Tuesday, September 16, 2014

You Mean the World to Me

Now that I have this CD with Jonas Kaufmann, I must say it's an enormous surprise.  For instance, some of the tracks are in English, and one is in French.  My German is good enough.  Four tracks have films.

But the biggest surprise is how wonderfully corny it all is.  I grew up on corny music, not the exalted works of classical music, and respond well to this.  After all, I was in 40 performances of Der Vogelhaendler.  I'm smiling.  There's no one like him.

YouTube films of some of these operettas:

Gräfin Mariza: 1958 film, Morbisch Festival 2004
Paganini:  Franz Lehár 1942 Full Operetta (audio only)
Das Land des Lächelns:  Fritz Wunderlich (audio only)
Giuditta:  Franz Lehar, Giuditta, Stratas, Schock
Die Blume von Hawaii:   Die Blume Von Hawaii (1933)


I just called it that for fun.  Once again Cecilia Bartoli has set out to prove to us that no matter how far we went in school, she will show us that we know nothing.  I bow to the Queen.  Who knew that European Baroque music extended into Russia?

Speaking of Bartoli, I found this paragraph in an article about arts funding in Europe:  "But Mazurier and those like him are fighting to keep this level playing field alive. For example Mazurier, along with fellow donors like Jean-Paul Herteman, Cecilia Bartoli and Philippe Sollers, helped fund the construction of the Venetian Center for Baroque Music. The center, which honors the old but less-popular art of baroque public opera, is an homage which likely wouldn’t have been possible under the austerity politics of the nation."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Trio MôD at Crocker

Maquette Kuper, flute, Deborah Pittman, clarinet, Native American flute, Omari Tau, baritone

This is my second Trio MôD [pronounced mode] experience, and I find them to be a truly creative idea. Why would anyone think a flute, a clarinet and a baritone would make an ensemble? And yet they do.  This time the program was very personal.

Three Spirituals, arr. by Omari Tau (Good News, Give Me Jesus, De Gospel Train)

The World According to Earl by Deborah Pittman with Claire Hurni, puppeteer.

Stars with text by Owen Dodson, music by Omari Tau

Peter in the Hood, S. Prokofiev, adapted by Deborah Pittman.

My favorite part of this program was The World According to Earl.  Or Earl the Pearl.  Or various other names.  Earl was Deborah Pittman's father who lived most of his life in Brooklyn.  It was fun to see him sitting in the chair talking and to hear his wise sayings.

The only real problem was in the last piece where Omari Tau played percussion and narrator.  His part was so active that he could not use a microphone, causing me to miss some of the dialog.  A clarinet makes a great duck, and a flute is good for a bird.  There was also a cat and a taxi, if I remember correctly.

They are something fun to do in Sacramento.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


This is Isabel Leonard as Cherubino at the Met opening.  Well done.  I like this picture, but I sort of like this scruffy one, too.

Le Nozze Di Figaro, Glyndebourne

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wish List

Streaming from the Bayerische Staatsoper I would like to see:

Die schweigsame Frau Strauss
Arabella Strauss
Die Sache Makropulos Janacek
Die Frau ohne Schatten Strauss
Elektra Strauss
Il Turco in Italia Rossini
Manon Lescaut Puccini
Lulu Berg


Susanna by Carlisle Floyd, presented last night at the San Francisco Opera, is very loosely based on a story from the Apocrypha, which is a set of Biblical texts found in the Catholic Bible but not the Protestant one.  This story is known to most educated people today as an excuse for paintings of nude women, such as these:

Thomas Hart Benton used as the program cover.


Benton's painting is from the de Young while I think I prefer the Tintoretto.  There are a lot of examples to chose from.  In the background are always a couple of ugly old men who are ogling her.  In the Biblical version, usually called Susannah and the Elders, it is the ugly old men who die.  The opera story is more complicated.

Susannah Polk:  Patricia Racette
Sam Polk:  Brandon Jovanovich
Rev. Olin Blitch:  Raymond Aceto
Mrs. McLean:  Catherine Cook
Little Bat McLean:  James Kryshak *
Mrs. Hayes:  Jacqueline Piccolino
Mrs. Gleaton:  Erin Johnson
Mrs. Ott:  Suzanne Hendrix
Elder Hayes:  Joel Sorensen
Elder Gleaton:  A.J. Glueckert
Elder McLean:  Dale Travis

Conductor:  Karen Kamensek *

That's right.  A woman conductor.  Is that a first for us?  She looks a lot like Nicole Paiement, conductor of Opera Parallèle.  She made a point of shaking the prompter's hand at the end, generally a sign that the prompter was needed.

You are beginning to wonder if I am avoiding talking about this.  The opera plot is of a reasonably happy young woman whose life goes from one misery to the next.  She bathes nude in a creek behind her house, as she has been doing for months, and the Elders discover her while they are searching for a place to baptize.  The itinerant minister who takes her to bed is shot.  Her brother is arrested or flees.  At the end she is alone, and the Elders have suffered no losses at all.  She talked about leaving so we can imagine that she leaves New Hope Valley, Tennessee, for the greater world. 

It's an opera about us, a subject that suits very well the present state of our country. It was well done.  The words, music, costumes and sets evoked the time and place.  One scene moved smoothly to the next.  The all-American cast made the atmosphere quite believable.  There are arias in an American vein.  There is wonderful chorus.  The entire cast is excellent. 

And there is Patricia Racette who can do anything, apparently.  She is the most American of opera singers who projects incredible realism in everything she does.  The emotions always seem real in this all too real story.  For me it was too close to home.  In spite of this I shouted with the rest of the audience.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Norma Teaser

This is the teaser for Norma which opens the San Francisco Opera this evening. I'm very annoyed that Jamie Barton isn't on my performance.  It's the old traditional Norma.  Sigh.  I promise you will love Sondra Radvanovsky.

The biggest contrast lies in the "Guerra."  Salzburg and recording are absolutely hair raising.

Sacramento classical music groups receive $1.1 million windfall from estate of former U.S. Forest Service worker

From the Merced Sun-Star

By Edward Ortiz

Three classical music organizations in the Sacramento region will share in a $1.1 million bequest from the late J. David Ramsey, a former U.S. Forest Service worker.
It’s the most significant gift ever earmarked for classical music through the Sacramento Region Community Foundation, which has been overseeing such gifts since 1983.
“This is not business as usual for us. It’s groundbreaking in that it’s a large bequest, and specifically given for local classical music,” said Shirlee Tully, chief of marketing and development for the SRCF.
The regional foundation didn’t release much information about Ramsey, other than that he retired from the Forest Service and moved from the Sierra foothills to Davis to be close to the Mondavi Center and its classical concerts.
His bequest includes $387,462 for the Sacramento Philharmonic Foundation. That organization oversees an endowment for the cash-strapped Sacramento Philharmonic, which recently announced that – for the first time in its 17-year history – it would not present concerts this fall due to financial troubles.
The philharmonic merged with the Sacramento Opera last year to form the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance. The opera will also not present concerts in the fall, and both organizations may not present any concerts in the spring of 2015.
Although last year’s merger was supposed to strengthen both organizations, it hasn’t had that effect.
The two groups’ combined budgets totaled more than $2 million before the merger. At present, the alliance has just $131,000 in the bank for the 2014-2015 season.
“This gift is very important to us,” said David Boje, president of the Sacramento Philharmonic Foundation. “The orchestra has been having tremendous financial difficulties and there has been serious drainage of the foundation’s assets.”
The orchestra has been relying on the Sacramento Philharmonic Foundation’s endowment to keep presenting concerts the last six years, said Boje. “There were many years that there would not have been an orchestra performing if not for the foundation,” he said.
It is not clear how the Ramsey bequest will affect the Sacramento Philharmonic in the short term, given that the philharmonic foundation is a separate organization from the orchestra itself.
“It’s not our money, so I don’t know what its effect will be,” said Laurie Nelson, board president of the Sacramento Region Performing Arts Alliance. Still, she said, “It’s fantastic news, and I’m so excited that someone wanted to support local classical music.”
The Ramsey bequest also includes $232,477 for the Grass Valley-based Music in the Mountains and $232,477 to the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento.
Also included in the bequest is roughly $310,000 that will be endowed in perpetuity to promote classical music in the region.
That endowment is meant to provide funds for classical music organizations – especially in the future, said Tully.
The Sacramento Region Community Foundation expects to solicit proposals from classical music organizations for gifts from the Ramsey fund, with the foundation making the ultimate decision on which organizations are most deserving of funds, Tully said.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

From Operavore

While browsing their recommendations, I couldn't be more surprised to read this for the coming season:


The opera scene in the first great capital of the art form was left for dead after the Teatro La Fenice endured a terrible fire in 1996 and years of instability from the late 1990s though the mid 2000s. But there has been a remarkable rebirth, with productions at La Fenice, the Teatro Malibran and elsewhere in the city. There is a notable emphasis on baroque works, plus those by Rossini and operas that had their premieres there. Among the highlights are Rossini’s Il Signor Bruschino (Jan. 23-31, 2015); Gluck’s Alceste in a new production by the masterful Pier Luigi Pizzi (March 20-28); Vivaldi’s Juditha Triumphans (June 19-27) and generous offerings throughout the season of Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini and Verdi.

[This is an item because Cecilia Bartoli keeps complaining that the Italians are not interested in the Baroque.]