Among my umpteen Merola Program closing concerts — all memorable in various ways — Saturday’s was one of the most enjoyable. Programmed, directed, and performed with care and effectiveness, this was what opera doesn’t always manage to be: delightful entertainment.
Once upon a time, six long years ago, there was a little opera company in Berkeley tackling a huge project, called the Legend of the Ring, making waves far and wide. And now, on Saturday, here was a little company again, taking up the same challenge: David Seaman’s condensation of Richard Wagner’s four-opera, 15-hour Der Ring des Nibelungen cycle into a four-hour evening.
Although he has never left, former San Francisco Symphony Concertmaster Stuart Canin is now officially back here, for good. Since 1969, he has been back and forth between San Francisco, Los Angeles, and music festivals around the world.
When Eleazar Rodriguez sang Fenton's aria from Nicolai's The Merry Wives of Windsor Friday in Herbst Theatre, I experienced a multiple déjà vu. This was the opening concert of the Merola Program Class of 2010, but I was back at a similar occasion 12 years ago, listening to Charles Castronovo for the first time.
When Sir Charles Mackerras died last week, at age 84, there was an international outpouring of sorrow from Sydney to Edinburgh to Prague to San Francisco. He was one of the most respected and beloved conductors in the world.
Charles Amirkhanian's brave and excellent Other Minds organization is making plans for an exciting new season — adjectives supplied by This Column, rather than the press release, which has only "tremendously interesting" in describing Dane Rudhyar.
"It is not an easy task to choose an opera to follow Berg's Wozzeck," muses Nicole Paiement, whose Ensemble Parallèle is doing more for contemporary opera than any other organization in the area, no matter the size.
There are recitals, there are great recitals, and then there’s Yuja Wang. In an extraordinary scene Sunday in Herbst Theatre, after hearing her play the audience appeared both exhausted and elated. My hands hurt not merely from applauding, but also from an apparent case of couvade syndrome (men’s sympathy pain at childbirth) on listening to two hours of devilishly difficult Scriabin and Prokofiev played with ease and astonishing clarity.
Kurt Rohde, winner of the prestigious Rome Prize, and also the violist/founder of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, will soon have the world premiere of his Concertino in the Bay Area. And two other San Francisco musicians have been benefitting from artistic residence in Rome. While Rohde's Rome Prize stay recently concluded, San Francisco–raised composer Lisa Bielawa, is a current Rome Prize winner; and ODC Dance Company founder/artistic director/choreographer Brenda Way was a Resident in the Arts, and served as a senior advisor to the Rome Prize winners, including Rohde.
There is news from the Berkeley Symphony's pioneering and treasured "Under Construction" program, the presentation of new works by young composers in an open-rehearsal setting at low prices ($10-$20).
Composers named for the next season are Mark Ackerley and David Coll, in addition to a 14-year-old "participant," Joe (Shuo-Chun) Lin. Concert dates are Jan. 16 and March 13, in St. John's Presbyterian Church in Berkeley.