Marc Albrecht makes US debut in San Francisco Opera’s ‘Arabella’ 

Act II of Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ with Ellie Dehn in the title role (center) Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

German conductor, Marc Albrecht, noted interpreter of Strauss operas, leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus and cast, in his debut performance in the United States this week, directing the Company’s new production of Richard Strauss’ romantic opera, Arabella.

This tale of love, mistaken identity and near-catastrophe, stars soprano Ellie Dehn in her role debut as Arabella, the beautiful girl whom it is hoped will marry well and save her family from poverty. Soprano Heidi Stober is her sister Zdenka, forced to take on the identity of a brother in order to help the family finances, and Swedish tenor Daniel Johansson – in his Company debut – is Matteo, the object of Zdenka’s desire. Baritone Brian Mulligan makes his role debut as Count Mandryka.

Chief Conductor of the Dutch National Opera in Amsterdam, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra and the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Marc Albrecht is highly regarded as a conductor of the late Romantic German and Austrian repertoire, yet he also covers the entire spectrum from Mozart to contemporary music. Maestro Albrecht is a regular collaborator with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and Deutsche Oper Berlin, and has led most of Strauss’ stage works in Dresden, where more than half of the Strauss operas were premiered. Albrecht’s engagements for this 2018/19 season include appearances at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and the Hessische Staatstheater in Wiesbaden.

Ellie Dehn as Arabella and Brian Mulligan as Mandryka in Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Production of Arabella is by English stage director, Tim Albery, making his San Francisco Opera debut, who updates this Viennese love story from 1860 to the period just before World War I. Albery’s international work includes Berlioz’s Les Troyens and Wagner’s Tannhäuser for Lyric Opera of Chicago, Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lehár’s The Merry Widow for Metropolitan Opera, Verdi’s Don Carlo for Washington National Opera / Opera Philadelphia,  Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra and Strauss’s Ariadne auf Naxos for Bavarian State Opera, Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini for Netherlands Opera, and Catalani’s La Wally for the Bregenz Festival.

Arabella represents the final collaboration between Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, who together produced a number of operas between during the first part of the 20th century. The most successful of these were Elektra in 1909, Der Rosenkavalier in 1911 and Die Frau one Schatten in 1910. Towards the end of the 1920s, Strauss was keen to repeat the formula, urging von Hofmannsthal to collaborate with him on “a second Rosenkavalier”, and although a degree of tension had existed between the two artists for a number of years prior to this, von Hofmannsthal nevertheless complied with Strauss’s request and started work on a libretto for Arabella in 1929.

Heidi Stober as Zdenka and Ellie Dehn in the title role of Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

By July, the first act had been completed, and the following two had been provisionally set, but the librettist died suddenly that month, and Strauss was so deeply affected by the loss of his friend and collaborator, that he put the work aside, and didn’t return to it until 1932, leaving the second and third acts as von Hofmannsthal had left them. Arabella premiered at Semperoper in Dresden in 1933.

The story of Arabella revolves around the need of the heroine’s family for her to marry a wealthy man. Nevertheless, she longs for true love, convinced that she’ll know when the right man comes along. Arabella’s father invites his old friend Count Mandryka to visit Vienna, in the hope that a match can be made with Arabella. To the father’s surprise, however, the man who arrives is the old Count’s nephew, who has inherited his uncle’s wealth and title following his death. Arabella does indeed fall for the young Count, as he does for her, but a case of mistaken identity – involving a plot by Zdenka to gain the attentions of the young officer Matteo – almost destroys Arabella’s chances. For a time it appears as though her hopes of love will be dashed, but finally her sister confesses, and amidst her apologies and explanations, the mystery is finally unraveled.

Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee, in a role debut, is the Fiakermilli, Count Waldner is sung by baritone Richard Paul Fink, and mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens is Adelaide. Tenor Scott Quinn takes the role of Count Elemer, Andrew Manea is Count Dominik, Christian Pursell is Count Lamoral (both are current Adler Fellows) and mezzo-soprano Jill Grove is the Fortune-Teller.

Act II of Strauss’ ‘Arabella’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Sets and costumes are by production designer Tobias Hoheisel and the lighting designer is David Finn.

Marc Albrecht leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus (director Ian Robertson) and cast in this co-production with Santa Fe Opera, Minnesota Opera and Canadian Opera Company.

Arabella – sung in German with English supertitles – runs from October 16th to November 3rd at the War Memorial Opera House. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.


Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes


Artists’ websites:

Marc Albrecht

Tim Albery

ArtsPreview home page

Honeck leads San Francisco Symphony and Truls Mørk

Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck – Photo: Felix Broede

Returning from a highly successful East Coast tour, the San Francisco Symphony resumes its Davies Symphony Hall schedule this week under the baton of Austrian conductor Manfred Honeck. Maestro Honeck will conduct a two-work program of music by Prokofiev and Dvořák – Prokofiev’s Sinfonia concertante, and the Symphony No 8 by Antonin Dvořák. The guest soloist is virtuoso Norwegian cellist Truls Mørk.

Manfred Honeck – of whom the New York Classical Review wrote: “…. when he conducts, he seems to cherish every note of the score, and communicates his deep understanding of the music to the audience” – was last seen leading the San Francisco Symphony in May, 2017, his first appearance with the orchestra. He has held the position of Music Director of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra since the 2008/2009 season, and has led the Pittsburgh Symphony on a number of tours of European capitals, as well as appearing at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center in New York.

Maestro Honeck and the orchestra have performed at some of the world’s leading festivals, including the BBC Proms, Musikfest Berlin, the Lucerne Festival, Rheingau Musik Festival, Beethovenfest Bonn and Grafenegg Festival, and also have a close relationship with the Musikverein in Vienna. Among the impressive number of recordings that conductor and orchestra have made together was their interpretation of the Shostakovich Symphony No 5 which won the 2018 Grammy Award for ‘Best Orchestral Performance’.

Norwegian cello virtuoso Truls Mørk – Photo: Johs Boe

Following his highly acclaimed performance of the Esa-Pekka Salonen Cello Concerto at this year’s Baltic Sea Festival, cellist Truls Mørk – who has Gramophone, Grammy, Midem and ECHO Klassik awards to his credit – has an exciting season lined up after this week’s debut performance in San Francisco. He will again perform the Salonen Concerto – led by the composer – with the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, and on tour in the United States at venues which include the Lincoln Center in New York, and at CAL Performances in Berkeley.

Other engagements include appearances with the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Bayerisches Staatsoper, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich. Mørk will also continue his recital program with Uzbekistani pianist Behzod Abduraimov in the US and Europe – a partnership described by The Washington Classical Review as “an exquisite team”, adding: “Sometimes two musicians form a partnership that is even greater than the sum of its parts”.

Truls Mørk – Photo: Johs Boe

The Prokofiev Sinfonia concertante which Truls Mørk will perform this week, is a reworking of the Cello Concerto in E minor, Op 58 which Prokofiev wrote between 1933 – 1938. Having heard Mstislav Rostropovic play the work in 1947, the composer realized how dissatisfied he was with it, and – although it took nearly three years to complete – the revision was completed. It’s largely regarded as an improvement on the original work, although it’s also considered to be one of the most difficult in the entire cello concerto repertoire.

The final work in the program is the Dvořák Symphony No 8. The composer wrote most of the work while at his summer residence in Vysoka – about 50 km southwest of the city of Prague – to which he returned to enjoy the peace and quiet which it afforded him – and most particularly the close contact with nature which he always loved. His joy at being in this rural environment is reflected in his Symphony No 8, as is his love of Czech and Slavonic folk music, all of which produced a work with some lovely lyrical passages. It was premiered at Prague’s Rudolfinum on February 2nd, 1890, with Dvořák conducting, as he did at the Symphony’s first performance in London, on April 24th that same year in a concert hosted by the Philharmonic Society in St James’ Hall. It was enthusiastically received at both performances.

Manfred Honeck – Photo: Felix Broede

Manfred Honeck leads the San Francisco Symphony in works by Prokofiev and Dvořák, with guest artist Truly Mørk, at Davies Symphony Hall from October 11th to 13th. For tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes

Artists’ websites:

Manfred Honeck

Truls Mørk

Prokofiev Symphony concertanteAllMusic

Dvořák Symphony No 8


ArtsPreview home page

New Production of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ for San Francisco Opera

Scene from Act I of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Opening at the War Memorial Opera House this week, San Francisco Opera’s new production of Tosca stars Italian soprano Carmen Giannattasio in the title role, with tenor Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi, and baritone Scott Hendricks as Baron Scarpia.

British conductor Leo Hussain – formerly music director of Opéra de Rouen and Salzburg Landestheater – makes his first appearance for San Francisco Opera, and staging is by American director Shawna Lucey who was responsible for last season’s highly successful production of Verdi’s La Traviata. Sets and costumes are by Robin Innes Hopkins, who has previously worked with the Company on Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen in 2004, Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri in 2005 and Wagner’s Lohengrin in 2012. Lighting is by Michael James Clark, and the fight director is Dave Maier.

Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca – written in 1899 – was based on Victorien Sardou’s 1887 play, La Tosca, which featured the actress Sarah Bernhard in the title role.  Set to a libretto by Luigi Illica and Guiseppe Giacosa, this historical melodrama of love, lust, treachery and corruption takes place in 1800, when control of Rome by the Kingdom of Naples was threatened by Napoleon’s invasion of Italy. It recounts the story of artist Mario Cavaradossi and the woman he loves, singer Floria Tosca, as they try to evade the corruption which was rife in the city of Rome at that time. Tosca premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on January 14th, 1900.

Carmen Giannattasio as Tosca and Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Carmen Giannattasio is regarded as one of the finest exponents of bel canto opera today, with a repertoire which includes works by Verdi, Puccini, Leoncavallo, Bellini, Rossini and Donizetti. She makes her San Francisco Opera role and house debuts in this production – her first US performance since appearing at the Metropolitan Opera in La Traviata in 2017 – a performance described by Opera Wire as “sensational”.

Ms Giannattasio won first prize at the 2002 Plácido Domingo Operalia Competition, and having initially appeared in most of the major opera houses across Europe, she has since appeared in some of the great companies in other cities of the world – The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Bolshoi Theatre Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. Performances scheduled for this season include the title roles in Maria Stuarda at the Théâtre Champs-Elysées, and Norma at Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, and she will also be appearing in Don Carlo at Opera de Las Palmas, Giovanna D’Arco at Teatro Real de Madrid and in Ermione at Teatro di San Carlo in Naples.

Brian Jagde as Cavaradossi and Hadleigh Adams as Angelotti in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Brian Jagde, Merola Opera Program alumnus and San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, is now regarded as one of the leading tenors of his generation, having appeared to great acclaim at London’s Royal Opera House, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre and the Arena di Verona. According to a review in of Das Wunder der Heliane at Deutsche Oper Berlin, which appeared in, Brian Jagde “projected his golden, flowing, and warm voice over the massive orchestra. It was very understandable why Heliane falls for his charisma”.  This year alone has seen Brian Jagde appear as Cavarodossi in the Teatro di San Carlo production of Tosca, as Don Jose in a new staging of Carmen at the Arena di Verona, as well as his Russian debut in the same role in the Bolshoi’s production of Carmen.

Carmen Giannattasio as Tosca and Scott Hendricks as Scarpia in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Scarpia, the corrupt chief of police in Tosca, is sung by American baritone Scott Hendricks, who has received acclaim for his portrayal of this role in appearances at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Opéra National de Paris, the Bregenz Festival and Munich’s Bavarian State Opera. Future engagements this season include the role of Barnaba in Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, and Victor Frankenstein in the world premiere of Mark Grey’s Frankenstein (both for La Monnaie), and the murderer in the world premiere of Moritz Eggert’s M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder for Komische Oper Berlin.

Also in the cast of Tosca are bass-baritone Dale Travis in the role of the Sacristan, tenor Joel Sorensen is Spoletta, baritone Hadleigh Adams sings Angelotti, baritone Andrew Manea is Sciarrone and bass-baritone Christian Pursell is the Jailer.

Carmen Giannattasio in the title role of Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Tosca has a special place in the history of San Francisco Opera. It featured in the Company’s inaugural season at the Civic Auditorium in 1923, and it opened the first season in San Francisco Opera’s new home, the War Memorial Opera House, on October 15th, 1932.

Leo Hussain leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus (Director Ian Robertson) and cast in Puccini’s Tosca at the War Memorial Opera House. Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Tosca runs for eight more performances until October 30th. For further information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.


Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Opera Wire

Artists’ websites:

Brian Jagde

Scott Hendricks

San Francisco Playhouse opens new season with Sandbox Series World Premiere

Charisse Loriaux, Cassidy Brown, Jomar Tagatac and Katie Rubin in ‘You Mena To Do Me Harm’ at the San Francisco Playhouse

The 2018-19 season at San Francisco Playhouse opens this week, with a play which had its World Premiere last season in the Playhouse Sandbox Series – its new works program. Christopher Chen’s You Mean To Do Me Harm proved during this run that it had what it takes to move to Mainstage at the Playhouse, delivering the Bay Area playwright’s dream of having a play produced there.

Chen’s plays, according to his website, “… examine the hidden patterns beneath complex systems: socio-political systems, psychological systems, systems of power”. A multi-award-winning playwright, he has had his works performed across the United States, as well as abroad, and among his impressively long list of successes is Caught, which won a 2017 Obie Award for Playwriting, a Drama League Nomination for Outstanding production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Play in 2015, a Barrymore Award for Outstanding New Play the same year, and a PHINDIE 2014/2015 Critic’s Award for Best New Play. It was named One of the Top Ten Plays of 2016 by TheaterMania, New York City Theater, Theater Dogs and Seattle’s The Stranger.

Daniel bristles at a remark by Ken

Directed by Bill English, You Mean To Do Me Harm revolves around the consequences of an innocuous comment made during a dinner between two interracial couples, opening a Pandora’s box of “Cold War-style paranoia” – raising issues such as Chinese and American foreign relations, the ways in which our lives are affected by our cultural characteristics, and the fragility of personal relations which are the most important to us. Chen describes it as a “…. personal play about the Asian American experience…” and is said to be thrilled that it’s now being given the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

It’s been described as a “… lean, mean, and meticulously crafted drama…” by Huffington Post, as “witty and suspenseful” by the San Francisco Examiner, and “Masterful” by Theater Dogs. Bill English himself says that as the play develops, “….. our grip on what is real and what is imagined starts to slip, as does that of our protagonist, Daniel. Is he being paranoid or victimized by subtle racism? Does he just have an overactive imagination, or are the subtle comments of his wife and friends taking aim at his identity?”

The tension starts to mount

Of the cast who appeared in the Sandbox Series production of You Mean To Do Me Harm, three members are new – Cassidy Brown, Katie Rubin and Jomar Tagatac. Charisse Loriaux appears again in the role she played in the original.

Christopher Chen’s You Mean To Do Me Harm opened at the San Francisco Playhouse on September 18th, and runs until November 3rd. For more information and tickets, contact the box office on 415-677-9596, or visit the San Francisco Playhouse website.

Daniel considers the unfortunate situation which has arisen


Photographs by Ken Levine


Information sourced from:
San Francisco Playhouse program notes
and Christopher Chen’s website


ArtsPreview home page

San Francisco Opera’s Fall Season continues with Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’

A scene from Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera goes back to Tudor times for the second production of the Fall Season – Gaetano Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux.  The opera opened on Saturday evening, and continues its run on Tuesday, September 11th.  Roberto Devereux is the third in what’s known as Donizetti’s ‘Tudor Trilogy’ – preceded by Anna Bolena and Maria Stuarda  – although the operas were apparently not designed as such.

This Canadian Opera Company production – which is new to San Francisco Opera – stars soprano Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta, and tenor Russell Thomas as Devereux, and is led by Italian conductor Riccardo Frizza.

Sondra Radvanovsky (center) as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Maestro Frizza made his debut with the Company in 2011 with another Donizetti work, Lucrezia Borgia, appearing again with Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi in 2012, and again in 2014 with Puccini’s Tosca. Having conducted orchestras such as the Maggio Musicale Orchestra in Florence, Rome’s Accademia di Santa Cecilia, London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, and Staatskapelle Dresden, Riccardo Frizza has been appointed first musical director of the Donizetti Festival, the inaugural season of which takes place in November this year.

Roberto Devereux is directed by Stephen Lawless, who headed up productions for the Glyndebourne Touring Opera from 1986 to 1991, where his highly successful production of Benjamin Britten’s Death in Venice was recorded by the BBC for television and video release. He also has the honor of having produced the first ever live telecast of an opera from the Soviet Union to the UK, with his debut production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov for the Kirov Opera in Leningrad. Other companies, aside from San Francisco Opera, for which he has directed include The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Vienna State Opera, Washington, and Los Angeles Opera, and for Nürnberg Opera he directed the complete Ring cycle.

Jamie Barton as Sara and Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The libretto for Roberto Devereux is by Salvatore Cammarano, and is thought to have been based largely on Felice Romani’s Il Comte d’Essex – but Cammarano is also said to have drawn for his material on the work of two French authors, Pierre Corneille and Francois Ancelot. Whatever the truth, Donizetti and Cammarano’s interpretation of the story of the romantic association between Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, Earl of Essex, might not be historically accurate, but it certainly makes a dramatic plot for an opera.

In Donizetti’s opera, Elisabetta is in love with Roberto Devereux, the Earl of Essex, whom she has sent to lead a military expedition to Ireland. Against her orders, he has signed a peace treaty with the Irish rebels, and her advisors, fueled by jealousy of his favored position at Court, use this opportunity to issue a charge of treason against him. Elisabetta faces the terrible choice of acknowledging where her loyalty lies – with her country or the man she loves. She then discovers that he has betrayed her – as well as his friend and ally, the Duke of Nottingham – by conducting an illicit affair with Nottingham’s wife, Sara. When Lord Cecil informs Elisabetta that Parliament has reached a decision and that Devereux faces the death penalty, she is forced to sign his death warrant, but strain of these events causes her to lose confidence in herself, and she relinquishes her crown in favor of King James of Scotland – her nephew and heir to the throne.

Russell Thomas as Roberto and Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta in Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The 1837 premiere of Roberto Devereux, at the Teatro San Carlo, was only moderately successful, and the work lay largely unperformed from about 1850 until the renewed interest in music of bel canto in the latter part of the 20th century.

The role of Elisabetta is sung by Sondra Radvanovsky, one of the premier exponents not only of the Verdi repertoire, but also acknowledged as one of the finest interpreters of bel canto. Ms Radvanovsky made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2009 as Leonora in Il Trovatore, and returned in 2014 in the title role in Bellini’s Norma – her first performance in the opera. During the 2015-16 season she became the first singer in the history of the Metropolitan Opera to sing the soprano leads of Donizetti’s ‘three queens’ in his Tudor dramas. The New York Times described her performance as Queen Elizabeth as “an emotionally vulnerable and vocally daring performance, a milestone in the career of an essential artist”.

Russell Thomas as Roberto and Jamie Barton as Sara in ‘Roberto Devereux’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Russell Thomas – described by The New York Times as “a tenor of gorgeously burnished power” – made his San Francisco Opera debut as Pollione in Norma in 2014, and now returns to the Company in another role debut – the title role in Roberto Devereux. Known for his vivid character portrayals, Mr Thomas has more recently appeared in the title role of La Clemenza di Tito at the Salzburg Festival and Dutch National Opera, the title role of Don Carlo at Washington National Opera, Rodolfo in La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera, Cavaradossi in Tosca with Los Angeles Opera, Ismaele in Nabucco at the Metropolitan Opera, and Mao Tse-Tung in John Adams’ Nixon in China with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Mezzo soprano Jamie Barton debuted at San Francisco Opera in 2014 as Adalgisa in Norma, a role which she has more recently performed with the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Los Angeles Opera. Multi-awarding-winning Ms Barton has recently added yet another trophy to her cabinet – her debut solo album, All Who Wander, has won the 2018 BBC Music Magazine Vocal Award. Joyce DiDonato has said of Ms Barton: “The world has been waiting for this voice for a long time – one that reminds you of how capable the human voice is of creating something of absolute beauty”. Jamie Barton will also appear for San Francisco Opera as Jezibaba in Dvořák’s Rusalka next spring.

A scene from Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’ with Amitai Pati as Lord Cecil, Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta, Andrew Manea as the Duke of Nottingham and Russell Thomas as the title role. Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The role of the Duke of Nottingham is sung by Romanian-American baritone Andrew Manea who, as a second-year Adler Fellow, made his Company debut as Marullo in Verdi’s Rigoletto in 2017 and appeared as Marquis d’Obigny in La Traviata last season. As a participant of the 2016 Merola Opera Program, Mr Manea appeared as Iron Hans/Wolf in the production of Conrad Susa’s Transformations.

New Zealand tenor Amitai Pati appears as Lord Cecil. In 2016 he took his first principal role, as Ferrando in Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte, for the Merola Opera Program, having won the Lexus SongQuest in 2012, and was invited to join the Young Singers Project in Salzburg, where he appeared in La Favorite with Elīna Garanča, Juan Diego Flórez and Ludovic Tézier, and took the tenor solo role in a production of Mozart’s Spatzenmesse.

Base-baritone Christian Pursell, a national semi-finalist of the 2016 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, sings the role of Walter Raleigh. His performance as Dandini in the 2017 Merola Opera Program production of La Cenerentola was highly acclaimed, and this season he will be appearing for San Francisco Opera as a jailer in Tosca, as Count Lamoral in Richard Strauss’ Arabella, and as a member of the Angel Quartet in Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

A scene from Donizetti’s ‘Roberto Devereux’ with Sondra Radvanovsky as Elisabetta – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Riccardo Frizza leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Director Ian Robertson) in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux – sung in Italian with English supertitles – until September 27th. For performance dates and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes


Sondra Radvanovsky

Russell Thomas

Jamie Barton


ArtsPreview home page

San Francisco Opera’s Weekend of Celebrations

Laura Krumm as Lola, Roberto Aronica as Turiddu and Ekaterina Semenchuk as Santuzza in Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The launch of the San Francisco Opera Season is always a grand affair – three consecutive days of festivities starting with the annual Opera Ball and the opening production of the Fall Season on Friday, another first night on Saturday, and the annual free Opera in the Park on Sunday, featuring some of the conductors and soloists who’ll be seen throughout the Season.

Opening this evening, September 7th, with the traditional double bill of Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, the Company’s Fall Season features a lineup of fabulous productions – including Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, a new production of Puccini’s Tosca, Strauss’ Arabella, the West Coast Premiere of Jake Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life, Bizet’s Carmen, Handel’s Orlando and Dvořák’s Rusalka.

It’s 15 years since Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci were last presented at the War Memorial Opera House, and this new production for San Francisco Opera is by the Argentine tenor, conductor and director José Cura – making his Company debut. Described by Seen & Heard International as “a polymath, a Leonardo da Vinci of our time”, he has set both operas in the La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires, well known for its colorful architecture and live tango displays.

Ekaterina Semenchuk as Santuzza (seated at right) and the San Francisco Opera Chorus in a scene from Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Also making his San Francisco Opera debut in these performances is Italian conductor Daniele Callegari, whose opera repertoire includes Bellini’s Capuleti e Montecchi, Norma and La sonnambula, Bizet’s Carmen, and Donizetti’s Elisir d’amore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Lucrezia Borgia, Les Martyrs and Maria Stuarda.

Italian composer Pietro Mascagni is probably best known for his role in introducing the concept of verismo to the world of opera in the latter part of the 19th century. Already popular in theatre, verismo reflected the lives and passions, violence and honor of everyday people – as opposed to the somewhat distant existences of royalty and the gods – and it accentuated the importance of emotion over beautiful sound.

Cavalleria Rusticana, with a libretto by Giovanni Targioni-Tozzetti, is based on a Sicilian melodrama by Giovanni Verga, and tells of the soldier Turiddu who returns from military service to find that his fiancée, Lola, has married Alfio, a well-to-do wagon owner and driver. In an act of revenge, Turiddu seduces Santuzza, a peasant girl, and Lola becomes so jealous that she starts an adulterous affair with Turiddu. Santuzza publicly betrays the pair, Alfio challenges Turiddu to a duel, and Turiddu pays for his actions with his life.

Roberto Aronica as Turiddu with members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

This one-act opera – which was composed for a competition held by the music publisher Sonzogno – was written in a hurry, and Mascagni was ultimately too nervous to submit it, but his wife did so on the last day of the competition. Although Cavalleria Rusticana opened to a half-empty house at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome, on May 17th, 1890, it was rapturously received, and has retained its popularity ever since, often being performed in tandem with Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci. Mascagni went on to succeed Arturo Toscanini at La Scala Milan, in 1929.

In this San Francisco Opera production, Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk sings the role of Santuzza. Having made her debut with the Company as Federica in Luisa Miller in 2015, Ms Semenchuk returned in 2016 in the role of Amneris in Verdi’s Aïda. A specialist in the 19th-century dramatic mezzo-soprano repertoire, her recent engagements include Eboli in Verdi’s Don Carlo at Teatro all Scala and The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Azucena in his Il Trovatore at Rome Opera, the Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg and The Royal Opera; Fricka in Wagner’s Das Rheingold at the Edinburgh International Festival; and Lady Macbeth in Verdi’s Macbeth at Los Angeles Opera, opposite Plácido Domingo.

Italian tenor Roberto Aronica returns to the War Memorial Opera House in the role of Turiddu. He debuted with San Francisco Opera in 1993 as Rodolfo in Puccini’s La Bohème, and he has more recently appeared in the title role of Don Carlos at the Royal Opera House, Manrico in Il Trovatore at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, as Pinkerton in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, Calaf in Puccini’s Turandot at Turin’s Teatro Regio, and Alfredo in Verdi’s La Traviata at the Metropolitan Opera.

Scene from Mascagni’s ‘Cavalleria Rusticana’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias makes his Company debut as Alfio. A gifted linguist, Mr Platanias is known for the rich quality of his voice and for the insight which he brings to his interpretation of the roles he portrays. Among his recent successes are his debuts at the Bayerische Staatsoper in the title role of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra, and in Nabucco at Palau de les Arts Reina; his performances as Iago in Otello at Oper Frankfurt, Tonio in I Pagliacci at the Osterfestspiele Salzburg and at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (both released on DVD), and as Alfio in Cavalleria Rusticana.

The role of Lola is sung by former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, mezzo-soprano Laura Krumm, who has has appeared on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House as the Second Maidservant in Strauss’ Elektra, Javotte in Manon, Rosina in Rossini’s The Barber of Seville for Families, Countess Ceprano and a Page in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and a Maid in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne.

Mezzo-soprano Jill Grove, who appears as Mamma Lucia, last appeared with San Francisco Opera in 2017 in the role of First Maidservant in Elektra. She has previously performed with the Company as Madelon in Andrea Chénier, and Grandmother Buryjovka in Janáček’s Jenůfa.

Amitai Pati as Beppe with the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Leoncavallo’s ‘Pagliacci’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Ruggero Leoncavallo was a contemporary of Mascagni, and following Mascagni’s success with Cavalleria Rusticana, wrote his own one-act opera in similar style, and submitted it to Sonzogno. Pagliacci – meaning ‘clowns’ or ‘players’ – tells of a performance by a troupe of traveling actors in which the action mirrors what turns out to be a real-life drama, and in which each of the leading players plays a role similar to that of his or her actual counterpart.

Canio is head of the troupe, and married to Nedda. Tonio, a clown, is attracted to Nedda, but she’s involved in a clandestine affair with the villager Silvio. They plan to run away together, but Tonio tells Canio what Nedda has planned, and Silvio manages to escape his wrath. This actuality is similar to the plot of the play, and at this point in the performance, Canio forgets that he’s on stage and insists on Nedda divulging the name of her lover. She tries to continue with the performance, and another actor, Beppe, steps in to prevent Canio from killing Nedda with a knife. Her lover Silvio arrives on the scene, and Canio in his anger stabs both of them.  Pagliacci premiered in a hugely successful performance in Milan, on May 21st, 1892, with Arturo Toscanini conducting.

A scene from Leoncavallo’s ‘Pagliacci’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

In this San Francisco Opera production, Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian sings the role of Nedda. Regarded as one of the world’s leading interpreters of Verdi and Puccini, she appeared in the title roles of Aïda at Madrid’s Teatro Real, and Tosca at the Palau de les Arts Valencia during the 2017-18 season.  During this last season, she also made her most recent appearance at San Francisco Opera, in the title role of Madama Butterfly, with which she made her debuts at Seattle Opera and the Staatsoper Hamburg.

The role of Canio is taken by Italian tenor Marco Berti, admired as an exponent of the Verdi repertoire in roles such as – Radamés in Aïda, Riccardo in Un ball in maschera, and the title roles in Ernani and Otello – and that of Puccini, having appeared as Des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, and Cavaradossi in Tosca. He has also received acclaim for his interpretation of Don José in Bizet’s Carmen, as well as Canio in Pagliacci.

Dimitri Platanias makes his second appearance of the evening as the clown, Tonio, who betrays Nedda and Silvio’s relationship to Canio.

The role of Silvio is sung by American baritone David Pershall, whose most recent appearance for San Francisco Opera was Lescaut in December 2017, following his 2016 debut with the Company as Roucher in Andrea Chénier. Mr Pershall is a graduate of the Merola Opera Program, and has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in the title role of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, as Schaunard in Puccini’s La Bohème and Lord Cecil in Donizetti’s Maria Stuarda.

Amitai Pati as Beppe, Lianna Haroutounian as Nedda and Dimitri Platanias as Tonio in Leoncavallo’s ‘Pagliacci’ – Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Beppe is sung by New Zealand tenor Amitai Pati, a participant of the 2016 Merola Opera Program, during which he performed his first principal role as Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte. An experienced choral singer, he has performed and toured with the New Zealand Youth Choir, Graduate Choir, and the Auckland University Choir. Amitai Pati will appear in two other San Francisco Opera productions this season – as Lord Cecil in Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux, and in Heggie’s It’s a Wonderful Life.

Daniele Callegari leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Director Ian Robertson) in the United States premiere of José Cura’s production of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci, staged in revival by fellow Argentine stage director Jose Maria Condemi.  This Opéra Royal de Wallonie-Liège production is sung in Italian with English supertitles. Performances take place at the War Memorial Opera House between September 7th and 30th. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website.
Information sourced from:

San Francisco Opera program notes

Encyclopaedia Britannica

Encyclopaedia Britannica 

Opera Australia

and artists’ websites:

José Cura
Daniele Callegari
Ekaterina Semenchuk
Dimitri Platanias
Laura Krumm
Jill Grove
Lianna Haroutounian
Marco Berti
David  Pershall


ArtsPreview home page

SFJAZZ launches 2018-19 Season with Cécile McLorin Salvant & Sullivan Fortner

At SFJAZZ they don’t do anything by halves, and to prove the point, the opening performance of their 2018-19 Season features the fabulous artistry of Cécile McLorin Salvant – lauded as one of the most distinctive and gifted jazz vocalists of her time – and piano virtuoso Sullivan Fortner, considered one of the top jazz pianists of his generation.

Having studied studied under tutors such as Edward Walker at the University of Miami, and later under Jean-François Bonnel at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory in Aix-en-Provence, Cécile McLorin Salvant recorded her first album, Cécile, with Bonnel’s Paris Quintet in 2009. A year later she won the Thelonious Monk competition in Washington DC.

According to Winston Marsalis, McLorin Salvant has “…. poise, elegance, soul, humor, sensuality …. intelligence, depth and grace”. She also has a keen curiosity for the history of American music and the connections which link jazz, vaudeville, blues and folk music. “Her blues are blue. Her swings swing,” wrote Fred Kaplan in The New Yorker, adding: “She has vast, almost operatic range.”

She has two Grammy Awards for Best Jazz Vocal Album, and three nominations to her credit, having become – at the age of 26 – the youngest woman to have won a Grammy in this category, with her second album For One to Love. Her second Grammy came two years later, in 2017, for Dreams and Daggers, recorded partly during live performances, in some of which she was accompanied by Sullivan Fortner, in others by Aaron Diehl (piano), Paul Sikivie (bass), Lawrence Leathers (drums) and The Catalyst Quartet.

With her popularity spreading across Europe and the United States, Cécile McLorin Salvant has now released her fifth album, The Window – a series of duets with Sullivan Fortner – in which (according to her website) “the two are free to improvise and rhapsodize, to play freely with time, harmony, melody, and phrasing”.

Sullivan Fortner – hailed as a virtuoso before he had even completed school – is another artist with a hugely impressive track record. With a Bachelor of Music degree in Jazz Studies from Oberlin Conservatory and a Master of Music in Jazz Performance from Manhattan School of Music, he is also the winner of a Leonore Annenberg Arts Fellowship, of the 2015 Cole Porter Fellowship from the American Pianists Association, and the 2016 Lincoln Center Award for Emerging Artists.

Sullivan Fortner

The Sullivan Fortner Trio has performed at some of the world’s most prestigious jazz venues – including Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Newport, Monterey, Discover, and Tri-C jazz festivals, at Jazz Standard and the Gillmore Keyboard Festival. Fortner himself has appeared with artists such as Dianne Reeves, Wynton Marsalis, Paul Simon, DeeDee Bridgewater, and Etienne Charles, and he leads masters classes at music institutions such as the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Manhattan School of Music, New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NoCCA), Purdue University, Lafayette Summer Music Workshop and Belmont University (TN).

Cécile McLorin Salvant and Sullivan Fortner launch the SFJAZZ 2018-19 Season with performances on September 6th (for SFJAZZ members only), and September 7th, 8th and 9th. Demand for tickets is high, but find out more on the SFJAZZ website.

Meanwhile, in the Joe Henderson Lab, Taylor McFerrin – DJ, producer, keyboardist, beatboxer, and composer – is accompanied by drummer Marcus Gilmore with his mix of acoustic and electronic percussion, in a series of dance floor shows of electronic beat jazz. There are two shows nightly, on September 6th (for SFJAZZ members only), and on September 7th, 8th and 9th (open to all). Tickets and more information can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

and artists’ websites:

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Sullivan Fortner

Taylor McFerrin


ArtsPreview home page

Gala Concert opens San Francisco Symphony’s 2018-19 Season

Michael Tilson Thomas directing the San Francisco Symphony
© Stefan Cohen

With three season openings on three consecutive nights – at San Francisco Symphony, SFJAZZ and San Francisco Opera – the City by the Bay is definitely the place to be next week!

First on the calendar is the San Francisco Symphony Gala – always a glittering occasion – as Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas leads the Symphony in an evening of symphonic and film favorites, with guest artists Itzhak Perlman and students of the Perlman Music Program.

Itzhak Perlman
© Lisa Marie Mazzucco

Itzhak Perlman – whose artistry and sheer joy in music has endeared him to audiences the world over – is also loved for his charm and his humanity. He returns to Davies Symphony Hall for this Gala Concert, to perform with six members of the Perlman Music Program – a summer school which each year provides an opportunity for young string players “of rare and special talent” to benefit from some of the finest tuition available.

The concert opens with Frans Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No 1 for Orchestra. One of four Mephisto waltzes by Liszt, this is the most frequently performed, and depicts The Dance at the Village Inn as described in Nikolaus Lenau’s poem, Faust: Ein Gedicht.

Itzhak Perlman with students of the Perlman Music Program
© Annie Watt

Itzhak Perlman and his students will then perform J S Bach’s delightfully lyrical Concerto for Two Violins, Strings and Continuo, BWV 1043, one of the many instrumental works – along with the Brandenburg Concertos and the Goldberg Variations – for which Bach is best known and loved. In this performance of the work – also known as the Double Concerto – the students of the Perlman Music Program share the second violin part.

Itzhak Perlman will also perform two very different film themes – the sensual Tango by Carlos Gardel which featured so memorably in the 1992 Al Pacino film Scent of a Woman – and a piece which John Williams wrote specifically for Mr Perlman – the hauntingly beautiful Oscar-winning theme from Schindler’s List.

Itzhak Perlman plays the theme from ‘Schindler’s List

There’s more Oscar-winning film music on the program, too – the lovely theme from Out of Africa by John Barry – who won an Academy Award for the entire score in 1986 – one of seven Awards which the film received that year. Then there’s Ennio Morricone’s unforgettable theme from Cinema Paradiso, a film which won both an Oscar and a Golden Globe award in the Best Foreign Language category in 1990, and for which Morricone won a BAFTA the following year.

Gershwin can always be counted on to provide the sparkle in a Gala Concert – and this one features two of his works – the first being his Cuban Overture. It was inspired by the rhythms he heard on a 1932 vacation to Havana – described on the Gershwin website as “two hysterical weeks…where no sleep was had”! Gershwin even took a set of Cuban musical instruments back to New York for added authenticity at the overture’s premiere, which was given by Albert Coates and the New York Philharmonic in August that year.

Michael Tilson Thomas directs the San Francisco Symphony
© Stefan Cohen

This Gala Concert concert ends with one of Gershwin’s best-loved works – his fabulous tone poem An American in Paris – written by the composer when he was just that – an American tourist visiting the eternally beautiful City of Lights, and one totally enamored with the sights and sounds which make Paris unique and so special.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony, guest artist Itzhak Perlman and students of the Perlman Music Program, in a Gala Concert to open the 2018-19 season at Davies Symphony Hall on September 5th. The performance is preceded by a wine reception, and concludes with a fabulous indoor-outdoor After-Party open to all ticketholders.

For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

The concert will be broadcast live on Classical KDFC 90.3/89.9/104.9 FM and streamed online at Proceeds of the performance benefit the San Francisco Symphony’s many artistic, education and community programs.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Symphony program notes
Itzhak Perlman
Perlman Music Program

ArtsPreview home page

Former San Francisco Ballet soloist honored with Princess Grace Award

Dana Genshaft in Ratmansky’s ‘From Foreign Lands’ (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School have recently received some exciting news. Dana Genshaft – a former soloist with the Company, and now a faculty member of the Ballet School – has been honored with a Princess Grace Award in Choreography. Presented annually by the Princess Grace Foundation USA, the Award will provide Dana with financial assistance and ongoing support as she pursues her career in choreography.

Princess Grace of Monaco is remembered for her talent, beauty, elegance and her compassion. Among her achievements was the establishment of a Foundation to help those with special needs, and to bring international recognition to two high profile fundraising events in the Principality of Monaco – the Bal de la Croix Rouge and the Bal de la Rose.

Official Portrait of Princess Grace – Credit: Archives of the Princely Palace of Monaco

There was, however, another side to Princess Grace’s philanthropy. With her enduring love of the arts, the Princess harbored a desire to help emerging artists in the world of theatre, dance and film to pursue their dreams, so – after her death in 1982 – Prince Rainier founded the Princess Grace Foundation USA, to provide grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships and fellowships, to enable these artists to develop their talents. Among dancers who have been recognized are San Francisco Ballet Principal Joseph Walsh, Robert Battle – Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – American Ballet Theatre’s Gillian Murphy and Isabella Boylston, and New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck, as well as choreographers and MacArthur “Genius” grant winners, Kyle Abraham and Michelle Dorrance.

Dana Genshaft was born in Moscow, and trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, the School of American Ballet and the Paris Opéra Ballet School. In 2000, she became an apprentice with San Francisco Ballet, joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet the following year, and in 2008 was promoted to the rank of soloist. She has performed lead roles in Ashton’s Monotones I; Elo’s Double Evil; McGregor’s Eden/Eden; Morris’ Pacific, Maelstrom, and A Garden; Tomasson’s 7 for Eight; Welch’s Naked; and Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance) and Within the Golden Hour. She had a singing role as Rosalia in Robbins’ West Side Story Suite, and created roles in Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House and Morris’ Joyride.

Faculty member Dana Genshaft leads San Francisco Ballet School students in class (© Erik Tomasson)

Following her retirement from the Company in 2015, Dana Genshaft joined the faculty of the San Francisco Ballet School, where she has since taught contemporary repertory, conditioning, and choreography. Included in her choreographic assignments were those for for the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and James Sofranko’s SFDanceworks.

Nearly 10 years ago, the Princess Grace Foundation USA commissioned celebrated artist Alex Soldier to create a trophy to be presented to recipients of the Princess Grace Award. Using mainly platinum-plated silver, with black obsidian and Swarovski crystal accents, Soldier created a beautiful objet d’art representing the three disciplines that were closest to the Princess’s heart – theatre, dance and film. Representing an elegant depiction of dance in its overall design, the award also features the American flag, the crown of the Princess Grace Foundation USA, a strip of film which falls into a cascade of stars, and at its centre are the masks which are universally symbolic of the theatre.

The Princess Grace Award, designed by Alex Soldier

It is fair to wonder how these award-winners are selected, and Toby E Boshak, Executive Director of PGF-USA, provides the answer. “Princess Grace Award winners,” he says, “are some of the nation’s most talented artists.  Each person is nominated by a non-profit company’s artistic director or school’s department chair, and since each organization may only nominate one individual, we are seeing the top creative talents in each of the three categories we fund: theater, dance, and film. From this already impressive list, our panelists choose 5 or 6 individuals who embody artistic excellence and a commitment to their craft.”

Winners of the Princess Grace Award who go on to distinguish themselves in their chosen artistic discipline are also eligible to receive the Foundation’s Princess Grace Statue Award, and this year two Statue Awards will be presented, to Sam Gold – Tony Award-winning director of Fun Home – and Kyle Abraham – Bessie Award-winner and founder of the dance company Abraham.In.Motion.

The awards ceremony takes place, in the presence of Her Serene Highness, the Princess of Monaco, at Cipriani 25 Broadway, New York City, on October 16, 2018.

Information sourced from:

San Francisco Ballet

The Princess Grace Foundation USA

Alex Soldier

ArtsPreview home page

Cuba’s greatest living pianists at SFJAZZ

Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba – Photo courtesy SFJAZZ

This week in San Francisco, lovers of Cuban jazz have a rare opportunity to see two of the greatest living pianists which that country has produced – Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba – on stage together, at SFJAZZ. In a program entitled Trance, these two legendary artists will share with their audiences an intimate program of duo and solo performances – four evenings of pure jazz piano, Cuban style.

Chuco Valdés – pianist, composer and arranger, and winner of six GRAMMY® and three Latin GRAMMY® Awards – is regarded as the most influential figure in modern Afro-Cuban jazz. According to The New York Times he’s “one of the world’s great virtuosic pianists”. First taught by his father – the pianist, composer and bandleader, Ramón “Bebo” Valdés – Chucho graduated from the Conservatorio Municipal de Música de la Habana at the age of 14, formed his first jazz trio a year later, and at the age of 18 made his debut with one of the great orchestras in modern Cuban music history, Sabor de Cuba, directed by his father.

Not content with performing with a great Cuban orchestra, Valdés founded his own ensemble, Irakere, in 1973, and although it wasn’t known outside Cuba at the time, it wasn’t long before Dizzy Gillespie heard the band on a visit to the island, and arranged for it to be signed up by CBS. In 1978, Irakere debuted at Carnegie Hall as part of the Newport Jazz Festival, and the following year was awarded the GRAMMY for Best Latin Recording.  Valdés stayed with the ensemble until 2005.

The talents of pianist and composer Gonzalo Rubalcaba had already been recognized in his home country when he was discovered in 1985 by Dizzy Gillespie – who described him as “…the greatest pianist I’ve heard in the last 10 years”…. Rubalcaba, too, had a father who was a pianist, composer and bandleader, and young Gonzalo was playing drums in his father’s orchestra at the tender age of 6. Following his graduation from the Institute of Fine Arts in Havana, he swung into the world of touring musicians, visiting Europe, Africa and Asia with the Orchestra Aragón, as well as touring his native Cuba, and by 1984 was leading his own Afro-Cuban band, Grupo Proyecto.

In 1999 Gonzalo Rubalcaba was listed by Piano & Keyboard Magazine as one of the great pianists of the 20th century – along with names as illustrious as Glenn Gould, Martha Argerich and Bill Evans – and Sir Simon Rattle has referred to him as “the most gifted pianist on the planet …”. The list of awards that Rubalcaba has received is highly impressive. Among these are two GRAMMYs, two Latin GRAMMYS, the PALMAR D’OR” of the Music Academy in Paris, the Latin Pride National Award, he has been recognized by The Art Critics Association in Japan, the Festival Internacional de Jazz de Barcelona, and the ASCAP Foundation, and he was the 2001 Leader Circle Laureate of the San Francisco Jazz Festival Organization. Since 2015 he has been a faculty member of the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami.

Chucho Valdés and Gonzalo Rubalcaba are at SFJAZZ from Thursday to Sunday, August 2nd to 5th. For more information, and for tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website.

Information sourced from:

SFJAZZ program notes

and artists’ websites:

Chucho Valdés

Gonzalo Rubalcaba


ArtsPreview home page