But I’m going to start pounding a bassoon with sticks from here on out.
The less said the better about Saturday’s first act. The orchestra, conducted by Anthony Quartuccio, was riddled with poor intonation, scratchy string tone and blooped notes, and was often out of sync with the singers onstage. The chorus was ragged. Two of the leads — tenor Alexander Boyer and baritone Evan Brummel — strained to stay on pitch. And another thing: Was someone grilling steaks in the theater’s basement? I’m being serious — it smelled like it.
I can’t (won’t!/shouldn’t!) comment on what he says about me and the rest of my colleagues: I don’t believe in letting my readers know if I agree or disagree, and I certainly won’t explain why something may have been awry if it was, indeed, awry, but let me assure you that sometimes I strongly agree and sometimes I strongly disagree!
But … I can tell Mr. Scheinin that I’ve always assumed that the smell is from a nearby restaurant. (I’m guessing Original Joe’s, but I don’t know for sure.) This is the first time I’ve heard of an audience member catching the scent of meat cooking, but I’ve dealt with this ever since the hall opened. We get the “steak smell” from a nearby restaurant and we get the baking cookies smell that goes on out in the lobby. I found it all quite annoying when we moved into the hall but at this point I’ve learned to deal and nearly ignore the smells.
I’ve yet to learn to deal with the strong perfume some audience members bathe in before the come into the hall, but oh well — I want to focus on their attendance instead. I truly am thankful they are there!
I see these so far …
Not For Fun Only even mentioned me and my “insights”. He will probably guess that I am now laughing. ;-)
We’ve now had two of the eight performances. Our next is this Thursday night. Having them spread out always makes it sort of tough on my brain.
But then most everything is tough on my brain!
Nice to see my friends mentioned!
With violinist Robin Mayforth and violist Patricia Whaley as soloists, the results in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante were particularly fine.
and later …
Throughout, there were excellent contributions from every section in the orchestra — principal horn Meredith Brown, oboist Pamela Hakl, flutist Maria Tamburrino, and the cellos, led by Peter Gelfand, among them.
Love is all you need — and somehow all there is to offer — when Frederica von Stade begins to sing. Even after all these years, the proof was onstage Saturday at the Herbst Theatre where the beloved mezzo-soprano starred in her own hometown retirement party of sorts, joined by starry friends, who festooned her with songs and tributes.
“It’s taken 40 years to get us all in one room,” joked soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, one of the Olympians who took part in this goody basket of a sold-out concert. Guests included the venerable — bass Samuel Ramey, baritone Richard Stilwell and surprise guest mezzo Marilyn Horne — and also the more recently anointed — Susan Graham and Joyce DiDonato, both uber-talented mezzos. The crowd barely had time to catch its breath as the briskly paced and beautifully sung program, titled “Celebrating Frederica von Stade,” moved from one number to the next.
Von Stade, 66 — who has lived for years in Alameda and long ago made her mark with San Francisco Opera, one of the night’s five presenters — didn’t let the evening turn overly sentimental. In fact, at the outset, she ran onstage, already in role as Cherubino, the love-struck page in Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro.”
I remember when Frederica von Stade sang with San Jose Symphony many years ago. It was back when we were broadcast live over a local classical radio station (remember those?). Prior to her singing she was pacing backstage and said something about how nervous live broadcasts made her. I loved that — it made me feel good to know someone of her calibre was nervous as well. Of course she was wonderful! Whatever it was we were doing had a good amount of English horn in it. (I have a tape of it somewhere around here that someone sent to me — we were doing a Ravel work for voice and orchestra and it had a large English horn solo in it but I sure can’t remember what it was! Anyone know what work that would be? Do tell! I should pull it out and see if I can find a tape player that would allow me to hear it.)
I wish I could have attended her farewell concert, but of course I had work. I have always enjoyed and admired her. Yet another musician (like Mr. Nakamatsu) who gives back.
Here’s what I’ve found so far … some aren’t really detailed reviews, but I’ll put up anything I find. Check ‘em out!
Eventseekr (Lucia Chung)
Examiner.com (Beeri Moalem)
Mercury News (Richard Scheinin)
Not For Fun Only (Axel Feldheim)
Opera Tattler (Charlise Tiee)
Operaville (Michael J Vaughn)
San Francisco Chronicle (Joshua Kosman)
SanJose.com (Scott MacClelland)
Spartan Daily Anastasia Crosson
Splash (Philip Hodge)
The Stunning Post (Bet Messmer)
Please let me know if I’m missing any!
This one is by Joshua Kosman of the SF Chronicle, and he attended Sunday’s performance.
I believe Opera Tattler (Charlise Tiee) was the first to get something up on the double bill. I spoke with her and Not For Fun Only‘s (link is to the double bill) Axel Feldheim during the first intermission. I love seeing blogging friends when I’m at work. Of course it also makes me rather nervous!
The Mercury News review (Richard Scheinin) is up and you can read it here. There’s no mention of the orchestra. Sometimes this is due to an editor’s cut. Sometimes reviewers don’t mention us because they have nothing good to say. Sometimes we simply aren’t mentioned. I’m okay with it, assuming what is on the stage takes precedence, but some of my colleagues get extremely frustrated.
You might wonder: do I have opinions on our performance? You bet! Will I share with you? You bet not! :-)
I really do!
Rite of Spring isn’t a work I’m all that fond of playing. It’s not that it’s a rhythmic challenge: these days those rhythms aren’t all that difficult. But I have never been comfortable on the solo English horn part. I do love me some Petrushka, though! I especially enjoyed Saturday night’s concert, since I managed to keep my keys from getting water in them. Sunday wasn’t quite so fun — I got water in a key early on and that threw me out of my comfort zone and there were just a few things that I wasn’t entirely happy with (with my playing, not with anyone else’s … it IS all about me … um … right?). But even Sunday was enjoyable. I feel as if I have my English horn “sea legs” right now. Fun times.
I DO wish I had seen this video (below) before I went into rehearsals. Not that I understand a word of what Dochnanyi is saying (well, okay, maybe I understand a word here and there!), but because it’s great to sit in on a rehearsal like that!
Oh … and a review is in. She liked it. (And kudos to some of my pals for the well-deserved mentions!)
I neglected to include in this post how much I enjoyed working again with Giampaolo Bisanti. Oops! I surely should have included that. I think he has excellent things to say, and I find working with him a joy. This is the second time he has worked with the symphony and I do hope he returns.
Some reviews crack me up. Maybe It’s just me, though. I wonder!
For instance …
With a sweat-soaked sport shirt clinging to his back and shoulders, Carlos Miguel Prieto appears to be dancing in front of his orchestra. His arms undulate overhead, matching the snake-charming sounds of the oboe. A hip shake cues the trumpets. Coaxing fingers draw a syrupy sound from the violins — and when he stamps and growls, the 100-strong orchestra seems to growl, too, building to a musical climax.
Okay … anyone else crack up?
I read it here.
And so it ends. Idomeneo is over. At this point in my life I play an opera like this and wonder after if I’ll ever play that particular opera again in my career. It’s sort of doubtful, really, with many operas.
I loved Idomeneo. I never grew weary of it. I never got bored. The music is incredible, really. And the choruses were glorious! I did get annoyed with myself, though. There were a few things I did that just made me angry. I hated getting water in a key during one solo … and I had even cleaned it out right before. (Dust in the top octave, maybe?) I hated that one lick I had wasn’t perfect every single time. No excuses — I just didn’t nail a particular lick and I should have. I suspect I’ll be unable to listen to myself due to that, wouldn’t you know?
Tonight there was a nice party at our dear patron’s house. I actually went. This is rare for me, being the hermit type. I love to work with my colleagues, and I love to talk with people as I’m working, but when I’m done I tend to need to be alone. When I do go to parties I tend to later rehash everything I said and did and wonder how much of a fool I made of myself. (Really … how crazy AM I?!) Still, I was so thankful for the gift of this opera that I felt it important to at least go to the party for a brief time.
So now I move on … to bass oboe. To third oboe. To principal oboe. All this week. And I have to figure out some issues with one of my other jobs that has got me a wee bit perplexed. I like order and I like to know what’s in store for me. I don’t live well with perplexed. Go figure.
… gee, they keep on coming!
Scot MacClelland writes this one. Check it out!
Mozart’s Idomeneo, redi Creta, as witnessed in Opera San Jose‘s opulent new production last Sunday, sheds far more light on the 24-year-old composer’s progress than this stage work might suggest at first glance. But as sheer operatic spectacle, this OSJ triumph should keep audiences buzzing for weeks.
Oh … and operagasm liked it too!