Thursday, August 31, 2023


Vintage Postcard of War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Memorial Building
Collection of Lisa Hirsch

Found in a press release:
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is inspired by the life and creative spirit of Steve Jobs and does not purport to depict actual events as they occurred or statements, beliefs or opinions of the persons depicted. It has not been authorized or endorsed by Apple Inc., the Estate or Family of Steve Jobs or by any persons depicted.



Tuesday, August 29, 2023

The Supernatural Season

Crosby Theatre, Santa Fe Opera
Photo: Robert Godwin, courtesy of Santa Fe Opera

My review of four of Santa Fe Opera's 2023 productions is posted at San Francisco Classical Voice. There are a ton of prior reviews out there, none of which I read before finishing my review. I'm extremely curious how they all felt about the season, particularly, Nico Muhly's new orchestration of Monteverdi's Orfeo and Netia Jones's production and direction of Pelléas et Mélisande

I liked Muhly's orchestration but didn't give it the weight that I suspect other reviewers did. It's a great, great opera that works with period or modern instruments, and this was a terrific production. I was half-sorry that Muhly didn't introduce some really weird instrumentation; his new orchestration is pretty tasteful.

I found the Pelléas production confusing and physically cluttered, both in terms of the set and the direction, unnecessarily complicated. I had mixed feelings about Netia Jones's touring Curlew River, but very much liked her direction of Philip Glass's Orphée in London in 2019. Stage clutter is a problem when you're working at Santa Fe: the stage is small and triangular; the house lacks a fly tower, so scenery cannot be lowered from above; most scenery is rolled in from the sides, but the wings aren't very big either. I've seen some productions that solve this issue very cleverly, including The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs and this summer's Orfeo.

What I couldn't say in my review was that the LA Opera production I saw earlier this year was magnificent in just about every way: an excellent David McVicar production that really caught the mystery of the work, great singing all around, and magnificent conducting by James Conlon. The sheer beauty of the LA orchestra, the long, flowing, Wagnerian lines of the music (but in French): Conlon is always so good. LA also had Kyle Ketelsen as a seething, searing Golaud, a truly great performance that Zachary Nelson in Santa Fe didn't come close to. Nelson had the physical violence down, but I didn't get the same sense of barely-contained explosiveness that Ketelsen projected. I'll note that Efrain Solis was gripping in West Edge Opera's production a few years ago, in very much the same way.

Watch this space: I will link to other reviews and comment on them in the next few days.

  • Alex Ross, blog post, New Yorker article. He also comments on the singer-friendliness of the opera house, which I attribute at least partially to the funneling effect of the triangular stage and designers' clever use of on-stage hard scenery, but perhaps most to the comparatively low roof and its reflective capabilities. Alex mentions that reconfiguring the orchestra for period instruments would be impractical, and boy howdy, that is correct. It would be logistically difficult and expensive to get a period band that appeared only in five performances plus however many weeks of rehearsals each opera gets. Alex did not, alas, see the marvelous Rusalka.
  • Thomas May, Memeteria and various reviews on Musical America, which is paywalled; Orfeo review in Opera Now. He smartly, if obliquely, points out the visual pun of an opera by Monteverdi performed on a green hill.
  • Michael Anthonio quite rightly raves about Rusalka at Parterre Box.


Brandeis Music Department Response to Graduate Program Closure

The Brandeis University Department of Music has issued the following statement after learning that the university's administration has decided to close down the graduate programs in music.

Response to the Proposed Closures of the PhD Programs in Music

On Thursday, culminating a laborious and costly PhD review process whose findings were ultimately disregarded, Brandeis Provost Carol Fierke announced the administration’s plans to end both PhD programs in the Department of Music. The Provost’s letter describing the proposed closures made no reference to the outcomes-based criteria by which the PhD review team had claimed that programs would be evaluated. Rather, in meetings this week, Provost Fierke indicated that the PhD review process had found both of Music’s doctoral programs to be excellent – but that they would be cut anyway as part of a “strategic decision” to “lean into the sciences.”

To justify their actions, the administration insinuated without evidence – in the pages of The Boston Globe, no less – that Music’s undergraduate program is not up to the standard of those at elite liberal arts colleges, and that cutting our doctoral programs would somehow ameliorate the situation.

These statements are as staggeringly untrue as they are staggeringly impolitic (we sincerely hope the administration has girded its loins for a barrage of angry calls from the parents of music majors, demanding their tuition dollars back). How bizarre for us to have to remind the Brandeis administration that undergraduate and graduate programs do not exist in a zero-sum relationship, and that the administration’s own “Framework for the Future” identifies “vertical connectivity” between undergrads, doctoral students, and faculty members as the bedrock “Academic Value Proposition” of a Brandeis education. By the Framework’s logic, eliminating a department’s doctoral programs would worsen the academic experience for undergraduates, to the point of making it un-Brandeisian. Beyond this: Music’s last two tenure-line hires came to Brandeis directly from faculty positions at Amherst and Swarthmore. They are far better positioned than any administrator to know just how well the Brandeis undergraduate music program stacks up.

No: the administration’s proposed cuts are not about the performance of any music department program, undergraduate or graduate. To establish conclusively the excellence of our doctoral programs – as well as the futility of the PhD review process – we attach an appendix below with data produced by the PhD review, demonstrating that Music ranks at or very near the top of all Brandeis PhD-granting departments by many metrics. Our academic job placement rate (71%) and low attrition rate (8%) rank first in the entire university; we rank third in matriculation rate and fourth in graduation rate. Our renown extends far beyond the Brandeis campus, as a recent article in Nature ranked Music’s graduate programs ninth in the nation. Moreover, we have achieved this success despite teaching more undergraduates per tenure-line faculty member than any other PhD-granting department outside of the sciences. The PhD review thus proved that Music offers an extraordinary, perhaps unparalleled, bang for the university’s buck. Clearly, we are being cut not because of numbers, but because of values. The Brandeis administration does not believe that the creative arts are worthy of study at the graduate level.

We contend that – amid a 75th birthday celebration and an expensive “national branding” campaign – the Brandeis administration has chosen a course of action that betrays the university’s very identity. One of the most famous founding principles of our university was a commitment to the liberal arts, as exemplified by the founders’ decision to place the arts at the core of the curriculum. Brandeis’ founding President, Abram Sachar, wrote proudly in A Host at Last: “we were one of the few colleges to include [the creative arts] in its requirements. In most established universities, the arts were still struggling to attain respectability as an academic discipline.” By cutting the PhD programs in Musicology and Composition – the last two PhD programs remaining in the Division of Creative Arts – Brandeis will announce to the world the abrogation of its hallowed values. Shorn entirely of their graduate programs, the arts will no longer be equal partners to the sciences, social sciences, and humanities (who, let’s face it, are next on the chopping block once there are no more arts to cut). From here on, the arts will be mere accessories at a university that once provided a home to so many great Jewish artists, who helped to establish Brandeis as a world-class place for the advanced study of the creative arts.

This decision also puts Brandeis squarely at odds with intellectual currents in the broader world.The administration’s move to “lean into the sciences” by cutting the arts smacks of the techno-utopianism of fifteen years ago, before Silicon Valley realized the need to grapple with the moral and historical issues in which artists and humanists are expert, before ChatGPT and generative AI pushed questions about the nature of human creation to the front page of every newspaper. It is so clear what a liberal arts university like Brandeis has to offer such an environment: a place in which scientists, social scientists, humanists, and artists can speak to each other at the highest levels. Why should we aim to become a second-rate MIT when the world so desperately needs a first-rate Brandeis? We have a chance to position ourselves at the cutting edge of the world’s most critical conversations, rather than offering a “Framework for the Future” that is already a vision of the past.

We urge the Brandeis University administration to find the courage to reverse this hasty, short-sighted, and self-defeating decision.

The Brandeis Department of Music 

The data appended to the letter are difficult to post because the tabular format in the PDF doesn't format correctly when I copy/paste. Please let me know if you'd like me to email you the PDF. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

Museum Mondays

A child's carousel toy
Metal, with a large metal base,
presumably concealing a mechanism that makes it go around.
Several horses are visible. The carousel has a white top,
with triangular parapets.

From the Girard Collection
Museum of International Folk Art
Santa Fe, NM
August, 2019


Sunday, August 27, 2023

California Festival: A Celebration of New Music

Davies Symphony Hall, SF
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

The California Festival is a celebration of new music to be held throughout the state this coming fall, from November 3-19. It's being led by - surprise - the Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, and San Diego Symphony, with their respective music directors. There are now 95 organizations in total participating. 

SFS has two programs, called From the Edge and To the Edge (no, I have no idea how they came up with those program names). 

To the Edge is on Saturday and Sunday, November 11 and 12, at Davies, with a runout to Zellerbach on Friday, November 10. The program features well-known Californian and contemporary composer Igor Stravinsky (Symphony in Three Movements), and new works by Jens Ibsen (Drowned in Light, world premiere) and oh yes, Esa-Pekka Salonen (Kinema, with clarinet soloist Carey Bell). I am glad to finally see some of Salonen's newer works appearing on SFS programs.

From the Edge is on Friday and Saturday, November 17 and 18, at Davies, and features works by Gabriella Smith (Breathing Forests) and more Stravinsky (Octet for Winds and Brass; Steven Stucky's orchestration of Les Noces, a curiosity given the force and brilliance of the four-piano original).

The recent press release with the list of participating organizations is after the cut. I don't think I can get to San Deigo or LA during the festival; if I travel in November, it will be to the mouth-watering Jenufa at Lyric Opera of Chicago (Jakob Hrusa; Lise Davidsen and Nina Stemme).

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Bad News from Brandeis

Earlier today, Professors Eric Chasalow (Music Department Chair) and David Rakowski posted that the graduate programs at Brandeis University are going "on hiatus." That's university-speak for "closing down." The Music Department will not accept new graduate students, although it's claimed that current students will be able to complete their degrees.

That's despite the fact that the music graduate programs were determined to be excellent, among the best at the school, in a recent university-wide assessment.

Chasalow's post makes some reference to Brandeis "leaning into" the sciences, that is, the administration thinks that the humanities can be abandoned in favor of the sciences. This is a tragic outcome for a university with a long tradition as a liberal arts school and a music department with a storied history.

I understand that the Board of Trustees has not yet voted on this, so perhaps there is some hope. Keep an eye on this blog; I will have updates as to actions that can alumni and other interested parties can take to try to talk Brandeis out of this nonsense. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Generational Change

Davies Symphony Hall
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

The huge wave of retirements from San Francisco Symphony, both in the recent past and with known and possible upcoming retirements, reminds me that what we are seeing now is generational change at the orchestra. Most of the many departures over the last few years were of people who'd been in the orchestra for 25 or more years, with some of them having 40+ years in the orchestra. Principal horn Robert Ward is retiring at the end of the year; he joined the orchestra in 1980. A reader of this blog and I both noticed that SFS is holding auditions this fall for associate principal cello, a position that Peter Wyrick has held since 1999. What we're seeing now is the departures of musicians who were hired by Herbert Blomstedt and MTT, with just a few going back as far as Edo de Waart. It's also important to recall that up until 1980, when Davies opened, the same group of musicians acted as the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Musicians who were in the organization at the time decided which orchestra to play in, as I understand it.

There haven't been announcements from the Symphony about Ward and Wyrick yet; watch for something around the beginning of the season, which opens on September 22.

And keep in mind that something similar is going on across the street, where the Opera Orchestra has a number of openings. Additionally, when the next run of Der Ring des Nibelungen plays at the War Memorial Opera House, who do you think will be singing in it? Nina Stemme has retired the role of Brünnhilde, if I'm remember the program notes from her Cal Performances recital correctly. She and Iréne Theorin both turned 60 this year. I do not think that either Mark Delevan (age 64) or Greer Grimsley (age 67) will be back for Wotan a few years down the road.

Looking around a bit, there's intriguing casting in Europe for a couple of performances of Die Walküre conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, aka the music director of the Metropolitan Opera. Tamara Wilson as Brünnhilde, Solomon Howard as Hunding, Elza van den Heever as Sieglinde, Brian Mulligan as Wotan, Stanislas de Barbeyrac as Siegmund. I'm not sure I buy the latter, and this seems a little far out for Mulligan, but certainly this could be a way for the singers and conductor to try out these roles.

Other singers who might turn up in a Met or SFO Ring, in addition to those in YN-S's upcoming performances, include Christine Goerke, Amber Wagner, Marjorie Owens, Lise Davidsen (I mean....Davidsen is sure to be in the next Met Ring, it's just a question of which role she will be singing), former Adler Fellow Sarah Cambidge, Andreas Schager, Clay Hilley, Issachah Savage, and more.

Not Eating My Hat

Here's the most predictable cast change announcement since Bryan Hymel's run of cancellations around 2015-2019. The article title is because I told several people that I would eat an article of clothing if Anita Rachvelishvili sang these performances. I had even perused the schedules of a few prominent mezzos in June or July, but Semenchuk's wasn't one of them. She is a tremendous singer and was superb in the 2019 Paris Les Troyens, so I am happy.

Mezzo-Soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk to Sing Azucena in All Performances, Replacing Anita Rachvelishvili


SAN FRANCISCO, CA (August 23, 2023) — San Francisco Opera announced today a cast change for Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore, which opens Tuesday, September 12 and is the first opera of the Company’s 101st season. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk will perform the role of Azucena in all performances, replacing Anita Rachvelishvili who has withdrawn for personal reasons.


Semenchuk made her San Francisco Opera debut on the opening night of the 2015–16 Season as Federica in Verdi’s Luisa Miller, returning the following season as Amneris in a new production of the composer’s Aida. Her most recent appearance with the Company was as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, which opened the 2018-19 Season as part of a double bill with Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. The San Francisco Chronicle said of her Santuzza: “Semenchuk has been a vibrant presence in her two prior San Francisco appearances (Luisa Miller in 2015, Aida the following year), and to the vocal power and sheen of those performances she now added a vein of impeccably controlled wildness that contributed to the portrait of a woman on the verge of despair.”


Among today’s leading mezzo-sopranos, Semenchuk’s portrayals of Verdi heroines, including Lady Macbeth, Amneris, Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera and Azucena have won acclaim at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the Arena di Verona, the Bavarian State Opera and, in this country, with San Francisco Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and LA Opera. Semenchuk joins San Francisco Opera’s international cast for Il Trovatore, headed by Angel Blue as Leonora, Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico and George Petean as Count di Luna under the baton of San Francisco Opera’s Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim in the acclaimed production by Sir David McVicar.


The six performances of Il Trovatore are scheduled for September 12 (7:30 p.m.), 17 (2 p.m.), 20 (7:30 p.m.), 23 (7:30 p.m.), 29 (7:30 p.m.); October 1 (2 p.m.), 2023. The third performance, on September 20 at 7:30 p.m., will be available as a livestream.

Monday, August 21, 2023

Museum Mondays

Nuestra Senora de los Dolores Nicho
Andrew Montoya
Albuquerque Sunport
August, 2023


Saturday, August 19, 2023

And Congratulations to Meredith Clark!

If you're not sure who Meredith Clark is, but you're a regular San Francisco Symphony audience member, rest assured that you've heard her beautiful playing in the last 18 months. She was guest principal harp in a large number of SFS programs following the retirement of longtime principal harp Douglas Rioth at the end of December, 2021.

She has a new job: principal harp of the Royal Swedish Opera! So exciting and so richly earned, though of course it would have been great to have her stay in the Bay Area. I really regret missing a San Francisco Contemporary Music Players concert she was in this past spring.

San Francisco Symphony Appointments


Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

This past week, San Francisco Symphony announced two important appointments:

  • Yubeen Kim, 26, will be the next principal flute of the orchestra, succeeding Tim Day, who retired at the end of 2020-21 after 14 years with the orchestra. Kim is currently the principal flute of the Konzerthausorchester Berlin. He has held that position since 2016 and won the position at age 19 (!). Kim joins the orchestra in January, 2024. His trial week was the Beethoven Eb program in June (Salonen/Levit); he has an extraordinarily beautiful sound, which you can hear at his web site.
  • Katherine Siochi, 29, will be the next principal harp, succeeding Douglas Rioth, who retired at the end of December, 2021 after 40 years as a member of the orchestra. She has served as principal harp in several orchestras, most recently the Minnesota Orchestra.
Congratulations to both of these musicians! I am so looking forward to hearing them on a regular basis.

The full press release is after the jump and it's worth reading; Siochi's audition was a little unusual in that she did not have a trial week, but a private session with the orchestra.

Friday, August 18, 2023

Friday Photo (At the Grave of Korngold)

It's a bit difficult to find. Look for the tree.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles
April, 2023

His gravestone is overgrown.
Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles
April, 2023

Thursday, August 17, 2023

SF Opera Emerging Star

For a number of years, San Francisco Opera has had a poll of audience members to determine the "emerging star of the year," who is chosen from younger singers who've appeared at the company in the previous year. I am always skeptical about polls such as this, I never vote in them, and the nominees and winners have sometimes included singers who have appeared at multiple major companies over a period of up to 13 years. Yeah, that year's winner had emerged...years ago.

BUT this past year had an amazing number of terrific singers, to the extent that even if I voted in these polls, I would have had no idea for whom to vote. The voters spoke, in any event, and chose Yaritza Veliz, the Chilean soprano who was an absolute firecracker in Gabriela Frank's El Ultimo Sueno de Frida y Diego

She was fabulous, and while I have very little interest in L'Elisir d'amore, not to mention even less interest in seeing it twice in one year, I do plan to see Santa Fe Opera's production of it next season because she's in it and Roberto Kalb, who did a terrific job with Frida y Diego, is conducting.

Renee Fleming Takes You to Paris and Venice

IMAX and Fathom Events have put together a couple of documentaries that will be shown once each in theaters around the United States. In them, soprano Renee Fleming and friends show you around Paris and Venice, two cities with storied musical histories. From the press release:

Renée Fleming’s Cities that Sing: Paris, comes to theatres one-day-only on August 26. Step onto the stage of the Théâtre du Châtelet alongside superstar soprano Renée Fleming. Tenor Piotr Beczała and performers Axelle Fanyo and Alexandre Duhamel join an exquisite cinematic journey into the sights, sounds, and history of the City of Lights.

Renée Fleming’s Cities that Sing: Venice, the second of two immersive opera experiences Filmed for IMAX in theatres one-day-only on September 16. A journey through the music and culture of Venice, follow   the American Soprano on a guided tour of Venice as seen through the lens of opera history, with musical performances at the legendary Teatro La Fenice by Fleming, Francesco Meli, Mattia Olivieri, Paola Gardina, with Orchestra Del Teatro La Fenice conducted by Riccardo Frizza. 

IMAX announces the release of Renée Fleming’s Cities That Sing: Paris for one-day-only on August 26.  The second installment of the series, Renée Fleming’s Cities That Sing: Venice releases one-day-only on September 16. The full-length films feature American soprano Renée Fleming as she explores Paris and Venice through the lens of opera. Presented by IMAX and Stage Access, directed by Francois-René Martin and produced by Tripp Hornick and Elmar Kruse, Renée Fleming’s Cities That Sing was filmed using IMAX-certified cameras. Both films will be screened in select IMAX and Fathom theatres throughout the U.S. This is the first collaboration between IMAX and Fathom Events which will allow moviegoers to see this series at a Fathom location if they do not live in close proximity to an IMAX theatre.  

Tickets for both Renée Fleming’s Cities That Sing: Paris and Veniceare on sale now at  . 

Monday, August 14, 2023

Museum Mondays

Rigoletto costume worn by the title character
San Francisco Opera
San Francisco International Airport Museum
July, 2023


Thursday, August 10, 2023

Cast Change Announcement, Tanglewood Edition

Also COVID-19 edition. Received from the BSO:

With great regret, after testing positive for COVID-19, cellist Yo-Yo Ma must withdraw from this week’s scheduled Tanglewood appearances: today’s 2 p.m. Open Cello Workshop at Ozawa Hall as well as the open rehearsal and concert with the Boston Symphony in the Shed on Saturday, August 12, and Sunday, August 13, respectively.

Soprano Renée Fleming has graciously agreed to step in to join the BSO on Sunday, performing songs by Richard Strauss in place of the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No. 1 that was originally scheduled to be performed with Mr. Ma. The remainder of the program, under the direction of BSO Music Director Andris Nelsons, is unchanged. Saturday’s 10:30 a.m. open rehearsal will proceed with Ms. Fleming, Maestro Nelsons, and the BSO.

Click here for photos and bio of Renée Fleming



Saturday, August 12, 2023

10:30 a.m., Shed

Open Rehearsal, BSO Sunday, August 13 program


Sunday, August 13, 2023
2:30 p.m., Shed
Boston Symphony Orchestra
Andris Nelsons, conductor
Renée Fleming, soprano

Julia ADOLPHE, Makeshift Castle

Richard STRAUSS, Songs with orchestra

STRAVINSKY, Petrushka (1947 version)

Best wishes to Mr. Ma for a swift and complete recovery. That's a nice program and the kind of thing Fleming is very good at.

San Francisco Opera Live Streams

War Memorial Opera House and Veterans Building, San Francisco
Vintage postcard, collection of Lisa Hirsch

The first press release from SFO releasing to the upcoming 101st season lists these livestreams:

The Opening Night Concert and third performance of every opera production will be livestreamed. Tickets for the opera streams include a 48-hour on-demand viewing window, except for the Opening Night Concert which will be streamed live only. Tickets are available now for $27.50. All times below are Pacific Time (PT). For more information visit


OPENING NIGHT CONCERT                       

Fri., September 8 at 8 p.m.

IL TROVATORE                                              

Wed., September 20 at 7:30 p.m.


Wed., September 27 at 7:30 p.m.


Sat., October 21 at 7 p.m.


Sat., November 11 at 7:30 p.m.

THE ELIXIR OF LOVE                                    

Sun., November 26 at 2 p.m.

THE MAGIC FLUTE                                       

Tue., June 4 at 7:30 p.m.


Wed., June 12 at 7:30 p.m.


Sun., June 23 at 2 p.m. 

The press release also has a brief note of the principal cast for each of the operas, including this slightly ominous note for Il Trovatore: "Cast includes Arturo Chacón-Cruz, Angel Blue, George Petean*", in other words, no mention of the Azucena.

Tuesday, August 08, 2023

Some Good Political News

It appears that the voters of Ohio have very, very soundly and thoroughly defeated Issue 1, an attempt to undermine democratic processes by the Ohio Republican Party. This was so craven that Democrats and Republicans lined up to condemn the measure. Here's what the Republicans tried to put over on the citizenry:

  1. Passed a law outlawing summer voting.
  2. Put this measure on the ballot in August anyway, an obvious vote suppression ploy.
  3. Attempted in Issue 1 to raise the threshold for passing a ballot initiative from 50% + one vote to 60% +1 vote.\
Two points: one is that Ohio's citizens are trying to get an initiative on the ballot for November that will enshrine the right to abortion. Yes, the attempt to impose a supermajority for initiatives was directly connected to this. The GOP can see that when abortion is on the ballot, somehow a majority of Americans would like the procedure to remain legal. Second, as a resident of California, I can tell you that supermajorities are incredibly anti-democratic, because a minority gets to thwart the will of the majority. 

So, good for Ohio, and good for abortion rights.

Monday, August 07, 2023

National Sea Serpent Day

Shower Curtain, from Calamityware


Department of Nasty Conflicts

War Memorial Opera House
Vintage Postcard
Collection of Lisa Hirsch

You'd think that the scheduling folks at San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera would talk to each other about important events at each organization. They work across the street from each other, and many people, some of them big donors to both organizations, like to attend major events at both.

But somehow, we've got the following conflict:
  • Friday, September 22, 2023: San Francisco Symphony's open night 
  • Friday, September 22, 2023: San Francisco Opera's first performance of The (R)evolution of Steven Jobs, of which the company is a co-commissioner

I can't imagine that it's possible to fix this. SFS has Simon Keenlyside coming in for the opening gala; SFO can't move the opening of Steve Jobs to Saturday, September 23, because there's a Trovatore performance that night. Pulling it in to Thursday? Well, not if the dress rehearsal is on Wednesday, and not without seriously inconveniencing everyone who has a ticket to the Friday performance.

In Anticipation of the New Season....

 How long before the first cast change announcement comes through, for the performing arts organization of your choice? And who will it be?

Museum Mondays

Kirsten Flagstad's costume and winged helmet (Brünnhilde, Met and San Francisco Opera)
Lily Pons's costume as Marie (Daughter of the Regiment)
San Francisco Airport Museum
July, 2023


Friday, August 04, 2023

Operatic Wish List

This started out as a San Francisco Opera wish list, but hey - there are a number of other opera companies in the Bay Area that are capable of staging (or have already staged) works and composers that I have in mind.
  • Debussy, Pélleas et Mélisande. San Francisco Opera hasn't done this great masterpiece since the late 1990s, when Simon Keenlyside and Frederica von Stade starred as Debussy's doomed characters. It's sui generis, an elusive and quietly devastating opera without big arias. West Edge Opera took in on and did an excellent job with it, I think in 2018, with a reduced orchestra and some cuts. LA Opera's bring up this past spring was magnificent, with a terrific cast, masterly conducting by James Condon, and a really fine David McVicar production. I'll be seeing it in around two weeks in Santa Fe and have reached a point where I can't get enough of Pélleas.
  • Thomas Adés. Locally, only West Edge has produced one his operas, with a great production of Powder Her Face at the Wood Street Train Station in, maybe 2016. The Tempest and the more recent Exterminating Angel would both be great to see locally.
  • George Benjamin! His operas Into the Little HillWritten on Skin, Lessons in Love and Violence, and Picture a Day Like This have all been extremely well received. I saw a broadcast of Lessons in Love and Violence, and wow. 
  • Harrison Birtwistle. Okay, you knew I'd say this. With the Met allegedly thinking about producing one of his operas....I'm hoping that a local company will get there first. I would advise against producing The Mask of Orpheus, which is incredibly complex and difficult, not to mention that it must be hugely expensive to stage. But Gawain, The Minotaur, and The Second Mrs. Kong all seem feasible.


Friday Photo (At the Grave of Jonathan Gold)

Food writer Jonathan Gold's headstone, with his name and "Tacos Forever" engraved
Hollywood Forever Cemetery
Los Angeles, CA
April, 2023