James Keolker

James Keolker is a professor of opera studies at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco and is the author of an award-winning book on Puccini and his contemporaries.

Articles by this Author

 Festival Opera  Festival Opera's Triumphant Turandot
July 11, 2009

Everything about Puccini’s opera Turandot is big: big orchestra, big voices, big chorus, enormous sets, and massive emotions. So it is daring for a company the size of Festival Opera to undertake such a giant. But no need to worry, for this is a triumphant Turandot.

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 San Francisco Opera  A Tepid <em>Tosca</em>
June 2, 2009

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca has a fabled past at San Francisco Opera, with some 34 highly successful productions in the company’s 86-year history, and starring such imperious Toscas as Renata Tebaldi, Dorothy Kirsten, Leontyne Price, and Montserrat Caballé.

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Archive REVIEW
   Puccini Perfection
November 18, 2008

Opera is a demanding art, requiring large forces dedicated to music, drama, and scenic design. And while it is often futile to expect all of these to be equally aligned, the theater gods seemed to be smiling Sunday afternoon for the current San Francisco Opera production of Puccini's La Bohème. In a word, it was perfection.

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Archive REVIEW
   Daft Tale, Deftly Told
August 5, 2008

Some things in life are perfect and should never change. For me they are the first whiff of fall, the creamy bite of chocolate cake, the zing of a great wine — and watching the Lamplighters Music Theatre perform Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado, especially as it was viewed Friday night at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek.
This is Lamplighters' 56th season, and yet I can still recall their Mikado of nearly 50 years ago when they were singing before cardboard cutouts in a storefront on McAllister Street in downtown San Francisco.

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Feature Article
December 11, 2007

In the spirit of the season, following are a select handful of DVDs, those little boxes of superior performances and visual delights. Some are new and some have stood the test of time, but all are repeatedly watchable, going on giving long after the holiday ribbons have been tossed.Beverly Sills: Made in America
(Deutsche Grammophon)

One of opera’s most popular singers, Sills had a career that was a long time in the making. As this endearing tribute shows, much of her life paralleled the evolution of popular American entertainment.

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Archive REVIEW
   A Victim of Virtue
December 4, 2007

The current San Francisco Opera production of Madama Butterfly is pure Puccini perfection. Casting, conducting, and stage design are so ideally aligned that this is one of the most satisfying productions that I have ever experienced.
Foremost is the superior interpretation of Patricia Racette. While this artist has presented the role many times, she sang it with such freshness at last Saturday's opening matinee that it felt spontaneous.

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Archive REVIEW
   A Swallow in Full Plumage
November 13, 2007

San Francisco Opera has described this as “A Season of Glamour,” and that boast was certainly fulfilled with the company's new and exuberant production of Puccini’s La Rondine. It was long overdue, the last having been in the War Memorial Opera House House in 1934, with Lucrezia Bori and Dino Borgioli in the leading roles and S.F. Opera founder Gaetano Merola conducting.

Angela Gheorghiu as Magda de Civry

All photos by Terrence McCarthy

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Feature Article
October 2, 2007

San Francisco Classical Voice has often reported on how the Bay Area’s smaller opera companies are continuing to grow and to prosper. There are now at least 22 such companies, according to a recent SFCV survey.

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Archive REVIEW
   Merolini Make It All Shine
August 21, 2007

The 50th year of the highly merited Merola Opera training program ended with a flourish of young hopefuls at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House on Saturday evening with a Grand Finale concert, assisted by members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

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Archive REVIEW
   Storming the Fortress
July 17, 2007

The current Festival del Sole in the Napa Valley took a stellar leap forward Saturday evening with both the talent it featured and the place in which that talent was showcased. The ever-impressive countertenor David Daniels, the dazzling young soprano Danielle de Niese, and the redoubtable Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra with Nicholas McGegan were the talent, while the imposing new Castello di Amorosa. a winery-cum-castle set amid the hills and vineyards of the upper Napa Valley near Calistoga, was the monumental site.

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Archive REVIEW
   A <em>Carmen</em> Without the Drama
May 8, 2007

Bizet’s Carmen is an opera seething with emotion, drama, and theatricality, but it was only in the last two acts that these potent elements were fully realized at UC Davis’ production on Sunday at the Mondavi Center, which featured principals from the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows. The first half of the work seemed more like a tenuous dress rehearsal.
Mezzo-soprano Kendall Gladen brought her voice of umber beauty and quiet dignity to the role of Carmen. Her interpretation was not the usual hip-swinging Gypsy but rather a more thoughtful, introspective one.

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