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September 4, 2012

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More Vivaldi for the Bay

Musicians of the Virtuoso Program Il Prete Rosso ("the Red Priest") and Venice's Ospedale della Pietà, home for abandoned children, are classical-music legends from the 18th century.

Antonio Vivaldi (1678–1741) spent many years teaching, composing for, and performing with the girls of the orphanage.

More than three decades ago, on a visit to Venice, Faith France was inspired by that famous relationship.

Back home in Marin, she created San Domenico School's Virtuoso Program and its annual "Vivaldi at San Domenico." The next event is on Oct. 21.

But this year, the San Francisco Girls Chorus is celebrating Il Prete Rosso, too, with the opening concert of its 34th season on Nov. 2 in Herbst Theatre.

San Francisco Girls ChorusConsidering that such special SFGC concerts usually fill Davies Symphony Hall, tickets will be difficult to get for Herbst, which is about one-third the size.

Led by interim music director Brandon Brack, "Vivaldi’s Venice: Music of the Italian Baroque" will feature conductor Jeffrey Thomas, soprano Jennifer Ellis Kampani, and musicians from the American Bach Orchestra.

On the program: Vivaldi’s Gloria in its original treble chorus arrangement as well as music Vivaldi wrote for the orphanage, such as Beatus Vir R. 598, along with Nicola Porpora’s De Profundis and Baldasare Galuppi’s Dixit Dominus.

The evening begins with a preconcert talk by novelist Barbara Quick, whose best-selling novel, Vivaldi’s Virgins, evokes the time and its music.

San Francisco Opera's 90th Season Opens This Week

Scene from the Dallas production of <em>Moby-Dick</em> Photo by Karen AlmondThe opening work, on Friday, of San Francisco Opera's 90th season is such a popular warhorse that General Director David Gockley has scheduled 12 performances of it.

Verdi's Rigoletto (1851), a sweeping melodrama of love and betrayal, is shown in a revival of the Michael Yeargan-designed production, led by music director Nicola Luisotti, "who makes every Verdi opera he conducts into an event," says Gockley. The opera is doublecast, featuring both notable San Francisco debuts and alumni of the Merola and Adler training programs. (With the last-minute withdrawal of David Lomelí, another Merola alumnus, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, is coming to the rescue to sing the role of the Duke.)

Željko Lucic and Marco Vratogna alternate in the title role, Aleksandra Kurzak and Albina Shagimuratova appear as Gilda. The Russian coloratura made a sensational debut here recently as Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute.

Next, Bellini's The Capulets and the Montagues (1831), in a new co-production with Munich, highlighting the bel canto vocalism of Joyce DiDonato and her fellow cast members, including debuting artists Nicole Cabell (Giulietta) and Saimir Pirgu (Tebaldo), under the baton of Riccardo Frizza.

The local premiere of San Francisco composer Jake Heggie's Moby-Dick (2010), from the classic Melville novel, comes from its Dallas world premiere, with Houston Grand Opera conductor Patrick Summers, and tenors Ben Heppner and Jay Hunter Morris alternating in the role of Captain Ahab. Gockley calls attention to the "eye-popping multimedia production by Leonard Foglia," which has received rave reviews.

A controversial production of Wagner's Lohengrin (1850) will have the medieval story "updated" by director Daniel Slater to a post-World War II Communist dictatorship. "Eurotrash it is not!," Gockley says.

Petra Lang as Ortrud and Jukka Rasilainen as Telramund in the Geneva production of <em>Lohengrin</em> Photo by Mario de Curto"The original production did not have a swan, an omission which I have corrected. Castwise we're looking forward to Brandon Jovanovich's first Grail knight, and in the pit, Luisotti's first Wagner." Camilla Nylund and Petra Lang are also featured; Robert Innes Hopkins' design has been seen in Houston and Geneva.

Puccini's beloved warhorse Tosca (1900), will be also led by Luisotti in 12 performances, with alternating casts featuring great stars in the title role: Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette. Massimo Giordano and Brian Jagde appear as Cavaradossi, Roberto Frontali and Mark Delavan sing Scarpia.

In the super-expensive world of grand opera, the company is planning a $67.1 million budget, and Gockley is cautiously optimistic about working without a deficit for the first time in three years "if there is a 90 percent of capacity paid attendance and we raise a whopping $35 million in contributions.

"Success will depend on a combination of creative cost-cutting, full-houses, increased annual contributions and a growing endowment. We are loath to make further cuts in the number and quality of productions and pray that the depressed economy will continue to rebound."

Free SFO events this month include Opera in the Park at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 9, in Golden Gate's Sharon Meadow; and Opera at the Ballpark at 8 p.m. Sept. 15.

Opera in the Park: free and easy Scheduled to appear in Golden Gate park are Nicole Cabell, Aleksandra Kurzak, Albina Shagimuratova, Kendall Gladen, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, Francesco Demuro, Saimir Pirgu, Željko Lucic, Eric Owens, and Adler Fellows Nadine Sierra, Marina Harris, Laura Krumm, Brian Jagde, Ao Li, and Joo Won Kang. Luisotti will conduct the S.F. Opera Orchestra.

The Webcor Builders presentation of the HD simulcast on the AT&T Park scoreboard from the Opera House of Rigoletto is the 10th such free event since Gockley became general director six years ago.

The summer 2013 portion of the next season will bring:

Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann, designed by Chantal Thomas and directed by Laurent Pelly, from Barcelona, with Matthew Polenzani in the title role. Natalie Dessay portrays the four heroines, and the cast includes Alice Coote and Christian Van Horn. (Nine performances, June 5-July 6)

There are three commissioned world premieres: Nolan Gasser's The Secret Garden (five performances, March 1-10); Mark Adamo's The Gospel of Mary Magdalene (seven performances, June 19-July 7); and in part of the season in 2013: Dolores Claiborne, by Tobias Picker and J.D. McClatchy, based on Stephen King's novel.

The Secret Garden is based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1910 classic, the source of stage works and films. It is produced in collaboration with Cal Performances, and will be performed in Zellerbach Hall.

Adamo's opera, to his own libretto, deals with the controversial contemporary revision of Biblical history, placing Mary among the apostles, and in an intimate relationship with Jesus. Michael Christie conducts, Kevin Newbury is director, Sasha Cooke is scheduled for the title role.

Judith Nelson Memorial Concert

A memorial concert for soprano Judith Nelson will be held Monday, Sept. 10, beginning at 7 p.m. in First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley. The program will include performances by Nelson's friends from the Bay Area and beyond. Free admission.

Ensemble Galilei Presents First Person: Seeing America

Ensemble Galilei with NPR's Neal Conan and actress Lily Knight From Native Americans to the Dust Bowl, from the sidewalks of New York to the majesty of Yosemite, a multimedia production by Ensemble Galilei brings to life the experience of First Person: Seeing America.

With narration by Bill Pullman and Lily Knight of words by Langston Hughes, Carson McCullers, Frederick Douglass, and others; photographs by Walker Evans, Paul Strand, and Alfred Stieglitz from the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the event features works by Bach, and music from Scotland and Ireland, as well as new compositions.

Presentation by the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco will take place in Kanbar Hall, 3200 California St., at 8 p.m. on Oct. 12.

Ensemble Galilei has a notable record of complex multimedia productions, most prominently, taking audiences into space through the lens of the Hubble Space Telescope (A Universe of Dreams) and on journeys of exploration and discovery with pictures from the National Geographic Image Collection (First Person: Stories from the Edge of the World).

Nagano-Dudamel Two-Step in Sweden

Kent Nagano Kent Nagano, music director of the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and of the Bayerische Staatsoper Munich (until next summer), has been named principal guest conductor and artistic advisor of the Gothenburg Symphony, Sweden's national orchestra.

The Gothenburg's principal conductor is Los Angeles Philharmonic Music Director Gustavo Dudamel, who has filled the position for the past five years. At the same time with the Nagano appointment last week, the orchestra administration said Dudamel is stepping down from that position and is assuming the role of "honorary conductor."

Nagano's tenure will be for three years, and his title indicates that he is not succeeding Dudamel. Comments The Los Angeles Times:

Conducting titles at the world's top orchestras are often convoluted and mystifying. In [this case], the newly announced leadership change is baffling even by classical standards.
Nagano, 60, previously led the Berkeley Symphony (1978-2009), Opéra de Lyon (1988–1998), Hallé Orchestra in Manchester (1992-1999), Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin (2000-2006), and Los Angeles Opera (2001-2006).

From Bach to Beatles' on the Johnson Organ

Just before its 140th anniversary, the historic Johnson pipe organ of St. John's Presbyterian Church will get a workout from organist Cyril Deaconoff in a concert of classical and popular music.

The program, called "From Bach to Beatles," includes the Largo from Dvořák's From the New World Symphony, a Widor Toccata, Saint-Saëns' The Swan, and more — all the way to Beatles tunes. The 3 p.m. concert on Sept. 16 is at 25 Lake Street (at Arguello). There is a $10 suggested donation.

Season 30 for Music at Kohl Mansion

Alexander String Quartet: at 30, they don't look a day over 29 In that stately home in Burlingame, a glorious settings for weddings and when it comes to music, the 30s are what it is all about this fall. It's the 30th season for the chamber-music series, and the honorary chair for the season is the Alexander String Quartet — which has just completed its own 30th season. What are the odds? Says ASQ's founding cellist Sandy Wilson: "The party just continues!"

* Oct. 21, Carducci String Quartet: Haydn, Debussy, Mendelssohn

* Nov. 11, Ying Quartet: Verdi, Puccini, Schubert

* Dec. 16, Aulos Ensemble: J.S. Bach,, Vivaldi, Georg Böhm, C.P.E. Bach, J.C. Bach

* Jan. 20, Trio Solisti: Beethoven, Chausson, Mussorgsky

* Feb. 10, Alexander String Quartet, with violist Toby Appel: Brahms, Britten

* March 17, Gala celebration concert, with the Manasse-Nakamatsu Piano-Clarinet Duo: Brahms, Weber, Lowell Liebermann, Poulenc, John Novacek

* April 14, Amelia Piano Trio: Dvořák, Janácek, Smetana

* May 5, Anne-Marie McDermott, piano, with the Alexander String Quartet: Mozart, Haydn, Schumann

S.F. Opera — Ah, the Good Old Days!

Thanks to some lucky scavenging by Jeff and Susan Dunn, I am in possession of the broadcast program of the San Francisco Opera's 24th season — just in time for the 90th season. Yes, it's from 1946 and it's astonishing. You too can compile the information from Kori Lockhart's SFO Archives, but looking at the booklet with all the information has a certain pre-electronic je ne sais quoi.

First of all, in just one month, from mid-September through mid-October, there were 10 operas (against this fall season's five). The works were all warhorses, nothing new or unusual, but the casts — the casts! Take a look:

* Lohengrin with Set Svanholm, Astrid Varnay, and Margaret Harshaw
* Carmen with Lily Djanel, Raoul Jobin, and Nadine Conner
* La Traviata with Licia Albanese and Jan Peerce
* Romeo and Juliet (Gounod) with Bidu Sayao, Jobin, Lorenzo Alvary, and John Brownlee
* La bohéme with Sayao, Charles Kullman, Ezio Pinza, and Salvatore Baccaloni
* La Forza del Destino with Stella Roman, Kurt Baum, Pinza, Baccaloni, and Alvary
* Der Rosenkavalier with Lotte Lehmann, Jarmila Novotna, Conner, and Alvary
* Lucia di Lammermoor with Lily Pons, Peerce, and Alvary
* Madama Butterfly with Albanese, Kullman, and Brownlee
* Rigoletto with Lawrence Tibbett, Pons, and Peerce

The company was still under the direction of the founder, Gaetano Merola (he died in 1953), and his successor-to-be, Kurt Herbert Adler, was already on staff.

Besides those two, conductors included William Steinberg, Paul Breisach, Fritz Berens, and Hermann Weigert (Varnay's husband).

A Wealth of Opera on TV and Radio

Thanks to "OperaBob" for the idea of compilation. (San Francisco Opera production where not otherwise indicated.)

San Francisco Opera on radio, San Francisco Opera on KQED-TV, PBS Great Performances from the Met:

* Sept. 8, 10 a.m., WFMT Radio NetworkHeart of a Soldier (Theofanidis): 2011 production with Thomas Hampson, William Burden, and Melody Moore; Patrick Summers conducting

* Sept. 9, noon, KQED-TV ch. 9La Traviata (Verdi) with Natalie Dessay, Matthew Polenzani, and Dmitri Hvorostovsky; Fabio Luisi conducting [repeated Sept. 10, 7 p.m. and Sept. 11, 1 a.m., KQED Life

* Sept. 10, 8 p.m., KQED PlusWagner's Dream from the Met: Susan Froemke's documentary on the making of Robert Lepage's Ring cycle [repeated Oct. 1, 9 p.m. and Oct. 2, 3 a.m., KQED Life]

* Sept. 15, 10 a.m., WFMT — Faust (Gounod): 2010 production with Patricia Racette, Stefano Secco, and John Relyea; Maurizio Benini conducting

* Sept. 16, noon, KQED 9 — Das Rheingold (Wagner): from the Met, with Wendy Bryn Harmer, Stephanie Blythe, Patricia Bardon, Richard Croft, Gerhard Siegel, Bryn Terfel, Eric Owens, Franz-Josef Selig, and Hans-Peter Konig; James Levine conducting

* Sept. 20, 8 p.m., KQED ch. 9 — Die Zauberflote (Mozart): 2007 production with Dina Kuznetsova and Piotr Beczala; Donald Runnicles conducting

Nadja Michael and Garrett Sorenson in <em>Salome</em>, televised on Sept. 27 * Sept. 22, 10 a.m., WFMT — Lucrezia Borgia (Donizetti): 2010 production with Renée Fleming, Elizabeth DeShong, Michael Fabiano, and Vitalij Kowaljow; Riccardo Frizza conducting

* Sept. 23, 11 a.m., KQED ch. 9 — Die Walküre (Wagner) from the Met, with Eva-Maria Westbroek, Deborah Voigt, Stephanie Blythe, Jonas Kaufmann, Bryn Terfel, and Hans-Peter Konig; James Levine conducting

* Sept. 27, 8 p.m., KQED ch. 9 — Salome (R.Strauss): 2009 production with Nadja Michael and Greer Grimsley; Nicola Luisotti conducting

* Sept. 29, 10 a.m. — [special recommendation] Xerxes (Handel): 2011 production with Susan Graham, Lisette Oropesa, Heidi Stober, and David Daniels; Patrick Summers conducting

* Sept. 30, 11 a.m., KQED ch. 9 — Siegfried (Wagner) from the Met, with Deborah Voigt, Patricia Bardon, Jay Hunter Morris, Gerhard Siegel, Bryn Terfel, and Eric Owens; Fabio Luisi conducting

* Oct. 7, 11 a.m., KQED ch. 9 — Götterdammerung (Wagner) from the Met, with Deborah Voigt, Wendy Bryn Harmer, Waltraud Meier, Jay Hunter Morris, Iain Paterson, Eric Owens, and Hans-Peter Konig; Fabio Luisi conducting

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