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IN Music News THIS WEEK:
November 11, 2003

Boys Chorus Names Executive Director

Shankle Reduces 'Trade Deficit'

Berkeley Symphony Award

Netrebko: Otherwise Engaged

Suzanne Farrell Ballet Cancels Cupertino Concert

New Jersey Opera Disbanded

Opera on the Internet

Berkeley Center for World Music Anniversary

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By Janos Gereben

Napa Opera Chief to Quit

In a planned and yet surprising turn of events at the Napa Valley Opera House, executive director Michael Savage — whose three-year campaign culminated in the opening of the restored opera house as the Margrit Biever Mondavi Theater last month — is planning to leave the position soon. According to a company announcement on Monday, Savage informed the board that "having achieved many of the goals he set out to accomplish . . . he will retire from his position sometime next year." Savage, previously managing director of the San Francisco Opera, was quoted saying that "I look forward to being able to devote more time to my family and to other personal endeavors."

William Kieschnick, the Opera House board chair, quoted Savage's original three-year commitment in 2000, but local observers did not expect the director to keep to that schedule so punctually.

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Boys Chorus Names Executive Director

San Francisco Opera chorus master Ian Robertson has long been artistic director of the San Francisco Boys Chorus, and Samira Baroody its board president, but there has been no managing or executive director. This has been true since the creation of SFBC in 1948 by Madi Bacon and Gaetano Merola. Until now. Last week, the chorus got its first executive director: Patricia Kristof Moy.

A French diction coach with the San Francisco Opera and formerly the executive director of the Stern Grove Festival (for 15 years), most recently associated with the French-American International School and International High School, Kristof Moy is now chief administrator of the Boys Chorus, effective immediately.

Robertson's recent innovations for the chorus include creation of the Graduate Chorale for high school boys, who want to continue singing with the chorus, and the opening of an East Bay division. The Concert Chorus and Graduate Chorale will perform a concert as part of the Old First Concert series, on Sunday, November 23. For information, see www.sfbc.org.

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Shankle Reduces 'Trade Deficit'

With the San Francisco Opera's many imports from the Stuttgart Staatsoper — a trend made palatable by the tremendous Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk now in the War Memorial — it's only right that some export activity be going on as well. That's mostly in the person of tenor Norman Shankle, whose career started here, with an unusual double-Merola (1996-'97) and double-Adler (1998-'99) program award. Shankle is a member of the Stuttgart company, and his "sulky Giovanni" in a new production of Soler's Una cosa rara received rave reviews last week, including an acknowledgment of his "big, healthy, open tenor" in Shirley Apthorp's Financial Times review.

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Berkeley Symphony Award

The Berkeley Symphony was named one of three winners of the 2003 Bank of America Awards for Excellence in Music Education last week. Sponsored by the American Symphony Orchestra League, the award program draws applications from orchestras from across the country. This year's other recipients are the New York Philharmonic and the Tucson Symphony.

The award-winning Music Education Program in Berkeley is under the direction of associate conductor George Thomson, who is also director the Virtuoso Program at San Domenico School, head of youth programs for the Marin Symphony, music director of the Marin Symphony Youth Orchestra. The Berkeley Symphony's Education Director is Rachel Brown. This year, the Berkeley music program is working with the Rosa Parks, Emerson, John Muir, and Cragmont elementary schools. The program's fall installment comes to a close with the "Meet the Symphony" concerts on November 13 and 17, the Berkeley Symphony performing works by Copland, Bartok, Ravel and de Falla.

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Netrebko: Otherwise Engaged

San Francisco Performances officials are mild-mannered about this, but news of Anna Netrebko's second postponement of her SFP recital must stick in the craw, especially because of the weak excuse she provided in her message on Monday, just days before her concert scheduled for November 28 in Herbst Theater. The soprano, whose US career began in San Francisco in 1995, starring in the Kirov's Ruslan i Lyudmila, cancelled her recital in January because of an infected tooth she wanted treated in St. Petersburg. This time, she wrote:

"I am very, very sorry to postpone my recital . . . The events of the last six months — including the promotion of my first solo recording for Deutsche Grammophon and new and unexpected performances with my home company, the Kirov Opera — have left me unable to give a performance in November . . . It was impossible to predict or plan for the extremely busy schedule of performances and promotional activity in the past few months." Calling San Francisco her "second home," Netrebko wrote that she is looking forward to the yet again postponed recital, now scheduled for May 24, 2004.

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Suzanne Farrell Ballet Cancels Cupertino Concert

Appearance of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet in Flint Center on November 16 has been cancelled because of "very disappointing advance ticket sales." The company's November 14 and 15 debut performances in Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall are still scheduled.

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New Jersey Opera Disbanded

The board of the Opera Festival of New Jersey voted over the weekend to disband the company and cease operations after 20 innovative seasons. The company ran into financial difficulties three years ago when it expanded from three productions to four and produced two world premieres: Frank Lewin's Burning Bright and Hugo Weisgall's Six Characters in Search of an Author. Both works failed to draw an audience, and the company ended up with a deficit of $500,000. After another financially disastrous season, general director Karen Tiller left, but artistic director David Agler (a veteran of San Francisco Opera) headed a successful season last year, but the company could not handle the deficit.

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Opera on the Internet

While contemplating the aching void of opera on the area's FM stations, checkout the vast riches of Internet broadcasts, listed in amazing detail on Charles Riggs' www.operacast.com.

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Berkeley Center for World Music Anniversary

Next year, which is right around the corner, is the 30th anniversary of the American Society for Eastern Arts' Center for World Music summer program in Berkeley. A committee is being formed to plan a celebration of the event, the contact is Graeme Vanderstoel at gvanderstoel@yahoo.com.

The original program was held in the Julia Morgan-designed St. John's Presbyterian Church, where a stage was built for the event that is still in use today. The Julia Morgan Center for the Arts is participating in the anniversary observance. Back in 1974, the commingling of music, dance and puppetry, with the participation of Javanese and Balinese artists, was a departure from performing-arts events of established genres on the US Mainland. (Hawaii has always been in the vanguard of ethnomusicological exploration.)

(Janos Gereben, a regular contributor to www.sfcv.org, is arts editor of the Post Newspaper Group. His e-mail address is janos451@earthlink.net.)

©2003 Janos Gereben, all rights reserved