Geneva Anderson digs into art

Green Music Center announces its 2013-14 season….donors first dibs, then subscribers

She has been invited to perform on all the major opera stages of the world.  Renée Fleming will launch the Green Music Center’s second season with a special appearance Sunday, September 15, 2013 at Weill Hall.  Image: Decca/Andrew Eccles

She has been invited to perform on all the major opera stages of the world. Renée Fleming will launch the Green Music Center’s second season with a special appearance Sunday, September 15, 2013 at Weill Hall. Image: Decca/Andrew Eccles

On Monday, Sonoma State University (SSU) announced the concert lineup for its 2013-14 MasterCard Performance Series in Weill Hall at the Green Music Center.  An array of world-renowned classical, instrumental, vocal, and jazz artists has been assembled for the nine-month season that launches in September.

An opening night celebration – reminiscent of last fall’s inaugural festivities – will star soprano Renée Fleming, one of America’s most beloved vocalists. The unique rear wall of Weill Hall will be open to the terraced lawns and offers expanded seating for 5,000 additional outdoor patrons.

The festivities continue throughout the month with two additional concerts utilizing the outdoor seating of Weill Lawn, beginning with world-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman on Sept. 21, and followed by jazz legend Herbie Hancock on Sept. 28.

Orchestral headliners of the season include the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra in March, The English Concert performing Handel’s Theodora, Venice Baroque Orchestra with rising star counter-tenor Philippe Jaroussky, and returning holiday favorite Handel’s Messiah by Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale.

Acclaimed sopranos Jessye Norman, Ruth Ann Swenson, and Deborah Voigt are featured in a phenomenal vocal lineup, that also includes baritones Bryn Terfel in October and Florian Boesch in May, accompanied by Malcolm Martineau on piano. “An Afternoon of Opera” in March pairs operatic sensations Leah Crocetto and David Lomeli, accompanied by Weill Hall’s resident orchestra, the Santa Rosa Symphony.

An array of award-winning instrumentalists is intertwined throughout the twenty- three concert season, beginning with a return performance by Chinese superstar Lang Lang. The season also features fellow pianists Garrick Ohlsson and Richard Goode, as well as acclaimed violinist Hilary Hahn, and a performance by The Takács Quartet.

Six jazz and world music concerts showcase an impressive range of artistry, including Portuguese fado artist Mariza, Spanish flamenco sensation Estrella Morente, the distinguished Silk Road Ensemble, the inspirational Bahia Orchestra Project, and rising jazz stars Jon Batiste and Stay Human.

Programming in addition to the MasterCard Performance Series includes a full season by Weill Hall’s resident orchestra, the Santa Rosa Symphony, led by music director Bruno Ferrandis and performing seven triple-sets of classical works and a variety of family and youth concerts.

The Grammy award-winning San Francisco Symphony returns to Weill Hall for a second year, featuring four concerts led by Michael Tilson-Thomas, Semyon Bychkov, Alexander Barantschik, and Charles Dutoit.


Advance subscription sales for the 2013-14 MasterCard Performance Series begin Monday, March 25 at 1pm, marking the start of a one-week priority period for donors who have given $1,000 or more to the Green Music Center Annual Fund. Past subscribers and MasterCard cardholders are eligible to purchase subscription packages beginning Tuesday, April 2 at 8am. Subscription tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, April 22 at 8am.

Six preset subscription packages are available for purchase at 15% off single ticket prices. Four of these packages are classically focused, featuring an assemblage of instrumental, choral, orchestral, and vocal performances. Two packages separately consist of jazz and world music offerings.

Package prices for three-concert sets range from $78 to $204 and four-concert bundles range in price from $138-$336.

An additional “Pick 6” package allows patrons to select any six performances from the season lineup at a discount of 10% off single ticket prices.

Ticket purchases can be made online at, or, over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm.

Single tickets go on sale later this year. SSU students receive a 50% discount on all tickets (limit one per student per event) and SSU faculty and staff receive a 20% discount (limit two per employee per event).

March 26, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center | Leave a comment

In Lawrence Wright’s “Fallaci,” which has its world premiere at Berkeley Rep, the legendary Italian journalist, Oriana Fallaci, casts her fiery spell, contradictions and all

At Berkeley Rep, Concetta Tomei (Right) and Marjan Neshat (Left) star in the world premiere of Fallaci by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright.  Photo courtesy of

At Berkeley Rep, Concetta Tomei (Right) and Marjan Neshat (Left) star in the world premiere of Fallaci by Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright. Photo courtesy of

It is rumored that when the Italian writer, Oriana Fallaci, learned that she had cancer, she didn’t ask the oncologist how much longer she had left to live, she asked, “How many books do I have left to write?”  And write she did, creating some of her most controversial work at the end of her life.  In the wake of 9/11, she argued violently and passionately in two best-selling books that our (Western) civilization and radical Islam are fundamentally incompatible and her book, The Rage and the Pride, drew accusations of inciting hatred against Muslims.  

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lawrence Wright’sFallaci,” which has its world premiere at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is an intense and captivating look at Oriana Fallaci, “la Fallaci,”  the internationally acclaimed journalist, war correspondent, interviewer, and novelist who made her reputation in the 1970’s with a series of unforgettable interviews with autocratic figures in their homelands—the Shah, Ayatollah Khomeini, Gaddafi, Castro, Kissinger.  This petite Italian dynamo said what she wanted to say and asked what she wanted to ask of the world’s most fascinating leaders.   She seemed capable of taking any political tiger by its tail and then kneeing it right in the crotch as she got her subjects to admit things publicly that later caused them much grief.  “Don’t you find,” she asked Henry Kissinger during Vietnam, “that it’s been a useless war?” “On this, I can agree,” said the then Secretary of State.  He later admitted that this interview was the “single most  disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press.”  By the time her cancer was diagnosed, Fallaci had literally done it all, everything her profession could offer.  For people like me, who became foreign correspondents, she was our end and be-all.   Wright’s play has been on my radar for over a year now and it did not disappoint in any way.

 In “Fallaci,” the tables are turned on Oriana Fallaci (played by Concetta Tomei) as she is interviewed by a young Iranian-American New York Times journalist Maryam (played by Marjan Neshat).  The play is set in 1990’s, when Fallaci became increasingly reclusive and divided her time between her apartments in Manhattan and Florence.  What emerges is a captivating portrait of a strong, rough, grieving—and thoroughly glorious woman—who fights tooth and nail to have her truth her way, despite the facts.   The play stands on Wright’s marvelous script which provides an engaging commentary on the ethics of journalism as well as a made-to-order platform for Concetta Tomei to play Fallaci’s contradictions to the hilt. 

A distinctive and controversial feature of Fallaci’s writing, which has both fascinated and enraged journalists, is the way in which she blurs the interface between factual reportage and fiction.  Charlie Rose took her to task on this in a compelling live interview in December 7, 1992 that is, for lack of a better word,  magnetizing.  When he asks her about her editing, about her “painting the picture as she saw it,” about filtering through her “own imaginative process”…”not putting words in people’s mouths but choosing what words to include and more importantly, what context and what words to leave out”  she famously replied– “When you write an article, a reportage, you have to stay within the limits of what has happened, what has been said.  You must be very rigorous in reporting without inventing, without distorting, without manipulating.   But the better I was in being so rigorously faithful to events, the more I felt like writing with handcuffs.  You cannot move, you cannot open your arms you cannot say more–concepts for instance.  What literature does is it universalizes the truth and people can recognize it in that story.”  Wright cleverly explores this through Maryam’s successive interviews with Fallaci in which Fallaci is shown to have given dramatically different versions of the truth at various points in time, defending them all as fact. 

You wouldn’t necessarily recognize Concetta Tomei even if you’d seen her in her recent stand-out performance as Valerie in A.C.T.’s world premiere of Cary Perloff’s Higher at the Children’s Creativity Museum in February 2012.  There, she played a wealthy widow who was cunning, strong, very manipulative and funny and, like Fallaci, a part of her was very remote and lonely.  At Berkeley Rep, she literally sores as Fallaci and is utterly and convincingly Italian.  She plays Fallaci as a diva, one who needs to be coaxed by someone worthy into spilling her fascinating stories and accumulated wisdom and regrets. 

Oriana Fallaci is the subject of Lawrence Wright's new play "Fallaci," which has its world premiere at Berkeley Rep.

Oriana Fallaci is the subject of Lawrence Wright’s new play “Fallaci,” which has its world premiere at Berkeley Rep.

Wright also steeps us in Fallaci’s intrepid interview style by having Fallaci dramatically relive some of her most glorious moments with Maryam.   Perhaps her most famous interview was with Kohmeini, in 1979, when, after waiting for 10 days in Qum (Iran) for him to agree, she donned a chador and questioned him relentlessly about the treatment of women in his new Islamic state.  “How do you swim in a chador?” to which he replied–“If you do not like Islamic dress, you are not obliged to wear it…” at which point she yanked off her chador and said “I am going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now.”  When she returned the next day to conclude the interview, he smiled and laughed and Khomeini’s son told Fallaci “I think you are the only person in the world who made him laugh.”

Marjan Neshat, who played Nawal Marwan in A.C.T.’s production of Wajdi Mouawad’s play Scorched, last February, is New York Times journalist Maryam and, again, she is embroiled in a difficult situation.  She initially visits Fallaci as a naïve obituary writer, there to extract information from Fallaci before she is felled by her rumored cancer.  Initially, Fallaci seems guarded, weakened and tired but, instinctively, she knows when to assert herself to maintain the upper hand.  As she leaps to her feet to defend a point or shouts over Maryam to make herself  heard, we get why there is only one Fallaci.  Maryam proves very quick on the uptake though and manages to impress this war horse.  Maryam returns three years later, post 9/11, to find Fallaci still very much alive.  They discuss Fallaci’s controversial The Rage and the Pride in which the author broke her ten year silence to produce a scathing indictment of Islam. Throughout the course of play, Maryam’s character transitions dramatically.  She ultimately becomes a controversial and highly-respected journalist known for her reportage on contemporary Iran. She also attains the savvy and confidence to go head-to-head with Fallaci.  By the time the ladies have their last meeting, they are more or less equals, supportive and tender with each other.

 After experiencing Fallaci, I went home and pulled out my tattered edition of her magnificent Interview with History I can well understand Wright’s enduring fascination with Fallaci.   Her questions, more authoritative statements than questions, prompted some of the most compelling discussions on record. 

 Fallaci is completely absorbing and I am going again.

 Fallaci runs 90 minutes without intermission.

Details:  Fallaci  runs through April 21, 2013.  Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Roda Theatre is located at 2015 Addison Street, Berkeley (near the intersection of Addison and Shattuck Avenue), Berkeley, CA 94704. Performances: Tuesday-Sunday, with additional weekend matinee performances. Tickets: $29 -$89.  Call box office at 510-647-2949 or purchase online at

Parking: paid parking is readily available at over 5 parking garages as close as one block from the theatre. The Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way, between Milvia and Shattuck, offers $3 parking Tuesday–Friday after 6 PM or all day on Saturday or Sunday when your garage-issued parking ticket is validated in the theatre lobby.

March 26, 2013 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment