Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 7th Annual Taste of Petaluma is today…Sugo Trattoria’s Artisan Cured Coppa is just one of several rustic home-cured meats owner/chef Peter White is now preparing himself

Inspired by his love of regional Italian cuisine, Sugo Trattoria owner/chef Peter White is now preparing and curing his own artisan sausages in house

Last week, I had the pleasure of accompanying Taste of Petaluma coordinator Laura Sunday and several local food writers on preview tastes all around town.  Sugo Trattoria’s chef/owner Peter White has really raised the bar.  Inspired by his love of regional Italian and Spanish cuisines, and his wife and business partner Annette’s Italian heritage, White is now preparing and curing his own artisan sausages in house.  He’s just getting started but, so far, has crafted sumptuous salamis, bresaola, coppa, and prosciutto from pork and has been experimenting with duck and lamb prosciuttos as well.   Peter and Annette will introduce these fine meats to the public today by offering a generous tasting of Peter’s own Bresaola and Coppa Carpaccio served with Arugula and Fennel Salad.  Stay-tuned to ARThound for a full profile of the Whites and Sugo Trattoria.

Sugo Trattoria is located at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, Suite B, Petaluma (in the row of brick buildings on the southeast corner of B Street and Petaluma Blvd North, next door to Peet’s Coffee.)  Sugo Trattoria will serve a generous sampling of
Bresaola and Coppa Carpaccio with Arugula and Fennel Salad at Saturday’s 7th Taste of Petaluma

Details: Taste of Petaluma is today, Saturday, August 25, 2012, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at over 60 participating Petaluma restaurants, shops and galleries.

Tickets on the day of the event: $40 for 10 tickets at 10:30 a.m. at Putnam Plaza (139 Petaluma Blvd. N.) and at Theater Square (C. St.). Additional tickets may be purchased throughout the day for $4 each.

Each package of 10 tickets includes a street map of sampling locations, a food and beverage menu, and a schedule for special events. First 500 guests receive a Taste of Petaluma tote bag. Participants may bring their own wine or beer tasting glass.

To view the menu, visit

August 25, 2012 Posted by | Food, Theatre | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Daughter of the Red Tzar,” a new chamber opera exploring Churchill and Stalin’s relationship through the eyes of Stalin’s teenaged daughter—starring Sebastopol Tenor John Duykers as Winston Churchill—has its world premiere tonight at San Francisco’s Thick House

Sebastopol tenor John Duykers is Winston Churchill and baritone Scott Graff is Stalin in the world premiere of Lisa Scola Prosek’s new opera “Daughter of the Red Tzar,” at Thick House is San Francisco through September 2, 2012. Photo: Natalie S. Moran

As Winston Churchill  prepared to meet Stalin face to face for the first time in the summer of 1942, he knew that their encounter would be tense.  Stalin was furious with the Western Allies.  He believed that they were doing little to help the Soviets, who faced the steady advance of Hitler’s army across the Russian steppes towards the oil rich Caucasus.  And although Churchill loathed the Communist state, and was aware of its mass murder, slave camps and starvation, he needed the tyrannical Stalin to hold off the Germans so that England would survive the war.  Probably as an icebreaker, Stalin’s 16-year-old daughter Svetlana, nicknamed “little sparrow,” was present for her father’s historic all-night meeting with Churchill where these two iconic leaders would cut the deal that sealed the fate of the world.   Set against this historic backdrop, another intrigue was unfolding—Svetlana Stalin had fallen in love that same summer with an older married man, Alexei Kapler, a dashing intellectual and screenwriter, whom her father despised.

Stalin promptly exiled Svetlana’s beloved Kapler to Siberia for 10 years, accuisn ghim of being a German spy, and Svetlana’s life took on a trajectory that was nothing short of operatic.  She suffered two failed marriages in Russia and then, when Satlin died in 1952, she lost her wealth and status.  She married a third time and defected to the West in 1967  where she survived an assassination plot, wrote a best-selling novel and became a powerful American propaganda tool in the Cold War, and married the noted American architect William Wesley Peters with whom she had a daughter.  She split from Peters and moved back to Moscow briefly and then on to Soviet Georgia and then back to the States where she lived in relative obscurity as Lana Peters and died from Colon cancer in a sleepy rest home in Wisconsin, in November 2011, at age 85.

Marin composer Lisa Scola-Prosek first envisioned Svetlana’s story as an opera while reading Churchill’s and Svetlana’s memoirs and decided to frame the story around the historic Stalin-Churchill meeting.  Working with director, Missy Weaver, the two drew from historical sources to fashion a libretto for “Daughter of the Red Tzar,” that is poetic, surreal and absurdly comic.  San Francisco’s Thick House Theater, in the Portreo District, will provide an intimate setting for this world premiere love story set amidst paranoid secrecy and wartime intrigue.

Acclaimed Sebastopol tenor John Duykers stars as Winston Churchill and baritone Scott Graff tackles the role Stalin.  Mezzo-soprano Crystal Phillippi is Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana, and bass-baritone Philip Skinner, a former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, plays Kapler, her married older lover.  Mezzo-soprano Valentina Osinskiportrays Nadya, the ghost of Svetlana’s dead mother, Nadezhda Alliluyeva, who was found dead in her bed with a revolver in her hand.  Martha Stoddard conducts and Missy Weaver directs.

The modern yet lyrical musical score draws upon the rich cultures of Georgia, Britain and Russia, with folk classics from the Soviet era. A chamber ensemble features violin, cello, mandolin, accordion, piano and percussion.

“I have had a great time creating this role,” said John Duykers.  “It is well written by Lisa Scola Prosek, and exciting to perform with our excellent cast.  The research for this piece has been very eye-opening, learning more about what really happened during the second World War, and gaining a deeper understanding of Churchill and Stalin.  This is a very stimulating project”.

Dukers is well known for his role as Chairman Mao Tse-Tung in the 1987 world premiere of John Adam’s opera “Nixon in China.”  He also created and sang in the opera theatre production “Caliban Dreams,” which had a run at the El Cerrito Theatre for the Performing Arts and was performed twice last August at Sonoma State University’s Person Theatre (Read ARThound’s 8.10.2011 coverage of Duyker’s “Caliban Dreams” here.)  Duykers is respected for his fine acting ability.  When I interviewed him for “Caliban Dreams,” in August 2011, he spoke of opera as an art form in transition and referred to his production as opera theatre rather than traditional opera.  “It’s not about people standing around singing arias and more about theatre.”

Not only is Duykers a principal singer in the opera, he’s also a co-director, along with his wife producer/dramaturg, Missy Weaver, of First Look Sonoma, one of the opera’s presenting organizations.  First Look Sonoma is a new entertainment company devoted to developing new vocal works, especially by emerging composers.

Tiburon-based composer/writer Lisa Scola Prosek talks about the inspiration for her opera, “Daughter Of The Red Tzar,” which has its world premiere tonight in San Francisco.

Details:  “Daughter of the Red Tzar” has its world premiere, Friday, August 24, 2012 at 8 p.m. followed by five repeat performances: Saturday, August 25; Sunday, August 26; Friday, August 31; Saturday, September 1; and Sunday, September 2, 2012—all at 8 p.m.  Thick House Theatre is located at 1695 18th Street (between Carolina and Arkansas Streets) in San Francisco. Tickets are $30 and can be purchased at For more information, check

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fresh, Local, Fabulous—Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 25, 2012—buy your tickets before Thursday afternoon and save $5

Every year, Taste of Petaluma gets better.  This Saturday, Taste turns 7, and over 60 of Petaluma’s best eateries, food purveyors, breweries and wineries will be sampling their finest at establishments all across town.  Just back from London, ARThound had the pleasure of stepping off the plane and right into a series of preview tastings at 8 participating restaurants–Cordoza’s Deli and Café, Everest Indian Restaurant, Hiro’s Japanese Restuarant, Luma, Social Club, Rosso, Sugo Trattoria, Wild Goat Bistro.

The lowdown:  Great cooking is no mystery.  When you use the best, locally-sourced, fresh ingredients, you can cook very simply and the food will be extraordinary.  After having been there and done that, great chefs are establishing themselves in Petaluma because our relaxed town values great food that is connected to the community and there’s no better place to access to fresh ingedients.  Taste of Petaluma is the best way to sample all the delicacies Petlauma has to offer.  A set of tickets covers 10 tastes and portions are generous.   All of the purveyors generously donate their food to Taste, knowing that a sample is the best advertising that money can buy.  And because all the proceeds go directly to Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater, a 501 (c)(3) California non-profit, now celebrating its 40th anniversary in our community, the entire event has a feel-good vibe to it.  Bring your friends and families and spend the day!

Stay-tuned to ARThound for a more detailed article tomorrow.  For now, read about Rosso, the new Mozzarella latteria in Theatre Square that knocked me flat…co-owner Kevin Cronin’s passion about fresh food, craftsmanship at the level of an artisan, and interacting with the local community he is connected to exemplify the values that make Petaluma truly special.  I didn’t realize it but I had long been an admirer.  A founding partner of St. Helena’s legendary Tra Vigne (back in the day when it was really GOOD), Cronin’s long been committed to disarmingly simple Italian food that tastes great.   Cronin co-owns Rosso, which has another restaurant in Santa Rosa, with chef John Franchetti, who has two decades of cheese-making experience, and Gesine Franchetti.

Rosso Pizzeria & Mozzarella Bar co-owner Kevin Cronin talks cheese with ARThound

Rosso uses locally-sourced curd to hand-craft small batches of their own cheeses on site at their restaurant—mozzarella, ricotta and chévre.  Their creamy, buttery, delectable, hand-pulled mozzarella is made with locally-sourced buffalo milk from Craig Ramini’s Buffalo farm. (Ramini is trending…read the 6.22.2012 Wall Street Journal profile here.)  Rosso’s signature burratas (stuffed mozzarellas) are to swoon for—a thin layer of mozzarella wrapped around a creamy mix of mozzarella and goat cheese finished with mint and drizzled with lemon and olive oil from Sicily or stracciatella (chopped mozzarella with cream folded in) or traditional style (curd of mozarella with cream folded in).  The texture in each of the three is silky.  The tastes are divinely sweet and earthy, inspiring all the adjectives applied to fine wine.  Most people just let out a sigh, on the order reserved for great sex.

For Taste, Rosso will serve their signature Burrata on Bruschetta with Prosciutto and Olive Pesto, with house-made Spaghetti and Meatball.

Details:  Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 25, 2012, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at over 60 participating Petaluma restaurants, shops and galleries.

Advance purchase discount tickets:  $35 for 10 tickets (1 ticket = 1 tasting) through 3 p.m. Thursday, August 23.  Purchase by phoning Cinnabar Theatre at 707 763-8920 (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) OR buy in person at Gallery One, 209 Western Ave., Petaluma, or I Leoni, 120 Kentucky Street, Petaluma. OR click here to purchase tickets directly online ($3.50 service charge).

Advance purchase tickets can be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza (139 Petaluma Blvd. North) after 10:30 a.m. on the day of the event.

Tickets on the day of the event:  $40 for 10 tickets at 10:30 a.m. at Putnam Plaza (139 Petaluma Blvd. N.) and at Theater Square (C. St.).  Additional tickets may be purchased throughout the day for $4 each.

Each package of 10 tickets includes a street map of sampling locations, a food and beverage menu, and a schedule for special events.  First 500 guests receive a Taste of Petaluma tote bag.  Participants may bring their own wine or beer tasting glass.

To view the menu, visit

August 21, 2012 Posted by | Food | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Merola Artists’ Magnificent “Grand Finale” Concert, Saturday, August 18th, 2012

2012 Merola Opera Artists performing Puccini’s “Già che il caso ci unisce…Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso” from “La Rondine” in the Merola Grand Finale Concert, Saturday, August 18, 2012. Magda – Elizabeth Baldwin, Lisette – Jennifer Cherest, Ruggero – Casey Candebat, Prunier – Joshua Baum, Celesta – Sun Ha Yoon, Chorus – Tutti Merolini. Photo: Kristen Loken

Saturday night’s Merola Grand Finale performance at War Memorial Opera House gave the public a chance to experience what a summer of intensive training has done for the 23 talented young singers in the prestigious opera book camp.  The three hour concert featured a captivating and eclectic mix of 19 demanding opera arias, duets and songs, chosen by the fellows to showcase their voices.  The audience, packed with family members, friends, and opera lovers, was so enthusiastic that, twice, it burst into spontaneous applause interrupting a performance in progress.   No problem!…all was taken in stride.

Tenor Casey Candebat, from New Orleans, delivered a remarkable and haunting “Porquoi me réveiller,” the third act aria in Massenet’s Werther.  Candebat sang with so much feeling that he transported the audience right into Werther’s melody.  Candebat’s chemistry with mezzo-soprano, Sarah Mesko, as Charlotte, who sang with passion to match his, was palpable.  The duet evoked whoops and cheers all around.  Candebat is one of 6 strong lyric tenors in the Merola program this year, quite a feat.

Tenor Casey Candebat and mezzo-soprano Sarah Mesko sing “Ah! Mon courage m’abandonne…Pourquoi me réveiller?…N’achevez pas” from “Werther” by Jules Massenet. Photo: Kristen Loken

Mezzo Soprano Erin Johnson, from New Jersey, was exceptional in “Their spinning wheel unwinds Dreams,” from Benjamin Britten’s two act chamber opera, The Rape of Lucretia.  Her lush and lovely legato, and dramatic stage presence transported us into Lucretia’s world of loss and despair.  Johnson’s voice blended beautifully with soprano Rose Sawvel and mezzo-sopranos Sarah Mesko and Carolyn Sproule.

Powerhouse soprano Elizabeth Baldwin wowed me with her sensational voice and commanding presence in the second half of the program.  As she sang Medora’s stunning solo from Act 1 of Verdi’s Il Corsaro, I felt chills…caught in the grips of overpowering but doomed love.

Tenor AJ Glueckert, from Portland, Oregon, who left his mark on all who heard him as the Man with the Paint Brush in July’s Merola performance of Postcards from Morocco, closed the first part of the evening with the pleasing and very difficult duet “At Last I’ve Found You,” from Samuel Barber’s Vanessa, performed with soprano Melinda Whittington.

In addition to singing, most of the fellows can act.  The program trains them in movement and acting, role preparation and offers several performance opportunities throughout the summer. (See ARThound’s 7.17.2012 article The Merola Opera Program presents Dominick Argento’s rarely performed opera,“Postcard from Morocco,” this Thursday and Saturday, at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason.)  Canadian Bass baritone, Gordon Bintner, who has that “it” factor in spades, along with dashing good looks, lent a natural comedic air and grace to his Belcore in Donizetti’s “Come Paride vezzoso” and to his Taddeo in Rossini’s “Orsù, la tua nipote…Pappataci! Che mai sento!,” from L’Italiana in Algeri which he performed with Tenor Joshua Baum as Lindoro and Bass-baritone Seth Mease Carico as Mustafà.  Baritone Joseph Lattanzi doned goggles and hammed it up as Jupiter, a buzzing singing fly in the annoyed ear of soprano Rose Sawvel.  The duo were hysterical.

Bass Andrew Kroes, from Wisconsin, delivered Marcel’s moving battle song “Piff, paff,” from Giacomo Meyerbeer’s Les Huguenots, with great aplomb.

Soprano Elizabeth Baldwin performs “Egli non riede ancora!…Non so le tetre immagine” from “Il corsaro” by Giuseppe Verdi. Photo: Kristen Loken

The accompaniment, under the Nicholas McGegan’s apt conducting, was impressive, especially Berlioz’s exhilarating masterpiece overture, “Béatrice et Bénédict,” which opened the evening.   In the first song, Lully’s “Il faut asser,” from Alceste, I had trouble hearing the voices over the orchestra, a problem which quickly resolved itself.  Adam Luftman’s lush trumpet solo in the program’s second half— “Povero Ernesto!…Cercherò lontana terra” from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale—was divine.

Apprentice stage director Jennifer Williams’  staging was baffling—she went for a minimalistic look, placing a tufted velvet divan on one side of the stage and an antique chair tilted on its side on other side.  In between them was a lamp sporting a naked light bulb.  All this was against the elegant arched wooden back-drop of the Moby Dick set.  A few prop pieces were added here and there to give diversity to the 19 scenes that she was responsible for, but she did not waver from her minimalist approach.  It was awful to be in the audience, in a darkened environment, hoping to see the singers’ faces and instead be subject to the intense and unrelenting glare of that blasted bulb.

The evening ended with a glorious “Già che il caso ci unisce…Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso,” from Giacomo Puccini’s opera, La Rondine (The Swallow), bringing most of the fellows on stage.  Once again, soprano Elizabeth Baldwin, as Magda, made an impression.  Her powerful richly textured voice projected above the others—and with her commanding stage presence—I could not help but circle her name and scrawl beside it several exclamation points.  All these singers are going places but she’s on my watch list.

More About Merola:  Guided by Sheri Greenawald, San Francisco Opera Center Director and internationally acclaimed soprano, the Merola Opera Program is an independent nonprofit organization which operates in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera.  Founded in 1957 and named for San Francisco Opera’s founder, Gaetano Merola, the Program is recognized as one of the most prestigious operatic training programs in the world.  The Merola Opera Program typically receives more than 800 applications for approximately 30 positions. Throughout the summer, the Merola artists participate in master classes and private coachings with opera luminaries and go on give several public performances.  Participants—who include singers, apprentice coaches and an apprentice stage director—also receive training in operatic repertory, foreign languages, diction, acting and stage movement.

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

ARThound is back from London

Dining on the Move: ARThound experiences the golden age of travel on the luxurious British Pullman, sister train to the legendary Venice Simplon Orient-Express. As the vintage train departs London’s Victoria’s rail station for a journey into Britain’s countryside, passengers are served chilled champagne and sumptuous cuisine. What hat to wear? One co-created with uber-trendy London milliner, Katherine Elizabeth, who designed the hat for the new Kate Middleton doll.

The Summer Olympics in London ended last Sunday and ARThound is back–with dozens of stories to tell.  Not only did I attend the games, but I also participated in the London 2012 Festival, part of Britain’s larger Cultural Olympiad, which continues through September 9, 2012, the final day of the Paralympic Games.  The London 2012 Festival is actually a countrywide event that features an estimated 12,000 performances including art exhibitions, theatrical performances and classical concerts.  What a marvelous time to visit England–when everyone was celebrating and freebies were falling from the skies!  Stay tuned to ARThound for interviews with London insiders, celebs, curators, foodies, including Ernst Vegelin, Head of The Courtauld Gallery and Lady Fiona Carnarvon, the down-to-earth duchess who actually lives at Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle).

August 20, 2012 Posted by | Art, Dance, Film, Food, Opera, Symphony | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment