Monday, December 30, 2019

Museum Mondays

Tomb Sculptures
Monument to Sir Moyle Finch and Elizabeth Finch
Probably by Nicholas Stone the Elder
Around 1615-18
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
November, 2019

Sunday, December 29, 2019


Pictured: Kathleen Hermesdorf, Gareth Okan, Delaney McDonough, Kentaro Kumanomido. 
Photo by Robbie Sweeny

Coming to San Francisco, the Fresh Festival 2020, with a great schedule of artists in several areas:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - November 6, 2019 - ALTERNATIVA, in association with Joe Goode Annex, launches San Francisco’s 11th annual FRESH Festival of Experimental Dance, Music + Performance, January 6-26, 2020 in three San Francisco locations.   Turned toward this year’s theme of tender, FRESH Festival 2020 is a diverse feast of embodied art, action and interaction showcasing three weeks of risk-taking mainstage Performances, immersive studio Practices, and social, inclusive and interactive community Exchanges, featuring 75+ cutting-edge artists from the Bay Area and beyond. FRESH 2020 takes place at three locations in the Mission District in San Francisco, which are also community partners of the Festival: Joe Goode Annex, BRAVA for Women in the Arts, and ODC Dance Commons.  FRESH is open to all curious, adventurous and serious bodies.  Performance tickets are $25-35, available online at and at the door. Tickets go on sale November 18. Registration for FRESH Practices and a full schedule of Performances, Practices and Exchanges is available at

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

200-Hour Teacher Training?

I saw a sign in a yoga studio recently advertising teacher training: in just 200 hours, you could become certified to teach yoga.

I wondered whether this was typical, and it turns out that a lot of yoga studios offer a 200-hour certification.

This surprised me and actually left me appalled. That's five weeks of full-time study at 40 hours each week, or if you're studying 20 hours a week, ten weeks.

People who teach any kind of movement discipline, whether it's ballet, Feldenkreis, Pilates, yoga, or a martial art, are working very directly with people's bodies. We are all physically different; we have our own strengths and weaknesses, known and unknown. The amount of training you have and the amount of time you have spent as a student of a style are both important.

The people who teach these styles are in a position to do a lot of damage if they lack sufficient knowledge and experience. I dropped two Pilates teachers because they thought they knew what I could do better than I did. At that point, I was a second-degree black belt in Danzan Ryu jujitsu who had been practicing for 23 years. The instructor I worked with over a three-year period trusted my knowledge and was a brilliant teacher.

Here's a little about my training in jujitsu.

White to blue belt (20 months): around 300 hours of practice
Blue to green belt (13 months): around 350 hours of practice
Green to brown belt (18 months): around 350 hours of practice
Brown to black belt (this is three separate ranks): 1100 hours of practice

Not included in the above: time at seminars, conventions, camps, black belt classes. But I had more than 2,000 hours of practice before I could open my own dojo. That's ten times what you get in a 200 hour yoga teacher training.

My advice: if you're going to take yoga or any other movement discipline, talk to the instructor or instructors about the length of their training, who they trained with, how long they practiced before they started training, and how long they have been teaching.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Opera 2019

Stage of the The Coliseum, home of the English National Opera
Photo by Lisa Hirsch
November, 2019
(ENO encourages you to photograph the house and curtain calls and circulate those photos on social media. Other houses could follow suit, ahem, Festspielhaus and WDCH.)

Mark Berry has done his opera count for the year, so here is mine. I saw two different productions of two operas and will count each as a 2 rather than a 1. My out-of-town locations were Santa Fe, London, Paris, and Los Angeles.

Glass (Ahkenaten, Orphée), Handel (Orlando, Saul), Gluck (Orpheus), Dvorak (Rusalka) - 2

Berlioz (Les Troyens), Birtwistle (The Mask of Orpheus), Bizet (Carmen), Britten (Billy Budd), Davis (The Central Park Five), Floyd (Susannah), Gounod (Romeo), Freschi (Ermelinda), Humperdink (H&G), Janacek (Jenufa), Mazzoli (Breaking the Waves), Monk (Atlas), Mozart (Nozze), Offenbach (Orpheus in the Underworld), Poulenc (Dialogs of the Carmelites), Puccini (Manon Lescaut), Ravel (L'enfant et les sortileges), Rouders, (The Thirteenth Child), Scarlatti (Il primo omicidio), Shearer (Howards End America), Weil (Threepenny Opera) - 1

No Wagner, no Verdi, really? Really. I go out of my way to see rarities, new operas, and works I've never seen before. This year I saw several great rarities: I do not expect to see The Mask of Orpheus or Atlas again, though in both cases I wish I could.

The operatic surprises of the year for me were the beauty of Glass's Orphée and how extremely funny Orpheus in the Underworld was. (You have to love an opera with a character called Public Opinion, after all.) I have to note as well that I loathed Dialogs the first time I saw it, 20 years back at the ENO. The Met HD broadcast changed my mind right around, and now I love it. No idea what I missed the first time; it may be that I have more sympathy for and understanding of Poulenc's style now.

If I were naming the best productions I saw: John Dexter's Dialogs, Phelim McDermott's Ahknaten (Met HD), Robert Carsen's Rusalka (Paris Opera), Yuval Sharon's Atlas, David Alden's Jenufa, Tcherniakov's Troyens. Yeah, there's some controversy about the Tcherniakov, but I would say 95% of it worked for me, and the cast was tremendous all around.

Atlas was just wonderful, so beautiful and with such a great production and performers. (No photo as I don't have access to the press photos, but look around the web. It was gorgeous.)

Special mention to West Edge opera for Breaking the Waves and to Ars Minerva for Ermelinda, for great work on a small budget.

I think that the cast of SF Opera's Rusalka overall worked much better than Paris's, as an ensemble and because Rachel Willis-Sorensen and Brandon Jovanovich were better in every way than their counterparts in Paris. That said, Paris's Michelle De Young was an utterly terrifying Jezibaba and Karita Matilla dominated the stage as the Foreign Princess; both were unforgettable in their respective roles. I liked David McVicar's production, seen in SF, fine, but the Carsen production is a stunner and worth seeking out on video. I understand that its physical size and staging mean that it can only be done at the Opéra Bastille, which has special stage mechanisms.

My personal rising stars:
  • Will Liverman, outstanding as the Foreman in Santa Fe's Jenufa and as Horemhab in the Met's Akhenaten. Gorgeous voice, excellent musicianship, superb stage presence, handsome man.
  • Sarah LeMesh, for her heartbreaking Bess in Breaking the Waves and those songs at The World of Grazyna Bacewicz.
  • Pene Pati, for stealing the show in Gounod's weirdly boring Romeo and Juliette and for the huge positive change since Rigoletto a few years ago.
  • Sara Couden, who was hilarious in Ermelinda and sang fabulously. The last time I saw her, as Penelope in WEO's 2015 Il Ritorno d'Uilisse in Patria, she looked mighty uncomfortable on stage. No more!! She was a real wow in every way.
Special mention to Brandon Jovanovich, for a terrific Enée, a role that has truly become his since his first performances in Chicago, and a beautifully sung and acted, cast-against-type Prince in SFO's Rusalka; and to Karita Mattila, stunning as the Old Prioress in Dialogs and the Foreign Prince in Paris's Rusalka.

Finally, I'm sad about whatever the hell is going on with Bryan Hymel, who dropped out of three productions I saw in roughly the last year (Les Huguenots and Les Troyens in Paris, Romeo in San Francisco).

Museum Mondays

Tile Floor
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
November, 2019

Sunday, December 22, 2019

San Francisco Opera 2020 Adler Fellows

Here's the months-old San Francisco Opera press release about the incoming Adler Fellows. I will miss some of the outgoing fellows! Ashley Dixon, Natalie Image, Christian Purcell, and Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen have really stood out, and I'm wishing the entire group great careers.

A big welcome to the 2020 Adler fellows:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (October 31, 2019) — San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald today announced the 12 recipients of the 2020 San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship. Selected from participants of the Merola Opera Program, the ten singers and two pianists/apprentice coaches begin their fellowships in January 2020. The performance-oriented residency offers advanced young artists intensive individual training, coaching and professional seminars, as well as a wide range of performance opportunities. Since its inception in 1975, the prestigious fellowship has nurtured the development of more than 180 young artists, introducing many budding stars to the international opera stage and launching active careers throughout the world as performers, production artists, arts professionals and educators.
The singers selected as 2020 Adler Fellows are sopranos Anne-Marie MacIntosh (Langley, British Columbia, Canada), Elisa Sunshine (San Clemente, California) and Esther Tonea (Buford, Georgia); mezzo-soprano Simone McIntosh (Vancouver, Canada); tenors Zhengyi Bai (Linyi, China), Christopher Colmenero (Burlington, Vermont), Christopher Oglesby (Woodstock, Georgia) and Victor Starsky (Queens, New York); baritone Timothy Murray (Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin); and bass Stefan Egerstrom (Brooklyn Center, Minnesota). Anne-Marie MacIntosh, Elisa Sunshine, Esther Tonea, Victor Starsky, Timothy Murray and Stefan Egerstrom are incoming first-year fellows. 2019 Adlers Simone McIntosh, Zhengyi Bai, Christopher Colmenero and Christopher Oglesby continue in the program as second-year fellows.
The pianists selected for Apprentice Coach Fellowships are first-year fellow Andrew King (Syracuse, New York) and returning second-year Adler Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad (Kyiv, Ukraine). The Adler Fellow apprentice coaches work closely with Mark Morash, Director of Musical Studies of the Opera Center, and John Churchwell, Head of Music Staff at San Francisco Opera. The coaches participate in the musical activities of both San Francisco Opera and the Opera Center and are involved in all aspects of the Adler Fellows’ training by acting as pianists for master classes, working with master coaches and preparing the Adler Fellows for concerts and mainstage roles.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Friday Photo

Bartok in London
Outside the South Kensington Underground Station
November, 2019

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

More on SF Opera's 2020-21 Season

Amazing what you can find with a simple web search:

  • On the web page of tenor Clay Hilley: Lead Role Debut TBA, San Francisco Opera, Spring, 2021. Hilley looks to be a budding Heldentenor, so that should give you an idea of the range of roles. He also has enough flexibility for "Fuor del mar".
  • In a bio of Kevin Langan, he appears to be slated for Rocco in next season's Fidelio.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Museum Mondays

Nurse's Chatelaine
Old Operating Theatre & Herb Garret, London
November, 2019

The placard for this item reads:

The French word chatelaine originally meant "Mistress of the Chateau." In the 18th and 19th centuries, it came to be applied to an object essential to the lady of every household. It was attached to the belt of her dress and suspended from it were essential things she might need about the house. Originally a utilitarian object, it later became a fashion item. Donated by Guy's Hospital.

[The objects suspended from the chatelaine include scissors and a pencil.]

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Will Robin on Academic Research and Public Access to Research

Musicologist Will Robin's newsletter, Industry, is always interesting. In the latest, he writes about his own work and also about an aspect of academic research that not all know:
One more thing about process. One does not get paid for writing musicology journal articles, in case you didn’t know this. (One also doesn’t typically get paid for peer reviewing journal articles.) The idea, in theory, is that it’s part of your regular intellectual work as a scholar, and that if you work at a research university — as I do — your salary goes towards the labor of journal article-ing. For me, that’s actually true; it’s not, though, for adjunct professors who are paid per-course and do not receive any kind of funding towards research. But they publish nonetheless, out of career necessity and out of the fact that it is a vital service that scholars offer to the world: the generation of knowledge!!! So that’s a broken part of this system.
The extremely broken part of this system is that we live in a bullshit corporate capitalist world in which we generate new intellectual ideas for free — sometimes, as in my case, with my salary coming from the public (I’m a professor at a public university) — and they are edited by non-profit journals, and then they are hidden behind paywalls that charge the public anywhere from $30 to $1000+ to read them. These paywalls are run by for-profit conglomerates that make massive amounts of money despite contributing very little to this ecosystem; if anything, they inhibit our research, rather than make it more possible. If you are an independent scholar or adjunct or at a smaller university, you or your library may not be able to afford multi-million-dollar subscriptions to journal databases, and you are thus shut out of doing crucial research. We need to put pressure on journals, academic societies, and publishers to embrace open access approaches, and to look to alternative, publicly accessible models instead of a garbage system that extracts profits from our unpaid labor.
All of that said, a tip for those who are working in the broken system but want to make sure that their articles can still be read: for the journal articles I’ve published thus far, I’ve asked the editors if they would request the publisher to make the article open access, at least for a limited amount of time. I’ve made this pitch by citing my number of twitter followers and public presence, and that it would be good publicity for the journal. Almost everyone has said yes, which is why you can read my MQ article. It obviously seems to work, as my new article is now MQ’s most popular read.

The above text is copyright William Robin, 2019. You can subscribe to Industry by clicking this link.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Young to Sydney Symphony Orchestra; Kim to San Francisco Opera

Updates to the long-running list:
  • Eun Sun Kim appointed music director designate of San Francisco Opera, to become music director on August 1, 2021.
  • Simone Young appointed Music Director of Sydney Symphony Orchestra.
  • Garry Walker is music director designate of Opera North (Leeds).
About Young's appointment: In an interview quoted in Limelight the other day, here's something she said:
As for programming female composers: “I know it’s a current hot topic, if you like. My bench mark is I am always interested in doing the work of good composers irrespective of gender, and certainly the last 100 years has seen far more women coming to the industry and that is to be explored, developed, encouraged and performed. But I don’t see my work as a political platform in the gender area, specifically. I think frankly the fact that I am standing there doing it says everything that we need to say about gender in the industry,” she adds with a smile. “But there are some very fine Australian composers of the older generation long ignored, and of the younger generation starting to come through, and I will be looking to examine all of this and choose my repertoire very carefully, and hopefully present the work of some artists that we haven’t seen before.” 
For fuck's sake. Presenting dead white male seasons is a political statement. Her appointment gives her a big opportunity to do good with respect to female, non-white, and Australian composers, and, yes, that's political. Own it, Ms. Young.

Updated list of openings, etc.:
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: Stephen Lord resigned following accusations of sexual harassment.
  • Michigan Opera Theater: Stephen Lord resigned following accusations of sexual harassment.
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda 
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie leaves this year 
  • Sao Paulo Symphony: Marin Alsop leaves at some point
  • Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which Leonard Slatkin leaves at the close of the 2017-18 season. He is now listed as Music Director Laureate, but their web site does not include a current Music Director.
  • MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony: 2018 departure for Kristian Jarvi
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: 2018 departure for Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre de Paris, when Daniel Harding leaves at the end of 2018-19
  • Sarasota Orchestra after Anu Tali  leaves at the end of 2018-2019
  • Melbourne Symphony: Sir Andrew Davis leaves at the end of 2019 
  • Richmond Symphony: Steven Smith leaves in 2019 
  • Singapore Symphony: 2019 departure for Lan Shui
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Kent Nagano is leaving the OSM after 2019-2020. 
  • Fort Worth Symphony: Miguel Harth-Bedoya leaves in 2020 
  • Opera de Paris, when Philippe Jordan leaves in 2020
  • Atlanta Symphony, when Robert Spano leaves in 2020
  • Virginia Symphony: JoAnn Falletta leaves in 2020
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales when Thomas Søndergård leaves for his new job
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • Oregon Symphony, when Carlos Kalmar leaves at the end of the 2020-21 season.
  • Minnesota Orchestra, when Osmo Vänskä leaves in 2022.
Conductors looking for jobs (that is, as of the near future, or now, they do not have a posting):
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Robert Spano
  • Juanjo Mena
  • Ludovic Morlot
  • Sian Edwards
  • Jun Markl
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • David Robertson
  • Peter Oundjian as of the end of 2017-18
  • Philippe Auguin
  • Kwame Ryan
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
  • Carlos Kalmar
And closed:
  • Opera North: Garry Walker is music director designate
  • Sydney Symphony Orchestra names Simone Young their chief conductor; she takes over in two years, succeeding David Roberts.
  • San Francisco Opera appoints Eun Sun Kim its music director, starting August 1, 2021. She succeeds Nicola Luisotti.
  • Philharmonia Orchestra names Santtu-Matias Rouvali as its next Principal Conductor, starting in 2021-22.
  • Daniele Rustioni is the next music director of the Ulster Orchestra, succeeding Rafael Payare in September, 2019.
  • Daniel Raiskin succeeds Alexander Mickelthwate in Winnipeg.
  • Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra: Richard Egarr named to succeed Nicholas McGegan, who steps down as music director in 2020 
  • In November, 2018, Antonio Pappano's contract was extended to 2023.
  • Joseph Young takes the helm at Berkeley Symphony, which Joana Carneiro left at the end of 2017-18.
  • Omer Meir Wellber succeeds Juanju Mena at the BBC Philharmonic.
  • Nicolaj Szeps-Znaider will be the next music director of the Orchestre National de Lyon, succeeding Leonard Slatkin.
  • To the astonishment of virtually everyone, San Francisco Symphony signs Esa-Pekka Salonen, starting in 2020-21, with a five-year contract.
  • Toronto SO: Gustavo Gimeno becomes MD in 2020-21.
  • Washington National Opera brings in Evan Rogister in a newly-created job, Principal Conductor, from this season, 2018-19, through 2021-22. 
  • Oslo Philharmonic: Klaus Makela becomes their chief conductor in 2020
  • Dresden Philharmonic: Marek Janowski becomes their chief conductor in 2019 
  • Royal Philharmonic has named Vassily Petrenko as their chief conductor, as of 2021
  • Ken-David Masur becomes MD of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in 2019-20, announced November, 2018.
  • Zurich Opera: Gianandrea Noseda becomes music director in 2021, following the departure of Fabio Luisi.
  • Dallas Symphony: Fabio Luisi assumes the position of Music Director in 2019-20. He has an initial five-year contract.
  • Orchestra of St. Luke's: Bernard Labadie starts with the 2018-2019 season 
  • Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra: Thomas Zehetmair starts with the 2018-2019 season
  • BBC Concert Orchestra: Bramwell Tovey started in 2018 
  • Toledo Symphony: Alain Trudel starts with the 2018-2019 season
  • Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich: Paavo Jarvi starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Netherlands Radio Philharmonic: Karina Canellakis starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Sylvain Cambreling has replaced the late Sir Jeffrey Tate at the Hamburg Symphony
  • San Diego Symphony: Rafael Payare starts in 2019 
  • Yomiuri Nippon Symphony: Sebastian Weigle starts in April 2019
  • Vienna RSO: Marin Alsop starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Elim Chan becomes chief conductor of the Antwerp Symphony in 2019-20
  • Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: Jaime Martin starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Orchestre Philharmonique de Liège: Gergely Madaras starts with the 2019-2020 season 
  • Kent Nagano is now the Generalmusikdirektor of the Staatsoper in Hamburg
  • WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne: Cristian Măcelaru starts with the 2019-2020 season
  • Israel Philharmonic: Lahav Shani starts with the 2020-2021 season 
  • Bayerische Staatsoper when Vladimir Jurowski joins in 2021.
  • Vienna Symphony: Andrés Orozco-Estrada starts with the 2021-2022 season
  • Clarinetist Martin Frøst becomes chief conductor of the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in 2019 when Thomas Dausgaard leaves for Seattle.Thomas Zehetmair is going to the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra in 2019
  • Matthias Bamert is going to the Sapporo Symphony in 2018 
  • Lorenzo Viotti was named music director of the Gulbenkian Orchestra, as of 2018
  • Joana Mallwitz appointed GMD in Nuremberg, effective 2018
  • Philippe Jordan to the Vienna Staatsoper / VPO (Dominique Meyer not planning to appoint a WSO MD; his contract expires in 2020.)
  • Semyon! Bychkov! fills the vacancy at the Czech Philharmonic, following the death of Jiří Bělohlávek
  • Dennis Russell Davies becomes music director of the Brno Philharmonic, which had been open since 2015, as of the 2018-19 season.
  • Nicola Luisotti is now Associate Director of the Teatro Real, Madrid, not "assistant music director". My bad.
  • Seattle Symphony, where Thomas Dausgaard will succeed Ludovic Morlot in 2018-19; announced early October, 2016
  • Vancouver Symphony; Otto Tausk comes on in 2018
  • Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Vasily Petrenko becomes their music director in 2021
  • Dresden Philharmonic: Marek Janowski becomes their chief conductor in 2019 (round 2 for him there)
  • Oslo Philharmonic: Klaus Makela becomes their chief conductor in 2020

(This list needs more research; I know that it's not completely up to date.)

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Gone Boy

You might have heard that both the Royal Opera and Met suspended / fired tenor Vittorio Grigolo the other week. The tenor groped another cast member during curtain calls, reports say.

He's really out, out, out of the upcoming Met Traviata:

New York, NY (December 12, 2019)—The Metropolitan Opera today announces two cast changes for its forthcoming production of Verdi’s La Traviata, opening January 10, 2020. Piero Pretti sings the role of Alfredo Germont at the performances on February 26, 29, March 5, 9, 13, and 19, 2020, replacing Vittorio Grigolo. Additionally, New York City Ballet principal dancer Sara Mearns joins the cast as the female solo dancer for the performances on January 10, 14, 18, 23, 26, February 3, March 5, 9, and 13, 2020.
As previously announced, Aleksandra Kurzak is Violetta, Dmytro Popov is Alfredo Germont, and Quinn Kelsey is Giorgio Germont in the eight initial performances of this revival of Michael Mayer’s production, opening January 10, 2020, conducted by Karel Mark Chichon. The production features choreography by Lorin Latarro.
La Traviata returns on February 26, 2020, for six additional performances, conducted by Bertrand de Billy and starring Lisette Oropesa as Violetta, Pretti as Alfredo Germont, and Luca Salsi as Giorgio Germont.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Museum Mondays

Detail from 399 Days, by Rachel Kneebone
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
November, 2019

399 Days, by Rachel Kneebone
View of one side
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
November, 2019

Friday, December 06, 2019

Friday Photo

National Gallery and St. Martin-in-the-Fields
Trafalgar Square, London
November, 2019

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Speculation Ahead of the SFO Season Announcement

War Memorial Opera House
Photo: Lisa Hirsch

It's early December; time to speculate!

Here's what I have heard:
  • Macbeth, Verdi, September 2020, cond. Sir Mark Elder. Found in Opera Magazine. However, I have also heard rumors that this has been swapped out for Rigoletto
  • Cosi fan tutte, second in the Mozart/da Ponte series; John Chest as Guglielmo (Opera Magazine).
  • Poul Ruders, The Handmaid's Tale; Sasha Cook as Offred (Santa Fe Opera program; Opera Magazine). Contralto Sara Couden has a role in this too.
  • Fidelio, Beethoven; opening weekend; MDD Eun Sun Kim conducts. Simon O'Neill is Florestan; this is in his bio at Santa Fe Opera and at his management company.  Kevin Langan is Rocco. Thanks to the sharp-eyed Mateo Santos Perry for spotting this!
  • Nicola Luisotti to conduct sometime during the fall of 2020 (source is Steven Winn's profile of Luisotti in the Elektra program guide). I expect that this is La Boheme, which Paul McKaskie mentions in comments.
  • Donald Runnicles conducts something in the 2020-22 time frame; maybe it is here. Have heard a rumor of something "big and German", but you would expect something Big from Donald, if not big and German. Could this be Parsifal? Frau?
  • The young tenor Clay Hilley makes his SFO debut in a new role, spring 2021, but we don't know in what.
  • Maybe Adriana Lecouvreur? Maybe not!
  • Rossini, Barber of Seville in June, 2021
I was going to have a blank bullet labeled "something for the new music director;" today's press release includes the news that Eun Sun Kim will conduct a new production of Fidelio. I should have guessed; Beethoven 250, blah blah. She was fulsome about the opera in today's press conference. I have a lower opinion of it, after three very different productions with different casts; the libretto is terrible; the tone varies from comic to deadly serious; he did not write well for the voice, but okay. 

The Kaminsky Opera for All commission is supposed to be up next season, but it's not clear to me whether this is a main stage production or not.

So, listed above are four pretty definite items and two additional bullets for former music directors, with Runnicles a maybe, leaving two items open, or one if Adriana is on the schedule; the company cannot go below eight operas, I believe. Maybe one of these is the Saariaho commission? Except for the small number of singers mentioned about, I have no idea about casting.

Finally, there are eight items above, but Adriana seems unlikely to me (though who knows!) and no one has any idea whether Runnicles will be here or what he might be conducting.

Eun Sun Kim Named Next Music Director of San Francisco Opera!

Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim
Photo by Nicolaj Lund

Eun Sun Kim, who conducted the fabulous Rusalka this past June, was named Music Director Designate today, transitioning to Music Director on August 1, 2021. I'm pretty sure that this makes SFO the biggest-budget music organization in the US to have a woman as its music director.

I believe that this gets her on the podium for SFO 100!

Next season, she is conducting a new production of Fidelio, and it opens on opening weekend. I take that to mean "not opening night, but Saturday of that weekend." She will conduct up to four productions each year.

She has exceptional qualifications.
  • Studied composition as an undergrad
  • Has a doctorate in conducting
  • Has considerable breadth and depth of repertoire, unlike former MD Nicola Luisotti
  • The first opera she worked on was La Boheme, which isn't an easy score.
  • She speaks six languages well and considered being a translator.
  • She knows enough Czech that she fed the singers every word of Rusalka
I was at the press conference where this was announced. Apparently it was love at first sight between her and the company, especially the orchestra. Matthew Shilvock, the general director, said people were approaching him to tell him how wonderful she was during the rehearsal and performance period for Rusalka

I personally thought she was terrific in that Rusalka. The orchestra sounded fabulous, in way that not very many conductors can make it sound; the last time it sounded that good, to my ear, was when Sir Mark Elder conducted Die Meistersinger in 2015. And she worked extremely well with the singers; one took...notable liberties at a big moment. Kim supported that singer so well that I'm pretty sure that not very many people noticed. 

Note to Publicists

After I've told two of your publicists that no, I am not going to post about your organization, product, or service, I'd rather not hear from a third.

I'm also going to suggest that you be careful about whose endorsements of your organization, product, or service you quote. If I have a justifiably low opinion of the endorser or that person's institution, well, you might find me writing a blog post about that.

Children in Danger: Fantasy Opera Season

Seeing certain operas this year gave me an idea:
  • Britten, Turn of the Screw
  • Humperdinck, Hansel und Gretel
  • Janacek, Jenufa
  • Wagner, Lohengin
  • Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov
  • Britten, Peter Grimes
  • Rautavaara, Rasputin
  • Bellini, Norma
  • Various composers, Médée/Medea
  • Lang, little match girl passion on a double bill with Puccini, Suor Angelica
Kind of a short season; anyone have additional ideas? It's interesting that two of the operas above are by Britten.

Tuesday, December 03, 2019


Eun Sun Kim
Photo: Nikolaj Lund

                  James Gaffigan                                     Christopher Franklin
              Photo: Daniela Kienzler                           Photo: Paolo Tambellini

Henrik Nánási
Photo: J. Henry Fair

I've got an invitation in hand, accepted 30 seconds after it dropped, to a MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House on Thursday.

Unless they've suddenly dug up a half-billion to build a new opera house, I'll just make a wild guess that they're going to (finally) appoint a new music director. My opinion: there are four plausible candidates among the guest conductors who've appeared with SFO since Luisotti's departure:
  • Christopher Franklin. Great conducting in Turandot, Hansel und Gretel, and last year's Adler Fellow concert.
  • Henrik Nánási. Excellent conducting in Elektra and Le Nozze di Figaro.
  • James Gaffigan. Mostly just because. I thought his Carmen nothing special, but he has a developing reputation, etc.
  • Eun Sun Kim. Great conducting in Rusalka, leading this week's Adler concert.
Two of these conductors are conveniently in town (or could be soon): Franklin, wrapping up H&G, and Kim, who will be rehearsing the concert. Gaffigan is a not-too-long plane ride away in Chicago; Nánási....far away in Barcelona. (I'm relying on for those last two.)

Updated with photos; courtesy of the San Francisco Opera; photographers credited above.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Oliver Knussen at the LA Phil

Walt Disney Concert Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Two concerts are coming up at the LA Phil featuring the music of the late composer and conductor Oliver Knussen. We don't seem to get much of his music up here, alas. I have plans the next couple of weekends and honestly I can't face getting on a plane just now, so I cannot, dammit, attend. If you're near LA, though, you might want to check these out, especially since both are conducted by the great Susanna Mälkki and feature the fabulous Leila Josefowicz:

Friday, December 6, at 8PM
Saturday, December 7, at 2PM
Sunday, December 8, at 2PM

Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Leila Josefowicz, violin

KNUSSEN Flourish with Fireworks (except Friday)
KNUSSEN Violin Concerto
BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 3, “Eroica”

The late Oliver Knussen, acclaimed as composer and conductor, had a long connection with the LA Phil. His Violin Concerto is, by turns, intensely dramatic, lyrical, somber and skittish, and – as expected from a skilled conductor – it’s masterfully orchestrated. Thrilling to this day, Beethoven’s “Eroica” is one of the most revolutionary works in Western music, expanding the Classical symphony in almost every way imaginable.

[Yeah, okay, I wouldn't mind hearing Mälkki conduct the Eroica, but that's not the draw here.]

Tuesday, December 10, at 8PM

Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group
Susanna Mälkki, conductor
Leila Josefowicz, violin
John Novacek, piano

Co-curated by Susanna Mälkki and Leila Josefowicz

Colin MATTHEWS Hidden Variables
KNUSSEN Reflection
Helen GRIME A Cold Spring
Huw WATKINS Piano Quartet
KNUSSEN Ophelia Dances Book 1
KNUSSEN Two Organa
HARVEY Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco

To honor the memory of the LA Phil’s talented and beloved colleague Oliver Knussen, Mälkki and Josefowicz have programmed three of his remarkable creations and surrounded them with chamber-sized music by his friends, colleagues, and students. Come celebrate a musical life. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Jonathan Miller

Jonathan Miller, sometime opera director, sometime writer, sometime doctor, has died, age 85, of Alzheimer's disease. The NY Times has an obituary, which is extremely interesting.

I don't believe that I've seen any of his productions, which I regret, but I blogged about some of his pronouncements, of which there were many.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

What I Did with My November Vacation

Interior of the Coliseum, London*

I went to London and saw four (4) operas on the theme of Orpheus and Eurydice. You can read my review at SFCV.

In retrospect, I'm mildly surprised that they didn't do one of the 17th c. Orpheus operas, for which they would likely have swapped out The Mask of Orpheus. The night I saw Mask, the stalls (orchestra section) appeared to be sold out. No idea what was happening upstairs, because the circulation space at the Coliseum is not great, and the intermissions were short.

Hiring Daniel Lismore was probably a smart move in terms of ticket sales. He is famous, or maybe I mean notorious, and surely drew in audience members from the fashion world. Also, it took me a while to figure out the person in the stalls whom I thought was cosplaying the opera was, in fact, Daniel Lismore. He was dressed something like the photo on this page. (If you are using a screen reader: photo shows a person in a red hat. The person has large artificial eyelashes, has a face powdered white, and is wearing red lipstick. The person has a red veil on, covering from the sides of the face back; you can't see the person's ears or hair. There's also some irregular gold mesh falling out of the hat and down the person's face to their chin, also covering the veil from the hat to the jawline on the sides of the face. The person's head is in an upside down orange bowl.)

I'm seriously curious about the fate of the 400,000 crystals that went into the costumes for Mask. Will this production ever be brought up again, at ENO or elsewhere? Surely no US company will be interested; if they were to stage a Birtwistle opera, it would likely be Gawain or The Minotaur. (But personal to US opera companies: Yan-Tan-Tethera is the real entry-level Birtwistle.) I'm also curious, as noted in the review, about how ENO funded Mask.

Other things I'm curious about:

  • Why major US opera companies don't do Orpheus in the Underworld, which has delightful music and can be very, very funny.
  • Why I found this Gluck Orpheus and Eurydice so much more rewarding than West Edge Opera's production this past summer. Tentatively, the conducting was way better. Also, this was the Berlioz edition, although since WEO had a mezzo Orpheus, they might have been using that too.
  • Why Glass's Orphée isn't done more often. I'm very sorry I didn't get to see it twice.

More of the interior of the Coliseum

Why, yes, ENO does invite you to photograph the interior, and also film or photograph curtain calls. They also put sweet messages to audience members on the title screen before the show and during intermissions. "Happy anniversary, dearest!" Etc.

Cast Change Announcement, Met Queen of Spades

From the Met:
Yusif Eyvazov will sing Hermann in the performances of Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades on November 29 and December 2 and 5, replacing Aleksandrs Antonenko, who has withdrawn due to illness. As previously announced, Eyvazov is also singing the role on December 8, 14, and 21. Kristian Benedikt will perform the role on December 18.

Just Hear Those Sleigh Bells Jingle-ing

The Solano Winds Community Concert Band has a concert on December 6. Here are the details:
The Solano Winds Community Concert Band will be “Celebrating America’s Heritage” on December 6 at the Downtown Theatre in Fairfield. Tickets are $17 per person; $13 for seniors and students. 
The brass and percussion herald the beginning of the concert with Fanfare for the Common Man by Aaron Copeland. The four minute piece presents a moving salute to the everyday man in our society.  
The Winds follow up with Fantasia on British Sea Songs by Henry J. Wood. He wrote the medley of British sea songs in 1905 to mark the centenary of the Battle of Trafalgar.
The toe tapping and smiles are amplified with Malcom Arnold’s Four Scottish Dances. Composed early in 1957, and dedicated to the BBC Light Music Festival.   
In 1891, at the age of seventeen, Charles Ives composed Variations on “America” for organ, based on the old national hymn, known overseas as “God Save the Queen. He played with the variations by filling them with  misplaced fanfares and tongue-in-cheek solemnity.  
The Pathfinder of Panama March, a contribution from John Philip Sousa, commemorates the opening of the Panama Canal.  
While the first half of the concert has us tapping our toes and giggling at clever melodic jokes, the second half of the evening has us singing along with Blues for Santa Arranged by Robert W. Smith.  
President of Solano Winds, Ron Garrison brings the wonder of the season with ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. Garrison draws a verbal picture of the magic of the season.Sammy Nestico jazzes up Good King Wenceslas of old and literally gives the carol an upbeat feel with Good Swing Wenceslas 
The concert closes with Leroy Anderson’s A Christmas Festival and Sleigh Ride. Listen carefully and you’ll hear the clip clop and whinny of the horse pulling the sleigh punctuated with the crack of the horse whip.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Museum Mondays

Various Della Robbia ceramics
Victoria & Albert Museum, London
November, 2019

I've seen many many Della Robia ceramics, in Italy and in museums outside Italy. I've had my moments of wondering whether the family's artistic output was the kitsch of the era, but I definitely don't know enough to say one way or the other. Regardless, they are gorgeous and I'd be happy to have some on the walls of my home, providing that the home was a nice palazzo. They'd look very out of place in my little craftsman bungalow.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Wexford Festival 2020

The annual festival is doing three operas I've never heard of next year! Also scheduled, a concert by Lisette Oropesa and some concerts based on Shakespeare operas.

Ein Wintermärchen
by Karl Goldmark
An opera in 3 acts. Sung in German
Performance Dates: 20, 23, 26, 29 October 2020
O'Reilly Theatre, The National Opera House.
Conductor: Markus Bosch
Director: Dmitry Bertman,
Set & Costume Designer: Astrid Janson
Le Songe d’une nuit d’été
by Ambroise Thomas
An opera in 3 acts. Sung in French.
Performance Dates: 21, 24, 27 October and 1November 2020
O'Reilly Theatre, The National Opera House
Conductor: Guillaume Tourniaire
Director: Walter Le Moli
Set Designer: Tiziano Santi
Costume Designer: Gabriele Mayer
by Alfredo Catalani
An opera in 3 acts.  Sung in Italian.
Performance Dates: 22, 25, 28, 31 October 2020
O'Reilly Theatre, The National Opera House
Conductor: Francesco Cilluffo
Director: Julia Burbach
Set & Costume Designer: Cécile Trémoliers

This Week in Lazy Programming

The Tanglewood 2020 season will have a number of events and concerts in honor of the Isaac Stern centenary. I suppose the same can be expected at Carnegie Hall, considering Stern's role in saving that great landmark. "One of the 20th century's most significant artists" could describe literally hundreds of singers, instrumentalists, conductors, and composers. I'm just not sure how special Stern's relationship with the BSO and Tanglewood is; here's what the press release says:
Stern’s relationship with the BSO began in January 1948, when he made debut with the orchestra performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with Serge Koussevitzky conducting. He made his Tanglewood debut that summer and continued to perform regularly at Symphony Hall and Tanglewood for nearly 50 years. The BSO’s weekend of performances is the culmination of a season-long celebration of the centennial of Mr. Stern’s birth.
Here's what Tanglewood will have for Stern:

2020 Tanglewood season celebrates the 100th anniversary of Isaac Stern’s birth, July 24-26, with several of the world’s most acclaimed violinists, and other prominent musicians, performing works closely associated with Mr. Stern’s 65-year career as one of the 20th century’s most significant artists

 Andris Nelsons-led program with Augustin Hadelich performing Beethoven’s Romance No. 1 and Dutilleux’s L’Arbre des songes (7/24)
 Midori performing Bernstein’s Serenade (7/25)
• Violinists Joshua Bell, Vadim Gluzman, Pamela Frank, and Nancy Zhou, cellists Steven Isserlis and Jian Wang, and pianist Jeremy Denk featured in program conducted by Stern’s sons—David and Michael Stern—to include Bach’s Concerto in D minor for two violin and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto (7/26)
 Tanglewood annual gala dinner on July 24 to celebrate Isaac Stern centennial
 Tanglewood Learning Institute programming to mark Isaac Stern centennial with special activities throughout the weekend (click here for details)

Thomas Adès is running the contemporary music festival, from August 6 to 10, and here's what's on offer: American premiere by Andrew Haig and works by Joanna Baille, Derek Bermel, Harrison Birtwistle, Osvaldo Golijov, György Kurtág, György Ligeti, Nicholas Maw, Per Nørgård, Andrew Norman, Kaija Saariaho, Sean Shepherd, Mark Simpson, Linda Catlin Smith, Judith Weir, and Du Yun, as well as Mr. Adès, with performances by Tanglewood Music Center Fellows and special guests.
I'm counting five women among the seventeen composers listed. Could be better.

There's more in the press release, but these are the couple of things that jumped out at me.