Michael Zwiebach is the senior editor/ content manager for SFCV. He assigns all articles and content, manages the writing staff and does editing. A member of SFCV from the beginning, Michael holds a Ph.D. in music history from the University of California, Berkeley.
Articles by this Author
Not many musical works present a moral/political position with the power and persuasiveness of Benjamin Britten's War Requiem. Advocating the composer's nearly lifelong commitment to pacifism, the work was given a stirring performance by the San Francisco Choral Society on Friday at Davies Symphony Hall. The large chorus shared the stage with a strong group of soloists and a well-rehearsed pick-up orchestra, as well as the Piedmont Boys and Girls Choir, all under the baton of Artistic Director Robert Geary.
Handel's Italian operas live through great singing, more so than many of their bel canto brethren. The subject matter and sensibility of their stories can seem foreign to us, and the arias are founded on emotions and metaphors that recur in every one of the operas.
Maria Billingsley's Martinez Opera has done a great deal of community outreach and educational programming over the six years of its existence. That has given her company an identity and strong local support. Ultimately, though, an opera company is valued and judged by the quality of the work it puts on the stage. And with its latest production, Madama Butterfly, seen Saturday at the Alhambra Arts Center, the company has met, even exceeded, reasonable standards for a local, regional opera company.
The present efflorescence of countertenors on the vocal scene has allowed us to see the possibilities and individual variations in the voice type. Not surprisingly, since huge opera houses like the Metropolitan increasingly offer at least one Handel opera each season, we've discovered the large, thrilling voices in this category, dominated by David Daniels.
Israeli percussionist Chen Zimbalista is a throwback to the days when “entertainer” wasn’t a pejorative term. He radiates energy onstage, tells stories, indulges in audience participation, choreographs the beginnings and endings of pieces in true showman style, mines a wide variety of musical genres from around the globe, and exemplifies the old Italian art of sprezzatura, making nearly impossible technical challenges seem easy.
Sometimes a creative artist produces a work that releases more energy and inspiration than it costs, and suggests paths to the future, as well. Mozart's Il rè pastore (The shepherd king) is a case in point. The 1775 serenata, or modestly sized serious opera, is filled with glorious music from beginning to end, particularly in the second act. It contains percursors to Mozart's penultimate opera, La clemenza di Tito (The clemency of Titus, 1791), and some of its ideas were recycled into Idomeneo (1781).
Music festivals, whether of the mini or maxi kind, invite audiences to think of music as part of an entire experience. For most of the year, we're content just to hear a concert. But the summer festival experience is also partly about location and lingering twilight. In this, American Bach Soloists holds a few cards that make its SummerFest programs irresistible, beyond the superior concerts that are the main reason for attending. The little St. Stephen's Church, nestled into a hillside near the bay in Belvedere, hosts ABS throughout its season.
You don't have to be a critical genius to figure out that Talise Trevigne, the star of San Francisco Lyric Opera's new production of Lucia di Lammermoor has a major-league voice and star quality to match. She lit a fire under Saturday's satisfying, if basic, performance at the Florence Gould Theater at the Legion of Honor. But hers was far from the only positive contribution of the evening. This is a well-tuned show, amply repaying its bargain-basement ticket price.
Chamber music, by definition, should be intimate and personal for both the musicians and the audience. And few Bay Area groups have mastered the art of intimate, welcoming entertainment like the Gold Coast Chamber Players, as they again proved on Saturday in "Magic Flute," the second of their three-concert 2007 season. Playing in the compact auditorium of the Bentley School in Lafayette, the group unwrapped a full bouquet of a program for an appreciative audience, which included, happily, a sprinkling of younger faces, all of them looking pleased to be there.