Music News: March 12, 2013
Lack of regional cooperation or outright collaboration has been a decades-long hobby horse of mine: I never understood why meager resources are not being pooled.
But now Palo Alto's West Bay Opera and Walnut Creek's Festival Opera join to present Verdi’s Otello in both of their respective theaters, in the same production, with the same cast.
David Gustafson will sing the title role, Cynthia Clayton appears as Desdemona, and Philip Skinner sings Iago. Each company will use its own orchestra and chorus, Michael Morgan conducting Festival Opera, José Luis Moscovich his West Bay Opera. Daniel Helfgot directs.
"The companies intend to expand awareness of the production and opera in general with performances on both sides of the Bay" says the announcement. "They also plan to reduce some of the high cost of presenting a fully-staged opera by sharing a number of production expenses."
West Bay Opera is presenting Otello for the first time since 1969; it is a premiere for Festival Opera. The schedule: May 24 to June 2 in Lucie Stern Theatre, and two performances in Lesher Center for the Arts on June 28 and 30.
For Festival Opera, still in crisis mode, the project is vital. Says Executive Director Sara Nealy:
It's been a really rough couple of years for Festival Opera, with some bumps and bruises, but not without some small triumphs as well. We faced staggering debt at the end of our 2011 season, but have reduced that debt by more than half, and we even managed to show signs of life and growth.
During our "virtually dark" 2012 season, we managed to bring some of our greatest alumni talents onto the stage for a benefit concert in what was a joyous stand for the company and the art form. It inspired many of us to recommit and persevere.
We used our reduced resources to stage Opera in the Park to give back to our community, and we dipped our toes into the waters of contemporary, smaller-scale chamber opera as we worked to get back on solid financial footing.
We look ahead with a plan to reunite our opera family with a new vision for the future: a Festival Opera that presents fully-staged standard repertory opera productions, stages a free Opera in the Park event, explores new formats and venues with a smaller-scale work each year — and an occasional commission of new work by a promising emerging composer — along with providing meaningful community engagement activities (mini-operas, demonstrations, and other programs) in schools and other community settings.
ODC/Dance's 2013 edition of spring season at Yerba Buena Center opens March 14, running through March 24. Two programs will be performed four times each, in addition to the opening night gala.
Amazingly, this is the 42nd home season of the acclaimed modern-dance company, still under the direction of Brenda Way, who founded the Oberlin Dance Collective in 1971.
There will be world premieres by Way and KT Nelson; a new artistic collaboration between Way, Nelson, and New York-based choreographer Kate Weare; commissioned music by Jay Cloidt, scores by Zoë Keating, Olafur Arnalds and Ben Frost; an original film by visual artist Barry Steele, and — yes — custom-made bicycles by Max Chen.
Way’s Lifesaving Maneuvers reflects on the human capacity to endure. Created for the full company and set to an original commissioned score by Cloidt, the piece is structured as a series of chapters investigating the things people do to survive, from the sly or invisible to the sensational.
The Way-Nelson-Weare work is Triangulating Euclid, a collaboration to explore new territory. Inspiration came from a rare original edition of Euclid’s Elements, an influential work in the history of mathematics. The piece moves from the formal elegance of geometry to its human implication: from triangles to threesomes, from lines to connections, from the page to the heart.
Nelson’s Transit: Next Stop is a new production of her 2012 Transit. Incorporating hand-drawn film clips by visual artist Barry Steele, three custom-built bicycles by Chen, and a restless score by Nico Muhly, the work "celebrates the chaotic pulse of urban centers — walking, biking, and high-speed transit.
Two additional works on the season are Way’s 2012 Breathing Underwater, which premiered to great acclaim last year, is a dance for four women set to live music by Keating; and Nelson’s Cut Out Guy, also from last year, set to five male dancers.
ODC/Dance’s company of dancers includes Anne Zivolich, Yayoi Kambara, Corey Brady, Jeremy Smith, Vanessa Thiessen, Dennis Adams, Justin Andrews, Natasha Adorlee Johnson, Maggie Stack, and Justin Liu.
While San Francisco Symphony now has its own labor problems, orchestras in the Twin Cities are facing a much more immediate crisis. In addition to the dispute placing the very existence of the 100-year-old Minnesota Orchestra in jeopardy, the neighboring St. Paul Chamber Orchestra is announcing additional concert cancellations in the wake of the prolonged work stoppage that has obliterated more than four months of concerts and events.
Orchestra management has officially called off all engagements through April 21. Statements from labor and management are contradictory, and musicians are beginning to leave St. Paul, most prominently principal second violinist Kyu-Young Kim, hired by the New York Philharmonic.
According to Carole Mason Smith, chair of the musicians’ negotiating committee, management is still insisting that musicians give back $1.5 million per year for the next four years, and "management has not changed its position for the past 14 months." She says musicians have already given back $1.7 million in savings due to the lockout that began in October of 2012.
On the other hand, SPCO president Dobson West spoke of being upbeat:
We have been pleased to have begun a more intense negotiations schedule recently, including three days of meetings last week and multiple meetings scheduled again this week. We sincerely regret the impact of these cancellations, and we hope that the ongoing discussions we are engaged in will lead to an agreement soon so that we can resume our season.
On the other side of the Mississippi River, after six months of the Minnesota Orchestra playing without a contract, management locked out the musicians beginning in October, charging that the musicians were trying to continue "talk and play," and the stalemate continues.
Issues now surfacing in San Francisco — about fiscal information and a large-scale building project — have been percolating in Minneapolis for months now, management statements sharply contradicted by the musicians' union.
In the ongoing story about arrests for the acid attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, a Moscow TV station reported that the alleged instigator of the attack, Bolshoi soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko, was motivated by "his girlfriend, also a Bolshoi soloist, known to have been at odds with Filin."
She is now identified as ballerina Anzhelina Vorontsova, Dmitrichenko's common-law wife. In an interview before the acid attack, she complained about her "miserly" Bolshoi salary, and her treatment by the artistic director: "They don’t let me dance here," she said. "You have no idea how long I’ve been asking to dance Swan Lake, and they refuse."
After the attack, which nearly blinded him, Filin said the attack was linked to his work, to jealousy or vengefulness inside the theater. "It was hard to imagine that a crime so nasty could have such petty motives," comments the Time magazine article, "and even with the Bolshoi’s history of sabotage — broken glass placed into ballet slippers, cats thrown onto the stage during performances, homoerotic photos leaked online — sulfuric acid in the face seemed too depraved."
Moscow police sources said Dmitrichenko, 29, may have been taking revenge on Filin for obstructing Vorontsova’s career. A Russian TV news channel aired footage of the dancer, looking haggard but calm at a police station. "I ordered the attack," Dmitrichenko said, looking into the camera.
Composers, Inc. had a long run in San Francisco, but it is leaving the city. A concert on April 9, in Old First Church, will be the group's last event here.
"We decided it was time to make a change and set up in the East Bay," says Nicholas R. Vasallo, one of the organization's six artistic directors. "Such a decision wasn't easy to come to and certainly there were factors at play that surely all non-profit performance and presenting organizations grapple within."
Besides Vasallo, the Artistic Directors are Robert Greenberg, Frank La Rocca, Jeffrey Miller, Martin Rokeach, and Allen Shearer.
Composers Inc. President Rafael Hernandez says:
We are moving because since moving from the Green Room a few years ago due to impending renovations, Composers, Inc. saw a dramatic decline in audience. The strong feeling amongst the board was that a problem with our current location [Old First] is lack of proximity to BART.
The impact of this decline in audience on our operation was quite hard to manage, given that it happened near the timing of the peak of the financial crisis (charitable giving was down), and a time when there were some internal struggles over vision and direction for the organization. Deciding that the timing was right, given our 30th season coming up, we decided to study intently our audience and answer the question all organizations want to know: Who is coming to our concerts?
What we found was that an overwhelming majority of our audience was aged 18-45 and from the East Bay. Furthermore, while Composers, Inc. had its beginnings in the city, over time there was a slow migration of its board membership from San Francisco to the East Bay, in terms of residence and interaction with other artists and musicians as a community. This all added up to a no-brainer of a decision: Let's bring the music to our core audience; let's take the leap and set up in the East Bay.
The 8 p.m. April 9 concert presents world premieres of Martin Rokeach's Running at the Top of the World, for trumpet and piano; Allen Shearer's Roundelay, to oboe, clarinet, and bassoon; Vasallo's Only One Survives, for amplified cello, piano, and percussion.
Also, Ryan Chase's Gold Rush, for five violins, winner of the 2012 Suzanne and Lee Ettelson Award.
The next show from Lamplighters is a "jewel box production" of The Sorcerer, with costumes and props, but on a minimal set, and with the orchestra on stage — only three semi-staged concert performances of the opera between March 16 and 24, one in Walnut Creek, and two in Herbst Theatre.
The two-act comic opera is the result of the third collaboration by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. Gilbert's original story, which served as the basis for the libretto, is about a love potion that causes everyone in the village to fall in love with the first person they see. The pairing of mismatched couples is accompanied by comic duets, a patter song, a contrapuntal double chorus, a love duet, a soprano showpiece, and more.
Two dozen musical numbers include "The air is charged with amatory numbers," "Time was when Love and I were well acquainted," "With heart and with voice," "The Tea-Cup Brindisi," and "Oh, joyous boon! Oh, mad delight."
The cast includes Lindsay Thompson-Roush, Rose Frazier, Megan Stetson, Kelly Powers, Robert Vann, Chris Uzelac, Baker Peeples (the music director reverting to his former singing career), and Robby Stafford.
Even more so than in the case of the original Levy's Jewish bread ad ("you don't have to be Jewish to love Levy's ... but it helps"), you don't have to be an opera nut to enjoy Terrence McNally's The Lisbon Traviata, but if you're not, you may be nonplussed by gales of laughter in the theater, virtually after each sentence in the first act.
The story turns starkly dramatic later, but through it all, it's Maria (Callas) this, and Renata (Tebaldi) that, horrible (and hilarious) things about Sutherland, Scotto, Marilyn Horne's first career as a truck driver, and on and on — specific dates and memories of performances and personal recollection flash by in a dizzying and delightful whirl.
The title and the play's conceit/device is about the famous pirate recording of Callas' 1958 performance of La traviata in the capital of Portugal. It is at the center of two opera queens' evening, spent hinting at the intense relationship problems (with others), which take center stage in the radically different second act.
Gay or straight, any true opera fan will enjoy the play, especially in the fine production now at the New Conservatory Theatre Center, in the 2010 Kennedy Center revival and update of the 1989 Broadway original.
Why bring up gender preference? Because the play is all about gay people. Why doesn't it matter? Because, unlike McNally's Love, Valour and Compassion — probably his weakest play — Lisbon Traviata has universal context and appeal, dealing with love, lust, yearning, and betrayal.
The two main characters, played by Michael Sally (Mendy) and Matt Weimer (Stephen), are excellent. Sally meets the difficult task of being relentlessly outrageous, but Weimer performs a rare theatrical coup, being so natural that at first the viewer wonders if he remembers his lines. His pauses, hesitations, preoccupations soon add up to a kind of convincing performance that goes far beyond reciting lines.
Philippe Gosselin (Mike) and Adam Roy (Paul), who are distant, but important, figures in the first act, come into their own in the second act. Dennis Lickteig directed with economy and assurance.
- Wed June 5, 2013 (All day)
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