Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween in the Marina

I didn't have to go far for Halloween today. At lunchtime, Chestnut Street in the Marina was full of pre-schoolers & their parents doing some daytime trick-or-treating.

Some kids needed more encouragement than others.

There were so many strollers that major bottlenecks occured on the sidewalk.

The parents were into it as much as the kids.

The Wells Fargo branch had the best decorations. The entire place was decked out with cobwebs & black & orange balloons.

I think this was a customer the employees were trying to resuscitate.

No doubt many of these kids will be out tonight as well, so they're just raking it in today.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kill Your Darlings

The new movie Kill Your Darlings is a coming of age story starring Daniel Radcliffe as the young Allen Ginsberg in his 1st year at Columbia University at the tail end of World War II. It's the first feature film of director & writer John Krokidas & is based on actual people & events. In the movie, a recording of Brahms Symphony #3 brings together Ginsberg & the dandified Lucien Carr, who then introduces him to William Burroughs & Jack Kerouac. The episodic plot converges on Carr's murder of David Kammerer, an older man who stalked the younger Carr for several years. Carr was indicted for the murder but successfully used the gay panic defense & served less than 2 years.

Daniel Radcliffe portrays an eager, happy & confident Ginsberg. We see him taking drugs, masturbating, receiving a blow job & engaging in accurately choreographed sex with another man. Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr looks like he belongs in the 1940s & communicates both insecurity & decadence. I liked Ben Foster's deadpan & gravel-voiced impersonation of Burroughs. Michael C. Hall is creepy yet vaguely sympathetic as Kammerer. The film's careful recreation of 1940s settings & clothing gives it a stylish, well-dressed look. There are occasional hallucinogenic flashes in which the film runs backwards. Kill Your Darlings opens in the Bay Area on November 1st.

§ Kill Your Darlings (2013)
A film by John Krokidas
USA, 100 mins.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

World Origami Days

According to the OrigamiUSA website, we're in the midst of World Origami Days. I can't find any events to go to for this, so here's an origami howling coyote, designed by John Montroll & folded by me.

§ World Origami Days
October 24, 2013 to November 11, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Crissy Broadcast

Saturday afternoon, as the fog rolled under the Golden Gate Bridge, I walked to Crissy Field for the 4p run of Crissy Broadcast, a large-scale musical performance presented 3 times over the weekend.

It involved about a dozen different bands of mostly high school musicians. There was a range of ensembles, including winds, brass, strings, electric guitars, percussion, a chorus & traditional Chinese instruments.

I even spotted alphorns.

With all the groups assembled together in the center of Crissy Field, Lisa Bielawa, the composer, periodically announced the time through a bullhorn. She gave a final countdown at 5 minutes to 4, probably for everyone to synchronize watches.

The muscians were well-rehearsed. Each ensemble largely played in unison under its own leader, though the groups themselves seemed to be independent of one another. There were musical phrases that everyone played, so for a while there was a call and response effect.

After several minutes the bands began to disperse, so by the end of the work's one hour duration they dotted the periphery of Crissy Field. As the groups got farther apart & out of earshot, I had to choose to follow a particular one. They played in short bursts, then walked to their next location, so much of the time there didn't seem to be any music going on at all.

A few bands converged on the beach & ended the performance there, but I found it unsatisfying that all musicians did not re-unite.

Musicians far outnumbered spectators, though the people who happened upon the event clearly enjoyed the spectacle of young musicians playing together in public.

§ Crissy Broadcast
Lisa Bielawa, Composer & Artistic Director
Saturday, October 26, 10:00 - 11:00 AM
Saturday, October 26, 4:00 - 5:00 PM
Sunday, October 27, 12:00 - 1:00 PM
Crissy Field | San Francisco

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Flying Dutchman at SF Opera

This past Tuesday I saw the opening performance of The Flying Dutchman at SF Opera. The director Petrika Ionesco was fired by David Gockley the previous week & the production hastily re-staged. The rumored laser beams, spaceships & alien zombies were nowhere to be seen. The action takes place on a nearly bare stage. Projections, mostly of the sea & the sky, provide the scenic effects. The staging straightforwardly told the basic story, though I was confused about what the female chorus was supposed to be doing during the act 2 spinning scene. Costumes looked roughly 19th century, though the Dutchman enters in a sort of muscle shirt. The opera ended tamely, with a field of stars projected onto an empty stage.

The singing was strong. Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley had a nice tension to his voice & was an appropriately tortured Dutchman. His act 1 monologue was taut & received applause. The Dutchman's entrance is theatrical, with the entire stage floor hinging open to reveal a spooky subterranean world. Soprano Lise Lindstrom has a big, solid sound, & she sang with control. Her voice got larger & more focused in the final act. Her Senta, wearing an elegant dress, was a mature woman rather than a naive girl. Tenor Ian Storey as Erik was an effortful singer. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson's singing was characterful, & he was a vaguely comic Daland. It was nice to hear the bright ringing sound of tenor A.J. Glueckert as the Steersman. The male chorus sang robustly.

SF Opera photo IMG_20131022_195822_zpsd3ca2fc7.jpgConductor Patrick Summers did not push the music, & the duet of Senta & the Dutchman in act 2 unfolded at a slightly indulgent pace. The orchestra sounded clipped at times. I enjoyed the smooth & sweet oboe solos. The off-stage voices of the Dutchman & the Dutchman's sailors seemed to emanate from the walls of the auditorium. I watched the show in upstairs standing room, where there was plenty of room at the railing. This production takes an intermission after act 1.

§ The Flying Dutchman
Richard Wagner

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director, Set Designer: Petrika Ionesco

The Dutchman: Greer Grimsley
Senta: Lise Lindstrom
Erik: Ian Storey
Daland: Kristinn Sigmundsson
Steersman: A.J. Glueckert
Mary: Erin Johnson

Tue 10/22/13 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Merola 2014 Season Announcement

Merola Opera Season Announcement photo IMG_20131021_191455_zpsafd3f66d.jpgEarlier this week, Merola Opera announced next season's events at a wine, cheese & dessert reception for members in the plush Wattis Room at Davies Hall. Jean Kellogg, Executive Director, revealed that next summer's productions will be André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire & Mozart's Don Giovanni. Streetcar will be presented in an arrangement for reduced orchestra by Peter Grünberg. Ms. Kellogg described Streetcar as a "good opera for young voices." Conrad Sweeting gave some details about the April 12th Gala at the Fairmont Hotel. The theme is "A Night in New Orleans." The event is black tie, but Mr. Sweeting assured us that the dress code could be interpreted liberally. The Gala will also honor former SF Opera general director Lotfi Mansouri. Dan Meagher, Merola's ebullient Marketing Director, told us about free opera movies at the SF Public Library & a holiday concert featuring soprano Kristin Clayton & baritone Bojan Knezevic in Lafayette on December 7th.

Former Merola artists soprano Nicole Foland & baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, accompanied by pianist Robert Mollicone, performed 3 numbers from Don Giovanni. Mr. Brancoveanu sang Leporello's Catalog Aria, & his list was on an iPad, so Ms. Foland, playing Donna Elvira, comically flicked through pictures of flags, famous women & the number 1003. Mr. Brancoveanu charmingly hammed it up. He prowled the room, interacted with audience members & even snatched a flower from off a table setting & devoured it. Ms. Foland also sang Blanche's act 3 aria "Sea Air" from Streetcar. It was a treat to hear both singers in such an intimate setting.

§ Merola 2014 Season Announcement
Monday, October 21st, 7pm
Wattis Room
Davies Symphony Hall

§ Opera & Ornaments
A Merola Opera Program Holiday Concert
Saturday, December 7, 2013, 2 pm
Lafayette Public Library · Community Hall
3491 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette

§ Merola Goes to the Movies
Koret Auditorium at the San Francisco Library Main Branch
Admission is free

OTELLO, directed by Franco Zeffirelli
Sunday, November 3rd, 2013, 1 pm

A NIGHT AT THE OPERA, The Marx Brothers
Saturday, January 11th, 2014, 1 pm

THE MAGIC FLUTE, directed by Ingmar Bergman
Saturday, March 29th, 2014, 1 pm

Film to be announced
Saturday, May 24th, 2014, 1 pm

§ Gala
Saturday, April 12, 2014

§ A Streetcar Named Desire
July 10, 2014, 7:30 pm
July 12, 2014, 2 pm

§ Schwabacher Summer Concert
July 17, 2014, 7:30 pm
July 19, 2014, 2 pm

§ Don Giovanni
July 31, 2014, 7:30 pm
August 2, 2014, 2 pm

§ Merola Grand Finale and Reception
Saturday, August 16, 2014, 7:30pm

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stephanie Blythe at Meyer Sound

Last Sunday evening Meyer Sound in Berkeley hosted a launch party for As Long as There are Songs, mezzo Stephanie Blythe's new CD of American popular songs. It was recorded in Meyer Sound's Pearson Theatre, a small 57-seat venue equipped with an electronic sound system called Constellation. It's a combination of microphones, speakers & digital processing which creates a virtual, customizable acoustic for live performances. Cal Performances uses Constellation for shows in Zellerbach.

Helen and John Meyer gave a brief introduction & demonstrated how the Pearson Theatre's dead acoustic can be changed to simulate various spaces, such as a lecture hall, a concert hall or the echoey interior of a mosque. We heard a track from the CD, then Ms. Blythe came out with pianist Craig Terry, her accompanist on the CD, & sang 3 more songs for us, with the room set to sound like a large, resonant space. The fullness of her voice & the clarity of her diction gave her renditions real immediacy. "The Man that Got Away" made me feel like I should be crying into a glass of scotch. Mr. Terry's robust accompaniment had a lot of personality.

Photo by Jesse Goff
Ms. Blythe explained that her performances are influenced by what a space gives back to her & that it was a great experience to record in an acoustic adjusted to approximate what she hears in her head. The CD was recorded with just 2 small microphones placed in front of her. The people at Meyer Sound are a friendly crew & obviously love what they do. When I asked questions about the theater's sound system, they gave me a private demo & let me play with the iPad app that controls the room's settings. They compared the use of the Constellation sound system to the moveable sound panels in Davies Hall & to the way street performer Robert Close uses the acoustics of Maiden Lane to project his voice around Union Square.

 photo IMG_20131020_181306_zpsf5387d5d.jpgRefreshments were served in an intimate party room with low lighting. It had a canopy of tree branches hanging just above eye level & an ambient sound of chirping birds. The bustling event photographer asked me to pose with several people I had only just met.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Stephanie Blythe & Les Violons du Roy

Sunday afternoon, I heard mezzo Stephanie Blythe sing Haydn & Handel with Les Violons du Roy, a Canadian chamber orchestra led by Bernard Labadie. Instrumental suites by Telemann & Bach began each half of the program. Members of Les Violons du Roy play modern instruments, but their approach is influenced by period performance practices. Tempos were fast & snappy, with punchy accents. The strings use almost no vibrato, & the sound is bright. The group's 3 oboes sat front and center, between the 1st & 2nd violins. I liked the oboes' very tight ensemble in a rapid passage in the Espagniol movement of the Telemann suite. We heard Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 4 in the "original version" that had no trumpets or timpani. The string players used baroque bows for the orchestral suites but switched to modern bows when accompanying Ms. Blythe.

Cal Performances photo IMG_20131020_145515_zps4fa2531e.jpgIt was a thrill to hear Stephanie Blythe's powerful voice. It's like a tree trunk, & I felt it in my chest as well as heard it. Her voice easily filled the recital-sized Hertz Hall, but there were a few moments when she got really loud, & then you realized just how much she actually scaled back her sound. Before intermission, she sang Haydn's recitative-heavy cantata Arianna a Naxos, communicating nobility & anger. The concert closed with 3 arias from Handel's Giulio Cesare. In the flashy "Empio, dirò, tu sei" Ms. Blythe had to take a breath during the rapid 16th note runs, but all the notes were clear. She was appropriately sneering in "L'empio, sleale, indegno," & the orchestra accompanied her with biting chords. Her sustained notes in "Aure, deh, per pietà" were wonderfully plush & thick. The audience was impressively quiet & did not applaud between the Handel arias. They even held the silence at the end of the last aria before giving Ms. Blythe a standing ovation. Her encore of "Che farò senza Euridice?" was nicely even.

§ Les Violons du Roy
Bernard Labadie, music director
with Stephanie Blythe, mezzo-soprano

TELEMANN: Orchestral Suite in C major, TWV 55:C6 (Ouverture à 7)

HAYDN: Arianna a Naxos, Hob. XXVlb:2 (1789)
(anonymous arrangement for string orchestra)

BACH: Orchestral Suite No. 4 in D major, BWV 1069
(original version) (1718)

HANDEL: Selections from Giulio Cesare, HWV 17
Empio, dirò, tu sei
L'empio, sleale, indegno
Dall'ondoso periglio...Aure, deh, per pietà

GLUCK: Che farò senza Euridice? (from Orfeo ed Euridice)

Cal Performances
Sunday, October 20, 2013, 3pm

Hertz Hall

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Curious Flights: Transatlantic Crossings

Curious Flights photo IMG_20131018_210738_zpsa3f842f1.jpgFriday night I heard Curious Flights present a genial concert of chamber music, featuring works by British composer Edwin Roxburgh. The program opened with Oakland-born Dylan Mattingly's Six Night Sunrise, a pretty, stream of consciousness piece for violin & piano that ends with a racing finale. I liked violinist René Mandel's clean, smooth playing. Pianist Miles Graber was a solid accompanist.

Clarinetist Brenden Guy & percussionist Nicholas Reed were a tight duo in Roxburgh's Dithyramb I. The piece is somewhat theatrical & required Mr. Guy to play 3 different sizes of clarinet while interacting with Mr. Reed playing a variety of drums, gongs & xylphones. There were high, ear-piercing moments, bent pitches & dance-like passages. Both musicians played with sharply articulated phrasing & close communication. Mr. Guy & Mr. Reed were joined by violinist Tess Varley for a suite of jaunty, tuneful & syncopated pieces by Larry London. Mr. Reed had a rustic solo played on tin cans of different sizes. He is a flirtatious player & makes wicked eye contact with his partners. He sometimes looks like he is moving underwater. The composer was in the audience.

After intermission, Mr. Reed, surrounded by an array of percussion including gongs, vibraphone & bongos, played a solo piece by Roxburgh. The music begins & ends in near silence & is mysterious & foreboding. Mr. Reed moved stealthily round his circle of instruments, flipped mallets in the air & played without a score. The concert ended with Roxburgh's humorous How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear, performed by an orchestra of about 30. Nikolaus Hohmann, wearing a red bow tie & standing to the side of the orchestra, was a droll narrator, reciting a half dozen of Lear's nonsense poems while the orchestra played underneath. The music was often cartoonish, though "The Dong with a Luminous Nose" had a distinctively dark atmosphere, opening with a clear & sustained clarinet solo from Mr. Guy & then elongated notes from the strings. The orchestra convincingly imitated a sitar in "The Akond of Swat," which also included lovely oboe solos by Sydne Sullivan. Mr. Roxburgh himself was originally supposed to conduct but was unable to travel from England due to a personal situation. The orchestra sounded great & played neatly under his replacement, Dustin Soiseth.

Curious Flights photo IMG_20131018_212020_zps7504b483.jpgThe audience was sparse but supportive & recalled all the performers for 2nd bows. When my concert companion tried to remember the name of a local composer who looks like Santa Claus, a man seated in front of us suggested Terry Riley. It turned out my friend was thinking of Lou Harrison.

§ Curious Flights
Transatlantic Crossings

Six Night Sunrise (2010)
René Mandel, violin
Miles Graber, piano

Dithyramb I (1972)
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Nicholas Reed, percussion

Scenes from Dobashi (1998)
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Tess Varley, violin
Nicholas Reed, percussion

Aube (2008)
Nicholas Reed, percussion

How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear (1971)
Curious Flights Chamber Orchestra
Edwin Roxburgh Dustin Soiseth, conductor
Nikolaus Hohmann, Narrator

October 18, 2013 | 8:00 p.m.
San Francisco Conservatory Concert Hall

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

APE 2013

I spent this Saturday & Sunday afternoon checking out the Alternative Press Expo, an expo of independent press, self-publishing, comics & art. It seemed particularly dense with art illustrations this year. Monsters were popular subjects. Most of the exhibitors were ready with their pitches, & I heard many stories of successful Kickstarter campaigns. Attendees included a lot of art students & families with small children.

I was glad to get from Nick Mullins the final installment of his Carnivale, a dream-like, wordless 8-volume comic. I was impressed by the ambition of Inferno Los Angles, a dizzying comic book version of Dante's Inferno. I enjoyed talking with cartoonist Shannon Wheeler and learning how much perseverance it takes to get one's cartoons into the New Yorker. At the No Starch Press table, it was interesting to see manga textbooks translated from Japanese that teach subjects such as database programming. They also had a Python programming book aimed at children.

I was strangely intrigued by the table of Le Lierre Empoisonnant which nonchalantly displayed enclosures containing cultivated specimens of poison oak & poison ivy.

I also attended the Queer Cartoonists Panel. Justin Hall has been moderating it for 10 years now, which he said made him feel like "a grizzled old comics daddy." I was amused when panelist Sean Z referred to heterosexual attendees of BentCon as "ungay."

§ APE 2013
Alternative Press Expo
October 12-13
Concourts Exhibition Center

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i

Last Sunday afternoon the JCCCNC hosted a screening of the documentary The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i. I learned a lot at the event. Because 40% of the Hawaiian population was Japanese during World War II, it was not feasible to do a mass incarceration as occurred on the west coast of the mainland. Instead, there was selective detention, usually targeting prominent community members. Over 2,000 Japanese Americans were detained without charges during the course of the war, all over Hawaii. The largest confinement site was Honouliuli on Oahu. Amazingly, no one knew its location when a local TV station wanted to do a piece about it in conjunction with an airing of Schindler's List in 1998. The site was finally rediscovered in 2002.

The film covers a lot of historical facts within one hour. There are interviews with historians & Hawaii residents recalling their wartime experiences, as well as sepia-toned dramatic re-enactments. It also includes a story of non-Japanese internees & draws parallels to 9/11.

About 200 people attended the screening, which was held in the JCCCNC gymnasium. Carole Hayashino, president of the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai'i, & Jane Kurahara, the staffer who rediscovered Honouliuli, were present for a sharp & informative Q & A. The confinement sites in Hawaii are not well documented, & much of the research for the film was done by volunteers over the past 15 years. Honouliuli is on land currently owned by Monsanto, but Ms. Hayashino would like to see it become a part of National Park System. The site is hard to get to, though the JCCH brings in small groups of visitors periodically.

§ The Untold Story: Internment of Japanese Americans in Hawai'i
dir. Ryan Kawamoto, 2012, USA, 57 mins.

§ Japanese Cultural and Community Center of Northern California
Sunday, October 6, 2:00 p.m.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

MVFF: The Missing Picture

The Missing Picture is Cambodian director Rithy Panh's memoir of his teenage years spent in a punitive Khmer Rouge labor camp. The experience is so unbearably traumatic & dehumanizing that Panh is nearly incapable of communicating it. The film includes period footage & Khmer Rouge propoganda films, but his accounts of camp life & his idyllic childhood before the revolution are depicted with toy-like dioramas peopled with rough-hewn, painted figurines carved out of clay. The device is jarring. Panh's remembrances are read by an actor in voice over & feel matter-of-fact, introspective & emotionally stunted. The Missing Picture plays at the Mill Valley Film Festival on October 12th & 13th. The festival program says it is in French, but the version I saw at a preview screening had a voice-over in English.

§ The Missing Picture (L'image manquante)
Director: Rithy Panh
Cambodia, France, 2013, 92 mins.

Mill Valley Film Festival 36
Lark Theatre, Sat, Oct 12 4:45 PM
Rafael 3, Sun, Oct 13 5:30 PM

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Bill T. Jones Photos at YBCA

Walking by the YBCA last I week, I noticed a sign announcing free admission. Having a few spare minutes, I went in. Only the small upstairs part of the museum was open, where there is an exhibit of artifacts related to collaborations between dancer & choreographer Bill T. Jones & other artists. There's not much to see, but there is an arresting set of 5 larger-than-life photos by Tseng Kwong Chi of Jones posing in a body painting by Keith Haring.

Unfortunately you can view them only up close or from the staircase across the lobby, but they communicate a sense of motion & charge better than any of the videos in the exhibit.

§ Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company 30th Anniversary Exhibition
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
Sep 20 - Nov 3 | Upstairs Galleries and Grand Lobby

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Inequality for All

The documentary Inequality for All sold out when it played at the SF International Film Festival, so I was glad for the chance to see it when it showed up at the Metreon last week. It features Robert Reich, President Clinton's Secretary of Labor, explaining his concerns over the causes & effects of the widening income gap in the US. Mr. Reich returns repeatedly to historical data showing parallels between the crashes of 1929 & 2008. Animated charts & graphs show some disgusting statistics. For instance, the 400 richest Americans hold over 50% of the nation's wealth. We get glimpses into the lives of families who are the working poor & meet a rich business owner who admits to paying only 11% of his income in taxes & readily points out that he can't possibly put back into the economy all the money he makes simply by spending more.

The film promotes the bright-eyed Mr. Reich as a champion for the middle class. In the first scene, the filmmakers accompany Mr. Reich as he drives up California Street in San Francisco in his MINI Cooper. We see him talking on camera, appearing in old TV footage, making jokes about his small stature & being inspirational to a packed lecture hall of UC Berkeley students. I was confused about the context for a scene in which he meets with workers at a Calpine power plant. The movie is a call for activism, though it is carefully non-partisan & does not advocate a specific cause except to imply that unions are a good thing.

Because of the opening of Gravity, there was a long line to purchase tickets at the Metreon, & I got into my auditorium 10 minutes late. However, the movie did not start until over 15 minutes past the advertised start time, & it might not have run at all if someone hadn't gone out & told a Metreon manager that we had no movie. The projectionist skipped the trailers for us, but the film was improperly masked, & the top & bottom of the image were cropped.

§ Inequality for All (2013)
dir. Jacob Kornbluth, USA, 90 mins.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Ig Nobel for Effects of Opera on Mice

I don't know how I missed this one: This year's Ig Nobel Prize for medicine went to Japanese research showing that playing La Traviata to mice that received heart transplants made them survive longer. The mice heard Angela Gheorghiu in the title role. Other test subjects heard Mozart, Enya & single sound frequencies.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

Philharmonia Baroque: Pergolesi in Naples

David Daniels
Friday night the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra presented an Italian-themed concert featuring Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, with countertenor David Daniels & soprano Carolyn Sampson. Because of the renovation of Herbst Theatre, the performance was held at SFJAZZ. Conductor Nicholas McGegan delivered an amusingly droll introduction & told the audience, "We're going to play old jazz."

The 1st half was very symmetrical, with Mr. Daniels & Ms. Sampson singing a set of 4 Handel duets & arias as the centerpiece piece between 2 instrumental works. Mr Daniels makes an even, somewhat dense, sound that is almost gritty. His singing was sustained in the languid “Dove sei” from Rodelinda. Ms. Sampson's aria was the flashier “Da tempeste” from Giulio Cesare. Her singing was clean & pretty, & I liked her warm & controlled vibrato. She stood close to Maestro McGegan & flirted with him in character during her final flourish. Mr. Daniels & Ms. Sampson listened to each other nicely in their 2 duets, & their singing was very close. The audience laughed when they imitated heaving lovers at the end of the “Caro/Bella” duet from Giulio Cesare. An efficient performance of the Stabat Mater took up the 2nd half. It was brisk & occasionally solemn but not lugubrious. Ms. Sampson & the orchestra created a hold-your-breath pianissimo in the verse describing the moment of Jesus's death.

Carolyn Sampson
Photo credit: Marco Borggreve

The orchestra consisted of 17 strings, plus theorbo & either harpsichord or organ. Maestro McGegan led with characteristically quick, bird-like gestures. Sometimes just his impish demeanor was enough to convey a phrase. The orchestra's articulation was precise, bouncy & pointed. The violins were not always in tune. Concertmaster Elizabeth Blumenstock was feisty in her 1st movement solos in the Durante concerto. Maestro McGegan described the piece as "slithery & chromatic." The orchestra & singers sounded dry in the SFJAZZ acoustic, & their sound seemed to dissipate immediately without reverberating. I could sometimes hear the musicians turning pages.

The audience was appreciative & quiet, & some gave the performers a standing ovation. Latecomers were seated during the 1st piece. Because of the layout of the space, everyone could watch them get to their seats. There was some sort of amplified thump during the Durante, & in the Stabat Mater we heard a plastic cup roll down some steps.

§ Pergolesi in Naples
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
David Daniels, countertenor
Carolyn Sampson, soprano

Sinfonia from L’Olimpiade

Duet “Io t’abbraccio” from Rodelinda
     Ms. Sampson & Mr. Daniels
Aria “Dove sei” from Rodelinda
     Mr. Daniels
Aria “Da tempeste” from Giulio Cesare
     Ms. Sampson
Duet “Caro / Bella” from Giulio Cesare
     Ms. Sampson & Mr. Daniels

Concerto Grosso for Strings No. 2 in G Minor

Stabat Mater

Fri, October 4, 2013, 8:00pm
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Stephen Jimenez at Books Inc.

Stephen Jimenez at Books Inc. photo IMG_20130926_195917_zpsfbffb2b4.jpgLast week I attended a book reading by journalist Stephen Jimenez at Books Inc. in the Castro. In The Book of Matt he reframes the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard as a drug crime involving participants who already knew each other. Mr. Jimenez talked about his research, which involved over a hundred interviewees, & read a short chapter in which he is threatened by drug criminals. He then elicited questions from the audience, though it is rather difficult to react to a book that one has not read. Mr. Jimenez had a ready answer for the couple of questions he did get, & he was primed for criticism of both his book & himself.

Books Inc. photo IMG_20130926_195019_zps75b467dc.jpg2 video cameras recorded the event, & Mr. Jimenez explained that he was being filmed for C-SPAN on his nation-wide book tour. I counted 8 seated attendees, including a homeless person. Bookshop staff & a few others who wandered in during the event also listened to Mr. Jimenez speak.

§ Stephen Jimenez at Books Inc. in The Castro
The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard
09/26/2013 7:30 pm

Friday, October 04, 2013

SFO: Dolores Claiborne

The night after seeing Mefistofele at San Francisco Opera, I was back for Tobias Picker's new opera Dolores Claiborne, meaning I saw soprano Patricia Racette tackle her 3rd role within 24 hours. She seemed impressively secure, considering that she stepped into the role barely 3 weeks before the opera's premiere the previous week. The opera is based on the Stephen King novel & follows the structure of the book, using a police interrogation as a frame & moving back & forth in time. The production is very pictorial. The detailed sets, wide projections & rapid scene changes give it a cinematic, hyper-real look. There are striking moments when the entire set pans horizontally.

The cast all gave strong performances. Ms. Racette is a terrific actress. Her Dolores remained sympathetic even while ready to commit murder. Soprano Elizabeth Futral sounded solid as the dowager Vera Donovan, though the character is not as intimidating in the opera as she is in the book. Soprano Susannah Biller was convincing as both the teenage & adult versions of Selena, Dolores's uneasy daughter. Her singing was clear & bright. The opera settles on the mother-daughter relationship as its closing theme, though without the reconciliation implied in the novel's epilogue. Bass-baritone Wayne Tigges sang Joe, Dolores's abusive husband, lyrically, yet his portrayal was so believably brutish that he received some booing when he took his curtain call. Tenor Greg Fedderly sang the role of the interrogating detective with urgency & had very clear diction.

The libretto is straight-forward & clear. It preserves the novel's salty language, & the audience laughed when Ms. Racette sang certain 4-letter words, even though these words did not appear in the supertitles. The music has an even texture throughout & is atmospheric & busy. It often conveys a vague feeling of menace. A dreamy arioso for Dolores, onboard a ferry, is time-stoppingly beautiful & received applause. I also liked the jabbering ensemble of maids hanging the wash & the boistrious trio for 3 male guests at a fancy lawn party. The vocal lines seem difficult, & there are cruelly high passages for Vera, Selena & the detective. The audience was engaged & gave Ms. Racette a warm ovation when the curtain came up for her diva bow. Composer Tobias Picker took a bow with the cast.

§ Dolores Claiborne
An opera by Tobias Picker
Libretto by J. D. McClatchy
Based on the novel Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: George Manahan

Dolores Claiborne: Patricia Racette
Selena St. George: Susannah Biller
Vera Donovan: Elizabeth Futral
Joe St. George: Wayne Tigges
Detective Thibodeau: Greg Fedderly
Mr. Pease: Joel Sorensen
Teenage Girl: Nikki Einfeld
Teenage Boy: Hadleigh Adams
Maid: Jacqueline Piccolino
Maid: Nikki Einfeld
Maid: Marina Harris
Maid: Laura Krumm
Maid: Renée Rapier
Mr. Cox: Robert Watson
Mr. Fox: Hadleigh Adams
Mr. Knox: A.J. Glueckert

Director: James Robinson
Set Designer: Allen Moyer
Costume Designer: James Schuette
Lighting Designer: Christopher Akerlind
Projection Designer: Greg Emetaz
Chorus Director: Ian Robertson
Fight Director: Dave Maier

Thursday, October 03, 2013

SFO: Mefistofele

Last week I was in downstairs standing room for San Francisco Opera's visually extravagant production of Boito's Mefistofele. The Prologue & Epilogue, set in a heavenly opera house teeming with ghostly angels, is a spectacle & a great fit with the music. The chorus has lots of assignments in this opera, & they were terrific in all of them. They were especially exuberant in the Walpurgisnacht scene, staged like a gleefully naughty New Year's Eve party. It received cheers from the audience. I was very entertained by the body suits that make choristers look completely naked.

Bass Ildar Abdrazakov had a steady, powerful voice, with the exception of his lowest notes. He was a patrician & somewhat aloof devil. His burly physique worked well with his shirtless costuming. Tenor Ramón Vargas sang musically & without strain, & his performance was very level throughout. Soprano Patricia Racette comfortably sang both Margherita & Helen of Troy the night I attended. She is an excellent actress & was very affecting as the condemned Margherita in act 3. I liked the bright & connected singing of tenor Chuanyue Wang as Wagner in the duet with Faust in act 1. Mezzo Erin Johnson was amusingly bubbly & buxom as Marta in act 2. Mezzo Renée Rapier was solid in her duet with Elena in act 4.

SF Opera photo IMG_20130924_184445_zps6630b293.jpgNicola Luisotti was an excitable & occasionally indulgent conductor. The orchestra sounded vivid. The brasses rang out clearly, & it was fun hearing the off-stage brasses. There were a few ragged moments in the strings. The orchestra level audience gave the show a standing ovation. I sometimes watched the show through binoculars, & an usher tapped me on the shoulder to make sure I did not miss Faust & Mefistofele appearing in the box seats. The indefatigable @LaurenSeattle introduced herself to me while we were in the standees line & at the end of the evening declared the production well worth the trip.

§ Mefistofele
Music by Arrigo Boito
Libretto by the composer

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti

Mefistofele: Ildar Abdrazakov
Margherita, Elena: Patricia Racette
Faust: Ramón Vargas
Marta: Erin Johnson
Pantalis: Renée Rapier
Wagner, Nereo: Chuanyue Wang

Production: Robert Carsen
Revival Director: Laurie Feldman
Designer: Michael Levine
Lighting Designer: Gary Marder
Chorus Director: Ian Robertson
Choreographer: Alphonse Poulin

Tue 09/24/13 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

MVFF: Guest Attendance

Yesterday the Mill Valley Film Festival released this updated list of guest attendees. It differs slightly from the list published on their web site. The festival opens tomorrow night, October 3rd & runs through the 13th.

§ Filmmakers and special guests attending the 36th Mill Valley Film Festival
As of 10/1/2013
This list is subject to change and frequent updates.

12 YEARS A SLAVE          
            Steve McQueen - Director
            Chiwetel Ejiofor - Actor
            Lupita Nyong´o - Actor

3020 LAGUNA ST. IN EXITUM (Short)          
            Ashley Rodholm - Director
            Joe Picard - Director
            Harald Boyesen - Composer

ADRIFT (Short)                                              
            Simon Christen - Director
            Jessica Christen - Guest          

            Connie Field - Director/Producer
            Gregory Scharpen - Editor
            Sage Brucia - Assistant Editor

            Pratibha Parmar - Director

ALL IS LOST          
            J C Chandor - Director
            Stephanie Northen - Publicist

            Vladimir Lisinac - Producer
            Zoran Lisinac - Director
            Cole Bonner - Composer
            Iman Crosson - Actor
            Daniel Grozdich - Actor
            Gloria Nava - Actor
            Brett Sorem - Editor

AT MIDDLETON          
            Vera Farmiga - Actor
            Andy Garcia - Actor
            Adam Rodgers - Director / Writer
            Glenn German - Producer / Writer

AT THE BAR (Short)                                              
            Jason Headley - Director

AUGUST FOOLS          
            Taru Makela - Director
            Jouko Seppala - Cinematographer

            Jason Potash - Producer
            Chris Lowell - Director
            Mohit Narang  - Writer/Producer
            Paul Finkel - Producer
            Steven Gorel - Producer

            Dawn Logsdon - Director
            Stephen Silha - Director

BLESSING IN DISGUISE (Short)          
            Eric Kissack - Director
            Lisa Rudin - Producer
            Libby Cuenin - Editor

BREATHE IN          
            Drake Doremus - Director

            Costa-Gavras - Director

            Françoise Charpiat - Director

            Vanessa Hope - Director

            Rob Nilsson - Director

COMING HOME (Short)          
            Chris Olness - Director
            Harris Charalambous - Cinematographer
            Mitch Waxman - Producer

            Jennifer Steinman - Director
            Diana Iles Parker - Producer
            Sevan Matossian - Director of Photography

Directors Panel        
            JC Chandor — All is Lost, Margin Call
            Ryan Coogler — Fruitvale Station
            Scott Cooper— Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace
            Steve McQueen — 12 Years a Slave, Hunger, Shame
            John Wells — August: Osage County, The Company Men
            Moderated by Variety Features Editor Peter Caranicas

DRONES IN MY BACKYARD (Short)          
            Deborah Kaufman - Producer
            Alan Snitow - Director

EFFIE GRAY          
            Dakota Fanning - Actor
            Donald Rosenfeld - Producer

            Thomas Dolby                      

            Julie Rubio - Director
            Blake Wellen - Producer
            Elijah Stavena - Cinematographer
            Jack Niehaus - Cinematographer
            Alex Niel - Editor

F-LINE (Short)          
            Silvia Turchin - Director

FACING FEAR (Short)          
            Jason Cohen - Director

FAMILIES ARE FOREVER (Short)          
            Vivian Kleiman - Director

            Meera Menon - Director
            Laura Goode - Producer

            Leah Warshawski - Director

            Eugene Corr - Director
            Ruth Shapiro - Executive Producer
            Liza Corr - Associate Producer
            Gary Weimberg - Editor
            Roscoe Bryant - Subject

GREED (Short)          
            Liam Hughes - Director
            Katherine Yarbrough - Producer
            Chris Alexander - Original Music
            James Hughes - Executive Producer
            Susan Hughes - Executive Producer

            Mahamat-Saleh Haroun - Director

HANS (Short)          
            Harris Cohen - Producer
            George Rosenfeld - Videographer/Editor
            Rouda  Audio - Guest

HI DE HO SHOW          
            John Goddard          

            Dana Nachman - Director
            Don Hardy - Director
            Chelsea Matter - Producer
            Sean Penn - Narrator

            Berry Minott - Director/Producer
            John Steele - Guest
            Jen Bradwell - Editor

Industry Panel          
            Ted Hope - Exective director of San Francisco Film Society
            Bob Berney - Founder of Picturehouse
            Gary Rubin - Executive VP of Cohen Media Group

            David Marks - Director

            Joe De Francesco - Director
            Joan Saffa - Producer
            Wendy Slick - Producer

KEEP A TIDY SOUL (Short)          
            Joshua Moore - Director
            Claire McConnell - Actor

            David L. Brown - Producer/ Director
            Barbara Borden - Subject/ Co-Producer
            Jane Kinzler - Co-Producer
            Steven Baigel - Co-editor

KING OF NORWAY (Short)          
            Sylvia Sether - Director
            Vanessa Manlunas - Cinematographer

LAMBING SEASON (Short)          
            Jeannie Donohoe - Director

            Jan Troell - Director

            Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee - Director
            Adam Loften - Editor
            Elias Koch - Cinematographer

LION ARK          
            Jorga Fox - Actor

            Eriq Ebouaney - Actor

Master Class Conversation           
            David Thomson - Writer, historian, film critic

            Michele Josue - Director
            Liam McNiff - Producer

THE MISSING SCARF (Short)          
            Eoin Duffy - Director
            Jamie Hogan - Producer
            Kristina Shu - Designer

NAPLES YELLOW (Short)          
            Shannon Stirone Norwood - Producer
            Tylor Norwood - Director
            Seth Hahn - Editor

            Bruce Dern - Actor
            Will Forte - Actor
            Ron Yerxa - Producer
            Albert Berger - Producer

            Quinn Costelo - Editor
            Will Parrinello - Director/Producer
            John Antonelli - Director/Producer
            Tom Dusenbery - Director/Producer

ODD BRODSKY          
            Cindy Baer - Director/Producer

ONE MAN'S SHOW          
            Newton Aduaka - Director
            Jean Francois Fernandez - Producer

            Casey Beck - Director
            Braden Marks - Writer
            Sara Ataiiyan - Writer
            Kevin D. Wong - Editor

            Larry Andrews - Director

            John Sanborn - Director
            Skip Sweeney - Producer
            Roger Jones - Producer
            Margaret Cromwell - Performer
            Joseph Copley - Performer

            Britta Sjogren - Director
            Michael Goodier - Editor
            Jake Weber - Actor

            Chris Eska - Director

ROCKETSHIP (Short)          
            Alfred Thomas Catalfo - Director
            David Random - Production Designer
            Russell Doucet - Lead Actor

            Chloe Robichaud - Director

THE SEA          
            Luc Roeg - Producer

SHARK RIDDLE          
            Laura Sams - Director
            Robert Sams - Director

SHE COMES IN SPRING (Short)          
            Antoneta Kastrati - Director
            Casey Cooper Johnson - Producer
            Sevdije Kastrati - Cinematographer

SLOMO (Short)          
            Joshua Izenberg - Director

SOMEWHERE BETWEEN (Short)          
            Jeremy Rall - Director
            Heather Gray - Writer / Actor
            Jennifer Arceneaux - Producer

SPOOKS & SPIRITS          
            Ágúst Guðmundsson - Director

            Christopher McLeod  - Director
            Tantoo Cardinal - Narrator 
            Onondagan Chief Oren Lyons
            Barry Lopez - Author

SWEET BLUES          
            Bob Sarles - Director/Producer
            Christina Keating - Producer
            Ted Leyhe - Producer

            Logan Miller - Director/Writer
            Noah Miller - Writer

            Christine Funk - Director
            Don Zimmer - Executive Producer
            Neil Harvey - Executive Producer

            Chris Simon - Director/Producer
            Maureen Gosling - Director/Producer
            Chris Strachwitz - Subject
            David Silberberg - Sound Recordist

TOXIC HOT SEAT          
            Brook Holston - Line Producer
            Jamie Redford - Director
            Kirby Walker  - Director
            Jen Bradwell - Editor

THE TROUBLE WITH BREAD (Short)          
            Maggie Beidelman - Director
            Nick Benavides - Composer
            Mitzi Mock - Camera
            Kate Elston - Videographer

            John Antonelli - Director/Producer
            Eli Olson - Editor
            Barry Schienberg - Director of Photography

            Hoku Uchiyama - Director
            Members of Chitresh Das Dance Company

THE VISITOR (Short)          
            George deChev - Director
            Erik Thijssen - Producer
            George Mirov - Production

WHITE SHOE (Short)          
            Matteo Sapio - Producer
            Mauro Borrelli - Director
            Leo Z - Composer

            Ellen Sebastian Chang - Producer

Women in the Industry           
            Osnat Shurer - VP of Development and Producer at Walt Disney Animation
            Vera Farmiga - Actor
            Dakota Fanning - Actor
            Pratibha Parmar - Director
            Stacy L. Smith - Professor, writer, moderator

            Chuy Padilla - Actor

            Jonathan Cenzual Burley - Director

YUKON KINGS          
            Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee - Director
            Adam Loften - Editor
            Elias Koch - Cinematographer

            Fred Ritzenberg - Producer