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Loney's Show Notes
By Glenn Loney, July 2011.
About Glenn Loney
Caricature of Glenn Loney by Sam Norkin.
PASSING GLANCES AT SCENES SEEN:
•Wagner's RING West of the Rockies: Leland Stanford as Wotan?
•SF Symphony Almost 100: Tilson Thomas, Yuja Wang, & Swan Lake!
•Double Bill at UC/Berkeley's Zellerbach: Afghan Music & Dawsn Upshaw in Crumb's Winds
•ACT SF Premieres Musical Version of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City…
•Piper's Opera House in Virginia City: More Preservation Needed Now!
SAN FRANCISCO SUMMIT SUMMARY:a
If you could not get Press Tickets to the Met's new--but only half completed--Robert Lepage RING, the San Farancisco Opera was more than happy to oblige with a stunningly imaginative Complete American RING, staged by Francesca Zambello.
There were three Cycles of this astonishing new production presented early this summer: all with American Style Supertitles.
Your Reporter's good fortune was to have been able to savor the First Cycle, followed by a fascinating discussion with Zambello, Sieglinde, & Wotan on how the American Vision of Wagner's Norse Opera was developed.
Every year, the Music Critics of North America convene in a Major American--or Canadian--City noted for its Music Culture. Some seasons ago, they had all gone off to Toronto for its new RING.
This summer was San Francisco's turn.
On offer also was a Concert in neighboring Davies Hall, with the San Francisco Symphony, now approaching its Centenary.
Then it was across the Bay to UC/Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall, where Cal Performances was presenting Peter Sellars' Version of Ojai North!, with Soprano Dawn Upshaw in Combat Fatigues for George Crumb's Winds of Destiny.
There were also the Obligatory Panels, which justify the Concept of an Annual Professional Conference.
How about Navigating the Future: Technology, Education, & the New Orchestra Experience?
Given the Slow or Sudden Deaths of Print Outlets for Music Reviews, much more to the point for Blog Eager Music Savants was Music Criticism Meets New Media.
Not part of the Official Program was the World Premiere of the American Conservatory Theatre's Tales of the City, based on the True to Life fables of Armistead Maupin, which just might make it to Broadway! Gays galore…
What was truly daunting for Your Multi Arts Reporter, however, was the fact that the American Theatre Critics Association was having its Annual Conference a month later, across the border at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland.
There was No Point in flying back to New York City--only to fly West again in three weeks--especially as I now seem to be the Designated Taliban Suspect for our Ever Vigilant Airport Security Experts…
So my Web Editor Scott Bennett & I filled the Days Between with Excursions to such Historic California Sites as Grass Valley & Nevada City--where I grew up--inspecting the Industrial Remains of one of the Richest Gold Mines in the World: The Fabulous Empire Mine!
But Theatre was not neglected. At the Historic Nevada Theater, in Nevada City--where once the great 19th Century Nevada County Soprano, Emma Nevada, performed--The Full Monty was playing to Full Houses.
On a day's Outing to Piper's Opera House, in Virginia City, Nevada, where once the fabled Broadway Producer/Playwright David Belasco was in the Repertory Company--barely escaping being Hanged as a Horse Thief!--we saw how the Preservation Efforts of John Piper's grand daughter, the late Louise Driggs, were sadly sagging.
This also saddened me, not only as an Ardent Preservationist & Archivist, but also because I had worked with Louise years ago to save Pipers…
Back in Grass Valley, I went to the Historic Penn Valley Cemetery to visit the gravesite of my beloved Aunt Kathryn Loney, President Lyndon Baines Johnson's beloved First School teacher, Miss Kate!
Later, at the Historic Loney Family Cemetery--on the McCourtney Road, below Grass Valley--inspecting the somewhat overgrown graves of the Loneys, Aldermans, & Sanfords, I suddenly realized that all my Loney Cousins had died.
Alas, I am the Last of the Loneys.
Not quite the same as The Last of the Mohicans, but still…
At least, I'm the Last of the Loney Descendants of Thomas Loney, who came to Grass Valley from Ireland in 1850, later working as an Amalgamator for the North Star Mine, with the Empire, one of the Richest Gold Mines in the World…
The Dance Critics of America are meeting in Seattle in August, but I cannot stay around the Far West for that Conference. I have to be in Bayreuth, Bregenz, Munich, & Salzburg for their respective Festivals…
SHOW NOTES OVERVIEW:
When Richard Wagner was almost in despair of finding a welcoming home city for his long envisioned Wagner Festival, featuring his complete RING, he thought of America as a distinct possibility.
The Handsome Fee he had received for composing the Centennial March for the great 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia encouraged him to believe that the Munificence of American Opera Patrons--many of whom were already Wagner Fans--could make his Dream a Reality.
Wagner even imagined his magnificent RING staged in the Majesty of the Rocky Mountains!
When I first read Wagner's thoughts on this Projected Venue, I was astonished.
What if--instead of Bayreuth--the Wagner Festival had begun in Mile High Denver?
In America's Gilded Age, there were a number of Robber Barons who have could funded Wagner productions.
But who would want his Patronage wasted Way out West?
No! No! We needed to see Wagner in Manhattan, at the Academy of Music on 14th Street!
Nearly a century later, when I talked to the late Wieland Wagner--the Master's grandson--I asked him what he thought of his Grandfather's American Fantasy.
Wieland agreed with Grandfather Richard's Vision: The Majesty of the RING would easily match the Majesty of the Mountains…
Francesca Zambello--who has newly staged the RING for the San Francisco Opera--had the same idea, when she was standing in the Red Rocks Amphitheatre outside Denver.
As she so suggestively notes in the huge & handsome Program for the SFO RING:
In the summer of 1981, I climbed to the top of Red Rocks, a vast outdoor arena for Rock Concerts, at the foot of the Rockies near Denver, where Gods & Goddesses seem just out of sight.
Space seems immeasurable in a place like that, & Time seems to slow down, as if awaiting an appearance from the Earth Goddess Erda…
It was very evocative of how I thought the RING could start, & I began to see an American Parallel to the story.
As Production Concepts evolved, the 1849 Gold Rush in California--with the later development of Hard Rock Gold Mining, Hydraulic Mining, & Gold Dredging of Rivers & Streams in the Mother Lode of the High Sierras--it must have seemed absolutely Right for the Gold Mad Dwarf Alberich to be seeking to seize the Golden Treasure of the Rhine Maidens from the depths of the Sacramento or the Yuba or the American River!
Thanks to the Riches coming down to San Francisco from the Sierras, the Frontier City of San Francisco was rapidly building itself into the Major Metropolis on the West Coast. In fact, the Only Big City on the California Coast…
Think of Wotan, Father of the Gods, building Valhalla on Nob Hill… Or, perhaps, Valhalla as Coit Tower?
When I talked with some of the Talents associated with this fabulous production, I suggested that Wotan might actually be Governor Leland Stanford, one of the "Big Four," who built the Transcontinental Railroad across the Nation. Driving the fabled Golden Spike at Promontory, Utah, in 1869…
The Golden Spike! Could that be seen as a Metaphor for the Hero Siegfried's Magical Sword, Nothung?
How about Wotan's angry & imperious Family Values Defending Wife, Fricka, as the redoubtable Patroness of UC/Berkeley, Phoebe Apperson Hearst?
But, as Zambello's RING unfolds, it's clear that its Power & Imagery evoke much more of America than merely the boisterous, roisterous Golden West of the 1850s & the Cut Throat Robber Barons of the Gilded Age.
Think of the Fabulous Comstock Lode in Virginia City: Digging Dragon Fafner out of his Cave to get at the Unimaginable Riches hidden within!
Even the Tom boyish Brünnhilde might well be seen as a Nordic Girl of the Golden West…
Valhalla--or the San Francisco Palace Hotel--Under Construction…
Thanks to Modernizing Trends at Wagner's own Bayreuth Festival, it is no longer a Novelty to see such Construction Firms as the Toll Brothers--current Sponsors of the Met Opera Broadcasts--using great cranes to hoist steel beams into place for a High Rise Valhalla.
So I was less than inspired when the San Francisco Opera's Gold Curtain rose on this scene.
Nonetheless, I was initially fascinated by the roiling, boiling billows of White Clouds that seemed to fill the stage, almost in 3 D.
Much of the Visual Impact of this RING is owing to the ingenious use of Video Projections, created by Jan Hartley. In the framework of Michael Yeargan's often unusual Stage Environments…
When the foaming Clouds parted, to reveal the swirling waters of the River Rhine, I thought: That's not the Rhine Wagner knew…
The woman sitting next to me agreed: "That doesn't look anything like the Rhine. What is it?"
She had come all the way from Wagnerian Bayreuth to check out this soon to be Legendary RING.
Someone backstage told me it was the American River…
But when we in the audience were given a Video Stroll through some Festering Forest, I thought it looked like Muir Woods on a really Bad Day. Well, yes, said someone: That is Muir Woods…
Seeing Gordon Hawkins--as the Niebelung Alberich--mucking about in the depths of the American or the Sacramento River reminded me of my own Father frantically Panning & Sluicing for Gold Nuggets & Flakes in the Yuba River decades ago…
But Dad didn't have to contend with the Erotic Taunting & Tempting of the Trio of Water Nixies, Guardians of the Sacred River Gold.
As personified by Stacey Tappan, Lauren McNeese, & Renée Tatum, they seemed especially Naughty Nixies, as they obviously had No Intention of gratifying the Hot & Bothered Large Sized Dwarf's Seething Passions.
Mark Delevan made an initially imposing Wotan--though a bit strained--but his increasing Frustration as he realized he didn't have enough Cash on Hand to pay the Giants, Fafner & Fasolt [Daniel Sumegi & Andrea Silvestrelli], could even be enhanced in future productions if Loge, the Trickster God of Fire [the ironically amusing Stefan Margita], appears in the Character of the Mortgage Man from Wells Fargo or The Bank of America!
Considering that both these Too Big To Fail Banking Behemoths are now Sponsoring the Performing Arts in San Francisco, you could be pardoned for imagining their Initial Giant Pitch to Wotan about the Construction of Valhalla:
"No Money Down! Easy Mortgage Terms!
"But don't worry about the Balloon Payments when the job is done: we'll take Stanford University & Phoebe Apperson Hearst as Collateral…"
It was good to see Brandon Jovanovich as Froh--also later & more impressively as Siegmund--for his talents first came to my attention when he was an outstanding Student Opera Stalwart at the Manhattan School of Music.
[Not long after that, he made his debut at the Bregenz Festival in a Tosca production that was later recycled for a Daniel Craig/James Bond film.]
One Zambello Innovation that piqued my curiosity was the budding Love Affair between Fasolt & Freia [Melissa Citro], Fricka's sister, who provides the Gods with the Golden Apples that keep them young.
She is initially dragged off by the two Builder Riesen, as a Hostage, until Wotan can raise some Funds to pay for Valhalla. Not exactly a Toll Bros. or a Del Webb Project…
This he manages by descending with Loge into Niebelheim--it could be the Empire Mine in Grass Valley, staffed with tiny clamoring reddish Dwarves, instead of Cornish Tin Miners--& tricking Alberich out of the Tarnhelm & the Golden Ring made by his sneaky, jealous Dwarf Brother, Mime [David Cangelosi].
When Wotan comes up from the Depths, with all the Niebelung Golden Hoard, the Giants return with Freia, to claim their Wages. But she seemed to have fallen in love with one of the Brutes & had to be torn away from him. This was something of a Novelty…
Nonetheless, it was anticipated years ago at Bayreuth. But not on the Green Hill, in Wagner's Historic Festspielhaus.
A Wagner Ring Parody, down in the town, had Freia abducted, with two Golden Apples hanging around her neck. When she was brought back, they had been eaten away, leaving only munched Apple Cores dangling on her Breasts…
Also among this RING's Prologuists--Rheingold is only a Prologue, although it has more important scenes than any of the other three Installments of this Wagnerian Epic--were Ronnita Miller, as a mysteriously Timeless Erda; Gerd Grochowski, as Donner, & Elizabeth Bishop, as the Wronged Wife, Fricka.
Fricka obviously has a Lot to be angry about…
Although Francesca Zambello & her staff gave considerable attention to unraveling the Loose Threads of the Niebelung Saga, they didn't make it clear who was Wotan's Sperm Vessel when the Incestuous Twins, Siegmund & Sieglinde, were spawned.
[While it is well established that Erda is the Mother of Brünnhilde, there was also no Visual or Textual Information offered regarding the Mom of the other Eight Valkyries, even if they all call her "Sister."]
The excellent Donald Runnicles--now a Wagner Master himself--held all the threads of this fascinating production together magisterially.
Kudos also to Catherine Zuber for her relevant Costumes; Mark McCullough, for ingenious Lighting, mingling with the Video Projections, & Lawrence Pech, for incident Choreography.
When it's time for the now Apple Restored Gods to enter into Valhalla, instead of the fabled Rainbow Bridge--customarily invoked by Donner--a kind of Cut Rate Steamer Gang Plank comes down from a Stage Left Wing.
As things turn out for both the Gods & Valhalla, this could well be the Gang Plank for the Titanic or the Andrea Doria…
At Home with the Hundings, in Their Hütte…
In a West Coast Oriented RING, it would be entirely appropriate for a Married Couple--happy or otherwise--to have a Large Tree growing in the middle of their Living Room. Sunset Magazine would certainly approve!
But it would be unusual to have an Invincible Sword stuck in that Tree, up to the Hilt, even if it were a Dawn Redwood.
What makes this initial scene in Zambello's Die Walküre so striking--even Cute--is that the interior of Hunding's Hut looks very much like one of those little Bavarian Dioramas of Baker's Shops or Biedermeier Kitchens.
The Mysterious Tree is a giant black Silhouette, its sinister branches rising far above the walls of the darling little room.
One hardly notices the Sword Hilt, although a number of RING productions have favored hitting the Sunken Sword with a Spotlight, just in case someone in the audience may have missed it.
[This is also Sword in the Stone stuff, although Siegmund is No King Arthur & Wotan not exactly a Merlin…]
When the Doom Destined Twins discover their Love--as well as their True Identities--the walls of the house fold back to reveal a Magical Evocation of Spring.
Both Anja Kampe, as Sieglinde, & Brandon Jovanovich, as Siegmund, make this Blooming Love magical as well. It is a Potent Contrast to the Disaster that is to follow.
Oddly enough, Hunding [Daniel Sumegi] challenges Siegmund to a Fatal Duel--Fatal, as it turns out, to them both--under what seems to be a Freeway Overpass.
This could be on Highway 80, near the Donner Summit, although the ill fated Donner Party were not related to the God, Donner…
The Autobahn Overpass Motif is not, however, now a Scenic Novelty. It was used in the recent Bayreuth RING, staged by Tankred Dorst & Ursula Ehlers. But their Overpass was Under Construction…
The late, great opera director, Goetz Friedrich, also used this Idea for his Bregenz Festival staging of Porgy & Bess, set on the Biggest Catfish Row ever seen. Certainly not in its Native Charleston…
Friedrich--also a great Wagner Director at Bayreuth--made his Freeway not so free, as it seemed to have been severely damaged in the Loma Prieta Earthquake.
[He also had Black Youths stealing the tires off stalled School buses, stranded on the Freeway Fragment.]
Also Not a Novelty now is the idea of Wotan as a kind of CEO of Gods Inc. Or Valhalla LLC…
In Jürgen Fehling's Bayreuth RING, Wotan was discovered in his Epic Office, complete with Computers & Intercoms, shredding Documents!
Also, with a convenient Water Fountain, in case he wanted to trade some Valkyrian Gossip with his beloved daughter, Brünnhilde.
His angry wife, Fricka--who used to enter in a Ram Drawn Chariot--entered briskly, smartly & modernly Dressed for Success, with a Manila Folder detailing the Sexual Offenses of the Twins: His Kids, not Hers…
Zambello's Scenic Solution seems much the same: High Noon Confrontations in the Oval Office…
But this time, Brünnhilde [the magnificent Nina Stemme] bounds into the room like an over eager schoolgirl, who has just returned from a Horsey Semester at the Ojai School for Girls.
Fricka is also, as at Bayreuth, very Businesslike.
The only West Coast Protest touch that is missing from her Sacredness of Marriage Assault on Wotan is a Poster pushing FAMILY VALUES NOW!
As for the fabled Ride of the Valkyries, we've come a Long Way since Richard Wagner first sent them Horse Flying through the skies, Winged Helmets firmly in place.
In one of the Seattle Opera's RING Incarnations, they sat on rigid white Horse Models, suspended by wires. At a rehearsal, one of the Valkyries shouted down to me: "Hi Yo, Silver!"
A Far Cry from Hoyo to ho…
In the Dosrst Ehlers Bayreuth RING, the Valkyries rappelled down the face of what had just been Wotan's Office.
Zambello's Novelty is having the Valkyries descend as Paratroopers, their billowing Parachutes coming gently to rest on the Valkyrie Rock.
In the fabled 1976 "CHEREAU RING," the Valkyries brought the Dead Heroes into Valhalla on great white Live Draft Horses.
Initially, the Dead Bodies were those of Muscle Bound Athletes, only pretending to be Dead.
In Zambello's Version, Digital Photography seems to have Won the Day:
Each Warrior Maiden Demi Goddess carries a large black & white photo of a Handsome Hero. These are then mounted in racks rising above the Rock…
As for the Magic Fire, Zambello & designer Michael Yeargen heat up the night with Real Flames.
[The Seattle Robert Israel RING, however, had Flames so hot I could feel them way back in Row P…]
The intense emotional interaction of Mark Delavan's Wotan with Nina Stemme's Brünnhilde made this Walküre one of the most powerfully Human--Sad, as well--that I have ever seen.
I look forward to seeing it again--improved, as it surely will be, after the San Francisco Premiere--in Washington, DC, as it is a Co Production with the Washington Opera.
Mime in a House Trailer in the Forest: No RV Park!
Perhaps inspired by the Broadway Hit, Jerusalem, starring Mark Rylance--who lives & whores in a derelict House Trailer in a patchy Forest--Alberich's avaricious Dwarf Brother, Mime, has been raising the Young Hero Siegfried [Jay Hunter Morris] after his Mother, the unfortunate Welsung Twin, Sieglinde, has died in Childbirth.
In Jerusalem, you don't get to see the Interior of the tacky Mobile Home. In Zambello's Siegfried, you see it in all its Horror: Unwashed Dishes, Dirty Clothes…
The boisterous young Siegfried--he brings a Brown Bear home to Terrorize Mime: Could this be one of those California Grizzlies that adorn the Flag of the Bear Republic?
Siegfried--somewhat like Wagner's other Simpleton Hero, Parsifal--is a kind of Innocent Child of Nature: a Rein Tor, or Pure Fool.
He doesn't know who his Father or his Mother were…
He doesn't realize his own Strength. Least of all, His Potential, once his Father's shattered Sword Nothung [Notung, in Zambello's version] is successfully re forged.
But Mime is not getting Foster Child Care Support Payments from Gov. Jerry Brown, down in Sacramento, way up here in what may well be the Tahoe National Forest.
Nor is he feeding & teaching Siegfried out of the Goodness of his Heart.
He is, in effect, Heartless, for he means to use Siegfried & Nothung to kill the Dragon Fafner, to capture the Tarnhelm, the Niebelung Golden Hoard, & The RING for himself.
His lurking Dwarf Brother Alberich has much the same Recovery or Recycling Program in mind…
Then there's a Recycled Wotan--now known as The Wanderer--wandering through the Forest, on the Trail of his Heroic Grandson, who just may be able to save Him, the Gods, & Valhalla!
Some of these Extended Wagnerian Colloquies may have seemed--in Previous Productions--like endless Narrative Recaps for those who missed Rheingold & Walküre. But, in this staging, Zambello & her talented Actor/Singers make them seem Immediate & Important!
Siegfried at the Forge: Authentic Blacksmithing!
Try as he may, Mime cannot make the Shards of Nothung whole again. But, without this Magic Sword--a Gift from Wotan to the Hero who will save the Gods--Fafner cannot be Destroyed.
When Siegfried steps up to the Forge, the Task is speedily accomplished. The Press was told that the Forging Methods were Authentic!
When Nothung is forged & cooled, Siegfried strikes the Anvil, cleaving it in Twain.
This was a nice change from Jess Thomas' mishap in the Chereau RING of 1976: Jess accidentally touched a foot pedal on the Anvil, causing it to split before the Sword had even touched it!
Sword in Hand, Siegfried challenges the Sleeping Dragon Giant, who seems to suffer from Fatigue Syndrome: Lass' mich in rühe…
Fafner in a Mobile Trash Compactor: Post Industrial Visions…
Awakened, Fafner appears as an immense Tank Like Trash Compactor!
Siegfried speedily dispatches him, winning the Tarnhelm, the RING, & an immense Golden Treasure, which he leaves behind in the Cave. Talk about Not Protecting Your Investments!
Wells Fargo & Bank of America should also have been lurking in the Forest, along with Alberich & The Wanderer: There's Bail Out Money to be made from Fools…
Although we do not see any Dragon's Blood drenching Siegfried--Not Even some Motor Oil!--he can now understand the Language of Birds.
As he has before never seen a Live Female, Zambello ingeniously decided to have the Usually Unseen Forest Bird visible as a Supportive, Caring Young Woman [Stacey Tappan].
She alerts him, not to Forest Fire Dangers in the Tahoe National Forest, but to the Radiant Woman Warrior who is sleeping inside a Magic RING of Fire.
Das Ist Kein Mann!
The naïve young Siegfried uncovers his First Woman!
This is always Good for a Laugh, even at Bayreuth.
Even if Brünnhilde isn't wearing anything resembling Warrior Armor in Zambello's new staging…
Nina Stemme is Superb, even more so than in Walküre, now she has been Awakened to Human Love by the Promised Hero.
Siegfried, however, remains a Boastful Oaf--which, in the Next Installment, guarantees his Demise.
After consummating His Love with Brünnhilde, giving her the Magic RING, & the Kind of Promises usually associated with Christian Nuptials--Till Death Do Us Part!--she unwisely sends him off, down the Rhine, on his Rhein Fahrt, to prove himself in Heroic Adventures.
Post Post Modernism for the Hall of the Gibichungs: Zaha Hadid, Eat Your Heart Out!
Given a Potion, on entering the Renzo Piano version of the Hall of the Gibichungs, Siegfried [now a waning Ian Storey] rapidly forgets his Promises, instead betraying Brünnhilde, giving her to his new found "Brother," Gunther Gibichung [Gerd Grochoski].
He gets Gunther's sister, Gutrune [Melissa Citro] in return. Not a Good Bargain at all…
But, Prologuing this dire event, the Three Norn Sisters [Ronnita Miller, Davida Karanas, & Heidi Melton] appear as Protectively Garbed Technicians, inside some kind of Giant Computer.
Instead of Spinning, Measuring Out, & Cutting the Thread of Life, they are now plugging in & unplugging Giant Computer Cables!
What the Gibichung Heirs do not know is that their Bastard Half Brother, Hagen [a powerful Andrea Silvestrelli] wants to recover the RING for his Father, Alberich--who has possessed their Mother, lovelessly…
Once Upon a Time, Hagen's Men had Spears. Now they seem to have Kalishnikovs…
When Hagen strikes Siegfried on that one Achilles Heel spot where the Dragon's Blood did not fall, it's all over for the Hero.
For Vahalla, as well…
Hagen, was tuest Du? Hagen, was tatest Du?
The Rheinmaidens, desolate without their RING, nonetheless continue to Police the Rhine--or the Sacramento River--with their Eco Friendly Trash Bags!
Once the RING is returned to the Water Sprites, however, the World can Renew Itself!
It's as if a Cosmic Bail Out had permitted Messrs. Wells & Fargo, as well as AP Giannini, to Continue their Mission: Low Cost, Easy Installment Homes for the Gods & for the Godless…
Vocal Fireworks! Dazzling Visions!
Season 2011 12 at the San Francisco Opera!
Here's what Intendant David Gockley has planned:
XERXES, by Georg Frideric Handel: Susan Graham plays the "Breeches Role," with David Daniels as Arsamenes.
LUCREZIA BORGIA, by Gaetano Donizetti: Renée Fleming stars in John Pascoe's sets & staging!
DON GIOVANNI, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Lucas Meachem will be the Devilish Don, with Marco Vinco as his Leporello.
THE MAGIC FLUTE, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A shining new Flute, with Nathan Gunn as Papageno.
ATTILA, by Giuseppe Verdi: Samuel Ramey plays Pope Leo I, with Ferruccio Furlanetto as Attila. Almost One for the Huns, but not quite…
CARMEN, by Georges Bizet: Paulo Szot--of South Pacific fame--plays Escamillo, with Kate Aldrich as Carmen. This is the handsome production of the late Jean Pierre Ponnelle!
TURANDOT, by Giacomo Puccini: Iréne Theorin & Susan Foster will take turns as the Ice Princess, in settings by David Hockney.
NIXON IN CHINA, by John Adams: If they wouldn't let you see this at the Met, attend the SFO Premiere! Patrick Carfizzi is Henry Kissinger, with Brian Mulligan as Richard Milhouse Nixon, opening up China for 99 Cent Store Bargains
HEART OF A SOLDIER, A World Premiere by Christopher Theophanidis & Donna DiNovelli. It's an SFO Commission, staged by Francesca Zambello & based on the 9/11 Heroism of Rick Rescorla, to be sung by Thomas Hampson.
Michael Tilson Thomas Keeps a Firm Rein on the San Francisco Symphony, on the Verge of 100!
Your Arts Reporter grew up in Gold Rush Country--not only with the Texaco Metropolitan Opera Broadcasts every Saturday Afternoon--but also with the Standard [Oil] Symphony Broadcasts every Thursday Evening, during their respective seasons.
But I got to know the San Francisco Symphony even better during the weekly daytime School Broadcasts.
Even way out in our one room Indian Springs School--where FDR's New Deal Rural Electrification Program had yet to reach--we listened on a battery powered Zenith Radio.
An Invented Sprite called Ariel was our Host.
He--or She, as the Sex was not clear & the Voice was high pitched--introduced us to the Instruments of the Orchestra. Of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, to be precise…
We all grew up with the San Francisco Symphony.
When at UC/Berkeley, we were fixated upon the conducting of Maestro Pierre Monteaux. Though some Veteran Symphony Subscribers deplored his own fixation on the Music of French Composers.
PM--or Post Monteaux--San Franciscans have enjoyed the Conducting Talents of such Maestros as Edo de Waart & Herbert Blomstedt.
Now, Michael Tilson Thomas seems in Firm Control of this remarkable "Musical Instrument."
Perhaps even a bit too firm, even Tight Lipped?
Nevertheless, his rousing reading of Béla Bartok's Rumanian Folk Dances was a Tonic.
Impressive pianist Yuja Wang, backed by the Orchestra, gave a virtuosic interpretation of Bartok's Piano Concerto No. 2.
The real Crowd Pleaser, however, was nine sections from Act III of Swan Lake. Some of them ended on such thumping Mini Finales that some of the audience clearly thought the concert was over. Although there was More To Come…
Why Ojai North! When There Is Already an Ojai Music Festival in the Southland?
Well, the Answer to that is that Cal Performances at UC/Berkeley is a Co Producer.
Ojai--near Ventura, in Southern California--used to be famed for its Girls School which inculcated Discipline by requiring each of its female students to Care for Her Own Horse!
Shock Haired Peter Sellars--once the Avant Garde Darling of former Salzburg Festival Intendant Gerard Mortier--spoke feelingly about the Evils of War, as well as the Astronomical Costs of Our Foreign Interventions, before introducing his production of George Crumb's Winds of Destiny.
The always adventurous American Soprano Dawn Upshaw--dressed in US Army Fatigues--tossed & turned on a rigid bed, like a Traumatized Veteran of recent Shock & Awe Campaigns.
Upshaw sang Crumb's settings of such traditional American Songs as Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory, Lonesome Road, Shenandoah, & Go Tell It on the Mountain!
Upshaw was supported by pianist Gilbert Kalish & Steven Schick's red fish blue fish, percussion…
More To Come!
But the Program was Double Barreled, as well as Double Billed: Music of Afghanistan followed.
As the immensely expensive--as well as tragically destructive--American Effort to Win the Hearts & Minds of the varied Tribes in Afghanistan have demonstrated, the Pentagon & the President have little understanding of the Country, its Peoples, & their Cultures.
Cal Performances didn't have to import Musicians from Afghanistan. As the film, Kite Runner, showed, there is a very large Afghan Community in Fremont, just down the Bay from Berkeley.
These wonderful Musicians--both the Percussion Virtuosi & the String Pluckers of the Sakhi Ensemble--played haunting melodies, while the fabled singer, Ustad Farida Mawash, soulfully intoned lyrics that recalled the legendary radio broadcasts of Uum Kalthoom, who used to hold the Arab World enthralled weekly with her enchanting singing.
Personal Note: Long before there was Cal Performances, UC/Berkeley provided Important Entertainments through the UC Committee on Drama, Lectures, & Music.
Your Arts Reporter--in his Junior & Senior Years at Berkeley--was Head of Ushering for the Committee, then headed by the late & much esteemed Betty Connors.
I ushered in Wheeler Hall for such Luminaries as Dame Edith & Sir Osbert Sitwell, Josef Marais & Miranda, the celebrated Mime, Agna Enters, Harpsichordist Ralph Kirkpatrick, & Monologist Ruth Draper, as well as for Devi Ja & her Balinese Dances.
In the immense Men's Gymnasium--which preceded Zellerbach as a Major Venue--I turned the pages for Dame Myra Hess, who wore glasses & wanted to make sure she didn't Miss a Note…
I was asked to present President Robert Gordon Sproul's Bouquet to French Soprano Jennie Tourel.
It was my duty to accompany both a genial Carl Sandburg & a sour Robert Frost from their Men's Gymnasium performances to the Faculty Receptions in their respective Honors: Grape Juice & Sheet Cake…
Frost rejected his Piece of Cake, asking impatiently: "Who are all these people?"
"Sir, they are all English Professors. Full Professors--with Tenure!"
Frost stormed out, so I walked him back to the Durant Hotel, where the Committee had billeted him…
Celebrating San Francisco's Sexual Varietals in Music: Armistad Maupin's Tales of the City…
Now that New York also has Gay Marriage legally & officially, it may be ready for San Francisco's colorful production of Tales of the City.
The ebullient Judy Kaye stars as Anna Madrigal, virtual House Mother to a wild collection of Left Over Hippies, Pot Heads, Trannies, & Castro Types.
Every day seems to be Gay Pride Day in Anna's "Painted Lady" Victorian Gothic home, ingeniously designed by Douglas W. Schmidt to instantaneously morph into other entities.
Of course, she has a Secret. Anna is Not What She Seems…
Jason Moore has infused his multi talented & often unbuttoned cast with the Spirit of the Castro.
Larry Kiegwin's brash & bouncy choreography takes full advantage of often erotic costumes of Beaver Bauer.
With a lively Libretto by Jeff Whitty & the Music & Lyrics of Jake Shears & John Garden, there's a Lot to Like about this somewhat wistful show: What Might Have Been…
Founded by Bill Ball, ACT has been a Leading Regional Theatre for many years now.
Carey Perloff--who once headed New York's Classic Stage Company, or CSC--is offering a varied repertory next season. It includes David Mamet's Race, Kaufman & Hart's Once in a Lifetime, Kander & Ebb's Scottsboro Boys, & Bill Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, staged by Perloff herself!
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