Music News: July 8, 2014

July 8, 2014

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Pacific Boychoir to Gird the Pacific

July 8, 2014

Already dressed for tropical climeOakland's Pacific Boychoir Academy is leaving this week on a fascinating (and extremely busy) tour of Vietnam and Singapore. It's typhoon season in the western Pacific Ocean, and in Vietnam both temperatures and humidity are in the 90s, with thunderstorms predicted for every day of the tour. The adventurers should be safe, even as some 2,400 miles to the north superstorm Neoguri is devastating Japan and Okinawa.

Led by Music Director Kevin Fox, the chorus will have July 10 and 11 to overcome jet lag, and then give the first concert on July 12 in the Ho Chi Minh City Conservatory. Concerts in Hoi An follow on July 13 and 14, the second performance in the city's famous Sculpture Garden. After taping a concert in Hanoi TV studios, the chorus will give an outreach performance, organized by the United States Embassy, at the Vinh Phuc Social Services Center outside Hanoi.

Concerts in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay follow, the choir spends July 18-21 in Singapore, performing in the Singapore Botanic Gardens on July 20.

Ha Long Bay's limestone karsts await the singers from OaklandThe program for the tour includes Mendelssohn’s Laudate Pueri and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, the Beatles’ "Here Comes the Sun" (hoping for compliance from the weather), and Paul Simon’s "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Known for its cultivation of African-American spirituals and American classics, the choir will perform George Gershwin’s "I Got Rhythm," and spirituals such as "Ol' Time Religion" and "When the Saints Go Marching In." The choir will also sing two traditional Vietnamese songs, and will be joined by the locally renowned Sol Art Choir of Hanoi.

Founded in 1998, Pacific Boychoir Academy has some 175 boys in seven choirs. Graduates of the treble program are eligible to join the sopranos and altos in concerts. With the addition of a day school, PBA has become home to the only choir school in the Western USA, integrating a full academic program with daily music instruction for boys in grades 4-8. On previous tours, the choir has been heard across North America, South America, the South Pacific, Africa, Asia, and Europe.

The group participated in the San Francisco Symphony's performances and recording of the Mahler Eighth Symphony, which won three Grammy awards. The Boychoir has appeared in America’s Got Talent, Kronos Quartet’s 40th birthday party, Nelson Mandela’s memorial service in Washington DC, and with Dmitri Hvorostovsky and the Moscow Chamber Orchestra.

S.F. Ballet at Home in Paris

July 8, 2014

Principal dancers Mathilde Froustey and Pascal Molat pose in front of a Spoleto Festival poster advertising S.F. BalletSan Francisco Ballet is in Paris for an unprecedented 17-day engagement at the Théâtre du Châtelet, beginning on July 10, and featured in the Les Etés de la Danse Festival.

The company program is varied and extensive, compressing virtually the entire home season into festival days. The entire company — principals, soloists, corps de ballet — is participating. A notable homecoming is that of Mathilde Froustey, on extended leave from the Paris Opera Ballet; she will stay with the S.F. Ballet at least through 2015. (Her citizenship may be revoked after she said French cuisine in San Francisco "is more French than it is in France.")

Opening night is an exceptionally generous gala. The program: Renato Zanella's Alles Walzer (Pascal Molat, Taras Domitro), Val Caniparoli's No Other (Lorena Feijoo, Vitor Luiz), the pas de deux from Kenneth MacMillan's Concerto (Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets), Helgi Tomasson's Chaconne for Piano and Two Dancers (Frances Chung, Davit Karapetyan), Yuri Possokhov's Classical Symphony (Maria Kochetkova, Hansuke Yamamoto, Sasha De Sola, Carlos Quenedit) ... and then intermission.

Châtelet, serving as a summer substitute for the War MemorialThe second half consists of the pas de deux from George Balanchine's Agon (Sofiane Sylve, Luke Ingham), Johann Kobborg's Les Lutins (Dores Andre, Gennadi Nedvigin, Esteban Hernandez), Frederick_Ashton’s /Voices of Spring/(Kochetkova, Karapetyan); the second movement pas de deux from Balanchine's /Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet /(Froustey, Carlos Quenedit); Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain (Yuan Yuan Tan, Damian Smith), the fourth movement and finale from Balanchine's Symphony in C.

From the opening until the July 26 closing concert, S.F. Ballet presents some three dozen works. No wonder the announcement says "following this engagement, the dancers will be on hiatus until Aug. 25." Before rehearsals begin for the 2015 season, they need rest, perhaps more than a month.

(I may not be the only one for whom this century-plus old story is news, so here it is: Théâtre du Châtelet was originally used for drama performances. Beginning in April 1876, the stage version of Jules Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days, adapted by Verne and Adolphe d'Ennery, began a run spanning 64 years and 2,195 performances (not continuously), until the Nazi occupation of Paris in 1940 that closed this production permanently. And you thought Cats had a long run!)

I and Ballet

July 8, 2014

Yuan Yuan Tan on the cover of her autobiographyApproaching 40, San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Yuan Yuan Tan looks and dances as if she were half that age. She is known as "YYT" here, since 1995 her second home next to China, where she also performs, teaches, and has a chain of dance studios (reported, but not confirmed). With her star career of two decades, she has more than enough material to publish an autobiography, and so it has come to pass.

The brand ambassador for Van Cleef & Arpels and Rolex is the author of I and Ballet, but you may have to wait for a translation and for the price to come down. It's available only in Chinese and hardcover, with the price of $209.83 on Amazon.

Meanwhile, free and with English subtitles, there is an excellent video documentary about YYT on YouTube. Also, there is an interview with "Tan Yuanyuan" in English. In another English-language interview, she introduces herself as the Principal Dancer of San Francisco Ballet; in fact, there are 20 such positions. (The error is not due to differences between languages: 正主角 is "the" and 主角之一 is "one of" or "a" in Chinese.)

When Will Herbst Theatre Reopen?

July 8, 2014

Under construction... for another year and a half Photo by Michael StricklandSan Francisco's chamber-music organizations (and several other important enterprises) have suffered major dislocation for a year now while the Veterans Memorial Building is undergoing major seismic retrofitting. Herbst Theatre in the building served as their main venue; the Green Room and several halls of various sizes in the building are also being missed.

When will the building, Herbst, and the San Francisco Opera's planned (Dede) Wilsey Center for Opera be available? A current report in SF Civic Center Blog says, discouragingly:

According to security workers at the War Memorial Performing Arts Complex, the project is supposed to be completed "sometime near the end of next year, maybe, if everything goes according to plan, which it usually doesn't."

Let us hope it's only a temporary indigestion speaking, similar to Scrooge's rationalization of Marley's ghost. Meanwhile, San Francisco Performances, Philharmonia Baroque, and others are making do with SFJAZZ, S.F. Conservatory of Music, The Nourse. All of those are not bad substitutes, but one is acoustically inferior, two are significantly smaller than the 900-seat Herbst, and The Nourse is mostly taken up by events of the owner, City Arts & Lectures.

As to the blog report about the replacement of the building's copper roof, is it possible that this "ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity" and a price of $3.25 a pound had to be used, instead of another perfectly fine metal, costing half as much or less?

Francis Going Places

July 8, 2014

Michael Francis Photo by Marco BorggreveMichael Francis, who served as principal conductor for the San Francisco Symphony's summer series in 2011 and 2012, and led the New Year's Eve concerts in 2011 and 2013, has been named Music Director of the Florida Orchestra, beginning next season. (The SFS 2014 "Summer and the Symphony" is headed by Edwin Outwater.)

Francis, 37, received the appointment in the third year of a planned four-year search process. His predecessors were Irwin Hoffman, Jahja Ling, and Stefan Sanderling.

Francis has just completed his second season as chief conductor and artistic advisor to Sweden’s Norrköping Symphony Orchestra. The 37-year-old is hailed as a rising star in the conducting world in both the U.S. and abroad. “I am delighted and honored to be the new music director of the Florida Orchestra," Francis says. "During the very first rehearsal with the orchestra, I could sense an enthusiasm and passion to make music together that was truly exciting. With this talented group of musicians, I believe we have a tremendous future ahead of us.”

Search Committee Chair Jane Peppard said, "Selecting a new music director has been an important and exciting process for our orchestra. Michael Francis is the unanimous choice of the committee. He is a fantastic musician, engaging, charismatic and charming. Michael is very much a leader — the total package.”

Playhouse Does Right by Sondheim

July 8, 2014

Keith Pinto and El Beh as the Baker and (otherwise unnamed) Wife Photos by Jessica PalopoliAll of the high expectations for San Francisco Playhouse's production of Into the Woods were met at the Sunday matinee, and concerns about the possibility of stage director Susi Damilano taking liberties with Stephen Sondheim's musical alleviated. The show has an exceptional — and welcome — long run, through Sept. 6, and it's highly recommended.

An important addition — that of 11-year-old Ian DeVaynes as The Boy — works well, while doubling the Wolf is a minor, unnecessary change. Damilano has given a body to Sondheim's central story idea of the Baker and his wife having a child, but instead of just toying with the work, she then turned the role without lines into an all-purpose presence and energetic stagehand.

Will the fifth-grader transplant from Brooklyn manage to be on-stage through three-hour-long shows six or seven days a week until school starts? Apparently yes, probably setting up a Guiness entry.

Above all, the production's — and Damilano's — achievement is to master the basics: diction, clear story-telling, an excellent cast. Dave Dobrusky's unseen band upstage played well, mostly maintaining the right balance. I wish the Playhouse had stuck with its no-amplification policy because this time the electronic sound is evident, and while not excessive, the slight echo is perhaps the only negative about the production.

Rapunzel (Noelani Neal) is comforted by the Witch (Safiya Fredericks)It's delightful to see El Beh's Baker's Wife — her youth makes much more sense in the role that the customary middle-aged actors, no matter how famous. Also, as already seen in other shows (most prominently for me as the bizarre Cellist in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), there is something powerful and natural about her acting and singing, truly bringing the role to life. (Why no other name than the Baker's Wife? Sondheim might have thought that if the Dyer's Wife was good enough for Richard Strauss in Die Frau ohne Schatten, what the heck.)

El Beh has an excellent foil in Keith Pinto, as the initially clueless but slowly evolving Baker (progress in relationship values, not baking expertise) — a self-effacing, well-sustained performance. Tim Homsley's Jack is similarly bland-to-star, as the occasion warrants.

No such trajectory for Safiya Fredericks, whose Witch comes in and leaves big, as the role dictates. Fredericks has no problem being dramatic and dominating from beginning to end.

Everybody in the large cast deserves praise, but musically, two standouts are Noelani Neal, handling Rapunzel's impossible tessitura effortlessly, and Corinne Proctor's bouncy, leather-lunged Little Red Ridinghood.

Napa Valley Youth Symphony Tours New York

July 8, 2014

Napa Valley Youth Symphony members in front of Carnegie HallAndy Demsky, father of a Napa Valley Youth Symphony musician, reports in the Napa Valley Register about the 40-strong band's tour of New York City last month:

They participated in a young composers workshop offered by the New York Philharmonic, performed at the Band Shell in Central Park, sat in on a closed rehearsal with the New York Philharmonic in Avery Fisher Hall, and finally performed at Carnegie Hall. The performances were in combination with members of the Modesto Symphony Youth Orchestra under the baton of outgoing NVYS artistic director Ryan Murray.

While the performance at the legendary hall was a rare opportunity for all the musicians, it was especially so for Raja Orr, 19, of Napa as the Youth Symphony not only performed his original orchestral work, Colors of Spring, but Orr was invited to conduct the piece himself.

Wedged in between these extraordinary musical experiences, the Napa group that ranges in age from 13 to 19 enjoyed sightseeing at New York landmarks, including the Statue of Liberty, the top of the Empire State Building, Musem of Modern Art and Chelsea’s High Line, as well as a dinner cruise, and seeing the Broadway production of Aladdin, and much more.

“I think we did everything but tap dance across the Brooklyn Bridge,” said Shelley Surh, executive director of the Youth Symphony. “Our mission is to give our students musical experiences they can’t get anywhere else, and it was thrilling to deliver on that promise.”

Napa Valley Youth Symphony, which draws musicians from throughout the North Bay, is an award-winning youth orchestra, performing seasonal, full-length concerts and touring both nationally and internationally. Two years ago, the orchestra toured Central Europe.

The Enchanted Island In HD Next Week

July 8, 2014

Danielle de Niese as Ariel in <em>The Enchanted Island</em> Photo by Ken HowardNext up in the Met Live in HD Summer Encores series, at 7 p.m. on July 16: The Enchanted Island, a Met world premiere combining Baroque music with a new, English-language libretto, featuring characters from Shakespeare's The Tempest and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The three-hour performance includes selections from more than 30 operas, cantatas, and oratorios by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, and other masters of the Baroque period. The story, by the English theater artist Jeremy Sams, combines two of Shakespeare's best-known plays.

The four young lovers from A Midsummer Night's Dream find themselves shipwrecked on Prospero's island from The Tempest, leading to a tortuous web of comic and dramatic romantic entanglements. The cast includes Joyce DiDonato as the sorceress Sycorax; David Daniels as her nemesis, Prospero; Danielle de Niese as the air spirit Ariel; Luca Pisaroni as the monstrous but soft-hearted Caliban; Lisette Oropesa as Prospero's daughter Miranda; Anthony Roth Costanzo as the noble Ferdinand; Layla Claire, Elizabeth DeShong, Paul Appleby, and Elliot Madore as the Midsummer lovers; and, in a cameo, Plácido Domingo as Neptune, god of the seas. William Christie, an early music specialist of worldwide acclaim, conducts. The visually spectacular production is by Phelim McDermott (Satyagraha).

A list of venues is on the Fathom Events website. The local theater carrying the telecast is San Francisco Cinearts Empire 3.

BBC Proms Time

July 8, 2014

Soprano Erin Wall sings in the Elgar oratorio <em>The Kingdom</em>It's here again, summer's longest and greatest classical-music event, the BBC Proms, July 18-Sept. 13. For a taste of the festival, here are highlights from the first days. Most broadcasts start at 11:30 a.m. Pacific time:

- July 18: Elgar, The Kingdom (Andrew Davis-BBC Symphony; soprano Erin Wall, mezzo Catherine Wyn-Rogers, tenor Andrew Staples, baritone Christopher Purves)

- July 19: Elgar, Tchaikovsky; Liszt, Piano Concerto No. 1 (Haochen Zhang); Qigang Chen, Joie éternelle; Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition (orch. Maurice Ravel) (Long Yu-China Philharmonic)

- July 20: Roxanna Panufnik, Three Paths to Peace; R. Strauss, Die Frau ohne Schatten Suite; Mahler, Symphony No. 6 (Valery Gergiev-World Orchestra for Peace)

- July 21: R. Strauss, Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche; Dvorák, Concerto for Violin in A minor, Op. 53 (Julia Fischer); Beethoven, Symphony No. 6 (David Zinman-Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich)

- July 22 [starts at 6:30 PDT]: R. Strauss, Der Rosenkavalier from Glyndebourne Festival Opera — Robin Ticciati-London Philharmonic; Kate Royal (Marschallin), Tara Erraught (Octavian), Lars Woldt (Baron Ochs), Teodora Gheorghiu (Sophie)

Strauss is getting royal treatment during the Proms, with complete performances of his operas, including Elektra and Salome, the latter with big names familiar to San Francisco audiences: Donald Runnicles conducting, Nina Stemme in the title role. These and other gems further down the road will get timely notices in Music News.

Eleven Young Artists in Menlo's International Program

July 8, 2014

Cellist Yiyoung Lee is among participants in the Music@Menlo instituteMusic@Menlo’s 2014 Festival and Institute, which runs July 18-Aug. 9, includes the Chamber MusicInstitute, which provides 11 pre-professional artists, ages 18 to 29, with coaching, training, and performance opportunities. Conservatory-level pianists, violinists, violists, and cellists have been selected from top institutions, including the Juilliard School, Manhattan School of Music, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin, and Stony Brook University.

The 2014 International Program artists come from the U.S., China, South Korea, and Bulgaria. They are violinists Rebecca Anderson, Jinjoo Cho, Katharina Kang, and Suyeon Lee; violists Andrew Gonzalez and Cong Wu; cellists Jeonghyoun Christine Lee, Jiyoung Lee, and Tavi Ungerleider; and pianists Anna Petrova and Michael James Smith.

Another part of the Chamber Music Institute is the Young Performers Program for gifted musicians ages 9 to 18. Festival audiences can observe the young artists and Institute faculty members interact and exchange ideas in various settings, including master classes on the campus of Menlo School. The sessions culminate in the festival’s Prelude Performances and Koret Young Performers Concerts, which are free and open to the public.

Stockton Symphony CEO Moves to Oregon

July 8, 2014

Jane Kenworthy has resigned as executive director and CEO of the Stockton Symphony, moving to Ashland, OR, to be executive director of the Rogue Valley Symphony.

“It is with some very real sadness that I announce my resignation,” Kenworthy said in a statement. “While I am moving to Oregon to be near my youngest son, I have loved this city and this orchestra and will always be very proud of the fine things we have accomplished together.”

Kenworthy has been with the Stockton orchestra since 2008. “Jane has poured her life and soul into the Stockton Symphony ... working more diligently and assiduously on our behalf than anyone will ever know,” said Music Director Peter Jaffe.

No immediate announcement was made regarding a successor to Kenworthy.