Monday, January 30, 2017

Compare & Contrast 32: Jordi Savall and Hesperion XXI

Okay, this will be a somewhat unusual media round-up, because I am dipping into the past for some of my comparisons.

I saw Jordi Savall and a current incarnation of Hesperion XXI the other night at Zellerbach - a terrible venue for an unamplified Renaissance string ensemble, but, well, First Congregational wasn't available - and hoo boy was it dull and disappointing. Dull for reasons you can see in my review; disappointing because on record the Savall Cabal is anything but dull.

And yet, Joshua Kosman's 1997 review reflects what I heard Friday night, so I can't chalk up the problems to the absence of Montserrat Figueras. Then again, there's Alex Ross's 2005 review from The New Yorker, which memorialies a concert that's what I would have expected based on Hesperion's recordings. Allan Ulrich, in 2001, is in line with Alex Ross.

Maybe I should have just withdrawn from reviewing as soon as I saw that this year's Hesperion is a viola da gamba ensemble plus percussion plus theorbo/guitar. Yeah, make any old viola joke you'd like; I refrained in my review.
  • Lisa Hirsch, SFCV
  • Alex Ross, "The King of Spain," NYer, 2005
  • Joshua Kosman, Chronicle, 1997
  • Allan Ulrich, Chron/Ex, 2001
Not sure who else reviewed last week's program but I'm happy to link to other reviews.

As to the why of all of this: everyone in the group seemed a little bit in his or her own world, removed from each other and from the audience, including Savall. There were ensemble problems in a couple of numbers, where Savall himself seemed out of synch with the other instrumentalists; that was very strange. 

The Hesperion tour page shows you all of their concerts and the locations of those concerts. They're currently touring several different programs and playing 14 concerts (maybe 15, not sure who is doing what at "Conference") in different configurations in February. That's a lot of playing and a lot of travel.

Met Carmen Musical Chairs

From the Met:
Rafael Davila will sing the role of Don José in the January 31 and February 3 performances of Bizet’s Carmen, replacing the originally scheduled Marcelo Álvarez, who is ill.
Puerto Rican tenor Davila made an unexpected Met debut during the opening performance of this season’s Carmen, and sang the role at an additional performance on January 27. His recent performances with other companies include singing Don José in Carmen and Don Alvaro in Verdi’s La Forza del Destino at the Washington National Opera, Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Cavaradossi in Puccini’s Tosca at the Florida Grand Opera, and Turriddu and Canio in the double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci at the Teatro di San Carlo.
The January 31 and February 3 performances of Carmen will be conducted by Asher Fisch and will star Cleméntine Margaine in the title role and Kyle Ketelsen as Escamillo. Maria Agresta will sing Micaëla on January 31 and Janai Brugger will make her Met role debut as Micaëla on February 3.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Arts and 45

A couple of articles to leave you depressed at the state of the world.

My suggestion: get out there and volunteer or protest or both. Twitter reports than one of my uber-bosses - a guy with tens of billions of dollars in the bank - was at San Francisco Airport yesterday, in his capacity as a private citizen, not a Google executive. If he can do it, so can we.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

La Traviata, San Francisco Opera, Fall 2017

San Francisco Opera's recent season announcement has an intriguing cast for the fall, 2017, production of La Traviata: three singers making their SFO debuts. A little research suggests that they may have struck pure gold.

The Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian is not only making her SFO debut, it's her United States debut. Here's what you need to know about her: she can sing, and she's gorgeous. Note the evidence:

Courtesy SF Opera

Here's the Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan singing "Che gelida manina." Note the uncredited, but familiar-looking, conductor with the baton in his left hand.

Not subtle - he's no Gigli in this role - but it's a healthy-sounding voice.

Here's Polish baritone Artur Rucinski, in "Per me giunto" from Don Carlo, piano only. He looks a little like Mariuz Kwiecien, but this is a genuine Verdi sound:

Speaking of Don Carlo, here he is with Piotr Beczala:

Friday, January 27, 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Actually, We Do Know Why.

More lies from Stephen Bannon. I'll footnote them, just for fun.
“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated [1] and keep its mouth shut [2] and just listen for awhile,” Mr. Bannon said during a telephone call.
“I want you to quote this,” Mr. Bannon added. “The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States [3].”
1. Not at all. The polls showed Hillary Clinton ahead of Trump, and what do you know? She got 2.9  million votes more than he did. Furthermore, gave Trump a chance of winning. Lastly, until some time on Election Day, the Trump campaign clearly thought it would lose.

2. That's not the press's job. Please review your eighth-grade American history class.

3. Of course we understand. Donald Trump is president of the United States because we have an antiquated system of choosing a president unlike that of any other Western nation, a system rooted in giving more political weight and power to rural and less-populated states than to the more-populated coastal states and those with large urban centers. If we had direct election of the president, Al Gore would have been the 43rd president and Hillary Clinton would have been the 45th.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Concerned About Your Personal Safety in the Trump Era?

Not what we teach beginners.

At Open Door Jujitsu, we offer two-week and six-week-self-defenses class and ongoing training in Dan Zan Ryu jujitsu. We teach self-defense to women, sexual minorities, people of color, and all who feel vulnerable follow the election. Our jujitsu classes are open to all, age 16 and up. We can arrange special self-defense classes for teens, younger children, or mothers and daughters.

Front snap kick. We teach this in self-defense classes.

Contact us about enrolling or about scheduling a self-defense class on dates that work for you and your group. (Class size minimum is six.) We can be reached by email (, comments left here, phone (510-842-6243), and at our web site (

Jujitsu classes are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. 

Our next scheduled women's self-defense class is on two Saturdays, February 4 and 11, 2017, from 1 to 3 p.m.

We're conveniently located in El Cerrito, a few blocks from BART and accessible by several bus lines and from 80/580.

Figaro, Figaro, Figaro, Figaro!

Cast change announcement from the Met, re tonight's Barbiere; bad news for people who bought tickets to see Peter Mattei (and who wouldn't buy a ticket to see Peter Mattei):
Edward Parks and Maurizio Muraro will sing the roles of Figaro and Dr. Bartolo respectively, in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia at this Saturday evening’s performance. They will replace the originally scheduled Peter Mattei and Valeriano Lanchas, who are ill.
Mr. Parks is a graduate of the Met’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program and a 2008 winner of the company’s National Council Auditions. He made his Met debut in 2009 as Fiorello in Il Barbiere di Siviglia, and since then, he has sung Met performances of Puccini roles including Schaunard in La Bohème, Jim Larkens in La Fanciulla del West, and Perichaud in La Rondine, as well as a Flemish Deputy in Verdi’s Don Carlo. Later this season, he will sing Escamillo in Bizet’s Carmen at the Nashville Opera, Marcello in La Bohème at the Minnesota Opera, and Steve Jobs in Mason Bates’s The [R]evolution of Steve Jobs at the Santa Fe Opera.
Mr. Muraro has been singing the role of Bartolo in the current run. Saturday evening’s performance had been intended as his one night off. Mr. Lanchas is his cover. 
Saturday’s performance of Il Barbiere di Siviglia will be conducted by Maurizio Benini and star Pretty Yende as Rosina with Dmitry Korchak as Count Almaviva, and Oren Gradus as Don Basilio.

New Recording of Robert Ward's The Crucible

There is a new recording, apparently only the second, of Robert Ward's The Crucible, an opera created only a few years after its source material, Arthur Miller's play of the same name, was published.

The first recording was from NYCO and features the original cast. You can still buy it, on Albany Records.

Now Albany has collaborated with SUNY/Purchase, which has an outstanding music program, to make a second recording of the opera. I am under the impression that this opera has been done more frequently at music schools than at professional opera companies, but it was staged recently at Glimmerglass, with a cast that featured our man Brian Mulligan, so perhaps it will earn more prominence in the opera world.

I'm scratching my head at Albany's claim that it is the only American opera to win a Pulitzer Prize. Um, two Menotti operas (in English), Barber's Vanessa, Douglas Moore's Giants in the Earth, Kevin Puts's Silent Night, and other operas have won the Pulitzer for music. The big mystery in Pulitzer opera awards is the absence of operas by Philip Glass - okay, Einstein on the Beach - and John Adams from the list. (I do realize that Nixon in China was widely misunderstood back in 1987 and is now recognized as one of the greatest American operas.)

UPDATE 1/24/2017: Albany has corrected their web page.

UPDATE: I've been asked where Albany claims it's the only American opera to have won the Pulitzer Prize: the yellow header above the description of the older recording. See the text outlined on the screencap below, which is from Albany's web page for the first recording.

Pure Speculation

One of the consequences of the changing of the guard at San Francisco Opera is the advent of a general director who is perfectly happy on social media and whose name is appearing on a monthly email newsletter to subscribers. I've now seen enough of his writing and speaking - and sense of humor - to be confident that Matthew Shilvock is writing the newsletter himself. (Note: you could almost play Shilvock Bingo with the newsletter and speeches. He likes "incredible" a lot. :) Between his tweets and these newsletters, we know something about his travels and what he is seeing out there.

For example, we know that Matthew was in Santa Fe last summer, and during the fall he saw Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin from the Met general director's box, in company with Peter Gelb, Kaija Saariaho, and Amin Maalouf, the work's librettist. More recently, he saw Evelyn Herlitzius, our upcoming Brünnhilde, in Barcelona, starring in Strauss's Elektra. (I will interject a small complaint here about the fact that every damn opera company in Europe seems to be producing Patrice Chereau's Elektra, his last opera staging, but we are not.)

One ought not draw conclusions based on Travels with Matthew, but if one were prone to overthinking things, one might speculate a bit. And this is complete speculation; I know nothing other than what is out there in public.

1. Santa Fe Opera has commissioned an opera by Mason Bates called The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. Bates is a popular guy in San Francisco, with SF Symphony commissions and a Beethoven/Bates Festival to his name, not to mention, a Grammy-nominated CD.

If I were the general director of a prominent opera company that is situated at the north end of Silicon Valley, in a city overrun with young (and not so young) nerds who work for companies such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, and, yes, Apple, and I had an interest in attracting more young, well-off audience members, well, I would be chatting with Santa Fe about doing the second bring-up of an opera about the loved and hated founder of Apple. Note: as announced, it also has a smallish cast, which, in these economic times, is always welcome.

2. L'Amour de Loin is among the most successful recent operas, owing to the shimmering beauty and intensity of its music. Coincidentally, it also has a small cast, with just three characters and what looked like a subset of the huge Met chorus. It can easily be done on a unit set with no scene changes. There have been enough different productions that SFO would have a choice of stagings and would not have to develop its own production.

This would be a great choice for SFO to put on, especially given (ahem) that I think the main stage has never seen an opera composed by a woman. (Rachel Portman's The Little Prince was done at Zellerbach in 2008.) Saariaho is one of the greatest composers of our age. If SFO doesn't do this one, let me heartily recommend Adriana Mater, which is what the company should have done in 2015 rather than the pretty awful Two Women, because it is a much more effective and affecting look at the consequences of war and rape.

LA Chamber Orchestra 2017-18

The Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra celebrates its 50th birthday next season. They are also looking for their next music director; Jeffrey Kahane has left that position after quite a few years.

Here's the season, which has a good helping of new music by interesting composers, including Andrew Norman:

2017-18 SEASON


Joshua Bell Plays Bernstein
Saturday, September 30, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, October 1, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Jaime Martín, conductor
Joshua Bell, violin

MOZART                      Overture to the opera, The Abduction from the Seraglio
BERNSTEIN                 Serenade (after Plato’s “Symposium) for Violin and Orchestra
BRAHMS                      Serenade No. 1 in D Major, Op. 11      

Mozart in Focus: Symphony No. 40
Saturday, October 14, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, October 15, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Peter Oundjian, conductor
Jennifer Koh, violin

STRAVINSKY               Suite from the ballet, Pulcinella                                      
ANDREW NORMAN     Violin Concerto (LACO Commission, World Premiere)  
MOZART                      Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K. 550                           

Bach’s Brandenburgs!
Saturday, December 9, 2017, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, December 10, 2017, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Margaret Batjer, violin and leader
Mahan Esfahani, harpsichord

BACH                           The Six Brandenburg Concertos, BWV 1046-1051        

Midweek Mozart (Mozart in Focus: Symphony No. 41)
Tuesday, January 30, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Wednesday, January 31, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall

            Thomas Dausgaard, conductor
Menahem Pressler, piano

BRAHMS                      Selected Dances
            MOZART                      Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K. 488
            MOZART                      Symphony No. 41 in C Major, K. 550, “Jupiter” 

Regal Classics
Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, February 25, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Douglas Boyd, conductor
Toby Spence, tenor

ELLEN REID                 TBA (LACO Commission, World Premiere)
BRITTEN                     Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31                                      
HAYDN                        Symphony No. 104 in D Major, Hob.1:104, “London”

Kahane Returns!
Saturday, March 17, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, March 18, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall

Jeffrey Kahane, conductor
Margaret Batjer, violin

RESPIGHI                    Three Botticelli Pictures 
PIERRE JALBERT        Violin Concerto (LACO Co-Commission, West Coast Premiere)
HAYDN                        Symphony No. 99 in E-Flat Major, Hob.1:99

Saturday, April 21, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, April 22, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Karina Canellakis, conductor
David Fray, piano

DAI FUJIKURA             Secret Forest
MOZART                      Piano Concerto No. 24 in C Minor, K. 491
BEETHOVEN               Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36                 

Season Finale! (Mozart in Focus: Symphony No. 39)
Saturday, May 19, 2018, 8 pm, Alex Theatre
Sunday, May 20, 2018, 7 pm, Royce Hall
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, cello
VIVALDI                       Concerto Grosso in D Minor, Op. 3 #11
SHOSTAKOVICH         Cello Concerto No. 1 in E-Flat Major, Op. 107                                      
DERRICK SPIVA          From Here A Path       
MOZART                      Symphony No. 39 in E-Flat Major, K. 543

Thursdays, November 2, 2017, and January date TBA, March 1 and 22, and April 26, 2018, 7:30 pm, Zipper Hall, downtown Los Angeles

MUSIC + DANCE (“Formerly “Westside Connections”) 
Dates, programs and San Gabriel Valley venue TBA; and Ann and Jerry Moss Theater at The Herb Alpert Educational Village at New Roads School, Santa Monica.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Ojai Music Director Update

Patricia Kopatchinskaja 

Okay, this is one of those good-news-bad-news posts, except that the bad news isn't that bad. Patricia Kopatchinskaja, who had been scheduled to be Ojai's music director for 2020, will instead be the music director for 2018. This is neutral; we get this talented violinist and new music advocate sooner!

The bad news is that Esa-Pekka Salonen was supposed to the MD in 2018, and he has withdrawn from that year. The embedded good news in Salonen's withdrawal is that his composition schedule is the cause. More music by Salonen is an unalloyed good thing.

It's Tough Being Young: Media Roundup, Das klagende Lied at San Francisco Symphony

"Gus" Mahler

I looked forward to the MTT/SFS semi-staged performance of Mahler's Das klagende Lied with great anticipation. While there were some darned good things about it - the orchestra's playing and the singing - I would not call the evening a success, for reasons I examined in great detail in my SFCV review.

Here's what I have found in the way of reviews. Joshua Kosman and I, with no collusion or discussion whatsoever, wrote essentially the same review. Omitted from my review, because Michael Steinberg's program notes reference Schoenberg's great oratorio, is my pre-performance observation noting that Das klagende Lied sounds an awful lot like Gurrelieder lite. (And when will SFS get to performing Gurrelieder? It is a fantastic piece and surely right in MTT's wheelhouse.)

It was nice to see Brian Mulligan at SFS; he has been a steadfastly outstanding presence at the opera since his breakout performance as Richard Nixon in Nixon in China. The baritone part in the Mahler, though, is tiny, not more than five minutes or so long; I can think of a few reasons to pay for a star for such a tiny part, including his resemblance to tenor Michael König, his general excellence, and the desire to have a full cast of stars.

Something I wish I'd mentioned: the fabulousness of the very noisy offstage banda.
  • Joshua Kosman, Chronicle
  • Georgia Rowe, Santa Cruz Sentinel ("Indeed, the musical values tended to outshine the visuals throughout the performance." Right you are.)
  • Allan Ulrich, FT (Link is to a search that will turn up the review; no direct link because I'm not a subscriber...)
  • Lisa Hirsch, SFCV
  • Richard S. Ginell, CVNA
  • Opera Tattler
  • Cedric, SFist (Lotfi was totally right to try to get MTT into the pit across the street. Agree completely about Sasha Cooke in Songs of a Wayfarer.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

San Francisco Opera 2017-18 Season Announcement and Press Conference

Francesca Zambello, John Adams, Peter Sellars, Matthew Shilvock
Photo: Scott Wall, courtesy of San Francisco Opera

As I said the other week to various friends, we have known the bulk of the SFO 2017-18 season for some time. David Gockley disclosed the summer, 2018 Ring sometime in 2015, and at the time named both Evelyn Herlitzius and Greer Grimsley as daughter and father, with the full cast announced this past fall. I have already commented on the cast; the production, which will be in its third complete bring-up, is a known commodity.

Then there was the surprise announcement last June of the John Adams commission, Girls of the Golden West. Between the Ring and Le Girls*, the company pre-announced most of the season.

And then, at the David Gockley gala, Michael Fabiano and Nadine Sierra sang a duet from Massenet's Manon, and there was so much nudge, nudge, wink, wink going on that you might think some hints were being dropped. Or so I've been told, since I wasn't there.

Now they've announced the season, and here it is, briefly; see the company web site for the full press release. Yes, Manon, plus the five pre-announced operas, plus three more, making nine for the season. Details and commentary below.

The press conference started with Matthew Shilvock talking about-opera company-as-community, given how many people it takes to stage one opera, let alone a mammoth undertaking such as the Ring. He lavished praise on Nicola Luisotti, whose name is on the announcement, but who wasn't able to be present "because he is conducting Pagliacci [looks at watch] at this very moment in Turin." Shilvock thanked a lot of people as he went through the announcement, and had some witty commentary on some of the casting. Announcing Stephanie Blythe (!) as Klytemnestra, he positively relished linking that role back to her very funny turn as Mrs. Lovett. Okay, but I do not think she baked Agamemmnon into a pie!

And, while thanking David Gockley along the way, he mentioned that Gockley planned this entire season. That was a smart thing to say. Next season is far better than the current season, but we are on notice that we can't tell from 2017-18 what the future artistic direction of the company will be. And, honestly, that is what I'm most curious about right now.

The structure of the press conference unfortunately did not really allow for asking that kind of question, because the bulk of it was taken up by an extended chat/Q&A session, with Shilvock asking quite good questions of guests John Adams, Peter Sellars, and Francesca Zambello. Those three were present for obvious reasons: the upcoming Adams commission and the season-ending Ring, in Zambello's production. The connecting thread really was gold and the fact that a good chunk of Rheingold is set in the Sierra Nevada.

There was only time at the end for a few questions from the press, alas, so I didn't get to ask any of the several questions I had in mind. By then, because Peter Sellars had had a lot to say, I had pretty much given up on them, in fact. That said, the three of them had good stuff to say, as well as a lot; I noted particularly some comments by Adams about how the music of mid-19th c. American didn't have much of a national character yet, and also that what the singer have to sing is more like songs than arias in this opera. He also mentioned the California history series written by Kevin Starr, former state historian; Starr died rather young of a heart attack this past weekend. His mid-19th c. volume might make a good introduction to the period of the opera.

Here's the season:

Turandot, split presentation, with six performances in September, including opening night, and six in November/December. Nicola Luisotti conducts. Turandot: Martina Serafin/Nina Stemme; Calaf: Brian Jagde; Liu: Maria Agresta & Toni Marie Palmertree (September)/Leah Crocetto (November/December); Timur: Raymond Aceto/Solomon Howard. It is the same old Hockney production (groan). Wish they'd replace this. Not only has it been done for more than 20 years, it would be excellent to have a production that "interrogates the opera," as musicologist Mark Berry might say. I am curious about Stemme, Serafin, Agresta, and Palmertree in their roles; I've seen Crocetto's Liu; I'm....dubious about how much of a success Jagde will be as Calaf.

Elektra, six performances, September.  Henrik Nánási conducts. Elektra: Christine Goerke (cheering); Chrysothemis: Adrianne Pieczonka; Klytemnestra: Stephanie Blythe; Orest: Alfred Walker; Aegisthus: Robert Brubaker. New production by Keith Warner, co-produced with National Theatre of Prague and Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. I admit to being....dubious....about the Konzept, as described by Matthew Shilvock during the press conference. It's set in a museum that has an exhibit on the Elektra complex, and a woman who has somehow gotten stranded in the museum after hours looks it over and makes some personal discoveries. I think. This is such a deeply psychological opera that any sort of framing device adds unnecessary layers; there are already plenty of layers in the opera as written.

It's been around 20 years since Elektra was last done in SF, so, regardless of the production, it's about time. Along with the Adams, it's my pick for most interesting work of the season. Not to mention, what a great cast, with Goerke and Pieczonka both proven to be terrific with the sister act. Blythe should be an interesting Klytemnestra. The conductor is Hungarian and music director of the Komische Oper, Berlin.

La Traviata, ten performances in September and October. Nicola Luisotti conducts, and this will presumably be his last appearances as music director of SFO. (Matthew Shilvock did mention that they are in discussions with him about future guest appearances.) Curiously, Donald Runnicles' last run as MD was also in Traviata. I was at that performance, with Elizabeth Futral, David Lomeli, and Stephen Powell, and Runnicles got a bigger hand than anyone in the cast. Violetta: Aurelia Florian; Alfredo Germont: Atalla Ayan; Giorgio Germont: Artur Rucinski. The John Copley production, getting a little worn around the edges. I know nothing at all about Aurelia Florian and Atalla Ayan. I have heard Artur Rucinski at his web site, and he has a beautiful and impressive sound and style.

Manon, six performances in November. Patrick Fournillier conducts. Manon: Nadine Sierra; Chevalier des Grieux: Michael Fabiano; Comte des Grieux: James Creswell; Lescaut: David Pershall. New production by Vincent Boussard, who also designed the costumes. His work was last seen here in I Capuleti a few seasons ago; remember Nicole Cabell on the edge of a sink? It'll be interesting to see Fabiano and Sierra together. Fournillier conducted Cyrano de Bergerac, which was nicely done, a lovely but not very memorable bonbon.

Girls of the Golden West, eight performances in November and December, with the premiere - world premiere, that is - coming on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, an odd date. Grant Gershon of the LA Master Chorale conducts, his debut at SF Opera. He has conducted a lot of Adams in LA and is taking over The Gospel According to the Other Mary from Joana Carneiro at SFS. Dame Shirley: Julia Bullock; Ned Peters: Davone Tines; Josefa Segovia: J'Nai Bridges; Clarence King: Ryan McKinny; Joe Cannon: Paul Appleby; Ah Sing: Hye Jung Lee; Ramon: Elliot Madore; Lola Montez: SF Ballet dancer Lorena Feijoo. Peter Sellars directs and is credited with the libretto. Sound design by Mark Grey (amplification, as is usual with Adams). Co-production with The Dallas Opera, Nationale Opera & Ballet Amsterdam and Teatro La Fenice. In other words, miss it here, and you'll be able to see it elsewhere. The Met has never commissioned Adams - this seems inexplicable, given his history as an opera composer - but they've done three of his works, so they may well pick it up at some point.

* Le Girls, after Giacomo Puccini. There's a sketch of the opening of La Fanciulla del West at the Morgan Library in NYC on which he called the opera La Girl. I am not making this up, you know: I saw it with my own eyes many years ago.

She'll Swivel Her Hips

From the Met, Sophie Koch withdraws from her upcoming Carmen performances (title role), owing to illness:
Clémentine Margaine will make her Met debut in the title role of Bizet’s Carmen this Thursday, January 19, and will sing the role in all performances of the opera at the Met this season. The French mezzo-soprano, who was to make her company debut in the role later this season, replaces the originally announced Sophie Koch, who has withdrawn from her scheduled performances due to illness.
Koch hasn't got much presence in the US; friends who've seen her in Europe have written positively about her. I saw Clémentine Margaine in Chicago, as Dulcinée in Don Quichotte, and liked her a lot. I hope you do too, and I hope Sophie Koch recovers well from her illness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So Much for My Favorite Candidate.

James Conlon's contract as Music Director of LA Opera has been renewed. The contract was going to expire next year, but will now run through the end of the 2020-21 season.

LA's gain, San Francisco's loss. Now I can start dreaming about more realistic future SFO music directors, such as Esa-Pekka Salonen, Semyon Bychkov, Alan Gilbert (well, he is available...), etc.

Dohnányi Withdraws from BSO Concerts

From the press release:

Christoph von Dohnányi, upon the advice of his physician, cannot travel at this time due to the flu and has regretfully cancelled his engagement to lead the Boston Symphony Orchestra, January 26-28. Conductor Juanjo Mena will replace Mr. Dohnányi for these concerts, also featuring pianist Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, as well as the American premiere of Julian Anderson’s Incantesimi, a BSO co-commission. The program remains the same.
Thursday, January 26
Friday, January 27, 1:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 28

Juanjo Mena, conductor
Jean-Frédéric Neuburger, piano
Julian ANDERSON Incantesimi (American premiere; BSO co-commission)
SCHUMANN Piano Concerto
SCHUBERT Symphony in C, The Great

Wishing the great conductor the best of health!

Movie Nights

Joshua Kosman has an excellent article in the Chron about symphony orchestras that are scheduling movie screenings enhanced by live performances of the film scores. He chats with orchestra administrators, conductor / composer David Newman, and some fans about these programs.

Joshua mentions the appeal of seeing these films with better sound than you will get anywhere else. I think there's the additional appeal of seeing a classic film on a really big screen. The disappearance of repertory movie theaters means it's almost impossible to see these movies other than on DVD. Yes, there are occasional special showings such as the Paramount classic film series or the unbelievably great showing of Abel Gance's Napoleon, which was also at the Paramount, under the aegis of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. Alas, these are sadly rare.

The article says that SFS started its series in 2013. I have no doubt that the date is correct, but there were occasional showings of films-with-live-orchestra before that. I attended a summertime showing of great cartoons with live original scores a good long time ago, and they've done a couple of those since. There was also a showing of Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times with what I recall was Chaplin's own scoring.*

Joshua has a very nice ca-CHUNG at the end of a craftily ordered sentence: "....and his cousin Randy." Read it for yourself.

Lastly, you have to wonder why on earth SFS hasn't yet done any of the films scored by Korngold:
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935)
  • Captain Blood (1935)
  • Anthony Adverse (1936)
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
  • Juarez (1939)
  • The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939)
  • The Sea Hawk (1940)
  • The Sea Wolf (1941)
Perhaps they could even have Olivia de Havilland, still living at age 100, as a special guest. She is in a couple of the above films.

* My experience of Modern Times was not ideal; an usher refused to admit me because the lights had gone down two minutes before I got to the door to the theater. My seat was on the aisle in the last row of Davies and the film hadn't started yet. I was seated elsewhere but spent the first half-hour of the film in a pissed-off state of mind, because seating me would have disturbed no one.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Cast Change of the Silver Rose

From the Met (and no, it's not her):
Kathleen Kim will sing Sophie in Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier at the April 28 and May 1 performances, replacing the originally announced Erin Morley. Morley will sing the role as scheduled on April 17, 21, 24, May 5, 9, and 13 matinee.
Those two performance are smack in the middle of the run and it's not likely Morley is (or will be) this might be in the nature of a wedding invitation for that weekend, or even a short run of concerts elsewhere that the Met released Morley for.

Chicago Friday Photo

U-505 Stern


U-505 Bow

Museum of Science & Industry, Chicago
November, 2016

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Seattle Opera Season 2017-18

I noted a couple of weeks ago that Seattle will have Berlioz's Beatrice et Benedict next season, but I didn't write up the rest of the season.

I also want to point out that next month they've got what looks like a strongly-cast Kat'ya Kabanova, by Janacek. Cast includes Melody Moore and Corinne Winters in the title role; Victoria Livengood as Kabanicha; Joseph Dennis and Scott Quinn as Boris (Quinn was Steva in last season's shattering Jenufa in SF); Maya Lehyani as Varvara.

Here's Seattle for 2017-18; you probably know who wrote all of these, so I left out composer names:

Madame Butterfly
Performances: August 5, 6, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18, 19, 2017
Cio-Cio-San Liana Haroutounian* (Aug. 5, 9, 13, & 18) [So if you missed her here....]
Alexia Voulgaridou* (Aug. 6, 12, 16, & 19)
Pinkerton Alexey Dolgov* (Aug. 5, 9, 13, & 18)
Dominick Chenes* (Aug. 6, 12, 16, & 19)
Sharpless Weston Hurt (All dates)
Suzuki Renée Rapier (All dates)
Director Kate Cherry*
Conductor Carlo Montanaro
Production Design Christina Smith*
Lighting Design Matt Scott*
* Company Debut

The Barber of Seville
Performances: October 14, 15, 18, 20, 21, 22, 25, 28, 2017
Rosina Sofia Fomina* (Oct. 15, 18, 21, & 28)
Almaviva Matthew Grills* (Oct. 14, 20, 22, & 25)
Andrew Owens (Oct. 15, 18, 21, & 28)
Figaro John Moore (Oct. 14, 20, 22, & 25)
Will Liverman (Oct. 15, 18, 21, & 28)
Dr. Bartolo Kevin Glavin (All dates)
Don Basilio Daniel Sumegi (All dates)
Director Lindy Hume
Conductor Giacomo Sagripanti
Production Design Tracy Grant Lord*
Lighting Design Matthew Marshall*

Così fan tutte
Performances: January 13, 14, 17, 20, 24, 26, 27, 2018
Fiordiligi Marina Costa-Jackson* (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Marjukka Tepponen* (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Ferrando Ben Bliss* (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Tuomas Katajala* (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Dorabella Ginger Costa-Jackson* (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Hanna Hipp (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Guglielmo Craig Verm (Jan. 13, 17, 24, & 27)
Michael Adams* (Jan. 14, 20, & 26)
Despina Laura Tatulescu (All dates)
Don Alfonso Kevin Burdette (All dates)
Original Stage Director Jonathan Miller
and Production Design
Conductor Paul Daniel*

Beatrice & Benedict!!!!!!
[Yes, I am unusually enthused about this. Hen's teeth, etc.]
Music by Hector Berlioz
Libretto by Berlioz and Shakespeare. Singing translation by Amanda Holden.
In English with English captions [This might sound odd to you but in email Rob Gordon gave me some background about the opera that makes it sound like a good choice.]
Performances: February 24, 25, 28, March 3, 7, 9, 10, 2018
Beatrice Daniela Mack* (Feb. 24, 28, Mar. 7, & 10)
Hanna Hipp (Feb. 25, Mar. 3, & 9)
Benedict Alek Schrader (Feb. 24, 28, Mar. 7, & 10)
Andrew Owens (Feb. 25, Mar. 3, & 9)
Hero Laura Tatulescu (All dates)
Ursule Avery Amereau* (All dates)
Somarone Kevin Burdette (All dates)
Claudio Craig Verm (All dates)
Don Pedro Daniel Sumegi (All dates)
Director John Langs*
Conductor Ludovic Morlot* [He is MD of the Seattle Symphony and darned good in French music.]

[If this cast, production, and director look familiar, well.....]
Performances: May 5, 6, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, 2018
Aida Leah Crocetto* (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
Alexandra LoBianco (May 6, 9, & 12)
Amneris Milijana Nikolic* (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
Elena Gabouri* (May 6, 9, & 12)
Radames Brian Jagde* (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
David Pomeroy* (May 6, 9, & 12)
Amonasro Gordon Hawkins (May 5, 11, 13, 16, & 19)
Alfred Walker (May 6, 9, & 12)
Ramfis Daniel Sumegi (all dates)
Director Francesca Zambello
Conductor John Fiore
Scenic Concept RETNA*
Set Design Michael Yeargan
Costume Design Anita Yavich*
Lighting Design Mark McCullough
Choreographer Jessica Lang*

Houston Grand Opera Season Announcement, 2017-18

Houston Grand Opera season 2017-18, copy/paste from PDF. Some comments in line.

Verdi: La traviata
October 20, 22m, 28, Nov. 1, 3, 5m†, 11†, 2017
Violetta Valéry Albina Shagimuratova #
Alfredo Germont Dimitri Pittas
Giorgio Germont George Petean *
Conductor Eun Sun Kim *
Director Arin Arbus
Set Designer Riccardo Hernandez
Costume Designer Cait O’Connor *
Lighting Designer Marcus Doshi *
Projection Designer Christopher Ash *
Choreographer Austin McCormick *
Chorus Master Richard Bado #
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus
A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Canadian Opera Company

Handel: Julius Caesar
October 27, 29m, Nov. 4, 8, 10, 2017
Julius Caesar Anthony Roth Costanzo *
Cleopatra Heidi Stober #
Cornelia Stephanie Blythe
Sextus Megan Mikailovna Samarin #
Ptolemy David Daniels
Achillas Federico De Michelis #
Conductor Patrick Summers
Director James Robinson
Associate Director Michael Shell *
Set Designer Christine Jones
Costume Designer James Schuette
Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra

A Houston Grand Opera production
World Premiere
The House without a Christmas Tree
A Chamber Opera in One Act
Based on The House without a Christmas Tree, a book by Gail Rock
Music by Ricky Ian Gordon; Libretto by Royce Vavrek
Sung in English with projected English text
November 30, Dec. 2, 3m, 6, 8, 10m, 14, 16m, 17m, 2017
Addie Mills Lauren Snouffer #
James Addison Mills III (“Dad”) Daniel Belcher #
Miss Thompson/ Heidi Stober #
Helen Mills/
Adelaide Mills
Grandma Mills Patricia Schuman
Conductor Bradley Moore
Director James Robinson
Set Designer Allen Moyer
Costume Designer James Schuette
Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Juvenile Chorus
Commissioned and produced by Houston Grand Opera

R. Strauss: Elektra
January 19, 21m, 27, 31, Feb. 2, 2018 [Nice cast and maybe this offers clues to us.]
Elektra Christine Goerke
Chrysothemis Tamara Wilson #
Klytaemnestra Michaela Martens *
Orest Greer Grimsley #
Aegisth Chad Shelton #
Conductor Patrick Summers
Production David McVicar
Revival Director Nick Sandys*
Set and Costume Designer John Macfarlane
Lighting Designer Jennifer Tipton
Chorus Master Richard Bado #
Houston Grand Orchestra Orchestra and Chorus
A Lyric Opera of Chicago production

Rossini: The Barber of Seville
January 26, 28m, Feb. 3, 8, 10, 2018
Figaro Lucas Meachem *
Count Almaviva David Portillo
Rosina Sofia Selowsky#
Don Basilio Eric Owens #
Doctor Bartolo Peixin Chen #
Conductor Julian Wachner *
Director Joan Font
Set and Costume Designer Joan Guillén
Lighting Designer Albert Faura
Choreographer Xevi Dorca
Chorus Master Richard Bado #
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus
A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Opera Australia

West Side Story
Based on a Conception of JEROME ROBBINS
Entire Original Production Directed and Choreographed by JEROME ROBBINS
Sung in English with projected text
April 20, 22m, 28, May 1, 3, 4, 6m, 2018
Maria Andrea Carroll #
Tony Norman Reinhardt #
Anita Alicia Gianni #
Riff Brian Vu *
Conductor Timothy Myers
Director Francesca Zambello [Well, she did direct our Show Boat!]
Choreographer Julio Monge *
Set Designer Peter J. Davison
Costume Designer Jessica Jahn
Lighting Designer Mark McCullough
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra
A co-production of Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, and Lyric Opera of Chicago [And that tells you where this production is headed, eh?]

Bellini: Norma
Sung in Italian with projected English translation
April 27, 29m, May 5, 8, 11, 2018
Norma Liudmyla Monastyrska
Adalgisa Jamie Barton #
Pollione Simon O’Neill
Oroveso Peixin Chen #
Conductor Patrick Summers
Director Kevin Newbury
Set Designer David Korins *
Costume Designer Jessica Jahn
Lighting Designer Duane Schuler
Chorus Master Richard Bado #
Houston Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus
A co-production of San Francisco Opera, Canadian Opera Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Gran Teatre del Liceu [If you're a subscriber to SFO, you have likely seen this, with a different cast]

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Why You Need the Serial Comma

Found in the NY Times:
He lived in the village of Malverne in Nassau County with his wife, Patricia Ann Norris-McDonald, the mayor of the village and his caregiver.
How many people does the subject of the sentence live with? In theory, it could be as many as four:

  1. His wife
  2. Patricia Ann Norris-McDonald
  3. The mayor of the village
  4. His caregiver
If I were the editor of this article, I would query the writer, but I believe that he lives with one person. If that's the case, I'd rewrite it as follows:
He lived in the village of Malverne in Nassau County with his wife of X years, Patricia Ann Norris-McDonald, who is the mayor of the village and also Mr. McDonald's caretaker.
I admit that it's clear from context that Ms. Norris-McDonald is the subject's wife. Still! Avoid ambiguity.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Upcoming: Women's Intensive Self-Defense Class, El Cerrito, CA

Front snap kick

I'll be teaching an intensive self-defense class for adult women next month at my dojo.

Dates:   Two Saturdays, February 4 and 11, 2017

Time:    1 p.m. to 3 p,m.

Who:     Adult women, cis or trans. No athletic or martial arts experience required.

Cost:      $90. Class open to all, regardless of ability to pay. If you need to pay less, just let me know.

               at Mind Body Dojo 
               7512 Fairmount Ave.
               El Cerrito, CA 94530

You'll learn basic blocks, kicks, and strikes; effective defenses against common attacks; self-protection strategy. It's a fun, energetic, power-building class.

Class is taught by me, Lisa Hirsch, second-degree black belt in Dan Zan Ryu jujitsu. I've been practicing since 1982 and have about 25 years of teaching experience.

To enroll, leave a comment here or contact me at, via the dojo contact form, or at 510-842-6243. 

For lots more information about Open Door Jujitsu, see our web site!

Friday, January 06, 2017

Germany Friday Photo

Haus Wahnfried
First-floor foyer viewed from second floor gallery
Bayreuth, Germany
August, 2015

Thursday, January 05, 2017

How to Handle Corrections

People send me corrections to blog posts on a regular basis, either by email or in comments. Almost all of the time, I acknowledge the correction with thanks and fix the post. I try to leave an UPDATED notice and indicate what I've corrected, in the interests of, well, the truth.

Okay, I don't bother to note when I've fixed a typo or added a missing word. Those don't usually affect the meaning of a post in a material way.

I did write one significant silent correction, where a friend quite rightly emailed me to say I'd been unnecessarily nasty to someone. The edited post was a lot better than the initial version.

Yesterday, I found an error on a blog I've been reading for a couple of years: a photo caption that incorrectly identified a street visible in the photo. I wrote a polite comment noting that street X was actually street Y, and that street X was not visible in the photo.

The author removed the photo, didn't publish the comment, and didn't acknowledge me or note the change. Oh, well! Not how I would have handled it, but it's not my blog, either. I wonder how many unpublished comments are out there. At least the author acknowledges on the blog that comments might be edited, which has happened with me.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Gospel According to the Other Mary Cast Change

Joana Carneiro was originally scheduled to conduct the John Adams oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary at San Francisco Symphony, but today's press release about the upcoming Adams 70th birthday concerts included the news that Grant Gershon will conduct the work.

If you're an Adams fan, you'll want to hear this. The audio I heard around when Mark Adamo's Mary opera played at SFO was fabulous.

Further Changes of Venue: First Congregational Church Fire Edition

As anyone who attends or performs in classical music concerts in the East Bay must know by now, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, a much-loved performance venue with a thriving worship community, suffered a serious fire last week. One of the buildings on the campus has been condemned. The sanctuary and its musical instruments, including a most impressive organ, survived, but the extent of the damage to the building is not yet known.

Many performing organizations and presenters are affected by this, because they had concerts planned for this season.
  • New Century Chamber Orchestra
  • Volti / Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
  • Philharmonia Baroque
  • California Bach Society
  • Chora Nova
  • American Bach Soloists
  • Cal Performances
  • Chanticleer
  • San Francisco Chamber Orchestra
The San Francisco Early Music Society uses First Congo during the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition [of Early Music], which is held in alternate years. They will not be affected until 2018, but we do not yet know how long it will be until the church will be available for concerts and the Festival's ancillary events, some of which are also put on there.

UPDATED: Wednesday, January 4, 2017

American Bach Soloists is moving all of their winter and spring 2017 programs to First Presbyterian, which is diagonally across the street from First Congregational, at the corner of Channing and Dana in Berkeley. Here's their very gracious announcement:
As you may know, our Berkeley home, First Congregational Church, suffered extensive fire damage last fall and the groups who use the facility to perform concerts have been looking for temporary homes for the 2017 season. Many people, including the staff of First Congregational, had hoped to be back in the facilities by now, but that is not the case. So, for the 2017 winter and spring season, American Bach Soloists have moved their performances across the street to First Presbyterian Church (2407 Dana Street, Berkeley, CA). We have every hope that we will return to First Congregational in 2018!
We are grateful to First Presbyterian Church for opening their doors to us, we are especially supportive of the congregation and staff of First Congregational Church during this difficult period, and we are grateful to you for your understanding in this endeavor.

UPDATED: Monday, October 17, 2016

More changes of venue:

  • Chora Nova will perform their Sunday, November 20 program, including Haydn's Mass in Time of War, at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, Channing & Dana, diagonally across the street from FCCB. The concert is at 4 p.m. and also includes music by Mozart.
  • Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra will perform on Saturday, Nov. 5, at Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley. Other Saturday concerts during the season will take place at First Presbyterian Church (see above). Sunday concerts originally scheduled for FCCB will take place at Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church in Lafayette.

I have the first two venue changes in hand.
  • Volti / Left Coast will perform their Winges, Janáček, Lang, Türkmen program at 7:30, October 15, at First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley. This is diagonally across the street from First Congo.
  • Cal Bach will perform Bach's St. Matthew Passion at UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall at 3:30 pm on October 9.
UPDATED: Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, twice. Thanks to Joshua Kosman for an addition and correction; thanks to Tod Brody for an addition.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Best Wishes to Joana Carneiro!

                                                       Joana Carneiro, Berkeley Symphony Music Director 
                                                    Photo: Rodrigo de Souza. Courtesy Berkeley Symphony

Berkeley Symphony releases news on why Joana Carneiro has withdrawn from the last two programs, and now the January program:
BERKELEY, CA (January 3, 2017) – Berkeley Symphony announced today that Music Director Joana Carneiro has withdrawn from the Berkeley Symphony concert on Thursday, January 26 at 8 pm at Zellerbach Hall. Carneiro is pregnant and is under doctor's advice not to conduct or travel. The concert will be conducted by Christian Reif. The Orchestra will perform the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates’ Cello Concerto with Joshua Roman, to whom the work is dedicated, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4.
Christian Reif is resident conductor of the San Francisco Symphony and conductor of the SFS Youth Orchestra.

I told a friend last year that either Ms. Carneiro was pregnant and under doctor's orders not to travel or she was ill. I am relieved that she's pregnant, needless to say! I hope the rest of her pregnancy is uneventful and that she has a safe delivery and lovely child.

Berlioz to the North

Seattle Opera's 2017-18 season includes Beatrice et Benedict! Except that it's going to be in English (wut?). Details:
“Beatrice & Benedict,” by Hector Berlioz, opening Feb. 24, 2018: This is a locally created collaborative premiere that builds on the Berlioz framework, adding text straight from “Much Ado About Nothing.” ACT artistic director John Langs will be the stage director; Seattle Symphony music director Ludovic Morlot will conduct. To be performed in English, it will kick off the citywide “Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare” programming.
Nothing on their web site yet; the announcement is today. I'm betting that the Seattle Times forgot the meaning of "embargoed press release" and published a few hours early. H/T Opera Tattler for the Seattle Times link!

UPDATE: The Seattle Opera web site has been updated now. Here's the page for Beatrice. In other news, the RETNA/Zambello Aida production heads north for Seattle's 2017-18 season as well, complete with Brian Jagde and Leah Crocetto.