Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Philharmonia Baroque & SF Opera Adlers

Last Friday night I heard Philharmonia Baroque in a concert featuring San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows. Board member Kay Sprinkel Grace took 5 minutes at the start to talk about the orchestra's current $8 million fund raising campaign. In the 1st half we heard 4 Mozart vocal numbers, each paired with a short instrumental dance. The singers were on a raised stage behind the orchestra, & there were supertitles.

Bass Anthony Reed had a lambent, even sound & open, relaxed low notes in "Per questa bella mano." Double bass player Kristin Zoernig stood beside him & performed the aria's wildly virtuosic accompaniment. It was amusing to watch her flit all over the instrument while Mr. Reed remained stationery. Soprano Julie Adams sang the cute "Nehmt meinen Dank" with a room-filling sound that I could feel physically. Baritone Edward Nelson sang a comic, multilingual aria from La finta giardiniera with a lovely voice, & his acting was so adroit that his strutting entrance got laughs even before he started singing.

I sat on the side of the hall, behind the orchestra & had a good view of conductor Nicholas McGegan, whose gleeful expressions were infectious. The orchestra's playing was consistently sprightly, though the valveless horns struggled to sound in tune. During Mr. Nelson's aria, 2 men seated themselves in our row & were a bit chatty, but they did not return after intermission.

Rossini's enjoyably silly one-act opera La cambiale di matrimonio, written when he was 18, took up the 2nd half. There was a lot of action, & the 6 singers created a fun & lively theatrical atmosphere with just a few chairs & props. Soprano Jacqueline Piccolino was a strong-willed Fannì & sounded brilliant & secure, especially in her short coloratura aria near the end. Tenor Brian Thorsett's singing was high, clear & elegant, even though his character, Fanni's young lover, often behaved boorishly. Baritone Efraín Solís was hearty & sympathetic as an earnest Canadian merchant who arrives wearing a big fur coat. His singing was warm & focused, & every note was distinct in his rapid coloratura passages.

As the lovers' main obstacle, bass Matthew Stump was appropriately obtuse, & his voice was firm & well-grounded. Mezzo Nian Wang, sounding secure & bright, was a flustered maid, & Mr. Reed was a contrastingly cool butler. Maestro McGegan's perky conducting was a good fit for Rossini, & the evening was entirely vivacious. The audience was engaged & laughing, even after the supertitles crapped out before the final ensemble.

The show was immediately followed by an LGBT reception in the lobby, where sparkling wine & cookies were served. My concert companion & I mingled with some of the performers, & we learned that Maestro McGegan asked the singers not to look at him. I was at 1st suspicious of the pink sparkling wine, which an old lady at the reception correctly identified as a rosé Crémant.

§ Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor

Ted Huffman, director
Julie Adams, soprano
Jacqueline Piccolino, soprano
Nian Wang, mezzo-soprano
Brian Thorsett, tenor
Edward Nelson, baritone
Efraín Solís, baritone
Anthony Reed, bass
Matthew Stump, bass

Overture in D major, K. 106
“Per questa bella mano”, K. 612
    Anthony Reed, bass
    Kristin Zoernig, double bass

Contredance No. 1 in D major, K. 106
“Nehmt meinen Dank”, K. 383
    Julie Adams, soprano

Contradance No. 2 in A major, K. 106
“Con un vezzo all’Italiana” from La finta giardiniera
    Edward Nelson, baritone

Contradance No. 3 in B-flat major, K. 106
“Dite almeno, in che mancai”, K. 479
    Julie Adams, soprano
    Brian Thorsett, tenor
    Edward Nelson, baritone
    Anthony Reed, bass

La cambiale di matrimonio (The Marriage Contract)
    Fannì — Jacqueline Piccolino, soprano
    Clarina — Nian Wang, mezzo-soprano
    Edoardo Milfort — Brian Thorsett, tenor
    Slook — Efraín Solís, baritone
    Norton — Anthony Reed, bass
    Tobia Mill — Matthew Stump, bass

Fri, April 17 @ 8:00PM
SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco

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