Friday, August 31, 2018

Friday Photo

Grain Mill
Hotel Breakfast Room
August, 2016

Yes, you can grind your own grain for breakfast at this hotel in Munich.
I did not try as I was not sure what I would do after grinding the grain.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

And SFS Has a Two New Members

Also in that email from SFS, important news:
This year, we welcome two new members of the orchestra: Wyatt Underhill joins the San Francisco Symphony as Assistant Concertmaster and Aaron Schuman joins as Associate Principal Trumpet. Underhill comes to the SFS from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, where he has been Assistant Concertmaster since 2016. A native of Buffalo, New York, Schuman graduated from Northwestern University before pursuing graduate studies at Rice University.
Underhill replaces Mark Volkert, who retired last year following a long and distinguished career in the orchestra.

Welcome, Wyatt Underhill and Aaron Schuman!

Oh, No: Robin Sutherland is Retiring!

San Francisco Symphony's annual personnel update came out today, and this was what first jumped out at me:
Longtime Principal Keyboard Robin Sutherland retires this season, following more than 40 years with the Symphony. Details of a celebration of Sutherland’s tenure with the Orchestra will be announced in the future.
He's been a member of the orchestra since 1972, and was hired right out of SFCM by Seiji Ozawa, who created the principal keyboard job for him.

I hope that celebration includes Sutherland performing whatever the heck he wants to play. He's a wonderful pianist and musician, and I will miss him so much.

And if you are wondering, the important solo piano part in the upcoming performances of Petrouchka will be played by John Wilson. I expect that at some point MTT will name a new principal keyboard [after the usual audition process, to make this clear!].

Rare, Not Unprecedented

LA Opera's latest email trumpets an achievement of its general director:
Last week, The New York Times ran a touching feature on LA Opera's own Eli and Edythe Broad General Director Plácido Domingo, remarking on his extraordinary career feat: an unprecedented 150 roles under his belt. This season, LA audiences have the opportunity to see Maestro Domingo in two great roles: once in Don Carlo (opening Sept. 22) and again in his 151st role debut in El Gato Montés: The Wildcat. This is an opportunity that is not to be missed!
It's not unprecedented, and certainly one had better note that the 150 includes at least one role that Domingo never sang on stage, only on record, that of Tristan in the eponymous opera. (Anyone know whether and when he sang the Emperor in Die Frau ohne Schatten?)

The author of the Times article didn't note, and should have, that the great soprano Lilli Lehmann sang 170 roles in 119 operas. She performed more than one role in multiple operas because of her extraordinary career trajectory: in 1876, she sang a Rheinmaiden in the first Bayreuth Ring performances, and by the end of the century, she was singing Brünnhilde, Isolde, and other heavy roles.

Someplace, somewhere, there are undoubtedly a few other singers who've made it to 150 roles, though my first candidate after Lehmann, tenor Charles Anthony, clocked in at only 111 roles in 69 operas.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Return (Again) of the Rubin Institute

The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism is back at San Francisco Conservatory, in late October.

Dates: Thursday, October 25 to Monday, October 29, 2018
Location: San Francisco Conservatory of Music

The full schedule is here.


Writers Panel 
Members of the 2018 Rubin Institute Writers Panel represent some of the most respected journalists in the music industry: Gary Giddins, author of Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star, The War Years 1940-1946 (Brown, Little, 2018); Joshua KosmanSan Francisco Chronicle critic;Anne MidgetteThe Washington Post critic and author; Tim Page, professor, former Washington Post critic, and special contributor to Past / Forward: The LA Phil at 100 (Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2018); John Rockwell, writer, critic, and former editor of The New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section; Alex RossThe New Yorker magazine critic and author; Stephen Rubin, Institute benefactor and president of Henry Holt & Co.; and Heidi WalesonThe Wall Street Journal critic and author of Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018). Members of the Writers Panel will present pre-concert lectures (tickets required) and a public panel discussion (free/no ticket required) over the course of the five-day symposium, offering the public the chance to hear firsthand from those at the forefront of music criticism.

Rubin Institute Fellows
Eighteen aspiring young writers from colleges, universities, and conservatories around the U.S. and abroad have been selected by the Writers Panel through an open application process, marking another first in the history of the Rubin Institute; previously, fellows were nominated by leadership at five partnering schools. The 2018 Rubin Institute Fellows are: Philip de Oliveira-Kent State University; Timothy Diovanni-Dublin Institute of Technology; Hannah Edgar-University of Chicago; Tamzin Elliott-University of Southern California; Peter FeherJohn Masko, and Evan Pengra Sult-San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Jennifer Gersten-State University of New York at Stony Brook; Patrick Jankowski and Amanda Vosburgh-Yale University; Alice KoeningerRory O'Donoghue, and Parker Ramsay-Oberlin College and Conservatory; Jason McCool-Boston University; Grace Odell-University of Missouri-Kansas City; Madison Schindele-Goldsmiths, University of London; Brin Solomon-New York University; and Alexander Sutton-University of Virginia. Through the application process, these writers demonstrated an exceptional level of intellectual energy and an original approach to criticism, and, collectively, they represent an emerging vitality and renewal of spirit for the future of music journalism. 

A couple of personal notes:
  • Enabling all interested participants to apply is a huge improvement over nominations from five "partner" colleges and universities.
  • I'd suggest expanding that writers' panel by adding a freelancer and someone under 50, or someone on an "alternative" career path. One example: Tim Mangan, now on the staff of the Pacific Symphony. Or maybe Thomas May.
  • Or even have a completely different panel each year, though I understand the advantages of consistency.
  • The combo of the Rubin Institute and Getty Foundation is now funding five or so classical music critic positions at newspapers. This still isn't the solution to the problems facing the profession, though it's a partial solution for a few locations.
  • The problem is still not a lack of people who can produce well-written and well-informed music criticism.
  • I'm planning to attend a reasonable number of sessions this year!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Concerned About Your Personal Safety?

Take a women's self-defense class!

Dates:   Two Saturdays, September 15 and 22, 2018
Time:    12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p,m.

Who:    Adult women, cis or trans, age 16 and up. (Will consider mature youth) No athletic
            or martial arts experience required.

Cost:    $95. Class open to all, regardless of ability to pay. If you  need to pay less, just let 
             me know.

Where:  Open Door Jujitsu at Mind Body Dojo
              7512 Fairmount Ave.
              El Cerrito, CA 94530

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

Any questions, ask here! Or email me at or phone me at 510-842-6243.

Friday, August 24, 2018

.....and Another Resignation

Earlier this week, it was David Daniels, whose autograph I have in the program of a long-ago, fondly remembered Poppea. Now it's the organist James David Christie, with whom I exchanged a friendly round of email when I tried to find out just what he'd played at the funeral of the late Senator Ted Kennedy.

Christie resigned from positions at Holy Cross and Oberlin, following reports from several of his former students about sexual abuse of different kinds that took place over a long period of Time. From the Globe's report, it sounds as though this was one of those situations where "everybody knew." Le sigh.

Friday Photo

Dragon, New Town Hall, Munich
August, 2015

Every town hall should have a dragon.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Future Cast Change Announcement, San Francisco Opera

Countertenor David Daniels has been accused of rape. The NY Daily News has the details, and they are damning, because they include the victim contemporaneously telling a friend and a psychotherapist about what had happened.

Daniels is scheduled to appear in next summer's Orlando. I have a theory about who his replacement might be, assuming SFO consults its contract with Daniels and finds a morals clause or other reason to release him from the production.

Update, 4:30, 8/22/2018: Daniels has taken a leave of absence from the University of Michigan, where he teaches, according to the NY Times.

Update, 8/23/2018: San Francisco Opera investigating the situation, committed to a safe environment for all, according to statements to the Daily News.

Going, Going, Gone

Nicola Luisotti

San Francisco Opera web site, July 31, 2018:

San Francisco Opera web site, August 1, 2018:

That's right: Nicola Luisotti's term as Music Director of San Francisco Opera ended on July 31. It's just over two years since he announced his departure, and there is no replacement in sight. As Matthew Shilvock has said on more than one occasion, he's being very careful to get the right person.

As he's not saying, this is also probably one way for the company to save a few bucks, or hundreds of thousands of bucks, at a time of belt-tightening. (Note the eight-production season coming up.) But I also appreciate his care, because Luisotti turned out to be a something of a disappointment as a conductor.

His first appearance in SF, 2005's La Forza del Destino, led everybody to have high hopes; it was a spectacular debut, at least if you were at the first performance, which I believe I was. Since then...he could be inspired, or he could be off form, all in the same run. His talents proved to be largely in Italian opera, but because of his inconsistency, you couldn't count on him from performance to performance or opera to opera. His Otello, seen at the last performance in the run, was mediocre and the principal singers barely engaged with each other, which must have been at least partly his fault.

His Cost fan tutte, of which I also saw the last in the run, was the worst-conducted Mozart at an international company that I've seen. His Lohengrin was competent, but cautious. I remember the Salome as oddly paced, but others liked it and at the time (2009) I wasn't a fan, so maybe you shouldn't trust me.

His Italian opera certainly could be very good, and he was an excellent advocate for La Ciociara, a mediocre work that got a good performance from him. (Maybe he should have conducted more new music at SFO.) He made a couple of excellent hires in principal oboe Mingjia Liu and principal clarinet José González Granero, both of whom joined the orchestra in 2010 and both of whom are great players.

He put his foot in his mouth pretty badly following La Ciociara, when both he and David Gockley spoke ill of 20th and 21st century music, while running the company as though Italian opera were an endangered species ("returning the company to its Italian roots"). That...was not a good look for the ranking leadership of a major opera company. He waved it away in an interview with Joshua Kosman last fall, around when he conducted his last performance as music director, but I wasn't completely convinced. I mean, he could have made the case for staging Lulu or reviving St. Francois, but did he? I suppose we'll never know; it's not as if SFO is releasing the minutes of any talks he had with Gockley.

In the meantime, absent a music director, what happens if there's an opening in the orchestra, through retirement or the decision by a player to join a different performing organization, say, the one across the street? (Who among us has not had nightmares of Kay Stern deciding that Mark Volkert's assistant concertmaster spot looks like a good position to play for the next 15 years?) Last year, as the months went by with no new music director, I actually asked SFO how this would be handled, but I didn't get an answer. 

I will now speculate about how it would be handled: with the contract hire of a temporary player to fill whatever seat opened up, whether a principal or section position, and when a music director is appointed, that person gets to hold auditions for a permanent hire for the job. This is sort of what happened at SFS during their long search for a new principal oboe to replace the late William Bennett, and then for a new associate principal oboe to replace Jonathan Fisher: Christopher Gaudi played each of those positions during the search, and eventually MTT hired a pair of oboists. 

Monday, August 20, 2018

SFO Cast Change: Roberto Devereux

First cast change of the SF Opera 2018-19 season: baritone Artur Rucinski is out of Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, in which he was to sing the Duke of  Nottingham. He "has withdrawn due to lung injuries sustained in a serious  bicycling accident involving a car in his native Poland. He is expected to  make a full recovery. Rucinski deeply regrets having to withdraw but looks forward to returning to San Francisco Opera in the future," to quote the press release. Rucinski made his SFO debut during the 2017-18 season as Giorgio Germont in La Traviata.

Replacing him is Adler Fellow Andrew G. Manea. I assume he was the cover for Rucinski. 

Best wishes to Mr. Rucinski as he recovers, and toi toi toi to Andrew Manea.

Museum Mondays

Madonna of the Carnation, Leonardo da Vinci
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
August, 2015

I rounded a corner and there it was. I did not need a label to know who the artist was.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Museum Mondays

Woman Photographing da Vinci's Madonna of the Carnation
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
August, 2015

Monday, August 06, 2018

Museum Mondays

Still-Life Detail
Cardoons, Cauliflower, Squash, Poatoes, Cabbages, etc.
Alte Pinakothek, Munich
August, 2015

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Public Service Announcement: West Edge Opera Mata Hari

If you've got tickets to or you're planning to see West Edge Opera's Mata Hari, bring earplugs. It is very loudly - too loudly - amplified. Further, there's quite a bit of distortion.

I liked the ten minutes of the score that I heard before I left the performance area. From conversations after the curtain, I know I'm not the only person who found it too loud.

If you were there and you found it too loud, let West Edge Opera know. Email to, printed letters to West Edge Opera, 1700 Shattuck Ave, Box #312, Berkeley, CA 94709.

Saturday, August 04, 2018

No Plans for Saturday, Aug. 4? Go see Bal Anat in El Cerrito!

Bal Anat Troupe
Photo: Alex Bertrand

Saturday, August 4, 2018 @ 8pm
El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater, El Cerrito

Tickets ($18-$30):
Facebook event page:
NOTE: Sold out, so check for returns!

From the press release:

The world’s longest-running belly dance troupe, Bal Anat,  celebrates its 50th anniversary this year with a tour of Stockholm, London, Brussels, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, Chicago, and El Cerrito. The Bay Area-based troupe’s hometown performance, which will take place on Saturday August 4 at El Cerrito High School Performing Arts Theater, includes a dance tableaux from the Middle East, North Africa, the Anatolian Peninsula, and Persia, and feature 60 dancers from throughout the United States, Canada, East Asia, and Europe.

Friday, August 03, 2018