Wednesday, March 04, 2015

NCCO Open Rehearsal

This morning I heard an open rehearsal for this week's concerts by the New Century Chamber Orchestra, featuring violinist Glenn Dicterow as their guest concertmaster. The rehearsal began with Holst's St. Paul's Suite. The orchestra worked on the movements out of sequence & brought out the dance element in each. It was nice hearing Mr. Dicterow's warm, seamless sound in the solos. His tone remains sweet even when he's playing very high notes. He was friendly & relaxed, & he kept the mood of the rehearsal light. The 19-member ensemble is conductorless, so the musicians spend a lot of time discussing among themselves issues such as tempo, cueing & the character of the music.

Mr. Dicterow did more leading when they played Grieg's Two Nordic Melodies, & their performance sounded cohesive already. The music is beautifully song-like, & Mr. Dicterow clearly loves it. His playing had bite in the rhythmic final section, which he called a "hoedown."

The rehearsal ended with run-throughs of all 3 movements of Mozart's Divertimento in D. The orchestra's playing was at first robust & vigorous, but Mr. Dicterow thought it felt too pushed & suggested ways to make it more elegant & light. The full program also includes Brahms's Sextet for Strings, which we did not hear. The musicians clearly enjoyed playing with Mr. Dicterow, & he told us how welcoming they had been & how amazing he thought they were.

The audience lined up for coffee & donuts during the break. A school group from, I think, Antioch made up a large portion of the attendees. They were perfectly quiet & better behaved than some of the adults who freely came & went while the musicians were playing.

§ New Century Chamber Orchestra
Program 3. Dicterow Leads Brahms and Mozart
Glenn Dicterow, Guest Concertmaster

Mozart: Divertimento in D Major K. 136
Grieg: Two Nordic Melodies, Op. 63
Holst: St. Paul’s Suite, Op. 29, No. 2
Brahms: Sextet for Strings No. 1 in Bb Major, Op. 18

Open Rehearsal
Wednesday, March 4, 2015, 10am, Kanbar Performing Arts Center

Thursday, March 5, 2015, 8pm, First Congregational Church

Palo Alto
Friday, March 6, 2015, 8pm, First United Methodist Church

San Francisco
Saturday, March 7, 2015, 8pm, Nourse Auditorium

San Rafael
Sunday, March 8, 2015, 5pm, Osher Marin Jewish Community Center

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Relighting of the Ferry Building

This evening, in commemoration of the centenary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, the City lit up the Ferry Building with a big "1915." This recreates the building's lighting display during the fair. The lights look Christmasy & will stay on until December 4th, the date the fair closed.

When I arrived to see the lights turned on, a small ceremony was being held across the street from the building. Charlotte Mailliard Shultz, Willie Brown & Mayor Ed Lee were among the speakers.

A comparison with old photographs shows that the new lights fall a bit short of replicating the original display.

§ Relighting of the Ferry Building
Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 6:15

1 Ferry building


Last night I was at the Rickshaw Stop for BarelyOpera, a pop-up musical evening featuring SF Opera Adler Fellows Zanda Švēde, Maria Valdes, Julie Adams, Edward Nelson, Efraín Solís, Chong Wang & Anthony Reed. The SF Opera, aiming beyond its traditional audience, publicized the event primarily through social media. When I arrived 5 minutes before the doors opened, the line was already down the block, & I was surrounded by a lot of people I don't think I normally see at the opera.

The program was a mix of opera & musical theater & was partly determined by audience members who spun a wheel to randomly select the next number. The venue was packed, & the atmosphere was lively & fun. My favorite part was hearing people applaud & cheer spontaneously during the arias, something I can imagine happening in 18th century opera houses before it all got so serious.

The young Adler Fellows were very appealing in this setting. Baritone Efraín Solís engaged with the audience through his convivial personality as well as his hearty singing, & he took a selfie with us. Baritone Eddie Nelson took me by surprise with his tasteful & lovely renditions of Noël Coward songs, even accompanying himself on the piano. Tenor Chong Wang literally ended the show on a high note with glorious renditions of "Nessun dorma" & "O sole mio."

Robert Mollicone was the night's excellent emcee, & he was both sincere & funny. At one point he got all the singers to yodel for Yahoo's 20th anniversary. Slides projected behind the singers provided hilariously modern translations, as well as informative factoids about the composers & the music. Costumed supers from the opera greeted guests, & there was a rack of costumes for attendees to try on themselves. There were door prizes from the SF Opera, & I received a packet of pop rocks on the way out. For those who stayed, a dance party immediately followed. All this for $10!

§ BarelyOpera
SF Opera Adler Fellows
Robert Mollicone, emcee
Noah Linquist & Ronny Greenberg, piano

Program, as much as I can remember:

Habanera from Carmen
Zanda Švēde

"Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni
Maria Valdes & Edward Nelson

''Tirannia gli diede il regno'' from Rodelinda
Efraín Solís

"If Love Were All" by Noël Coward
Edward Nelson

"La donna è mobile" from Rigoletto
Chong Wang

"Ol' Man River" from Porgy & Bess
Anthony Reed

Flower Duet from Lakmé
Julie Adams & Zanda Švēde

"O Isis and Osiris" from Die Zauberflöte
Anthony Reed

"Fin ch' han dal vino" from Don Giovanni
Edward Nelson

"Make them hear you" from Ragtime
Efraín Solís

"O mio babbino caro" from Gianni Schicchi
Maria Valdez

"Mad about the Boy" by Noël Coward
Edward Nelson

"Nessun Dorma" from Turandot
Chong Wang

"O sole mio"
Chong Wang

Monday, March 2, 2015 at 8:00 PM
The Rickshaw Stop

ABS: St. Matthew Passion

Derek Chester
Sunday afternoon I heard American Bach Soloists deliver a spotless performance of the St. Matthew Passion, done with just one person per part. The singers were arrayed behind the orchestra, & 8 soloists sang both the arias & the choruses. Their combined voices were strong, & the choruses sounded incisive & convincing. 16 additional singers, representing the congregation, joined in the chorales & the opening & closing choruses. The Pacific Boychoir, sounding neat & poised, sang in both the opening chorus & the chorale at the end of part 1.

Tenor Derek Chester sounded sweet as the Evangelist, & his performance was much more like singing than declaiming. He was so consistently lyrical that the one or two times his voice had a slight hiccup, it was very noticeable. Baritone William Sharp sang Jesus plus the aria "Mache dich," & he conveyed maturity, softness & calm.

Agnes Vojtko, singing alto 1, made an earthy, grounded sound & sang with urgency. Clara Rottsolk sang the soprano 2 arias with a full, liquid voice & supple phrasing. Countertenor Jay Carter, as alto 2, had firm high notes, & his upper & lower registers were seamlessly connected. Soprano 1 Hélène Brunet's voice was light, high & a bit warbling. Charles Blandy as tenor 1 sounded bright & ringing, & 2nd tenor Jon Lee Keenan had a focused, slightly raw sound. Bass 1 Thomas Meglioranza made a big, open sound & projected the text well. Bass 2 Joshua Copeland sounded even & flexible.

Every number was meticulously prepared, & the orchestra played cleanly. Violinists Elizabeth Blumenstock & Tekla Cunningham & flutist Janet See executed their obbligato parts with virtuosity. Gamba player William Skeen accompanied "Komm, süßes Kreuz" immaculately & even squeezed a few extra notes into his already complicated part. Debra Nagy played multiple reed instruments with a steady, viscous sound. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas led with somewhat square tempos.

ABS audiences are extremely dedicated, & they were quiet & conscientious throughout, though someone's cell phone rang several times during the 2nd half. The owner apparently could not hear it. The performers received a standing ovation, cheers & even foot stamping from the audience. During the intermission someone reported being seated next to a father with a restless 4-year-old child. My concert companion was struck by the youth of many of the performers & was impressed by Mr. Chester's new facial hair.

§ Bach: St. Matthew Passion
American Bach Soloists
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Derek Chester, tenor (Evangelista)
William Sharp, baritone (Christus)

Hélène Brunet & Clara Rottsolk, sopranos
Agnes Vojtko, mezzo-soprano - Jay Carter, countertenor
Charles Blandy & Jon Lee Keenan, tenors
Thomas Meglioranza & Joshua Copeland, baritones
American Bach Choir & Pacific Boychoir

Sunday March 1 2015 4:00 p.m.
St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco