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IN Music News THIS WEEK:
March 21, 2006

Local Viardot Project a Hit
in Europe

Ferrandis to
Lead Santa
Rosa Symphony

Northwest Chamber Orchestra Goes Under

Russian Love Fest With Kremer, Baryshnikov, Rostropovich

Inventory of
Opera Companies
Keeps Growing

Heimberg Fete

Archibald to
the Vienna
State Opera

Matthew Farruggio
in Memoriam

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Contributions

Local Viardot Project a Hit in Europe

By Janos Gereben

On a Radio France broadcast tomorrow: Pauline Viardot's music at a concert that began its journey in the Marin home of producer Judy Flannery years ago, based on research by soprano Marta Johansen of Ross' Prima Donna Productions, for a performance project originally called "Viardot and Friends."

Alameda's Frederica von Stade was a star of the Viardot concerts in London's Wigmore Hall and in the Auditorium du Musée du Louvre à Paris, directed by former San Francisco Opera General Director Lotfi Mansouri. Numerous San Francisco donors attended both concerts, including Connie Goodyear Baron and Dr. Barry Baron, and Austin Hills, whose late wife, Erika, was a passionate supporter.

Requests for additional performances of the concert came from Vienna, Rome, St. Petersburg, and elsewhere, but San Francisco Performances' Ruth Felt will be the first to get the rights to it, bringing the concert to Herbst Theater. For a historical/musical revival of a French singer and composer, the Viardot Project has California written all over it.

Pauline Viardot-Garcia was a famed opera singer and an esteemed composer of songs, chamber music, and operettas in the 19th century. Berlioz called her "one of the greatest artists in the history of music." Turgenev provided a passionate love affair and three librettos for her. Dickens called her "extraordinary," and Saint-Saëns dedicated Samson et Delila to her. She created major Meyerbeer roles. And then, until these recent developments, Viardot departed into the realm of the honored but obscure.

The current Viardot concerts employed Flicka, soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, baritone Vladimir Chernov, pianist David Harper, and cellist David Watkin. Brian Large directed, French film star Fanny Ardant was the narrator. The Viardot Project, which continues from its Ross headquarters, includes the building of outreach material for schools and libraries. A major collection of Viardot's music from Prima Donna Productions will be published for the use of professional and amateur singers, musicologists, historians, and teachers.

More about the broadcast: It's scheduled on Radio France tomorrow, March 22, at 1 a.m. PST. Click on "en direct — écouter" on the upper right of the main menu to listen to the station. The program includes such Viardot songs as "L'Absence," "Berceuse," and "Le Chêne et le Roseau," along with some of the arias and lieder by Gounod, Meyerbeer, and Rossini in Viardot's large repertoire.

Pauline Viardot-Garcia

& & &

Ferrandis to Lead Santa Rosa Symphony

Following a two-year search after Jeffrey Kahane decided to move to the Denver Symphony, the Santa Rosa Symphony has named Bruno Ferrandis to be the fourth music director in the orchestra's 78-year history.

Appointment of the 45-year-old conductor from France was recommended unanimously by the Music Director Search Committee, consisting of four musicians, five SRS board members, and Executive Director Alan Silow. Ferrandis conducted the orchestra last month, the seventh finalist in a series of auditions in the form of guest conducting. Ferrandis' response to the news: "I am thrilled and happy, almost overwhelmed, at this life-changing appointment. I embrace the opportunity to work with such an ensemble of capable musicians."

This is Ferrandis' first appointment to a professional symphony orchestra. He has 20 years of conducting experience, beginning at Juilliard and continuing in guest appearances with opera companies and orchestras in Europe and Asia. The new music director speaks his native French, as well as English, Italian, Spanish, German, and Russian; he studies ancient Hebrew and Greek as a hobby. No contract information was released by the Symphony, but Kahane's former $127,500 salary with the organization, which ran on a $2.8 million budget in fiscal 2005, may provide a ballpark for Ferrandis' compensation.

Bruno Ferrandis is the Santa Rosa Symphony's
new music director

& & &

Northwest Chamber Orchestra Goes Under

After 33 difficult but often glorious years, Seattle's Northwest Chamber Orchestra is going into bankruptcy, canceling the remaining concerts of the current season and planned tours to festivals in Michigan and Finland.

After the resignation of Music Director Ralf Gothóni and board President Dave Matison, and with a deficit of approximately one-third of its $600,000 budget, the organization appears moribund. In an assessment that may well be meaningful for similar medium-size music organizations in the Bay Area, The Seattle Times says that NCO "inhabits a difficult middle ground: not big enough to get the attention of a major symphony orchestra, but not small enough to be run by unpaid amateurs."

From the Times article about the shutdown's consequences: "The orchestra's demise means financial hardship for the musicians, who work part time for the NWCO and are not well paid to begin with. They earn $127 per "service" — a rehearsal or a concert — in about 50 services annually, or less than $6,500 per year. About two-thirds of the musicians also play in the Pacific Northwest Ballet Orchestra and are covered by health insurance there; the others will lose their coverage with the NWCO's bankruptcy. Most of the musicians also teach private lessons."

& & &

Russian Love Fest With Kremer, Baryshnikov, Rostropovich

Gidon Kremer's Kremerata Baltica presents Bridging the Baltic, a tribute to Latvian ballet great Mikhail Baryshnikov, tonight in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center, with Mstislav Rostropovich in attendance. The occasion is the presentation of the Marcus Lifetime Achievement Award to Baryshnikov, given by San Francisco State University's International Center for the Arts. The program includes music by Arvo Pärt, Peteris Vasks, Nino Rota, Beethoven, Stravinsky, Ysaÿe, and Piazzolla. Rostropovich, born in Baku (the capital of today's Azerbaijan) and thus unrelated to the Baltic, is in town to lead the S.F. Symphony in two subscription series of Shostakovich's music.

& & &

Inventory of Opera Companies Keeps Growing

With help from San Francisco Opera Guild's Bob Brock, here are nine additions to our previous list of 13 Bay Area opera companies: Mission City Opera in Santa Clara; Zarzuela at Jarvis Conservatory in Napa; Bay Shore Lyric Opera in Saratoga, Redwood City, and Capitola; Cinnabar in Petaluma; Golden Gate Opera in Marin; Lyric Theatre of San Jose; Peninsula Teen Opera; and Stanford Savoyards.

An important inclusion is Sonoma City Opera, a company whose upcoming world premiere has been previewed by Music News. Libby Larsen's Everyman Jack, an opera about Jack London, with libretto by Philip Littell and baritone Rodney Gilfry in the title role, will be performed in November, at Sonoma State University, as part of the Green Music Festival.

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Heimberg Fete

About 200 musicians of San Francisco Symphony, Opera, and Ballet, and of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, participated in a birthday bash on March 6 for Tom Heimberg, who turned 69. Heimberg, on leave from the Opera Orchestra, where he had been personnel manager, played the viola there and, before then, with the Symphony, for a total of nearly 45 years. Following an introduction by Robert Commanday, San Francisco Opera's past and current general managers, Pamela Rosenberg and David Gockley; S.F. Opera Music Director Donald Runnicles; and Artistic Administrator Kip Cranna all paid tribute to Heimberg's lifelong devotion to music.

Recognizing Heimberg's service on the board of the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum (PALM), David Humphrey, director, and Basya Petnick, manager of the Legacy Oral History Project that Heimberg helped initiate, presented him with a replica of the title page of his own forthcoming oral history.

& & &

Archibald to the Vienna State Opera

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday that San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellow Jane Archibald has landed a two-year contract as soloist with mighty Vienna State Opera, one of the world's most prestigious companies. The soprano is also scheduled to sing the Queen of the Night in Mozart's The Magic Flute in Geneva, and Konstanze in The Abduction From the Seraglio with the Marseille Opera next year. (CBC's interest is explained by the fact that Archibald is from Truro, Nova Scotia.)

Archibald has just completed two years as an Adler Fellow, debuting as Elvira in Rossini's Italiana in Algeri. A review published here in 2004 began, "For a young soprano, the challenge of 'Martern aller Arten' from Mozart's The Abduction From the Seraglio is enormous. But tonight, Jane Archibald sang the aria with effortless brilliance and power." In addition to similar reviews for her opera appearances, Archibald also received high praise for her S.F. Symphony debut, in Schumann's Das Paradies und die Peri, and her Masha in Pasatieri's The Seagull was described as "a brilliant exhibit of clear and effective musical and dramatic communication."

Soprano Jane Archibald

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Matthew Farruggio in Memoriam

[Reprinted from a late edition of last week's Music News]

Matthew Farruggio, a vital presence on the Bay Area musical theater scene, died March 11, at age 86. One of only 33 recipients of a San Francisco Opera Medal award in the company's 82 years (in 1981, the same year Birgit Nilsson was honored), Farruggio worked for decades at the War Memorial in many capacities, including production supervisor and house stage director. He did important work with the S.F. Opera Center, whose Merola Program has held Matthew Farruggio Day celebrations in recent years. His work with opera extended to many regional companies, such as West Bay Opera, where he was director, stage coordinator, and choreographer (he began his career as a dancer). Veteran S.F. Opera Chorus member Tom McEachern commented on Farruggio's passing by saying, "He was an incredibly fair, talented, and generous colleague. I was the AGMA rep during his tenure, and he was truly wonderful to work with. A great loss."

(Janos Gereben is a regular contributor to San Francisco Classical Voice. His e-mail address is [email protected])

©2006 Janos Gereben, all rights reserved