Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2017-18

Walt Disney Concert Hall, October 2007
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

OMG, the LA Phil's 2017-18 season!!!

A friend in LA very kindly passed along some information to me about five minutes after the season went live around midnight, and OMG I wish I could work from LA for the year. It is the most amazing thing I have ever seen.

Here's a very brief rundown, and note that the repertory must include the Green Umbrella New Music concerts. That's okay; all of this is happening under the aegis of an American orchestra. Nearly every other orchestra whose programming I've seen pales in comparison to this. (As previously noted, I'm very impressed by the adventurous programming of the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, nearly all of whose concerts involve the new or unusual.)

There are 81 (EIGHTY-ONE) composers on the season. Of these, 31 are alive. That's right, the LA Phil and its associated programs have a season on which more than one-third of the composers are alive. Not only that, a significant further number composed entirely or primarily in the 20th c. These include Varese, R. Strauss, Eastman, Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Sibelius, Zimmerman, Weinberg, Vaughan Williams, Bernstein, Bacewicz, Berg, Debussy, Holst, Martirano, Messiaen, and Shostakovich. (Eastman is JULIUS EASTMAN!!)

They're performing music by nine (9) women, 8 of whom are alive (see Bacewicz, whose music i don't know at all). There's one Asian woman (Chen Yi), one deceased African American man (Eastman), and a number of Mexican and other Latin American composers (one Brazilian man, one Cuban-American woman). There is a festival of music by living Mexican composers, looks like. There are also several living Italians, not all male. There are several works by Esa-Pekka Salonen. There are 23 commissions, 22 world premieres, 6 US premieres, and 2 west coast premieres.

Four women are conducting during the season: Mirga Grazinyte-Tyla, Susanna Malkki, Emmanuelle Haim and  Xian Zhang, all of whom have multiple concerts assigned.

I must note that there's no lack of 18th and 19th c. classics. There's Brahms, Mozart, and Beethoven. There's Bach. There's a nice heap of Schumann, including Das Paradies und die Peri and some symphonies. The 18th c. composers are nicely chosen and include Galuppi and Charpentier.

It is an astonishing season. See you at WDCH.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Keilberth Ring at Berkshire Record Outlet

Joseph Keilberth's 1955 Bayreuth Ring, aka the real first stereo Ring, is on sale at the Berkshire Record Outlet for under $100.

This set boasts a terrific cast and remarkable sound. Astrid Varnay is Brünnhilde, Hans Hotter is Wotan, Ramon Vinay, Gre Brouwenstijn, Wolfgang Windgassen, Gustav Neidlinger, and others make it a vocal feast. That's about as good as it gets.

Click this link to see the first page of results at BRO. Right now, this set is at or near the top.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Opera Philadelphia Drops Jaws

I mean that in a good way.

Opera Philadelphia has announced their 2017-18 season, and it is astonishing:

  • The Magic Flute
  • Elizabeth Cree, Kevin Puts, libretto by Mark Campbell. World premiere.
  • We Shall Not Be Moved, Daniel Bernard Roumain, libretto by Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Bill T. Jones directs & choreographs. World premiere.
  • War Stories, Philadelphia premiere,
    • Il combatitmento di Tancredi e Clorinda, Monteverg
    • I Have No Stories to Tell You, Lembit Beecher, libretto by Hannah Moscovitch
  • The Wake World, music & libretto by David Hertzberg. World premiere.
  • Written on Skin, George Benjamin
  • Carmen
Three, count 'em, three world premieres, plus Written on Skin and a Philly premiere. Wow.

Six-Point White Type on Burgundy

Pro tip: if you want people to read the print on that CD by an interesting artist, do not do the following:

  • Print the interior type in approximately 6 or 7 point white type on a burgundy background
  • Print the middle cover, oh, 9 point spidery handwritten black on a mutli-colored background
  • Print the back-cover track listing in approximately 6 or 7 point white type on a background of several shades pink
I am going to send a polite email to the label requesting the text in black on white, 10 point, and pointing them to some accessibility guidelines.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Look What Came in the Mail!

I hadn't taken volume 2c, the critical notes, out of the plastic wrap when I took the photo. Now I have to spend some time clearing space for the score in my bookcases.

The advantage of having the physical score, rather than trying to read a PDF of a deeply flawed 19th c. edition, is that, well, there it is. And on the very first page there's a line of music I had not really noticed in the PDF: the top line isn't the piccolo, it's for "doubles flute antiques," which are supposed to be on stage on the grave of Achilles. Apparently what Berlioz expected was that the oboes would play this, as can be heard on every recording of the work.

Les Troyens in Frankfurt

Care of composer Daniel Wolf, here's a link to a video feature, with performance footage and some yakking, about the Frankfurt Opera's current production of Les Troyens. It's redundant if I say I wish I could see it, because as you all know, I wish I could see any pretty much complete production of the opera. (I will pass on the badly-cut Dusapin "performing edition." I mean, I can imagine the damage done by hacking out more than an hour of the score.)

There are some production photos as well. I'm confused by a photo captioned Hylas, Hecuba, and Cassandre; perhaps that should read Helenus, a short tenor role appearing only in the Troy scenes.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Guest Blogging

Going to a concert I can't get to? Or an opera in the northeast or Europe?

Let me know if you'd like to write a review of it, to be published here. I might do some editing, so please be prepared for that.

Let me know by email, lhirsch@gmail.com, if you'd like to give this a try. I can't promise press tickets, just some glory.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Concert I'd Attend

Unfortunately, it's a little far from me, but the Princeton Symphony Orchestra has a great program coming up. What's not to like about this? An excellent soloist and two off-the-beaten-track works.

Sunday, March 19, 2017 – 4 pm; Pre-Concert Talk – 3 pm; Richardson Auditorium

Christopher Lyndon-Gee, conductor
Philippe Graffin, violin

Edward ELGAR                                       Violin Concerto in B Minor, Op. 61
Carl NIELSEN                                            Symphony No. 4, Op. 29 “The Inextinguishable”

Tickets: $82, $65, $52, $33, and $25 (student)

Programs, artists, dates, and times are subject to change.

Monday, February 20, 2017

A Few Notes on "Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix"

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Samson and Delilah

The other week, I ran across an article on Corymbus, via a tweet from the author, Emma Kavanaugh. It's called "Rethinking Sexual Agency in 'Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix'" and it's an analysis of Dalila's power and sexuality in the context of 19th century opera and signifiers of exoticism. This is, of course, one of the showstopper arias from Samson et Dalila, the only one of Camille Saint-Saens's dozen operas that is still performed in the US.

The article is largely on target, but I also think that Kavanaugh misses one or two significant points. In addition, one point she's trying to make is simply not supported by the musical evidence.

Here are some useful links, if you'd like to follow along:
  • Text of the aria, Wikipedia, with translations
  • Full score of the opera, IMSLP
  • Lots of mezzos and a few sopranos taking a shot at the aria. I listened to Horne in 1983, at the Met Gala, because that rich, chocolaty tone of hers works very well in this one. I tried to find a recording by a late 19th/early 20th c. French contralto with no success. I'll note that it's interesting to listen to the Italian Ebe Stignani right after Horne. She's singing in Italian, and her timbre is so bright (and admittedly it is a gorgeous sound) that she doesn't sound quite right to me.
In fact, here's Horne:

First off, we are going to take a step or two back and note that Dalila is a mezzo-soprano. This is significant, perhaps twice over. Nineteenth century French opera has some notable mezzo prima donnas, whereas in Italian opera, mezzos are usually the other woman, the witch, the mother. French opera gives us Cassandre, Didon, Dalila, Charlotte, and others. Take a minute to think of Wagner's mezzos, and, well, they're a rather mixed lot.

There's enough association between sex and mezzos, and between the exotic and mezzos, that I think somebody must have written a dissertation about this. Consider Azucena and Ulrica, Verdi's mezzo witches. They are exotic: a gypsy, to use the older term, and a black woman. Consider Princess Eboli, who is in love with Don Carlo while carrying on with his father, and who gets the most exotic, most Spanish, aria in the opera. (Keep the Veil Song in mind, because I'll be getting back to it later.) Berlioz being Berlioz, Didon doesn't have the earthiness of Verdi's mezzos, or of Dalila, but gosh, she is rather obviously having sex with Enée in the Royal Hunt & Storm and again in "Nuit d'ivresse." (There's some exoticism in Troyens but it comes in the Act IV ballet music rather than in the vocal parts.)

And (ahem) how could I forget Carmen, historically sung by both mezzos and sopranos, but sporting gypsy exoticism, the use of Spanish musical styles, and a very free sexuality?

Continuing on the theme of exoticism, if you've listened to the Saint-Saens aria, does the opening sound familiar? That's right: it's awfully similar to what the high strings are doing at the opening of Act 3 of Verdi's Aida, another opera steeped in exoticism. I see that the French premiere of the opera didn't take place until 1876, five years after its world premiere, and Samson's premiere was in 1877. Well, hmm, there are such things in scores, and it seems possible that S-S could have seen the score of Aida. In any event, I do not think this is an accident.

Now, about Dalila's sexuality and how she uses it. Maybe she's just trying to seduce Samson in order to symbolically castrate him....but if you listen to this aria and read the text of it, well, I'd say that she might just have the hots for him. Look at that text: yeah, it might be her heart opening to him, but consider how he might "fill her with ecstasy." That...is all pretty blatant, in my reading.

Kavanaugh discusses the chromaticism and increasing complexity of the orchestral accompaniment as signifiers of exoticism, which is in itself something of a stand-in for sexuality. I agree with that, but I believe she goes too far is her discussion of "wordless vocalisation." She offers as evidence the following phrase, which I've copied directly from her article:

I confirmed on Twitter that yes, she's talking about the "Ah!" in the above example.

I do not buy this as "a wordless vocalisation" (or vocalise, the word she uses earlier). To start with, we're talking about three beats, three-quarters of a four-beat measure in an aria that's about 75 bars long and has lots of words. As a wordless vocalization, it's not much.

The "Ah!" has a couple of functions. It's an intensifier, a sort of a sigh, which is not surprising when she's singing about being filled up with ecstasy. Practically speaking, it is possible the librettist or S-S himself put it in to make the French phrase more singable. Try to fit the words to the phrasing without the "Ah!" and you'll see what I mean.

Lastly, it's the first bar of a two-bar melodic sequence...and it's a sequence that occurs in a number of places in the aria proper and in the duet that follows. Here's another musical example, from the full score:

Note Dalila in the third through sixth measures, where she's singing an elongated version of what's in her aria (unless tempo changes have made the measures sound at the same apparent speed as in the first example), complete with the leap of a 7th, etc. This is now in duet with Samson, who has a sort of inversion of some of what she's singing.

You want an exotic vocalization, I've got one for you, and here we bring in "Nell giardin del bello," the Veil Song, which I suggested you keep in mind a few paragraphs back. Here's the great Fiorenza Cossotto - it's just the first verse, but that should be enough to make my point.

Listen to what she is doing starting around 1:50 or 1:55. Now there is a wordless vocalise, indicating exoticism: in this case, it's fake-Moorish style, entirely appropriate for an opera set in renaissance Spain not all that long after the Jews and Muslims were thrown out of the country. Compare with Dalila's three beats above, and that's why I'm a skeptic.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Pay Attention.

A few weeks ago, Steve Smith sent a link out into the world on Twitter, and included his opinion that it showed some strong arts reporting from the Village Voice, after a period of, well, neglecting arts coverage by laying off most or all of their arts staff. Steve is a great writer and a smart guy, so I clicked the link and read the article.

Just this once, I gotta say: Steve was wrong.

Tara Isabella Burton wrote the article in question, and if you haven't seen her name in the NY classical music press much, it might be because she is currently a graduate student at Oxford, working on a doctorate in theology and fin de siècle French literature. She has published a number of articles on religion, culture, and place, according to her web site. Her portfolio has no music reviews listed except for the one Steve touted....and maybe it should stay that way.

Her article has the title "Strong Heroines Dominate the Met Opera This Season." Now, probably she didn't write the title, but she should have objected to it. For one thing, her article concerns three operas, Kaija Saariaho's L'Amour de Loin, Leos Janacek's Jenufa, and Richard Strauss's Salome.

Those three represent about one quarter of the Met's fall season, when the company also performed Tristan und IsoldeDon GiovanniL'Italiana in AlgeriLa BohemeGuillaume TellAidaNabucco, and The Magic Flute. Burton doesn't make much of a case for the "strong heroines," and I'd certainly like to see her explain why she picked out those three operas as particularly representing strong women. Isolde is no weakling, and neither is Donna Anna, for example.

My guess is that Jenufa, L'Amour de Loin, and Salome are the three operas she was able to see on a trip to NYC. Or maybe they had a special significance to her theological interests; Salome is, more or less, based on a Biblical story; the Saariaho addresses the relationship of Clémence, Countess of Tripoli, with God; Janacek's Kostelnicka is the widow of a deacon.

But there's a much, much more serious issue in the article than my quibbling above: one can reasonably ask where she was and what she was paying attention to during Act 2 of Jenufa, because she gets two major plot points completely wrong.

If you haven't seen the opera and you're not familiar with the plot, here's a nice big SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this blog post.

First, there's this rookie mistake:
... October and November saw the quiet, dark, and hauntingly realistic Jenufa, Czech composer Leoš Janá?ek's's 1904 portrait of the relationship between a young woman (Oksana Dyka), her mother-in-law (Karita Mattila), and their shared act of well-meaning infanticide. A verismo opera, it turns its focus away from mythic figures and toward the lives of average people.
No, actually, the Kostelnicka is not Jenufa's mother-in-law. Jenufa is unmarried at the beginning of the opera, and the Kostelnicka is her stepmother, Jenufa's father's second wife. Now, I haven't seen the Met's program, and maybe there's no family tree, which I consider to be absolutely essential for understanding who is who, how they are related, and why they are in the particular positions they're in at the start of the opera. But here's the Met's synopsis for the fall production, which makes the relationships perfectly clear.

Here's the even more serious howler; note that the Kostelnicka is now correctly identified as Jenufa's stepmother:*
Although Jenufa's circumstances are, in part, dictated by the men around her (after all, her accidental pregnancy serves as the driver for the plot), the crux of the opera lies in Jenufa's and her stepmother's choices and desires — for a fresh start, for a new life, for freedom. They kill Jenufa's unwanted bastard child because they seek to determine their own lives. Both survive to see the curtain fall, a feat for any female opera protagonist, gaining the possibility of at least bittersweet endings.
Well, no. That's not what happens at all. The Kostelnicka drugs Jenufa, then later picks up the baby, scurries into the night, and throws the child into a stream.

It's possible to miss the line or two where the drugging takes place, but if you are watching the stage, it is not possible to miss the fact that Jenufa is sound asleep when the baby is taken. And I'm confident that the production is clear on this point, because I have seen it in both LA and SF. I have some beefs with it, but lack of clarity isn't one of them.

These plot points are crucial for the overall moral arc of the opera. When the truth emerges about who killed the baby, Jenufa forgives the Kostelnicka, in one of the great moments of maturity and insight in all opera.

So the question arises: was Tara Isabella Burton asleep or in the bar for Act 2? And why did she not bother to read the synopsis of an opera that she was going to write about but evidently had not seen before? **

Update: I've sharpened the above a bit and added the paragraph starting "These plot points are crucial." I'd like to also address a comparatively minor issue in Burton's article: she refers to Jenufa as a verismo opera. I winced when I saw this. I understand why she arrived at this description, given that it's possible to look at the opera in the most lurid possible way: young woman is pregnant by a scoundrel who won't marry her, baby is murdered.

At least one of the critics who saw the US premiere in 1925 made the same mistake. Because the opera was sung in a German translation, because virtually no one in the US had any familiarity with Janacek's musical idiom, because a good synopsis might not have been available, I can forgive that error of a critic writing more than ninety years ago. But to make it now is to miss the moral complexities of the work. The Kostelnicka is motivated not only by love for Jenufa, as hard as that love is, but by her experience of being married to Jenufa's father, who was a wastrel in the same ways that Steva, father of Jenufa's baby, is a wastrel. Laca, Steva's half-brother, truly loves Jenufa, and takes extreme, abusive, and debatable measures to keep her from marrying Steva. Jenufa herself grows emotionally over the course of the opera, and, depending on the production, sees the potential bleakness of her eventual marriage to Laca, because they have come together not in joy, but in sorrow.

Compare the above with the superficially similar Cavalleria Rusticana, and you'll see why it does tis great opera a disservice to label it verismo.

Links to 1925 reviews of Jenufa, quoted on this blog:

* Bad copy-editing here, that this inconsistency slipped by.

** Look, you don't forget the plot of this one after the first time you see it.  You just don't.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Metropolitan Opera 2017-18

Once again, shamelessly stealing from Opera Tattler:

September 25- December 16 2017: Norma
September 26- October 28 2017: Les Contes d’Hoffmann
September 27- October 14 2017: Die Zauberflöte
October 2 2017- March 10 2018: La Bohème
October 12 2017- April 5 2018: Turandot
October 26- November 21 2017: The Exterminating Angel
November 2 2017- March 16 2018: Madama Butterfly
November 11- December 2 2017: Thaïs 
November 24- December 2 2017: Verdi's Requiem
November 25- December 9 2017 The Magic Flute 
December 6 2017- January 19 2018: Le Nozze di Figaro 
December 14 2017- January 11 2018: The Merry Widow
December 18 2017- January 6 2018: Hansel and Gretel 
December 31 2017- May 12 2018: Tosca
January 8- February 1 2018: Cavalleria Rusticana & Pagliacci
January 16- February 17 2018: L'Elisir d'Amore
January 22- February 15 2018: Il Trovatore
February 5-27 2018: Parsifal 
February 19- March 17 2018 Semiramide
March 1-23 2018: Elektra 
March 15- April 19 2018: Così fan tutte
March 22- May 10 2018: Lucia di Lammermoor
March 29- April 21 2018: Luisa Miller 
April 12- May 11 2018: Cendrillon
April 23- May 12 2018: Roméo et Juliette

Um....wow. There are 26 operas. With the exception of Thomas Adès's latest, The Exterminating Angel, which has its Met and US premiere, they are all by dead white men. Adès's, of course, is by  a living white man.

His opera is also the only opera written after 1925. Way to go, Met! That's about as safe and dull a season as is possible. If I had 26 operas to schedule, I would take more chances. Yes, there is some excellent casting and there are some great singers (Mattei, Goerke, Vogt, etc.). The Met Orchestra concerts aren't listed above, but MGT will conduct one of them. (That is a surprise; I would expect them all to go to Levine.)

If I lived in NY, I would see Exterminating Angel, Elektra, Parsifal, Semiramide, Cendrillon, and Romeo, largely because I've never seen the last three. Oh, and maybe Thais, ditto.

Oakland Friday Photo

Persimmon Tree
November, 2017

Thursday, February 16, 2017

45 Thinks He is Barack Obama

The 45th president's press conference today was an embarrassment, a horrifying blend of ignorance and incoherence marking him as unqualified for most jobs, let alone one of the most complex and subtle in the world today.

One claim: that he inherited "a mess." No, he didn't. Here's a several-months-old graphic about the mess that President Obama inherited from GWB:

In January, 2017, the unemployment rate was actually 4.8% and the DJIA was around 19,800. (No, I can't tell you why the DJIA went up after the election.)

You've Heard this Song Before

Metropolitan Opera -> Carmen -> Marcelo Alvarez (Don José) -> Roberto Aronica, February 18, 2017

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

"Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence"

That's a breaking news headline that went up at the Times a few minutes ago. I know it was recent, because I tweeted it before I saw tweets from the politics & policy journalists I read.

Seriously, despite the fact that there many deaths at US embassies during the GWB administration, the GOP chased Hillary Clinton for years about Benghazi. Then they hounded her about her private email server.

Here we've got a President whose aides may have been colluding with the Russian intelligence agencies to get him elected or to make pre-election promises, and I'm just waiting for the calls for impeachment.

Monday, February 13, 2017

More on that Met Carmen

From the Met's press office:
Roberto Aronica will sing the role of Don José in the February 15 performance of Bizet’s Carmen, replacing the originally scheduled Marcelo Álvarez, who is ill.
Italian tenor Aronica sang Don José at the Met on February 7 and 11, and has previously sung the role at the Teatro Regio di Torino and Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Following his Met debut in 1998 as Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata, he starred as the Duke in Verdi’s Rigoletto and in three Puccini roles: Rodolfo in La Bohème, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, and Cavaradossi in Tosca. Later this season, he will reprise the role of Don José at La Fenice and sing des Grieux in Puccini’s Manon Lescaut at Naples’s Teatro di San Carlo.
The February 15 performance of Carmen will be conducted by Louis Langrée and will star Cleméntine Margaine in the title role with Maria Agresta as Micaëla and Michael Todd Simpson as Escamillo.
Okay. It is apparent that Álvarez is very unlikely to sing any of his scheduled run of performances. We're getting a stream of cast changes as the Met works out who will substitute for him as Don José

Pretty Yende Steps in for Damrau

From the Met:
Pretty Yende will sing the role of Elvira in tomorrow evening’s performance of Bellini’s I Puritani, replacing Diana Damrau, who is ill.
Ms. Yende, who has sung Elvira with Zurich Opera, recently starred as Rosina in a Met revival of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia. She made an unexpected Met debut in 2013 as Countess Adèle in Rossini’s Le Comte Ory and returned in 2014 to sing Pamina in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. Next month, she will make her Met role debut as Juliette in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette. Her other recent performances have included the title role in Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Paris Opera and Deutsche Oper Berlin; Adina in Donizetti’s L’Elisir d’Amore at the Bavarian State Opera; and Amira in Rossini’s Ciro in Babilonia at the Rossini Opera Festival.
Tomorrow evening’s performance of I Puritani is conducted by Maurizio Benini and also stars Javier Camarena as Arturo, Alexey Markov as Riccardo, and Luca Pisaroni as Giorgio.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Dallas Opera, 2017-18

Well, well, one of the more unusual operatic seasons in the US, and it's in Dallas. Good for you - I will finally make my first visit, maybe two, to Texas. Once again, I steal liberally from OT. The Dallas Opera web page about the season is here.

October 20- November 5 2017: Samson and Dalila
October 27-November 12 2017: La traviata
February 9-17 2018: Erich Wolfgang Korngold's The Ring of Polykrates
March 9-17 2018: Michel van der Aa's Sunken Garden
April 13-29 2018: Don Giovanni

The items of interest are obvious: the American premieres of both Korngold's The Ring of Polykrates and Michel van der Aa's Sunken Garden. I don't know van der Aa's music, and I admit that I poked this opera and The Secret Garden for the similarity of their sets. But, yeah, I'd really like to see it! And that's partly because I don't know his music at all.

I need to mention that the great British baritone Roderick Williams is in Sunken Garden. I've seen him twice, once in the Britten War Requiem at SFS and once in Harrison Birtwistle's Yan Tan Tethera, and he is one of the best you will ever hear.

There's some attractive casting elsewhere, too, most notably Mariusz Kwiecien as Don Giovanni.

LA Opera 2017-18

Ooof. LA Opera relapses, has a season with nothing on the main stage that I would attend if I lived down there. List stolen, with thanks, from Opera Tattler. I have added (ms) to indicate the productions staged at the Dorothy Chandler.

September 9-23 2017: Carmen (ms)
October 7-28 2017: The Pearl Fishers (ms)
October 14-November 19 2017: Nabucco (ms)
October 28-31 2017: La Belle et la Bete
November 9-12 2017: Keeril Makan's Persona
January 27- February 18 2018 Bernstein's Candide (ms)
March 10-25 2018: Orpheus and Eurydice (ms)
May 12- 31 2018: Rigoletto (ms)
May 26 2018: Matthew Aucoin's Crossing
June 22-24 2018: Gordon Getty's Usher House and Canterville Ghost

Wow. I mean, what? Two by Bizet, including his greatest hit and a real stinker. I do not get why Pearl Fishers is suddenly popping up at all the majors, and I really hope SF doesn't stage it again. (Give us some Saint-Saens or Massenet or even Gounod's Romeo rather than this turkey.) Carmen has the novelty of a soprano in the title role; these days, it's unusual, but the legendary Emma Calvé was a famous Carmen and so was Regine Crespin. I have no idea how Ana Maria Martinez will do with the part. Orepheus is choreographed as well as staged as an opera.

You should avoid the Getty double bill. Usher House is....not good.

For further horrified thoughts on this, see All is Yar, where Mr. CKDH is sputtering, but reports on an enlightening chat with James Conlon, whom I'd still like to steal.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Bard Music West: The World of Gyorgy Ligeti

There's a new music festival in town - and the first I heard of it was in a promotional email from SFCV. SFCV doesn't have an article about it, although there are listings for each of the concerts and the overall event. I am trying to find out whether anyone else heard about this from Bard itself. I am not on their mailing list, but i hope Joshua Kosman is.*

In any event, it's next month, March 17 and 18, at Noe Valley Music. The first concert on March 18 starts late enough that I won't miss Matthew Shilvock at the Wagner Society meeting, too.

* I see that one team member is Mark Streshinsky, so...somebody at Bard Music West is familiar with me!

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Lazy Way Out

So, looking at the season announcements that are appearing, I'm seeing some lazy bones programming.

First, every orchestra and opera company that can, and that means all of them, is going to capitalize on the 100th birthday of Leonard Bernstein. Both the CSO and LOC have some Bernstein scheduled, more at the CSO than LOC.

I can only imagine what we will be seeing at SFS, given MTT's relationship with Lenny. I am not sure when they are announcing, but I got the press release on February 29 last year, so, within the next three weeks.

Second, le big sigh at this, from the CSO:
Several programs during the 2017/18 season mark major composer anniversaries including the 150th anniversary of Gioachino Rossini’s death, the centennial of the birth of American composer Leonard Bernstein, the 150th birthday of Claude Debussy and the 200th birthday of Charles Gounod.
Really, that does not a coherent season make. Also: Gounod??

Lyric Opera of Chicago 2017-18


September 23- October 15 2017: Orphee et Eurydice
October 7- November 3 2017: Rigoletto The production is ours, that is, with the wonderful Michael Yeargan sets. Attractive cast (Kelsey, Feola, Polenzani).
November 1-30 2017: Die Walküre.  Their new production, with Christine Goerke and Eric Owens.
November 19- December 10 2017: The Pearl Fishers If the production photo looks vaguely familiar, yes, Zondra Rhodes, who did that very splashy Aida in SF. Even Matthew Polenzani and Mariusz Kwiecien could not get me to this turkey of an opera.
December 5 2017- January 27 2018: Turandot
February 4-28 2018: I Puritani An opera I've never seen, but...
February 17- March 16 2018: Così fan tutte
March 3-21 2018: Faust 

March: Fellow Travelers. Singers not listed but worth seeing.
April 27- May 20 2018Jesus Christ Superstar

Piotr Beczala is giving a recital; there's a one-shot Bernstein celebration that will include Trouble in Tahiti on March 18, 2018. I'm thinking....Walkuere.

Oakland Friday Photo

Calla Lily and Lichen
January 13, 2017

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Scoop: A Reason to Read Press Releases by Out-of Town Orchestras

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra season announcement came out last month. I am not on their press mailing list, so this is a bit late.

No summary of the season, because they haven't released a chronological list of concerts, so I can't scan it for trends. However, the phrase "west coast tour with concerts in city A, city B, BERKELEY" did pop out at me.

Let's assume, for now, that the CSO will be Cal Performances' orchestra in residence next season. The dates are right, with the CSO touring in October. That is when Salonen and the Philharmonia were in residence this season.

The repertory for the tour is not that thrilling, with Bruckner's Fourth, Brahms symphonies 2 and 3, the Mozart clarinet concerto, music by Rossini, Schubert, and Schumann, and, one bright spot, a new work by Elizabeth Ogonek.

More on the CSO's 2017-18 season at their web site.

Monday, February 06, 2017

The Inevitable Outcome

If you're pregnant and all goes well, eventually, you have a baby...or two...or...

Triplets! That would certainly explain why her doctors advised her not to travel. Here's wishing Joana Carneiro and her children all the best.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Coming Up

An awful lot of good concerts, and this does not include, say, SFS and the operas at Opera San Jose and Opera Parallele.

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents House of the Beehives, a concert featuring the West Coast premiere of the 2016 LCCE Composition Contest winning piece by Melody Eötvös, inspired by the Italo Calvino story of the same name. The program includes duos by Ravel and Bogdanovic, with Sebastian Currier’s sextet Broken Consorts, along with a new work by David Coll.
7:30 p.m, Saturday, February 4, 2017 - Berkeley (whoops, too late, sorry!)
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

7:30 p.m., Monday, Feb 6- San Francisco 
San Francisco Conservatory, 50 Oak Street, SF
TICKETS:     Advance Tickets:  $30 General Admission / $15 Under Age 35
                    At The Door:  $35 General Admission / $18 Under Age 35   
                    Advance Ticket Purchase Encouraged                    Call 415/617-LCCE (5223) or visit www.leftcoastensemble.org/tickets

New Esterhazy Quartet: At the Opera III

François-André Danican Philidor (1726–1795):        
highlights from Les Femmes Vengées
arranged for string quartet by William Skeen

Wolfgang Mozart (1756–1791):                                
highlights from Cosí fan tutte
arranged for string quartet in the late 18th century

Friday, February 17, 2017, at 8pm, Hillside Club,
2286 Cedar Street (at Arch), Berkeley, 94709
tickets for this Friday concert are $25, and are sold only at the door

Saturday, February 18, 2017, at 4pm, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church,
1111 O’Farrell (at Franklin), San Francisco, 94109

SundayFebruary 19, 2017, at 4pm, All Saints’ Episcopal Church,
555 Waverley Street (at Hamilton), Palo Alto, 94301

Tickets for Saturday & Sunday are $30 (discounts for seniors and students)

San Francisco Renaissance Voices

WHO:  San Francisco Renaissance Voices, Katherine McKee music director with guest artists Derek Tam, harpsichord and Tatiana Senderowicz, theorbo

WHAT:  Lady, My Lady - Music and Poetry of the Renaissance

WHEN/WHERE (NOTE Four concerts)

1. Saturday, February 18 - 7:30 pm - St. Mark's Lutheran Church, 1111 O'Farrell Street, San 
2. Sunday, February 19 - 4:00 pm - St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 2300 Bancroft Way, Berkeley
3. Saturday, February 25 - 7:30 pm - Seventh Avenue Presbyterian Church, 1329 Seventh Avenue, San Francisco
4. Sunday, February 26 - 4:00 pm - St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, 3 Bayview Avenue, Belevedere

WEBSITE:  www.SFRVoices.org

TICKETS:  $30 General, $25 Student/Senior, $20 Child Age 12 or under; at the door a half-hour before each show or at the website listed above.

SF Girls Chorus

San Francisco Girls Chorus
Out of Darkness
February 25 & 26, 2017
Featuring Paul Vasile, organ

Saturday, February 25, 2017, 8:00 p.m., Mission Dolores, San Francisco
Sunday, February 26, 2017, 4:00 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, Oakland

Felix Mendelssohn: Three Motets
Francis Poulenc: Litanies à la Vierge Noire
Johannes Brahms: Psalm 13, Op. 27 (Herr, wie lange willst du mein…)
Edvard Grieg: Ave Maris Stella
Arvo Pärt: Peace Upon You, Jerusalem
Herbert Howells: Psalm Prelude, Op. 32, No 1

California Bach Society: North German Masters before JS Bach

Works by Tunde, Buxtehude, Schop, Weckmann, Telemann (the last is not before Bach)

Friday, February 24, 20178pm, at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
1111 O’Farrell at Franklin, San Francisco 94109

Saturday, February 25, 20178pm, at All Saints’ Episcopal Church
555 Waverley at Hamilton, Palo Alto 94301

Sunday, February 26, 20174pm, at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
2300 Bancroft at Ellsworth, Berkeley 94704

Doors open 30 minutes prior to each performance.
Tickets: $35 (discounts for advance purchase, seniors, students, and under 30)

Governance Problem at the Other Met

Met Museum, Fountain on Fifth Avenue
May, 2016
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

From a front-page NY Times article on the Metropolitan Museum of Art:
Tension inside the Met, the country’s largest art museum, is running so high that when curators and conservators recently wrote a letter protesting compensation cuts, the museum’s leaders chose not to show it to trustees for fear of leaks and bad publicity. Those who wanted to see the document had to go to the office of the Met’s general counsel and read it under observation.
That's some governance problem: the museum's administrative staff doesn't trust the board and is very worried about the contents of the letter becoming public.

Friday, February 03, 2017

Flu Season at the Met (or Something)

This time, it's not Carmen, it's Barbiere (but not Mattei), and the cast change announcement doesn't specify the reason for the change:
Valeriano Lanchas will sing the role of Dr. Bartolo in Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia on Wednesday, February 8, replacing the originally scheduled Maurizio Muraro. 
As previously announced, Lanchas will also sing Dr. Bartolo on Saturday, February 11. Mr. Lanchas made his Met debut last season as Dr. Bartolo in the English-language holiday presentation of The Barber of Seville. He has previously sung the role at Ópera de Colombia in Bogotá. The Colombian bass’s recent credits with other companies include the roles of Bernardino in Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini at the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Gherardo in Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi at the Teatro Real in Madrid, and Don Magnifico in Rossini’s La Cenerentola at the Washington National Opera.  
The February 8 and 11 performances of Il Barbiere di Siviglia will be conducted by Maurizio Benini and star Pretty Yende as Rosina with Dmitry Korchak as Count Almaviva, Peter Mattei as Figaro, and Mikhail Petrenko as Don Basilio.

Oakland Friday Photo

Green Tomatoes, Laurel District
December 16, 2016

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

I Can't Even.

Good grief:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) begins Spring Semester with a new logo and brand that showcases the boldness, vibrancy, and relevance of the Conservatory's reimagined curricular initiatives in connected learning. The new brand was revealed in a new website, sfcm.edu, designed for prospective students and their families by capturing the passion of current students, alumni, and concertgoers attending the Conservatory.
"We need to think about brand because we need to model for our students how they should think as artists," says SFCM President David H. Stull. "What's interesting about this new brand is the transparency, clarity, and the aspects of whimsy, joy, and creativity that come forward in a beautiful, animated logo. This new direction serves as an example for our students as they develop marketing savvy through a curriculum that highlights the professional development necessary to succeed as a musician in the twenty-first century."
That animated logo, and the "marketing savvy" students will develop, are surely just as important as who will teach them and the gazillion hours of practice they'll put in.

More grief, or something:
Replacing existing professional biographies, faculty profiles were created in a "question and answer" format revealing faculty members' personalities and diverse interests, in addition to highlighting their musical achievements. The new content was written to provide prospective students richer and more robust information to assist them in selecting their teachers.
And yet...you can't tell whether you're a good match with a teacher until you get into the studio with the teacher.

UPDATED, Thursday, 2/2/2017: Okay, I got some question after Drew McMcanus linked to this on Facebook. The press release is full of marketing language about the impact of a new logo and the Q&A format for teacher biographies.

Look, I do not think most people can market themselves into a career in music. If your goal is to play in an orchestra, you practice like crazy and still have a tiny chance of making it. If you want to play chamber music, you practice like crazy and form a group, or hope to join an existing group.

This is all really hard: in the end, if you're a good enough musician, having the right publicity and marketing can help, but that if? It is huge. You can't focus on marketing and hope to make it.

So the question arises: should an institution such as SFCM have this much of an apparent focus on marketing? Tell me what you think.

Below the cut, the full text.