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
August 11, 2009

There’s a lot of life left in the old Ring myth, made abundantly apparent Sunday and Monday in the opening of Seattle Opera’s current rerunning of Wagner’s tetralogy. With Stephen Wadsworth’s imaginative direction, the first two operas, Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, were wholly engaging, his fresh interpretation showing how little need there is to transport the story into different times, cultures, or modern places, to try to make obvious strained metaphors of class or economic conflict or whatever.

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Opera Review
August 9, 2009

The extra excitement of Merola Opera’s performance of Mozart’s Così fan tutte could be felt on both sides of the metaphorical footlights. As the house lights dimmed on Sunday at the outset of the production in Fort Mason’s intimate Cowell Theatre, you could almost hear the anticipatory questions in people’s minds: Were they about to witness one or more major stars in the making?

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Opera Review
July 24, 2009

L’amico Fritz is one of opera’s neglected gems. As the follow-up to his hugely acclaimed Cavalleria rusticana, Pietro Mascagni’s 1891 commedia lirica never quite achieved the popularity of its predecessor. These days, with arts funding at a new low, productions of it are as rare as hen’s teeth. Yet the Merola Opera Program’s revival, presented over the weekend at the Fort Mason Center’s Cowell Theater, suggested that Fritz is well worth revisiting.

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Opera Review
July 17, 2009

Levelheaded dedication flashed on Friday evening at the San Francisco Conservatory’s concert hall, as conductor George Cleve opened this season’s Midsummer Mozart Festival with a display of brilliance. If anything, it all went to prove how much variety Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart produced in his all-too-short lifetime.

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Opera Review
July 11, 2009

Everything about Puccini’s opera Turandot is big: big orchestra, big voices, big chorus, enormous sets, and massive emotions. So it is daring for a company the size of Festival Opera to undertake such a giant. But no need to worry, for this is a triumphant Turandot.

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Opera Review
July 10, 2009

Although Friday was July 10, the evening presented a Lucky 13 at Herbst Theatre as exactly one-third of the San Francisco Opera Merola Program's 39 participants made their debut here.

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Opera Review
June 29, 2009

What a difference a change of principals can make. Instead of the overhyped Anna Netrebko, who, as Violetta in the first five performances of San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi’s La traviata, simplified her coloratura, shunned the much-anticipated E-flat at the end of a hardly free “Sempre libera” (Forever free), and mostly scratched the surface of her role, we now have the alive-in-the-moment soprano of Elizabeth Futral.

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Opera Review
June 13, 2009

The San Francisco Opera’s new Traviata is a dazzling affair.

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Opera Review
June 9, 2009

It's a long way from Catfish Row to Walhalla, but my money is on Eric Owens traversing the distance.

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Opera Review
June 2, 2009

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca has a fabled past at San Francisco Opera, with some 34 highly successful productions in the company’s 86-year history, and starring such imperious Toscas as Renata Tebaldi, Dorothy Kirsten, Leontyne Price, and Montserrat Caballé. Their vocally romantic lovers were sung by such leading lights as Jussi Bjoerling, Placido Domingo, or Luciano Pavarotti, while the likes of Tito Gobbi, Ingvar Wixell, and James Morris strode the stage as their fierce nemesis, Baron Scarpia. 

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