Friday, July 27, 2012

Cindy Sherman at SFMOMA

This week I visited the Cindy Sherman retrospective at the SFMOMA. The show is arranged somewhat chronologically, but my museum companion & I inadvertently started at the wrong end, in a room of larger-than-life photographs of Ms. Sherman posing as women with too much money. The pictures, with their fancy settings & gilt frames, are mocking & cynical. It was not clear to me if the images are actually digital constructions.

I liked the staging of a room of photographs showing Ms. Sherman posing as paintings by old masters. She does not try to disguise her prosthetics & plastic props, so the images look like glib & insincere homages. A series of pictures in a long horizontal format look convincingly like film stills. The wall-sized Untitled #512 (2011) has the surface texture of a painting on canvas, which I assume was done with a digital filter. The exhibit starts with the complete Untitled Film Stills. These 70 impassively staged black & white photos are hung close together on 3 walls. The show covers 40 decades, & the most obvious progression is that the pieces keep getting larger. Vigilant museum guards stopped people from taking photographs in every room.

Tapestry by Cragie Horsfield, 07.26.2012 Cragie Horsefield, Via Gianturoc, Naples, February 2010 (2011 Tapestry) on display at SFMOMA.In another part of the museum, I enjoyed looking at Craigie Horsfield's Via Gianturco, Naples, February 2010 (2011), an enormous tapestry showing a roiling crush of men at some unseen event. Though the image looks photographic, the faces are defined by soft shadows which give them the look of a Renaissance painting. The work is a spectacle.

§  Cindy Sherman
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
July 14 - October 08, 2012

§ Stage Presence: Theatricality in Art and Media
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
July 14 - October 08, 2012

§ Photo Credit: Cindy Sherman, Untitled #463, 2007-08; chromogenic color print; 68 5/8 x 6" (174.2 x 182.9 cm); courtesy the artist and Metro Pictures, New York; © 2012 Cindy Sherman

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

ABS Festival: Mass in B Minor

American Bach Soloists Festival, 07.22.2012 Performance of Bach's Mass in B-minor at last concert of American Bach Soloists Festival.This final performance of the American Bach Soloists Festival on Sunday afternoon was packed. The overflow sat in the balcony facing the conductor & in extra seats set out close to the stage. There was an orchestra of about 30 & a chorus of 26, plus 6 soloists. The opening chords were soft-edged & the Kyrie gently lilting, as was the performance in general.

I enjoyed hearing soprano Nola Richardson, who has a wonderfully pure, youthful voice which is strong yet floating. ABS switched sopranos on us during the intermission, & in the 2nd half we heard Julianna Emanski, whose voice is clear & firm. Mezzo Margaret Fox made wicked eye contact with the audience during her Laudamus te, which was even a bit slinky. Countertenor Brennan Hall bewilderingly has the stature & build of a bass. His voice is forceful & rooted, & he sang the Agnus Dei with conviction. Tenor Gene Stenger has a crisp, gleaming sound with a clear center of pitch. Baritone Aaron Harp's high range is especially pleasing. He briefly got ahead of the orchestra during his Quoniam to solus sanctus, & he stood on a different side of the conductor for each of his arias.

The obbligato soloists stood up when playing. Maureen Murchie played jaunty violin solos in the Laudamus te, & all the woodwinds sounded perfectly clean. The violin section used mutes during the duet Domine Deus. Paul Avril played the valveless horn with amazing accuracy. For the Benedictus, the tenor stood in the orchestra next to flute soloist. The chorus sang securely & blended with the orchestra. I liked the tenors' spirited & almost scrappy entrances in the Cum Sancto Spiritu.

The entire performance felt well-prepared & could have gone straight to CD. Conductor Jeffrey Thomas paused meaningfully between the Crucifixus & the Et resurrexit. The concluding Dona Nobis Pacem was solemn & had a feeling of culmination. The audience respectfully did not applaud right away but let the silence linger until Maestro Thomas had completely lowered his arms to his sides. They then gave the performers a warm standing ovation. My concert companion reported seeing a man cry & later admitted to getting teary-eyed himself.

§ American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Masterworks Series

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232

American Bach Soloists Academy Orchestra
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor


Christe eleison
Nola Richardson, soprano
Margaret Fox, mezzo-soprano

Laudamus te
Maureen Murchie, violin
Margaret Fox, mezzo-soprano

Domine Deus
Leighann Daihl, flute
Nola Richardson, soprano
Gene Stenger, tenor

Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris
Johannes Knoll, oboe d'amore
Brennan Hall, countertenor

Quoniam to solus sanctus
Paul Avril, horn
Kelsey Schilling & Tom Hill, bassoon
Aaron Harp, baritone

Et in unum Dominum
Julianna Emanski, soprano
Brennan Hall, countertenor

Et in Spiritum Sanctum Dominum
Debra Nagy & Kristin Olson, oboe d'amore
Kelsey Schilling, bassoon
Aaron Harp, baritone

Jo Brand, flute
Gene Stenger, tenor

Agnus Dei
Brennan Hall, countertenor

Sunday July 22, 2012, 2pm
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Sunday, July 22, 2012

5th Annual Renegade Craft Fair

Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Wall-sized Nolli map of San Francisco by CityFabric, on display at the Renegade Craft Fair.Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Crowds at the Renegade Craft Fair.I was unprepared for the huge crowds when I visited the Renegade Craft Fair at Fort Mason at noon on Saturday. The large number of vendors offered jewelry, clothing, prints, food in jars, accessories, printed t-shirts, stationery, & more, all of it cute & lovingly made. Indeed, items such as Twinkie Chan's crocheted bacon and egg scarf are criminally cute. Cleverhands's journal bandoliers do seem to be a practical & attractive way to secure writing implements to a notebook. I really liked CityFabric's designs that reveal a city by showing only the footprints of its buildings.

There are caterers on the site, so one can easily spend the whole day there, but I was overwhelmed by the crowds. Later in the day, I had a conversation with a fair veteran who said the best time to go is later in the day, around 3p, when it is less crowded. The attendees were mostly women, & I saw a lot of families as well. The fair also seems to be a popular activity for dogs.

Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Dog at the Renegade Craft Fair. Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Dog at the Renegade Craft Fair. Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Dog at the Renegade Craft Fair.
Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Dogs at the Renegade Craft Fair. Renegade Craft Fair, 07.21.2012 Dogs at the Renegade Craft Fair.

§ 5th Annual Renegade Craft Fair
July 21+22, 2012
Fort Mason Center

ABS: Pigmalion & Dido

American Bach Soloists, 07.20.2012 Audience & staff at American Bach Soloists concert at SF Conservatory of Music.The American Bach Soloists Festival had a full house Friday night for their operatic double bill of concert versions of Rameau's Pigmalion & Purcell's Dido & Aeneas.  For Rameau's courtly & candied opera, we had around 30 instrumentalists, plus a chorus of 24, standing in a row behind the orchestra. A flute player sat in the 1st chair, in front of the 1st violins. Tenor Brian Thorsett in the title role has a clear, bright voice that is very attractive, & he sounded especially ardent & ringing in a climactic song with the chorus. Mezzo Margaret Fox looked & sounded understandably incensed as Pigmailion's human girlfriend. Soprano Julianna Emanski as the statue sang with a clear, pretty voice. Soprano Nola Richardson sounded youthful & lively as the god of love. The ABS musicians play so cleanly that a slightly mistuned flute chord & a stray note on the harpsichord jumped out.

Though the soloists held music in their hands for the Rameau, they sang from memory for the Purcell. Tempos were straightforward & not overly brisk. Mezzo Johanna Bronk has a solid, weighty voice which is suited to the character of Dido. Ms. Richardson was a girlish Belinda, & I like that she freely decorated her lines. She amusingly hiccupped like an over-excited teenager when she exclaimed "How godlike is the form he bears!" Baritone Ryan Bradford has a deep, somewhat orotund voice, & his Aeneas came across as obtuse.

Mezzo Judith Malafronte, in her portrayal of the Sorceress, scowled disdainfully at the audience. The Spirit was sung by Brennan Hall, whose counter-tenor voice was surprisingly forceful. Tenor Gene Stenger sounded bright & crisp in the sailor's solo. Ms. Emanski & Ms. Fox were a peppy pair of witches. The chorus sang with decisiveness. The violins & violas played with a deliberately rough sound for the act 3 Witches' Dance & gave nicely sympathetic support to Dido in her famous lament.

American Bach Soloists, 07.20.2012 Audience & musician at American Bach Soloists concert at SF Conservatory of Music.Conductor Jeffrey Thomas led the Purcell standing at a harpsichord, but I don't think he ever played it. A notable feature of the performance was guitarist Adam Cockerham, who sat in the front of the orchestra & played both the towering theorbo & a ukelele-sized Baroque guitar, carefully swapping instruments perhaps a dozen times. He drew the audience in with his interpolated solos by Francisco Guerau & Santiago de Murcia. The ABS audience was characteristically quiet & attentive & applauded appreciatively. There was an easy mingling of audience members & performers after the concert, & I was introduced to Mr. Cockerham through mutual friends.

§ American Bach Soloists Festival
Masterworks Series
Rameau's Pigmalion and Purcell's Dido & Aeneas

Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Pigmalion, Acte de Ballet
PIGMALION - Brian Thorsett, tenor (haute-contre)
CÉPHISE - Margaret Fox, mezzo-soprano
LA STATUE - Julianna Emanski, soprano
L'AMOUR - Nola Richardson, soprano

Henry Purcell (1659-1695)
Dido and Aeneas, An opera in Three Acts
DIDO - Johanna Bronk, mezzo-soprano
BELINDA - Nola Richardson, soprano
SECOND WOMAN - Julianna Emanski, soprano
AENEAS - Ryan Bradford, baritone
SORCERESS - Judith Malafronte, mezzo-soprano
FIRST WITCH - Julianna Emanski, soprano
SECOND WITCH - Margaret Fox, mezzo-soprano
SPIRIT - Brennan Hall, countertenor
FIRST SAILOR - Gene Stenger, tenor

American Bach Soloists Academy Orchestra
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, Conductor

Friday July 20 2012
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Friday, July 20, 2012

Postcard from Morocco

Thursday night I heard the 1st of 2 Merola Opera performances of Dominick Argento's chamber opera Postcard from Morocco. It's a nonsense work, with 6 characters, strangers at a train station, though if I hadn't known this I would have assumed they were on a boat, since the libretto often refers to travel by ship. The characters behave like paranoid Martians rather than human beings, & I did not understand any of the dramatic situations. However, Argento's music is pretty, & the uniformly secure & confident performances kept my attention. Soprano Suzanne Rigden has a strong, high & brilliant sound, & her voice was easy to pick out even in the ensemble passages. Tenor AJ Glueckert has a sweet yet strong voice & his acting elicited sympathy. Baritone Joseph Lattanzi moves nimbly on stage, & his singing & diction are very clear. Mezzo Carolyn Sproule sang her nonsense language ballad with a seductive, liquid sound.

The simple set consisted of a raised platform with benches, which the 6 performers shifted themselves. Large suspended photographs of a tunnel formed the backdrop. The cast wore early 20th century fashions & looked sharp. The production involves lots of stage business & synchronized gestures, all of which the cast executes with aplomb. Bass Matthew Scollin did 2 cartwheels in a small space. Mr. Lattanzi & tenor Andrew Stenson manipulated puppets attached to their heads. Mr. Glueckert received applause for making a balloon animal. A musical number called Souvenirs de Bayreuth was fully choreographed.

A small band of 8 played alertly for conductor Mark Morash, who conducted with precision. It was novel to hear the guitar as part of the orchestra. The Merola audience enjoyed the stage antics & applauded warmly at the end. Seagulls on the pier outside sometimes squawked during quiet moments, though I don't know if it was criticism or approval. The performance ran an intermissionless 90 minutes & will be repeated Saturday, July 21 at 2pm with the same cast.

§ Postcard from Morocco
by Dominick Argento
Sung in English with English supertitles

Merola Opera Program
Conductor: Mark Morash
Director: Peter Kazaras
Choreographer: Melecio Estrella

Lady with a Cake Box: Aviva Fortunata
Man with a Paint Box: AJ Glueckert
Man with a Shoe Sample Kit: Joseph Lattanzi
Lady with a Hand Mirror: Suzanne Rigden
Man with a Cornet Case (also a Puppet Maker): Matthew Scollin
Lady with a Hat Box (also a Foreign Singer): Carolyn Sproule
Man with Old Luggage: Andrew Stenson

Violin: Tatiana Freedland
Viola: Patricia Heller
Bass: Andrew Butler
Clarinet/saxophone: Mike Corner
Trombone: Donald Kennelly
Guitar: Paul Psarros
Keyboards: Sun Ha Yoon
Percussion: Scott Bleaken

Thursday, July 19, 8 PM
Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center

§ Photo credit: Andrew Stenson and Joseph Lattanzi
Photo by Kristen Loken


This week I saw Brave, Pixar's latest 3D feature. The fairy tale story is set in a pre-Christian, preliterate Scotland. Our heroine is a strong-willed princess being prepared for marriage, but she is really too young to be married, & the story instead turns into an adventure whose goal is the reconciliation of mother & daughter. A witch creates havoc by turning people into bears, &, in true Disney fashion, the characters are far more expressive & sympathetic as animals than as humans. The action scenes are violent, though bloodless. I was confused by an early scene in which rapid edits make it look like mother & daughter are arguing, even though they are actually in separate locations. The CGI rendering of the forest landscapes is amazingly realistic. During a gorgeous salmon fishing sequence, I thought for a moment they had simply inserted shots of a real river.

The movie was preceded by the whimsical Pixar short La Luna, featuring heart-warming Italian stereotypes.

§ Brave (2012)
USA, 100 minutes
Directed by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Steve Purcell

§ La Luna (2011)
USA, 7 minutes
Directed by Enrico Casarosa

Monday, July 16, 2012

SFSFF: The Cameraman

SF Silent Film Festival, 07.15.2012 Audience waiting to get into Castro Theatre for SF Silent Film Festival.There was a delay letting people into the Castro Theatre for the final program of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival on Sunday night, & I did not see any empty seats by the time the program began, about 15 minutes late. The evening began with a raffle, followed by a showing of the candy-colored 2011 restoration of Georges Méliès's A Trip to the Moon. Stephen Horne accompanied elegantly on the piano, playing tunes from Offenbach's Le voyage dans la Lune. There are no intertitles, so actor Paul McGann read the film's narration. Mr. Horne improvised on Bach's Air for the G String when the film did not start rolling immediately.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival, 07.15.2012 Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin in front of slide of Frank Buxton and Buster Keaton at closing night of the SF Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theatre.On entering, the audience received fans made of cut-outs of Buster Keaton's face, & we were asked to hold them over our own faces as photographers took pictures for Fandor. Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin reminisced about meeting Buster Keaton & pointed out Buster Keaton's granddaughter & great-grandchildren in the audience.

The main feature was The Cameraman, probably Buster Keaton's last great film. In the episodic story, Buster plays a hapless newsreel photographer courting a pretty girl working in the news office. The film still works beautifully, & the festival audience was great. They laughed in all the right places, applauded the best gags, & hissed Buster's romantic rival. The elevator shot that follows Buster up & down several floors of a building is still amazingly clever. For some reason I think it's hilarious that the Chinatown gangs in the Tong War scene have mounted machine guns. The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra accompanied the movie, providing pleasing Salon-style background music. I liked their choice of the Blue Danube Waltz for the famous changing room scene.

§ The Cameraman (1928)
Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton
Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra
Introduced by Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin
Shows with Georges Méliès' A TRIP TO THE MOON - with live narration by Paul McGann!

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Sunday, Jul 15, 2012 7:30 PM
Castro Theatre

Sunday, July 15, 2012

ABS Festival: The Leipzig Masters

Saturday night's ABS Festival concert presented Bach along with music of 3 of his contemporaries. The program began with a cantata by Johann Kuhnau, who was Bach's predecessor at Thomaskirche. This was followed by a Magnificat in C by Christoph Graupner, who was the Leipzig Town Council's 2nd choice to succeed Kuhnau. Bach was their 3rd choice. Both pieces are in several short, breezy & cheerful movements. A chorus of 14, which included the soloists, stood in a row behind the orchestra, which had about an equal number of musicians. Tenor Aaron Sheehan displayed great breath control & a clear sound. Mezzo Danielle Reutter-Harrah made a beautifully pure & full sound that was soprano-like in the Graupner. Debra Nagy played the oboe & the recorder seamlessly. I wished there could have been more than 5 string players, though, & that the soloists could have been closer to the audience.

The 2nd half began with an orchestral suite by Telemann, who was the Town Council's 1st choice to succeed Kuhnau. Despite the intentionally silly titles for the movements, Telemann's music is vigorous & engaging. He would have been a great hire. We got a slightly larger orchestra, including 11 strings, 4 trumpets, 2 oboes, a bassoon & a timpani. The evening ended with Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D, which got a consistently lilting performance, even during the famous Air. The instrumentalists played immaculately, especially the wind & trumpet players. Bach's music immediately sounded thicker & more virtuosic than that of his contemporaries. The entire performance was characteristically clean & fastidious, & it was fun to watch the musicians exchange glances as they played. The ABS audience listened very quietly & applauded enthusiastically, especially for the Bach.

§ American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy

Masterworks Series
The Leipzig Masters

Rita Lilly, soprano
Danielle Reutter-Harrah, mezzo-soprano
Judith Malafronte, alto
Aaron Sheehan, tenor
William Sharp, baritone
American Bach Soloists
American Bach Choir
Jeffrey Thomas, conductor

Johann Kuhnau (1660-1722)
Ihr Himmel jubilirt von oben

Christoph Graupner (1683-1760)
Magnificat in C Major

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
La Bourse (The Stock Exchange), TWV 55:B11

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Orchestral Suite (Ouverture) III in D Major, BWV 1068

Saturday July 15 2012
SF Conservatory of Music

SFSFF: South

When I joined the ticket-holders line at the SF Silent Film Festival, it already wrapped around 3 sides of the block. There was a delay letting us into the theater, & a conscientious festival staffer walked the whole length of the line, explaining that there was a problem with the soundboard. We were there to see South, the 1919 documentary about Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated attempt to cross the Antarctic in 1914, filmed by crew member Frank Hurley. It's an amazing visual record, though awkwardly packaged as a feature film. It starts as a hearty adventure, with scenes featuring the expedition's eager sled dogs. It then becomes a survival story when pack ice destroys the ship, an event astonishingly captured on film. There is no more footage of the expedition past this point, so the film is instead padded with still photos, melodramatic drawings, & scenes of arctic wildlife, eventually turning into a silent version of March of the Penguins. It took me a while to start worrying about the dogs, which disappear without comment halfway through the film.

The festival presentation included actor Paul McGann, who at several points read from Shakleton's letters in his velvety English accent. Stephen Horne accompanied on piano, zither, flute, accordion & xylophone, sometimes managing to play 2 instruments at once. He provided appropriate mood music for each scene, as well as a tactful silence when the expedition's ship succumbs to the ice.

§ South (1919)
Directed by Frank Hurley
Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano, with Paul McGann narrating

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Saturday, Jul 14, 2012 5:00 PM
Castro Theatre

Saturday, July 14, 2012

SFSFF: Little Toys

After recently learning about the tragic life of silent movie star Ruan Lingyu, I was curious to see one of her films, so it was fortuitous that the SF Silent Festival was featuring her in Little Toys from 1933. Festival artistic director Anita Monga welcomed the audience to the Friday afternoon screening & thanked us for turning out for an "obscure Chinese film." Author Richard Meyer introduced the film & did a good job explaining its political content. The film is a nationalistic response to the Japanese attack on Shanghai in January 1932, & Mr. Meyer read us censored intertitles that exhorted the original audience to take up weapons against the enemy. Interestingly, these same intertitles were again censored by the Communist government when the film was restored in China in modern times.

Little Toys starts as a rural idyll & ends as melodramatic agitprop. There are some beautiful shots of natural landscapes & a few flashes of avant-garde montage, but it is probably not a great film. Its best moment comes from Ruan Lingyu's tempered performance in a Dickensian recognition scene late in the story. The print we saw shows a lot of film damage & had clumsy & ungrammatical English translations of the intertitles. Donald Sosin provided live musical accompaniment on the piano, playing oriental-flavored music with plenty of pentatonic scales & imitations of the zither.

SF Silent Film Festival, 07.13.2012 Freakish Buster Keaton mask I received waiting in line for SF Silent Film Festival.While waiting in line to enter the theater, I was given a freakish fan in the shape of Buster Keaton's head. Between films, slides showing advertisements & movie trivia are projected on the screen. I stood up during a 10 minute delay at the start of the screening but was aksed to sit back down by a woman who said I was blocking her view of the slides.

§ Little Toys (1933)
Sun Yu, dir.

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
Friday, July 13, 1:00 pm
Castro Theatre

SFSFF: Amazing Tales from the Archives

SF Silent Film Festival, 07.13.2012 Tales from the Archives event at SF Silent Film Film Festival at the Castro Theatre.A large audience filled the Castro Theatre for this free SF Silent Film Festival presentation about film restoration in the digital age. Andrea Kalas from Paramount talked about her studio's recent restoration of Wings (1927) & showed before & after clips of the cleaned-up footage. She did a good job making me regret not seeing this new version at the previous night's screening. The $700,000 restoration included fixing film stock damage, adding tints & colored elements, & making a sound track with sound effects, based on the original score. Grover Crisp of Sony then talked about his studio's restorations of Dr. Strangelove & Lawrence of Arabia.

In all these cases, the end product is not a new print but a DCP, or Digital Cinema Package, meant for digital projection. Indeed, this event resembled a sales pitch for digital projection, but to a skeptical audience. Mr. Crisp even had the projectionist run Dr. Strangelove as a projected film & a digital projection simultaneously to demonstrate the differences. Audience members sometimes received non-answers to their pointed questions. In response to one questioner, Ms. Kalas acknowledged the ambiguity in her use of the term "digital film," & the festival's artistic director, Anita Monga, jumped in at one point to defend the festival's presentation of Wings as a digital instead of a film projection.

§ Amazing Tales from the Archives: Into the Digital Frontier
Andrea Kalas, Vice President of Archives at Paramount Pictures
Grover Crisp, Senior Vice President of Film Restoration and Digital Mastering at Sony Pictures

San Francisco Silent Film Festival
July 13, 10:30 am   
Castro Theatre

Friday, July 13, 2012

ABS Festival: Music by Johann Sebastian Bach

ABS Festival, 07.12.2012 Intermission at ABS Festival concert at the SF Conservatory of Music.Thursday night I attended the 1st concert of the American Bach Soloists Festival, a summer event comprising master classes, lectures & performances, taking place at the SF Conservatory of Music. The all-Bach program began with violinist Robert Mealy in the Sonata in A Major for Violin & Harpsichord. His tempos were moderate, & he bobbed up & down gently as he played. He added a chordal flourish at the end of the piece. His Baroque violin makes a billlowy sound compared to the modern version. Baritone William Sharp was soloist for the solo cantata Ich habe genug. An ensemble of 7, one player per part, accompanied him. His voice is clean & even throughout its range & is easy to listen to. His interpretation was tasteful, & he added light dramatic accents. Debra Nagy played an immaculate oboe obbligato, & Mr. Sharp did the we-are-not-worthy bow to her during the ovations.

Elisabeth Reed played the Sonata in D Major for Viola da gamba after intermission. The 6-stringed instrument must be very difficult to play, & she looked flustered at least once. The sound is very quiet, & the bow seems to scud over the strings instead of grabbing them. Ms. Reed & harpsichordist Corey Jamason created a contemplative mood for the slow 3rd movement. The program ended with 7 musicians playing a lively Brandenburg Concerto No. 6. I enjoyed Elizabeth Blumenstock's animated viola playing, especially in the last movement, in which she humorously dialogued with violist Tekla Cunningham. ABS audiences are extremely quiet & attentive. They applauded enthusiastically, for the cantata & the Brandenburg in particular.

§ American Bach Soloists Festival & Academy
Chamber Series
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach

Elizabeth Blumenstock, violin & viola
Tekla Cunningham, viola
Corey Jamason, harpsichord & organ
Steven Lehning, violone & viola da gamba
Robert Mealy, violin
Debra Nagy, oboe
Elisabeth Reed, viola da gamba
William Sharp, baritone
Tanya Tomkins, violoncello

Sonata in A Major for Violin & Harpsichord, BWV 1015
Ich habe genug, BWV 82
Sonata in D Major for Viola da gamba & Harpsichord, BWV 1028
Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 in B-flat Major, BWV 1051

Thursday July 12 2012
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

No Ordinary Carmina Burana

Received a great flyer touting this "no ordinary" performance of Carmina Burana by the San Francisco Choral Society at Davies Hall. It's replete with "dancing MAIDENS, monks, PAGAN dress, [and] theatrical LIGHTING," though I'm not sure what is meant by "a swan well-done on WRY." The event sounds delightful nonetheless.

Orff: Carmina Burana
Emma Lou Diemer: Songs for the Earth

Brian Staufenbiel, Tenor
Marnie Breckenridge, Soprano
Eugene Brancoveanu, Bass

Contra Costa Children's Chorus, Martin Benvenuto, Conductor
Brian Staufenbiel, Creative Consultant
California Chamber Symphony
Robert Geary, Conductor

Friday, August 17, 2012 8:00 pm
Saturday, August 18, 2012 8:00 pm
Davies Symphony Hall - San Francisco

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Fillmore Jazz Festival

Fillmore Jazz Festival, 07.07.2012 Swing dancing at the Fillmore Jazz Festival.I generally steer clear of crowded street fairs, but one of my weekend destinations was smack in the middle of the Fillmore Jazz Festival, so I ended up strolling through this one anyway. Security personnel kept drinkers corralled into fenced-in alcohol areas, so it was actually not that crazy. The public swing dance lessons were a hit, & the mixed crowd of joyful dancers looked like they were one rehearsal away from being a Pina Bausch number.

Fillmore Jazz Festival, 07.07.2012 James Whiton & Destiny Muhammad performing in Yoshi's Lounge during the Fillmore Jazz Festival.After buying a spicy tuna roll, I was invited to eat it in Yoshi's swank lounge, where I heard the last half hour of a set by James Whiton, on electric upright bass, & Destiny Muhammad, who played jazz harp & sang & was infectiously happy. Mr. Whiton can be an extravagant player, & he got all sorts of effects out of the instrument. At one point he made it sound like it was gargling. The harp is not an ethereal instrument in Ms. Muhammad's hands, & I liked her direct & forthright playing. I also loved the big-hearted way she appreciatively thanked people for coming when they got up to leave mid-set.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Schwabacher Summer Concert

This year's Schwabacher Summer Concert presents 9 Merolini in semi-staged scenes from 4 operas, accompanied by full orchestra. Soprano Melinda Whittington & mezzo Erin Johnson went full-throttle in a confrontation scene from Anna Bolena between 2 wives of Henry VIII. Both sang with loud, powerful voices & were intensely serious actresses. They wore matching rectangular dresses, one white & one black, that made the wearers resemble playing cards.

Tenor Chuanyue Wang was Faust in 2 scenes from Boito's Mefistofele, & his striking voice, with its solid core, communicates strength & ardor. Bass Andrew Kroes was a flinty Mefistofele & had an open yet sepulchral sound. He made a peculiar entrance from beneath a cape lying on the ground. He later draped the cape over the seated Faust in lieu of making him fly. Soprano Elizabeth Baldwin was a defiant Margherita, & her voice was big & wooly.

I'm totally unfamiliar with La Jolie Fille de Perth & could not make sense of the act 2 excerpt, in which characters in masks & party hats mostly sat around in a stupor. Tenor Yi Li, as Smith, sang with a pleasingly fluid & lyrical voice. Bass-baritone Hadleigh Adams displayed a ringing tone, & his drunken Ralph was angry, despairing & a bit unsettling. The stage was littered with upholstered chairs, & a character's dress accidentally toppled one of them. Fortunately, all the chairs needed to be turned upside-down anyway for the graveyard scene from The Rake's Progress that followed. I liked the way tenor Joshua Baum, as Tom, modulated his voice & sang with a variety of timbres. Bass-baritone Seth Mease Carico was a suave Nick Shadow, with an open, easy-sounding voice & great facial hair. Anne's voice of redemption rang out from the balcony. The house lights came up for the opera's Epilogue, & the singers entered down the aisles & pointed at the audience on the word "you." Apprentice coach Kevin Miller provided lively accompaniment on a harpsichord that was placed in front of the orchestra

The orchestra sounded taut under conductor Giuseppe Finzi, & I liked the clear, clean playing of the clarinet. The Herbst Theatre performance had supertitles & lighting effects, though the spotlights pointed across the stage threw shadows on the side walls that drew attention away from the singers. The engaged audience applauded everyone vigorously & seemed especially enthused about Mr. Wang & Mr. Adams. The program will be repeated in a free public concert in Yerba Buena Gardens on Saturday, July 7 at 2:00 pm.

§ Schwabacher Summer Concert
Conductor Giuseppe Finzi
Director Roy Rallo

Sinfonia from Roberto Devereux -- Gaetano Donizetti

Anna Bolena -- Gaetano Donizetti (in Italian)
From Act II
Giovanna Seymour - Erin Johnson
Anna Bolena - Melinda Whittington

Mefistofele -- Arrigo Bolto (in Italian)
From Act I, Easter Sunday
Act III, The Death of Margherita
Faust - Chuanyue Wang
Mefistofele - Andrew Kroes
Margherita - Elizabeth Baldwin

La Jolie Fille de Perth -- Georges Bizet (in French)
Act II
Le Due de Rothsay - Joshua Baum
Mab - Erin Johnson
Henri Smith - Yi Li
Un ouvrier - Seth Mease Carico
Ralph - Hadleigh Adams
Le Majordome - Andrew Kroes
Cathérine Glover - Melinda Whittington

The Rake's Progress -- Igor Stravinsky (in English)
Act III, Scene 2
Tom Rakewell- Joshua Baum
Nick Shadow - Seth Mease Carico
Anne Trulove - Elizabeth Baldwin

Thursday, July 5, 7:30 PM, Herbst Theatre

Thursday, July 05, 2012

4th of July

4th of July fireworks, 07.04.2012 4th of July fireworks, seen from Fort Mason.Even though it was clear all day, clouds rolled in during the evening, but fortunately they were not quite low enough to obscure the 4th of July fireworks show along the waterfront. I viewed it from the hill path between Fort Mason & Aquatic park, which overlooks one of the launch areas. The crowds were really dense. The spectacle included ringed planets, Necker Cubes, hemispheres, red hearts, disks, & zigzagging spermatozoa. The crowd laughed at a series of smiley faces that had misshapen mouths & looked apathetic rather than happy.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Merola Auditions for the General Director

Merola Auditions, 07.01.2012 Merola Auditions for the General Director, at the War Memorial Opera House, on the set of the 3rd act of Attila.Sunday evening I heard the Merola Auditions for the General Director, held in the War Memorial Opera House, with the 3rd act of Attila still on the stage. First, each singer offered one aria, accompanied by one of the apprentice coaches on the piano. After a break, 9 were called back to sing an additional number. General Director David Gockley listened from the middle of the orchestra seats, & an invited audience of Merola members sat in the grand tier & boxes, though etiquette required that no one applaud until all the singers had auditioned. The program was ordered so that we never heard 2 singers of the same voice type in a row.

I was glad that soprano Jacqueline Piccolino got called back. Her "Una voce poco fa" from The Barber of Seville easily filled the space, & she seemed to be having fun instead of auditioning. She was just as engaging in a serious aria from Menotti's The Old Maid & the Thief. I also liked having 2 chances to hear mezzo Erin Johnson, 1st as a dark-voiced Delilah & then as a plucky & resolute Isabella in "Cruda sorte!" from L'Italiana in Algeri.

Bass-baritone Hadleigh Adams was disturbing as Tarquinius in a scene from Britten's The Rape of Lucretia, especially when he disconcertingly unbuttoned his jacket. He sang "Se vuol ballare" for his call back & was an edgy & angry Figaro. Coloratura soprano Rose Sawvel made the audience laugh with her sparkling & powerful "Glitter and Be Gay" from Candide. Bass-baritone Matthew Scollin had a very appealing stage presence singing Papageno's suicide aria, & his accompanist Francesco Fraboni did a nice job imitating panpipes on the piano.

There were 7 tenors, all of them excellent. AJ Glueckert has a high, focused sound, & I enjoyed his snappy & conversational "La donna è mobile." Casey Candebat was intense & urgent in "Pourquoi me réveiller" from Werther & elicited appreciative murmurs from the audience. I was sorry he wasn't among the call backs. Mr. Gockley seemed to like Chuanyue Wang, whose sound has a solid, concentrated core. At the end of the 3 hour event, all the performers lined up on stage so we could finally applaud them but then couldn't figure out how to get off the stage as a group.

§ Merola Auditions for the General Director
Sunday, July 1, 6:00 PM
War Memorial Opera House

Order of Appearance:

Joseph Lattanzi baritone / Elena Lacheva
Suzanne Rigden soprano / Elena Lacheva
Yi Li tenor / Kevin Miller
Seth Mease Carico bass-baritone / Kevin Miller
Jacqueline Piccolino soprano / Francesco Fraboni
Carolyn Sproule mezzo-soprano / Francesco Fraboni
Joshua Baum tenor / Francesco Fraboni
Hadleigh Adams bass-baritone / Artem Grishaev
Aviva Fortunata soprano / Sun Ha Yoon
Andrew Kroes bass / Sun Ha Yoon
AJ Glueckert tenor / Elena Lacheva
Jennifer Cherest soprano / Kevin Miller
Andrew Stenson tenor / Kevin Miller
Matthew Scollin bass-baritone / Francesco Fraboni
Melinda Whittington soprano / Francesco Fraboni
Theo Lebow tenor / Artem Grishaev
Erin Johnson mezzo-soprano / Artem Grishaev
Rose Sawvel soprano / Sun Ha Yoon
Casey Candebat tenor / Sun Ha Yoon
Elizabeth Baldwin soprano / Artem Grishaev
Gordon Bintner bass-baritone / Elena Lacheva
Chuanyue Wang tenor / Elena Lacheva
Sarah Mesko mezzo-soprano / Kevin Miller

Call Backs:

Jacqueline Piccolino
AJ Glueckert
Erin Johnson
Rose Sawvel
Elizabeth Baldwin
Sarah Mesko
Chuanyue Wang
Jennifer Cherest
Hadleigh Adams