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IN Music News THIS WEEK:
August 19, 2003

Stopping the Clock at the Opera

SFS: Look What Santa Is Bringing!

SF Chamber Singers Turn to Volti, 'Facing Forward'

Sydney: Conductor Mocks Audience, Loses Some

Another Name Change

Revzen to Head Arizona Opera

Music on the Web

An Inexpensive Opera House on the Sixth Floor

Florida Philharmonic Gives Up

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By Janos Gereben

New Arts Festival for SF

The inaugural season of the San Francisco International Arts Festival will open September 4, running through September 21. It presents artists from 15 countries in dance, music, film, opera, theater and visual arts. Events will be held in venues including Yerba Buena Center, War Memorial Opera House, Asian Art Museum, and the African American Art & Culture Complex.

SFIAF 2003 is a collaborative project, initially involving San Francisco based arts organizations, ranging in size from the Opera and the Asian Art Museum to Door Dog Music and Afro Solo. According to the organizers, it is the "first step towards creating an annual flagship event." For information, www.SFIntlArtsFest.org.

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Stopping the Clock at the Opera

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra is able to continue rehearsals under an agreement between management and union negotiators to extend the contract through August 31. The concession by the local chapter of the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) prevents interruption of work during these busy days leading up to the September 6 opening of the season, with Virgil Thomson's The Mother of Us All.

There is also a de facto, indefinite contract extension for the Opera Chorus, represented by the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), representing the Opera Chorus. The chorus' contract expired on February 1, the singers have been working under the provision to honor the terms of the old contract until a new agreement is reached. Talks between the Opera administration and AGMA broke off last summer, they are expected to resume later this month. There is no sign that the wide gap separating the parties is being bridged.

AGMA, incidentally, publishes the entire text of some of the contracts it has negotiated recently, including those for Arizona Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Pacific, Opera Theater of St. Louis, Santa Fe Opera, and Washington Opera. See www.musicalartists.org/agreements.htm.

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SFS: Look What Santa Is Bringing!

"Nothing is happening in December on the music scene," you might have read it here a few weeks ago. Since then, we heard from the Philharmonia Baroque, which is offering some unusual late-December concerts in the Bay Area, and now the San Francisco Symphony is spelling out its holiday schedule.

Along with the welcome news that Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic will appear in Davies Hall, on November 24 and 25, SFS also announced a holiday lineup that's perhaps even more extended than usual: a Christmas Special Concert on Dec. 10 (Flint Center), 11 and 13; Peter Schickele's P.D.Q. Bach presentation, on Dec. 12; Peter and the Wolf, on Dec. 14; Colors of Christmas, Dec. 15-18; Messiah, Dec. 19-20; the San Francisco Saxophone Quartet's Christmas concert, on Dec. 21; and the New Year's Eve Gala, Dec. 28 and 31. Single tickets go on sale on August 25.

The program for the first Berlin Philharmonic concert consists of Heiner Goebbels' Aus einem Tagebuch, Bartók's Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 6. On November 25: Haydn's Symphony No. 88, Henri Dutilleux's Correspondences (with Dawn Upshaw), Sibelius' Symphony No. 7, and Debussy's La Mer. For information: www.sfsymphony.org.

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SF Chamber Singers Turn to Volti, `Facing Forward'

Robert Geary's San Francisco Chamber Singers chorus is turning 25 and market-communication chic. Engaging a company in the business of developing easily-recognizable and felicitious business names (a company whose own difficult-to-remember name we can't think of just now), the Chamber Singers now wish to be known as "Volti."

Board president Francis P. Abercrombie explained the name change thusly: "[it] represents the uniqueness of the concerts: we are the forward facing side of chamber singing. Turn the page, look ahead and hear what we're all about." Volti, indeed, is the Italian musical instruction to turn the page, normally used as "volti subito" (turn — now!), and even more commonly in the abbreviated form of "V.S."

The anniversary season will feature concerts on October 10-11 (with cellist Joan Jeanrenaud and the Lines Ballet Company), November 8-9 (an all-American program), Dec. 6-7 {"Mysteries of the Spirit," the music of Wayne Peterson, Mark Winges, Morten Lauridsen and Charles Loeffler), February 22-23 (with violist Geraldine Walther,); and April 23-24, a celebration of 25 years of commissions, past and present, including Kirke Mechem's Winging Wildly, Alex Post's This is the Garden, and the world premiere of Mark Winges' A Choral Symphony. For information, see www.voltisf.org.

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Sydney: Conductor Mocks Audience, Loses Some

Last week, as Alexander Lazarev conducted the Sydney Symphony, he became irritated with the applause between movements of the Tchaikovsky Pathetique, so he asked the musicians to return the applause, mocking the ignoramuses in the audience. He had no clue what was to happen at the end of the energetic third movement. There was applause, the orchestra returned it, the audience became even more enthusiastic, Lazarev asked his musicians to stand . . . and a number of audience members took this to mean the end of the concert, they grabbed their coats and ran for trains. Lazarev did manage to finish the concert, but it took yelling "VOLTI!" very loudly, meaning not "SF Chamber Singers!" but "Wait, wait, there is more, it's not over, we'll be turning the page!"

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Another Name Change

It was Symphony San Jose Silicon Valley, as awkward a name as any orchestra ever had, but now it's Symphony Silicon Valley, which is a lot better. The successor to the venerable but terminally bankrupt San Jose Symphony will open its next season on October 11, conducted by Paul Polivnik and featuring cellist William De Rosa. For information, www.symphonysiliconvalley.org.

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Revzen to Head Arizona Opera

Arizona Opera has completed a six-month-long national search, and selected Joel Revzen as its artistic director. The Grammy-winning conductor has been on the Metropolitan Opera conducting staff since 1999. He holds degrees from the Juilliard School, where he was recipient of the Frank Damrosch Prize in Conducting. Revzen has also been artistic director of the Berkshire Opera in western Massachusetts since 1991, and has guest-conducted at various opera companies.

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Music on the Web

Just hours after Music@Menlo concerts took place, recordings became available at music.mpr.org/audio. The hosting Minnesota Public Radio (music.mpr.org/) also has a wealth of presentations at music.mpr.org/features, including the San Francisco Symphony-coproduced American Mavericks concerts, at www.musicmavericks.org. Brian Newhouse diary of the festival is published at 0308_menlo/postcards.shtml.

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An Inexpensive Opera House on the Sixth Floor

Thailand's capital is getting an opera house, an 1,800-seat facility to open in a couple of years, according to the Bangkok Post. It will be on the sixth floor of the mammoth Siam Paragon shopping (yes) center, the hall's cost estimated at a suspiciously modest $10 million in the complex that carries the price tag of 12 billion baht, or $288 million. Labor costs must be amazingly low if $10 million is expected to build a house, which "is intended to be on par with Sydney Opera, the Esplanade in Singapore, Lincoln Center in New York and L'Opera de la Bastille in Paris," according to the announcement.

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Florida Philharmonic Gives Up

The Florida Philharmonic, created 18 years ago as the consolidation of failing individual orchestras in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Raton, is now failing itself. Doing well for a while in the 1990s, under the baton of James Judd, the Philharmonic has gone into an irreversible deficit. Orchestra chairman Daniel Lewis told the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that he will recommend that the organization be dissolved. "We really have no choice," he said.

(Janos Gereben, a regular contributor to www.sfcv.org, is arts editor of the Post Newspaper Group. His e-mail address is [email protected])

©2003 Janos Gereben, all rights reserved