Jason Victor Serinus
Jason Victor Serinus regularly reviews music and audio for Stereophile, SFCV, Classical Voice North America, AudioStream, American Record Guide, and other publications. The whistling voice of Woodstock in She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, the longtime Oakland resident now resides in Port Townsend, Washington.
Articles by this Author
If every piece of architecture had its own inherent sound, the church of Mission San Juan Bautista would be heard for miles. The relatively high-ceilinged structure (long and narrow, made of wood and plaster, and primitively painted), whose interior was completed in 1817, creates a resounding acoustic like none other I've experienced.
If thoughts of nonprofessional community choruses make you cringe, rest assured: The San Francisco Choral Society is something else. This 200-person chorus, in which people pay for the opportunity to sing in such venues as this concert's Davies Symphony Hall, may not perform on the exalted level of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, but it is nonetheless capable of making beautiful music.
You'd think that nothing could steal the thunder from the likes of Frederica von Stade, Sir James and Lady Jeanne Galway, and the Russian National Orchestra. But Friday the 13th brought a decidedly unmusical close to Festival del Sole's opening night in Napa. That the potential fiasco was handled with copious amounts of charm and grace shone a much-deserved light on the evening's unjustifiably shadowed conductor, Stéphane Denève.
Hundreds of thousands, millions, perhaps billions of people around the globe, had just taken the seven-point Live Earth Pledge to do their part to avert global warming. But in Walnut Creek on Saturday night, at the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts, it was business as usual. With not a single recycling bin in sight, the only recycling effort was onstage, where Festival Opera opened its 2007 season with the perpetually popular Carmen.
In what could be considered a case of premature delivery, Oakland Opera Theater attempted a first last week. Although the diminutive company has garnered an enviable reputation for staging intriguing multimedia productions of original or rarely performed contemporary works in the too-funky-for-comfort Oakland Metro Opera House, it has never before, to my knowledge, produced a short evening consisting entirely of snippets from works in progress.
Chamber Music San Francisco's director, Daniel Levenstein, seems to favor loud Slavs. Soon after an eardrum-shattering recital by pianist Nikolai Demidenko, in which he pounded out Bach and Schumann with the same force that Samson used to topple the temple, we get powerhouse tenor Vladimir Kuzmenko. The Ukraine-born singer, who joined the Kiev Opera as principal tenor on graduation from the Kiev Conservatory, has since been feted as "Leading Artist of the Ukraine" and principal tenor of the Warsaw National Opera, and has sung in a number of notable houses.
Tchaikovsky's The Queen of Spades (Pikovaya Dama) delivers a decidedly mixed bag: a lush, gushingly romantic score, rich with gorgeous, often-sprawling arias and ensembles, married to a tryingly melodramatic and barely credible tale of love and obsession.
It was a special afternoon, delivering more musical delights, revelations, and unadulterated joy than you might expect from the recital format. Why such an unusual event that united two of today's most talked-about composers — men whose versatility successfully bridges the gap between opera and modern musical theater, and who ably accompanied the likes of Frederica von Stade and a cast of younger, highly gifted artists — was not attended by more people is a puzzlement better addressed by the I Ching than yours truly.
With the announcement that 2008 will mark the farewell of the Beaux Arts Trio, its every remaining performance is precious. Cofounded in 1955 by pianist Menahem Pressler, who remains with the group (in his 84th year), the Beaux Arts Trio has, for many of us, served as a model of great piano trio interpretation.
Measha Brueggergosman is a trip. A statuesque soprano with a larger than life personality, her eye-catching hair, nose ring, huge smile, and propensity to perform barefoot toy with us as if to say, "Here I am, boys and girls. Accept me on my own terms or be on your way."