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Category: Opera

THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

THE NIGHT THE GUNFIRE TOOK A REST

SAN JOSE—-A new kind of opera, in which groups of the military play as big a role as the individuals, made its moving West Coast premiere via “Silent Night” by Kevin Puts. While the singing by the 14-member Opera San Jose cast pushing their voices was uneven, the Feb. 11 opening night got a prolonged reception from the sell-out crowd. They witnessed a dramatization of a trench-warfare event that featured an operatic reenactment of the spontaneous Christmas-Eve 1914 cease-fire, with…

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ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT UTOPIA

ETERNAL LIFE IS NOT UTOPIA

Can you shape a viable opera scenario out of law suits and legal offices? Janacek’s answer was yes, if you thrust into the middle of the muddle a whirlwind femme fatale powering the drama and driving all the men mad as well. Janacek’s improbable 1926 opera “The Makropulos Case” ties in an intriguing fable: Because of a longevity potion, the seemingly youthful lady is now 337 years old, remembering intimate details about relationships and documents established by people long since…

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AN ARRESTING NEW AMERICAN-AND-CHINESE OPERA

AN ARRESTING NEW AMERICAN-AND-CHINESE OPERA

With the SFO’s “Red Chamber” World Premiere By Paul Hertelendy  artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance  Week of Sept. 14-21 , 2016 Vol. 19, No. 2 The new Chinese opera-tragedy “Dream of the Red Chamber” offers high drama after a lengthy, opulent prologue, turning a classic novel into an opera that is closer to a musical feast than to consistent theater. The emigre Chinese composer Bright Sheng has created a rich, listenable score astutely…

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‘JENUFA:’ COMPELLING NATIONALIST OPERA

‘JENUFA:’ COMPELLING NATIONALIST OPERA

  Janacek’s Wrenching Drama at the S.F.O. By Paul Hertelendy artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance Week of June 17-24, 2016 Vol. 18, No. 72 The powerful human drama of old-time village morality “Jenufa” returned to bolster the San Francisco Opera summer season after a 15-year hiatus. The work is sincere and compelling, built around the bigger-than-life role of the morally ambiguous Stepmother, as played by the magnetic star, dramatic soprano Karita Mattila. The…

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OPERATIC ‘STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ IN SAN JOSE

OPERATIC ‘STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE’ IN SAN JOSE

With Focus on a New Soprano as Blanche SAN JOSE—Happy to say, André Previn’s wrenching opera “Streetcar Named Desire” has benefited from a streamlining with a smaller orchestra and trims in the libretto. Yet the drama remains as violent as a 8.0 earthquake, following closely the searing Tennessee Williams play. Despite some miscalculations, Opera San Jose has brought off the work with fiery impact, propelled by a powerful Blanche Dubois (spinto soprano Ariana Strahl in her OSJ debut) who patterned…

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SEX RULES THE OPERA STAGE

SEX RULES THE OPERA STAGE

The Raw English Hit ‘Powder Her Face’ in Oakland By Paul Hertelendy  artssf.com, the independent observer of San Francisco Bay Area music and dance  Week of Jan. 6-13, 2016 Vol. 18, No. 11 OAKLAND—Thomas Adès’ opera “Powder Her Face” is a devastating social critique condemning women’s inequality as well as the excesses of the Idle Rich, based on fact. Or, it’s a two-hour exercise in audience titillation showing various freelance sexual practices, some of them more natural than others. Take…

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RIGHTING RODERICK IN POE’S SHORT STORY, USHERED IN

RIGHTING RODERICK IN POE’S SHORT STORY, USHERED IN

Getty’s ‘Usher’ Opera in SFO Double Bill Gordon Getty, who terms himself a 19th -century man, shakes hands with a long-gone Edgar Allan Poe in his mind-trip opera “Usher House” (2014), given its US premiere at the S.F. Opera Dec. 8. Getty and Poe walk the tantalizing lines between reality, fantasy, life and death distilled out of the nebulous outlines of Poe’s short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher.” This is an engaging one-act opera of spooks, cadavers…

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MEDIEVAL NUREMBERG BARGING INTO THE 19TH CENTURY

MEDIEVAL NUREMBERG BARGING INTO THE 19TH CENTURY

Wagner’s Opulent ‘Meistersinger’ in Vivid Dimensions The San Francisco Opera got its act together in more ways than one for Wagner’s “Meistersinger” opera, serving up music theater instead of the old-fashioned static sequence of singers. Furthermore, if any one could tone down the overachieving brass section in the pit, we’d be close to perfection for this massive 5½ hours show. This marks the eighth time since 1960 that the SFO has presented the quasi-historical work. Having seen/heard each reprise, I…

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IN OAKLAND, THE DEAD COME BACK TO LIFE

IN OAKLAND, THE DEAD COME BACK TO LIFE

Via Asian Operas New and Old OAKLAND—Festival Opera pulled off a double surprise, venturing to Oakland with a pair of unfamiliar Asian-themed one-act operas. The precarious east-west blending of the music came off better than expected, the western tuning pairing up with traditional Indian sitar and its myriad microtones. The execution of the works on stage however left a lot to be desired when heard Nov. 14, apart from the foundation-shaking bass of the veteran Philip Skinner playing Death. That…

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MY LAI WAR DISASTER DRAMATIZED

MY LAI WAR DISASTER DRAMATIZED

Berger Monodrama Tears at Complacency STANFORD—Jonathan Berger’s new operatic monodrama “My Lai Lullaby” is a searing cry in the wilderness over one of the darkest incidents of the lamentable Vietnam War. I wish it could have been unveiled 40 years ago, when the war, its unprecedented protests, and the bringing down of Richard Nixon were still a deeply divisive force punching in America’s face and boring holes in our skulls. Berger’s ingenious creation calls on the blending of string quartet…

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