San Francisco Opera closes out its season with La Fanciulla del West, Die Walkure, and Faust. Voigt and Licitra are in Fanciulla, with Luisotti conducting; Racette and Relyea are in Faust (I’m not familiar either with the Faust, Stefano Secco, or the conductors, Maurizio Benini and Giuseppe Finzi); and Stemme and Delavan are in Walkure, with Runnicles conducting. Walkure is of course the second part of Zambello’s American Ring, and though I had some reservations about the Rheingold, I’m curious to see how the “American” qualities are worked out. It will help me decide what to do about the Ring next year. In fact I’m still trying to figure out what to do about the rest of the Opera’s respectable but not particularly interesting season (not particularly interesting with the major exception of The Makropulos Case, with Mattila). But I ended up getting tickets to all three of these operas. I’m even mixing it up by sitting in the balcony for Faust. Make it new, children! as Wagner told us.
San Francisco Performances officially ended its season in May, but Yuja Wang’s recital was postponed for health reasons, so now that she is, I hope, fully recovered, she will be playing her previously announced program (Schubert/Liszt, Schumann, Scriabin, and Prokofiev) on the evening of Sunday, June 20.
Wang also appears with the San Francisco Symphony that same week, in a program including Poulenc’s Sonata for Piano Four Hands (the other set of hands will belong to Michael Tilson Thomas, who is also conducting the program), the Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brazileiras No. 9, Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand, and two pieces by Stravinsky: the Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra and The Rite of Spring. Sounds meaty!
June 10-13 the Symphony has the overture to the Flying Dutchman, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes, and Berg’s Lulu Suite with Erin Wall as the soprano soloist. The website notes on the concert bizarrely state that “Beethoven’s Violin Concerto proves there’s never too much of a good thing” and I have absolutely no idea what they mean by that in this context. Dada lives.
June 23-26 Tilson Thomas conducts an all-Berlioz evening, with the Roman Carnival Overture, Les Nuits d’Ete (with soloist Sasha Cooke), and Harold in Italy (featuring violist Jonathan Vinocour). This takes the place of the originally scheduled season closer, Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette.
The Berkeley Early Music Festival & Exhibition takes place June 6 to 13. Click here for the program listing; the Tenebrae Responsoria by Carlo Gesualdo performed by AVE and the Motets by Chiara Margarita Cozzolani performed by Magnificat look particularly tempting.
Cutting Ball Theater is reviving its production of Krapp’s Last Tape from last season. They also have two plays scheduled in their Hidden Classics Reading Series: Strindberg’s Storm, in a new translation by Paul Walsh, on June 13, and Goldoni’s The Antiquarian’s Family, in a new translation by Beatrice Basso on June 20.
So there you have the season coming to a close. Feel free to drop me a line if I’ve forgotten something.
Here it is May Day already. Do you know why America celebrates Labor Day in September? The capitalists had to give the workers something, but they didn’t want May 1 to be a worldwide day of worker solidarity. So into September it went, where it now mostly signifies the end of summer, as if summer matters in a country with criminally small amounts of time off for most workers. Years ago someone gave me that bit of information about the move to September – such casual mentions are what we used to have instead of Wikipedia, which I’m not going to bother to check. On past May Days I would occasionally wear a red tie and red socks to work; just another of my little jokes which no one realized I was making, which is probably just as well (though someone in Boston did once think the socks were a baseball reference, so I went with that). Anyway here's what I'm seeing or wouldn't mind seeing in May, and some of these are coming right up! Internet failure and migraines delayed my posting. So rush out there to celebrate the Art workers among us by purchasing tickets – remember, culture costs.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra closes its season with a world premiere violin concert, Romanza, by this year's featured composer, William Bolcom, with NCCO Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg as soloist; the balance of the program features Barber’s famous Adagio for Strings and Copland’s ever-fresh Appalachian Spring in its original version, along with the Hoe Down from Rodeo. That program takes place May 6-9, four times in four different locations. There is also an open rehearsal on Tuesday, May 4, at 10:00 a.m. in Berkeley.
On May 2 and 4, the California Symphony in Walnut Creek presents Silicon Blues, a world premiere by Mason Bates, at the conclusion of his three-year tenure as the orchestra’s sixth Young American Composer-in-Residence. The program also includes the Beethoven 5 and Sarina Chang in Liszt’s Piano Concerto No 1 and Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo Capriccioso for Cello and Orchestra. (Yes, she plays both piano and cello.)
The Oakland East Bay Symphony closes its season on May 14-16 with the Beethoven 9, featuring soloists Kristin Clayton, Layna Chianakas, Thomas Glenn, and Bojan Knezevic, along with Jake Heggie’s The Deepest Desire: Four Meditations on Love, based on poems by Sister Helen Prejean. Chianakas is also the soloist in the Heggie piece and Music Director Michael Morgan is the conductor.
Volti will close its season with Nocturnes, a new song cycle by Morten Lauridsen, who will accompany the chorus himself on the piano. These concerts also include works by Donald Crockett, Ted Hearne, and Robin Estrada. There are two performances, May 14 in Berkeley and May 15 in San Francisco. Be advised that the May 14 concert also features a whole mess of high school choirs. You can also buy Volti's latest CD here if you can't make it to the concerts.
Cal Performances presents Laurie Anderson in Delusion on May 7-8, and jazz great Sonny Rollins on May 13, as part of his 80th birthday tour. I heard him at Cal a few years ago and he was amazing.
SF Performances presents baritone Eugene Brancoveanu on May 16, in works by Sviridov, Bellini, Schubert, Loewe, and Duparc.
Incidentally Cal Performances is announcing its next season on May 4, and San Francisco Performances makes its announcement on May 11. I’m hoping both of them will come through for local audiences – that is, the local audiences who go to the theater for something besides the bland comforts of familiarity. Everyone else seems to be dragging out every over-familiar standard they can, which wouldn’t be so annoying if they all didn’t keep insisting on how very innovative they are.
SF Ballet closes its season May 1-9 with Helgi Tomasson’s version of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, which of course is based on what the Ballet’s website rather bizarrely describes as Shakespeare’s “phenomenally crafted tale.” By the way, I’m glad the Ballet is reviving The Little Mermaid next season, since I missed it due to poverty. Not that I'm expecting to be richer next season, but after hearing Lera Auerbach’s San Francisco Performances recital, I’m eager to hear more of her music. I’ve also heard knowledgeable friends praise the theatricality of John Neumeier’s choreography.
The San Francisco Symphony has Dalbavie’s La Source d’un Regard, Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 2, and the Brahms 2 conducted by Eschenbach on May 5-8. The Dalbavie presumably takes the place of the Thomas Larcher commission announced in the concert schedule. The Symphony has an irritating way of disappearing pieces and performers from its website without even a note mentioning the substitution, so that, for example, if you had a vague memory that last year’s announcement included Berlioz’s Romeo et Juliette, you could gaslight yourself searching the website, because it’s gone without an explanation. The excellent young pianist David Fray is the soloist in the Beethoven. I heard him last December with the New York Philharmonic in an exciting performance of Ravel’s Piano Concerto, and it’s to his credit that it wasn’t completely swamped by my memory of Martha Argerich’s performance of the same piece with the San Francisco Symphony earlier in the year (my post on that is here). His publicity photos are all male-model stylish angularity, but in person he’s quite tall and thin, with an endearingly bird-like gawkiness. Unfortunately the Friday concert is one of those silly 6.5 affairs, at which they drop a piece of music and substitute the conductor blathering from the podium, so that those who are there only for whatever fading social cachet attaches to “attending the symphony” are relieved from being forced to listen to so much actual music. I assume the Dalbavie is being dropped, but the website doesn’t specify that, so I’m just guessing based on past experience.
May 19-23 Tilson Thomas conducts Ravel’s Daphnis et Chloe and Stravinsky’s Threni, Lamentations of Jeremiah. That looks promising.
UPDATE: I've just been informed that due to visa problems the Stravinsky is being rescheduled to some future season. Instead the Symphony and its Chorus will be performing Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. My excitement over this concert has just cooled considerably.
And May 27-29 he conducts the Schumann 3, the Rhenish, and then the orchestra is joined by soprano Erin Wall for Mozart’s Bella mia Fiamma – Resta, o cara, and Robin Holloway’s Clarissa Sequence. I’m especially eager to hear the Holloway, since Clarissa is one of my favorite novels. (I’m still angry over the BBC dramatization from approximately twenty years ago, which was so awful I couldn’t get past the first hour. I took one look at the actors and knew they weren’t going to do it right.) The Symphony programmed the work a few years ago, but the singer got sick and unsurprisingly no one else knew the piece, so if I'm remembering correctly they tried substituting a solo violin for the vocalist, and the performance had a somewhat endearing yet disappointing air of the slapdash about it. The piece is drawn from Holloway’s opera, which I would love to see, but I’m not holding my breath. At this point I'd settle for a recording.
And I have to mention the New York Philharmonic’s May 27-29 performances of Ligeti’s opera, Le Grand Macabre, because it’s killing me to miss it. I considered going to New York to hear it but reluctantly had to abandon that plan. My reaction to the American premiere, back when San Francisco Opera used to be exciting, is here. This is really a piece to hear and see live – my only reservation was that the music was almost too sheerly gorgeous for the comic grotesqueries of the story. The performances coincidentally were right after the re-election of war criminal George W. Bush and his gang of thieves, and in the miasmic despair of those sickening days, only this wonderful piece of theater managed to lift my spirits even briefly.