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Category: Opera

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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ASTONISHING OPERATIC DOINGS AT MILLS COLLEGE

ASTONISHING OPERATIC DOINGS AT MILLS COLLEGE

Prewar One-Act Milhaud Opera the Highlight OAKLAND—The Bay Area’s most significant September musical event arguably transpired with a small opera in a small hall, well off the beaten track. It was also a night of supreme nostalgia, unfolding with the revival of a Milhaud opera about Medea at Mills College’s arts-encrusted Concert Hall. With many alumnae of early Mills classes reuniting on the occasion, the college paid homage to one of its music stars who had held forth at concerts…

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SALOME MEETS THE OFFICE WORKER

SALOME MEETS THE OFFICE WORKER

Strange Updates to Biblical Sizzler SANTA FE, NM—Current-day producers love to revise scenarios of traditional operas, apparently to fascinate the regulars who have seen it 20 times already. Take Richard Strauss’ powerful one-act “Salome,” already performed here at the Santa Fe Opera in 10 previous seasons. The story may be Biblical, but that doesn’t mean it’s sacred. For the current Santa Fe Opera production, in the famous Salome Dance of the Seven Veils, not a single veil is thrown off….

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CIVIL WAR, SEEN FROM THE UNDERSIDE

CIVIL WAR, SEEN FROM THE UNDERSIDE

Higdon’s New Opera Spotloghts Homeland Ordeals SANTA FE, NM—How the Civil War poisoned even the most rural corners of the South is the theme of the opera tragedy “Cold Mountain,” a noble first effort by composer Jennifer Higdon premiered here Aug. 1. Higdon, 52, traces her own roots to the North Carolina highlands where the stark story based on the best-selling book is set. It’s a sprawling three-hour tale with close to 20 scenes and 28 singers in the cast….

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YES, THERE IS A THERE THERE

YES, THERE IS A THERE THERE

Much Disparaged Oakland Keeps Surprising OAKLAND—I don’t know if it’s the greatest little opera company around, but it certainly looks like the most enterprising. Given limited resources, the West Edge Opera has shuttled around several East Bay cities, and even changed names (formerly the Berkeley Opera). For its latest summer-season persona, West Edge has set three operas spanning five centuries in three different abandoned sites, none of them theaters. Via strong stage direction, it has reintroduced music theater into the…

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BERG’S OPERA ‘LULU’ IN OAKLAND

BERG’S OPERA ‘LULU’ IN OAKLAND

Daring, Imagination Carry off Modest Staging Oakland? “Lulu” in Oakland? Yes, Virginia, there really is action and daring culture in Oakland, even in the summer doldrums, to judge by the rousing and highly suggestive opera “Lulu” by Berg played in an abandoned railway station by the great risk-takers at West Edge Opera. Naturally, it was a wall-to-wall sellout, 500 fans a night. Fear not, West Edge—-your risks are well taken. Neither a tough-as-nails part of West Oakland nor nearby condemned…

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