Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don Giovanni at Opera San Jose

This Easter Sunday I attended the afternoon performance of Don Giovanni at Opera San Jose. The production is double cast, & Sunday's line-up sang out robustly & was uniformly loud, particularly mezzo Lisa Chavez as Donna Elvira, who in the quartet in act 1 was louder than the other 3 participants combined. Baritone Evan Brummel was a bear-like Don Giovanni, & his bellowing voice had a metallic ring. Baritone Krassen Karagiozov as Leporello has a smooth voice & is an athletic figure onstage. All 3 female principals sang with great strength. Baritone Bryan James Myer portrayed an indignant & resentful Masetto, seeming more like a Figaro than a peasant. Tenor Marc Schreiner sang "Il mio tesoro" briskly, but "Dalla sua pace" was omitted.

The orchestra played nicely. The woodwinds were balanced & together, & the brasses made a blended sound in the dinner scene. Conductor Anthony Quartuccio replaced the originally announced George Cleve. Tempos were square. Though Maestro Quartuccio seemed to mark every beat, the orchestra & singers were not always together. Mezzo Tania Mandzy Inala as Zerlina looked scared when she gave the conductor an urgent glance at the start of "Batti, batti."

The simple set consists of doors on both sides of the stage & an open space in the middle. The many scene changes are indicated by walls moving on & off, though all the locations are nondescript. The casts' 18th century costumes are attractive. There were no onstage bands at the ends of the acts. Instead of The Don descending to hell amid smoke & flames, Masetto sneaks up behind him & strangles him, then drags the body offstage.

For Don Giovanni's serenade in act 2, a mandolin is tossed into his hands from a doorway by an unseen stagehand. To complete the gag, Don Giovanni tossed it back at the end of the aria, but the mandolin bounced off the doorjamb & landed back onstage, at which point we saw a hand reach out to retrieve it.

I like the warm & supportive San Jose audience. They attentively followed the action & laughed at all the jokes. My opera companion & I arrived at the California Theatre early enough for me to hear the theater organ in the lobby & watch an elderly couple dance to one of the songs.

§ Don Giovanni
Opera San Jose

Conductor: Anthony Quartuccio
Stage Director: Daniel J. Witzke

Donna Anna: Jennifer Forni
Donna Elvira: Lisa Chavez
Don Giovanni: Evan Brummel
Leporello: Krassen Karagiozov
Masetto: Brian James Myer
Zerlina: Tania Mandzy Inala
Commendatore: Silas Elash
Don Ottavio: Marc Schreiner

Opera San José Orchestra, Chorus, Dancers and Supers

Sun., Apr. 20, 2014 3 p.m.
California Theatre

Monday, April 21, 2014

Opera Parallèle Rehearsal

Saturday afternoon Opera Parallèle held an open rehearsal for its up-coming double bill of Mahagonny Songspiel & Les mamelles de Tirésias. We heard substantial chunks of both works, with staging. The cast includes 7 principles, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, an adult chorus, 2 dancers & 4 supers. Opera Parallèle may be a small company, but there is nothing modest about its ambitions.

The show combines the 2 works into a single asurdist scenario. The performance starts with the Mahagonny Songspiel, set in an arid, dystopian future, where a troupe of travelling players is dragging a boat across a desert. The production features an actual boat, which can be wheeled all around the stage & becomes a stage-within-a-stage for the troupe's performance of Les mamelles. Conductor Nicole Paiement was very excited to demonstrate how the last notes of Mahagonny dovetail into the 1st notes of Les Mamelles without a break or transition.

This was a working rehearsal, & there were times when the performers were getting notes from 3 directors simultaneously. There will be a lot to watch. The young cast is charismatic & sounded great. Soprano Rachel Schutz has a spacious voice & gliding high notes & is a confident actress. It seems she will be wearing a very peculiar costume when she appears as Thérèse, before transforming into Tirésias. Baritone Hadleigh Adams is a persuasive actor, even when wielding a prop as silly as a hobbyhorse.

Following the performance portion of the rehearsal, there was a Q & A with the cast & artistic team, who all clearly enjoy working together. The rehearsal took place in the old Palace of Fine Arts location of the Exploratorium, which has been converted into a very cool campus for the Town School for Boys.

More rehearsal photos over at Barihunks.


§ Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspie
and
Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director / Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director / Concept Designer

Rachel Schutz: Jessie/tirésias, La Cartomancienne
Gabriel Pressier: Bobby/le Mari
Thomas Glenn: Charlie/lacouf, Le Journaliste, Le Fils
Daniel Cilli: Billy/presto, Le Directeur
Hadleigh Adams: Le Gendarme
Aleksey Bogdanov: Jimmy/ Le Monsieur Barbu
Renee Rapier: Betty/ La Marchande De Journaux

§ Open Rehearsal
Town School for Boys (formerly the Exploratorium)
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 19, 2014

§ Performance
Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts’ Lam Research Theater
8 p.m. April 25, 26, 2014 and 2 p.m. April 27, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Used Book Sale at Fort Mason

The Friends of the SF Public Library are holding their Spring Book Sale at Fort Mason this week through Sunday. It's probably not the most efficient place to find a specific book, but browsing can be fun.


It's $3 for hardcovers, $2 for paperbacks. Other items like CDs are $1. On Sunday, everything goes for a dollar. Shoppers often fill shopping carts.


The collectibles area has interesting titles, though these are priced at more than a few bucks.


The last thing I need is more used books around my apartment, but there were no lines at the registers, so just for fun I bought this wonderfully judgy pocket guide to composers, from 1943. Wagner is called "the Führer of nineteenth century opera."

§ 4th Annual Spring Book Sale
Friends of the San Francisco Public Library
April 16-20th, 2014
10 AM-6 PM
Fort Mason Festival Pavilion

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

49 Geary Round-Up

Vivian Maier
Wilmette, Illinois
Girl In Clown Costume

circa 1967-1968
Tuesday lunchtime I peeked into a couple of galleries at 49 Geary. The Scott Nichols Gallery has a selection of photographs by the enigmatic Vivian Maier, a prolific & posthumously discovered street photographer who worked as a nanny in suburban Chicago in the 1950's & 60's while creating an archive of 100,000 negatives. Her work has only been known since 2009, but she is already the subject of news reports, exhibitions, books & 2 documentaries. The whole thing sounds like a post-modern stunt, but the pictures on display have an immediacy that is often arresting. There's a sense that the photographer saw something meaningful each time she snapped a picture. The images would not be out of place next to Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander, Diane Arbus or Henri Cartier-Bresson.


John Chiara    
155 Somerset
, 2014
Camera Obscura Ilfochrome Photograph, Unique
34 x 28 inches
HG12266
In the Haines Gallery, I enjoyed the washed-out colors & ghostly atmosphere of pictures of homes in the Excelsior district, taken in series by John Chiara with a camera obscura. There are no negatives, & the images were developed directly on photographic paper about a yard high. Unfortunately the exhibit does not show the camera obscura itself, which must be huge.


David Sokosh
Mike's Arm, Brooklyn

tintype
The Robert Tat Gallery is also featuring photography without negatives. David Sokosh's contemporary tintypes are made using 19th century processes & lenses, so each photograph is a unique object. The subjects look like they could have come from the 19th century as well. The dusky images have a potent presence & feel vaguely fetishistic.

§ Vivian Maier
Out Of The Shadows
Scott Nichols Gallery
February 6 – June 14

§ John Chiara
de • tached
Haines Gallery
March 6 - April 26, 2014

§ David Sokosh
American Tintypes
Robert Tat Gallery
March 6, 2014 - May 31, 2014

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
This afternoon I was at the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japantown, mainly to stop by the food bazaar for an unagi bowl. This is the 1st weekend of the festival, which culminates in a parade next Sunday afternoon.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
There were a lot of people enjoying the street fair, so some of the booths had long lines.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
Sponge Bob was spending the day as a tout for the Boy Scouts.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
People played games of Go in the street.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
There are 2 outdoor stages, as well as the usual exhibits & street vendors.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
The origami exhibit is small, unfortunately, but these colorful hot air balloons look like they were fun to make.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
I saw fine displays of Lolita fashion among attendees,

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
... as well as cosplay folks having a leisurely day out.

Cherry Blossom Festival 2014
These slightly skittish furries behaved like escapees from a Disney park, trying to act natural in the crowd in order to avoid recapture.

§ Northern California Cherry Blossom Festival
Saturday and Sunday April 12-13 and April 19-20, 2014
San Francisco’s Japantown

Friday, April 11, 2014

Opera Parallèle Preview

Wednesday evening Opera Parallèle previewed their up-coming double-bill of Weill's Mahagonny Songspiel & Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias, which will have 3 performances at YBCA, April 25 - 27. Conductor Nicole Paiement enthusiastically gave a slide talk about the 2 composers, arguing that they go well together because of their shared sense of aesthetics. Both drew from popular music, excelled at melody & experimented with the boundaries of tonality & dramatic structure. 7 singers were on hand to perform excerpts from both works, accompanied by industrious pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi. The young cast all sounded fresh & strong & dropped into their scenes with ease. Mezzo Renee Rapier was wonderfully sultry demonstrating the contrast between sprechgesang & singing in the Alabama Song, & soprano Rachel Schutz was such an engaging actress as Tirésias that I was ready to hear the rest of Les Mamelles right then. John Bischoff was standing in for just this performance, but his orotund bass voice was striking.

Director Brian Staufenbiel explained the production's "Überstory," which amalgamates the 2 works. First we'll hear Mahagonny, set in a dystopian future, where nomads search for water in a world where natural resources have been depleted. A theater troupe, dragging a boat on wheels across dry land, stops to perform Les Mamelles, followed by a "retrograde reprise" of Mahagonny. According to blogger SF Mike, who's a super in the show, we'll see a real decomissioned boat on stage. SF Mike's determined face can also be seen in the show's publicity photos.

Opera Parallèle PreviewThe Poulenc will be presented in a re-orchestration for smaller orchestra, which has its US premiere at these performances. Members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus are participating as well. When Maestra Paiement momentarily lost her place during her talk, she let out a "Merde!", which she translated for us as "that means a flower." "I forgot!" During the Q&A, Mr. Staufenbiel hinted that Tirésias would get rid of her breasts in a surprising manner quite different from what is in the libretto. A wine reception with the musicians & Opera Parallèle administration followed the preview.

§ Kurt Weill's Mahagonny Songspie
and
Francis Poulenc's Les Mamelles de Tirésias

Opera Parallèle
Nicole Paiement, Artistic Director / Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Stage Director / Concept Designer

Rachel Schutz: Jessie/tirésias, La Cartomancienne
Gabriel Pressier: Bobby/le Mari
Thomas Glenn: Charlie/lacouf, Le Journaliste, Le Fils
Daniel Cilli: Billy/presto, Le Directeur
Hadleigh Adams: Le Gendarme
Aleksey Bogdanov: Jimmy/ Le Monsieur Barbu
Renee Rapier: Betty/ La Marchande De Journaux

§ Sneak Preview
Sol Joseph Recital Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
6 p.m. April 9, 2014
Free and open to the public
Handouts:  Les Mamalles, Mahagonny

§ Open Rehearsal
Town School for Boys (formerly the Exploratorium) 2750 Jackson Street
4 p.m. to 6 p.m. April 19, 2014
Free and open to the public

§ Performance
Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts’ Lam Research Theater
8 p.m. April 25, 26, 2014 and 2 p.m. April 27, 2014

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sharknado

I was sold on Sharknado by its title alone. This low-budget disaster movie was made for the Syfy channel & was so bad that it picked up bigger audiences with each re-airing & eventually made it onto late-night cinema screens. I was elated to see it for myself at a Midnight Madness show at the Clay Theater over the weekend.

A tornado strikes LA, resulting in flash floods, the destruction of the Santa Monica Pier, & giant man-eating sharks dropping from the skies. Homemade bombs are used to disperse land-based waterspouts, & at the climax the hero chainsaws his way out of the belly of a shark. A fleeting reference to global warming & a MacGuffin involving a bowl of shark fin soup hint at an ecological theme.

There couldn't have been more than 20 people at the midnight screening, but there was much vociferous laughter & howling nonetheless. I felt enjoyably like I was 12 years old again. A sequel set in New York is in production, called Sharknado 2: The Second One.

§ Sharknado (2013)
dir: Anthony C. Ferrante