Friday, January 28, 2022

Friday, January 21, 2022

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

SFO 100

War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

It's finally here: the San Francisco Opera centennial season announcement. It's kind of a wow! And that's even though it's a shorter season than I would like; I'm somewhat surprised that with all of the hoopla and fundraising attendant on such an occasion, the company couldn't get donors to pony up enough money for 10 operas. 

To my surprise, the announcement includes part of the 2023-24 season, and that looks like it'll be a good one as well, because it's got three new operas on it.

Here are the answers to the quiz that Matthew Shilvock set up, with as much detail as I can reasonably fit in a bullet list:
  • Two new operas by Bay Area composers
    • John Adams, Antony and Cleopatra, libretto put together by the composer largely from the Shakespeare play, but with additional texts from other sources. Julia Bullock and Gerard Finley as the title characters; also starring Paul Appleby, Alfred Walker, Elizabeth DeShong; directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer. This will be the opening night performance, which I have some doubts about, because having an offbeat work didn't work so well back in the Rosenberg era when one of her seasons opened with The Mother of Us All. Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts. (Right now I'm thinking that I should try to find a commercial recording or bootleg of the Barber Antony that opened the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.)
    • Gabriela Lena Frank, El úlitmo sueño de Frida y Diego, libretto by Nilo Cruz. Co-commission; first performances are at San Diego Opera in October, 2022. Starring Daniela Mack (Frida), Alfredo Daza (Diego), Yaritza Vélez, and Jacob Ingbar star. Roberto Kalb conducts, Lorena Maza directs. SFO has made a great effort here to cast this with native Spanish speakers from the Americas! I think that this is the first main-stage work composed by a woman and the first work in Spanish to be presented by SFO. She is also Jewish, but there's Meyerbeer in the company's past, so she's definitely not the first Jewish composer to have a work in the repertory here.(Whatever happened to those rumors about Florencia en el Amazonas?) 
  • Two new productions from the core repertory
    • Madama Butterfly, co-production with The Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation, the Semperoper Dresden and The Royal Danish Opera. There is a concept, which is seeing the opera through the eyes of Dolor, Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton's son. Directed by Amon Miyamoto  and starring Karah Son and Michael Fabiano. Hyona Kim is Suzuki and Lucas Meachem is Sharpless. Eun Sun Kim conducts. There's an effort here not to engage in yellow face, which is good. There's also a statement about this opera and Asian Opera Alliance. Note the work being done at Boston Lyric Opera's Butterfly Project discussion series, which seems like the kind of thing SFO could do.
    • La Traviata (finally, the 35-year-old Copley production is being replaced). Pretty Yende (Violetta), Jonathan Tetelman (Alfredo), Simone Piazzola (Germont). Shawna Lucey directs, Eun Sun Kim conducts.
  • Two operas that had their US premieres here. YES, these are what I'd hoped for!
    • Die Frau ohne Schatten, R. Strauss, in the David Hockney production. Conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles, of course; with Nina Stemme (Dyer's Wife), Camilla Nylund (Empress), Linda Watson (the Nurse), Johan Reuter (Barak), and David Butt Philip as the Emperor. Nothing about the casting of the Spirit Messenger, Voice of the Falcon, Guardian of the Threshold of the Temple, the brothers, or any of the other gazillion roles in this gigantic work; presumably many of them will be drawn from the ranks of the 2023 Adler fellows because this is during the summer of 2023. Roy Rallo directs. 
    • Dialogs of the Carmelites, Poulenc, production by Olivier Py, from the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Heidi Stober as Blanche de la Force,  Michelle Bradley as Madame Lidoine, the new Prioress; Michaela Schuster (Madame de Croissy, the Old Prioress), Melody Moore as Mere Marie, Deanna Breiwick as Sister Constance. Ben Bliss returns as the Chevalier de la Force. Eun Sun Kim conducts. A great opera that hasn't been done here since 1982.
  • Two operas in styles not heard in a number of years 
    • Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Robert Carsen's production, which is supposed to be very beautiful. Evgenia Muraveva as Tatyana, Gordon Bintner as Onegin, Evan LeRoy Johnson (Lensky), Aigul Akhmetshina (Olga), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Prince Gremin). Vassilis Christopoulos conducts. in his American debut.
    • Orpheus and Eurydice, Gluck, new SFO production. This will be the third production of this opera that I've seen in the last several years.  Matthew Ozawa directs; his Fidelio was superb, so I have high hopes. Jakub Józef Orliński as Orpheus, Christina Gansch as Eurydice, Nicole Heaston as Amor. Peter Whelan from the Irish Baroque Orchestra and Ensemble Marsyas conducts.

The above are all productions new to San Francisco Opera.

For me, the biggest surprise in the above is that there's no production for Nicola Luisotti; I've assumed that there would be one for the former music director in this important season. Oh, well, maybe in 2023-24. But I do wonder whether either Traviata or Butterfly was originally intended for him.

Additionally, there's all of this happening:
  • Opening night concert and Opera Ball, September 9, 2022. Concert with Nadine Sierra, Michael Fabiano, Pene Pati, and Lucas Meachem. Eun Sun Kim conducts.
  • 100th Anniversary Concert, Friday, June 16, 2023. "A historic evening of music and memories." Eun Sun Kim conducts, details to follow.
  • Opera in the Park, Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 1:30 pm, Robin Williams Meadow, Golden Gate Park. Free.
  • Open House, Sunday, October 23, 2022. Tours and lots of family-friendly activities and demonstrations. Free.
  • Boheme Out of the Box, which will take a condensed La Boheme to SF communities.
  • Exhibitions of costumes and photos from the company's history.
Coming in 2023-24: three new operas, all SFO co-commissions, which is amazing for a company with an eight-opera season:
  • Mason Bates, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
  • Kaija Saariaho, Innocence
  • Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels' Omar
Other items of interest:
Do I have a regret or two about this season? Sure: there's no sign of Karita Mattila or Patricia Racette, both of whom have been stalwarts of the company for many years. (Or Ruth Ann Swenson, who is retired.) Philip Skinner, one of my favorite singers, has only a small role. I'd hoped that if SFO did Frau that it would cast Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife; she was wonderful at the Met in 2013. But it's a short season; there are many exciting debuts, and the company is definitely looking very much to the future in its casting.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Terry Teachout

Terry Teachout died unexpectedly on January 13, apparently in his sleep, at 65. Terry was many things in his life: a professional jazz bassist, classical music reviewer, book reviewer, editorial writer, biographer (of Armstrong, Ellington, Balanchine, Mencken),  prolific blogger, podcaster, writer for Commentary and the National Review, the longtime drama critic of the Wall Street Journal, playwright, and opera librettist. You could summarize this all as "damn good writer," because he was, in all of the forms in which he wrote. He was clear, eloquent, discerning, passionate about what he loved, fair to what he disliked, never mean or cruel or out to score points in his reviews.

He was a loving son and wrote of his parents often, the adoring husband of the late Hilary Dyson Teachout (the Mrs. T. of his blog), whom he cared for tenderly and devotedly during her long illness, loving brother of David, uncle to David's daughter, recently the delighted partner of Cheril Mulligan, best friend of Laura Demanski ("Our Girl in Chicago" on his blog), and friend of, I think, thousands of people. To all I offer deepest condolences.

He was kind, generous, and respectful to all; he was interested in everyone.  I won't quote John Podhoretz approvingly on most subjects, but in this he is 100% correct: "[Terry] believed that the everyday lives of everyday people were as fascinating and as revelatory as depictions of the great and near-great."

Terry also had the right combination of confidence and humility that let him accept disagreements and criticism without defensiveness. See Ethan Iverson's comments on the Armstrong and Ellington biographies in his memorial blog post, for example. (I'm grateful to Ethan for this because I'd wondered about, and have not read, those two biographies, wondering whether a white man from Missouri, whose fantasy decade to live in was the 1950s, was really the right person to write those books.)

And Terry would occasionally take a facile idea and run into a wall with it. He tried to ascribe the Metropolitan Opera's financial problems to Baumel's cost disease without either looking at how other companies were managing or examining the Met's long-term finances carefully enough, for example. I rebutted that as best I could. (Rereading my blog post now I'd edit a couple of things in it.)

Terry had wide knowledge of Western classical music, with a particular love for French music and mélodie. I don't know how far back his knowledge went; I can't remember him saying much or anything about music before the 18th century. As for 20th century music, he loved some and strenuously disliked some of the more esoteric strands, particularly high modernist music. When Elliott Carter died, he said he thought Carter would soon be forgotten. I didn't buy that, because there will always be musicians eager to play and interpret complex and challenging music. I offered him a bet, stipulating that we'd have to decide exactly what "forgotten" meant in advance. He was quite busy at the time and never responded, which I'll always regret.

The various obits that I have read barely discuss Terry's politics. I never discussed politics with him; from context and reading his blog from 2004 until this year, I know that he detested Donald Trump, and was friends with and liked William F. Buckley, Jr. You can certainly tell something from the facts that he was a regular contributor to Commentary and The National Review as well as an employee of The Wall Street Journal. He was a winner of the Bradley Prize, which is dedicated to...well, take a look at their web site. That said, his friends and admirers extended across the political spectrum, because of his erudition and the kind of person he was.

My obituary list below includes a link to "his legion of friends and acquaintances on Twitter," because goodness knows, thousands of people followed him and many of them clearly interacted with him regularly, there or offline or in email. Here's something that is both extraordinary and utterly typical of Terry and why he was so widely loved: Playwright Marissa Skudlarek posted that during Summer, 2020, she'd run in a writing problem and chatted by phone with Terry about it, which helped her greatly. This was just a few months after the death of his beloved Mrs T., a grievous blow to him, and in the midst of the first year of the pandemic, yet he had the heart and generosity to help a friend and colleague out.

I think that Terry's kindness and generosity, as well as his legion of friends, helped enormously to sustain him after Hilary's death. I know that everyone was thrilled for him when he found new love; he was a delightful and very lovable man, and that was widely recognized by all who knew him.

In his blog post, Alex Ross notes that "[Terry] had a great deal to do with the fact that I started this blog back in 2004." I started my blog in 2004 because Alex had a blog. In some sense, this made Terry a progenitor of this blog, which has made me so many friends, including Terry himself.  We didn't see each often, but he was always encouraging to me, especially about one particular project. I regret that I was not in more regular email contact with him, particularly over the last two years. Goodbye, Terry, you're gone much too soon and so many of us miss and will always miss you.


Museum Mondays

Doll; a baby dressed in a white nightgown, laying as if in bed

Doll, baby dressed in a white nightgown
Text reads: "Wax-headed baby doll, about 1900.
Patrick Enrico Pierotti died as a baby. His father,
the English doll-maker Charles Ernest Pierotti, 
made the doll as a portrait of him.
Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood
London, May, 2014


Friday, January 14, 2022

Guessing Game

War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

San Francisco Opera is announcing its centennial season next week, on Wednesday, January 19 at 1 p.m. The embargoed press release should be going out about now. I do not have a copy of it. Matthew Shilvock dropped a few hints about the season in early December at a donor event, as follows, about the season, which will have eight operas only. (Yes, I'm surprised that the company didn't get support for ten operas.) It will be something like this:

  • Two new operas by Bay Area composers
  • Two new productions from the core repertory
  • Two operas that had their US premieres here
  • Two operas in styles not heard in a number of years (I might have gotten this a bit wrong.)

I've got some theories, although one thought I had is definitely not true: Kaija Saariaho's Innocence, for which SFO is a co-commissioner, won't be next season.

Use the comments to float your wildest fantasies about what might be coming up!

Friday Photo

London Eye
London, May, 2014


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Dausgaard and Seattle: Update

Over at The NY Times, Javier C. Hernandez provides way more detail than the Seattle Symphony released last week about the resignation of music director Thomas Dausgaard. Hoo boy:

  • The music director/orchestra relationship hadn't been going well for quite a while. Dausgaard says the administration "repeatedly tried to silence and intimidate him," which the orchestra denies.
  • The orchestra investigated his grievances in February, 2020.
  • Dausgaard decided to resign on December 25.
  • In November, the orchestra privately decided not to renew his contract. Last week's press release implied that it had always been planned that way. Nope. 
All very interesting and one wonders what is not being said.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Dale Clevenger

Dale Clevenger, former principal horn of the Chicago Symphony, has died at 81. He was a legendary player with a tarnished legacy, owing to his being a sexual harasser and his failure to step down in the face of  audibly diminished capabilities.

Friday, January 07, 2022

Breaking News: Thomas Dausgaard Resigns from Seattle Symphony, Effective Immediately

Well, here's a bombshell: the Seattle Symphony announced this morning that Thomas Dausgaard, who succeeded Ludovic Morlot as music director at the end of the 2018-19 season, has resigned, effective immediately. He also withdrew from a scheduled concert at the BBC Scottish SO. Dausgaard was going to leave at the end of his current contract, with the planned final season in 2022-23. That's an unusually short tenure for a music director in the U.S.

I can only imagine the degree of WHAT THE ABSOLUTE FUCKING FUCK when the board of directors received notice of this from Dausgaard or his manager. It wasn't today, I guess, because they had time to line up conductors who are in a position to take the programs that Dausgaard is scheduled to conduct later this season. These are Norman Huynh, Ruth Reinhardt, Asher Fisch, and Dausgaard's predecessor Ludovic Morlot.

(This is an updated version of yesterday's post.)

Here's what's been going on. This includes many updates from frequent commenter Geo., to whom great thanks.
  • Thomas Dausgaard leaves the Seattle Symphony, effective immediately.
  • Susanna Mälkki to leave the Helsinki Philharmonic at the end of her current contract, at the end of the 2022-23 season. She is widely considering a candidate for the NY Philharmonic opening created by Jaap van Zweden's depature. For that matter, she is the principal guest conductor of the LA Philharmonic and considered a candidate to succeed Gustavo Dudamel if he leaves LA. Article at the Times about her. (Mälkki was my first choice to succeed MTT at SFS, because as everyone knew, until they didn't, that Esa-Pekka Salonen was not available.)
  • James Gaffigan appointed Music Director of the Komische Oper in Berlin, succeeding Henrik Nanasi. 
  • Nathalie Stutzmann appointed to succeed Robert Spano at the Atlanta Symphony next season (2022-23).
  • Bramwell Tovey takes over the Sarasota Orchestra as music director in 2022 and is now MD-designate.
  • Eric Jacobsen is the new music director of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra.
  • Andrés Orozco-Estrada is now music director of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra (not to be confused with the Vienna Philhamonic).
  • Garry Walker: now full-time music director of Opera North
  • Jun Markl: music director of the Malaysian Philharmonic
  • Juanjo Mena: music director of the Cincinnati May Festival
  • Baltimore Symphony Orchestra: James Conlon is artistic advisor, presumably until a successor to Marin Alsop is named.
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra: Ivan Fischer is now 'honorary guest conductor' (wonder if they now wish that they'd chosen him as chief conductor then, even though they probably really wanted Andris Nelsons at the time, but couldn't get him)
  • Royal Stockholm Philharmonic: Ryan Bancroft is chief conductor designate. He starts in 2023-24.
  • Anja Bihlmaier is the new chief conductor of the Residentie Orchestra, The Hague
  • Dalia Stasevska is the new chief conductor of the Lahti Symphony Orchestra

Open positions:

  • Seattle Symphony: open right now (January, 2022)
  • Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra: open in 2024
  • Staatskapelle Dresden: open in 2024
  • New York Philharmonic, when Jaap van Zweden leaves in 2024.
  • Hong Kong Philharmonic, when Jaap van Zweden leaves in 2024.
  • Oakland Symphony, owing to the death of Michael Morgan in August, 2021.
  • Royal Opera, when Sir Antonio Pappano leaves for the LSO in September, 2024.
  • Baltimore Symphony, because Marin Alsop did not renew her contract there
  • Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra following the firing of Daniele Gatti
  • Opera Theatre of Saint Louis: Stephen Lord resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. OTSL has not named a new music director.
  • Michigan Opera Theater: Stephen Lord resigned following accusations of sexual harassment. MOT has not named a new music director.
  • Teatro Regio Turin: Open now with departure of Gianandrea Noseda. the Teatro Regional's has not named a new music director.
  • Minnesota Opera: Michael Christie has left. MO has not named a new music director. 
  • Virginia Symphony: JoAnn Falletta is now laureate, but nsuccessor has been named.
  • Shanghai Symphony Orchestra
  • 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):
  • Susanna Mälkki, who leaves the Helsinki Philharmonic 
  • Jaap van Zweden, who leaves the NY Phil at the end of 2023-24
  • MGT
  • Miguel Harth-Bedoya
  • Lionel Bringuier
  • Ludovic Morlot
  • Sian Edwards
  • Ingo Metzmacher
  • Jac van Steen
  • Mark Wigglesworth
  • David Robertson
  • Peter Oundjian
  • Philippe Auguin
  • Kwame Ryan
  • Ilan Volkov
  • Aleksandr Markovic
  • Lothar Koenigs
  • Henrik Nanasi
And closed:
  • Teatro Comunale, Bologna: Oksana Lyniv becomes music director.
  • Sarasota Orchestra: Bramwell Tovey becomes MD in 2022-23.
  • Atlanta Symphony: Nathalie Stufzmann to succeed Robert Spano in 2022-23.
  • Carlos Kalmar is now Director of Orchestral and Conducting Programs and Principal Conductor of the Cleveland Institute of Musicas well as Artistic Director and Principal Conductor of the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago. 
  • Houston Synphony: Juraj Valčuha to succeed Andrés Orozco-Estrada.
  • Opera de Paris: Gustavo Dudamel succeeds Philippe Jordan.
  • Melbourne Symphony: Jaime Martin becomes chief conductor in 2022. Sir Andrew Davis left at the end of 2019. 
  • City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra: Kazuki Yamada replaces MGT when she leaves at the end of 2021-22
  • London Symphony Orchestra: Sir Antonio Pappano becomes Chief Conductor Designate in September, 2023, Chief Conductor the following year.
  • Fort Worth Symphony: Robert Spano to succeed Miguel Harth-Bedoya.
  • Oregon Symphony: David Danzmayr succeeds Carlos Kalmar at the beginning of the 2021-22 season.
  • Scottish Chamber Orchestra: Maxim Emelyanychev has succeeded Robin Ticciati
  • Orchestre de Paris, Klaus Mäkelä to succeed Daniel Harding
  • Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Rafael Payare has succeeded Kent Nagano.
  • Richmond Symphony: Valentina Peleggi succeeds Steven Smith.
  • Singapore Symphony: Han Graf succeeded Lan Shui.
  • BBC National Orchestra of Wales: Ryan Bancroft succeeded Thomas Søndergård
  • BRSO hires Sir Simon Rattle to succeed the late Mariss Jansons, effective 2023.
  • Jader Bignamini is now Music Director of the Detroit SO, succeeding Leonard Slatkin.
  • 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 Robertson.
  • 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.

Friday Photo

Skylight, Chicago Cultural Center
(Formerly Chicago Public Library Main Branch)
March, 2019


Tuesday, January 04, 2022

San Francisco Symphony to Require Proof of Boosters

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

I guess this is good, but I'm waiting to see which programs get canceled in the next few weeks. Not sure that I will be hanging out with up to 2500 people at Davies in the near future.

Beginning February 1, 2022, San Francisco Symphony to require all eligible patrons, staff, and performers to show proof of COVID-19 booster, for entrance into Davies Symphony Hall
SAN FRANCISCO, CA—The San Francisco Symphony today announces updated safety protocols for audiences attending live performances at Davies Symphony Hall.

Beginning February 1, 2022, for those eligible, the SF Symphony will begin requiring proof of a COVID-19 booster—received at least one week prior to each event—for entrance into Davies Symphony Hall.

This expands upon the Symphony’s current requirement (in effect through January 31, 2022) that all patrons, performers, volunteers, and staff ages 12 and up present proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 for entry into the venue, and audience members between the ages of 5 and 11 show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 or a negative COVID-19 test (PCR test within 48 hours of the event, or antigen [rapid] test within 24 hours of the event). Audience members ages 2 to 4 must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test (PCR test within 48 hours of the event, or antigen [rapid] test within 24 hours of the event). All patrons are required to wear a face mask while attending performances and, at this time, drinks are not permitted inside the performance hall.

Full vaccination is defined as completion of the two-dose regimen of Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, one dose of Johnson & Johnson vaccine, or other WHO authorized COVID-19 vaccine administered two weeks or more in advance of the concert. Beginning February 1, 2022, the Symphony requires up-to-date vaccination, defined as two weeks following full initial vaccination until eligible to receive a booster and, for those eligible, one week after receiving a booster.

These protocols are in accordance with policies enacted by San Francisco Department of Public Health. For further details about health and safety protocols at Davies Symphony Hall, visit  

For information on COVID-19 booster eligibility, visit

Monday, January 03, 2022

Museum Mondays

French Doors with ironwork
A rare survival because iron corrodes and wood rots
Victoria & Albert Museum
November, 2019