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!
In an increasingly crowded field of Bay Area choral ensembles, the three-year-old Artists' Vocal Ensemble (AVE) manages to stand out from the pack. One of its distinctions is director Jonathan Dimmock's commitment to social justice, as demonstrated by his latest concert set, a benefit for the Global AIDS Interfaith Alliance. Equally important, Dimmock assembled for this concert a roster of 13 high-caliber singers, who produced an extremely polished choral sound. His program of sacred music from masters of the late Renaissance, performed Friday at San Francisco's St.
Making her debut with Opera San José last Sunday afternoon, Khori Dastoor dominated the stage in the coloratura title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, blazing through her shrewdly conceived mad scene with theatrical abandon and scenery-chewing panache. If Dastoor joined the company to gain stage experience — the stated mission of OSJ — then her colleagues can expect to learn even more from her.
Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd is a big musical — large in passion and in production values. It originally opened in 1979 at one of Broadway's biggest theaters, in Harold Prince's hugely operatic production, and went on to be performed by opera companies as well as in theaters around the world. Come Christmas, it will be a big, expensive movie, directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp.
The San Francisco Lyric Chorus and its director, Robert Gurney, have a history of presenting programs both ambitious and unusual, so Saturday night's concert at San Francisco's Trinity Episcopal Church was unexpected only in specifics, not in quality. The 17th-century English first half might seem an unlikely pendant to the rarely performed, massive late-19th-century Mass setting following it, but both, in their fashions, were celebrations of the joy of making music.
From Oakland, drive 40 miles south on 880, that overcrowded, dangerous highway, paved like hell, and not with good intentions. Then, 10 miles north of San Jose, hang a left on Auto Mall Parkway, in search of Ohlone College. You are now in Fremont, formerly rural, now a mixed industrial-residential city of 200,000, with the largest number of expatriate Afghanistanis in the U.S. But Fremont’s latest distinction is that it is home to America's newest opera company.
Napa Valley's Music in the Vineyards summer festival draws a devoted group of enthusiasts to its 17 concerts, often held in small winery spaces. Friday's concert was no exception. Three disparate works were heard by 65 people in a barrel-aging cave at the Stag's Leap Winery on Silverado Trail.
Before departing for their big European tour, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony offered their own bon-voyage sendoff Thursday night in Davis Symphony Hall. This was a sampler that will not be offered again anywhere. While performances were a tad uneven as to quality, the orchestra offered a few major surprises, not the least of which was soprano Lise Lindstrom, whose bloodthirsty performance of Strauss' Salome wowed the house.
Swarms of new and returning students clogged the streets around UC Berkeley Thursday evening. What to do: Attend a free opera or check out frat-house receptions? Considering the state of art music in the U.S. today, you can guess where they went. Nevertheless, about a hundred or so did show up for Our American Cousin in Hertz Hall. Their reward was the sad spectacle of fine musicians and singers performing a work fatally wounded by two decisions: to present excerpts rather than the entire opera, and to accompany singers with piano only.
The 50th year of the highly merited Merola Opera training program ended with a flourish of young hopefuls at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House on Saturday evening with a Grand Finale concert, assisted by members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. As a result, there was stardust in the eyes of many, and in the voices of a few.
Napa Valley's "Music in the Vineyards," now in its 13th season, produced an exciting and eclectic concert on Saturday afternoon in the small hall at the posh Silverado Cellars. Featuring mostly arcane but provocative repertoire, the event, titled "Carmen and Friends," was French to the core, though leagues removed from familiar Saint-Saëns, Ravel, and Debussy.