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Geneva Anderson digs into art

Pounce!—The Getty Villa just released additional tickets for “At the Byzantine Table”—a four-course feast grounded in ancient traditions—at the Getty Villa, this Saturday, July 19, 2014

Despite a shortage of tangible information, the diet of the Byzantine Period is a topic of endless fascination to those interested in gastronomy.  On Saturday, July, 19, the Getty Villa hosts “The Byzantine Table,” a four-course feast inspired by the foods of ancient Greece and the flavors of Rome, set outdoors against the backdrop of the Getty Villa and accompanied by live music. Pictured:  The Romance of Alexander the Great (detail), A.D.1300s, Trebizond, Asia Minor; tempera, gold, and ink on paper.  Courtesy of the Manuscript Collection of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post—Byzantine Studies, Venice.

Despite a shortage of tangible information, the diet of the Byzantine Period is a topic of endless fascination to those interested in gastronomy. On Saturday, July, 19, the Getty Villa hosts “The Byzantine Table,” a four-course feast inspired by the foods of ancient Greece and the flavors of Rome, set outdoors against the backdrop of the Getty Villa and accompanied by live music. Pictured: The Romance of Alexander the Great (detail), A.D.1300s, Trebizond, Asia Minor; tempera, gold, and ink on paper. Courtesy of the Manuscript Collection of the Hellenic Institute of Byzantine and Post—Byzantine Studies, Venice.

Here’s a heads up for those of you who are impulsive and able to get to Malibu to the Getty Villa this Saturday (July 12, 2014).   You can indulge in the unique culinary splendors of Byzantium with a dinner inspired by foods of ancient Greece and flavors of Rome, against the gorgeous backdrop of the Getty Villa.  Greek musicians Mario Lazaridis, Dimitri Mahlis, and Toss Panos will perform music derived from ancient Greece and transformed and embellished during the Byzantine Empire. Noted historian Andrew Dalby will set the stage with a lecture on the distinctive cuisine of this distant empire.  Afterwards, participants can tour the Villa’s summer exhibition, Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections, which traces the development of Byzantine visual culture from its roots in the ancient pagan world through the opulent and deeply spiritual world of the new Christian Byzantine Empire.
5:30- 6:45 p.m.—LECTURE: The Real Taste of Byzantium: Textures, Flavors, and Aromas of a Distant Empire Historian Andrew Dalby begins his exploration of Byzantine cuisine by tracing its ancestry through the symposia of classical Greece, the royal luxuries enjoyed by Hellenistic Greek dynasties of Syria and Egypt, and the increasing sophistication of the late Roman Empire, which was nourished by the trade in spices and aromatics from the distant corners of the ancient Mediterranean world. Dalby reveals how this unique culinary culture can be approached from many perspectives, including texts, paintings, and antiquities, as well as the observations of medieval travelers—whether diplomats from East and West, Crusaders, pilgrims, or Viking mercenaries—who expressed in their own words how Byzantium tasted. Byzantine cuisine looked to the past, yet it sought new flavors, never ceased to innovate, and increasingly accepted Muslim and Eastern influences.

7 -9 p.m. DINNER: The Global Fusion Cuisine of the Byzantine Empire The evening continues in the Inner Peristyle garden with a four-course dinner inspired by the many cultures and traditions that converged during the Byzantine Empire (A.D. 330-1453). This culinary melting pot was founded on classic Roman cuisine—as depicted in the fourth-century A.D. cookery book Apicius—and combined with traditions inherited from Greece. Due to the millennium–long span of the empire and its continuously evolving borders, the cuisine of the Byzantines is characterized by the adaptation of the foods of other peoples with whom it came into contact and by the propagation of new fruits and vegetables. Menu highlights include lamb served with oinogaros sauce, a synthesis of ancient and medieval tastes combining fish sauce, wine, honey, Mediterranean herbs, cinnamon, clove, pepper, and costus, a culinary spice also used in perfume. Eggplant—one of several vegetables first introduced to the Romans from the Middle East—is grilled and served with shaved bottarga (salted mullet roe) called ootarikhon by the Greeks. Rice pudding, the original “food of angels” and a favored dessert of the Byzantines, is garnished with exotic ingredients introduced from faraway places: cherries from Pontos (northern Turkey), and candied citron, a fruit originating in Burma and arriving in Constantinople through Persia, also the source for sugar, a luxurious commodity for the elites of the later Byzantine Empire. Download the full menu (PDF, 1pp, 227 KB) (Menu items subject to change without notice) The evening’s meal will be prepared by Bon Appétit’s culinary team Chef Mayet Cristobal and Chef Fernando Cayanan in consultation with food historians Sally Grainger and Andrew Dalby.

9- 10 p.m. PRIVATE EXHIBITION VIEWING: Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections (April 9-August 25, 2014). This splendidly curated exhibition features mosaics, icons, frescoes, sculpture, manuscripts, metalwork, jewelry, glass, embroideries and ceramics drawn from Athens’ Benaki Museum, the National Gallery of Art and the Getty’s own collection.

 

Details:

Date: Saturday, July 19, 2014

Time: 5:30 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

Lecture begins at 5:30 p.m. with dinner following at 7:00 p.m.

Exhibition viewing 9:00-10:00 p.m. Guests must arrive no later than 6:45 p.m.

Location: Getty Villa, Auditorium and Inner Peristyle

Admission: Tickets are $175 each (includes wine).  Complimentary parking.  Call Getty Visitor Services at (310) 440-7300 or click here for online ticket purchase.  If you want to go, don’t dally, as of 5 p.m., there were just a few tickets left.

 

More about Andrew Dalby:  Andrew Dalby is an historian and linguist with a special interest in food history. He collaborated with Sally Grainger on The Classical Cookbook (Getty Publications, 2012), which explores the culinary history of ancient Greece and Rome and includes recipes adapted for the modern kitchen. His book Tastes of Byzantium (2010) investigates the legendary cuisine of medieval Constantinople. Dalby’s other publications include The Breakfast Book (2013), a wide-ranging history of the most important meal of the day; light-hearted accounts of Bacchus and Venus (Getty Publications, 2003 and 2005); and a new biography of the Greek statesman, Eleftherios Venizelos (2010). His latest translation, Geoponika (2011), brings to light a forgotten primary source on food and farming in Roman and Byzantine times. Dalby studied classics and linguistics at the University of Cambridge. He now lives in France, where he writes, grows fruit, and makes cider.

More about Sally Grainger:  Sally Grainger trained as a chef in her native Coventry, England, before developing an interest in the ancient world and taking a degree in ancient history from the University of London. Combining her professional skills with her expertise in the culinary heritage of the Greek and Roman world, she now pursues a career as a food historian, consultant, and experimental archaeologist. Grainger’s recent projects include Roman food tastings at the British Museum in conjunction with the Life and Death in Pompeii exhibition, and a Roman feast at Girton College in Cambridge, England for the Cambridge Classics Society. Grainger acquired an M.A. in archaeology and is researching the extensive trade across the Roman world of the fermented fish sauce known as garum. With her husband, Christopher Grocock, she published a translation of the Roman recipe book Apicius (Prospect Books), a companion volume of recipes, Cooking Apicius, and collaborated with historian Andrew Dalby on The Classical Cookbook (Getty Publications, 2012).

 

July 14, 2014 Posted by | Art, Chamber Music, Food | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Napa Valley Festival del Sole brings Pinchas Zukerman, James Valenti, and Alondra de la Parra to Weill Hall on Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman will perform the Bruch Violin Concerto at Weill Hall on his prize 1742 Guarneri del Gesù on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 as part of Napa Valley Festival del Sole.  Tenor James Valenti rounds out the evening with arias from French and Italian opera with Alondra de la Parra conducting.  Photo: courtesy Festival del Sole.

Renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman will perform the Bruch Violin Concerto at Weill Hall on his prize 1742 Guarneri del Gesù on Tuesday, July 15, 2014 as part of Napa Valley Festival del Sole. Tenor James Valenti rounds out the evening with arias from French and Italian opera with Alondra de la Parra conducting. Photo: courtesy Festival del Sole.

Last summer, I became a Napa Valley Festival del Sole devotee when a friend suggested that their tribute to Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff looked really good and got me a coveted ticket.  I had the exquisite pleasure of attending a rare performance of a portion of Rachmaninoff’s long-lost 1939 ballet, “Paganini,” brought to vibrant life by members of Ballet San Jose, American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet.  The experience continued with an intimate wine reception at the Napa Valley Museum where we saw a special exhibition featuring materials uncovered during the ballet’s restoration.  Since its founding in 2006, Festival del Sole has showcased more than 300 preeminent artists and ensembles and paired them brilliantly with luncheons, dinners and, tastings at some of Napa Valley’s the most breathtaking venues.

This Tuesday, the festival returns to Sonoma County to Green Music Center’s acoustically magical Weill Hall.  Acclaimed violinist Pinchas Zukerman makes his debut with Festival del Sole and performs the ever popular Bruch Violin Concerto from 1866, which epitomizes how romantic music should sound— rich, melodic and lyrical.  Tenor James Valenti, celebrated by the New York Times for his “robust, ardent singing,” rounds out the program with favorite Italian and French opera arias. Alondra de la Parra will be conducting the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra, the unique all Black and Latino orchestra comprised of top professionals from around the country who will close the evening with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88, a glorious and richly diverse piece that ought to showcase both the orchestra and de la Parra’s spellbinding conducting style, a ballet like performance in itself, said to coax musicians to greatness .  De la Parra, of Mexican ancestry, is known for her electric energy and holds the distinction of being the first Mexican woman to conduct in New York City.  She has been hailed as one of the brightest young talent to show up in recent years.

PROGRAM

Bizet Carmen Overture; La Fleur from Carmen

Puccini “E lucevan le stelle” from Tosca

Mascagni Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana

Cardillo Core ngrato

Tosti Ideale

Lehar Dein ist mein ganzes herz

Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 26

Dvorak Symphony No. 8 in G Major, Op. 88

James Valenti sings”Addio fiorito asil” from Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”

Napa Valley Festival Sole Details:  Now in its 9th season,the 10-day festival (July 11-20, 2014) features over 60 adventures in world-class classical music, jazz, opera and ballet along with curated culinary, wine and wellness adventures that celebrate the art of life.  www.festivaldelsole.org

Tuesday concert Details: “Alondra de la Parra, Pinchas Zukerman, James Valenti and the Sphinx Orchestra” perform at Weill Hall on Tuesday, July 15, at 6:30 p.m.  Lobby and will call open at 5:30 p.m.; concert hall opens at 6 p.m.; concert starts at 6:30 p.m.  Tickets:  $35.  There are a few remaining tickets. Advance purchase is essential.  Click here to purchase tickets.

Directions: Green Music Center is located at 1801 East Cotati Drive, Rohnert Park. CA.  Weill Hall and the Green Music Center are located on the campus of Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, at the intersection of Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill Road. From the South, take U.S. Highway 101 north to the Rohnert Park Expressway exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Rohnert Park Expressway. Drive 2.2 miles to the Sonoma State University entrance on your right. From the North, take U.S. Highway 101 south to the Rohnert Park Expressway exit. At the end of the exit ramp turn left onto Rohnert Park Expressway. Drive 2.2 miles to the Sonoma State University entrance on your right.

Parking: Parking for this performance is complimentary.  Ample parking, with excellent handicap availability, in the campus’ dedicated lot, right next to Weill Hall.

Remaining Festival Del Events for which there is still availability—

Mon/July 14/8:30 p.m./Patron Dinner at Grgich Hills Estate, Rutherford

Wed/July 16/12:30 p.m./ Vintner’s Luncheon at Jaffe Estate, St. Helena

Wed/July 16/6:30 p.m./Castillo del Amoroso, Calistoga/ Zukerman ChamberPlayers: An Evening of Chamber Music

Wed/July 16/8:30 p.m./ Patron Dinner at Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville

Thurs/July 17/12:30 p.m./ Vintner’s Luncheon at Merryvale Vineyards, St. Helena

Thurs/July 17/6:30 p.m./Castillo del Amoroso, Calistoga/ Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, a Chamber Opera

Thurs/July 17/6:30 p.m./Alpha Omega Winery, Rutherford/ Patron Dinner at Alpha Omega

Fri/July 18/5:30 p.m./ Lincoln Theater, Yountville/ Dance Gala: Polina Semionova and Friends

Fri/July 18/8:30 p.m./Napa Valley Museum, Yountville/ Allegro After Party at Napa Valley Museum

Sat/July 19/11:30 a.m./Ehlers Estate, St. Helena/ Wine Country Brunch at Ehlers Estate

 

July 13, 2014 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Suddenly, so gorgeous, so relevant—San Francisco Opera’s new “Madame Butterfly”—not to be missed, through July 9

Giacomo Puccini described his “Madame Butterfly” as “the most felt and most expressive opera” he ever conceived.” Acclaimed soprano and San Francisco Opera celeb, Patricia Racette, is Cio-Cio-San/Butterfly and tenor Brian Jagde is Pinkerton in a production featuring vivid video projections by Jun Kaneko, who delighted audiences with his "Magic Flute" in 2012. This co-production with Omaha Opera premiered in 2006 and is at SFO through July 9, 2014. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Giacomo Puccini described his “Madame Butterfly” as “the most felt and most expressive opera” he ever conceived.” Acclaimed soprano and San Francisco Opera celeb, Patricia Racette, is Cio-Cio-San/Butterfly and tenor Brian Jagde is Pinkerton in a production featuring vivid video projections by Jun Kaneko, who delighted audiences with his “Magic Flute” in 2012. This co-production with Omaha Opera premiered in 2006 and is at SFO through July 9, 2014. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

For many opera lovers, the soaring music of Puccini is reason enough to go to a live performance.  San Francisco’s Opera’s (SFO’s ) new “Madame Butterfly,” with its abstract video projections by artist Jun Kaneko, outstanding Cio Cio San/Butterfly by soprano Patricia Racette, and passionate directing by Nicola Luisotti, kept me glued to my seat on Thursday evening.  I’d count it among the top live opera experiences I’ve had.  This was the sixth of eight performances, with the run concluding Wednesday, July 9.  This is Florida-based Leslie Swackhamer’s co-production with SFO and Opera Omaha, which required three years of collaboration with Kaneko and Opera Omaha to pull off.   Freed of its traditional staging, this is a Butterfly unlike anything you’ve seen before—it’s fresh and timeless and while it has Japanese sensibilities, it feels more global than Japanese.  Kaneko dresses the cast in spectacularly colorful kimonos and suits a la Mondrian.  His simple set is an angled walkway that extends from the stage right-rear to left-front with a raised central platform with a sliding screen.  A vivid array of constantly shifting projections accompanies the action and punctuates the exquisite music.  The stage is so expressive, so hypnotic, with these color and pattern changes that it too becomes an important character in the performance, interacting with the singers and audience in a way that really makes you pay attention to what’s going on.

The story is still set in Nagasaki, Japan where a naïve fifteen year-old local geisha, Cio-Cio-San (Racette), falls in love with a handsome and charismatic American naval officer, Lieutenant Pinkerton (tenor Brian Jagde).  Their marriage is arranged by the broker, Goro (Julius Ahn), and the contract is clear—the “Japanese marriage” is revocable with one month’s notice.  Butterfly understands it differently though—she unconditionally accepts her suitor’s love as real and eternal and goes so far as to forsake her family and her ancestral Buddhist faith to become a devoted wife and Christian.  He leaves to go back to the States with a promise to return to her.  She trusts him implicitly.  She grows impoverished as she waits with her faithful maid Suzuki (mezzo Elizabeth DeShong).  When he does come back, three years later, it’s with his American wife.

I was once told that co-dependency is a vicious addiction to the potential of things. Patricia Racette, who has performed Cio-Cio-San three times at SFO, has an electrifying command of Butterfly’s psyche.  Her instinct for baring this deluded young’s woman’s soul while singing rapturously all evening long, is a feat that won’t be repeated.  She delivers a Butterfly who is so sumptuous in her optimism and so stubborn in her head-in-the sand denial and passivity that we want to slap her back into reality and save her from the intense pain in the pipeline.

By now, Racette should be a household name amongst Bay Area opera lovers—the Merola/Adler alum started her career with SFO 24 years ago and has sung nearly 30 roles with the company.  This past season, she took on the herculean task of singing four roles in various SFO productions and drew praise across the board.  Just last week, she concluded a stand-out performance as the cabaret singer, Julie La Verne, in Francesca Zambello’s opulent “Show Boat,” SFO’s other stand-out summer of 2014 hit.  There, her delightful renditions of Jerome Kern’s ballads “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and “Bill,”along with her wonderful acting, were central to the production.   This Racette’s second SFO pairing with hunky Merola/Adler tenor Brian Jagde as Pinkerton and their natural ease with each other and on stage chemistry made their  Act 1duet, “Bimba, Bimba, non piangere” (“Sweetheart, sweetheart, do not weep”) intensely passionate.   Racette’s Act II, “Un bel dì” (“One beautiful day”), the opera’s most famous aria was interrupted by clapping and, once she finished, earned her a loving ovation.   The tension ran unbearably high when she sent her son out of the room so she could kill herself and that final gesture of sacrifice and insane fidelity was something to savor—a shame that it was interrupted by a *$#@ cell phone which rang 5 or 6 times before an usher had the good sense to take the offender by the arm and pull him out of the opera house.

Jun Kaneko’s boldly colorful and pattern changing video projections are so expressive that the stage too becomes an important character in the performance, interacting with the characters in a way that really makes you pay attention to what’s going on with them.  Patricia Racette (Cio-Cio-San) and Elizabeth DeShong (Suzuki) in a scene from Act II. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Jun Kaneko’s boldly colorful and pattern changing video projections are so expressive that the stage too becomes an important character in the performance, interacting with the characters in a way that really makes you pay attention to what’s going on with them. Patricia Racette (Cio-Cio-San) and Elizabeth DeShong (Suzuki) in a scene from Act II. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Butterfly’s inspiring score is imbued with a mix of east and West and the music flowed almost seamlessly from the SFO Orchestra and chorus under Luisotti’s impassioned conducting.  In an interview in the program, Luisotti estimates that he has conducted the opera over seventy times, including two productions in Japan.  The energetic prelude that leads right into the opening scene had his silver locks flying and the volume energetically revved to the point that Jagde’s first aria, “E soffitto e pareti” (“And ceiling and walls”), was momentarily overpowered.  He pulled in it and the rest went magically.

In critical supporting roles, mezzo Elizabeth DeShong as Suzuki and baritone Brian Mulligan as the compassionate American consul offier, Sharpless, were excellent.  DeShung, in her third SFO appearance, exhibited a tremendous vocal range and deep compassion in her role as Butterfly’s faithful servant and confidant.  Her flower duet “Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio…” was bittersweet in its foreshadowing the death about to occur. First year Adler, baritone Efraín Solís, who made his SFO debut as Prince Yamadori, a prospective proper husband for Butterfly, demonstrated he is headed for glory

The projections are game-changers—modernizing everything and encouraging very contemporary and personal associations.  Once Butterfly is abstracted from its own history and the Orientalist tableau from which we traditionally evaluate it, we’re much freer to look at its broad political issue—the plight of women today who are disowned in many cultures because they don’t play by the games established by the patriarchy.

Kaneko’s sets and costumes are influenced by the conventions of classical Japanese theater, such as the use of black-dressed Kuroko which function as running crew to assist with scene changes.  In this vividly colored “Butterfly,” they also played other minor roles not covered by fully costumed singers.  Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Kaneko’s sets and costumes are influenced by the conventions of classical Japanese theater, such as the use of black-dressed Kuroko which function as running crew to assist with scene changes. In this vividly colored “Butterfly,” they also played other minor roles not covered by fully costumed singers. Photo: ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Asian Art Museum’s Gorgeous—I caught Gorgeous, the Asian Art Museum’s (AAM’s) provocative new show, beforehand and it primed me for the visual feast that awaited at SFO.  The exhibit explores attraction, repulsion and desire through interesting artworks, several of them Japanese, from the collections of SFMOMA and the AAM and asks the viewer to come up with their own definition of what “gorgeous” means to them.  For me, gorgeous is an unexpected surprise that draws you in and keeps you rapt.  This is “Butterfly,” to a T.   (The AAM is open Sunday, July 6, and admission is free.)

Details: There are two remaining performances of “Madame Butterfly”—Sunday, July 6 at 2 PM and Wednesday, July 9 at 7:30 PM.  Seats are selling fast—purchase tickets for either performance here or phone the Box Office at (415) 864-3330.  War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.   Every performance features supertitles (English translations) projected above the stage, visible from every seat.

For more information on San Francisco Opera and their upcoming performances, visit http://sfopera.com/Home.aspx

 Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there are frequent delay on Highway 101 South due to ongoing road expansion work and wine country tourism.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up, especially when the San Francisco Symphony is performing on the same day.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to War Memorial Opera House— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block) (Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larkin Streets) (Both have a flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights.)

July 5, 2014 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview—The Fillmore Jazz Festival turns 30 this weekend and ARThound chats with its legendary poster artist, Michael Schwab

Michael Schwab created the poster for this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival, his third for the legendary free music festival.  Schwab is an internationally-renowned artist whose latest commission is the logo design for the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for 2016.  Image: courtesy Michael Schwab

Michael Schwab created the poster for this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival, his third for the legendary free music festival. Schwab is an internationally-renowned artist whose latest commission is the logo design for the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for 2016. Image: courtesy Michael Schwab

You’ve seen them across San Francisco— striking posters and banners featuring a wavy haired female vocalist in silhouette against a fiery orange background.  Her arms are outstretched and beckoning.  Less obvious is an old-fashioned gray stand microphone that runs up from the floor to her heart, reinforcing a strong vertical.  Behind her, blazoned across the top in a hand-lettered, earthy cream custom font is “Fillmore Jazz.”  The message is simple, transcendent—jazz is here.  The artwork was created by Marin artist Michael Schwab, one of our country’s leading graphic artists.  His dynamic posters, images and logos for the Golden Gate National Parks, Major League Baseball, America’s Cup, Robert Mondavi, Peet’s Coffee, San Francisco Opera, Muhammad Ali, Nike, and others are icons of our lifestyle.  Schwab’s signature visual groove lends itself perfectly to jazz—large, flat areas of color, dramatic perspectives, and bold images of archetypal human forms.  He created his first Fillmore Jazz poster in 2006—a standing base player in silhouette against an intense teal.  His 2010 poster of a trumpeter playing up into a blue night sky journeyed right into the roots of jazz.  Both artworks became classics.  I caught up with Michael earlier this week to discuss his third poster and his creative process.

What makes a really effective poster?  And, why are so many posters today so bad?

Michael Schwab:   Simplicity.  There’s way too much visual noise out there.  Graphic messages are conveyed much more effectively when the design is simple, bold and efficient.

You’ve had a long involvement with this festival.  What is it about jazz lends itself to visual expression? 

Michael Schwab:  I love all kinds of music but jazz in particular inspires me.  I love this project because I’ve had complete freedom do whatever I want, provided it worked on banners.   The base player I created eight years ago was my first Fillmore Jazz poster and I envisioned him as a Ray Brown-like bass player.   If you’re driving down the street, you’ve only got a second or two to get the message, so I wanted to evoke the romance and history of Fillmore Street Jazz.  Four years later, they called me again.  At the time, I was really into Miles Davis and was playing Ascenseur pour l’échafaud, his soundtrack for the Louis Malle film, a lot.  I made a Miles Davis-esque horn player.  I wanted a really cool color so I went with a deep blue that evokes that late evening jazz atmosphere that’s so special to Fillmore Street.  Now, four years later, I realize that I’ve been slowly creating my own jazz band here and it was time for a singer and a woman.

What was your conception for this year’s festival poster?

I was inspired by the great romance of Billie Holiday.  Initially, I had just the singer there in silhouette and then I realized that she needed a microphone, which was the last element I added.  That old-fashioned microphone, which harkens back to the 1940’s and 50’s, really pulled it all together.  It often happens that way—that adding something relatively small becomes very important.

What types of source materials do normally you use?  Also, since this year’s festival is all about women of jazz, who do you listen to for inspiration?  

Michael Schwab:  When appropriate, I work with models—human or otherwise.  I pose and shoot my own photos myself.   In this case, there was a model I’d used a while back and I was able to piece together a few polaroids and work from that.   I wanted the hands to be special and they are actually my wife Kathryn’s hands.  As for female vocalists, it doesn’t get any better for me than early Diana Krall.

And what about your bold colors, how did you decide what to go with?

Michael Schwab:  Not all jazz is blue and cool.  This time, I wanted a color that complimented the other two posters and this bold orange red represents the hot side of jazz.  The flat color tones make the images, which are already abstracted by the silhouette, seem mysterious, almost two-dimensional.  I wanted all three to become a triptych and to work well together.

There is a romantic/nostalgic aspect to these images as well, harkening back to old woodcuts.  I get that sense from their color, strong line and overall energy. 

Michael Schwab:  Several of my heroes were Japanese woodcut and old European poster artists——Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and A.M. Cassandre, from France, and Ludwig Holwein, from Germany, and the Beggarstaff Brothers from England.  There’s a lot of graceful movement as well as drama in those works.  I was never very painterly in my style.  I enjoy working with big bold shapes and challenge myself to get a message across using as few shapes and colors as possible.  I’ll keep working with the colors, combining them and fine-tuning, until they’re right to me.  Then, it’s a matter of getting the image and text to work together effectively.  I really enjoy these jazz posters because I can get very dramatic with them.  Speaking of old-school, I begin each project with a pencil and paper and use a Rapidograph pen and ink to create the line work.  In the end, tough, it becomes a digital file so I’m speaking the same language as everyone else.

What’s the first poster you made and what are a few of your personal favorites?

Michael Schwab:   My first professional poster was for Levi’s, back in 1975, for creative director, Chris Blum.   I’ve been a graphic artist now for almost 40 years and I’ve had a few home runs. The images for the Golden Gate Parks and Amtrak are favorites. I feel very good about some of the logos—the Robert Mondavi corporate logo, Pebble Beach, David Sedaris. I love all of the Fillmore Jazz and San Francisco Opera posters. Frankly, my current favorite is always the one I’m working on, it becomes my child.

What are you working on now?

Michael Schwab:   I just finished the logo design for the San Francisco Bay Area Super Bowl 50 Host Committee for 2016.   It’s a gold seal design—a silhouette of a football and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Michael Schwab’s current Fillmore jazz poster can be purchased at the festival. His posters for the 2006 and 2010 festivals are available at www.michaelschwab.com.

The 30th Fillmore Jazz Festival is Saturday, July 5 and Sunday, July 6th, 10AM to 5PM on San Francisco’s historic Fillmore Street between Jackson and Eddy Streets.  This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women of Jazz & Beyond.”  For information about the line-up, which unfolds on three separate stages, click here.  A more expansive version of this interview with Michael Schwab appears on the Fillmore Jazz website.

July 4, 2014 Posted by | Art, Jazz Music | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dark, Thrilling Opera—San Francisco Symphony’s “Peter Grimes” runs Thursday, Friday, Sunday at Davies Symphony Hall

 

Michael Tilson Thomas leads over 200 members of the SF Symphony, the SFS Chorus in three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s  opera, “Peter Grimes,” which features engrossing panoramic floor-to-ceiling video projections by cinematographer/filmmaker Adam Larsen, directed by James Darrah.  Heldentenor Stuart Skelton sings the title role.  With this opera, Britten reinvented the possibilities of musical language—sea breeze, gull in flight, tempest and glittering dawn.  This is SFS’ first performance of the complete “Peter Grimes.” Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads over 200 members of the SF Symphony, the SFS Chorus in three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s opera, “Peter Grimes,” which features engrossing panoramic floor-to-ceiling video projections by cinematographer/filmmaker Adam Larsen, directed by James Darrah. Heldentenor Stuart Skelton sings the title role. With this opera, Britten reinvented the possibilities of musical language—sea breeze, gull in flight, tempest and glittering dawn. This is SFS’ first performance of the complete “Peter Grimes.” Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) conclude the 2013-24 season and their celebration of the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten with three semi-staged performances of his thrilling opera “Peter Grimes” (Thursday, Friday, Sunday) and a special concert, Four Sea Interludes (Saturday), accompanied by a video installation by Tal Rosner which is paired with excerpts from Britten’s exotic The Prince of The Pagoda Suite.

I’ve never heard Britten’s music performed live and I am very visually oriented, so I am looking forward to the enlivening projections which will add meaning of their own.  I first heard the name Benjamin Britten in a Keynesian macroeconomic theory course at Cal.  John Maynard Keynes, the influential British economist, thinker, and member of the Bloomsbury Group, was very keen on culture.  In the early 1940′s, he proposed (and chaired) an “Arts Council” that established the initial foundation for a system of permanent State patronage of the arts.  As you may recall, the premise behind Keynesian theory was that increased government spending (and lower taxes) would stimulate demand and pull an economy out of a Depression.  The Arts Council initially gave over half its money (grants of public funds) to music, especially classical music and opera.  Benjamin Brittan’s now famous opera, “Peter Grimes,” was first funded through a generous grant given to the Sadler’s Wells theatre to support its emergence as a national opera house charged with embodying the British national character and producing operas that were more accessible than prewar grand opera had been.

“Peter Grimes” had its premiere in June 1945, between VE Day and VJ Day, and the audience’s enthusiastic approval was taken for a political demonstration, so the curtain was brought down early.  The opera, which is based on a poem by George Crabbe, captured something new musically while depicting the epic psychic struggle of a man against his own destructive potential and the bitter sting of alienation, themes that became very familiar in Britain in the years to come.  How appropriate that Britten, who wrote for the people, and was somewhat under the radar before WWII, shot into the limelight with this story of a fisherman at odds with society.  The opera went on to immense success and Britten, as a result, became quite wealthy. The issues (from a macro theory perspective) were that Britten was part of the creation of a new state-funded system of arts patronage and he went on to invest his considerable personal earnings outside the country.  In researching Britten, this vivid memory surfaced.  Of course, SFS promises a revolutionary production of “Grimes,” dazzlingly staged—a grim but rapturous experience.

Sneak Peek of Peter Grimes with the SF Symphony

New Ground for SFS—Video projections, now commonplace in fully staged opera, are also trending in symphony halls across the country. The term “semi-staged” is not synonymous for “projection-based,” however, and “Peter Grimes” marks SFS’ first foray into an opera performance that combines video projections with minimal set staging.  Los Angeles-based director, artist and costume designer, James Darrah and New York-based artist, projection designer and filmmaker, Adam Larsen promise dramatic staging like a “big curved sail with scenes that capture the setting of an old-world fishing village and volatility of the sea.” The video will be projected onto a panoramic floor-to-ceiling scrim that encompasses the stage which has been extended and floated over a few rows of center seats to allow for extra performance space and proximity to viewers.

Darrah and Larsen collaborated in SFS’ January 2013 production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt,” creating vivid projections that evoked the vast Norwegian landscape and served to counterbalance the smaller stage which accommodated the orchestra and singing cast, one of whom was a dancer. The relative placement of the orchestra, singers and set props vis-à-vis the projection screens are just one issue involved in the production.  New York Times music critic Zachary Woolfe gives a very readable accounting of the state of semi-staged opera in “Giving a Semi-Hearty Cheer for Semi-Staged Opera,” NYT, June 13, 2014.  Attending a flurry of recent performances across the country led him to ponder where the drama is located in an operatic performance and what kind of production brings it out most effectively.  He asks, “Does paring a work down to the bare score make it more potent, or do theatrical trappings enrich the experience?” On numerous occasions, MTT has enthusiastically affirmed his commitment to using new technology to enliven performances. It all makes sense provided he can maintain his sensitivity to the music-making as people begin to factor in the look as well as the sound of a performance.

Timelapse video of the installation of immersive sets and panoramic video screens for Peter Grimes at Davies Symphony Hall

Performance Details:  Peter Grimes: A Multimedia Semi-staged Event is Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 8 PM; Friday, June 27 at 8 PM; and Sunday, June 29 at 2 PM with  a pre-performance talk by Peter Grunberg one hour before each performance.  Purchase tickets online here or phone SFS Box Office at 415.864-6000.

Britten: Four Sea Interludes with Video by Tal Rosner is Sat, June 28, 2014 at 8 PM with pre-performance talk by Laura Stanfield Prichard at 7 PM.  Purchase tickets online here or phone SFS Box Office at 415.864-6000.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion from Sausalito through the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larkin Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luscious Lavender—Matanzas Creek Winery’s 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender is Saturday, June 28th

Matanzas Creek Winery hosts its 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender this Saturday, June 28th, from noon to 4 PM.  The special afternoon celebrates the vineyard’s exclusive wines and its rustic lavender gardens and benefits the Ceres Community Project.  Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek Winery hosts its 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender this Saturday, June 28th, from noon to 4 PM. The special afternoon celebrates the vineyard’s exclusive wines and its rustic lavender gardens and benefits the Ceres Community Project. Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery

Tucked in the hillside of beautiful, hidden Bennett Valley, the Matanzas Creek Winery and vineyard is also home to 3 acres of lavender gardens planted in 1991.  To celebrate the beauty of this remarkable rustic estate and the special knack that its caretakers and designers have for coaxing beauty from its fertile soil, the winery hosts its 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender this Saturday, June 28th, from noon to 4 PM.  The wonderful afternoon celebrates Matanzas Creek’s special wines, including its newest releases of crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and its exclusive, hedonistic, Journey label.  Guests stroll the expansive property, taking in the vibrant bust of purple and heady fragrance of lavender fields in full bloom while eating and drinking to their heart’s content. Live music keeps the tempo celebratory.

New This Year:  The festival will offer three sensory seminars with winemaker Marcia Monahan-Torres and Matanzas Creek wine experts: Sauvignon Blanc and Seafood Pairings; Merlot and Mushrooms Exploration; Exclusive Tasting of our Journey wines.

There will also be special food and wine pairing stations throughout the event, a tour of the Lavender Barn showcasing how its luscious lavender products are made, photo booths, exceptional views and much more.

Good Deeds: The event benefits the Ceres Community Project, a non-profit that involves local teens as gardeners or chefs.  Ceres aims to bring 88,000 nutrient-rich meals to those with serious illnesses or to those in need in Sonoma and Marin counties this year.  For more information about Ceres and its wonderful classes, visit http://www.ceresproject.org/.

Details:  Saturday June 28th, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets: $95 General Public and $75 Wine Club members.  Advance ticket purchase is essential as the festival sells out in advance each year.  To purchase tickets, click here. Matanzas Creek Winery is located at 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA  95404   For more information, phone: 800 590-6464

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Food | , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Saturday—For ART’S SAKE a benefit for Petaluma Arts Center at rustic Beaumont Farms

ForArt'sSake

Live music of Sonoma Driftwood, dancing, art and artists at work, petanque, pickle ball, horseshoes, line dancing lessons and a superb silent auction are among the fun activities planned at upcoming event, FOR ART’S SAKE, a benefit for Petaluma Arts Center, Saturday, June 28th, 2014 from 12 to 4.

The rustic Beaumont Farms (5580 Red Hill Road, Petaluma) will open its gates for an exclusive afternoon of art,music and games, or, if you prefer, to sit back and relax in a chair by the pond, watch the clouds float over olive trees and Petaluma hills beyond and listen to ranch residents – horses, donkeys, chickens and alpaca. Sumptuous barbeque, wine and other beverages will be available for purchase. Lunch served by Rasta Dwight’s Barbeque.

Silent auction items include A Week at the Arts Community of Bisbee, AZ; Riding Lessons; Reserve Tasting Room VIP Barrel Tasting and Light Bites for 10-14 at Roche Winery; Dinner and Jazz at the Bailey’s; A Sunset Segway Tour of Schollenberger Park; A Weekend in Tahoe; A Week at the Arts Community of Bisbee, AZ; Riding Lessons; Classes at PAC; 4 Rounds of Golf at Sonoma and Napa’s best courses; and so much more.

FOR ART’S SAKE sponsors and supporters include, Denis & Bridget Twomey of Beaumont Farms, McNear’s Restaurant & the Mystic Theatre, Kari Ontko Design, Teresa Barrett, Janet & Dan McBeen, Crown Trophy, Out West Garage and Riley Street Art Supply.

Tickets, $30 per person, are available from Petaluma Arts Center (online purchase) or at the Center, 230 Lakeville St., call 707-762-5600. Guests are asked to leave their dogs at home and to be respectful of the benefit and not bring food and drinks to the premises.

 

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Art | , , | Leave a comment

Interview: British Composer Adam Gorb on his sex trafficking opera, “Anya17,” which has its American premiere with Opera Parallèle Friday

British composer Adam Gorb says that he was “completely swept up and in love with the characters” he was writing for in “Anya17,” his first stab at opera. "Anya 17" is the story of a young woman from an unnamed Eastern European country who's lured by love to the West and forced into prostitution.  The one-act chamber opera, set to a libretto by Ben Kaye, has its North American premiere in an Opera Parallèle production June 20-22, 2104 at Marines' Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy Adam Gorb

British composer Adam Gorb says that he was “completely swept up and in love with the characters” he was writing for in “Anya17,” his first stab at opera. “Anya 17″ is the story of a young woman from an unnamed Eastern European country who’s lured by love to the West and forced into prostitution. The one-act chamber opera, set to a libretto by Ben Kaye, has its North American premiere in an Opera Parallèle production June 20-22, 2104 at Marines’ Memorial Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy Adam Gorb

Amidst a summer opera season offering Francesca Zambello’s production of “Show Boat” at San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony’s semi-staged production of Brittan’s “Peter Grimes;” Opera Parallèle hopes to put British composer  Adam Gorb firmly on the Bay Area map, presenting the North American premiere of his first opera, “Anya17,” at Marines Memorial Theatre this Friday through Sunday.  “Anya 17” is a dark chamber opera that is Gorb’s third collaboration with Dorset-based librettist Ben Kaye.   The opera unfolds through the eyes of Anya, a naïve young girl (sung by soprano Anna Noggle) who falls in love with the wrong guy who persuades her to follow him to the West. Instead of a better life, she is betrayed and coerced into sexual slavery. In order to survive, Anya must find an ultimate inner strength as she struggles to adapt to the humiliation and brutality of her brothel existence.

Adam Gorb was born in Cardiff in 1958 and started composing at the age of ten.  His first work to be broadcast on the BBC was written when he was fifteen.  He studied at Cambridge University (1977-1980) and at the Royal Academy of Music (1991-1993), where he graduated with the highest honors.  He has been on the staff at the London College of Music and Media, the junior Academy of the Royal Academy of Music and, since 2000 he has been the Head of School of Composition at Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music.  He is acclaimed for his wind ensemble works.  His 2007 “protest cantata,” “Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall,” a collaboration with Dorset-based librettist Ben Kaye, was based on the experiences of the British journalist and broadcaster, John McCarthy, Britain’s longest held hostage in the Lebanon hostage crisis.  Then working for UPI, McCarthy was abducted in Beirut in 1986 and held for five years before his release.  Gorb and Kaye’s mutual interest in current affairs led them to collaborate again in 2010 when they created “Eternal Voices,” a commission from the Royal Marines Service Band about contemporary war.  The 30 minute long choral work told the story of a Royal Marine who loses his life in Afghanistan and the effect it has on his family. BBC newscaster Trevor McDonald acted as a narrator and interjected by reading current news headlines relevant to the story.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Adam Gorb at his home in the UK, as he was preparing to travel to the Bay Area for this week’s series of “Anya17” events and performances. He was excited about the opera’s relevancy as well as the fun he had in composing its music, which contains passages inspired by his family’s ancestral roots in the Ukraine.  (To read ARThound’s previous coverage, an overview of “Anya17,” click here.)

Here is our conversation—

 

When did you first become aware of and interested in the trafficking topic and whose idea was it to use that as a basis of an opera?

Adam Gorb:   It was the librettist, Ben Kaye’s idea.  We had worked together on two previous pieces—one of them (“Thoughts Scribbled on a Blank Wall,” 2007) about a political hostage from the UK and the other (“Eternal Voices” 2010) about war in the 21st century—and we both realized that we get on quite well and that we like working with up-to-date subjects.  We both really wanted to do an opera. I was very interested in displaced peoples and wanted to do something that addressed the concept of people moving from one country to another because that has so many musical possibilities. We batted about the idea of the sex trade and Ben did a lot of research and he came up with the story.

What is the significance of the number 17 in the title “Anya17?

Adam Gorb:   She could be 17, of course. But the reality is that there are these actual places that offer girls’ photos on a menu and clients look that menu over and order— ‘I want number 17.’   The actual title “Anya17” was taken from an episode of an award-winning British-Canadian TV miniseries, “Sex Traffic” (2004).  There was a character, Anya, in it who was 17.  We went with the name, Anya, because it’s a generic name associated with any Eastern European girl.

There’s good and bad in everyone…Have you gone the route of completely demonizing the pimps, or, do we also see the desperation in their situation as well, even some humanity? Likewise, do we see any unappealing traits in the girls?  

Adam Gorb:  The opera is very much through Anya’s eyes and she’s a sweet, innocent, young girl but she’s also naïve. She likes money and she loves people buying things for her and goes into raptures about meeting this guy who is taking her shopping.  You sometimes want to shake her and say ‘Come on, you’re crazy, don’t you realize you’re going to have to pay a high price for this later on.’   And Victor, her pimp, is certainly an awful character but he sees himself as a businessman who is providing a valuable service.  This comes out in his aria, “I only give you what you want,” and there’s a certain truth in that.  He’s charming in the beginning—to get what he wants—but he’s completely amoral at his core.  One of the crucial characters is Natalia, who is very friendly at the beginning but she’s actually someone who has come full circle from being trafficked herself to working for Victor, her lover.  So she’s this cabaret jazz singer who gradually loses all of her warmth to becoming cold and calculating.  Her tragic history comes out in this Sondheim-like song about how she was raped by her father.  I felt the only way to handle those horrific words she was singing was with a cheerful upbeat song that dehumanized the entire experience and showed her dissociation from her history.

How are brutalization, violence and sex handled?

Adam Gorb:   Parts of the music are quite brutal and there is a harsh dissonance to the music that builds.  At the climax, where one of the characters is beaten to death, there’s a long remorseful melody with the whole orchestra playing that’s extremely moving.  Of course, those very harsh parts are foreshadowed by the music of seduction that goes along with building sexual tension.

Some things were difficult to be too graphic about.  There’s more than one rape scene and quite a lot of grotesquery.  The music that accompanies this becomes almost like noise with certain instruments out of their registers.  In the German production, when the rape occurred, the curtain came down and there were no projections and it was carried out in the dark.

Beyond raising awareness about the topic, do you want the audience to do something with their experience?

Adam Gorb:   My awareness is less political and more artistic. Yes, I do want to raise awareness but the thing that I do well is write music.  Without ducking responsibility, if someone came to see “Anya17” and afterwards said ‘That’s a really interesting story’ and could tell me something about it, I’d be pleased.  There are so many causes completing for people’s attention these days. I hope people are drawn along by the story and can relate to the characters and, frankly, aren’t bored. I try and keep up with new opera and have a problem with a lot of the operas that I attend holding my attention. I’m asking myself a lot of whys—Why is this taking so long? Why are they singing that?   I wanted to do something that I wouldn’t get annoyed by and that would tell a story that makes an important and lasting impression. At its core, this is a story statement about a young girl who comes to a new country and falls in love for the first time and it all falls apart and she is tricked and humiliated and her spirit is almost broken but still there is hope for the future.

Were changes made after the last (German) production that will be in play for the first time in San Francisco?

Adam Gorb:   I fiddle with little things but tend to do one big brain surgery and then leave it.  The opera was semi-staged in Liverpool and Manchester in March 2012 and the first performance outside the UK was in Romania in October 2013 at the National Opera of Timişoara, with a mixed UK and Romanian cast.  I made the big changes for the fully staged German production, at the Meininger Theater in October 2013. By then, I had a recording and was able to go through the opera and make more sense of the feel and continuity of it overall as well as determine whether the singers themselves were clear enough.  I made some cuts to some of Anya’s arias that had to do with her interaction with one of characters because it didn’t feel dramatically right the way it was.  I haven’t made any changes since then and don’t intend to do any more tinkering, otherwise I’d never move on to something new.

I read that you had been particularly moved by Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” which will be performed by San Francisco Symphony later this month. What in particular about that opera moved you?

Adam Gorb:   I saw “Peter Grimes” when I was a kid, when Britten was still alive—he was quite ill by then— and he was in the audience. It was a very moving experience that caught me at a very impressionable age. The subject matter—the lone fisherman fighting alone against everyone—gripped me. What I admire in opera and what I admire in composers like Britten and Puccini is that sense is that they are really writing for the theatre. They’re not writing comfort pieces—they’re getting to the core of these deeply human tendencies that fascinate us all and I respect that. I’ve wanted to write an opera for years, because, before I was working in the conservatory, I was worked in musical theatre and I’m very interested in what you can do with music on the stage.

What’s next?

Adam Gorb:   Well, I’d love to do another opera and am very keen to write the music. “Anya’s” probably the biggest thing I’ve done and I was completely swept up and in love with the characters I was writing for. I also really enjoyed the collaborative aspects of it—it can get quite lonely sitting at home and writing music alone. I’m most interested in recent history—something that people are close enough to that they can really identify with. I’m glad that it’s come together the way it has but, next time, I’d want it to be commissioned. I’ll also write a lot for wind ensemble. I travel to the US a lot for that because it’s so big there.

Performance Details:

Cast: The role of Anya will be sung by soprano Anna Noggle, whose portrayals have been described as “sensitively drawn and heart-achingly sung” (Opera News). Viktor is baritone Victor Benedetti, lauded by the Chicago Tribune for his “confident and commanding stage presence and strong, dark baritone.” Local favorites are mezzo-sopranos Catherine Cook (who sang Julia Child in OP’s La Bonne Cuisine) and Laura Krumm, soprano Shawnette Sulker, and tenor Andres Ramirez (whom OP audiences enjoyed in Trouble in Tahiti and Ainadamar).

Creative Team: Directed by Brian Staufenbiel; Conducted by Nicole Paiment; Composed by Adam Gorb; Libretto by Ben Kaye; Media Design by David Murakami

Free Stage Rehearsal, Friday, June 20: An open stage rehearsal, after which Opera Parallèle Artistic Director and Conductor, Nicole Paiement, and stage director Brian Staufenbiel (Paiement’s husband) will lead the cast and audience in a Q & A question-and-answer session, takes place at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street (at Mason) second floor, San Francisco. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Dates, Tickets: “Anya17” is at 8 p.m. in Friday, June 20, 2014 and Saturday, June 21, 2014 and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street (at Mason) second floor, San Francisco. Tickets: $80 to $30, are available online here or phone City Box Office at 415-392-4400. For more information, visit www.operaparallele.org.

 

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anya17,” a new opera that explores sex trafficking and slavery, opens Friday at San Francisco’s Marine Memorial Theatre

In “Anya17,” a powerful contemporary opera which has its North American premiere this week at Opera Parallèle, naïve Anya is trafficked into Britain and forced into prostitution by a man pretending to be her boyfriend. The opera is a collaboration between British composer Adam Gorb and librettist Ben Kaye.  Watercolor by Evan Wright.

In “Anya17,” a contemporary opera which has its North American premiere this week at Opera Parallèle, naïve Anya is trafficked into Britain and forced into prostitution by a man pretending to be her boyfriend. The opera is a collaboration between British composer Adam Gorb and librettist Ben Kaye. Watercolor by Evan Wright.

Those who know her, have come to expect great things from Nicole Paiement, Opera Parallèle’s valiant Artistic Director and Conductor. But her timing of the American premiere at Opera Parallèle of “Anya17”—British composer Adam Gorb’s opera about sex trafficking and human slavery—couldn’t have been better.  On June 10, news broke that two San Francisco women (sisters) had been arrested for allegedly operating a sex trafficking ring out of several locations in San Francisco, bringing in young new girls weekly.  Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry and the US State Department estimates that between 20,000 and 40,000 people are trafficked into the country each year as modern-day slaves.  San Francisco and the Bay Area rank among the top 20 destinations, according to the FBI.  Kudos to a composer brave enough to humanize these devastating statistics and base his first opera on the insidious subject.  Gorb teamed up with librettist Ben Kaye and together they created “Anya17,” a dramatized interpretation of the lives of four very different young women trafficked from Eastern Europe and sold into sexual slavery.  The opera, performed twice before in Europe, unfolds through the eyes of Anya, a naïve and vulnerable young girl who falls in love with the wrong guy who persuades her to follow him to the West. Instead of a better life, she is betrayed and coerced into slavery. In order to survive, Anya must find an ultimate inner strength as she struggles to adapt to the humiliation and brutality of her brothel existence. The number 17 in the title comes from the practice of numbering girls on a “menu” in brothels. Last week, I interviewed Adam Gorb who definitely believes that opera can help change the world.  I’ll be posting our interview shortly, so stay tuned.

Free Stage Rehearsal, Friday, June 20: An open stage rehearsal, after which Opera Parallèle Artistic Director and Conductor, Nicole Paiement, and stage director Brian Staufenbiel (Paiement’s husband) will lead the cast and audience in a Q & A question-and-answer session, takes place at 4:30 p.m. Friday at the Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street (at Mason) second floor, San Francisco. The event is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

Cast: The role of Anya will be sung by soprano Anna Noggle, whose portrayals have been described as “sensitively drawn and heart-achingly sung” (Opera News). Viktor is baritone Victor Benedetti, lauded by the Chicago Tribune for his “confident and commanding stage presence and strong, dark baritone.” Local favorites are mezzo-sopranos Catherine Cook (who sang Julia Child in OP’s La Bonne Cuisine) and Laura Krumm, soprano Shawnette Sulker, and tenor Andres Ramirez (whom OP audiences enjoyed in Trouble in Tahiti and Ainadamar).

Details: “Anya17” is at 8 p.m. in Friday, June 20, 2014 and Saturday, June 21, 2014 and at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 22, 2014 at Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street (at Mason) second floor, San Francisco. Tickets: $80 to $30, are available online here or phone City Box Office at 415-392-4400. For more information, visit www.operaparallele.org.

June 18, 2014 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

FAMSF ancient art curator, Renée Dreyfus, speaks Thursday, June 12, 2014, at the de Young on “Masters of Fire: The Copper Age in the Holy Land”

Renée Dreyfus, FAMSF curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation will speak at the de Young Museum on Thursday, June 12, at 1 PM about “Masters of Fire:  The Copper Age in the Holy Land,” the exhibition which opens June 28, 2014 at the Legion of Honor.  Curator lectures, which provide insight into exhibition conception and artifacts, are a wonderful way to get the most out of an exhibition.

Renée Dreyfus, FAMSF curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation will speak at the de Young Museum on Thursday, June 12, at 1 PM about “Masters of Fire: The Copper Age in the Holy Land,” the exhibition which opens June 28, 2014 at the Legion of Honor. Curator lectures provide insight into exhibition conception and artifacts and are a wonderful way to get the most out of an exhibition. Image: Hedgehog Highlights

Renée Dreyfus, curator in charge of ancient art and interpretation at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) will speak at the de Young Museum on Thursday, June 12, at 1 PM about Masters of Fire:  The Copper Age in the Holy Land, the exhibition which opens June 28 at the Legion of Honor.   Dreyfus, who always has lots of historical information readily at hand, will speak about artifacts that especially intrigue her and will set the stage for the anitquities that arrive later this month.  If you do go, check the front rows for Colin Bailey, the new FAMSF director (he celebrates one year at the helm this month).  He’s been at the several of the recent talks I’ve attended and it’s a pleasure to see him supporting and motivating museum staff and visiting scholars by engaging with their scholarship.

In 1961, Israeli archaeologists discovered over 400 copper objects wrapped in a straw mat at Naḥal Mishmar (West of the Dead Sea) hidden in a natural crevice that would be called the “Cave of the Treasure.”  One of the greatest hoards of antiquity, these objects were so spectacular that they define an important era in Southern Levantine (modern-day Israel and surrounding lands) history now called the Chalcolithic (copper-stone) or Copper Age (5500–3500 BC).

Masters of Fire is the first comprehensive U.S. exhibition that explores the metallurgical revolution that produced these objects and how this led to significant changes in the technology, ritual, and especially the lifestyles of the Levant.  The exhibition is organized by NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (ISAW) and the Israel Antiquities Authority in collaboration with The Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

“The copper crowns and maces, or standards, found here testify to the amazing technical skill of the ancient smiths and artists who already knew the lost-wax process of casting,” said Renée Dreyfus who will address unknownswhether or not the people who created these objects considered them as arts or ritual objects.  “Of the 80 copper standards found in the Cave of the Treasure, no two are identical, proving that each was cast separately in an individual mold.  This astonishing hoard of 429 remarkable objects also reveals the growth of prestige, status, and social rank.”

Dating to more than a millennium before the pyramids of Egypt were built, the treasures in the Legion of Honor’s upcoming exhibition “Masters of Fire” come from a brief transformative moment.  They were made in the southern Levant, a region known today as Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and their surrounding areas, which was at the forefront of human development from 4500–3600 BC.  Pictured: ritual hoard of copper objects from the Cave of the Treasure, Nahal Mishmar, present-day Israel, Late Chalcolithic period (4500–3500 BC). Copper.  Israel Museum, Jerusalem.  Photo: courtesy FAMSF

Copper objects from the Cave of the Treasure, hoard Nahal Mishmar, Late Chalcolithic period, 4500–3600 BC. Copper, lost wax technique. Israel Antiquities Authority, Israel Museum. Photo: courtesy FAMSF

“The term “Copper Revolution” has been used by scholars to describe the changes in social organization that occurred at this time,” continued Dreyfus. “Archaeologists have tracked the fragments of ore that were mined in Jordan and traced how they were carried almost one hundred miles into southern Israel to be crushed, repeatedly heated, and carefully smelted into small ingots.  Once the copper was extracted, it was heated again and cast in open molds to make simple tools or weapons.  However, the extraordinary discoveries in the Cave of the Treasure at Nahal Mishmar represent a very different path in metallurgy.  The copper objects found there were made using the complicated lost-wax casting technique.  These works are far more elaborate than any other copper creations known from this period.  Whatever the original source of this hoard—whether a major religious or political center—the intricate scepters, crowns, and other copper objects must have been the accouterments of an elaborate ceremonial display.  The Copper Age is therefore an early example of a society in which the ruling elite could afford prestige objects that were produced as symbols of its power.”

Originally from New York City, Dreyfus is a celebrated curator of ancient art. She graduated from Boston University with a degree in philosophy.  She then went on to Brandeis University to receive her M.A. in Ancient Mediterranean Studies and finished her doctorate in Ancient Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley.  She speaks several ancient languages, is very active in the FAMSF’s Ancient Arts Council.  She was recently appointed to the newly formed visiting committee of the J. Paul Getty Museum that appraises the J. Paul Getty Trust  on the museum.  Some of Dreyfus’ publications include: deYoung: Selected Works (2006);  Hatshepsut: From Queen to Pharaoh (Metropolitan Museum of Art Series) co-authored with Catharine H. Roehrig, and Cathleen A. Keller (2005); Pergamon: The Telephos Frieze from the Great Altar, Volume 2 (1997) co-authored with Ellen Schraudolph; California Palace of the Legion of Honor (1995); The Mystery of the Dead Sea Scrolls (1994) co-authored with Melissa Leventon.

Details: Talk by Renée Dreyfus is Thursday, June 12, 1 PM at the Koret Auditorium at the de Young Museum.  Tickets are $3 members, $4 non-members. No advance purchase or reservations required.  It is not necessary to have an entry ticket to the de Young to attend the lecture. If you would like to enter the de Young Museum, tickets are $10 adults, $7 seniors, FAMSF members free. Tickets to Modernism from the National Gallery of Art are $24 to $11 for non-members and free for FAMSF members. The exhibition, Masters of Fire:  The Copper Age in the Holy Land  is June 28, 2014-January 4, 2105 at the Legion of Honor.

Directions/Parking: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, at John F. Kennedy Drive, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.  Enter Golden Gate Park (JFK Drive side) at 8th Avenue for 4 hour free street parking.  For direct access to the Music Concourse Parking facility, turn right on Fulton and then left on 10th Avenue.

June 10, 2014 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum, Legion of Honor | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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