Articles by this Author
On Sunday, at Alek Shrader's Schwabacher Debut Recital in Temple Emanu-El, presented by the San Francisco Opera, I was wondering about the tenor's response if Barbara Walters should ask him what kind of tree he would be. Not knowing the answer, I came up with a question to which the answer is obvious. What kind of drinking glass would Shrader be? Tall, clear, gracefully simple, and full. This is a transparent tenor, an extraordinarily ordinary singer — "ordinary" in the sense of plain, simple, unadorned, straightforward. Would that there were more like him!
My first encounter with the piano came from a Tom and Jerry cartoon, where Tom plays Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2. I had no idea what it was, but it made me want to play the piano.
Lang Lang was 2 years old when that historic event occurred. A few months later, he started playing the piano, at age 5 he won his first contest ... and the rest is history.
Mahler's 1910 Eighth Symphony, called by some (but surely not by high-minded musicologists) "Symphony of a Thousand," is among the most massive works in all of music. It requires eight heavy-duty soloists and, in the current San Francisco Symphony production, it uses three choruses of some 250 singers, and two orchestras, totaling more than 100 instrumentalists.
Donizetti's most effervescent music, a simple and heartwarming story, melodies galore — The Elixir of Love is a virtually foolproof opera. Small companies, even schools produce it successfully, and even in a big house, you can't really fault a "prudent" approach to casting young singers, not-quite-stars, and such. The work will take care of itself.
Not all Russians are alike. Modest Mussorgsky wrote big, earthshaking operas. Anton Chekhov created gloriously subtle, understated plays.
Attributed to Mussorgsky, the version of Boris Godunov that San Francisco Opera presents in its new production of the work ends suddenly, quietly, Chekhovlike, sending the audience out into the street in a state of puzzlement, thinking: "Is it really over? What was that?!"