Classical Music Reviews

Every week, our professional critics attend concerts throughout the Bay Area to let you know what went well...and occasionally what didn't. Let their insights enrich your musical experiences, and feel free to share your own views!


Opera Review
November 8, 2009

Giuseppe Verdi’s Otello is the final production of San Francisco Opera’s fall season. The opera might be more commonly performed, but it makes strenuous vocal demands on the protagonist and it's difficult to find singers who have mastered the role. Fortunately, Johan Botha, a South African dramatic tenor, is more than up to the job. He brings a strikingly powerful voice and notably easy vocalism to the task.

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Opera Review
October 18, 2009

“The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death,” sings Salome, the eponymous central character in Richard Strauss’ 1905 opera.

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Opera Review
October 16, 2009

Giacomo Puccini often chose settings that brought opera up close and personal, and he thus worked vital changes on the form and made it ready for the 20th century.

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Opera Review
October 14, 2009

The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Régiment) by Gaetano Donizetti is about singing as a direct route to the hearts both of characters and audiences. The opera’s apparent naiveté and, at times, blatant absurdity belie its perfection. In it the mature master composer of some 52 prior operas hides his own virtuosity in order allow his singers to reveal truth of feeling.

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Opera Review
September 26, 2009

It’s easy to understand why Cal Performances scheduled four preconcert educational events in association with the two-performance U.S. premiere of Evan Ziporyn’s new opera, A House in Bali, at UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall. There’s little that’s literal about the work.

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Opera Review
September 23, 2009

Grand and glorious as Mozart's 1782 Die Entführung aus dem Seraglio (The Abduction from the Seraglio) is, it's not a through-composed, sung-only "grand opera." Now onstage at the San Francisco Opera, in a new coproduction with Chicago's Lyric Opera, "Abduction" is an early forerunner of the Broadway musical, a "singspiel" with a great deal of spoken dialogue.

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Opera Review
September 15, 2009

In a long-gone era of baseball, before they needed four days of rest between starts, pitchers routinely worked both games of a doubleheader. Soprano Patricia Racette goes them one better in San Francisco Opera’s Il trittico, by playing substantial roles in all three outings of this 1918 Puccini triple-header of one-act operas.

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Opera Review
September 11, 2009

It’s a curious fact about Il trovatore, Verdi’s "magnificent demonstration of unprincipled melodrama," as Joseph Kerman called it, that this 1853 potboiler contains so much dramatically still water. No sooner does the curtain rise than a captain launches into a lengthy, action-stalling account of events that happened years before. And that’s not the only instance of extended exposition in Salvatore Cammarano’s creaky libretto, based on the Antonio Garcia Gutierrez play.

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Opera Review
September 8, 2009

Those of us who saw San Francisco Opera’s production of Puccini’s La Rondine in fall 2007 may think that we know the opera. We don’t. SFO’s Nicolas Joël production, which was reprised at the Metropolitan last season and simultaneously shown in hi-def in many theaters around the world, is not the final word on Puccini’s Johnny-come-lately masterpiece. For that we must turn to the scholarship of Marta Domingo, and Decca’s newly released DVD of her radically revised version of La Rondine for Washington National Opera.

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Opera Review
August 22, 2009

For those of us who love opera, the Merola Grand Finale is like a decisive first date. Some singers who parade their stuff before us may have the looks, the glamour, the ease, and the savoir faire for an enjoyable outing.

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