‘The Accompanist’ – all is not as it seems

The Accompanist, this week’s movie at the San Francisco Alliance Française, focuses on the relationship which develops, in wartime Paris, between a young pianist and her employer, a famed opera singer. Based on the novel by Nina Berberova, the film is directed by Claude Miller, and stars Romane Bohringer, Elena Safonova and Richard Bohringer (the Bohringers are father and daughter).

The action takes place in 1942, against the grim backdrop of Nazi-occupied Paris. Sophie Vasseur (Romane Bohringer) is a young and impoverished pianist, living with her mother, and for whom life holds little joy until she’s hired by an accomplished opera singer, Irene Brice (Elena Safonova) as her accompanist. Irene and her possessive husband Charles (Richard Bohringer) are among those Parisians who still manage to maintain a luxurious apartment, and indulge in a lifestyle of parties, receptions and recitals – the reason being that Charles, who is also Irene’s manager, is collaborating with the Nazis – albeit with a troubled conscience.

Sophie, who doesn’t have Irene’s confidence or social skills, “both loves and hates the wealthy and prepossessing Irene”, says The Movie Guide review, adding “…. the movie reveals the pain, sorrow and loneliness of a person who can only watch life pass by and not participate in the joy of friendship”. Sophie does, however, absorb much about Irene and her life, becoming obsessed by her, and taking on the role of her maid as well as her accompanist, in which capacity she realizes that Irene is having an affair with a member of the Resistance – whilst married to a Nazi collaborator. As the Roger Ebert review says: “What she [Sophie] sees, and what she thinks about it, are what make Claude Miller’s The Accompanist so absorbing”.

The film won Miller the FIPRESCI Prize and the Special Prize of the Jury at the 1993 Istanbul International Film Festival, and was one of the award winners in the Top Foreign Films category at the 1993 National Board of Review in the USA.

The Accompanist (rated PG) will be shown in French with English subtitles at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, August 30, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a donation of $5 is suggested.


Alliance Française

The Accompanist

Claude Miller

Romane Bohringer

Elena Safonova

Richard Bohringer

Roger Ebert review

Movie Guide review

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Looking Through the Lens – a San Francisco Opera retrospective


Ildar Abdrazakov as Mefistofele and Ramon Vargas as Faust in a scene from Boito’s ‘Mefistofele’ (2013) © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

In 2022, San Francisco Opera celebrates its Centennial – although, according to the Company’s historical notes, the City’s ‘love affair with opera’ began as early as the days of the Gold Rush!  Nearly 5,000 performances took place in 26 different theaters between 1851 and the 1906 earthquake, but it wasn’t until 1923 that San Francisco’s resident company was established, thanks to the endeavors of a young Neapolitan conductor, Gaetano Merola.

The first event in the public celebration of this historic anniversary is the permanent photographic exhibition which opens next week in the Diane B Wilsey Center for Opera – leaving us in no doubt that the centenary of the oldest surviving opera company on the West Coast will be marked in grand style.

Entitled Looking Through the Lens: The Glory of San Francisco Opera, Past and Present, this fascinating retrospective has on display 135 images selected from the recently formalized Edward Paul Braby San Francisco Opera Archive collections.  Many of these images are unique in that they have never before been published, exhibited or seen by anyone other than Company staff members and volunteers.  The exhibition has been curated and assembled by Jon Finck, San Francisco Opera’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs, assisted by Barbara Rominski – the Company’s Director of Archives – and a group of archival volunteers, members of the Communication Department, and local and national specialists in this field.


The Triumphal Scene from Verdi’s ‘Aida (1935) Photo: Franklin & Rognon. © San Francisco Opera Archives

The exhibition divides naturally into two sections – the black and white photographs, in the David Gockley Gallery, representing the early years of the Company, and the color images, in the Hume Family Gallery, reflecting the past three decades of San Francisco Opera, honoring not only the stars, but the Company’s orchestra, chorus, dancers and others who have contributed to its success. “The images,” says Jon Finck, “are breathtaking and they capture those special moments that communicate why opera is so extraordinary.”  They are indeed breathtaking – and full credit to the photographers, both past and contemporary, whose genius has delivered this remarkable perspective on the operatic history of San Francisco.

The realization of the number of illustrious artists who have graced the Company’s productions is awe-inspiring, as shown in these images – dating back to the inaugural season in 1923.  A particularly fascinating example – the centerpiece of the Gockley Gallery – was taken after a performance of Andrea Chénier at the Civic Auditorium during that first season.  The work of Geo F Courser, it shows Gaetano Merola and his wife Rosa, with soprano Bianca Saroya, tenor Beniamino Gigli and baritone Alfredo Gandolfi (all in costume), the San Francisco Symphony (who performed with the Company at that time) and the entire cast, crew, company staff, and members of the Board of Directors.


Nina Stemme as Brunnhilde in Wagner’s ‘Siegfried’ (2011) © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Others include a photograph of Hungarian soprano Anne Roselle in the title role of the 1927 production of Turandot, of Italian diva Claudia Muzio as Tosca in the 1932 performance – which opened the War Memorial Opera House – and of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in her United States operatic debut in 1955, as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier.  More recent images include those of Placido Domingo in Cyrano de Bergerac, Renée Fleming in Rusalka and Nina Stemme in Siegfried.  There are scenes from US premieres such as Ligeti’s Le Grand Macabre and Riemann’s Lear; from world premieres including Adams’s Doctor Atomic and Wallace’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter.  There are those of delicate beauty, as from a 1966 production of Madama Butterfly, others demonstrating incredible feats of design, like the magnificent ‘clockwork’ head of a horse which dominated the stage in the 2015 production of Les Troyens.  There are images of high drama and heartbreak, frivolity and fun – perfectly illustrating the brilliance of opera in its ability to portray the range of emotions of which the human spirit is capable.


Philippe Sly as Ormonte in Handel’s ‘Partenope’ (2014) © Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Looking Through the Lens is admission-free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. It’s located in the Diane B Wilsey Center for Opera, in the Veterans Building, adjacent to the War Memorial Opera House, at 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.  For more information, contact the Archives at archive@sfopera.com, and to learn more about San Francisco Opera’s history, visit the online performance archive database at archive.sfopera.com.


San Francisco Opera


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Chomet moves from animation to live-action with ‘Attila Marcel’

Courtesy UniFrance

A couple of weeks ago, the San Francisco Alliance Française screened The Illusionist, one of Sylvain Chomet’s two highly acclaimed animated films, the other being The Triplets of Belleville.  Featured in this week’s movie night is Chomet’s first live-action film, Attila Marcel, and it sounds as though a keen sense of humor is needed for maximum enjoyment!

The Hollywood Reporter describes Attila Marcel as a film “about memories that beautifully evokes films and songs from the past” in which Chomet “effortlessly transitions from the animated wonders” of his two previous films “to the live-action marvel that is Attila Marcel”.

Variety magazine refers to the film as “full of wry humanism, plentiful musical interludes, and production design that’s just this side of phantasmagoric”, whilst cautioning that “The whimsical-averse are advised to steer far clear ….”. The Financial Times goes one stage further with its assertion that “A small card should be held up at the start of Attila Marcel: Warning: contains whimsy”.

The central character in the film is a young pianist named Paul – played by Guillaume Gouix – who, as a toddler, witnessed the death of his parents. This event so traumatized him that he has uttered not a word since. At the age of 33, he is still mute, and still repressing any feelings he might have, communicating solely through his large, sad eyes, and his body language. His only hint of self-expression comes from the colorful, two-button suits which he wears. The film takes its title from the ‘stage’ name of Paul’s father, a hippie-type professional wrestler who called himself Attila Marcel – also played by Gouix.

Paul lives with two very eccentric aunts – played by Hélène Vincent and Bernadette Lafont – who dress almost identically, and for whom he plays at their dance classes. With the best of intentions, these two aunts have nevertheless completely smothered him all his life, whilst encouraging him to enter piano competitions year after year. A dutiful young man, Paul practises religiously, but achieves nothing until he strikes up a friendship with a rather extraordinary neighbor, Madame Proust – played by Anne Le Ny. She’s an aging, eco-style Buddhist who plays the ukelele, and has a vegetable patch growing in her apartment. She plies him with a weekly brew of asparagus tea and Madeleines to bring his repressed memories to the surface of his mind through a series of delightful fantasies.

In an interview for Walk This Way director  Chomet explains why he moved from animation to live-action, talks about the characters of Paul and Madame Proust and about the role of music in the film.

At the 2014 Beijing International Film Festival, Guillaume Gouix won the Tiantian Award for Best Actor, and at the Newport Beach Film Festival in the same year, Editor Simon Jacquet won Honors for Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking.

A Eurowide Film and Pathé Production, Attila Marcel screens in French, with English subtitles, at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, August 23, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.


The Hollywood Reporter review

The Financial Times review 

Variety magazine review 


San Francisco Alliance Française

Attila Marcel

Sylvain Chomet

Guillaume Gouix

Anne Le Ny

Bernadette Lafont

Hélène Vincent


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Cannes celebrates 2016 Festival de l’Art Russe


© frenchriviera-tourism.com

Since 1998, the City of Cannes has hosted an annual celebration of the artistic creativity of Russia – the Festival de l’Art Russe – which was established to develop the intercultural exchange between Russia and France, marking the historic friendship which exists between the two countries.

One of the highlights of the summer season in Cannes, the Festival runs from 23rd to 27th August at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes, and features an extravaganza of dance, music, film and gastronomy, under the direction of Executive Producer Tatiana Shumova, Vice President of the Russian Cultural Foundation.


Finale of ‘Altin Köök’ – The Folkloric Ballet of Khakassia.  Follow this link  for the complete work

The celebrations get off to a fascinating and colourful start with a performance by the Folkloric Ballet of Khakassia.  The Republic of Khakassia is part of the Russian federation, and situated in southern Siberia. This performance brings together two ensembles of the Philharmonic Society of Khakassia – the Kÿn Susy (Sunbeam) dance ensemble, created in 2007, and the Ülger (Constellation) song and dance ensemble, established in 1989. They present a work entitled Altin Köök, created in 2014, which features songs and dances which have their origins in the heart of the Khakassian culture. The Kÿn Susy group, under the direction of choreographer Natalia Apunevich, is so popular that it often gives two or three performances per day, even in remote parts of the country. The Folkloric Ballet of Khakassia – most recently seen at the Carnival of Venice in February – performs in the Théâtre Debussy of the Palais des Festivals on 23rd August.

The  following evening, this grand waterfront complex of auditoria and salons hosts a celebration of Russian gastronomy, the Dîner-Spectacle: La Nuit Russe, in the impressive setting of the Salon des Ambassadeurs.   While they dine, guests will be treated to a programme of Russian songs and folklore, followed by a fireworks display on the terrace.


Adèle Exarchopoulos et Artiom Alexeiev in ‘Voyage vers la mere’ – watch trailer

Thursday 25th August has been designated the day of Russian cinema, on which three films will be screened at the Salle Estérel.  Voyage vers la mère by Mikhail Kosyrev-Nesterov (2014) is a Franco-Russian production, adapted from the novel by Nicolas Planchais, which stars Adèle Exarchopoulos and Artiom Alexeiev.   Téhéran 43 (Assassination Attempt), Alexandre Alov and Vladimir Naoumov‘s 1981 espionage thriller, was based on the the 1943 attempt by Nazi Germany to assassinate Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt during the Teheran Conference.  It features Alain Delon, Natalya Belokhvostikova, Armen Dzhigarkhanyan, Igor Kostolevsky, Albert Filozov and Claude Jade.  Stanislav Govoroukhine’s 2015 dramatic comedy La fin d’une magnifique époque (The End of a Great Era) was based on Sergey Dovlatov’s book The Compromise (Le Compromis) which tells of his experiences as a journalist in the Soviet Republic of Estonia. It features Ivan Kolesnikov and Svetlana Khodtchenkova.

There’s a beautiful concert taking place at the Villa Domergue on Friday, 26th August – a performance by the soloists of the Academy of Young Singers of the Mariinsky Theatre. Accompanied by pianist Larissa Guerguieva, they’ll pay homage to one of their country’s greatest composers, in a programme which features arias from operas by Tchaikovsky, and traditional Russian songs.


Russian dancers will once again delight Festival audiences © seecannes.com

The final performance in this five-day Russian festival is the spectacular Homage to Russian Classical Ballet. With students of the Moscow State Academy of Choreography (Artistic Director Mikhail Lavrovsky), soloists Evgeny Zhukov and Daria Yurchenko of the Stanislavsky Theatre of Moscow, and Bolshoi Ballet soloist Anastasia Zakharova, young dancers and stars will present an evening of sheer delight for lovers of ballet.  The programme of traditional and new works includes extracts from Giselle, Coppélia and Don Quixote, divertissements choreographed to music by Delibes, Tchaikovsky and Debussy, and a ballet by Igor Moiseyev – widely regarded as the greatest 20th century choreographer of character dances – set to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

In addition to all these attractions, the Palais des Festivals will also host two exhibitions during the course of the Russian Art Festival. In the Espace Toscan du Plantier, there’ll be an exhibition devoted to the history of Soviet cinema, to mark the 100th anniversary of the Gorky Film Studio which was founded in 1915 and which – by the end of the Soviet era – had produced more than 1,000 films. Mounted in co-operation with the Central Museum of Contemporary History of Russia, it will feature costumes, posters, photographs, cameras and projection equipment, as well as extracts from films produced by the studio.

In the foyer of the Théâtre Debussy, an exhibition entitled Les Arabesques de la Côte d’Azur 2016 will highlight works by students of some of the greatest schools of fine art in Russia with a display of their art and artistic expression.


The Croisette and Cannes Bay – Courtesy Palais des Festivals et des Congrès ©SEMEC-PERREARD

Prior to the launch of the main Festival, there’ll be an opportunity to look into the future of the arts in Russia, with three concerts to be presented under the banner The Festival of Young Russia. The first two, entitled La Joie, feature the Orthodox Choirgirls of the Tcherno Ostrovskiy Monastery of Saint Nicholas of Maloyaroslavets. They’ll be performing at the Church of Our Lady of Hope, in the Suquet, on Saturday, 20th August, and at the Church of Our Lady of the Pines, on Sunday 21st August.  On the following evening there’ll be a recital by young soloists from both the Moscow Conservatory and the Conservatoire de Cannes. The programme features pianists Ilya Maksakov and Marguerite Avetisian, soprano Yana Fedorova and baritone Maxime Martelot, both of whom will be accompanied on the piano by Laurène Léoni. This performance takes place at the Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage on 22nd August.

Palais des Festivals et des Congrès de Cannes 

Villa Domergue

Mikhail Lavrovsky

Stanislavsky Theatre of Moscow

Bolshoi Theatre


This article first appeared on the website of Riviera Buzz

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Concert under the stars – Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble


The Silk Road Ensemble © Jennifer Taylor

Making a welcome return to UC Berkeley’s Greek Theater this week is world renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who brings with him a group of musicians and composers who take the greatest delight in their music-making – the Silk Road Ensemble.

Silkroad is the remarkable project founded by Yo-Yo Ma in 2000, which has assembled what The Wall Street Journal describes as a “vibrant and virtuosic” group of musicians and composers, from over 20 countries in Asia, Europe and the Americas, to perform arrangements of traditional and contemporary music from around the world. Ma describes Silkroad as “a creative home for me and for members of The Silk Road Ensemble, a place where we return to explore new artistic languages, to encounter friends and strangers, and to find joy in unexpected connections.” *


© Khalid Al Busaidi

The Ensemble has to date delighted audiences in over 30 countries with their performances of “spontaneity and superb craftsmanship” (The Washington Post). Their intention, according to the group, is “to lead a listener from a well-known place to somewhere new”, and whether their music is classic, contemporary, familiar or unknown, the creating is, as they say, “a joyous process”.

The group has recorded six albums, their latest, Sing Me Home, having been released in April this year, and in June a documentary on the Ensemble was released by Morgan Neville and Caitrin Rogers – creators of the Oscar-winning 20 Feet From Stardom, and highly acclaimed Best of Enemies documentaries.  Entitled The Music of Strangers, it’s the perfect illustration of the raison d’être for the Ensemble, as Yo-Yo Ma and a group of Ensemble members gather in a number of different countries, “exploring the ways art can both preserve traditions and shape cultural evolution”.

With a commissioning program which has produced over 80 new works from composers and arrangers in 22 countries – from Asia, the Middle East and South America, as well as from the United States – it’s no wonder that the Boston Globe refers to the Silk Road Ensemble as a “roving musical laboratory without walls”.

It’s certainly a highly successful demonstration of what could be termed ‘the unity of diversity’. As Yo-Yo Ma says, one of the great pleasures of Silkroad is that it celebrates difference – “we cultivate curiosity in our exploration and generosity in our sharing”. *


© Max Whittaker

Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble perform for one night only at the open-air Greek Theater, UC Berkeley, on Thursday, August 18. For more information, and tickets, visit the Cal Performances website.


Yo-Yo Ma 

Silk Road Project



Cal Performances program notes

* Extract from the liner notes of The Silk Road Ensemble’s latest recording, Sing Me Home, Sony Masterworks, 2016

Silk Road Project website

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Slapstick and satirical humor in ‘Adieu Berthe’

Bruno Podalydès’ Adieu Berthe is the featured film at the San Francisco Alliance Française movie night on Tuesday. Also known by its English title, Granny’s Funeral, the film was written by the director and his brother, Denis Podalydès – who also plays the male lead, Armand Lebrecq.

Armand, a middle-aged pharmacist, always wanted to be a magician, so he juggles what he feels is his rather unexciting job with his passion for magic – and his apparently unexciting marriage to Hélène (Isabelle Candelier) with time spent with his mistress, Alix ((Valerie Lemercier). He still loves Hélène, but wouldn’t mind leaving her for Alix either, so it’s no wonder – with all these conflicts in his life – that when his grandmother dies, he feels rather guilty about having neglected her.

A rather disorganized character, Armand nevertheless realizes that he has to take on the role of patriarch and arrange his grandmother’s funeral. In so doing, he comes up against his rather domineering mother-in-law Suzanne (Catherine Hiegel), who has markedly different views about which funeral home to use, so the battle lines are drawn – whilst Armand also has to deal with the two women who feature in his personal dilemma.

Robin Clifford of Reeling Reviews describes Adieu Berthe as “a goofy comedy” and “a feel good movie about a funeral”, which, he says, sounds like a contradiction, but isn’t.  It takes a satirical – and somewhat critical – view of the burial industry, as well.  It won a nomination for the Podalydès brothers for Best Original Screenplay at the 2013 César Awards.

Adieu Berthe – in French with English subtitles – screens at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, August 16, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a donation of $5 is suggested.


Alliance Française
Adieu Berthe
Bruno Podalydès
Denis Podalydès
Valérie Lemercier
Isabelle Candelier

Reeling Reviews


PREVIEW home page

SFJAZZ highlights Cuban masters of the keyboard


Gonzalo Rubalcaba – courtesy SFJAZZ

If you love the music of Cuban jazz pianists, then SFJAZZ is the place to be this week, with a series of concerts by some of the island’s  finest – Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Fabian Almazán, Alfredo Rodríguez, Harold Nussa-López and Aldo López-Gavilán – and each performance features a special guest appearance by Cuban percussion master Pedrito Martinez.

This week of concerts devoted to the evolution of Cuban piano, opens with a solo recital by Gonzalo Rubalcaba – for SFJAZZ members only – and it’s already sold out, so popular is this classically-trained master of the keyboard who has succeeded in combining European classical and jazz traditions with the musical heritage of Cuba. With 15 GRAMMY nominations, two GRAMMY Awards and two Latin GRAMMY’s behind him, Rubalcaba has been described by The New York Times as “One of the greatest musicians in jazz … a pianist of almost supernatural abilities”. His latest release – on his own label 5Passion – is a tribute to the late bassist Charlie Haden who saw the potential in the young pianist and by whose efforts Rubalcaba rose to fame in America during the early 90s.

Gonzalo Rubalcaba plays to an audience of SFJAZZ members in the Miner Auditorium on Thursday, August 11.


Fabian Almazán – © fabianalmazan.com

Havana-born Fabian Almazán – who takes the spotlight on Friday evening – is another jazz artist who was initially introduced to the piano as a classical pupil, but whose talent as a jazz musician enabled him to successfully bridge the divide between the two. The recipient of the Cintas Foundation 2010/11 Brandon Fradd Award in Music Composition, and selected as one of six composers to participate in the 2011 Sundance Composers’ Lab, Almazán is the composer of several film scores. He was voted the #1 Rising Piano Star in the 2014 Downbeat Magazine Critics Poll, and was awarded a commission from Chamber Music America New Jazz Works in the same year.

Since 2007 Almazán has performed as pianist for the various working bands of trumpeter Terence Blanchard – SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director – including the E-Collective which was nominated for a GRAMMY this year. He’s recorded two solo albums – Personalities (on his own label Biophilia Records) and Rhizome (on ArtistShare/Blue Note Records) – both of which been widely acclaimed. The Wall Street Journal describes him as “A bracing blend of lyrical Modernism, modern-jazz improvisation and postmodern sonic disruption”.

Fabian Almazán appears in the Miner Auditorium, on Friday, August 12, with bassist Linda Oh, drummer Henry Cole, a string quartet, and vocalist and guitarist Camila Meza. Pedrito Martinez makes a special guest appearance on percussion. The show opens with a performance by Cuban pianist Aruán Ortiz, bassist Eric Revis and drummer Gerald Cleaver, who’ll play music from Ortiz’s new release Hidden Voices.

For tickets and further information, visit the SFJAZZ website.


Alfredo Rodríguez – courtesy SFJAZZ

GRAMMY-nominated pianist and composer Alfredo Rodríguez was born into show business – the son of a popular singer and television personality. He too, initially took classical piano lessons, but while studying at the Instituto Superior de Arte, he was appearing on his father’s television programs with some of Cuba’s greatest musicians, and also playing in the streetbands of Havana. Whilst appearing at the 2006 Montreux Jazz Festival, Rodríguez caught the attention of Quincy Jones, who took on the role of Rodríguez’s producer and manager, overseeing the production of his albums.

According to the notes on his website, each of Rodríguez’s recordings tells a story.  His debut album, Sounds of Space, he says, “served as an introduction, as a way of saying: here are the people, the places, and the sounds that have surrounded me and made me who I am”. In Saturday’s performance at SFJAZZ, Alfredo Rodríguez presents pieces from his latest album Tocororo, named after the national bird of Cuba, of which it is said that if it is caged, “it dies of sadness, reflecting not only the desire for liberty, but the necessity of it”. His aim with this recording, he says, was “to open myself up to the world, while honoring my roots at the same time”. He’ll be accompanied by guest vocalist Ganavya Doraiswamy – one of the international performers who appear on the album – with Pedrito Martínez on percussion.

Also appearing on the playbill on Saturday, August 13, is the Melón Quartet, led by two-time Latin GRAMMY nominee, pianist Ivan Lewis, with Jimmy Branly on drums, José Antonio Miguel Artigas on bass, and Roman Filiu on alto saxophone.


Ivan ‘Melón’ Lewis © Philippe-Bertheau – courtesy SFJAZZ

More detail and information on tickets can be found on the SFJAZZ website.

This week of performances highlighting Cuba’s jazz pianists ends with a fascinating double bill, featuring the Harold López-Nussa Trio and Aldo López-Gavilán, whose special guest will be master percussionist Pedrito Martínez. Both López-Nussa and López-Gavilán are renowned for their virtuosity as both classical and jazz pianists.

Harold López-Nussa began his piano studies at Cuba’s Manuel Saumell Conservatory at the age of 8, continuing at the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory, where he specialized in Classic Piano, and graduated at the Higher Institute of Arts (ISA).  He has appeared with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra, with Cuba’s Holguín and Matanzas symphony orchestras, and with Havana Lyceum Mozartiano.  He won international recognition when he was awarded top honors at the 2005 Montreux Jazz Piano Competition, and has performed with a number of renowned jazz musicians, including Chucho Valdés.  López-Nussa toured internationally as a member of Omara Portuondó’s band, is a member of Maraca & The Monterey Latin Jazz All-Stars, and since 2007, has concentrated on jazz.  He now leads his own trio with his younger brother, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, on drums, and Julio César González on bass. The Havana Times rates him “among the greatest pianists of Cuba”.


Harold López-Nussa – courtesy SFJAZZ

Aldo López-Gavilán is renowned for excelling as a recitalist, a concerto soloist, a chamber-music collaborator, and a performer of his own jazz compositions. According to The Times in London, he is “not only a formidable virtuoso, but also exceeds in works that require extraordinary color and fascinating sounds”. Chucho Valdés refers to him as: “Simply a genius, a star”. He made his professional debut at the age of 12, with the Matanzas Symphony Orchestra, and at 17 years of age was performing with the National Symphony of Cuba. He has released six award-winning albums of original compositions with some of Cuba’s finest instrumentalists – and he recently wowed the audience at the Napa Valley Festival with his performance of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.

The Harold López-Nussa Trio, soloist Aldo López-Gavilán, and special guest Pedrito Martinez, appear in the Miner Auditorium at SFJAZZ on Sunday August 14. For more information and tickets, visit the SFJAZZ website .
Gonzalo Rubalcaba

Fabian Almazán 

Aruán Ortiz

Alfredo Rodríguez

Ivan Melon Lewis

Ivan Melon Lewis Quartet

Harold López-Nussa

Aldo López-Gavilán

Pedrito Martinez

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A chance to see Sylvain Chomet’s ‘The Illusionist’

If the reviews for Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist are anything to go by, this delightful animated film is a must-see – it screens at the San Francisco Alliance Française on Tuesday.

The Wall Street Journal referred to its “Exquisite images, poignant humor, echoes of cinema history and a sense of having watched genuine magic”. According to The Christian Science Monitor, it’s “A breathtakingly beautiful achievement in every way”.

Chomet’s follow-up to his 2003 animated film The Triplets of Belleville, The Illusionist is based on a script which French comic genius Jacques Tati wrote as a letter to his estranged daughter, but was never produced until it was brought to the screen in Chomet’s unique style of hand-drawn animation in 2010.

Set in the 1950s, the film tells of an aging magician named Taticheff (Tati’s real name) who is struggling to make a living against the competition from television and rock bands. He moves from Paris to London, and then heads north to Scotland, where he comes across a Alice, a young chambermaid, in an encounter which changes his life.

Included in the six awards won by The Illusionist for Best Animated film, were those from the 2011 César Awards, the 2010 European Film Awards and the 2010 New York Film Critics Circle Awards. It received 29 nominations, among which were those from the 2011 Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA Awards Scotland, and The Evening Standard British Film Awards.

Referring to The Illusionist as “an intricate jewel”, The Guardian describes it as “utterly distinctive and beguiling”.  According to IndieWire, “It’s both gorgeously animated and totally accessible”, and the San Francisco Chronicle described it as “a remarkable movie: lovely, slow-paced and almost silent, rich with pathos and deft comic gestures”.

The Illusionist can be seen at the Alliance Française, 1345 Bush Street, on Tuesday, August 9, at 7.00 pm. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is suggested.

Alliance Française

The Illusionist

Sylvain Chomet

Jacques Tati


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San Francisco Opera’s ‘Celebrating David’ airs on Classical KDFC


David Gockley © Cory Weaver

On Classical KDFC they refer to Sunday evening as “the night that sings” – and this coming Sunday voices will soar, as the Bay Area’s classical music radio station broadcasts San Francisco Opera’s gala concert in honor of the Company’s retiring General Director, David Gockley.  Marking the culmination of Gockley’s 10 years at the helm of one of the country’s greatest opera companies, Celebrating David was a star-studded event which took place at the  War Memorial Opera House in mid-June, and on August 7, listeners to Classical KDFC can hear a broadcast of this historic event.

The esteem in which David Gockley is held in the world of opera can be judged by the illustrious array of international performers who participated in this concert, and who paid tribute to him in song from some of the world’s most magnificent operas, and in video messages from around the world.

Hosted by Frederica von Stade and Thomas Hampson, the performance featured sopranos Renée Fleming – who was awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal to commemorate her 25th anniversary with the Company – Ana María Martínez, Karita Mattila, Patricia Racette, Nadine Sierra and Heidi Stober;  mezzo-sopranos Catherine Cook, Susan Graham, Daniela Mack and Dolora Zajick;  tenors Michael Fabiano, Brian Jagde and Simon O’Neill;  bass-baritone Eric Owens, bass René Pape, current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, and members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus.


Opera Medal Ceremony commemorating soprano Renée Fleming’s 25th anniversary with San Francisco Opera © Cory Weaver

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra was led by the Company’s Music Director Nicola Luisotti, by Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers and guest conductors Jiří Bělohlávek and John DeMain. The program comprised a wonderful selection of arias and ensembles taken from significant works which have been staged during Gockley’s time at San Francisco Opera – operas such as Porgy and Bess, Nixon in China, Rusalka, Giulio Cesare, Susannah, Luisa Miller, La donna del lago, Die Walküre, Der Rosekavalier, Turandot, Mefistofele, Show Boat, La nozze di Figaro, Cavalleria rusticana, Two Women, Manon, A Streetcar Named Desire and Les Troyens. It ended with a heartfelt performance of Make Our Garden Grow from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.


Trio from ‘Der Rosenkavalier’: soprano Nadine Sierra, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, soprano Renée Fleming ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

To coincide with David Gockley’s retirement, San Francisco Opera has produced a book entitled American Impresario, David Gockley’s Life in Opera – a handsome tribute to a remarkable man – written by Damian Fowler. This impressive coffee-table book has a foreword by mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato, and features tributes and reminiscences from a range of artists such as composers Carlisle Floyd, John Adams, Philip Glass and Jake Heggie, designer Francesca Zambello, conductor John DeMain, Eric Owens, Renée Fleming and author Amy Tan.

It’s packed with photographs and anecdotes covering Gockley’s 45-year career in opera, during which he has contributed to the burgeoning of the art form in America through the engagement of top flight artists, directors, designers and conductors, and overseen the world premieres of 45 commissions, including those from some of America’s most eminent composers – John Adams, Leonard Bernstein and Philip Glass.


American Impresario chronicles Gockley’s life from the time that he left New York, and headed off to Houston Grand Opera to take up the position of business manager – at the age of only 27 – and where, two years later, he had risen to the lofty heights of General Director. His career at Houston Grand Opera spanned more than three decades, during which time HGO presented 35 world premieres and six American premieres, and within 10 years of Gockley’s appointment, Houston became the fifth largest opera company in the USA, behind San Francisco Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Metropolitan Opera and New York City Opera.  Gockley also oversaw the creation of HGO’s home, the Wortham Theater Center, and co-founded – with composer Carlisle Floyd – the Houston Grand Opera Studio, dedicated to developing the talents of young singers.

During David Gockley’s tenure as General Director of San Francisco Opera – from 2006 to 2016 – the Company has staged eight commissioned world premieres, two West Coast premieres, and a new production of Wagner’s four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. It was he who took the decision to re-establish the Italian repertoire at San Francisco Opera, and appointed Nicola Luisotti as Music Director, and not only was he responsible for bringing some of the world’s most magnificent operas and performers to the stage of the War Memorial Opera House, but he pioneered programs to nurture rising young artists, and actively sought to develop new ways of introducing opera to the wider world.

One of his early initiatives was to take opera to the community in the form of free outdoor simulcasts – events which now take place annually, and have collectively attracted an audience of over 250,000 to date. These simulcasts would not have been possible had Gockley’s innovative spirit not led the Company to create the Koret/Taube Media Suite in 2007 – the first permanent high-definition broadcast-standard video production facility installed in any American opera house.


Soprano Nadine Sierra and tenor Michael Fabiano ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Other achievements included the establishment of the Grand Opera Cinema Series at regional cinema chains, the distribution of DVDs in the United States and Europe, radio broadcasts, and national TV broadcasts in the United States as part of the PBS Great Performances series. Most recently, he was at the forefront of the creation of the Diane B Wilsey Center for Opera, which houses the opera archives, an education center and the Dianne and Ted Taube Atrium Theater for more intimate presentations by SF Opera Lab.

There are two more Gockley-commissioned world premieres waiting in the wings at the War Memorial Opera House for the season which opens this fall – Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber – a co-production with the Hong Kong Arts Festival – and a new John Adams opera, Girls of the Golden West, with a libretto by Peter Sellars – a San Francisco Opera co-commission with The Dallas Opera, Dutch National Opera and Teatro La Fenice. The 2018-19 season will see yet another David Gockley co-commission for San Francisco Opera – from composer Jake Heggie.

The good news now is that David Gockley will not be leaving San Francisco Opera completely, for it was announced – to rapturous applause at the end of his celebratory concert – that he has been appointed General Director Emeritus of the Company. He is succeeded as General Director by Matthew Shilvock with whom he has worked closely for over 13 years, so not only does Shilvock have a wealth of experience on which to draw, but also the unbridled support of his predecessor. It’s a formidable team.

Celebrating David can be heard on KDFC on Sunday, August 7, at 8.00 pm. For tuning frequencies, or to listen online, visit www.kdfc.com


“Make our garden grow” from “Candide”: baritone Edward Nelson, tenor Pene Pati, soprano Julie Adams, General Director David Gockley, tenor Brian Jagde, mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook, bass Anthony Reed, San Francisco Opera Chorus ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


American Impresario, David Gockley’s Life in Opera, by Damien Fowler, is published by Chronicle Books, and is available from the San Francisco Opera Shop.


San Francisco Opera

David Gockley

Classical KDFC

Damian Fowler

SF Opera Lab