Friday, July 30, 2021

SFS Ticketing Update


Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by me

So I managed to buy my SFS tickets today, on the last day of their free ticket offer. The process was painful:
  1. Log in.
  2. Proceed to subscription page.
  3. Pick the day you want your tickets on. (Note: Fridays are more expensive than Saturdays, so I picked Saturday.)
  4. Click the button for the subscription you want.
  5. Pick your first choice section. (Note: You can't choose your seat because people who already hold subscriptions get to keep their seats. So until their orders are committed and fulfilled, SFS doesn't know which seats are unavailable and can't give you options.) 
  6. Pick your backup section, in case your first choice is full.
  7. Click Add to Cart. That takes you to your cart.
  8. Scroll to the Add another series button and click it.
  9. Go through steps 3 through 8 again. And again. And again. Because there's no way to select all four series and sections that you want at one time.
  10. Select a couple of other concerts you want to see. Go through section choice flow for each of them.
  11. Decide you can't stand it any more even though you know your missed something you want to buy.
  12. Realize that there was nothing about free tickets, even though the SFS web site says that when you buy 18 or more tickets, you get eight free tickets. (Click through and scroll down.)
  13. Call the box office, where what you find out leaves you shaking your head.
    1. The free tickets aren't offered as a discount on your subscription, that is, buy 28 concerts, get eight of them free.
    2. They are add-ons. Sometime after you buy, you get a voucher or something like that enabling you to request eight additional tickets at no charge. Yay, you can take friends free. 
    3. That's nice, but none of the advertising makes this clear, nor does the web site.
  14. Buy your seats.
  15. Write this blog post.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

You'd Think This Would Be Easy.

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by me

I might have mentioned that San Francisco Symphony has an unbelievably schedule this year, with a great assortment of works, performers, and conductors, starting with Esa-Pekka Salonen, continuing through the SFSoundbox series, including a ton of new and new-to-SFS works.

I've been trying to figure out what to buy tickets to, and how much to spend, so I finally printed out the calendar, which shows every Davies performance plus chamber music programs that are elsewhere. It's in chronological order and there's nothing fancy about it. It took me about 15 minutes to scan and mark up. It turns out that there are around 25 orchestral programs that I want to see, plus a couple of youth symphony programs, a couple of Great Performers programs, some chamber programs, and a couple of films. The General with organ accompaniment? Hell, yes!

Then I called the symphony box office to ask what I thought should be an easy question to answer: which Friday and Saturday subscriptions will give me largest number of orchestral programs? And the first answer was "Open your printed season guide...." even though I had said "I am working from the calendar." I said that I didn't have it,* and the representative offered to email it to me. I said that I know where it is on line (I had been looking at it earlier and realized I wanted the quick and easy answer.)

I pressed the rep for a more....definitive answer, and clearly the person had to look this up, because they started to tell me the options. The person was figuring it out on the fly. I can do that myself, so I finally just said, "Okay, clearly I have to figure this out myself, if you can't answer this quickly, so thank you and goodbye."

Come ON. SFS, you can do better than this. I want to buy tickets THIS WEEK because it's possible to qualify for some benefits, and your rep can't say "To get all of the SFS orchestral programs on a Friday or Saturday, here are the subscription combos that work." Considering that it's pretty hard to sell subscriptions, you should be jumping to answer this question.

* It's actually weird that I don't, unless it's buried here someplace.

Update: It turns out that the answer to my question was simple: buy series A, B, C, and D on either Friday or Saturday. That's how you get tickets to all of the Orchestral Series programs. Two SFS reps whom I spoke to couldn't answer this. One of my readers did know the answer but didn't initially understand the question. 


desert in

desert in teaser
Courtesy of Boston Lyric Opera and Long Beach Opera

A new review of mine at SFVC, of the collaborative opera miniseries desert in.  It's very cool! Go see it (in the comfort of your own home)!

Monday, July 26, 2021

Friday, July 23, 2021

Artist Change at SFS

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

You may have seen a few cast changes like this one before:

Concert Update: Cellist Joshua Roman joins the San Francisco Symphony and conductor Lina González-Granados in concerts on July 30 at Davies Symphony Hall and July 31 at Frost Amphitheater. He replaces the previously announced Pablo Ferrández, who is unable to perform these concerts due to visa and travel complications. The concert program remains the same and features Robert Schumann’s Cello Concerto with Mr. Roman, along with music from Manuel de Falla’s ballet The Three-Cornered Hat and Zoltán Kodály’s Dances of Galánta. 

Friday Photo


Car Wash
December, 2020
Oakland, CA

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Ian Robertson Retiring

Sigh. San Francisco Opera announced today that their longtime chorus director, Ian Robertson, is retiring at the end of this year. He started with the organization in 1987, which probably makes him the longest-serving person on the music staff. He has outlast four general directors and three music directors:

  • Terence McEwan (1982-1988)
  • Sir John Pritchard (1986-1989)
  • Lotfi Mansouri (1988-2001)
  • Sir Donald Runnicles (1992-2009)
  • Pamela Rosenberg (2001-2005)
  • David Gockley (2006-2016)
  • Nicola Luisotti (2009-2018)
During his tenure, Robertson prepared (or will prepare) the chorus for an astonishing 342 productions.

There will be concerts in Robertson's honor - conducted by him - later this year:


Saturday, December 11 at 7:30 pm

Sunday, December 12 at 2 pm

Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater

Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera

Veterans Building (4th floor), 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco


General admission: $39


Chorus Director Ian Robertson, conductor

San Francisco Opera Chorus


The concert program highlights beloved opera choruses by Mozart, Puccini and Verdi and more contemporary works by Florence Beatrice Price, Joan Szymko and Kate Rusby.


To purchase tickets, call the San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330. Additional information can be found at

Update: Joshua Kosman covers the story, chats with Robertson and others.

Press release after the break.


War Memorial Opera House Interior
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

A dismaying press release from the Merola Opera, SFO's young singer training program. This sounds....bad:

Based on an abundance of caution the acclaimed Merola Opera Program has announced a programming update for its Merola Grand Finale, to be presented live July 31 atthe Golden Gate Park Bandshell. Following an occurrence in which artist health and safety COVID protocols were compromised by a number of participants, the decision has been made to prioritize the well-being of young artists, faculty, staff, and other participating artists, and to proceed with a reduced number of onsite participants and a greater focus on virtual training for the duration of this year’s program. 


After exploring numerous possible alternatives, it has been determined that this difficult step would help ensure the safest environment for the final week and a half of the summer training program and the Merola Grand Finale. Says Jean Kellogg, Executive Director of the Merola Opera Program, “It was a heartbreaking decision, but the safety of our young artists and production team is paramount.” 

I and safety protocols compromised by a number of participants? A wild party of some kind? People drinking to excess? Everybody leaving their masks home? Ouch, in any event. The press release continues: 

The public will still have the opportunity to enjoy a free outdoor performance featuring outstanding young artists from the Merola Opera Program performing a thrilling array of selections from some of opera’s most brilliant works. The Merola Grand Finale will be presented at 2:00pm, Saturday, July 31, at the Golden Gate Park Bandshell, John F. Kennedy Drive and Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, San Francisco. Admission is FREE and open to the public. (Limited reserved seating is available for Merola members Gold Circle and above.) 


All Merola participants can be seen next month in “Back Home: Through the Stage Door,” a digital production filmed on location in early July at the historic Herbst Theatre, with the entire 2021 Merola ensemble performing classics and lesser known gems. Free on-demand streaming of “Back Home: Through the Stage Door” will be available to Merola members beginning August 13, and free to the public beginning August 27. For more information or to become a Merola member, visit


San Francisco Opera Center Artistic Director Carrie-Ann Matheson and General Manager Markus Beam noted, “The health and well-being of our artists, faculty, and staff has been and must remain our top priority,” adding that some participants will continue their Merola summer training virtually. The 2021 Merola Stage Director Audrey Chait, as originally announced, will direct the Merola Grand Finale. 


Monday, July 19, 2021

Museum Mondays

Anesthesia Set (19th c.?)
Old Operating Theatre and Herb Garrett
London, November, 2019


Friday, July 16, 2021

Friday Photo

1990s Advertising Displays
Discarded recently; now I'm a little sorry about it.


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Mark Hanson Leaving SFS

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Oh, now, this is a big shock:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA—On behalf of the San Francisco Symphony, President Priscilla B. Geeslin announced today that the Board of Governors has accepted Mark C. Hanson’s resignation from his position as Chief Executive Officer, effective August 31, 2021. 

Mark Hanson stated, “The San Francisco Symphony is a dynamic organization, and it has been a true honor to lead them through complex transitions and challenges. With the San Francisco Symphony now back up and performing as a full ensemble for live audiences following our successful pandemic pivots, I have decided that this is the right time to pursue my next professional opportunity within a different environment. I am proud of what we have been able to achieve over the past four years: from implementing a multi-year financial plan that put the organization on a path to restoring stability and establishing a multi-constituency Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Workgroup; to successfully celebrating the conclusion of Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas’ tenure, and more recently engaging new Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen.” 

San Francisco Symphony President Priscilla Geeslin said, “The Board fully understands Mark’s decision and thanks him for his steadfast work with appreciation for the experience, commitment, and passion with which he led the San Francisco Symphony over the past four years. We wish him all the best as he moves on.” 

To ensure continuity moving forward, Matthew Spivey has been appointed Interim CEO. Spivey is currently Chief Programming Officer of the San Francisco Symphony and has been with the organization for five years.

Here's a CEO who didn't have labor problems, made the most unexpected and fabulous music director hire, and kept the orchestra moving through the pandemic. I'm really flabbergasted. I mean, I sincerely hope that there isn't Bad Stuff we don't know about behind this change. (Update: I would like to note that if there were Bad Stuff, it's probable that he would have been fired and walked out of Davies immediately.)

Updated: Looks as though Joshua Kosman had an hour's lead on this, that is, not much more than the rest of us.

Raised Eyebrows

Santa Fe Opera House and Parking Lot
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

The new John Corigliano / Mark Adamo opera, The Lord of Cries, will have its world premiere on Saturday, July 17, 2021. That's in a little over two days from now. So it receive the following in a press release from Santa Fe Opera:

Apprentice Singer Kathryn Henry will assume the role of Lucy Harker inJohn Corigliano and Mark Adamo’s world premiere opera The Lord of Cries opening on Saturday, July 17, replacing Susanna Phillips.

The rest of the press release is about the opera, the season, cast changes announced previously, etc.  The above doesn't include anything about why Phillips is being replaced, not even the usual "...has withdrawn for personal reasons."

The last time I can remember a singer leaving a production this close to opening for reasons other than illness or injury was back in 2007, when David Gockley fired Hope Briggs from that season's Don Giovanni right after the dress rehearsal, with Elza van den Heever (who was then an Adler Fellow) stepping in to replace her.

Update, July 21, 2021: Apparently there is an update of some kind attributing Phillips's departure to the ubiquitous "personal reasons." 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Friday, July 09, 2021

Friday Photo

Vegetables and fruit from Full Belly Farm
(Carrots, beets, oranges, butternut squash, eggs)
March, 2021


Thursday, July 08, 2021

Santa Fe Opera 2021 Casting Updates

Santa Fe Opera has just announced some cast changes, all owing to international travel restrictions. From the press release:

Santa Fe, NM — The Santa Fe Opera announces the following casting updates for the 2021 Season opening on July 10 and running through August 27: Laurie Feldman will direct The Marriage of Figaro after a concept by French Director Laurent Pelly, who is unable to travel to Santa Fe due to international travel restrictions and has therefore been following rehearsals and the progress of the production from France. Bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee makes his company debut in the title role in The Marriage of Figaro and Bottom inA Midsummer Night’s Dream, replacing British baritone Ashley Riches who is unable to travel to Santa Fe due to international travel restrictions. Baritone Lucas Meachem and soprano Sara Jakubiak replace French-Canadian baritone Etienne Dupuis and Australian soprano Nicole Car in the roles of Eugene Onegin and Tatyana in Eugene Onegin. The real-life husband and wife are unable to travel to Santa Fe due to international travel restrictions. They write, “We are saddened by the situation and wish wholeheartedly we could have been allowed to perform these special roles in such a special place.” Lastly, lighting designer Rick Fisher replaces London-based lighting designer Matt Haskins in Eugene Onegin; Haskins is unable to travel to Santa Fe due to international travel restrictions. 

Monday, July 05, 2021

Obits from the Last Couple of Weeks

Mimi Stern-Wolfe, pianist and impressario, died recently. She was a social activist whose callings included low-cost concerts, concerts in unusual locations (like the lower east side), and annual concerts devoted to composers who died of AIDS. RIP, Miriam Stern-Wolfe; you were one of the good ones. Read her obituary by Neil Genzlinger at the Times.

Two famous composers died in the last few weeks, composers whose works are widely admired. In the days following each of their deaths, we learned that both had been sexually inappropriate toward women.  One of them was emotionally abusive to some young composers at master classes, calling their compositions garbage and berating them. It's utterly beyond me why you would invite someone to teach after that kind of behavior. Don't tell me nobody knew. I expect that Rzewski's behavior, especially, was well known in the field. I'm not going to cite folks who discussed this on social media, but I have no reason to disbelieve them.

Monday Miscellany

Various events and other items that have landed in my inbox:

  • The West Cork Chamber Music Festival in Ireland has a good line-up of performers and works, both in person and online, and if you're attending in person, you can see "their own neighboring ancient circle of standing stones [Kealkill Stone Circle in this case.]" Sounds good to me! (My long-ago visit to Orkney included both standing stones and the St. Magnus Festival, featuring music of the late Peter Maxwell Davies.)
  • The Merola Opera Program's season, started on July 3. Watch their web site for information about upcoming live performances. It's very abbreviated compared to most years, owing to the pandemic.
  • Pianist Ursula Oppens, whose long and distinguished career has been dedicated to new and recent music, has a new CD out, of music by composer Laura Kaminsky. I've very much enjoyed Kaminsky's chamber music and her opera As One.
  • Speaking of distinguished pianists who focus on new and recent music, Sarah Cahill has a great program at Old First Church on July 16, 2021, at 8 a.m. She'll play the following:
    Anna Bon: Sonata No. 6 (1757)
    Leokadiya Kashperova: selections from Au sein de la Nature (1910)
    Ági Jámbor: Sonata (1949)
    Zenobia Powell Perry: Rhapsody (1960)
    Madeleine Dring: excerpts from Colour Suite (1963)
    Frangiz Ali-ZadehMusic for Piano (1989/1997)
    Hannah Kendall: On the Chequer’d Field Array’d (2013)

Museum Mondays

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
October, 2019