Showbiz & the Symphony on New Year’s Eve

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Tituss Burgess and Jane Krakowski star in the San Francisco Symphony’s New Year’s Eve concert – photograph courtesy San Francisco Symphony

It’ll be showbiz all the way on Saturday evening as the San Francisco Symphony bids farewell to 2016 and rings in the New Year at Davies Symphony Hall.  Joining conductor Edwin Outwater and the Symphony will be two award-winning stars of Broadway and TV – Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess.  In their first-ever full-length concert collaboration, Krakowski and Burgess will be celebrating the New Year festivities with a selection of hit songs from stage and screen, spiced up with their own particular brand of humor and pizzazz.

Each of the two stars has an individual success to celebrate as well. Jane Krakowski has recently been named Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series in the 2016 Critics Circle list of awards for her role in the TV series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – to add to the many other awards she’s received.  These include a 1997 Golden Globe for her portrayal of Elaine Vassal in Ally McBeal, and a 2003 Tony following her performance of Carla in the Broadway musical Nine.  She has also signed to play the role of Liza Minelli in the forthcoming movie Simply Halston (based on the life of the American designer) in which she’ll star opposite Alec Baldwin.

For his part, Tituss Burgess was nominated for an Emmy (excellence in the television industry), won a Webby (excellence on the Internet), and is a 2017 SAG (Screen Actors Guild) Awards nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Comedy Series for his performance as Titus Andromedon in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. According to Vanity Fair, “Burgess shone in the role: showing off his soaring vocal ability in the viral hit Peeno Noir”.  Burgess himself was quoted by eonline as saying: “… this was a complete surprise … I will float all day.” His vocal hero, he declares, is soprano Renée Fleming. The 23rd Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards will be announced on January 29.

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Conductor Edwin Outwater leads the San Francisco Symphony and guest artists in the New Year’s Eve concert – © Larry Williamson

It’s always a pleasure to welcome conductor Edwin Outwater back to Davies Symphony Hall. Director of the San Francisco Symphony’s Summer Concerts, he is also kept busy in his role as Music Director of Ontario’s Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, which has recently celebrated its 70th anniversary and Mr Outwater’s ninth season as Music Director.  For the San Francisco Symphony this 2016-17 season, he is curating and leading concerts in the SFS Soundbox series, and conducting Music for Families concerts, and subscription performances with pianist Stephen Hough. Mr Outwater will also be making return visits to the Chicago and Tokyo metropolitan symphonies, leading performances of Caroline Shaw’s new violin concerto with the Indianopolis and North Carolina symphonies, and directing three programs with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales.

Edwin Outwater conducts the San Francisco Symphony, with guest artists Jane Krakowski and Tituss Burgess, in this year’s New Year’s Eve concert at Davies Symphony Hall on Saturday, December 31 at 8.00 pm. For further information, and for tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.
Jane Krakowski

Tituss Burgess

Edwin Outwater

 

 

Sources:

The Hollywood News 

Vanity Fair

eonline.com

 

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Handel’s ‘Messiah’ – seasonal celebration from SF Symphony & Chorus

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Conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

One of the glories of the Christmas tradition is Handel’s magnificent oratorio, Messiah, and this year, the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Symphony Chorus (director Ragnar Bohlin) are led by American conductor Patrick Dupré Quigley in what promises to be another inspirational performance at Davies Symphony Hall.

The soloists are soprano Lauren Snouffer, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo, tenor Zachary Wilder and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn.

George Frideric Handel wrote his Messiah during August and September in 1741, with an English-language text compiled by landowner and patron of the arts, Charles Jennens, from the King James Bible and the version of the Psalms as included in the Book of Common Prayer. The work was intended for performance the following Easter, and it duly premiered on April 13, 1742, at Neale’s Music Hall in Fishamble Street, Dublin, with the composer conducting. According to Messiah – The Complete Guide – it was “rapturously received”.

It did not, however, get such an enthusiastic reception when it was first performed in London, between 1749 and 1759, but after some changes had been made, Messiah was successfully revived at Covent Garden. It became an established favorite during the 1750s when Handel – who was known for his generosity to orphans, retired musicians and those in ill health – started to perform the work for charity, as he had done in Dublin, leading to an annual series of performances in London.

The work is divided into three parts – the first prophesying the birth of Christ, the second glorifying his sacrifice for humankind, and the final part heralding his Resurrection – and although it doesn’t seem to be clear at which point performances of Messiah became a Christmas, as opposed to an Easter, tradition, the work now firmly takes its place as a central part of the Christmas season in the United States, in Britain and across Europe.

A point of interest raised by Laurence Cummings, director of the London Handel Orchestra, is that the work differs from most of Handel’s other oratorios – in which the soloists dominate, with the choir singing only brief choruses. In Messiah, he says, “the chorus propels the work forward with great emotional impact and uplifting messages”.

GRAMMY®-nominated conductor, Patrick Dupré Quigley, is the Founder and Artistic Director of Seraphic Fire and the Firebird Chamber Orchestra. His work with the music of contemporary American composers has been highly acclaimed, as are his interpretations of both the classical and baroque era repertoires. Gramophone has written of his “Extraordinary … mellifluous and crystalline artistry”, and the Chicago Sun Times refers to him as “Brilliant and inspirational”.  In a review of his performance of Messiah with the Firebird Chamber Orchestra, the Miami Herald wrote that his “lithe, buoyant leadership radiated the joy and life-affirming force in every bar of Handel’s music”.

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Members of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Grammy award winning conductor Ragnar Bohlin has prepared choruses for some of the world’s leading conductors – including Michael Tilson Thomas, Herbert Blomstedt, Valery Gergiev, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Alan Gilbert. He has been director of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus since 2007, and during his tenure – in addition to Messiah – has led the Symphony and Chorus in works such as Bach’s B-minor Mass and Christmas Oratorio and Orff’s Carmina Burana. In 2010 the combined ensemble received three GRAMMY® Awards for their recording of Mahler’s Symphony No 8, including one for Best Choral Performance under Bohlin’s direction. Previous GRAMMY® wins for the Chorus include Best Choral Performance for Brahms’s Ein deutsches Requiem in 1995; Best Choral Performance for Orff’s Carmina Burana in 1992; Best Classical Album with the San Francisco Symphony for Mahler’s Symphony No 3 and Kindertotenlieder in 2004; and Best Classical Album for their performance of Perséphone as part of a collection of Stravinsky’s music in 2000.

Patrick Dupré Quigley leads the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus in performances of Handel’s Messiah at Davies Symphony Hall from December 15 to 17. For more information, and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website .

 

 

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Ragnar Bohlin © Roy Manzanares

 

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Soprano Lauren Snouffer – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

 

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Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo – © Matthu Placek

 

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Tenor Zachary Wilder – Courtesy San Francisco Symphony

 

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Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn © Simon Pauley

San Francisco Symphony

San Francisco Symphony Chorus

Patrick Dupré Quigley

Seraphic Fire

Ragnar Bohlin

Lauren Snouffer

Anthony Roth Costanzo

Zachary Wilder

Christian Van Horn

Sources:

The Glorious History of Handel’s Messiah by Jonathan Kandell – Smithsonian Magazine

Messiah – The Complete Guide

San Francisco Symphony program notes by Patrick Dupré Quigley

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‘The Nutcracker’ – festive cheer from San Francisco Ballet

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San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s ‘The Nutcracker’ © Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet rings in the festive season this weekend with its unique production of Helgi Tomasson’s The Nutcracker. This staging belongs very much to San Francisco, since it was inspired by the Panama-Pacific International Exposition held in the City in 1915, an event designed to demonstrate San Francisco’s recovery from the devastation of the 1906 earthquake, and to highlight its potential as a center for international trade.

Thus, when Tomasson created his interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s much-loved ballet 11 years ago, he set it against a backdrop of San Francisco, and included in the scenario some of the City’s major attractions. The Christmas Eve party in the home of the Stahlbaums, for example, takes place in one of the beautiful Victorian houses of the Pacific Heights area, where Clara is given a the Nutcracker doll by ‘Uncle Drosselmeyer’, and where her vivid dream of the battle between an army of invading mice and the soldiers commanded by the Nutcracker is played out, followed by his transformation into a handsome Prince.

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In The Land of Snow from Tomasson’s ‘The Nutracker’ © Erik Tomasson

Setting out on their magical sleigh-ride, Clara’s dream continues as she and the Prince arrive first in the Land of Snow, where they’re greeted by a host of shimmering and swirling snowflakes. From there they travel to the realm of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a setting inspired by the magnificent Victorian-era glass greenhouse at San Francisco’s Conservatory of Flowers, inhabited by dragonflies, butterflies and ladybugs.

There, the Sugar Plum Fairy presides over a colorful and spectacular festival of dance reflecting the nationalities of some of the 21 foreign pavilions which were constructed for the 1915 Exposition – Spain, Arabia, China, France and Russia – ending with the lovely Waltz of the Flowers.

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San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s ‘The Nutcracker’ © Erik Tomasson

For a ballet which had a rather inauspicious premiere at the Mariinsky theatre in St Petersburg in December 1892, The Nutcracker is probably one of the most performed ballets in the world today, with a score which must rank among Tchaikovsky’s finest. The first production of The Nutcracker outside Russia was staged by Ninette de Valois for The Royal Ballet in 1934, the Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo presented a shorter version in 1940, and in 1944, the San Francisco Ballet production was the first by an American company.  George Balanchine’s version for New York City Ballet was staged 10 years later.

San Francisco Ballet’s production of Helgi Tomasson’s The Nutcracker opens at the War Memorial Opera House on December 10, and runs until December 29. For further information and tickets, visit www.sfballet.org.

 

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‘She Loves Me’ – a delightful festive production from the Playhouse

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Amalia Balash (Monqiue Hafen) and Georg Nowack (Jeffrey Brian Adams) in ‘She Loves Me’

The San Francisco Playhouse lights up the festive season with a simply delightful musical – Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick’s She Loves Me. It’s the kind of show that gives you a lovely warm glow, with plenty of laughs, infectious tunes and some marvelous dance routines. No surprise then that it was nominated for six 2016 Tony Awards – including Best Revival of a Musical on Broadway – and won the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Musical.

The book – written by Joe Masteroff in 1978 – is based on a story which obviously hasn’t lost its magic since it formed the basis of Miklos Laszlo’s play, Parfumerie, which premiered in 1937. Other adaptations include the 1940 James Stewart film The Shop Around the Corner, the 1949 Judy Garland film In the Good Old Summertime, and Nora Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail in 1998.

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Amalia Balash (Monique Hafen, right) sells a music box to a customer (Katrina McGraw)

The action takes place in and around Mr Maraczek’s Parfumerie in Hungary in the year 1937, and focuses on two of the clerks in his tightly-run little emporium – Georg Nowack (Jeffrey Brian Adams) and Amalia Balash (Monique Hafen) – both of whom have been corresponding with each other as the result of an advertisement in a lonely hearts newspaper column – and are playing out a ‘love affair’ with each other by letter. When Amalia joins the staff of the Parfumerie, her relationship with Georg is abrasive to say the least – neither, of course, being aware that each of them is the ‘Dear Friend’ to whom each has been writing romantic missives, and with whom each has fallen in love.

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Steven Kodaly (Rodney Earl Jackson Jr) seduces Ilona Ritter (Nanci Zoppi)

Susi Damilano, Producing Director of the Playhouse delivers yet another beautifully paced, razor-sharp production, again demonstrating her admirable directorial skills. Her casting is faultless – from the superb performances of Adams and Hafen, to the equally splendid portrayals of Michael Gene Sullivan as Mr Maraczek, Nanci Zoppi as Ilona, Rodney Earl Jackson Jr as Kodaly, Nicholas J Garland as Arpad, Joe Estlack as Sipos and Brian Herndon as the Waiter.  Also impressive is the ensemble, none of whom misses a trick in the versatility of their various portrayals. The flurry of activity in the Christmas Eve sequence is a hoot!

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Waiter (Brian Herndon, left) is unnerved by the clumsiness of his staff (Joseph Estlack)

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Dancers (L-R: Ayelet Firstenberg, Leah Shesky, Jason Rehklau) let their hair down in the restaurant

Huge bouquets too to Music Director David Aaron Brown and his great musicians – all perched on balconies as part of the set – scenic designers Playhouse Director Bill English and Jacqueline Scott who worked their now legendary magic with brilliantly conceived sets, and to choreographer Kimberly Richards for some fabulous dancing.

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Broadway musical to tie a great red ribbon round your festive activities – this production of She Loves Me does the job perfectly.

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Christmas Eve shoppers go wild at Mr Maraczek’s parfumerie (L-R: Nanci Zoppi, Ayelet Firstenberg, Katrina McGraw, Leah Shesky, Jeffrey Brian Adams, Joseph Estlack, Jason Rehklau)

She Loves Me runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until January 14, 2017. For more information, and for tickets, visit the SF Playhouse website.

 

Photographs:  Jessica Palopoli

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