Razzle-dazzle from MTT & San Francisco Symphony

Measha Brueggergosman (center) with Mikaela Bennett and Kara Dugan in MTT & the San Francisco Symphony’s ‘Music for a Modern Age’ – © Gregory Reed

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony aren’t just thinking outside the box this week – they’re stepping right outside it as well! Their program Music for a Modern Age features unique audio-visual presentations of two works – the West Coast Premiere of Tilson Thomas’ song cycle Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, and George Antheil’s A Jazz Symphony. Also on the program are two works by Charles Ives – From the Steeples and the Mountains and The Unanswered Question – and Lou Harrison’s Selections from Suite for Violin with American Gamelan.

MTT’s Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind for Solo Soprano and Two Female Voices, Bar Band and Chamber Orchestra, is a musical setting of the satirical poem by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet, Carl Sandburg. Described by the Miami Herald as a mix of “art song, bebop and spiky modernism”, it was “inspired by the music making of Sarah Vaughan, Leontyne Price, James Brown, and Igor Stravinsky—all artists I had the privilege of knowing” says MTT. The work premiered on April 30, 2016, with Tilson Thomas leading the New World Symphony at the New World Center, Miami Beach, Florida.

San Francisco Symphony Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas – © Art Streiber

The Miami premiere featured the three vocalists who also appear with the Symphony in these first performances on the West Coast. The solo soprano is Measha Brueggergosman – described by esMadrid as “… young and extraordinarily talented ….. who could be considered the new Jessye Norman.” Also appearing are soprano Mikaela Bennett who recently made her professional stage debut as Penelope in John Latouche and Jerome Moross’s The Golden Apple, and mezzo-soprano Kara Dugan – praised by The New York Times for her “vocal warmth and rich character”. Both Ms Bennett and Ms Dugan make their San Francisco Symphony debuts in these performances.

James Darrah – “a gifted young American director”, says the Chicago Tribune – directs Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind, projection design is by Adam Larsen, and sound by Mark Grey.

George Antheil’s A Jazz Symphony was composed in 1925 and premiered at Carnegie Hall on April 10, 1927. Compared by some to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue – which had premiered in 1924 – it led to an interesting degree of rivalry between the two composers, but the similarity is scarce – the smooth influence of swing and the big band sound of Gershwin’s work contrasts significiantly with Antheil’s piece, reflecting the spirit of of jazz, Latin American and French modernist music, with a hint of Stravinsky.

Dancer Erin Moore in Antheil’s ‘A Jazz Symphony’ – © Rui Diaz Aldos

The staged version to be performed this week was, says MTT, “created in collaboration with legendary choreographer/director Patricia Birch, New World Symphony video artist Clyde Scott, and lighting designer Luke Kritzeck”, and premiered by Michael Tilson Thomas and the New World Symphony at the New World Center, Miami Beach, on October 11, 2014.

These SF Symphony performances also feature the three artists who appeared in the premiere. Pianist Peter Dugan – making his debut with the Symphony – was described as “a formidable soloist” by the Washington Post, following his recent debut at Kennedy Center with baritone John Brancy. He also appeared with violinists Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell in recent memorial concerts for Marvin Hamlisch. The dancers are Kiva Dawson and Erin Moore.

Violin soloist Nadya Tichman – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Violinist Nadya Tichman is the soloist in Lou Harrison’s Selections from Suite for Violin with American gamelan, commissioned by the San Francisco Chamber Music Society and premiered in 1974. A long-standing member of the San Francisco Symphony, and Associate Concertmaster, Ms Tichman joined the Orchestra in 1980, and served as acting concertmaster from 1998 to 2001. She has collaborated in chamber music performances with artists as illustrious as Yo-Yo Ma, Yefim Bronfman and Garrick Ohlsson, and as a member of the World Orchestra for Peace, she performed in Geneva to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.

Program notes, by James M Keller, on the works by Charles Ives can be found on the following links: From the Steeples and the Mountains  and The Unanswered Question.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artists in Music for a Modern Age at Davies Symphony Hall on June 23, 24 and 25. For tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website .



San Francisco Symphony program notes, and artists’ websites

Michael Tilson Thomas

Measha Brueggergosman

Mikaela Bennett

Kara Dugan

Patricia Birch

James Darrah

Peter Dugan

Nadya Tichman


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Stern Grove Festival celebrates 80th season

The San Francisco Symphony photographed during a previous Stern Grove Festival – courtesy Stern Grove Festival

The Stern Grove Festival, San Francisco’s traditional summer celebration of music and dance, opens at Sigmund Stern Grove on Sunday, June 25, this year celebrating its 80th season. The line-up features some favorite artists making a return visit, as well as a host of others, some of whom will be performing original pieces commissioned by the Festival for this event.

Kool and the Gang

There is, as ever, a wonderfully diverse range of artists – from R&B group Kool & The Gang, to Eric Burdon with his powerful and distinctive voice, and the Malian and African music of Amadou & Mariam. Ibibio Sound Machine presents its combination of West African funk, disco, modern post-punk and electro music and  there’s R&B and reggae group WAR.


R&B and reggae group WAR

Moon Hooch are known for their dance-oriented percussion- and saxophone-based music;  the Kev Choice Ensemble has a repertoire ranging from classical to jazz, as well as soul, rock and hip-hop;  and Mavis Staples has been performing a repertoire which includes gospel, soul, folk, pop, R&B, blues, rock and hip-hop over the past 60 years.

Latin music comes from Mexican group Los Ángeles Azules, exponents of Colombian cumbia music, who are are joined by singer, songwriter and fellow countryman Jay de la Cueva, by Ximena Sariñana – also from Mexico – and the Brazilian Girls, with their combination of reggae, jazz and bossa nova.

Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco

Local artists include Oakland-based Quinn DeVeaux, with his offering of R&B, modern soul and blues, and Fantastic Negrito – also from Oakland – the blues guitarist and singer who won this year’s GRAMMY for Best Contemporary Blues Album for his debut release The Last Days of Oakland. Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers bring back memories of the music of California in the 70s with their blend of rock, country, blues and folk. The Stone Foxes have their own particular style of rock, contributing to the Summer of Love anniversary being celebrated in San Francisco this season, Ensambles Ballet Folklórico de San Francisco celebrate their 25th anniversary this season, and there’s Malo – a San Francisco-based group led by vocalist Arcelio Garcia Jr and guitarist Jorge Santana.

Fantastic Negrito

And for those whose passions in life are the classics and ballet, we have the Festival’s two classical partners – the San Francisco Symphony, and San Francisco Ballet.

On July 9, the Symphony, led by Director of Summer Concerts, Edwin Outwater, presents a program of popular works, with guest artists soprano Jana McIntyre and baritone Hadleigh Adams. It includes selections from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, his Jupiter Symphony, music from Bizet’s Carmen, an arrangement – by Edwin Outwater – of Edith Piaf songs, and Ravel’s lovely La Valse. Conductor Outwater will be taking part in the pre-concert Artist Talk at Stern Grove’s Trocadero Clubhouse at 12:00 noon.

San Francisco Ballet will perform works from its classical and contemporary repertoire

San Francisco Ballet – Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson – performs a mix of classical and contemporary works from its current repertoire on July 30, and members of the company will also be participating in the Artist Talk at 12:00 noon in the Trocadero Clubhouse prior to the performance.

The Stern Grove Festival concerts are all admission free. Taking place at Sigmund Stern Grove, corner 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard, they run every Sunday, from June 25 to August 27, and start at 2:00 pm. For more information, visit the Stern Grove Festival website.

Source:  Stern Grove Festival

All photographs courtesy of Stern Grove Festival

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The stars come out as Petrenko and Bell guest with San Francisco Symphony

Guest artist Joshua Bell – © David Bazemore

The presence of either Vasily Petrenko or Joshua Bell at Davies Symphony Hall would be enough to create a stir among San Francisco classical music enthusiasts, so to have both appearing with the San Francisco Symphony on the same bill is something of an occasion. This week, Maestro Petrenko leads the Symphony in program featuring Glinka’s Capriccio brillante on the Jota aragonesathe first SF Symphony performance of this delightful piece.  Guest artist Joshua Bell plays Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole – the most frequently performed of the composer’s works – and the program closes with Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No 1 – another welcome premiere performance for the Symphony.

Joshua Bell, recognized as one of the most illustrious violinists of his time, is renowned as a soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and conductor. Recipient of the Avery Fisher Prize, and a number of Grammy, Mercury, Gramophone and Echo Klassik awards, he has appeared on television and film, and become the only person to hold the post of Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, other than the late Sir Neville Marriner who founded the orchestra in 1958.

Among the highlights of Joshua Bell’s 2016-17 season have been appearances in North America with Alan Gilbert and the New York Philharmonic, with Gustavo Dudamel and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and with the Montreal Symphony and the National Arts Centre orchestras. In Europe he played with the Vienna Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Frankfurt Radio Symphony and Czech Philharmonic orchestras, and undertook tours with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields in the United Kingdom, and to the Benelux countries, Germany and Australia. Mr Bell also appeared with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra in Switzerland, toured European centers with the Swedish Radio Symphony, and appeared in Korea and Japan with the Orchestre de Paris – both tours led by Daniel Harding. He was also the 2016-17 artist in residence at the Kennedy Center in Washington D C with the National Symphony Orchestra.

Having recorded more than 40 albums during his career, Joshua Bell will, in August, be releasing a new collection of 14 CDs on the Sony Classical International label  – a selection from the violin concerto repertoire, chamber music and concert pieces, all of which he has recorded on this label over the past 20 years. Included in this collection are works ranging from his 2008 recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to his 2014 album, Bach; also Romance of the Violin and Voice of the Violin – two of his most popular releases; the 1993 violin concerto written for him by Nicholas Maws, The Red Violin Concerto and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story Suite, as well as masterpieces by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Gershwin, Ravel and Sibelius.

Conductor Vasily Petrenko – © Mark McNulty

Currently Chief Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and of the Oslo Philharmonic and the European Union Youth orchestras, Vasily Petrenko is also Principal Guest Conductor of the State Academic Symphony Orchestra of Russia “Evgeny Svetlanov”.  He  has served as Principal Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain and of the Mikhailovsky Theatre (formerly the Mussorgsky Memorial Theatre of the St Petersburg State Opera and Ballet), where – as Resident Conductor – he started his conducting career in 1994.

Appearing with some of the world’s most prestigious orchestras, with frequent appearances at the BBC Proms, he also has a wide repertoire in the world of opera, having led performances of MacBeth at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Eugene Onegin at the Opéra de Paris, Pique Dame at Hamburg State Opera, Eugene Onegin, La Bohème and Carmen at the Mikhailovsky Theatre, Carmen at the Zurich Opera, Tosca and Parsifal with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and Der fliegende Holländer with the Oslo Philharmonic .

Maestro Petrenko initially became Principal Conductor of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic in 2006, and in 2009 took over as Chief Conductor, continuing a highly successful and popular collaboration, both in the concert hall and in the recording studio. As The Sunday Times commented, “Petrenko presides over a golden age of music-making in Liverpool.”

Vasily Petrenko leads the San Francisco Symphony in works by Glinka, Lalo and Rachmaninoff, with guest artist Joshua Bell, from June 15 to 18 at Davies Symphony Hall. For more information and tickets, visit the San Franciscso Symphony website.


San Francisco Symphony

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic

Academy of St Martin in the Fields




San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites:

Vasily Petrenko

Joshua Bell


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More music to come from Week 2 of San Francisco Jazz Festival

Poster courtesy SFJAZZ

Now into its second week, the San Francisco Jazz Festival is still drawing crowds to the Miner Auditorium and Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ – and since this hugely popular event runs until Sunday, there’s still time to get the Jazz Center and revel in some of the finest music-making around.

Highlights in the Miner Auditorium this week include saxophonist, composer and bandleader Chris Potter – “one of the most dynamic young players in jazz” (Chicago Tribune) and the Chris Potter Quartet – in a double bill with tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana – winner of the 2014 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.

Four-time Grammy-winning bassist and composer Stanley Clarke is the star turn on Wednesday. Described by The New York Times as “a fleet-fingered marvel with a particular gift for funk”, he appears with Beka Gochiashvili on piano keys, Caleb Sean McCampbell on keyboards, and drummer Michael Mitchell.

Five-time GRAMMY-winning drummer and composer, Antonio Sánchez, well known for his score to Birdman – winner of  the 2015 Academy Award for Best Picture – and for his long-time collaboration with guitarist Pat Metheny, appears with the Migration quartet, with whom released the 2015 album The Meridian Suite. Also on the bill, is Donny McCaslin and his Quartet who featured on David Bowie’s last album, Blackstar, and for whom Bowie was the inspiration for McCaslin’s latest album Beyond Now.

Bokanté, “One of the more versatile groups on the planet right now”, according to Rolling Stone, comprises eight musicians from four continents – two-time Grammy award-winning guitarists Michael League, Chris McQueen, and Bob Lanzetti (all from Snarky Puppy), legendary percussionist Jamey Haddad (Paul Simon, Sting), pedal and lap steel virtuoso Roosevelt Collier (Lee Boys, Karl Denson), and percussionists André Ferrari (Väsen) and Keita Ogawa (Banda Magda, Yo-Yo Ma). They’re on stage in the Miner Auditorium on Friday.

The last two performances of the Festival in the Miner Auditorium are given over to a program entitled Dance to the Music, featuring Bay Area-based Con Brio – “The best new live band in America”, says PopMatters. Having appeared at most of the major American music festivals in the second half of last year, they also took in performances at festivals in Montreal, Japan, Rotterdam, London and Paris – and this year they’re flying high, with plenty more international engagements.

In the Joe Henderson Lab, bassist Derrick Hodge – who’s worked in the fields of jazz, cinema and R&B music – is joined by Mike Mitchell on drums this evening. Ambrose Akinmusire, “…a fiercely gifted young trumpeter” (The New York Times) follows, with music from his newest release, A Rift in Decorum: Live at the Village Vanguard.  According to the Los Angeles Times, bassist bandleader Linda May Han Oh is “Proof that Esperanza Spalding is not the only female bassist-bandleader worthy of acclaim”. Her group is in the Joe Henderson Lab on Friday.

Gypsy jazz meets the Beatles is the title of Saturday’s performances in the Lab by The Hot Club of San Francisco: John, Paul, George and Django – and ticket sales have been so brisk that SFJAZZ has added a third performance to the roster that evening.

The final Festival performance in the Joe Henderson Lab is headed up by pianist and composer Jon Jang with his quartet in a program entitled Can’t Stop Cryin’ for America: Black Lives Matter! Described by All About Jazz as “A modern day visionary who draws upon his Asian heritage as a source for inspiration and musical implementation”, this Bay Area artist presents what’s described as a project-in-progress devoted to the young black Americans who have recently lost their lives in violent circumstances.

For more information on the San Francisco Jazz Festival, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website .



SFJAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites


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San Francisco Opera completes summer season with Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’

Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rodolfo and Erika Grimaldi as Mimì in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera opens the final production in its summer season this weekend with one of the world’s most popular operas, Giacomo Puccini’s La Bohème. This passionate and heartbreaking portrayal of love in the bohemian quarter of 19th century Paris brings to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House some of the most beautiful music ever written.

Carlo Montanaro conducts this co-production with Houston Grand Opera and Canadian Opera Company, which has sopranos Erika Grimaldi and Julie Adams sharing the role of Mimi, tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rodolfo, and soprano Ellie Dehn as Musetta.

Scott Conner as Colline, Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rodolfo, and Audun Iversen as Marcello in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

La Bohème – with a libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa – was written in 1895, and first performed in Turin on February 1, 1896. The opera was based on a novel by French novelist and poet, Henri Murger – Scènes de la vie de bohème – in which he wrote about a lifestyle which he new intimately. He himself figured as Rodolfo in the book, and the other characters were all friends of his – students who were fun-loving and witty, with a healthy disregard for authority, but whose lives were also tempered with sadness.

This staging of La Bohème, a revival of San Francisco Opera’s 2014 production, is by English director John Caird – winner of two Tony Awards, a Lawrence Olivier Award, a Drama Desk and three Outer Critics Circle awards. He is an Honorary Associate Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Principal Guest Director of Sweden’s Royal Dramatic Theatre (Dramaten) in Stockholm. His list of productions includes highly successful shows such as Beggar’s Opera, Candide, Les Miserables, The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Stanley and Daddy Long Legs, and he’s also the author of Theatre Craft, A Director’s Practical Companion from A to Z.

A scene from Act II of Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ellie Dehn as Musetta and Dale Travis as Alcindoro in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The design is by Olivier Award-winning artist David Farley – who also has an Evening Standard and a Critics Circle award to his credit – and whose portfolio boasts an extraordinary number of successful productions, including A Little Night Music, Daddy Long Legs, Sunday in the Park with George, Oklahoma and La Cage aux Folles. His gorgeous sets for this staging of La Bohème include a fascinating collage of canvases inspired by scenes of Belle Époque Paris.

Italian soprano Erika Grimaldi was offered the role of Mimi in La Bohème almost immediately after she won First Prize at the Comunità Europea competition in 2008. Since then she has sung the role at Opera de Oviedo in Spain, the Savonlinna Festival in Finland, at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples, and at Teatro Regio in Turin. She has appeared in a number of other roles at major opera houses such as Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich and Opéra National de Montpellier. Ms Grimaldi made her debut with San Francisco Opera in the Company’s 2016 production of Bizet’s Carmen, singing the role of Micaëla.

Erika Grimaldi as Mimì in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Two performances of La Bohème – on June 20 and 25 – will feature American soprano Julie Adams in the role of Mimi. A former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, Ms Adams was a winner of the 2014 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, won the 2015 George London Award, the 2015 Elizabeth Connell prize for aspiring dramatic sopranos, and was a recipient of a 2015 Sara Tucker Study Grant. This 2016-17 has also seen her appear as Kate Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Kristina in The Makropulos Case, and she covered for the role of Princess Jia in the world premiere of Dream of the Red Chamber for San Francisco Opera. Next season she’ll return as a guest artist in Francesca Zambello’s production of Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, singing Freia in Das Rheingold and Gerhilde in Die Walküre.

Mexican tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz appears as Rodolfo, a role he’s previously sung in Berlin, Bologna, Munich, Stockholm and Moscow. He made his first appearance with San Francisco Opera as the Duke of Mantua in the company’s 2012 production of Verdi’s Rigoletto – a debut described by the San Francisco Chronicle as one of “enormous grace, charisma and stamina”, adding “Here, clearly, is a singer of major promise.” The 2005 winner of Plácido Domingo’s Operalia Singing Competition, Mr Chacón-Cruz has acquired a repertoire which includes not only Rodolfo and the Duke of Mantua, but Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata, Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, the title roles in Les Contes d’Hoffmann and Massenet’s Werther, and Romeo in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette.

A scene from Act III of Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ellie Dehn, who made her debut with San Francisco Opera in 2010, has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “a charismatic soprano with great stage presence and a voice combining metallic clarity and sensual richness.” According to The New York Times, she “possesses a beautiful, bronzed and rich soprano”. Acclaimed for her versatility, Miss Dehn has appeared in many of the world’s finest opera houses, including the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Bayerische Staatsoper, Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Santa Fe Opera and Santa Cecilia.

Norwegian baritone Audun Iversen is Marcello, Colline is sung by Scott Conner, Brad Walker – a current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow – is Schaunard, and Dale Travis – who has appeared with San Francisco Opera in fifteen seasons since 1988–89 – sings the roles of Benoît and Alcindoro.

Scott Conner as Colline, Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Rodolfo, Erika Grimaldi as Mimì, Ellie Dehn as Musetta, and Audun Iversen as Marcello in Puccini’s ‘La Bohème’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Conductor Carlo Montanaro – music director at Teatr Wielki in Warsaw from 2011 to 2014 – made his debut with San Francisco Opera in the 2016 production of Bizet’s Carmen. His operatic repertoire also includes Lucia di Lammermoor, Nabucco, Aida, Tosca, La sonnambula, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Madama Butterfly and La Bohème, and he has led performances in many of the opera houses in his native Italy, such as La Scala, Milan, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, the Arena di Verona, the Fondazione Arturo Toscanini in Parma, the Teatro Verdi in Trieste, dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome and the Teatro Comunale in Florence. He has also appeared at major venues such as Deutsche Oper in Berlin, Opéra de Monte Carlo, Opéra Bastille in Paris, the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, the Israeli Opera in Tel Aviv, the New National Theatre in Tokyo and Sydney Opera House.

Carlo Montanaro leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Director Ian Robertson), and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus and San Francisco Boys Chorus, in Puccini’s La Bohème. The San Francisco Girls Chorus is led by Artistic Director Lisa Bielawa and Music Director and Principal Conductor Valérie Sainte-Agathe. The San Francisco Boys Chorus is led by Artistic Director Ian Robertson. Sung in Italian with English supertitles, performances take place at the War Memorial Opera House from June 10 to July 2. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.




San Francisco Opera program notes



John Caird

David Farley

Erika Grimaldi

Julie Adams

Arturo Chacón-Cruz

Ellie Dehn

Carlo Montanaro


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Mälkki and Ohlsson guest with San Francisco Symphony

Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki – © Simon Fowler

Finnish conductor Susanna Mälkki leads the San Francisco Symphony this weekend in a program featuring two works by Stravinsky – his Scherzo fantastique and Le sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) – and piano virtuoso Garrick Ohlsson plays the Beethoven Piano Concerto No 1.

Garrick Ohlsson is no stranger to San Francisco audiences, having debuted with the Symphony in 1972 and made many welcome return visits. He is described by the music critic of the Southern California News Group as “a uniquely gifted pianist”. The Telegraph writes that his style “is rich and full”, and the Seattle Times refers to his “incredible technique with razor-sharp accuracy, producing a sound so lush it almost glistens”.

Awarded the Avery Fisher Prize in 1994, Mr Ohlsson received the 1998 University Musical Society Distinguished Artist Award in Ann Arbor, MI, and he was the 2014 recipient of the Jean Gimbel Lane Prize in Piano Performance from the Northwestern University Bienen School of Music. He retains the honor of being the only American ever to win the International Frédéric Chopin Piano Competition, a prize he was awarded in 1970. The competition, held every five years, was founded in 1926 by teacher and pianist Jerzy Zurawlew in 1926 “to sustain familiarity with the music of Fryderyk Chopin and to perpetuate the piano playing tradition that was characteristic of his style”.  (Medici.tv)

Garrick Ohlsson – © Pier Andrea Morolli

Susanna Mälkki has been described by The Wall Street Journal as “one of the brightest lights in the world of classical music”, and according to a review in The Chicago Tribune, she “has an uncommon ability to create the appropriate sound picture around every score she conducts. Such was her refinement of detail that one could hear and appreciate everything that went on beneath the shimmering surface”.  Currently Chief Conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Portugal, Ms Mälkki was previously music director of the Ensemble InterContemporain, and artistic director of Stavanger Symphony Orchestra.

In addition to Ms Mälkki’s symphonic achievements, highlights of her 2016-17 season in the world of opera were her debut with the Metropolitan Opera conducting the first company performances of Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de loin, and she made a return visit to Opéra National de Paris for the world premiere of Luca Francesconi’s new work Trompe-la-mort.

Susanna Mälkki has also been nominated for a 2017 Nordic Council Music Prize – one of two nominees from Finland.  The winner will be announced and the award will be made at the Finlandia Hall in Helsinki on November 1.

Susanna Mälkki leads the San Francisco Symphony, with guest pianist Garrick Ohlsson, in a program of music by Stravinsky and Beethoven at Davies Symphony Hall on June 9, 10 and 11. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites:

Garrick Ohlsson
Susanna Mälkki


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35th San Francisco Jazz Festival goes live

Poster courtesy SFJAZZ

It’s all go at SFJAZZ this week as the 35th San Francisco Jazz Festival gets underway. With 43 concerts over the next 13 days, at 5 different venues, it’s no wonder that the Chicago Tribune refers to this annual event as “The crown jewel among American jazz festivals”.

This evening’s concert in the Miner Auditorium features a performance by the all-star band Hudson. Jack DeJohnette – “regarded as one of the finest living drummers” says the Los Angeles Times – bassist Larry Grenadier, keyboardist John Medeski and guitarist John Scofield – perform a repertoire of numbers ranging from original compositions to those from Bob Dylan and the Band, and Joni Mitchell’s Woodstock anthem.  They also celebrate their latest CD which is released this month.

Pianist Monty Alexander brings his Harlem-Kingston Express project to the Herbst Theatre this evening, with guitarist Andy Bassford, JJShakur on acoustic bass, Joshua Thomas on electric bass, and drummers Karl Wright and Obed Calvaire. Listed as the fifth greatest jazz pianist ever in The Fifty Greatest Jazz Piano Players of All Time (Hal Leonard Publishing) and with a mention in 88: The Giants of Jazz Piano by Robert Doerschuk, he “naturally and joyfully” revels in his “multi-cultural and multi-ethnic” background, skilfully bridging the gap between the music of his native Jamaica and American jazz.

Tomorrow evening, the Herbst Theatre hosts pianist and composer Fred Hersch, with guitarist Julian Lage and vocalist Kate McGarry. Hersch, described by Vanity Fair as “the most arrestingly innovative pianist in jazz” has appeared with a range of artists which includes Joe Henderson, Charlie Haden, Stan Getz, Renée Fleming, Audra McDonald, Nancy King, and Kurt Elling. September sees the release of his next album Open Book, and a new memoir Good Things Happen Slowly.

Friday evening and Saturday afternoon see performances at the Miner Auditorium by singer and songwriter Lizz Wright, whose “sumptuous earthy voice … commands strict and often spine-tingling attention”, says The New York Times. On her latest album, Freedom & Surrender (Concord Records) – her first album of new material in five years – she collaborates with vocal star Gregory Porter and award-winning producer Larry Klein.

On Saturday evening, the stage of the Miner Auditorium is taken over by The Suffers, described by Spin Magazine as “a ten-piece soul collective that steeps their tracks in jazzy history with a modern twist ….. the sort of neo-retro group you never knew music was so badly missing”. Led by vocalist Kam Franklin, they describe their ‘Gulf Coast Soul’ music as a mixture of old school rock, Southern hip-hop, reggae and Muscle Shoals-type R&B.


Back to the Herbst Theatre for Saturday evening, we find the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra. Headed by Jeff Clayton on alto saxophone, bassist John Clayton and Jeff Hamilton on drums – it’s regarded as one of the finest working bands in the world, continuing in the tradition of Count Basie and Thad Jones – and referred to by JazzTimes as “One of current jazz’s most vital large ensembles”.

Sunday’s performance in the Miner Auditorium features a name with which many of us have been familiar for years – Herb Alpert – who shot to fame with his enduringly popular Tijuana Brass sound in the early 60s. Described by AllMusic as “One of the most successful instrumental performers in pop history”, he also co-founded the A&M record label in 1962, signing up some of the most successful artists of that time. For his performance at this SFJAZZ Festival, Herb Alpert is joined by his longtime partner Lani Hall, originally a vocalist for Sergio Mendes’ Brasil ’66.


Jake Shimabukuro, regarded as one of the world’s greatest ukelele players, takes over Davies Symphony Hall on Sunday evening. Having assembled a huge international fan base, he’s described by All Music Guide as “a monster musician and boldly takes the ukulele where no ukulele has ever gone before, dazzling listeners with his blinding speed, melodic invention, and open-ended improvisations of remarkable virtuosity”.

With the Miner Auditorium, the Herbst Theatre or Davies Symphony Hall hosting these fabulous concerts, there are plenty of good things going on in the Joe Henderson Lab as well.

Vocalist Nicolas Bearde makes his Festival debut this evening with a tribute to Lou Rawls, the artist who pioneered the crossover of soul and jazz. Bearde is joined by keyboardist Glen Pearson, Gary Brown on bass, saxophonist Charles McNeal and drummer Leon Joyce Jr.

Friday’s artist is Amina Figarova, originally from Azerbaijan, who is regarded as one of the most celebrated pianists and composers in the world of jazz. Her compositions Pictures and The Traveler were commissioned by Jazz from Lincoln Center for its 2014-15 New Jazz Standards series, and she’s been described by Marian McPartland as “without a doubt, one of the most brilliant and prolific pianists and composers on the jazz scene”.

San Francisco singer and songwriter Martin Luther McCoy  is next up at the Joe Henderson Lab. With the Black Sugar Ensemble, he pays tribute to Otis Redding and the founders of soul in a performance which features his own mix of blues-style R&B, funk, rock, and what’s described as “old school soul”. USA Today says: “Thanks to visionaries like Luther, the future of soul music actually looks brighter than ever’.

Shahin Novrasli, another Azerbaijani pianist, is certainly making his name among young jazz virtuoso pianists. Championed by Ahmad Jamal, and having appeared at London’s Royal Festival Hall, at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the Black Sea Jazz Festival, and Prague’s Mezinarodni Piano Festival, as well as throughout the United States, he’s certainly causing a stir. “His touch,” says The Guardian, “is exquisite and his speed jaw-dropping.”

And there’s more to come next week.

For more information on all these performances, those taking place next week, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.



SFJAZZ program notes

Artists’ websites


ArtsPreview home page

Marc Minkowski leads San Francisco Opera’s ‘Don Giovanni’

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

‘Twas ever thus. No matter that he might be a cad, there’s a certain type of man who never seems to lack female attention – and so it is with the anti-hero of Mozart’s comic opera Don Giovanni. In this, the next production in San Francisco Opera’s summer season, the role of the shameless womanizer is sung by Italian bass-baritone Ildebrando D’Arcangelo, in his first performance for the Company. In another debut appearance, soprano Erin Wall sings the role of Donna Anna, soprano Ana María Martínez returns to SF Opera as Donna Elvira, and basses Erwin Schrott and Erik Anstine share the role of Leporello.

Erwin Schrott as Leporello and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (director Ian Robertson) is the illustrious French conductor, Marc Minkowski, making an eagerly-awaited debut with the Company. General Manager of Opéra National de Bordeaux, Maestro Minkowski is renowned for his Baroque recordings with his orchestra, Les Musiciens du Louvre, and among performances for which he has won acclaim are those in his Mozart–Da Ponte cycle – Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte – at the Drottningholm Opera in Sweden.

Jacopo Spirei directs this revised staging of SF Opera’s 2011 production, and projection and scenic adaptation are by designer Tommi Brem – a first-time Company engagement for both artists.

Scene from Act I of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Don Giovanni is the second of three works on which Mozart collaborated with librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte – the others having been Le Nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte. Based on the tales of the fictional 17th century libertine Don Juan, it tells of Don Giovanni’s exploits in his desire to seduce any woman he chooses. Among his intended conquests are Donna Anna – whose father, the Commendatore, he kills in a duel – Donna Elvira, a former lover, and a village girl, Zerlina, who’s about to marry a local farmer Matteo. He manages to draw his servant Leperello into his escapades, even persuading him to switch clothes with him to disguise his identity, but ultimately the Commendatore takes his revenge. He rises from the grave, gives Don Giovanni one last opportunity to repent, and when this is met with a firm refusal, he commits the reprobate to hell, and Don Giovanni meets his end in a fiery furnace.

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo is acclaimed by critics not only for his “sensually bronze-toned bass” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette) but for the “devilish charm” which he brings to his character’s “reckless libertinism” (The Independent, London) – “a magnificent Don” says the Rochester Post-Bulletin. Mr D’Arcangelo has appeared in this role at Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, the Vienna State Opera, La Scala and Los Angeles Opera, and headed an all-star cast in the Deutsche Grammophon recording led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He has also appeared on the stages of The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Opéra Bastille, the Liceu Barcelona, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse, the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Metropolitan Opera and the Salzburg Festival.

Stanislas de Berbeyrac as Don Ottavio and Erin Wall as Donna Anna in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Canadian soprano Erin Wall has sung the role of Donna Anna for Lyric Opera of Chicago, and also appeared for the Chicago company as Marguerite in Faust, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Konstanze in Die Entführung auf dem Serail and Antonia in Les Contes d’Hoffmann. She has in recent seasons debuted in leading roles at venues such as the Metropolitan Opera, La Scala, the Vienna Staatsoper, L’opéra National de Paris, the Bayerische Staatsoper, Theâtre du Châtelet, Theater an der Wien and Los Angeles Opera, and appeared with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in their 2010 GRAMMY® award-winning recording of Mahler’s 8th Symphony in the category Best Classical Album.

Ana María Martínez as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

According to Opera News, Puerto Rican-American soprano Ana María Martínez “harks back to the golden age.  Her range is even, from a dusky chest-voice through a claret-colored middle and up to radiant top, and is impressive in its quiet moments as it is at full power.”  Ms Martínez appeared with San Francisco Opera last summer as Elisabetta in Verdi’s Don Carlo, and her leading roles during the 2016-17 season have included Marguerite in Faust with Houston Grand Opera, a role debut as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin with Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly at The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, and appearances with tenor Andrea Bocelli on a multi-city tour.  Ms Martínez can also be heard in the forthcoming season of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle.

Erwin Schrott as Leporello and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Uruguayan bass-baritone Erwin Schrott has received wide acclaim for his appearances as both Don Giovanni and Leporello. Among the companies for which he has appeared as Don Giovanni are The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, the Teatro alla Scala, the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the Washington Opera and the Los Angeles Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera on tour to Japan. Mr Schrott has appeared as Leporello at the Salzburg Festival, the Vienna State Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, where his most recent performances in this role were in April and May this year. This appearance as Leporello marks his first performance for San Francisco Opera.

Sharing the role of Leporello is American bass Erik Anstine – also appearing at San Francisco Opera for the first time. Commended by Bachtrack for his “likeable, common-sensical Leporello and fine comic timing”, he has previously sung this role with Seattle Opera. Mr Anstine is a former member of Los Angeles Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program and the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program, and during his four-year tenure with Opernhaus Zürich, he performed roles such as Colline in La Bohéme, Bartolo in Le nozze di Figaro, Biterolf in Tannhäuser, Zweiter Soldat in Salome, Anfisa in the premiere of Eötvös’ Drei Schwestern, and Zweiter Geharnischter in Die Zauberflöte.

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Don Giovanni and Sarah Shafer as Zerlina in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Zerlina is sung by Sarah Shafer – praised by the New York Times for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations”, and described by Opera News as “a singer to watch”. Previous appearances with San Francisco Opera include the role of Rosetta in the world premiere production of Marco Tutino’s Two Women, a role debut as Pamina in the Jun Kaneko production of Die Zauberflöte, and the role of Mary Lennox in the world premiere of Nolan Gasser’s The Secret Garden.

As Don Ottavio, French tenor Stanislas de Barbeyrac not only makes his first appearance with San Francisco Opera, but his first in North America as well. He has performed to great acclaim at venues such as The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Opéra National de Paris, Staatsoper Berlin, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam and Grande Théâtre de Genève. This current season has seen him appear as Renaud in Armide at the Vienna State Opera, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Benedict in Beatrice et Benedict and Pylade in Iphigenie en Tauride at the Opéra National de Paris.

Michael Sumuel (center) as Masetto in Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Bass baritone Michael Sumuel, who sings the role of Masetto, appeared earlier in the season as Belcore in L’elisir d’Amore for Houston Grand Opera, and as Alidoro in La Cenerentola at Norwegian National Opera. Concert engagements included appearances with the Cleveland Symphony as Pilatus in Bach’s St John Passion, with the Phoenix Symphony, in Mozart’s Requiem, and with the American Classical Orchestra in Beethoven’s Symphony No 9 at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Andrea Silvestrelli as the Commendatore and Ildebrando D’Arcangelo in the title role of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Andrea Silvestrelli, appearing as the Commendatore, “is carving for himself a very good name in the US”, says the Houston Chronicle, with a voice which is “… one of quality and he can use it well”. Also appearing as Sparafucile in San Francisco Opera’s current production of Rigoletto, Mr Silvestrelli’s current season includes appearances as Fafner in Das Rheingold with National Taichung Theater in Taiwan, Oroveso in Norma with Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Hagen in Götterdämmerung with Houston Grand Opera.

A scene from the end of Act II of Mozart’s ‘Don Giovanni’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, sung in Italian with English supertitles, opened today, June 4, at the War Memorial Opera House and runs for eight performances until June 30, which is the date of the free live simulcast at AT&T Park. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.


San Francisco Opera program notes

Artists’ websites:

Mark Minkowski

Ildebrando D’Arcangelo

Erin Wall

Ana María Martínez

Erwin Schrott

Erik Anstine

Sarah Shafer

Stanislas de Barbeyrac

Michael Sumuel

Andrea Silvestrelli

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‘The Roommate’ – dark humor, brilliantly played

Robyn (Julia Brothers) offers to clean up a mess for Sharon (Susi Damilano) -Photo Jessica Palopoli

What happens when a rather naïve and unworldly woman in Iowa City – whose major excitement in life is her book club – opens her home to a stranger from the Bronx – a very savvy and streetwise woman who is most decidedly experienced in the ways of the world? Sharon, a lonely soul, whose husband “retired” from their marriage, and who has a son in New York, from whom she rarely hears, is about to find out when Robyn arrives on her doorstep. This is the background to The Roommate, Jen Silverman’s discerning study of an unlikely relationship between two middle-aged women who couldn’t be more different from each other.  It’s the latest production by San Francisco Playhouse directors Bill English and Susi Damilano.

Sharon is appalled to see Robyn smoking – Photo: Jessica Palopoli

Sharon and Robyn work through a dispute – Photo: Jessica Palopoli

Sharon is absolutely flabbergasted as details of Robyn’s background start to emerge. The Bronx?! The horror on Sharon’s face conveys the thoughts flashing through her mind – visions of thieves and undesirables, thugs and criminals – and she puts her foot firmly in her mouth when she discovers that Robyn is homosexual, and tries to bluster her way out of her tactless response. Robyn, of course, is vegan, she smokes – shock, horror – and when the “drugs” appear – “medicinal herbs” is Robyn’s description of the newly arrived plant on the window-sill – Sharon is almost beside herself.

Gradually, though, Sharon starts to overcome her initial shock, and as time passes, the two women get to know each other better, and a friendship of sorts develops. Sharon is talkative and over-effusive. Robyn initially responds to her with an air of almost resigned tolerance, but comes to regard her with a degree of what borders on tenderness.

Sharon tries on some of the things she finds in one of Robyn’s boxes – Photo: Jessica Palopoli

Sharon is also inquisitive, and intrigued by Robyn’s stack of cardboard boxes on the porch. One of them, she discovers, contains Robyn’s collection of what she calls her “Voodoo dolls” – and it’s not long before aspects of Robyn’s murky past start emerging, even though these are initially lost on Sharon. Nevertheless, in her admiration for Robyn, Sharon slowly succumbs to the influence which her roommate so obviously wields over her.

Robyn and Sharon start to get to know each other – Photo: Jessica Palopoli

Susi Damilano (Sharon) and Julia Brothers (Robyn) are, quite simply, brilliant under Becca Wolff’s highly efficient direction of this dark, yet engaging, comedy. Totally immersed in their respective characters, they hold the audience in a state of almost hesitant anticipation as the plot unfolds, against Nina Ball’s impressive set.

The Roommate runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until July 1. For tickets and further information, visit the Playhouse website

Robyn makes a surprising revelation to Sharon – Photo: Jessica Palopoli


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A season of favorites from San Francisco Opera

A scene from Act I of San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ – photo Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera’s summer season opens at the War Memorial Opera House this week – a season featuring Verdi’s Rigoletto, Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Puccini’s La Bohème. Coinciding with celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of San Francisco’s Summer of Love, each of these works has a different take on the subject of love which – as we know – can manifest itself in many different ways.

The opening production is director Rob Kearley’s revival of Rigoletto, the tragic tale of a father’s attempts to save his beloved daughter from a disastrous relationship, a daughter who sacrifices everything by succumbing to the allure of a fascinating stranger, and a lecherous duke who’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants.

Quinn Kelsey in the title role of Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Rigoletto has a special place in the history of San Francisco Opera. It was performed during the Company’s inaugural season in 1923, conducted by founder Gaetano Merola, with baritone Guiseppe De Lluca as Rigoletto, tenor Beniamino Gigli as the Duke and soprano Queena Mario as Gilda.

Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey – a graduate of San Francisco’s Merola Opera Program – sings the title role, Georgian soprano Nino Machaidze – in her Company debut – is his daughter Gilda, and New Zealand tenor Pene Pati – a current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow – makes his role debut as the Duke of Mantua.

Reginald Smith, Jr. as Count Monterone in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Rigoletto, one of the world’s most popular operas, has a libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, and was based on Victor Hugo’s play Le roi s’amuse. It was first performed at La Fenice in Venice on March 11, 1851, with the title La maledizione (The Curse). It was so named because of a curse placed on both the Duke of Mantua and Rigoletto – his hunch-backed jester – by a nobleman, Monterone, in wrathful revenge after his daughter had been seduced by the Duke who was aided and abetted by Rigoletto.

Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto and Nino Machaidze as Gilda in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Rigoletto, though, has his own daughter, Gilda, whom he tries to keep hidden from the court, but the Duke and Gilda eventually meet – he vows to have his way with her, and she – being completely smitten with him – puts up no objections. Rigoletto ultimately finds out about this relationship, and – haunted by Monterone’s curse – plots to have the Duke murdered by Sparafucile, a local innkeeper who offers to do the dirty deed for him. Unfortunately for Rigoletto – who has spent his life manipulating others and taking pleasure from their discomfort – his plans go dreadfully awry, and his beloved daughter is killed instead, the result of his own scheming – or perhaps the partial fulfillment of Monterone’s curse.

Quinn Kelsey’s 2014 performance as Rigoletto for English National Opera, drew the following comment from The Guardian/Observer: “While his music explodes with all too human anguish, his brutal nature, superbly portrayed by the Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey, is repellent. His boorish, tortured performance, together with a voice rich and secure from bottom to high top, is incomparable.” Earlier this season, Mr Kelsey appeared in the Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Verdi’s Il Trovatore at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and in a new production of Rigoletto for Oper Frankfurt. In the first of two debuts scheduled for this August, he appears in concert productions of Aïda with Chorégies d’Orange, and Thaïs with the Melbourne Symphony conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Fall brings another appearance in Rigoletto with Lyric Opera Chicago, and Quinn Kelsey ends 2017 with a debut performance as Peter in Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel for the Metropolitan Opera under Sir Donald Runnicles.

Nino Machaidze as Gilda and Pene Pati as the Duke of Mantua in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Tbilisi-born soprano Nino Machaidze – described by Opera News as “an artist with confidence, individuality and a big musical temperament to back up a glamorous profile” – is a graduate of the Accademia del Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Her international career was launched with appearances at La Scala as Marie in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment in 2007, followed by her debut in the same role at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma. The summer of 2008 saw Ms Machaidze’s debut at the Salzburg Festival as Juliette, opposite Rolando Villazon, in a new production of Romeo et Juliette, and subsequent international debuts include appearances at major opera houses of the world, such as the Metropolitan Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, Berliner Staatsoper, Gran Teatro del Liceu in Barcelona, Theatre Royale de la Monnaie in Brussels, Opera National de Paris, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and Los Angeles Opera.

Samoan-born tenor Pene Pati has been described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “A New Zealander who boasts a lithe and radiant tone, deep theatrical instincts and plenty of charisma”. He has a number of impressive awards to his name – the Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonygne ‘Bel Canto’ Award in 2012, first place at the Montserrat Caballé International Aria Competition in 2014, second place and the Audience Prize at Placido Domingo’s Operalia in 2015, and Second Prize in that year’s Neue Stimmen Competition as well. For Pene Pati, this particular production of Rigoletto will be something of a family affair. In what San Francisco Opera describes as “a remarkable coincidence of casting” his wife, second year Adler Fellow soprano Amina Edris, sings the role of Countess Ceprano, and his brother, first year Adler Fellow tenor Amitai Pati sings Matteo Borsa.

Pene Pati as the Duke of Mantua and Zanda Svede as Maddalena in Verdi’s Rigoletto’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Also in the cast are Latvian mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde – who recently completed her final year as an Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera – as Maddalena, Sparafucile’s daughter. Making his debut for SF Opera as Count Monterone, is Reginald Smith Jr – described by Opera News as having “one of the most exciting baritone sounds to come along in years” with a voice which is “ample and thrillingly dramatic”. Sparafucile is sung by bass Andrea Silvestrelli, following whose debut in this role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Chicago Sun-Times reported: “There were wild cheers for Andrea Silvestrelli …who brought a terrifying, sepulchral tone to the assassin Sparafucile.”

Quinn Kelsey as Rigoletto (center) with Amitai Pati as Matteo Borsa, Anthony Reed as Count Ceprano and Andrew G. Manea as Marullo in Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

For director Rob Kearley – who won acclaim for his staging of Weinberg’s The Passenger at Israeli Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago and Houston Grand Opera – Rigoletto marks his first engagement with San Francisco Opera. Sets are by Michael Yeargan, costumes by Constance Hoffman, and lighting by Gary Marder.

Music Director Nicola Luisotti directs the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Chorus Director Ian Robertson) in all performances of Rigoletto, with the exception of the final one on July 1, which will be led by Resident Conductor Jordi Bernàcer.

Rigoletto, sung in Italian with English supertitles, will run for eight performances, from May 31 through July 1, at the War Memorial Opera House. For tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Nadja Michael sings the role of Emilia Marty in Janáček’s ‘Věc Makropulos’ (The Makropulos Case) – San Francisco Opera’s broadcast on Classical KDFC on Sunday evening – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

On Sunday evening, June 4, Classical KDFC will broadcast San Francisco Opera’s production of Leoš Janáček’s Věc Makropulos (The Makropulos Case), recorded at the War Memorial Opera House in October last year, and starring Nadja Michael as Emilia Marty. For more details on this broadcast, visit the KDFC website.



Merola Opera Program


Artists’ websites:

Quinn Kelsey

Nino Machaidze

Pene Pati

Zanda Svede

Reginald Smith Jr

Andrea Silvestrelli