Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Cupcake Opera

The Borderlands Cafe in the Mission is currently hosting a painting exhibition by the Internet's own Opera Tattler. The 30 or so pictures portray operatic stage scenes, of course, though the characters resemble small, hapless cupcakes with twig-like arms. Most depict recent San Francisco Opera productions, complete with quotations from the scores.

I attended the opening reception on Sunday. Since the pictures are right over the tables, they are sometimes difficult to inspect, though it is amusing to consider that customers might be planning the next start-up to take over the world while sitting beneath the image of a cupcake that has fallen on its frosting. No actual cupcakes were available but guests were offered thick fudge brownies. At least 3 of paintings were already sold by the end of the afternoon.

§ Cupcake Opera
new paintings by Charlie Tiee
October 1 - November 30, 2015
Borderlands Cafe

Opening Reception
October 11, 2015, 3:30 - 5:30pm

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

WSJ: How Videogames Are Saving the Symphony Orchestra

Francesca Buchalski as Link 
Classic tongue-in-cheek article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal this morning about how concerts of videogame music are keeping symphonic music alive & kicking for non-subscription audiences:  New Mission for Videogame Heroes: Save the Symphony Orchestra.

Sample Excerpts
Costumed attendees—dressed as dragons, wizards, princesses, fairies, knights and sorcerers—often engage in mock battles. Marriage proposals mid-show aren’t unusual.
“You can no longer just sit there and play Beethoven,”
“From a business-strategy perspective, it completely devalues the brand, ...akin to Mouton Rothschild using its wine to make and sell sangria.”
Heidi Harris, the associate concert master for the St. Louis Symphony, was surprised how much she enjoyed performing Zelda in a concert this year. “I thought it was very beautiful,” she said. “I dislike videogames less now.”

PBO: Scarlatti’s Glory of Spring

Last Friday night I heard Philharmonia Baroque's performance of Scarlatti's La Gloria di Primavera, a sort of extended secular cantata original written to celebrate the birth of the male heir of the Holy Roman Emperor in 1716. PBO touted these performances as the 1st in nearly 300 years. 5 soloists represent the seasons plus the god Jove. The text is fulsome, sycophantic & dramatically static, but the singers did a nice job creating characters & having fun with it where possible.

All the roles are virtuosic, & the entire cast displayed agility & charm. Mezzo Diana Moore was stable & rooted throughout her fancy coloratura passages. Soprano Suzana Ograjenšek's singing was youthful, clean & flirtatious. Countertenor Clint van der Linde's voice sounded firm & well-inflated. Tenor Nicholas Phan was wonderfully expressive & sang his rage arias colorfully. His rich, smooth timbre seemed well-suited for this music. Baritone Douglas Williams made the audience laugh the moment he stepped on stage & gave an engaging & comic performance as the pompous god Jove. HIs acting made the woman next to me downright giggly. His voice was solid & had some weight, & he gamely executed his music's unwieldy leaps. An additional 5 singers joined the soloists for the choruses & blended in neatly.

Everything felt tidy & well-rehearsed. Conductor Nicholas McGegan was a vivacious leader & kept the music spry & sparkling. The orchestra sounded bouncy & adroit. The orchestra was on the floor in front of the stage, except for 2 lutes & the flute & trumpet soloists who joined the singers on the stage. I sometimes felt that the music had a lot of filler, & the evening ran long, the 1st half lasting an hour & the 2nd half running 85 minutes. The performance was being recorded for a CD to be released next year.

The audience was attentive & respectful, applauding only at the end of each half. A man at the end of our row was particularly vocal in expressing his approval at the end. No printed libretto was supplied, but there were supertitles. As the lights went down at the start, an outside door squeaked loudly as it closed, which caused some titters

It was good to be back in the renovated Herbst Theatre, which looked spruced up & brighter. The acoustic sounded clearer to me as well. There is now a downstairs bar, & I enjoyed having a drink during intermission with friends who had all attended SF Opera's Lucia the previous night.

§ Scarlatti’s Glory of Spring
La Gloria di Primavera
Alessandro Scarlatti (1660 - 1725)

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra
Nicholas McGegan, conductor
Suzana Ograjenšek, soprano
Diana Moore, mezzo-soprano
Clint van der Linde, countertenor
Nicholas Phan, tenor
Douglas Williams, baritone

Members of the Philharmonia Chorale
Heidi Waterman, soprano
Jennifer Ashworth, soprano
Katherine McKee, alto
David Kurtenbach, tenor
John Bischoff, bass

Fri. 9 Oct. @ 8:00 PM
Herbst Theatre, San Francisco