April 1, 2014
April 1, 2014
AT 4 p.m. PDT April 1st (this is not an April's Fool joke) you can hear and watch the 2014 Met National Council Auditions winners live in performance on WQXR, New York City’s all-classical station, adding video to FM sound on this occasion.
Four of the five winners at Sunday's finals at the Met, each receiving $15,000 in addition to career-boosting fame, are associated with the San Francisco Opera Center. They are:
* Soprano Julie Adams, 26, from Burbank, CA; (incoming) Merola class of 2014, S.F. Conservatory graduate, coached by César Ulloa
* Bass-baritone Ao Li, 26, from Dezhou China; Merola class of 2010, Adler Fellow, also coached by Ulloa (Li was also the 2013 winner of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia World Opera Competition)
* Tenor Yi Li, 29, from Jinan, China; Merola class of 2012
* Soprano Amanda Woodbury, 26, from Crestwood, KY; (incoming) Merola class of 2014
* Bass Patrick Guetti, 26, from Highland Park, NJ
Ulloa, who has coached many other award-winning singers, glowed on Sunday:
It was an amazing afternoon, watching my students walk across the stage at the Metropolitan Opera House and perform with the Met orchestra. I have to say I had butterflies in my stomach, but I was also so happy and excited, and of course so proud to see how far they've come and what amazing artists they've become. They are truly gifted and I am blessed to have them in my life
(Even in the midst of important news, this column is often in the habit of citing the trivial and amusing, so here it is: According to Ulloa, Joan Rivers — yes, her — attending the finals, picked all the winners. Impressive.)
This past week and a half has been the best experience of my life so far. I have learned so much, and have made so many incredible memories. Singing on the Met stage with the Met orchestra was a dream come true. It was so surreal, and I am so blessed and honored to have been a part of the whole experience.
I am also so grateful to my teacher, Cesar Ulloa, who flew across the country to support me. I couldn't have done this without him, and I am so grateful that he was here to share this success with me.
At the April concert by the winners, in the Jerome L. Greene Performance Space, they will be joined by yet another former Merolina, soprano Deborah Voigt, class of 1985. According to the National Council, Sunday's finals was recorded for broadcast at a later date on public radio stations; we'll keep an eye on date and time.
April 1, 2014
Last week's cautious report here about the possible withdrawal of young, super-talented tenor Pene Pati from the prestigious Adler Program was confirmed by a statement from San Francisco Opera, using Pati's full name, which he didn't use while in the Merola Opera Program:
Tenor Darren Pene Pati, who was previously announced as a 2014 Adler Fellow, has withdrawn from the program. San Francisco Opera Center’s Adler Fellowship is one of the nation’s most acclaimed programs providing training for young musical artists. The tenor, who is currently on tour with his successful vocal trio SOL3 MIO in his home country of New Zealand, cites logistical problems as the reason for his withdrawal.
Despite his abrupt release from the Adler Fellowship program, Darren Pene Pati has confirmed his intentions to perform his April 27 Schwabacher Debut Recital in Temple Emanu-El. The recital, co-sponsored by San Francisco Opera Center and the Merola Opera Program, will include songs from composers Richard Strauss, Roger Quilter and Paolo Tosti, among others. He will be accompanied by current Adler Fellow Sun Ha Yoon.
Pati is quoted in the announcement as saying "Over the past couple of weeks I have agonized over the significant logistical problem I currently face. After intense discussion, I have arrived at the heartbreaking conclusion that due to other commitments, joining the Adler Program this year will not be possible ... The operatic stage remains my dream, and I plan to return in the future to achieve that goal."
Pati, his brother Amitai, their cousin Moses Mackay, comprise the vocal trio SOL3 MIO, which mixes classical and contemporary music, is on its first national tour of New Zealand.
April 1, 2014
It's not quite an "Only in San Francisco" phenomenon, but certainly an unusual occurrence: that a musical ensemble would be formed in the New World to honor a virtually unknown 17th-century Italian composer with only a handful of surviving works.
Benedetto Vinaccesi (1666-1719) is the cause and namesake of the local group, formed in 2008 by Bruce Wetmore, Kindra Scharich, and Nanette McGuinness, which first performed at the 2008 Berkeley Early Music Fringe Festival. The ensemble plays mostly music for voice and continuo, such as Barbara Strozzi's 1651 Cantata ariette e duetti.
Vinaccesi is credited with some 450 pieces, few of which are known today. These include an oratorio (Susanna), a pastoral, and an aria from his opera L'innocenza giustificata, as well as a handful of motets, secular cantatas, and sonatas. He was first chorus master at Venice's Ospedaletto, and then "the principal organist for San Marco's second organ" — in an age when the organ provided livelihood for many musicians (including Bach, and others, all around Germany).
The ensemble — which performs next on April 5 at the Legion of Honor — Chamber Music at the Legion — is one of many groups supported by the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music (SFFCM), which is turning 15 with an anniversary gala at Yoshi's San Francisco on April 7. Benedetto Vinaccesi: the Solo Cantatas, released on Centaur last year, was made possible through the Musical Grant Program, which is administered by SFFCM.
Friends of Chamber Music began in 1999 as a non-profit organization for supporting the art of chamber music in the San Francisco Bay Area. The founders were Jane Roos Le Roux (president) Jane Galante (vice-president) and Barbara Barclay (secretary). Participating in the first meeting were Judith Anderson, Ruth Felt, Patricia Taylor Lee, Sue Meyer, Larissa Roesch, and Frances Varnhagen.
SFFCM has raised fund for 86 ensembles, of 336 musicians, through the years, beginning with the Alexander String Quartet, which became the endowed resident quartet at San Francisco State University.
April 1, 2014
The program of the 57th San Francisco International Film Festival, announced today, includes an unusually high number of movies of musical interest (which is good, although classical music is poorly represented). A quick list, with thanks to the festival's Bill Proctor for helping to compile the information:
* The Other One: The Long, Strange Trip of Bob Weir, Mike Fleiss, 2014 — Documentary about a fascinating, multiple crossover musician, who emerged from the shadow of Grateful Dead band mate Jerry Garcia to be involved prominently with every good cause around. [8:50 p.m. April 29, Pacific Film Archive; 9:30 p.m. May 2, Sundance Kabuki Cinemas]
* All That Jazz, 1979/2013 — Roy Scheider stands in for writer/director Bob Fosse in Fosse's self-lacerating, autobiographical musical, about a celebrated choreographer. Restored by Twentieth Century Fox in collaboration with the Film Foundation. [12:30 p.m. April 27, Kabuki; 8:30 p.m. May 2, Pacific Film Archive]
* Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, live event — Thao Nguyen and her band The Get Down Stay Down will perform with an assortment of silent films, including Chaplin's The Pawn Shop, Robert Florey and Slavko Vorkapich's The Life and Death of 9413: A Hollywood Extra, alchemical animation by Harry Smith and classic newsreels. Nguyen will also present some of her own shorts. [8 p.m. April 29, Castro Theater]
* Frank, Lenny Abrahamson, 2014 — A pop star wannabe sees a path to fame when he is asked to join an art rock band; trouble and disappointments lead to his concealing himself with a giant fake head. Enough said. [9:15 p.m. April 26, 4 p.m. April 28, Kabuki]
* Heaven Adores You, Nickolas Rossi, 2014 — Celebrating indie rock singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, whose Academy Award–nominated "Miss Misery" from the Good Will Hunting soundtrack earned him fame, and who died tragically in 2003 at age 34. The elegiac documentary is called "at once a testament to Smith’s boundless talent and music’s ability to transcend loss." [9 p.m. May 5, 3:45 p.m. May 7, Kabuki; 6 p.m. May 8, New People Cinema]
* Stephin Merritt with the Unknown, Tod Browning, 1927 — Magnetic Fields band leader Stephin Merritt pairs off with silent cinema iconoclasts Tod Browning and Lon Chaney, for the premiere of his new score for the Freaks director’s 1927 silent The Unknown. [8 p.m. May 6, Castro Theater]
* Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon, Mike Myers, 2014 — Comedian Myers pays homage to the talent manager who first tasted success alongside his client, rocker Alice Cooper. The documentary blends Gordon’s reminiscences, archival footage and testimonials from clients and friends, including Cooper, Michael Douglas and Sylvester Stallone. [6:30 p.m. April 30, New People Cinema; 1 p.m. May 2, Kabuki]
* 20,000 Days on Earth, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard, 2014 — Investigating musician/writer/poet Nick Cave’s history, psyche and creative path, 20,000 Days on Earth depicts an artist’s journey. This highly stylized biopic presents a choreographed "day-in-the-life," depicting Cave as an introspective and dark figure, and featuring his band the Bad Seeds’ own brand of controlled ferocity. [9:45 p.m. April 28, Kabuki; 6:15 p.m. May 1, New People Cinema]
* We Are the Best!, Lukas Moodysson, 2013 — Set in 1980s Stockholm, the film focuses on three young teenagers who form a punk rock band. [6:30 p.m, May 5, 1:30 p.m. May 7, Kabuki]
April 1, 2014
Robert Commanday reports:
Not to be overshadowed by last Thursday's big bash by its older brother, the San Francisco Conservatory, Berkeley’s pioneering Crowden School celebrated its 30th anniversary on Saturday with auctions, speeches, and dinner prefaced by a striking Bach performance by seven students, ages 12 to 14.
Effusive love for the Crowden and its mission of a music-centered complete education, grades 4 through 8, fueled the remarks of the MC, Jonathan Moscone, and of Deborah O’Grady (a.k.a. Mrs. John Adams). She’s been a dedicated patron-leader of the school for some 18 years. Her composer husband and composer son, Sam, were there too.
The school has commissioned Crowden-graduate Sam to write a piece for a chorus of the 4th and 5th graders and the school orchestra, to be performed on the May 24 anniversary concert.
Doris Fukawa, executive director for seven years and on staff for the 30 years since the school's founding by the Scottish force of nature, Anne Crowden, paid tribute to honorees John and Helen Meyer, of Meyer Sound).
April 1, 2014
Avedis artistic director Alexandra Hawley explains how it came about that the season is dedicated to the music of Jean-Michel Damase:
A few minutes before the final concert last season where we were performing a Damase piece, an audience member shared with me that the composer had passed on that very week. I was a bit shaken, and on the way home decided to honor him this season by performing one of his works on each concert, except on the Bach program.
Avedis had commissioned two pieces by him — Fantomes for Wind Quintet and Quatres Facettes for flute and guitar. I had met him here in San Francisco quite a few years ago and we kept up a correspondence by air mail. Damase wrote some 20 chamber music pieces including flute and Avedis has performed 14 of them during our 29 years.
He writes beautifully for the flute — the music is always difficult but lies well for the instrument and he knows how to blend it well with the other instruments. For this concert we are exchanging his quartet 15 Minutes for his Trio for flute, viola and harp as it makes a better contrast with the Piston Quintet.
The Piston is a new one for us this season — a challenging work that integrates the flute into the quartet texture really well. It is said that the best Spanish music was written by French composers and the Two Interludes of Ibert give a delightful taste of this — light, charming and just that — an interlude between the weightier Piston and the brilliant closer Francaix Quintet which is pure French.
The ensemble — Hawley, Emily Laurance (harp), Roy Malan (violin), Susan Freier (violin), Paul Hersh (viola), and Stephen Harrison (cello) — performs at 2 p.m. April 20, in Florence Gould Theatre, Legion of Honor, Lincoln Park.
April 1, 2014
Heaven knows I got plenty of notices about the April 2-4 world premiere presentation of SAGA of the 21st Century Girl, but nowhere did I see an explanation for "SAGA," presuming it to be an acronym. At "press time" (which means late in the day), I inquired if it stands for something or just the product of somebody pressing the caps lock accidentally. No reply so far.
As to the matter, from the producing organizations, First Look Sonoma and ROCKIT Opera:
Composer/librettist Sheli Nan’s SAGA of the 21st Century Girl: A Rock Opera Thriller is conducted by Mary Chun and directed by Melissa Weaver. It stars Crystal Philippi in the title role as the disturbed young Girl struggling to cope with her self-absorbed Mother (Valentina Osinski) and gutless Father (Jo Vincent Parks) and their dysfunctional home.
Portraying various aspects of the predatory impulse are the Shadows, both hilarious and genuinely frightening, portrayed by Alexis Lane Jensen and John Duykers. Video imagery designed by Matthew E. Jones will enliven the action.
Nan describes the libretto as "biting satire and social commentary as viewed through a musical lens," and the score as "influenced by Baroque, Salsa, Afro-Cuban music and the work of Weill and Brecht — for mature audiences."
Late-late word on the capitalization question: "Not an acronym or a caps lock issue. The composer just wanted the title to stand out." Done and done.
April 1, 2014
A union has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing the San Diego Opera of failing to honor contracts with its singers because it's planning to end operations at the end of this season, reports KPBS-TV.
The American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), which represents solo singers, chorus singers, and stage management personnel, filed the claim with the NLRB on March 26.
Despite being in the black for 28 years, San Diego Opera Director Ian Campbell told KPBS "Evening Edition" that the opera's demise was inevitable and the board of directors wanted the organization "to go out with dignity."
"The opera has no debt, no deficit, no line of credit," Campbell told KPBS, adding the opera would have needed at least $10 million in contributions to stay afloat for a 50th season.
"All of the news stories and statements released by the San Diego Opera and Mr. Campbell had indicated that it currently has sufficient funds to pay off their current debts. This debt would include the contracts for future services of employees represented by AGMA," said Hope Singer, a lawyer representing the AGMA, in a letter to the NLRB.
In an e-mail to San Diego Opera Director Ian Campbell, Singer wrote:
"... at least 25 solo singers have contracts with SDO for performances in the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons. SDO is obligated to play those contracts in full. ... In addition, SDO is required under federal law to meet with AGMA for the purposes of negotiating the effects of SDO's closure on all AGMA represented bargaining unit employees."
Previously, Campbell said "the problem with opera is it's labor-intensive. It takes a lot of money to run."
April 1, 2014
John Patrick Ford, a past president of San Diego Opera and key supporter of the opera archive at San Diego State University, weighed in last week in the company's controversial decision to end operations. In a Daily Transcript opinion piece, Ford wrote:
After 49 years of artistic acclaim and the past 29 years operating in the black, the abrupt decision by the board of directors was hasty. No efforts to consider other options or to consult with city leaders and loyal patrons were offered. It was a slam-dunk vote behind closed doors to avoid speculation about the ability to fund future seasons of world-class opera.
There’s more at stake for the San Diego economy than the loss of more than 200 jobs. The opera provides nearly half the employment for the musicians in the San Diego Symphony. The opera rents the Civic Theatre for five months of the year to help defray the maintenance of a city asset. The closure of San Diego Opera will severely impact those other two cultural attractions that bring tourists and business to the city.
Now is the time for the City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to step forward and find a way to keep opera in San Diego ...
Does the city want to lose all this just because a rubber-stamp board of directors won’t stand up and fight? They have a fiduciary responsibility to the public to uphold a civic institution that has received public financial support for five decades. They can’t walk away with dignity without seeking community input for potential alternatives ...
There were crises before. My first year as president in 1970 required cutting back from four operas to two for the season to stabilize the financial position. SDO went on to grow to five productions with four performances each.
General Director Tito Capobianco left town in a huff in 1983 as the board faced an operations deficit and confronted him by canceling some of his favorite projects. Divided board members pulled up their bootstraps and found a new general director who managed the next 29 seasons without a deficit. It can be done with the right support group that won’t take failure as an option ...
There might be hope if San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has enough clout to get community support. At deadline, her petition to study options is seeking 10,000 signatures to show the SDO board of directors that the city wants to keep an opera company. Let’s find more community leaders to start a crusade.
April 1, 2014
On Tuesday, several reports said the San Diego Opera board of directors voted to reconsider their previous virtually unanimous decision to close the company at the end of the current season.
According to UT San Diego News:
Following a nearly five-hour emergency meeting, the San Diego Opera’s board of directors voted Monday to reset the clock on the opera’s looming liquidation.
Rather than close shop and begin selling assets on April 14, the day after its fourth and final production of Don Quixote closes at the Civic Theatre, the opera is giving itself two additional weeks to re-evaluate its financial condition, consider additional options and possibly find a way to go forward for at least another season.
The board voted 35 to 4 to wait until April 29 to take any definitive actions regarding the company’s future in a meeting that included an appearance by Opera America president and CEO Marc Scorca, whose organization represents American opera companies.
"I wanted to convey that other opera companies have faced even more dire circumstances and re-trenched, re-tooled and re-energized — artistically and administratively — with notable success," said Scorca after the meeting. "The only way to continue San Diego Opera's important legacy is to envision the future of the company with creativity and determination."
Neither board president Karen Cohn nor General and Artistic Director and CEO Ian Campbell were available for comment.
April 1, 2014
The 42nd Street Moon, in the business of reviving neglected Broadway musicals, is doing something new, really new, for the first time in its two decades of life: It's presenting a world premiere show using grand old tunes from Oscar Hammerstein, Rodgers and Hart, Johnny Mercer, Dorothy Fields, Frank Loesser, and others. Performances in the Eureka Theater are scheduled April 2-20.
With favorites such as "Jeepers Creepers," "Sing, You Sinners," "Good Morning Glory," "Marahuana," "You Oughta Be in Pictures," and "Dusty Shoes," the production Painting the Clouds with Sunshine tells the story of a jaded newsman and a struggling waitress trying to find romance in glittery Tinseltown as the "talking picture musicals" help the country escape hard times.
The book is by 42nd Street Artistic Director Greg MacKellan and Mark D. Kaufmann, who is also the stage director. Says MacKellan:
During the Great Depression (1929-1939), America’s entertainment industries — particularly radio and motion pictures — played a crucial role in helping citizens keep their spirits up. No genre of film was more popular at this time than the musical.
Musical films of the 1930s — the "talking picture" era — existed in a world unto themselves: sometimes kooky, sometimes sophisticated, sometimes bizarre, and almost always persistently upbeat. Once you entered this world, the harsh realities of the Depression were mocked (or more often, simply forgotten) by the happy-go lucky denizens of the talkies ...
After going through a treasure trove of songs that San Francisco’s Bob Grimes gave us, we recorded 35 of them (33 of which made the final album) with a stellar cast including Rebecca Luker, Paige O’Hara, and Jason Graae; releasing the CD in early 1991. The San Francisco Chronicle critic Gerald Nachman gave it a rave review, including the suggestion that "some smart producer should turn this CD into a revue."
Finally, 23 years later, 42nd Street Moon has indeed brought it to the stage. To our surprise, it’s not, in fact, a revue, but a brand-new book musical with a score of wonderful and unique songs from 1930s movies.
April 1, 2014
If you're visiting Bayside Library in Queens, New York, at 2:30 p.m. [EDT, of course] on April 5, you can watch for free the HD video of Kristin Chenoweth's delightful The Dames of Broadway... All of 'em show in Lincoln Center.
Good for them, but why should you care here, 3,000 miles away?
This new Lincoln Center Local HD pilot program, running April through June in branch libraries in Brooklyn and Queens, is a specific implementation of the Center's expanded mission to bring resources to new and underserved audiences and communities. It should serve as an example to San Francisco and every other city.
At each free screening, there are activities to further engage the audience, such as a live performance by a professional artist, as well as complimentary refreshments and discussion following the event.
Some of the content is accessible online, as it comes from past Live From Lincoln Center programs. However, these events are more than just showings of the digital content, as it involves a local artist introducing and discussing the music or performance the audience is about to see, as well as hosting a discussion afterward. "It's an interactive activity which we can present to these local communities in New York, but off our main campus," say the organizers.
Besides Chenoweth's show, programs include "Patina Miller in Concert," "Celebration! Stephanie Blythe Meets Kate Smith," "Harlem Renaissance Orchestra," "Audra McDonald in Concert."
Another HD program from a Lincoln Center resident (and very accessible in the Bay Area and everywhere in the world) is the April 5 landmark live telecast of La bohème from the Metropolitan Opera, reaching the 15-million viewer mark for the Met's Live in HD series.
April 1, 2014
Upholding in the next season an unbroken record, Berkeley Symphony continues its tradition of championing new music, started during decades of Kent Nagano's direction, beginning in 1978, and now for the fifth year under Joana Carneiro. The orchestra's 2014-2015 will feature:
* World premieres by British composer Oscar Bettison (Sea Shaped) and homie Jake Heggie (a full-orchestra version of Camille Claudel: Into the Fire, with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke)
* The mighty choruses from the opera of another "local composer," John Adams' Death of Klinghoffer
* The Bay Area premiere of Thomas Adès’ Asyla
Nine-time recipient of the ASCAP award for adventurous programming, Berkeley Symphony will also serve the classics imaginatively, pairing Klinghoffer with the Mozart Requiem; and adding to the Bettison premiere, the Sibelius Violin Concerto, with Jennifer Koh as soloist; also programming Elgar’s Enigma Variations, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite, and Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. Says Carneiro:
As we embark on another fresh and exciting season, I am constantly reminded of the rich connection that the orchestra experiences with Berkeley audiences. Exploring these musical pathways with a shared love and appreciation of diversity and intrigue pushes us to new heights. I am delighted to present a number of new works by some of the most established composers of our time, including two world premieres and a Bay Area premiere. We are also fortunate to be collaborating with a variety of solo artists and ensembles, expanding our family even further.
Furthering its dedication to contemporary music, Berkeley Symphony continues its Under Construction program in collaboration with Earshot, the national orchestral discovery network, administered by the American Composers Orchestra with partner organizations American Composers Forum, League of American Orchestras and New Music USA. Public readings of new symphonic works by the composers selected to participate in this program will take place on May 2-3, 2015 at Osher Studio in Berkeley.
April 1, 2014
Carlisle Floyd, acclaimed at the San Francisco Opera's annual meeting a couple of weeks ago, was the toast of town in Houston last weekend, once again in the company of long-time booster David Gockley, SFO general director, previously of the Houston Grand Opera.
As reported in the Houston CultureMap:
It's not often that a non-profit scores such a renowned collection of complementary headliners as the University of Houston's Moores School of Music managed for its 27th annual gala. But with the dean of American opera, Carlisle Floyd, as honoree, it was practically a given that San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley would join Houston Grand Opera artistic and music director Patrick Summers as honorary co-chairs.
The Moores Society hosted the evening held in the Grand Foyer of Wortham Theater Center, a move from the traditional UH campus locale that played up the relationship between the Moores School and HGO.
"I cannot emphasize enough how important the role of the University of Houston was in founding the Opera Studio and bringing Carlisle from Florida State to the University of Houston," Gockley told the black-tie gathering. "Gradually over the years, the presence of the studio not only in the opera house, but on the campus of UH encouraged what turned out to be the Moores School of Music." Gockley was general director of HGO when Floyd was recruited to Houston in 1976.
Summers said: "There isn't a day that passes in this company where we don't feel the extraordinary legacy of Carlisle Floyd. Carlisle's relationship to this company is unprecedented in American opera. There is no American opera house that has had such a long and deep association with a living composer."
In accepting the John Moores Award, Floyd said, "It's a wonderful thing to look back on the UH school of music when I arrived here in 1976 and where it is today with that beautiful theater. It's just a formidable place to do opera. I couldn't be happier with the heritage that I had a part in."
Incidentally, the Houston report got Floyd's age wrong in the headline and the story. He was born June 11, 1926, so for now, he is only 87 — as Gockley had correctly introduced him in San Francisco.