Mezzo-soprano Kathryn Miller holds degrees in singing from London's Royal Academy of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
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Audience favorite Carmina Burana, arranged for choir, two pianos, and percussion by Wilhelm Kilmayer, earned a Grammy for the San Francisco Symphony in 1993. This time, it will feature soloists Chester Pidduck, Brian Leerhuber, and Ji Young Yang (described by San Francisco Classical Voice as having a “bright and stunningly agile” voice), as well as the Lower School Choir of Berkeley’s Crowden School.
While Carmina Burana will lure audiences, the works of the four lesser-known composers will be arguably more interesting. Joseph Rheinberger, born in Lichtenstein, wrote at the end of the 19th century, and is known primarily as an organist and composer of organ music. His Drei Geistliche Gesänge brings to mind the motets of Rheinberger’s contemporary Anton Bruckner in their densely romantic style.
The selections by Eric Whitacre (I thank you, God) and Lars-Johan Werle (trees) are both settings of e.e. cummings poems. Werle uses short, percussive phrases reminiscent of the quirky poet. I Thank You, God, on the other hand, is tuneful and sweeping. The Symphony Chorus will surely make great use of Whitacre’s soaring phrases and gestures.
Known for his large-scale choral works, Veljo Tormis often draws inspiration from Estonian folk traditions. Rather than simply setting folk tunes for chorus, however, the inspiration is more likely to come from a small phrase or gesture in a song, or even a textual reference. His extended 1972 work A Curse Upon Iron uses voices in a very orchestral manner, with speechlike phrases emerging from the thick texture. The work uses influences from shamanistic tradition to comment on what he called the “evil of war.”More »
Mozart’s Idomeneo tells a tale of love, sacrifice, shipwreck, and war. Add to that a gorgeous score, stunning costumes, and good singing, and you should have all of the ingredients of a successful opera. The opening night of San Francisco Opera’s production, on Wednesday, however, was less than satisfying.
The Midsummer Mozart Festival's first foray into opera, a production of The Abduction from the Seraglio at San Jose's California Theater, was highly successful in most respects. The singers ranged from capable to excellent, with one standout. The orchestra, under George Cleve, was in fine form, and the production, though billed as semistaged, was brilliantly directed and full of comic verve. The only big mistake came on the administrative/ managerial end.
There are always questions when small opera companies take on large works. Will a pared-down ensemble achieve the same effects of a full orchestra? Will the singers manage roles written for bigger voices? Will it work? In Berkeley Opera’s case, the answer to these questions is usually a resounding yes. Saturday night’s performance of Puccini’s Tosca, the final opera in Berkeley’s season, proved to be no exception. It runs through July 20 at the Julia Morgan Theater in Berkeley.
Sometimes, a story is so universal that it can be updated without affecting the integrity of the drama. San Francisco Opera’s deeply problematic production of Verdi’s Macbeth, which debuted last Wednesday, proved to be one of the exceptions. Shakespeare’s tale of greed and ambition leading to ruin can stand up to changes of setting and time, but David Pountney’s staging, directed here by Nicola Raab, left the opening-night audience troubled and confused.
The world of music has several types of 22-year-old composers — brash, confident ones; shy, talented ones; and painfully insecure ones who look to the past and worry that they were born several generations too late.
Last Thursday, the Carmel Bach Festival presented works by each of these types. The program, made up of pieces composed in 1707 by composers who were 22 during that year, highlighted not only the shifting trends in music at the time but also the personalities of the composers themselves.
It is fitting that San Francisco Opera's new production of Iphigénie en Tauride (Iphigenia in Tauris) feels extremely contemporary. Indeed, Gluck's work, which premiered in 1779, would have sounded revolutionary in its time. Christoph Willibald Gluck set out to reform opera, starting in 1762 with Orfeo ed Euridice, in order to strip it of all the complexities and decorations that he felt were unnecessary.
An ensemble as well-established and famous as Chanticleer is likely to inspire imitators. Its sound, which was once unique, has spawned countless men's a cappella choral groups around the country. Friday evening's Clerestory concert, however, proved that this group is not an imitator of the Chanticleer style but rather a champion of it. The depth and beauty of Clerestory's final presentation of its inaugural season established the group as one to watch in years to come.
Early-music enthusiasts have been known to say that it's not the size of the voice that counts, but rather the interesting things that it can do. The adage was bolstered by Magnificat's presentation of motets by Chiara Cozzolani on Saturday evening at St. Mark's Church in Berkeley. Encouraged by Music Director Warren Stewart, each of the singers brought individuality, drama, and commitment to the challenging program, and the eight women invested the difficult repertoire with color and nuance.
Pocket Opera's concert-version of Handel's Flavio, presented on Saturday at the Florence Gould Theater in the Legion of Honor, combined humor, drama, and musicianship, all signatures of Donald Pippin's company. The occasional uneven moments didn't significantly hamper the enjoyable performance.
When you think of imagery and text painting in Baroque music, you are likely to think first of the era’s early Italian composers and the madrigal tradition. The American Bach Soloists, however, remind us that despite his reputation as a composer of highly technical and complex music, J.S. Bach also turned out incredibly vivid and colorful works.