Friday, February 23, 2018


Maurizio Bernini will miss two performances of Semiramide at the Met:
Gareth Morrell will replace Maurizio Benini as conductor for performances of Rossini’s Semiramide on Saturday February 24 at 8.00pm and Wednesday February 28th at 7.30pm, 2018.
British conductor Gareth Morrell made his Met debut in 1999 leading Lucia di Lammermoor. Since then he has conducted performances of FidelioDon GiovanniAidaLa Bohème and Tosca for the Met. He has been on the conducting staff at the Metropolitan Opera since 1996. Other engagements included Tristan und Isolde in Puerto Rico and Carmina Burana with the Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra.
The cast for Semiramide includes Angela Meade in the title role, Elizabeth DeShong as Arsace, Javier Camarena as Idreno, Ildar Abdrazakov as King Assur and Ryan Speedo Green as the High Priest Oroe.
Remaining performances, conducted by Maestro Benini, are on March 3, 6, 10 (matinee), 14 and 17, 2018.
Do I care? Not really!

Friday Photo

Moon and night sky
Oakland, CA
December, 2017

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Keeping Track 2018-19

I will update this post as orchestras and opera companies announce their seasons.

New Music Festivals

Alex Ross tweeted this site, which should embarrass the crap out of several of the festivals listed. Less than 1/3 music composed women? You're not paying attention to what's going on around you.

  1. London Symphony Orchestra: approximately 118 works, 117 by men, 1 (one) by a woman. Reported on Twitter; not sure which season the report is for. 
  2. Orpheus Chamber Ensemble: 19 works, an All-Male Season.
  3. Houston Symphony, no works by women (total number of works not yet determined)
  4. Detroit Symphony Orchestra: works by 5 women among 12 living composers (total number of works not yet determined)
  5. Lafayette Symphony, Indiana: works by 2 women
  6. Philadelphia Orchestra: an All-Male Season. 5 works by 4 living men, 3 white, one black; no works by women (and a very dull season altogether).  Two women conduct the orchestra, Nathalie Stutzmann and Emmanuelle Haim.
  7. Chicago Symphony Orchestra: an All-Male Season. No works by women (and a very dull season altogether; have not counted works by the living yet).
  8. Pittsburgh SO: an All-Male Season.
  9. Los Angeles Philharmonic: 22 female composers (some white, some women of color); 27 composers of color (some male, some female). Enormous number of commissions and new works. Every other orchestra in the country should be embarrassed by the riches on the display here and the paucity of their own commitment to music of our time written by a diverse group of composers.
  10. Pacific Symphony: an All-Male Season.
  11. Seattle Symphony: works by 9 (nine) living women on the season, including the premiere of Caroline Shaw's piano concerto! Nice selection of works by living men as well, and a focus on French music that I like. I believe they've got an African American soloists and African American conductor on the season.

Opera Companies
  1. San Francisco Opera: 9 operas, all by men
  2. Houston Grand Opera: 6 operas, all by men
  3. Seattle Opera: 5 operas, all by men
  4. Los Angeles Opera: 9 operas, 8 by men, 1 by two women
  5. Canadian Opera Company: 6 operas, all by men
  6. Santa Fe Opera: 5 operas, all by men
  7. Montreal Opera, 5 operas, 1 by a woman (Svadba (Wedding), which played in SF in 2016)
  8. Washington National Opera: 5 MainStage operas, all by men. Three women conduct: Nicole Paiement (Silent Night, Puts); Keri-Lynn Wilson (Faust; let's hope she doesn't fall asleep at the podium); Speranza Scappucci (Tosca). Alternate stages has 2 operas, both by women: Jeanine Tesori's The Lion, the Unicorn, and Me and Kamala Sankaram's Taking Up Serpents, which is conducted by Lidya Yankovskaya.
  9. Metropolitan Opera, All-Male Season of 27 operas (29 if you count Trittico as 3 rather than 1)

News from SFS Youth Orchestra

My first reaction to the recent press release from SF Symphony was, "Wow, the youth symphony is a little ahead of SFS adult symphony." The SFSYO will be playing a major commission from Iranian composer Anahita Abbasi, with the participation of the amazing International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) on its March 4 program.

I also have a vague memory of someone mentioning in a review that the Samuel Adams piece SFS played a few years back had been written for a youth symphony and thus, well, it must be easier than the usual symphonic repertory. I would not have reached such a conclusion myself after I heard it, especially not when youth symphonies play Le Sacre du PrintempsFauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande, and Ligeti’s Concert Românesc, which the SFSYO will do on its May 13 program. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Adams Family Affair

The St. Lawrence String Quartet gave a performance on Sunday of music by guys named Adams: John (Coolidge) Adams and Samuel Carl Adams, who happen to be closely related. I reviewed the program for SFCV.

The more recent JCA quartet doesn't seem to me to be a very successful work, especially not when played within an hour or so of the marvelous First Quartet. Perhaps arm-wrestling in public with the ghost of Ludwig van isn't the best way for him to write really great music.

SCA's quartet is a winner! I liked the one piece of his that I heard at SFS a few years ago, and look forward to hearing more from him.

Aus Licht

From comments to an entirely unrelated post, with apologies for the sloppy overlap with the right-hand sidebar:

The URLs, in clickable form:

Monday, February 19, 2018

A Little Early?

It's February 19. What organization is already advertising tickets for its New Year's Eve Gala?

And There Was Rejoicing in the Land

John Keenan, who was to conduct the Friday, Feb. 23, performance of Parsifal at the Met, has withdrawn owing to illness. Incoming Met Music Director Yannick Nezet-Seguin will lead the performance, which was to have been the performance in the run that he did not lead.

Museum Mondays


Wooden Panels, Bavarian National MuseumMunich, August, 2015

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Path of Miracles at Grace Cathedral

Path of Miracles
Grace Cathedral, February 9, 2018
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

I saw and reviewed a most remarkable performance last week, the dance/choral work Path of Miracles, which started life as a choral work by Joby Talbot and is now also incarnated as a dance with choreography by KT Nelson. Path of Miracles was performed by ODC Dance and the magnificent chorus Volti. Here's my review, which I hope does the whole amazing experience justice.

I took some photos. I know, this is almost never allowed, and I was very surprised. My current cell phone has a terrible camera, so the photos aren't great and aren't nearly as good as what I could do with my dSLR.

I need to look up and post the lighting designer's name. It was Tony Shayne of ODC, says Barbara Heroux, Volti's ED, in the comments. (Thank you!) The lighting was very beautiful and carefully planned and added a lot to the experience. I've added a comment to my review at SFCV crediting Mr. Shayne.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lalo Got There First

Lalo Schifrin, that is.

I've got a press release about a new recording from pianist and conductor David Greilsammer, which "carves out new paths between classics and jazz," in this case, between Ravel, Lully, Marais, and Rameau and jazz.

Back in the mid-1960s, a good 50 years ago, Schifrin, composer of the Mission Impossible theme and many, many first-class TV and movie scores, released a charming album of jazz/Baroque music called (deep breath) The Dissection And Reconstruction Of Music From The Past As Performed By The Inmates Of Lalo Schifrin's Demented Ensemble As A Tribute To The Memory Of The Marquis De Sade, aka "Marquis de Sade." 

I grew up with this recording and love it a lot! There's Purcell, there's Bach, there are other half-recognizable composers. Give it a listen!

The Greilsammer press release is after the cut - I'm hoping to hear it, since it sounds like plenty of fun.

Some Changes at Santa Fe Opera

CROSBY THEATER, courtesy Santa Fe Opera

I've got press releases in hand from Santa Fe Opera and the Canadian Opera Company, covering not quite the same ground.

Robert K. Meya succeeds Charles MacKay as General Director of Santa Fe Opera, effective October 1, 2018. That's after the end of the 2018 summer season.

Meya has been Director of External Affairs for Santa Fe since March, 2012.

Here's the interesting part: Meya has named Chief Conductor Harry Bicket to the position of Music Director, and further, named Alexander Neef, General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, to the position of Artistic Director of the Santa Fe Opera. Neef will not be leaving the CoC.

From the Santa Fe press release:
In what we view as a bold and creative approach, Robert has named Alexander Neef Santa Fe Opera's first Artistic Director and Harry Bicket as Music Director, both positions effective October 1, 2018. Alexander, who will continue his current role as General Director of the Canadian Opera Company, will ensure the highest possible standard of excellence in all aspects of Santa Fe Opera's artistic operations. Maestro Bicket, the Opera's Chief Conductor since 2013 and Artistic Director of The English Concert, will work with the General Director and Artistic Director to develop the long-term repertory plan for the Opera.
This is...unusual. Santa Fe has a short, summer-festival season of five operas, and nobody who has been to the opera there could possible complain about the artistic standards. The company has an excellent leader on the musical side in Bicket, their repertory has been interesting, their casting strong, and their choice of directors and designers very, very good.

As I said to a friend:
  • Why does Santa Fe need or thinks it needs an artistic director in addition to the general director (chief executive) and chief conductor (now music director)? Does the new general director have no artistic planning experience? Their seasons have seemed well planned to me, and I've been following the company for ten years. Opera companies and orchestras generally have someone on board called the artistic administrator, whose job it is to work with the MD and GD on long-range artistic planning. It's generally not a very out-front job. How is this job going to differ from that? 
  • How does the general director of a company comparable in size to Santa Fe find the time to take on being artistic director of another company? I mean, we've seen the stupidity of music directors with dual appointments for a long time now, as if there is a lack of talent and as if one person can really do an adequate job with his attention divided between two organizations (I'm look at you, James Levine, and you, Andris Nelsons, and you Yannick Nezet-Seguin, and goodness knows how many other conductors). Are executives getting into this too?
An article by James Keller in the Santa Fe New Mexican provides some answers:
The Board of Directors of the Santa Fe Opera voted Friday morning to appoint Robert K. Meya as the company's next general director beginning Oct. 1, and to divide top management responsibilities among three individuals. Meya's appointment represents a promotion from within the organization’s ranks.

Meya, 44, joined Santa Fe Opera in March 2012 and has served since then as its director of external affairs, principally overseeing fundraising and development. In that capacity, he has successfully boosted SFO's fundraising levels from $6.6 million in 2012 to $9.4 million in 2017, and he carried out a $45-million capital campaign to remodel backstage and front-of-house sections of the Crosby Theatre.
So Meya is primarily a business / administrative person; in this context, having an artistic director does make sense. Read the Keller article for full details.

Women's Intensive Self-Defense Class, March, 2018

Front snap kick

I'll be teaching an intensive self-defense class for adult women in March. Please feel free to pass this information along to anyone who might be interested!

Dates:   Two Saturdays, March 24 and March 31, 2018

Time:    1 p.m. to 3 p,m.

Who:     Adult women, cis or trans, age 16 and up. 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 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!

Bonus Photos

Since Patrick posted a rainbow photo from January 25, here are a couple of mine, taken the same day, from a different location in Oakland. (Click his photo or either of mine to enlarge.)

Rainbow, Oakland
January 25, 2018

Double rainbow
January 25, 2018

Friday, February 09, 2018

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Sunday with the Divas

As part of its centennial celebrations, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has a possibly entertaining event coming up: a chance to hear Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, Deborah Voigt, and Patricia Racette in conversation. Stephen Rubin, of the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, who is also a trustee of SFCM, will be moderating, but, um, his best strategy is very likely to stay the hell out of the way and let the four singers yak.

They've all had storied careers and I'm sure they've got more than enough good stories to tell. The proceeds will support the educational programs at the SF Opera and scholarships for SFCM's voice students, which explains the prices. I'll be about 2500 miles away, so I won't be there, alas.


Sunday, February 25 at 3:00 PM
Nourse Theater

Tickets: $100 Orchestra / $75 Loge / $50 Balcony

A Challenge to Critics

Given the utterly dismal record of US orchestras, opera companies, and other musical organizations in performing works composed by women (both white and of color) and men of color, I'd like it a lot if every US music critic or reporter, when talking with a music director or executive / general director of such organizations, would ask this question:
"What are you organization's plans to increase the diversity of programming and to perform more works by men and women of color and white women?"
If they turn green and start stuttering or deflecting, you'll know that they haven't even gotten to the point of discussing this within their organizations. If they have an answer and have a plan, well, praises!

Monday, February 05, 2018

Saturday, February 03, 2018


I don't know exactly where everyone was last Saturday night - Candide, maybe? - because the ZOFO concert at SFCM was seriously underattended, despite the known greatness of the piano duet and despite their world premiere performance of a suite of miniatures written for them as a sort of latter-day Pictures at an Exhibition. It was, in a word, great, and I reviewed it for SFCV.

I only wish I'd been able to say something about each of the works, and it was unfortunately only after I'd filed that I realized that a review consisting of a tiny miniature commentary on every one of them would have been entirely appropriate. Read my review here, and consider looking up the paintings in question, most of which can be seen on the web.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Shocked, Shocked: Argerich & Perlman Recital is Canceled

Received from SFS / Great Performers:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Pianist Martha Argerich and violinist Itzhak Perlman, scheduled to appear in a joint recital on March 16 at Davies Symphony Hall, have announced that the concert has been cancelled due to family and health problems which prevent Argerich from traveling for extensive periods of time. Argerich comments on this decision, saying: “I am very sorry having to cancel my upcoming tour in the United States with Itzhak Perlman, whom I deeply admire and with whom I love playing. Thank you very much for your understanding.”

Friday Photo

Day of the Dead altar
Davies Symphony Hall, SF
Recognizably members of SFS
October, 2017
(Click to enlarge)

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Greatest Opera I've Never Seen?

After I saw Les Troyens for the first time in 2015, I felt a twinge of sadness, because at that point, I'd seen most of the (allegedly) greatest operas in the repertory. Recently, I've been contemplating what, at this point, is the greatest opera I've never seen.

At the top of the list might be Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, one of the monuments of music and operatic history, by perhaps the greatest of 17th century composers. Right next to it is an opera I'll never see, and neither will you, unless the lost manuscript of Heinrich Schütz's only opera, Dafne, comes to light in my lifetime. Yeah, I know, we don't know any of the music, but I've heard, and sung, a lot of Schütz's music, and I'd place a bet on its greatness.

I've never seen Boris Gudonov live, only on Met HD (with a towering cast), and I've seen Janacek's From the House of the Dead only in the DVD of the Chereau production.

But thinking a bit beyond this, and contemplating the list of operas that I have seen, well, a few names are missing, plus I haven't come close to seeing all of Handel's huge oeuvre.

Who's missing? Well, most prominently, the most popular opera composer of the 19th century: Giacomo Meyerbeer. And I've never seen one of Carl Maria von Weber's operas; he is an exceedingly important composer historically. (SF Opera was supposed to do Der Freischütz back in the Rosenberg years - perhaps some day!) Neither have I see anything by Auber, whose La muette de Portici was Chopin's favorite opera.

I've seen only one of Gluck's operas, and none by Cherubini or Cavalli or Marc-Antoine Charpentier. or  Spontini. I've seen nothing by Henze and only two of Birtwistle's operas. Les Troyens is the only Berlioz opera I've ever seen; Benvenuto Cellini sure sounds like a lot of fun. There's a lot of Rossini I've never seen! And, of course, I've seen only one Schreker opera.

And then there's plenty of Russian opera I've never seen. Weirdly, I've managed to see five Rimsky operas, but not his biggest and possibly greatest, The Invisible City of Kitezh. (Hoping to remedy this if it hits the Met.) I haven't seen The Snow Maiden. I haven't seen Mussorgsky's Khovanshchina. No Mathis der Mahler (Hindemith) or Palestrina (Pfitzner), and - perhaps this is the greatest I've never seen - Moses und Aron, by Schoenberg. (Nor have I seen Erwartung!)

Okay, what about you?