Saturday, August 31, 2019


Music Jaakko Kuusisto
Text Juhani Koivisto
Conductor: Jaakko Kuusisto
Director: Anna Kelo

Petter Kummel, priest: Ville Rusanen
Mona Kummel, his wife: Marjukka Tepponen
Sanna Kummel, his child: Sointu Wessmann
Anton, postal boatman:  Markus Groth
Sacristan: Jussi Merikanto
Irina Gyllen: Jenny Carlstedt
Adele Bergman Jenni Lättilä
Elis Bergman Pekka Kuivalainen
Artur Manström Hannu Niemelä
Lydia Manström Tiina Penttinen

Kuusisto's Ice is testing the theory that anything might be an opera.   It is by a Finnish composer, presented by the Finnish National Opera, is based on a Finnish book and is sung and also spoken in Finnish.  Nothing in Finnish sounds even remotely familiar to me.

We follow the ice through the seasons.  In winter it connects the two islands in the story.   The ice shapes their lives.  The mail boatman tells us of mystical beings that guide you over unsafe patches where the ice is thin.  The boatman is a speaking role, and the mystical beings that surround him are the ballet.

The story concerns a new priest, Petter Kummel, who arrives with his wife and child.  They exclaim over how beautiful it is.  Everyone warns them to beware of the danger in the ice.  He wants to cross the ice, the spirit creatures warn against it, but he pays no heed and dies.  He joins the other spirit creatures.

The music is filled up with homophonic chorus who sing "Shall we gather at the river?" in Finnish.  It all sounds just a bit like the other Finnish composer Saariaho with the mixture of orchestral and electronic sounds.

It is the production that makes this work.  It's a masterpiece.  I'm glad I watched this.  It's going away very soon.

Friday, August 30, 2019

American Bach Soloists 2019-20

27-Jan-20 D 7:00 Orphean Enchantments ABS Davis Community Church
30-Mar-20 D 7:00 Schuetz, Bach, etc. ABS Davis Community Church
11-May-20 D 7:00 Sweet Harmony ABS Davis Community Church

These are the American Bach Soloists concerts in Davis.  I'm happy to see Schuetz.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Florencia en el Amazonas

Conductor: Christopher Allen
Stage Director: Nicholas Muni

Singers: Jennifer Schuler, Andrew René, Zoe Johnson, Matt Arnold, Jacob Wright, Karl Buttermann, Kathleen Felty. Lindsay Mecher, Cameron Jackson, Eric Powell

At last I have found a film of  Daniel Catán's opera Florencia en el Amazonas, 1996, from Stevens Center, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  The strength of Daniel Catán's work is that he writes beautifully for the voice. This opera plays everywhere except somewhere near me.

She is going up river to visit the opera house at Manaus, the same house that Pavarotti visits in the film of the same name.  This part of the story is real.

Our Amazon is full of magical beings, people that disappear and things that go wrong.  And lots of big singing.  Florencia is a famous opera singer, and the boat she is traveling in is filled with fans who do not recognize her.  This includes Rosalba who hopes to interview her.  At the end of Act I there is a storm which eliminates some of the characters.

I would describe this opera as neo-verismo.  To make the best effect it requires first class singers.  These people are working too hard.  The set is dark throughout, and there were no subtitles. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

The Yeomen of the Guard

Conductor:  Anne-Marie Endres
Director:  Debbie Baad
Our Cast
Sir Richard Cholmondely (Lieutenant of the Tower): Timothy Power
Colonel Fairfax (under sentence of death): Anthony Tavianini
Sergeant Meryll (of the Yeomen of the Guard): Mike Baad
Leonard Meryll (his Son): Samuel Palmer
Phoebe Meryll (his daughter): Paige Kelly
Jack Point (a Strolling Jester): Charlie Baad
Elsie Maynard (a Strolling Singer): Jadi Galloway
Wilfred Shadbolt (Head Jailer and Assistant Tormenter): Eric Piotrowski
Dame Carruthers (Housekeeper to the Tower): Lenore Sebastian
Kate (her Niece): Rebecca Cox

Gilbert and Sullivan's The Yeomen of the Guard played last night by the Sacramento Light Opera Theater.   If I stay in Sacramentlo long enough, Perhaps I will see them all.  This work is alternately called The Merryman and His Maid, which refers to the two strolling players. The action takes place inside the Tower of London during the reign of Henry VIII.  The yeomen guard the tower, as they do today.  They managed some excellent uniforms for them.

There is much to be explained here.  Some questions:
  • Why is Colonel Fairfax under sentence of death?  Wikipedia says sorcery.
  • What are Strolling players doing inside the Tower (not tourist attraction then)?
  • Why does Colonel Fairfax want to get married before he dies?  Wikipedia says doesn't like heir.
  • etc.

Plot:  Wilfred loves Phoebe, Phoebe loves Colonel Fairfax who is scheduled to die the next day.  Leonard wants Fairfax released because he saved his life in battle.  Leonard, his father and his sister hatch a plot where Leonard will hide and Fairfax will pretend to be him.  Phoebe steals the key from Wilfred and off we go.

Side story:  Fairfax wants to die married so his evil relation will not inherit his estate and offers a bribe to any woman who will marry him.  Elsie marries Fairfax in secret, Leonard hides and Fairfax appears in disguise as Leonard.

We end up with three happy couples and one very sad Jack Point.

The diction could have been better.  The songs were titled but the dialog was not.  I should have returned to the old days and read the plot before.  The music was excellent and well done.  My favorite singers were Anthony Tavianini and Jadi Galloway, the main couple.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Opera Parallèle 2019-2020 Season

  • September 19, 2019, 8pm 

  • Wednesday, October 2, 2019, 5:30 pm

OP’s annual Gala & 10th anniversary celebration

One night only

The Green Room, San Francisco War Memorial & Performing Arts Center

Tickets $300/$500/$1,000

Tables (of 10): $5,000 / $10,000 / $15,000


  • Sunday, February 16, 2020 at 5 pm
  • Monday, February 17, 2020 at 6pm

OP 2019 Productions WebBanner R1 Julia Child

Tickets $300
Proceeds to benefit Opera Parallele

  • May 15-17, 2020

OP 2019 Productions WebBanner R3 Harvey Milk

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Breaking The Waves at West Edge

Conductor: Jonathan Khuner
Director: .. Mark Streshinsky

Bess McNeill:.....................  Sara LeMesh (soprano)
Jan Nyman: ......................... .Robert Wesley Mason  (baritone)
Dodo McNeill: . ....................Kindra Scharich  (mezzo-soprano)
Dr. Richardson:  ....................Alex Boyer  (tenor)
Mrs. McNeill, Sara's mother:  Kristin Clayton (soprano)
Terry: .................................... Brandon Bell (bass-baritone) 

Breaking The Waves (2016), music by Missy Mazzoli, libretto by Royce Vavrek, was presented by West Edge Opera at The Bridge Yard in Oakland on Saturday night.  We are in rural Calvinist Scotland in the 1970s.  I think we may assume this was around the time that oil was discovered in the North Sea.  They keep referring to "the rig" which we may assume is an oil rig off the shore.

The community, or the ones in charge at least, do not like outsiders.  Sara, a child of the community, has fallen in love with Jan, a worker on the rig who is from Norway.  Dodo is another outsider who was married to Sara's brother who died.  Dodo and Sara are close.  Jan and Sara marry and are happy at first.  Soon Jan must return to working on the rig.  People don't think these things through.

The atmosphere was well captured by the production, and atmosphere is almost all there is.  Church fathers hover over everything.  Sara is very religious and prays constantly.  Unexpectedly, God answers through her.  This is a really tough part.  Jan is injured and asks Sara to go out and have sexual experiences and report back to him.  Her personality gradually disintegrates.  This is a true tragedy.  Her casket is sent out to sea, the only reference to waves. 

The music is pleasing and was well performed.  The orchestration included a synthesizer and an electric guitar.  My favorite of the singers was Kindra Scharich, but I usually go for the mezzos.

The Bridge Yard is very hard to find and very close to the freeway.  Most of the time the sound from the freeway was not disturbing.  The acoustics were not favorable to light voices.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

SFO Emerging Stars 2019

Here are the nominees for this year's emerging stars at the San Francisco Opera:

  • Golda Schultz (soprano) Clara in It's a Wonderful Life (didn't see this cast)Met 2017, Salzburg.
  • J'Nai Bridges (mezzo-soprano) Carmen in Carmen. Last year Girls of the Golden West
  • Daniel Johansson (tenor)  Matteo in Arabella (debut).
  • Rachel Willis-Sørensen (soprano) Rusalka in Rusalka.  I missed this.
  • Christina Gansch (soprano) Dorinda in Orlando (debut).
  • WINNER!  Andriana Chuchman (soprano) Mary Hatch in It's a Wonderful Life. Met 2014
  • Hye Jung Lee  (soprano) The Fiakermilli in Arabella.
  • Sasha Cooke (mezzo-soprano) Orlando in Orlando.  Met 2007.

I was most impressed by our mezzos J'Nai and Sasha, but everyone loved Christina.   Vote here.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Orfeo & Euridice

Conductor:  Christine Brandes
Director:  KJ Dahlaw

Orfeo:  Nikola Printz
Euridice:  Maria Valdes
Amore:  Shawnette Sulker

Orfeo & Euridice by Gluck played at West Edge Opera's current venue The Bridge Yard in Oakland.  A lot of fuss was made about the female/female pairing, but this is pretty common in opera. My problem was that nothing at all was made of the fact that the character Orfeo is a singer, probably a celebrity.  Oh well.  I enjoyed the singing.

Research tells me that this was the original 1762 Viennese version of this opera with an aria for Amore interpolated from the later 1774 Paris version. So nothing fishy.  In the original version Orfeo was sung by an alto castrato and wasn't sung by a woman until the much later 1859 version.

This opera is supposed to be revolutionary, but it never seems so to me.  Perhaps it is the Viennese context that makes it so.  Gluck's early career was as a standard Neapolitan opera composer whose operas were endless strings of da capo arias.  In this opera there are long scenes resembling recitativo accompagnato, but no detectable da capo arias.  We are back to Cavalli more or less, except now everything is tonal. 

A very long portion of the opera is taken up with ballet.  In the second part it is Orfeo avoiding looking at Euridice which doesn't really work theatrically.  For our eyes we don't see the revolution.  French opera never fell into the all da capo aria trap.

If I Were You

Jake Heggie coaching the two Brittomaras.  The pearl cast left, emerald right.
Conductor:  Nicole Paiement
Director:  Keturah Stickann

Brittomara (Mephistopheles): Brennan Blankenship
Fabian (Faust): Nicholas Huff
Diana (Gretchen): Anne-Marie MacIntosh
Selena: Elisa Sunshine
Putnam: Rafael Porto
Paul: Timothy Murray
David: Brandon Scott Russell
Rachel: Edith Grossman
Jonathan: Edward Laurenson

If I Were You by Jake Heggie, librettist Gene Scheer, was commissioned for and presented by this summer's Merola Opera Program at the San Francisco Opera. This is the first work commissioned by Merola, and this is its world premier.  The one requirement is that there must be a lot of roles.  The first four characters were double cast and ours was the emerald cast.  I'm going to try to explain this.

There are a few theatrical elements that need to be explained.  Brittomara appears various times throughout the opera in different outfits but always with red hair.  She is an ambulance attendant, an auto mechanic, a waitress, etc.  There are electrical flashes that seem to be entertaining but meaningless.  My friend and I discussed this at length and finally concluded that this was the device with two paddles that medical professionals use to revive someone whose heart has stopped.  Brittomara refuses to let Fabian die because she wants his soul.

We also argued over whether or not this was a Faust plot.  The final plot element that requires explaining is the major plot element.  Fabian falls for Diana, named for the goddess, whom he meets at the auto mechnic.  Initially she takes no notice of him.  He gives the devil his soul in order that he may become someone Diana would be interested in.  Most of the other characters are his reincarnations.  There are magic words and loud flashing sounds when the transfer takes place.

So "If I were you" followed by advice, advice, advice, isn't it at all.  It's if I were actually you and robbed you of your soul.  For me it almost worked.  I enjoyed the part after the intermission more than the earlier parts.  Our Diana, Anne-Marie MacIntosh, I enjoyed very much, but now that we've settled the argument, I'd like to see it again.

Moral of the story:  don't give away your soul.  It's the best thing you've got.