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Geneva Anderson digs into art

Smooth trumpeter Chis Botti closes Green Music Center’s Summer Season this Sunday afternoon, September 25, 2013—plenty of ticket options still remain

Chris Botti wraps the Green Music Center’s summer programming this Sunday, August 24, with an afternoon concert at Weill Hall and lawn.  Smooth as silk, Botti—who originally hails from Oregon—imbibes the style of the jazz’s great trumpeters like Davis, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie and pop sophisticates Peter Gabriel and Sting.  His haunting, minor-key playing evokes some of the introspection of Miles Davis whose playing was so inspirational for Botti that he sites it as the reason why he chose to play the trumpet.  Botti’s melodies, many of which are his own, are also incredibly romantic.  I like to think of them as a portal to a dream world where time is suspended.  Since the release of “When I Fall in Love,” his 2004 critically acclaimed CD, the trumpeter has become the world’s largest-selling jazz instrumentalist (3 million plus albums) with PBS specials, Grammy Awards, gold and platinum records and A-list collaborators that have included Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and best pal Sting (the two even share similar blond-tipped spiky coifs).  His latest Grammy-winning album, “Impressions” (Columbia Records, 2012) features even more noted collaborators: Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, to name a few.   An afternoon at GMC in the summer is simply the best gig in Northern California: the combination of the music and the setting can’t be beat.  It looks the weather will cooperate Sunday for a peak lawn experience too—with temps projected in the high 70’s, the outdoor ambience should be maximal for those trying the lawn table or lawn seating.

Botti is joined by:

Billy Kilson, drums

Geoffrey Keezer, piano

Andy Ezrin, keyboards

Leonardo Amuedo, guitar

Richie Goods, bass

Sy Smith, vocal

Caroline Campbell, violin

Chris Botti performs My Funny Valentine

Chris Botti performs When I Fall in Love

Details:  Chris Botti is Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 4 PM at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.

Ticket Availability:  As of Friday (August 23, 2013) there were approximately 100 Table Seats available at $45 and ample lawn places available at $25.  There are scattered tickets inside Weill Hall and additional seats may open up ($55 to $100) due to ticket returns: check with the Box Office in person 30 minutes prior to Sunday’s concert.  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.edu, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The Box Office is located in the interior of the Sonoma State University campus – ticket windows adjacent to the Green Music Center are only open prior to performances.

Dining:  Concessions at the Green Music Center are offered all year in the Person Lobby and during the summer on the south end of Weill Lawn. Offering everything from small bites to full meals, the concession offerings can help complete your Green Music Center experience. Guests are also 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.

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goat Rodeo Sessions, at Green Music Center this Friday, September 23, 2013 —the concert everyone’s buzzing about….plenty of ticket options still remain

The Goat Rodeo Sessions with special guest vocalist Aoife O'Donovan perform at Green Music Center this Friday. (L to R) bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin master Chris Thile, cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma, and bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan join together create a unique, genre-breaking sound that’s part composed, part improvised and uniquely American. The music is so difficult to pull off, the group likens it to a Goat Rodeo – an aviation term for a situation in which 100 things need to go right to avoid disaster.  Photo: Jeremy Cowart

The Goat Rodeo Sessions with special guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan perform at Green Music Center this Friday. (L to R) bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin master Chris Thile, cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma, and bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan join together create a unique, genre-breaking sound that’s part composed, part improvised and uniquely American. The music is so difficult to pull off, the group likens it to a Goat Rodeo – an aviation term for a situation in which 100 things need to go right to avoid disaster. Photo: Jeremy Cowart

The Goat Rodeo Sessions, joined by singer Aoife O’Donovan, wraps its first tour with just three West Coast performances including Friday night at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.  It wasn’t too long ago that we had to trek down in traffic to Berkeley’s Greek Theatre for big name concerts.  All that’s behind us now—nestled right here we’ve got the acoustically stellar Weill Hall with its back doors that open out to expansive terraced patios and lawn seating, giving audiences a wonderful way to connect with performers on stage while enjoying the magic of late summer in the wine country.

If you were lucky enough to get tickets to Yo-Yo Ma’s January 26 concert at Weill Hall with Kathryn Stott on piano—a program of cello masterpieces that brought us to tears and introduced us Ma’s extraordinary humbling humanity—chances are you were first to snap up tickets coveted inside-the-hall seats for Friday’s performance.  In a 2005 article for Smithsonian magazine, Bay Area music critic Josh Kosman summed it up “If Yo-Yo Ma didn’t exist, no novelist in the world would have dared invent him. The combination of virtues—musical, intellectual, personal—is simply too implausible.”   At the press conference for the summer season we learned that our new hall and enthusiasm had impressed Ma too and that he was excited to come back with the innovative ensemble The Goat Rodeo Sessions and show us another side of his musical expression.  He’ll be sharing the stage with bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer, and mandolin master Chris Thile—each Grammy winners and virtuosos in their own right and with Aoife O’Donovan, lead singer for Crooked Still string band and the folk-noir trio Sometymes Why.

Call it what you will—bluegrass, chambergrass or just plain good grass for string quartet, The Goat Rodeo Sessions combines a variety musical styles and traditions while leaving plenty of room for improvisation.  Immensely popularized by their Grammy Award-winning 2011 album for Sony Masterworks, the ensemble has reunited outside the studio just once for a January 2012 concert at Boston’s House of Blues that was simulcast to theaters around the country and later released as a DVD.

What’s a “goat rodeo,” you might wonder?   The term is from the world of aviation where so many things go wrong that a right move needs to made for it all not to end in disaster.  The group feels kinship with that concept and the name has suits highly their improvisational approach to music and life.

I’ve been to several of GMC’s summer performances, with seats inside and outside the hall, and they’ve all been spectacular in their own right.   Truth be told, it can get chilly when the fog rolls in, but there’s an exciting crowd vibe that emerges when you’re outdoors. I’m trying a table seat for this concert.   There’s something about Ma’s personality and his profound ability to from a connection with his audience that came through in his January performance that touched me—I can’t wait to see him as part of this group and to experience the give and take vibe that this type of intense collaboration requires.   With over 15 songs on the program, with plenty of opportunity for improvisation from all four of the players, it’s bound to be a goat rodeo to beat all.

Members of the Goat Rodeo Sessions—cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolinist Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan— performing “Attaboy,” from the Goat Rodeo Sessions Live.  

The Goat Rodeo Sessions performs at Google New York in 2011 (Presented by Google on YouTube)

Details:  Goat Rodeo Sessions is Friday, August 23, 2013, at 7:30 PM at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.

Ticket Availability:  As of Tuesday (August 20, 2013) there were approximately 100 Table Seats available at $45 and 2,000 lawn places available at $25.  Tickets inside Weill Hall sold out almost immediately when they were listed.  There may inside seating available ($55 to $100) due to ticket returns: check with the Box Office in person 30 minutes prior to Friday’s concert.  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.edu, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The Box Office is located in the interior of the Sonoma State University campus – ticket windows adjacent to the Green Music Center are only open prior to performances.

Dining:  It is too late to order from the selection of special Whole Foods dinners.  Concessions at the Green Music Center are offered all year in the Person Lobby and during the summer on the south end of Weill Lawn. Offering everything from small bites to full meals, the concession offerings can help complete your Green Music Center experience. Guests are also welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages (unopened, must be sealed) into the venue but no alcohol.  All alcohol must be purchased on-site.

Directions: Green Music Center is 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.

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Up Wednesday, July 24, the legendary Josh Groban performs with the Santa Rosa Symphony at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall

Josh Groban has sold more than 25 million records…his music famously puts women in the mood.  He performs at Green Music Center on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, with the Santa Rosa Symphony, his only performance in Northern CA this summer.

Josh Groban has sold more than 25 million records…his music famously puts women in the mood. He performs at Green Music Center on Wednesday, July 24, 2013, with the Santa Rosa Symphony, his only performance in Northern CA this summer.

Dubbed the “love me tenor” by adoring female fans, the dreamy-voiced Josh Groban performs with the Santa Rosa Symphony, led by conductor Sean O’Loughlin, at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Wednesday, July 24, 2013.  If you haven’t been to Weill Hall yet this summer, their summer concerts start a little earlier—at 7:30 p.m.—so there’s lots of natural light hitting the hall’s golden-hued wood interior, making a gorgeous setting for a charming crooner like Groban.

Now 32, the Los Angeles native, is  well known for his inspirational hits “You Raise Me Up,” “To Where You Are,” and “I Believe” (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever) and all of his records have topped the charts.  Of late, he’s been venturing from the semi-poperatic sound that catapulted him to fame in the late 90’s and early 2000 ‘s into new territory.  His latest album, All That Echoes, is an impressive crossover into pop and rock that promptly went to No 1. On the Billboard 200 right after its February 2013 release.  He not only sings but had a hand in co-writing seven of the of the CD’s twelve songs.  He’s really all about interpretation, finding the perfect way to express himself musically.  He garnered a lot of new fans with his hilarious 2011 appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” where he sat down to the piano and set Kayne West’s insane tweets to music.  He’s also known for his incredibly down-to earth stage presence and for taking a break at his concerts to chat with audience members.

Essential Groban—

Discovery:  In 1998, at age 17, Groban’s voice teacher connected him with world-renowned Grammy-winning producer/arranger David Foster who liked him and began to use him as a rehearsal singer for many high-profile events.  His big break came when he was stand-in for Andrea Boccelli at the 1999 Grammy Awards and rehearsed Foster’s “The Prayer” with Céline Dion.  Those who heard him, like the program’s hostess, Rosie O’Donnell, immediately booked him and his career was off and running.

Recording success: His first four solo albums (Josh Groban (2201), Closer (2003), Awake (2006), Noël (2007), have been certified multi-platinum, and in 2007, he was charted as the number-one best selling artist in the United States, with over 21 million records in the nation.  He has sold over 25 million records worldwide.

Grammy:  Groban earned his first Grammy nomination in 2005 for his single “You Raise Me Up” in the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category.

Collaborations:  Recent collaborations include such artists as Sarah McLachlan, Adele, Josh Groban, Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, Hall and Oates, Gloria Estefan, the Indigo Girls, Diana Krall, Itzhak Perlman, Natalie Merchant, Chris Isaak, Blue Man Group, Pink Martini, Brandi Carlile, The Decemberists, Martina McBride, Josh Ritter, Gloria Gaynor and others.

Olympics/ Obama: On February 24, 2002, Groban performed “The Prayer” with Charlotte Church at the closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.  On January 18, 2009, Groban performed as part of the Presidential Inauguration ceremonies, performing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” in duet with Heather Headley.

You Raise Me Up

Groban’s Hilarious Spoof CD compilation of Kanye West’s Tweets

Details:  Josh Groban performs with the Santa Rosa Symphony is 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, July 24, 2013, at Weill Hall.  Tickets:  There is no remaining indoor seating.  There is outdoor and lawn seating $35-$55.  Recommend advance ticket purchase.  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.edu, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040 or in person at the GMC Box Office, adjacent to the courtyard of Weill Hall , which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and one hour before all performances.

July 20, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center | , , , | Leave a comment

Summer at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall—this evening, violinist Sarah Chang and French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet perform with Moscow’s Best, the Russian National Orchestra

French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs with the Grammy award-winning Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Montanaro at Weill Hall on Tuesday, July16, 2013. Violinist Sarah Cheng also guest solos.

French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performs with the Grammy award-winning Russian National Orchestra, conducted by Carlo Montanaro at Weill Hall on Tuesday, July16, 2013. Violinist Sarah Cheng also guest solos.

There’s a special performance at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall this evening.  As part of their summer programming, which has a particularly festive bend, GMC is partnering with Napa Valley’s Festival Del Sole in presenting the Russian National Orchestra (RNO), conducted by Carlo Montanaro, with renowned violinist Sarah Chang performing Samuel Barber’s popular Violin Concerto, and sensational pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet in Saint-Saëns’ “Egyptian” Piano Concerto No. 5, a rarely-performed gem.  The concerts starts early, at 6:30 p.m., and ample tickets are still available in most areas except the front orchestra, so tickets can be purchased right before the performance at the GMC box office which closes at 4 p.m. and then re-opens at 5:30 p.m.

The Program—

Dmitri Shostakovich / Festive Overture, Op. 96:  Shostakovich wrote this short lively piece in 1954 for a concert held at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow to commemorate the 37th anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution.  A victim of Stalin’s suppression, he worked heroically under stifling conditions but was unable to share his music.  Many music historians have posited that piece’s ebullience reflects his relief over Stalin’s departure and his ability to practice his art freely.  It is based it on Glinka’s Russlan and Ludmilla overture from 1842, and it features the same lively tempo and style of melody.  The overture was played at the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow and at the 2009 Nobel Prize concert.

Founded in 1990 by pianist and conductor Mikhail Pietnev, the Russian National Orchestra is described as “a living symbol of the best in Russian art” (Miami Herald) and “as close to perfect as one could hope for” (Classics Today).  The orchestra is unique among leading Russian ensembles in that it is a private institution funded with the support of individuals, corporations and foundations in Russia and worldwide.  The RNO maintains an active international tour schedule, appearing in Europe, Asia and the Americas and its guest artists include Nicola Luisotti, San Francisco Opera’s beloved Music Director and Renée Fleming, who opens GMC 2nd season on September 15, 2013.  The RNO is the resident orchestra of the Festival de Sole.

Camille Saint-Saëns / Piano Concerto No. 5 in F Major, Op. 103:  This concerto is nicknamed “The Egyptian” for two reasons. Saint-Saëns composed it in the temple town of Luxor while on one of his frequent winter vacations to Egypt, and secondly, the music is a synthesis of his far-flung eastern wanderings displaying influences from Javanese and Spanish as well as Middle-eastern music.  While it’s hard to imagine now, in 1872, Saint-Saëns received a large bequest from the estate of the director of the French Post Office, who expressed that a gifted composer should not have to work (as organist of La Madeleine in Paris) to supplement his income.  This bequest, together with income from royalties and performance fees, freed Saint-Saëns indulge his passion for travel.  He conducted in Moscow, London, and the United States and travelled to Egypt, Brazil, Ceylon, and Algiers.  He premiered the piece in 1896 with himself as soloist at a Jubilee Concert commemorating his debut 50 years earlier.

Thibaudet is known for coaxing the most amazing nuances from each work he performs and has recorded over 40 albums.  He has also collaborated on the soundtracks of Oscar-wining and nominated films Atonement and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.   He was just 20 when he was invited to be a guest soloist with the Napa Valley Symphony Orchestra and performed the Saint-Saëns concerto that he will be playing this evening.  For a delightful rendition of that performance and Thibaudet’s long-abiding passion for Napa Valley, click here to read L. Pierce Carson’s article in the Napa Valley Register.

Jean-Yves Thibaudet on Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 5 – The Egyptian 

Samuel Barber / Violin Concerto, Op. 14:  Commissioned by Philadelphia soap magnate, Samuel Fels for Russian violinist Iso Briselli, this controversial concerto, completed in 1939, was subsequently rejected by the Russian virtuoso.  Its tragic lyricism is in large part due to its dramatic violin parts which should find their true intense expression under Sarah Chang. Since her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the age of 8, Chang has performed with the greatest orchestras, conductors and accompanists internationally in a career spanning more than two decades.  Her latest recording of the Brahms and Bruch violin concertos (EMI, Bruch: Violin Concerto No.1 / Brahms: Violin Concerto, 2009) has been voted one of the top 250 best recordings of all time in Gramophone magazine.  If you’ve never seen Chang perform live before, you’re in for a remarkable experience.  Her intense bow strikes often seem like attacks. Her restless stage presence includes bending backwards, flipping her hair and making anguished facial gestures all while donning a body-hugging evening gown.

Sarah Chang performs Bruch Violin Concerto 3rd Movement

Sarah Chang age 12 masters Paganini’s Violin Concerto

Details:  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.edu, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040 or in person at the Box Office which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and one hour before all performances.

For more information about the Green Music Center, visit www.gmc.edu .

For more information about Festival del Sole, which runs through July 21, 2013 and presents over 60 events featuring the stars of music, dance and theatre, visit www.festivaldelsole.org .

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Fourth of July! Weill Hall gets dressed with red white and blue…

It might look like the Parthenon but it's Green Music Center's Weill Hall celebrating the 4th.  The music begins at  7:30 featuring santa Rosa Symphony and the fireworks start at 9:15 p.m.   Image: Geneva Anderson

It might look like the Parthenon but it’s Green Music Center’s Weill Hall celebrating the 4th. The music begins at 7:30 featuring Santa Rosa Symphony performing American classics. Dazzling fireworks start at 9:15 p.m. Image: Geneva Anderson

July 4, 2013 Posted by | Art, Classical Music, Green Music Center | , , , | Leave a comment

Up Thursday at Weill Hall—San Francisco Symphony performs Carter, Ravel and Gershwin, with David Robertson, conductor, and Marc-André Hamelin, piano

Marc-André Hamelin plays piano with the San Francisco Symphony at Green Music Center's Weill Hall, Thursday, May 22, 2013

Marc-André Hamelin plays piano with the San Francisco Symphony at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, Thursday, May 22, 2013

Ravel, who heard jazz in Harlem with Gershwin, was utterly dazzled by Rhapsody in Blue, which Gershwin played at a birthday party for the French composer.   The piece, composed in 1924, epitomized modern urban sophistication.  Ravel’s jazz-influenced Concerto for the Left Hand, written six years later, was created for a pianist grievously injured during the First World War.  The brooding work is held up as a brilliant distillation of Ravel’s rarely revealed sinister side. Both these pieces reflect the arrival of jazz into the concert hall.   Ravel’s La Valse (1919-20) pays homage to the Viennese waltz and suggests a furious and dark farewell to the gentility of post-war Europe.  Eliot Carter’s non-traditional Variations for Orchestra, from 1955, is not as accessible.  Nothing Carter does in this fragmentary piece is traditional.  He even varied from the traditional way of exploring variation— where a single theme was the basis of a series of contrasting variations.  Besides the official theme, which is an extended and twisting melodic line, Carter’s piece has two other melodic ideas that are subjected to bold variation: scale-like patterns of notes, one that picks up speed as it unfolds, and another that slows down.  It’s exhilarating, abrupt, fitful, and quite intriguing.   This multilayered piece has not been performed by the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 50 years!

The common thread in all of these pieces…the changing of the times!   San Francisco Symphony with David Robertson, conductor, and Marc-André Hamelin on piano, performs all four pieces in its last concert of Green Music Center’s (GMC’s) inaugural season this Thursday, May 23, 2013 at 8 p.m.

The treat: another chance to hear a world-class pianist, Marc-André Hamelin, on Weill Hall’s Steinway in what promises to be a spell-binding one-handed performance of Ravel’s Concerto for the Left Hand.  Hamelin, who made his SF Symphony debut in 2006, is the known for “hurling himself with gusto” into his performances.  We’ll expect a full display of agility, precision and passion on Thursday as he tackles the Ravel and reinvigorates Gershwin’s beguiling masterpiece, Rhapsody in Blue,  which, sadly, has been so played to death with such mediocrity that we’ve lost touch with its power.

Robertson leads Ravel and Gershwin will also be performed at Davies Symphony Hall, in San Francisco, on Wednesday, May 22, Friday, May 24 and Saturday, May 25, 2013.

Program:

Carter | Variations for Orchestra
Ravel | Piano Concerto in D major for the Left Hand
Gershwin | Rhapsody in Blue (also featuring solo by Carey Bell, Principal, Clarinet)

Ravel | La Valse

Details:  For tickets and information, call (415) 864-6000 or visit www.sfsymphony.org.

Eliot Carter talks about his “Variations for Orchestra” in an excerpt for the film Music Makes a City (2012) winner: 2012 Gramophone Award, Best DVD/Documentary

May 22, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center, Symphony | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Finally! Elīna Garanča makes her Bay Area debut at Weill Hall, Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Latvian mezzo soprano, Elīna Garanča, makes her West Coast debut at Weill Hall on Tuesday, April 8, 2013.  Photo: courtesy Elīna Garanča.com

Latvian mezzo soprano, Elīna Garanča, makes her West Coast debut at Weill Hall on Tuesday, April 8, 2013. Photo: courtesy Elīna Garanča.com

She’s graced the stages of the world’s top opera houses, notably stunning at the Met three seasons ago with her break-out role as Carmen.  She was set to have her West Coast debut with San Francisco Opera in “Werther,” fall season 2010, but unexpectedly cancelled.  The closest we’ve come to seeing her up close was catching her riveting Sesto in the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD simulcast of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito (December 1, 2012) at the Rialto Cinemas—wowing us with her opening “Parto, parto” and her Act II aria “Deh per questo istante.”  Finally!  Latvian mezzo soprano, Elīna Garanča, makes her West Coast debut in recital on at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Tuesday, April 9—her only West Coast appearance this year.  What a coup for GMC!  But it’s been quite a year for mezzos—Stephanie Blythe and Joyce Di Donato gave unforgettable performances earlier in the season.

Garanča’s rich mezzo, musicianship, and compelling stage portrayals have established her as one of the world’s newest opera stars.  In 2005, she locked in a coveted exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon.  Now, at 36, she’s in her prime.  Along with her last best-selling solo album, Romantique (2012)(works by Berlioz, Donizetti, Gounod, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Tchaikovsky, Vaccai), she has been releasing a series of glam-shots that accentuate her striking beauty and sensuality.  And like, Joyce DiDonato, who wowed us with her amazing red gown, Garanča also loves to dress up, so get ready for some amazing dresses on Tuesday!

On April 26, Deutsche Grammophon will release its recording of Metropolitan Opera’s 2009 production of Rossini’s La Cenerentola in which she sings Angelina, the opera’s central role.  Critic Steve Smith raved in a New York Times review (5.7.2009) that she was “technically flawless: her voice lustrous and even throughout her range and at any dynamic; her delivery, silken and seemingly effortless.”

Reviews of this particular performance run hot and cool. She was in recital this past Saturday at Carnegie Hall, with the same program she’s doing for GMC.  Critics praised her voice, precision and preparation but pointed to her lack of connection with the audience.  Forging that intimate connection is the factor that immortalizes a technically great singer, which Garanča already is.  The warm, intimate, and relaxed atmosphere of Weill Hall should go a long way towards taking care of that.  It’s been an elixir for the divas who’ve appeared there so far and we’ve experienced them at their finest.

Garanča’s program centers on love—a mother’s love for her newborn child, the early pangs of romance,  the solidarity of a great marriage, and the warm contentment of a bond that has matured over many years.  She’s selected three of the masters of German lieder: Robert Schumann, Alban Berg, and Richard Strauss.  The cornerstone for the recital is Schumann’s  Frauenliebe und – leben, which she said in an interview with Carnegie Hall is her current favorite lied cycle.

Program—

Robert Schumann

“Widmung”
“Der Nussbaum”
“Jemand”
“Zwei Lieder der Braut””

Frauenliebe und – leben”

INTERMISSION
Alban Berg
“Sieben frühe Lieder”

Richard Strauss
“Leises Lied”
“All mein Gedanken”
“Ach Lieb, ich muss nun scheiden”
“Meinem Kinde”
“Allerseelen”
“Heimliche Aufforderung”

Elīna Garanča introducing the romantic repertoire of her latest CD, “Romantique”

Elīna Garanča sings Mozart’s “Parto, ma tu ben mio” from “La celmenza di Tito”

Elina Garanca sings Gypsy-themed songs, introducing “Habanera,” her 2010 solo album.  

Details:  Elīna Garanča performs April 9, 2013 at 8 p.m. at Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park.  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.sonoma.edu, 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.  The Box Office re-opens one hour before the performance.

Parking: As you enter the Sonoma State University campus from the Rohnert Park Expressway, there are multiple parking lots immediately to your right. Parking Lots L, M, N and O are available for parking for GMC performances. Parking is $10.  Have cash ready.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center, Opera | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.

TICKETS AND BOX OFFICE INFORMATION:

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 www.gmc.sonoma.edu, 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

Interview: Joyce DiDonato talks about “Drama Queens,” her new concert of Baroque arias, featuring great and powerful queens—at Weill Hall tonight, Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Mezzo soprano Joyce DiDonato performs “Drama Queens” at Weill Hall on November 20, 2012.

Crowned with a Grammy Award for her last album, “Diva, Divo” and just named Musical America’s Vocalist of the Year, Joyce DiDonato enchants audiences everywhere she performs.  This mezzo soprano from Kansas has a special charm for those of us in the Bay Area though.  In 1997, she distinguished herself in San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program with her performance as Rossini’s Cenerentola and gave an unforgettable Schwabacher Debut Recital.  She returned in 2009 with a breathtaking mastery of lesser-known Spanish and Italian songs and then delighted us all last month as Romeo in SFO’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi.  Her relaxed and personable vibe, combined with that amazing voice, which seems to channel the very soul of her composers, makes for a mesmerizing diva who is also very down to earth.  DiDonato will present “Drama Queens,” her electrifying program of 17th and 18th Century arias from queens and female royals throughout history at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall this evening (Tuesday, November 20, 2012).

Performed this past weekend at Carnegie Hall to a sold-out audience, the recital is a selection from her bestselling new CD, Drama Queens.  She is joined by the Italian orchestra, Il Complesso Barocco, led by the dynamic first violinist Dmitry Sinkovsky.  This is their only West Coast appearance in a program that includes songs by composers as famous as Handel and Vivaldi and as little known as Orlandini and Porta.  The female royals represented are Berenice, Orontea, Octavia, Semiramide, Ifgenia, Armida and Cleopatra.  Didonato literally inhabits these characters bringing them to life and interacts with the orchestra and they with her to co-create something that feels spontaneous and magically alive.   I interviewed DiDonato about this exciting program—

How did the idea for “Drama Queens” come about and what’s the particular appeal of this music for you at this stage in your career?   What was your research like and how did you go about finding some of the more obscure songs on the album?

Joyce DiDonato:  I knew I wanted to return to the world of Baroque music, because I find that it gives me the freedom to employ everything that I am as an artist.  It requires great technical command, but that is only at the service of laying out grand emotions – something that I think audiences are dying to experience.  Alan Curtis, the conductor on the album and founder of Il Complesso Barocco, did the majority of the scouring of old music scores in order to unearth some of these long-forgotten gems, and I’m so grateful that he did.

What is it about the Baroque period that particularly appeals to you as a singer?  Were any of the songs in the program that you’re singing originally sung by castrati?

Joyce DiDonato:  Johann Haase’s Cleopatra (in Antonio e Cleopatra ) was written for and premiered by the most famous castrato of all, Farinelli.  It’s fascinating, because the Antonio (Anthony) in that opera was played by the Florentine contralto, Vittoria Tesi (“La Fiorentina” 1700-1775), so it somehow seemed to balance out the gender issue!  One thing I love about this music is the contrast between the pyrotechnic arias, full of dance rhythms and percussive elements, contrasted with the long, languid, limpid melodies that seem to make time mystically stand still.  (Hasse’s “Morte col fiero aspetto” from Antonio e Cleopatra (1725) is performed on the Drama Queens program and CD.)


Did the “Drama Queens” program evolve as a collaboration with Il Complesso Barocco and violinist Dmitry Sinkovsky from the start?  How did these practiced Baroque musicians inspire your performance?

Joyce DiDonato:  It was conceived with maestr Alan Curtis, whom I have worked with for over 10 years.   I’ve been singing with this orchestra for that long, as well, and so we have been inspiring each other on many exciting projects.  It’s wonderful to work with a group of 15 musicians, because everyone must listen, invest, and participate in a very active way, which gives way to a very committed performance for the audience.  (Maestro Alan Curtis and Il Complesso Barocco received the prestigious ECHO Klassik Award 2012 for best recording of the year in opera of the 17th and 18th Centuries, for “Gluck: Ezio” (Virgin Classics).

If given the chance, who’s the composer from the Baroque period you most like to travel back in time to meet and sing for? Would you have any particular questions for him about the music on the program?

Joyce DiDonato:  It would have to be Handel, which is probably the obvious answer, but what I would love to know from him is how he could have such a deep, comprehensive understanding of the female psyche.  I’ve never known another composer who understood the fierce strength, but deep vulnerability of a woman.

Many of us were privileged to hear you sing I Capuleti e i Montecchi  last month at SF Opera.   It is fun getting to step into another gender to sing a pants role?   Does it present any particular challenges?   What’s the funniest thing that happened during that production? 

Joyce DiDonato:  It’s fabulous! I get permission to step far outside the boundaries of my normal life and step inside these extraordinary characters who are allowed to suffer and love and emote in ways often frowned upon in modern society!  It is important that I believe 100% in what I’m doing so that the character can be believable ~ if I am not convinced in myself, it will never be convincing for the audience.

I know this past summer you were in Burgundy and sang at the Festival Musique & Vin au Clos Vougeot and tasted some exquisite wines from Aubert de Villaine’s famed Domaine de Romanée Conti vineyard.  And now you are in the heart of the Wine Country…What do you feel about the relation between great music and great wine?  And do you ever have a glass of wine before singing?  Will you be able to take advantage of your appearance in Sonoma County to try any special wines while you’re here? (or.. did you do that while you were here at SF Opera last month?)

Joyce DiDonato:  Oh – the experience this summer was off the charts!  It was lovely to pair the world of great music with extraordinary wine – somehow representing the best of what is possible. It was lovely to see people from all over the world gather in the middle of Burgandy and share wine, food, music and laughter!  I cannot drink before a performance, but I absolutely look forward to taking advantage of my time in Sonoma to remind myself of what is exceptional about California wine.

I understand you are very interested in photography and I’ve seen some of your wonderful photos online. With so many people looking at you and taking your picture, do you find that photography helps to take the focus off of yourself? What/who do you like to photograph? Also, has pursuing this art form somehow contributed to your understanding of music?

Joyce DiDonato:  Well, it simply lets me exercise a different set of senses, which somehow feels very balancing and nourishing to me. It has made me a better observer of life, which I think then translates into how I am able to interpret complex emotions on the stage. I do love the silence of it – and the magic of trying to capture a single moment in time that will never be repeated in the exact same way – much like a musical phrase. It drives home the idea to live fully in the present moment, which is always a welcome reminder to me.

Details: Joyce DiDonato “Drama Queens” is Tuesday, November 20, 2012, at 8 PM, at Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, at the intersection of Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill Road, Cotati, CA.

Tickets are $90 to $35 and can purchased online (click here) OR by phoning the Box Office at (866) 955-6040. Box Office hours: Monday–Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. OR In Person at the Green Music Center (same hours as above).

Parking for this Green Music Center performance is included in ticket price.  Enter via Sonoma State University’s main campus entrance or its Rohnert Park Expressway entrance (closer to GMC). Park on campus in lots L,M,N and O. For more information, visit gmc.sonoma.edu or phone 1.866.955.6040.

November 20, 2012 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Interview: Opera’s Magical Mezzo, Stephanie Blythe, talks about her new musical tribute to Kate Smith, this Saturday, at Weill Hall, and, of course, opera

 

Stephanie Blythe appears at the Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Saturday, November 10, 2012, for a musical tribute to Kate Smith. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe Kate Smith, is renowned in the world of opera for her commanding voice and for her intense immersion in the roles she chooses to sing.  Her expansive classical repertory ranges from Handel to Wagner and she garners accolades wherever she performs.  In 2009, she was named Musical America’s “Vocalist of the Year.”   This Saturday, she brings a new program honoring Kate Smith, the legendary “Songbird of the South,” to the new Green Music Center’s acoustically stellar Weill Hall.  Blythe and her accompanist, pianist Craig Terry will present “We’ll Meet Again: Songs of Kate Smith,” a part-concert, part-historical conversation that has been getting rave reviews since it was first performed last year as part of Lincoln Center’s American Songbook series.

Kate Smith (1909-1986), who never took a formal music lesson, sang for WWI troops at U.S. Army camps near Washington when she was just 8.  She went on to galvanize our nation’s spirits throughout the Great Depression and WWII with her sumptuous voice and iconic renditions of “God Bless America” and “The White Cliffs of Dover.”  She was also closely associated “When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain,” a soothing song which was based on a poem that she had written whose poignant ending, “I’m alone with my memories of you,” resonated with a war-torn America.  In her six decade career, she recorded over 3,000 songs and introduced over a thousand songs to America, over 600 of which made the hit parade.  At the height of her career, during WWII, she was one of the most popular women in America.  Ask any veteran who served in WWII about Kate Smith and you’re likely to hear a story about one of her songs that he or she holds dear.

On Tuesday, Election Day, I had the opportunity to speak with Stephanie Blythe about her interest in Kate Smith and American music and her upcoming opera performances.  She’s refreshingly direct and passionate about revitalizing interest in songs from America’s past, both on the part of audiences and young singers who have a generation of disconnection from heroic icons like Kate Smith.

Saturday’s program is a tribute and Blythe is not trying to sound like Smith, rather to honor her through her musical choices.  Those attending will come away with memories—there won’t be any commemorative programs distributed that list the songs or their lyrics because Blythe wants her audience active, participating and connected to her.  “I’ll be announcing the numbers from the podium and, believe me, most of the audience that I’ve been singing to don’t need a program.  They know this material well.”   The Kate Smith repertoire has been so popular that Blythe will do a recording of it— “things are in the works”— but there’s no release date yet.

What is the attraction to Kate Smith?  Did you grow up listening to your parents’ records of her?

Stephanie Blythe: As I was growing up and visiting my grandparents, back in the 1970’s, my grandfather played her records and listened to her on the radio.  I liked that voice of hers.  I started listening to her on my own after I started singing professionally.  I was very interested in Americana singers of that time period and I became specifically interested in her voice because she was phenomena, a natural untrained instrument, very beautiful and poignant.  I also liked the message she sent with the music she chose.  Had she sung opera she probably would have been a contralto or a very dramatic mezzo.

What’s her greatest contribution to American musical life?

Stephanie Blythe: Song wise, it’s “God Bless America” which became what it was because of her.  The song itself was written in 1918 by Irving Berlin while he was in the military but never used it for its intended purpose, a comedy show.  He sat on it and brought it out again for Kate Smith because she asked for it.  She wanted a patriotic song for Armistice Day 1938 and he re-worked it and he gave it to her.  She sang that on the radio in 1938 and it became her song.  Who knows, had she never asked him for a song, we might never have had “God Bless America.”

Kate Smith introduces “God Bless America” to America via Radio on Armistice Day, November 11, 1938

Her identification with patriotism and patriotic themes was famous and endearing.  Is it harder to be patriotic in today’s day and age?  It seems like acts of patriotism can be misinterpreted.

Stephanie Blythe: I am very patriotic and I actually feel very inspired when I sing this program.  This music brings out something very wonderful and communal.  It’s hard to be patriotic alone.  You actually need a community to be patriotic, which is not easy today because of things like the Internet, which are mainly used alone.  That’s almost the first requirement of the Internet—you connect with other people but you are basically alone when you’re doing it.  I frequently say that radio was the first social media because it connected everyone through what they were all listening to at the same time.   And that’s what is great about concerts today:  they bring people together in a wonderful way.  So, yes this is nostalgia but it’s also here and in the moment and, in that way, I feel I am being patriotic.  I’m glad I have this opportunity to bring people together.

About the program, we’re not expecting you to sound like Kate Smith but rather to honor her through your musical choices.  Are your voices at all similar?

Stephanie Blythe: Sometimes yes but, honestly, I don’t actively search for that when I’m singing.  I am singing in the same register she’s in though, so, sometimes, there is a resemblance.  It just comes from the color in our voices and that we’re both American singers.  When I’m singing some of these songs, I feel her very definite presence.  I don’t mean that in a weird way.  This is how she applied her trade and she was known through her songs and she still very much breathes life into all of these songs.

Kate Smith recorded nearly 3,000 songs during her life and made over 15,000 radio broadcasts. During one 18-hour stint for CBS radio, she sold $107 million of war bonds to help finance the war effort. When President Roosevelt introduced her to Queen Elizabeth of England in 1939, he said “This is Kate Smith. Miss Smith is America.” On May 27, 2010, the U.S. Post Office, with help from the U.S. Army, issued a stamp honoring Smith in a ceremony held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Are there any of her songs that are challenging to sing or that have challenging passages?

Stephanie Blythe:  No, that’s not what these songs are about.  Originally, these songs were written so that other people could sing them.  They were put on sheet music and available at music stores and meant to be purchased.  In those days, people had pianos or an instrument in their home and they played and sang these songs. You can interpolate challenging octaves when you want, and go higher than is naturally written, but these songs were meant for your average person.

Throughout the program, you go from talking to singing, is that hard to pull off?

Stephanie Blythe: It gets easier every time I do it but it’s not the tradition that I come from.  We don’t do that in opera.  I am very comfortable with that now.  It also depends on how the audience feels.  When the audience expects a recital, talking is not the norm, except in the end when maybe you do an encore.  But this concert is more of a cabaret than anything and it just takes practice.

Prior to Kate Smith’s repertoire, you also sang other popular music.  Can you talk a little about that?

Stephanie Blythe:  I’ve been singing music from Tin Pan Alley—basically music that was written between 1910 and 1930—in recital for a long time.  Now, I am actually doing more American popular songs in my regular recitals as a matter of course.  I believe these songs are very much part of our American song tradition and they need to be sung and people need to hear them.  I am very keen to get younger singers to sing this music too because it’s a real part of our history.

What have you heard about the new Green Music Center whose concert hall is modeled after Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall?  How much of a difference does a great concert hall make for you as a singer?

Stephanie Blythe:  I have to be honest and say that I haven’t sung this concert in a bad hall.  I’m very familiar with Tanglewood’s Ozawa Hall and have sung there many times.  I did the acoustic test for that hall before it opened.  I just did this concert in Rockford, Illinois, at the historic Coronado Theatre (now called Coronado Performing Arts Center) and actually found it was very appropriate because it was a theatre that had once heard this very music.  It will also be wonderful to do this concert in the Weill Hall because that hall is very open and seems very friendly and I think this music will lend itself quite well to that stage setting.

Prior to scheduling, had you heard anything about the Green Music Center?

Stephanie Blythe:  Only from Mr. Weill, who I met at a Carnegie Hall function, and he spoke in the most glowing terms.

Stephanie Blythe talks about Opera (live and her HD performances)

Are there any changes in your voice that you’re noticing as you mature?  I know that you’ve been adding roles to your repertory, for example, last season at the Met you sang the role Amneris in Verdi’s Aida, which required a tremendous range, with many highs and lows and a great deal of emotional depth.  You got rave reviews.  And with Ulrica, too, from Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, a role you’ve sung many times, and will reprise shortly at the Met, that part can be sung by a contralto or a mezzo.

Stephanie Blythe:  Of course, my voice is changing and I’m in my 40’s now.  The voice doesn’t really mature until you’re about 35—it’s changing constantly up until then—and lots of different thing can happen on top of that which can contribute to the voice changing.  I actually have been singing Amneris for quite some time now and Ulrica, too, for quite a while.  I find while I’m singing those roles, I’m also singing a lot of other stuff too, like early music, Handel.  I try to keep my vocal palate as wide as I can just to keep my voice very healthy.  My voice has changed and, at this point in my life. I am more in my voice than I have ever been before.  I know myself pretty well and bring that experience to these roles as well.

Stephanie Blythe will sing Ulrica, the fortune teller who drives the drama, in the Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” starting December 8, 2012. Photo: Beatriz Schiller/Metropolitan Opera

Those of us who attend the MetLive in HD productions are familiar with some of your fabulous roles.  We’ll have the chance to hear you sing Ulrica in the Met’s new production of Un Ballo in Maschera on December 8, 2012.  How are you prepping for that role and what is special about this new production? 

Stephanie Blythe:  Actually, I can’t tell you anything yet because I haven’t started rehearsing yet.  Dolora Zajick is singing the first five performances and then I come in for the final five.

I know that Fabio Luisi (Principal Conductor, Metropolitan Opera) will be conducting.  You worked together in last spring’s Ring Cycle  at the Met but this your first time to work on a new production with him.  Are you excited?

Stephanie Blythe:  Oh yes. I like Luisi very much.  First, he’s a lovely human being and a very talented singer’s conductor.  He’s very connected to the stage as well as the orchestra and that makes it a joy to work with him.

Do you watch yourself in your HD performances?  If so, what do you think?  I am also interested in the details, what you do differenty.  I am wondering if the makeup is different when you’re doing an HD performance because of the close-ups versus when it’s not being recorded?

Stephanie Blythe:  You know, I don’t do anything any differently with those HD performances than I would do any other time.  I really like the HD programming because it brings opera to difference parts of the country and the world and to those who would not ordinarily have a chance to see those shows.  I generally don’t watch them and I don’t watch myself.  I just don’t want to think about that kind of stuff when I’m performing.  I think about the audience I am singing to and I just hope that the camera can capture that.

Do they do your makeup differently?

Stephanie Blythe:  Yes they do and we’re actually not allowed to wear very much makeup at all.

Stephanie Blythe as the formidable goddess, Fricka, and Bryn Terfel as Wotan, her husband and ruler of the gods, in Robert Lepage’s groundbreaking production of Wagner’s “Das Rheingold” which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in April 2012. Photo: Ken Howard/Metropolitan Opera

We’re all thrilled with the announcement that in the next Met Season, Maestro Levine will be returning to the podium.  You’ll have a chance to work with him in Falstaff.   Are you excited about that?  

Stephanie Blythe:  I have sung Falstaff with Maestro Levine many times.  He has said to me that it is possibly his favorite show.  It’s one of my favorites too and I am very excited to have the opportunity to sing it with him again and just to share a performing experience with him again, which means so much.  I’ve been singing with him since 1995 and I always love it.  I am thrilled for the Met audiences too, who will be able to hear the orchestra under his leadership again.

Thinking about your performance in Falstaff, or those roles that you keep revisiting, how do you go about the process of figuring out how to keep a role fresh and exciting, or how you’ll sing it differently? 

Stephanie Blythe:  I don’t think anyone who sings any role in Falstaff has that concern.  Early in my career, 1996, I sang Mistress Quickly in Falstaff at the Met when I unexpectedly stepped in for Marilyn Horn who was ill.  That role has been special—it introduced me to just about every major house and I met my husband at Falstaff in Paris and I have met and worked with just about every Falstaff around.  You don’t have to work to make it fresh; it’s one of the most brilliantly written pieces in the repertoire—effervescent, exciting, and challenging musically.  The great Marilyn Horn has said there’s not a once of fat on it.  It is the leanest opera ever written with not one note out of place.  It’s also an ensemble work and whenever a new group comes together to sing it, it changes and evolves.

Do you feel the same way about the role of Fricka (wife of Woton, ruler of the Gods in Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung), which you are synonymous with, and will be singing again in Seattle Opera Company’s August  2013 Ring Cycle

Stephanie Blythe:  I’ve sung that Ring Cycle in Seattle since 2000 and I adore it and I know a lot of the people who I will be performing with.  That production is so breathtaking and so brilliantly directed.  It is sort of like coming home to do it again and it takes me no time to get back into the swing of things with that piece.  Every time you’re introduced to a new person doing a role, because their personality comes through in the drama, it makes it fresh and new and you find a whole new litany of things that are going to be different for you.  Everyone comes to the plate with something different—that’s what makes it really exciting.

Dogs are very dear to my heart and I know you have a dog too.  My dog just loved Tina Turner.  Do you sing to your dog and what’s the reaction?

Stephanie Blythe:  Agnes Gooch, my black pug, died this past August. She really loved my singing.  When I learned Fricka for the very first time, I used to bring her to my rehearsals.  She was just a puppy then and she would fall asleep to my singing and very frequently she would sit under my feet while I practiced.  She really enjoyed the sound of the piano and of my voice.  She travelled basically everywhere with me.

Details: “We’ll Meet Again: Songs of Kate Smith”  is Saturday, October 10, 2012, at 8 PM at Weill Hall, Green Music Center, Sonoma State University, at the intersection of Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill Road, Cotati, CA.

Tickets are $90 to $30 and can purchased online (click here) OR by phoning the Box Office at (866) 955-6040.  Box Office hours:  Monday–Thursday 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. OR In Person at the Green Music Center (same hours as above).

Parking for this Green Music Center performance is included in ticket price.  Enter via Sonoma State University’s main campus entrance or its Rohnert Park Expressway entrance (closer to GMC).  Park on campus in lots L,M,N and O.  For more information, visit gmc.sonoma.edu or phone 1.866.955.6040.

Stephanie Blythe’s Upcoming Performances Mentioned in this article:

Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD presentation of Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera—New Production, Saturday, December 8, 2012, 9:55 AM, with encore performance Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 1 and 7 PM,  Run time: 3 hours, 55 minutes.  Sebastopol’s Rialto Cinemas, 6868 McKinley Street, Sebastopol, CA.  (707) 539-9771.  Tickets $23 Adult and $21 Senior (62 and over). To purchase tickets, click here.

Metropolitan Opera: Verdi’s Un Ballo in MascheraNew Production.  Blyth sings the role of Ulrica for 5 performances: Tuesday, November 27, 2012, 7:30 PM; Friday, November 30, 2012, 7:30 PM; Tuesday, December 4, 2012, 7:30 PM; Saturday, December 8, 2012; Friday, 1 PM; December 14, 2012 7:30 PM.   For tickets and performance information, click here.

Seattle Opera Company’s Ring Cycle, August 4-25, 2013.  Stephanie Blyth sings Fricka, Norn.  Click here for performance information, special events and tickets.  Online Ticket presale begins Monday, November 9, 2012 at 9 a.m.

November 7, 2012 Posted by | Classical Music, Green Music Center, Opera | , , , , , , | Leave a comment