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Michael Zwiebach

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

Archive Review
August 5, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
June 17, 2008

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.

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Feature Article
May 27, 2008

Every year, as May turns to June, arts communities recognize the rites of summer with festival concert series. In common with people around the globe, the good burghers of the Bay Area don sunhats and pack picnic baskets as if we were the inhabitants of Richard Wagner’s Nuremburg, descending into the meadow beyond the town walls to celebrate art with the mastersingers.

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Archive Review
May 13, 2008

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.

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Archive Review
April 22, 2008

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.

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Kids & Families Feature
April 1, 2008

When András Schiff comes to San Francisco Performances to present another pair of concerts in his traversal of Beethoven’s complete piano sonatas, he'll be in good company. Sooner or later, pianists are drawn to the mountain and they have to climb it, some more than once.

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Archive Review
April 1, 2008

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.

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Feature Article
February 12, 2008

What would happen if you took the “postmodern” project to its logical conclusion and eradicated the theoretical, conceptual, and practical boundaries between large genres of music like, say, classical, jazz, popular, sound experiments, and electronic composition? That’s a major proposition that drives the leading edge, or bleeding edge (to use a technology term) of contemporary music.

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Archive Review
January 29, 2008

It’s always worth braving the elements to hear Verdi’s Requiem Mass, a score that is equally elemental and multifaceted. The work’s accessibility and its many emotional moods brings out the best in any chorus and orchestra.

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Feature Article
January 8, 2008

As we begin the new year, San Francisco Classical Voice takes a look back at the performances of 2007 that some of our reviewers most enjoyed. As with any such list, the choices are entirely subjective. Each of these critics attended a large number of performances in their areas of specialization throughout the year, and so was able to choose from a broad range of music (in some cases, listing events they attended but that another SFCV critic reviewed).

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Feature Article
December 4, 2007

In the Western musical tradition, December is the time for the “holiday concert,” full of impressive, noisy praise, the sing-along Messiah, and dozens of choral offerings featuring carols and the more generic “holiday music.” Nowhere in the generalized musical prescription that fuels our annual shopping and eating binge does it say “gentle, 17th-century, Lutheran, devotional work.”
Sure, the Bay Area has recently seen a couple of performances of Marc-Antoine Charpentier's Christmas Mass and other substantial fare, but few organizations, with the notable exception

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Feature Article
October 9, 2007

Oakland Opera Theater is one of those refreshing arts organizations that thrives on risk-taking. Not content to restrict its repertory to 20th-century and contemporary works (an idea that would give most managers nightmares), the company brings a distinctive approach to productions both old and new.

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Archive Review
September 25, 2007

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).

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Feature Article
August 21, 2007

You have to be a bit of a high-stakes gambler to be an opera composer. You spend a long time, probably several years at least, carefully putting together a project, writing and revising it, and seeing it through to performance (assuming it's been accepted for production). And then, even if the first audiences applaud it — not necessarily a given — its future is uncertain.And the same thing is true for an opera company. Commission a work, and win the prestige of having performed it. But
later see it disappear into the ether, along with money, sets, and costumes.

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Feature Article
August 14, 2007

You have to be a bit of a high-stakes gambler to be an opera composer. You spend a long time, probably several years at least, carefully putting together a project, writing and revising it, and seeing it through to performance (assuming it's been accepted for production). And then, even if the first audiences applaud it — not necessarily a given — its future is uncertain.And the same thing is true for an opera company. Commission a work, and win the prestige of having performed it. But
later see it disappear into the ether, along with money, sets, and costumes.

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Archive Review
July 10, 2007

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.

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Feature Article
June 12, 2007

It's an ironic fact that these days, Handel's operas are being triumphantly presented around the world, while Christoph Gluck's are mostly ignored. Handel, for all his musical glories, was old-school opera seria — castrato singers in the primary roles, convoluted plots and subplots, and stand-and-deliver arias, one after another. Gluck, on the other hand, was the primary ignition switch on modern operatic ideology.

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Feature Article
June 5, 2007

It's an ironic fact that these days, Handel's operas are being triumphantly presented around the world, while Christoph Gluck's are mostly ignored. Handel, for all his musical glories, was old-school opera seria — castrato singers in the primary roles, convoluted plots and subplots, and stand-and-deliver arias, one after another. Gluck, on the other hand, was the primary ignition switch on modern operatic ideology. He streamlined plots, eliminated extraneous characters, and valued brisk staging and smart acting.

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Archive Review
May 29, 2007

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.

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Archive Review
May 15, 2007

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.

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