Without follow-up, we don't know what he meant, but I sure would like to know.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Holy Mother of God!

@Jaap van Zweden, © Bert Hulselmans


Forgive my expletives, but Drew McManus just published the music director segment of his annual orchestral compensation reports (these are for the 2013-14 season). Read the whole thing at your leisure, but I absolutely must comment on one music director in particular.

That would be Jaap van Zweden, who is now the outgoing music director of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. His pay during the 2013-14 season? A cool $5,110,538, and no, I did not misplace a punctuation mark when I typed that number.

Did the DSO board and chief executive have any idea of how stupid this was? He's getting paid nearly 14% of the orchestra's budget, he's getting paid a multiple of what such greats as Riccardo Muti are being paid, and the DSO is single-handedly about to start a compensation war among top-level music directors.

What I most want right now is to see his NY Philharmonic contract.

Update: Kalimac points out that the article includes a clarifying quotation from the DSO. Van Zweden's salary was actually $1,788,997, and most of the rest was a one-time signing bonus paid for by a restricted contribution rather than by other orchestra income. STILL, it's an awful lot of money.

Jenufa, San Francisco Opera

©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A brief commentary, in large part because a review of this opera needs to be circumspect. In short, a brilliant, searing production of a harrowing opera. Great conducting from maestro Jiří Bělohlávek (maybe the friend who called him "the greatest conductor in the world" is right), great direction, excellent to great singing from all involved. 

Karita Mattila's Kostenicka is a miracle of singing and acting; at nearly 56, her voice remains beautiful and powerful, and she presents the character in all its complexity, very much making her the center of the opera. 


©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Malin Byström, new to SF, is a lovely Jenufa with a distinctive voice. William Burden (Laca) is, as always, a stage powerhouse; Scott Quinn is an excellent, dissolute, Steva. Jill Grove was a superb Grandmother Buryjovka, oddly brighter-voiced than Byström and making me notice for the first time how important the character is.


©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

I did not love this production, by Olivier Tambosi, the last time I saw it, in LA with Mattila as Jenufa. However, this time, everything came together and it was possible to overlook the overworked visual metaphor of the rocks on stage. I loved the intensity of the blue sky and wheat fields in Act I; you could feel the heat and the slight craziness in the town. And I also loved the falling snow outside Jenufa's window in the second act (much of which I cried through).

Go see it, is all I can say. It's a triumph all around, and something SFO and David Gockley must be, quite rightfully, very, very proud of.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Conversations, Part One

I've had a number of interesting conversations recently about matters operatic, and thought I'd blog about some of the topics discussed.

One chat was, broadly speaking, about repertory and the effect of subscription numbers on what an opera company can present. A company that sells a high percentage of its seats to subscribers is a company with a guaranteed income, so there's more inclination to present works the general public (which I will define as the Puccini public) might not like. It doesn't matter if audience members leave at intermission because their subscription money is already in the bank.

It's well known that the percentage of subscription ticket sales has dropped precipitously over time at just about every performing arts organization in the country. I think there must be exceptions, but they're not primarily among the big unionized organizations.

I suspect that West Edge Opera is doing well with subscriptions, but they present three operas three times each, for a total of nine performances per festival season; their sets are not lavish, they've not paying a full-time orchestra or stage crew, they have to sell many fewer tickets than SF Opera, which has a 3200 seat hall to fill. The economics of WEO and [your favorite big orchestra / opera company here] are very different. (And, to be clear about this, I support the unionization of musicians and other professions in the performing arts world.)

(If there are exceptions among the larger organizations - orchestras or opera companies that have increased subscription sales - I hope that they are trumpeting how they did it so that other organizations can use their methods.)

The reasons for the drop in subscription sales are also, I believe, well understood. We have more forms of entertainment and leisure time pursuits available than we had 30 years ago, from the explosion of individual sports activities to the immense range of musical performances to the availability of great long-form TV shows. The people who take advantage of these activities also have less time than 30 years ago, because of extended working hours plus 24-hour availability and the increase in commute times for so many. Many fewer people are willing to commit in advance to buying a subscription because they want to partake spontaneously. (Me, I like buying ahead of time because then I know where I'll be on any given day. And being a subscriber often gives you more ticket-swap flexibility.) People are having children later and they're busier with child-raising later in life than, say, 50 years ago.

There's also the wide availability of discount tickets. Possibly organizations shouldn't dump tickets to Goldstar, but figure out how to handle discounts internally. I find it odd that I can get some rather steeply discounted opera tickets through my job at a company that...ah....has a highly educated and well-paid workforce of people who can afford full-priced tickets. Well, perhaps this is one way to lure in new, younger subscribers.

So the questions arises as to how you offset all of this. How do you bring in the new audience members you need and how do you persuade them to buy tickets? To what extent do you let money concerns affect your ability to present new and unusual repertory? How do you retain audience members who strongly prefer 19th c. Italian classics?

Well, I have a few ideas. Mostly, I'm looking at you, big opera companies. You can't cede performance of works such as Lulu to ambitious small companies like WEO; yes, that was among the most impressive and memorable productions I've ever seen, but there were losses too. We also need to hear Berg's magnificent score played without cuts by a full orchestra.

Anyway:
  • If your organization has a special fund for the performance of Italian opera, make sure that "Italian opera" doesn't just mean Rossini to Puccini. Where's Il Prigioniero? Where are Respighi's operas, and works such as Iris and Isabeau? Francesca da Rimini? And where are, even, the less-known Donizetti operas?
  • If you have a special fund for the performance of Italian opera, start one for the production of new and unusual opera. There are plenty of people in your large metropolitan area who will donate to such a fund. That might get us a staging of one of Harrison Birtwistle's operas or From the House of the Dead. Or works by Schreker! This goes for orchestras, too: the range of new and unusual music presented at SFS is....narrow. This seems to me to be an obvious path to take, especially if you've got a fund-raiser such as David Gockley around.
  • Look for production sponsors who want to see the new and unusual. Again, they are out there: I have friends who just won't go to the opera for Verdi or Mozart, but will go out of their way for Janacek. There have to be some People With Big Bucks who fall into this category. 
  • Or put together coalitions of new/unusual music lovers to fund these works. Remember the work Lotfi Mansouri did to get Arshak II staged? Lots of donations from the Armenian community! The local Chinese community apparently got behind The Bonesetter's Daughter. For the SF Bay Area, just saying, Harvey Milk probably sold pretty well, and there's gay content or the implication of gay content in King Roger, a rarity that is coming into its known. Also, Mariusz Kwiecien is a major major advocate of the opera and a big draw.
  • Concert and semi-staged opera! I asked about this at Matthew Shilvock's first press conference, and got an answer to the effect that "this isn't what we're about - people expect fully-staged opera." Well, but some of us expect a wider repertory. That organization across the street from SFO has been mighty successful with its semi-staged operas. The rehearsal period for Peter Grimes was about ten days, which I know because Stuart Skelton tweeted his arrival in town. The NY Phil has also had great success with semi-staged opera, selling out three performances of Le Grand Macabre. It's a perfectly reasonable way to reach the audience for new and unusual works without breaking the bank. 
  • Also, concert & semi-staged operas could be performed in the current SFO off season, from January to May when the ballet uses the opera house. And it could be done in a smaller venue. Run-outs to Walnut Creek? to the SFCM concert hall? to Zellerbach in Berkeley?
  • Differentiate your subscriptions. I'd love it if SFS would do a new and unusual music series; I'd buy it in a second. Ditto SFO. And what if SFO had an early opera series? I'd buy THAT in a second too. This could also be termed "respect audience segmentation." Let the Rossini to Puccini crowd have their favorites, but let my people have their Birtwistle. Sure, do three performance of Birtwistle to ten of Rossini, no problem. Perform them semi-staged, which worked just fine in London's Birtwistle at 80 concerts.
  • Talk with the people at SFSoundBox about how they have made SoudBox a happening thing. Those performances sell out in about two hours. Here are some of the characteristics I see.
    • Limited availability: two performances, 500 tickets to each.
    • Air of mystery: the repertory isn't even released until a week before the performance. People are buying anyway; there is genuine trust that the program will be interesting.
    • Unusual start time. Okay, this mostly won't work with opera, but what if there were more matinees?
    • Unusual repertory.
    • Low prices. 
    • Drinks! Admittedly, SoundBox is in a space that is a whole lot easier to clean up than a typical concert hall or opera house. 
    • SoundBox concerts are short and often include excerpts from longer works. This isn't so workable for an opera company, especially when the gigantors of the repertory often sell very well to serious fans (Ring, Troyens, Don Carlo, etc.). Still, what about concerts of opera excerpts? These used to be very popular and were a weekly occurrence at the Met.
Honestly, I am not any smarter than anyone working for the big music organizations. I have to believe that they've thought of all of this and are either costing it out or have done so already and decided for or against. It does take time to change institutional thinking, from figuring out the money side to getting your own board of directors to agree to such plans.

UPDATED: Around noon to correct a basic error in my description of WEO's season. Added a clarification or two. Must also add a hat tip to Alex Ross, whose Cultural Commentary in The New Yorker addresses, among other things, the Met's utter failure to commission new work and perform many important works of the past. Say whatever else you want of him, David Gockley, unlike almost every other opera impressario in the country, has commissioned a lot of new work, some of it great, some of it workmanlike, some of it not so good. That should be expected and there should be tolerance for the variability of the works and cheers for the effort.

Further updated: On Tuesday, June 21.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Women's Self-Defense Intensive!

Front snap kick

I'm teaching a new type of women's self-defense class in July. It'll be only two sessions of two hours each, plus a coupon to come in and get some more practice at my regular jujitsu class.

The class includes  basic kicks, strikes, blocks, and defenses against common attacks, with a focus on practicing physical skills. It's open to all adult women, cis or trans.
  
  Dates:      Two Saturdays, July 23 and July 30
  Time:       1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
  Tuition:    $90 (open to all regardless of ability to pay)
  Location:  Mind-Body Dojo
                    7512 Fairmount Avenue
                    El Cerrito, CA

Send me email (sensei@opendoorjujitsu.com) if you'd like to enroll, if you have questions, or if you'd like to be on my dojo mailing list. Alternatively, use the contact form on the dojo web site.

Germany Friday Photo


Advertisement, Munich U-Bahn
August, 2015

Thursday, June 16, 2016

For Fans of the Gigantic


By Kathinka Pasveer - Kathinka Pasveer, CC BY-SA 3.0 
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8385702

The 2019 Holland Festival is, somewhat unbelievably, going to stage Stockhausen's Licht cycle of seven (7) operas, one for each day of the week. From a (government?) document covering several years of upcoming artistic activities in the Netherlands:

In 2019 brengt het festival een integrale uitvoering van Licht van Karlheinz Stockhausen in wereldpremière.

At 29 hours of music, it's a lot longer than Der Ring des Nibelungen.

Yes, I'm planning to go.

H/T Alex Ross, who tweeted the link earlier today.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Gockley Gala: Sasha Cooke Replaces Susan Graham



Susan Graham is ill, and Sasha Cook is stepping in to sing a couple of numbers. Here's the press release from San Francisco Opera, including Graham's heartfelt tribute to David Gockley. (I won't be at the gala, unfortunately. Duty calls.)

SAN FRANCISCO (June 15, 2016) – San Francisco Opera today announced that it has amended the list of international singers performing at the David Gockley Gala Concert on Thursday, June 16 to now include Sasha Cooke in lieu of Susan Graham, who has withdrawn due to illness. Cooke will sing in the Act III trio “Hab’ mir’s gelobt” from Der Rosenkavalier and Didon’s aria “Ah! Je vais mourir…adieu, fière cité” from Les Troyens.

American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke made her San Francisco Opera debut in the title role of Mark Adamo’s world premiere opera The Gospel of Mary Magdalene in 2013. She subsequently returned to the War Memorial Opera House in 2015 as Anna in Les Troyens and later as Magdalene in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Cooke is a frequent collaborator with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony appearing in concerts both locally and on tour.

Susan Graham has sent the following message to David Gockley and the Company:

“To say that David Gockley has greatly contributed to the course and arc of opera in America, would be an understatement. We are all aware of his championing of new works, and supporting American composers in Houston and in San Francisco. With one of the earliest young artist programs in America, created at the Houston Grand Opera under his long tenure there, it’s obvious his care and nurturing of young singers was a priority from the beginning.

“Growing up in Texas, I was always aware of the impact David was making with HGO, and when I was finally hired there, I got to witness his love for singers and singing firsthand, which continued to flourish in San Francisco, forging and unifying this company in the last 10 years. He believed in me, challenged me, supported me, and in last summer’s Les Troyens here at SFO, he gave me the greatest operatic experience of my entire career.

“He is unique in his field, with his experience as a singer, his vast knowledge of the profession, and his passionate devotion to the highest quality. I love this guy, and I wish him and Linda Kemper a beautiful, RELAXING, well-deserved life in retirement, confident that the Gockley Impact will be felt for generations.”

Lyric Opera, You Tease!


Click Buy Tickets and you see this:



Click one of those date links, scroll down, and....



For anyone needing a refresher, here are my personal reasons for going: Christine Goerke, Cassandre; Brandon Jovanovich, Énée; Sophie Koch, Didon; Lucas Meachem, Chorèbe; Christian Van Horn, Narbal; Okka von der Damerau, Anna.

And the star of the show, Hector Berlioz.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

San Francisco Opera Admits It: "We're trying to sow confusion."

     
John Adams and Peter Sellars ©Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco Opera

Okay, that's a lie. What's really going on is that somebody gave John Adams and Peter Sellars very bad advice about the name of their new opera, which will be about California during the Gold Rush era. Here's the opening of the press release, which confused me rather badly:


SAN FRANCISCO OPERA TO PRESENT WORLD PREMIERE OF
GIRLS OF THE GOLDEN WEST
A NEW OPERA BY JOHN ADAMS WITH A LIBRETTO BY PETER SELLARS
WAR MEMORIAL OPERA HOUSE, FALL 2017

The new work, set during the 1850s California Gold Rush, is a
San Francisco Opera Co-Commission with
The Dallas Opera, Dutch National Opera and Teatro La Fenice

Cutesy is just not going to work in this case, although if they don't change the opera's name, opera houses in Anglophone countries will have to use La Fanciulla del West for Puccini's masterpiece.

The press release has nothing about casting, stage design, lighting, or costumes, but it refers to Sellars as "director/librettist," so I believe we can safely assume who will direct.

Given the many, many problems with the Doctor Atomic libretto, I wish that a librettist had been hired to write this libretto, but maybe Gene Scheer and J. D. McClatchy didn't have room on their calendars.

SFO Don Carlo: Media Roundup and Further Commentary

Michael Fabiano (Don Carlo) and Mariusz Kwiecien (Rodrigo)
San Francisco Opera, Don Carlo
©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


My Don Carlo review, filed late yesterday, won't be up until this evening or tomorrow, owing to technical issues at SFCV. is now posted. Briefly, it's a great musical achievement, not so much on the theatrical side.

Here are links to those reviews that I know about; in the absence of mine, just read Joshua Kosman's. He's more concise and a lot snappier than I am, but we are in accord, all the way to telling the company to dump the Sagi production, already.

Or, in my opinion, get a better director; I dislike the sets but they can be made to work. I spell out more of the foolishness of the production and direction than Joshua; that all the characters do is stalk around the stage before they stand and sing is the least of the problems.

The SFO press photos even capture a scene that shouldn't have happened, another laugh-inducer during a deadly serious scene. This is the garden scene, where the only blade that should be drawn is Rodrigo's dagger, but this production somehow has Eboli drawing Carlo's sword and threatening him with it.

Michael Fabiano (Don Carlo) and Nadia Krasteva (Eboli)
San Francisco Opera, Don Carlo
©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

I noted in my review that Fabiano and Martinez both needed more help than they got from Sagi, to which I must add: boy howdy. Fabiano spends an awful lot of time with his chin in the air singing to the chandelier instead of to her. Their facial expressions hardly changed in Act I; there's a bit in there where he chases her around the table trying to kiss her, which, honestly, I just don't think is happening in the 16th c. between a Spanish prince and a French princess. Not to mention: why is there a table in the middle of a forest? For a picnic, maybe? And why are they wandering around in the middle of winter without cloaks?

I'd also like to know whether there's historical precedent for the Inquisition hanging puppets as part of an auto-da-fe. I mean, maybe there's a reason for having a few heretics and a couple of puppets marching to the scaffold.

And I gotta say, I fell over at Joshua Kosman's observation that the auto-da-fe looks more like a farmer's market.

You get it: there's a lot in the direction that doesn't make any sense at all. There's no attention to detail, and that's why there's so much unmotivated wandering around on stage. This works for Pape in the King's Act IV scene; it's late, he's restless and unhappy and haunted. For everyone else, not really.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

A Graphic Guide to Don Carlo

You think Simon Boccanegra is tough to understand, try Don Carlo. Simon's problems sort themselves out as soon as you figure out who the Guelphs and Ghibbelines are, and that that Amelia is Maria and that Andrea Grimaldi is Jacopo Fiesco.

Okay, maybe that's not so easy. But Don Carlo has what can only be called rather tangled relationships among its principal characters. Here's a handy guide to at least some of what's going on. There's some ambiguity in the relationship between Rodrigo and the King, and Eboli and Elisabetta's relationship, initially warm, undergoes, ahem, a radical shift after Eboli's double, or maybe I mean triple, betrayal of the Queen. I will happily accept clarifying suggests about this graphic; just add them to the comments.




I would definitely suggest a close reading of the libretto. I happen to have the tri-lingual ENO libretto, which appears to contain every word everyone ever wrote to be sung in this opera. I alternated between reading the late Andrew Porter's singing translation and the original French.


Saturday, June 11, 2016

Opera Quarterly: Free to a Good (Bay Area) Home



I've got about 25 issues of Opera Quarterly that I would like to give away. I bought them in the 90s via eBay. They are from the 1980s. Some are damaged.

If you're in the Bay Area and you would like these, they're yours. You will have to come get them, although you can negotiate with me if you live between San Leandro and El Cerrito. Let me know in comments or by email if you'd like these. Otherwise, they get recycled in a week or two.

I will throw in a few issues of Lapham's Quarterly for good measure. These are from 2011-12 and have never been read; I somehow got a free one-year subscription through my job. I threw them collective against the wall when one issue, about The Future, had articles by at most eight or ten women among 90 contributors. That certainly tells you something about their view of the world.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Addendum to Germany Friday Photo



In truth, the brunch buffet at the Arvena Kongress was awesome, with infinite quantities of eggs, non-scary meats of all kinds, superb bacon, cereals, juices, killer muesli, tea, coffee, dairy, etc., etc.

Oh, and some unusual salads. Herring and beets? Works for me, but not everybody.

Germany Friday Photo


Terrifying German lunch meat
Arvena Kongress Hotel, Bayreuth
August, 2015


Thursday, June 02, 2016

Ryan Folds

Not that I ever thought Paul Ryan had the slightest bit of credibility - read Paul Krugman on the "magic asterisks" in Ryan's phony budget proposals - but his endorsement of Donald Trump would have destroyed any credibility he might have had.

Here's what he wrote:
“Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives,” Mr. Ryan wrote. “That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”
Translation: A known con man is the best candidate to help the Republican Party's continuing efforts to con the American people.

Dissecting the Press Coverage



The NY Times demonstrated the power of the embargoed press release by having three articles about the changing of the guard at the Met posted about 30 seconds after the official press release was mailed out. In honor of that, here's some random commentary on the Met, YNS, and how the press, okay, the Times, is talking about it all.

First off, no one is the slightest bit surprised, perhaps owing to the fact that rumors had circulated for years that YNS was the Met's, or Peter Gelb's, first choice to succeed James Levine. The speed with which the announcement was made following Levine's decision to step down means that the negotiations had very likely been going on for some time.

I personally see it as a big problem that it will be four years before YNS goes from Music Director Designate to Music Director, but Peter Gelb tries to put a nice spin on it:
Long waits are not unusual in the classical music world, where major organizations and top talents typically plan their schedules four or five years in advance. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said that he felt fortunate that Mr. Nézet-Séguin would be available by 2020. “It required some juggling for him to be able to come as early as then,” he said in an interview.
Riiiiiight. I mean, this is true, and yet it's unfortunate in the context of what the Met needs. Anthony Tommasini spells this out in detail in his analysis of the appointment. (Tommasini unfortunately continues to hallucinate fantasize about Esa-Pekka Salonen coming on board as an interim MD, a position he would share with Bernard Haitink, who is 87. Stop, already, and daydream about something realistic, like Salonen conducting regularly at the Met. Or the Met commissioning an opera from Salonen. But right you are, Tony,  about that Luisi appointment.)

There's been concern in the press / blogosphere / Twittersphere over how forward-looking YNS might be as MD of the Met. In the same article I've quoted above, there's this:
Mr. Nézet-Séguin said that he considered the Met “the standard-bearer of our art form in the world,” and that he looked forward to conducting a variety of works there, including forgotten masterpieces that he would like to revive and new works, including world premieres.
Some cautious optimism about future repertory is thus justified, though we won't know for a while what he has in mind. (At this early stage, he might not either, but let me say SCHREKER and also Symanowski's great opera King Roger, which seems to be coming into its own at long last. I will nominate Nelsons, Jurowski, or Salonen as potential conductors of all of these, although ahem King Roger might particularly appeal to YNS himself.) In any event, it would be hard to be less behind new operas than the reluctant Levine.

Color me puzzled by Tommasini's claim about Levine "making the operas of Debussy, Berg and Stravinsky central to the Met's repertory." Pelleas was performed 62 times before 1972 and has been performed about 55 more times since then. There've been 44 performances of Lulu and 69 of Wozzeck, of which 18 were before Levine. The Rake's Progress has gotten a big 26 performances, with 31 of Le Rossignol and 23 of Oedipus Rex. C'mon, it's purely blowing smoke to claim that those three composers are in any way "central."


Headlines We Didn't Use

Met Appoints First Openly Gay Music Director

YNS: Making Opera Gay Again

Press Release Confirms James Conlon's Availability for San Francisco Opera Job

Met Confirms That The Rumors Were Right

The Seemingly-Inevitable Comes to Pass



Here's the press release from the Metropolitan Opera confirming what has been the rumor for the last....year? two? about their next Music Director: it will, indeed, be Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

I have not heard him conduct live or on record or on a Met broadcast, so I have no personal opinions about his conducting. I do, however, have an opinion about these points from the Met press release:
In the Met’s 2017-18 season, Nézet-Séguin will assume the interim title of Music Director Designate. He will become Music Director in the 2020-21 season, the first season in which he is available to take over the full responsibilities of the position. However, he will immediately become involved in the company’s artistic planning, which happens many years in advance.
[several paragraphs later]
Since 2012, Nézet-Séguin has been Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, which announced today that he has extended his contract with them through 2025-26. (A separate press release on that announcement is available.) Given the close proximity of New York and Philadelphia, Nézet-Séguin will be able to easily commute between his two posts, and the Met and the Philadelphia Orchestra will also be exploring the possibilities for artistic collaboration between the two institutions.
He is also the Music Director of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain and of the Rotterdam Philharmonic, a position he will resign at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season.
So...it will be four years before YNS can take up his full responsibilities; he will remain MD of the Philadelphia Orchestra (an important job at an important orchestra that, like the Met, has some big problems), and he will retain his longterm job at the Orchestre Métropolitain. 

This worked out so well when James Levine was at the Met and the Boston Symphony. Yes, YNS is 30 years younger and a lot healthier than Levine. Still. How many of these jobs can a music director do, and do well? Why don't organizations realize that there's enough conducting talent in the world to limit the talented to one job each?