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What Great Martial Art Movies are Doing in Davies Hall

April 8, 2015

 'As I Was Saying...'

... headlined William Connor's first column, returning to The Daily Mirror after the interruption of World War II, and I am happy to say there was no similar cataclysm in these circles but, yes, there was an interregnum here in the past three months, and it's over. This column is back, and thank you for reading it again.

I hope the column's quirky/pedantic nature is still remembered, so you will not be surprised to see this by-the-way information:

Sir William Neil Connor (1909–1967) was a columnist, who wrote under the pseudonym of "Cassandra." The second half of the paragraph greeting his return to the publication was: "... it is a powerful hard thing to please all of the people all of the time."

And we'll leave it at that, focusing once again on the Mousai, the goddesses of music, song and dance.

From the Opera House's Game of Thrones

A year after the news broke, and a year before David Gockley actually turns over the reins of San Francisco Opera, apparently no one knows who the next general director will be.

What is known is that A) it is very difficult to find somebody with Gockley's Bruce Bochy-like aura of invincibility, and B) the successor will inherit a big organization: the Opera has an operating budget of $74 million, a small deficit of $340,000, and a greatly increased endowment (which contrasts with the fiscal disaster on all counts at the Met.)

The incoming director will be in a far, far better place than Gockley was, taking over a debt-ridden organization in 2006, with the Great Recession just two years away.

The halfway point between the first news of retirement and succession itself clearly indicates the approach of the day when the successor is to be named to assure a lengthy period of turning over management. Chances are the company summer season, opening with Berlioz's Les Troyens on June 7 (all sold out) may be the time.

Another fact-based guessing item is that Francesca Zambello, previously mentioned as a possible successor, is not on the selection committee's short list. If you're familiar with that list, let's talk.


Music and the Silver Screen

The subject is especially timely as the San Francisco Symphony, the S.F. Silent Film Festival, and the S.F. International Film Festival all offer unusual combinations of film and music.

Tan Dun, whose operas and oratorios vary in quality, does his best work with film scores, and three of them will be featured in Davies Hall Film Series concert on April 25.

The orchestra will play Tan Dun's scores while scenes from Zhang Yimou's Hero (one of the most spectacular films ever made), Feng Xiaogang's The Banquet (a variation on themes from Hamlet and Ibsen's Ghosts, with Zhang Ziyi), and Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon are shown on the large screen over the stage.

Damian Iorio conducts, making his SFS debut; soloists include violinist Ryu Goto, cellist Peter Wyrick, and pianist Robin Sutherland. An hour before the event, in the Davies Hall lobby, Melody of China will perform in the lobby.

The 20th season of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, with live accompaniment for all screenings, will be held in the Castro Theater. As before at the festival, musicians and scores are the best of the genre.

The 58th season of the S.F. International Film Festival", April 23-May 7, have these music-related events among the festival's 200 films and events:

- World Cinema Spotlight is all about music this year, including documentaries about Nina Simone, the Beach Boys, and San Francisco's The Residents

- The Kronos Quartet appears live to play Aleksandra Vrebalov's score for Bill Morrison's film about World War I, called Beyond Zero: 1914-1918. The screening will take place in the Sundance Kabuki Cinemas, at 6:30 p.m. on May 6.


Raising Generations of Tenors from Mexico

César Ulloa, S.F. Conservatory of Music voice teacher and master teacher for the Merola Opera Program and Adler Fellowship (among many positions), has coached scores of young singers to careers around the world, but as principal vocal instructor for S.I.V.A.M., Mexico's prominent young artist program, he especially champions singers from that country.

When the Conservatory Opera Program presented Donizetti's The Elixir of Love last week, the role of Nemorino was performed by tenor Mario Rojas, one of Ulloa's students. Says Ulloa:

"He is 21 and a sophomore at SFCM. It's rare that they cast a sophomore as a lead in an opera at the Conservatory, so he was really excited about performing his first Nemorino.

I brought him from Mexico to San Francisco two years ago. I heard him when he was 17 and asked him if he would like to come study with me at SFCM: I could hear immediately that he had great potential for a career and a beautiful natural instrument, but needed a solid technique.

He was in the same program, S.I.V.A.M. ((International Society for Mexican Artistic Values), where David Lomelí, Eleazar Rodriguez, Emmanuel Franco, Arturo Chacon, and so many others came from and worked with me, several of them having wonderful careers in Europe."

Familiar Surfeit: Mountains of Vinyl Records, CDs, Etc.

Minneapolis Star Tribune music critic Jon Bream is trying to get rid of his collection of 25,000 vinyl albums and thousands of CDs. Perhaps on a lesser scale, the situation resonates with so many of us.

How do you find a home, or even a dumping ground, for previous generations of media? Public libraries were helpful in the past, but no longer. If you're willing to accept CDs and DVDs being broken up to tiny pieces to serve as roadbed, the public-spirited nonprofit Green Citizen will take them for free. But beware of VCR and miscellaneous other formats – even Green Citizen charges for those.

If you have a better idea, write to me, and it will be shared with SFCV readers.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].