Geneva Anderson digs into art

Tara Erraught—she came she conquered! Monday, April 22, 8 a.m.—Green Music Center 2013-14 Subscription Tickets go on sale to the public

Her career was launched with an unexpected debut, replacing an ailing colleague and scoring great acclaim as Romeo in Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” at Bavarian State Opera. The rest is history.  26-year-old Irish-born mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught has elated critics and audiences ever since.  Today’s recital at Weill Hall included songs by Dvořák, Respighi, Brahms, Wolf, Handel and Rossini.  She was last in this season’s fabulous opera line-up, part of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Vocal Arts Series, which included eight soloists.

Her career was launched with an unexpected debut, replacing an ailing colleague and scoring great acclaim as Romeo in Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi” at Bavarian State Opera. The rest is history. 26-year-old Irish-born mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught has elated critics and audiences ever since. Today’s recital at Weill Hall included songs by Dvořák, Respighi, Brahms, Wolf, Handel and Rossini. She was last in this season’s fabulous opera line-up, part of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Vocal Arts Series, which included eight soloists.

For those who missed mezzo Tara Erraught’s recital today at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, she was FABULOUS.  The young Irish-born mezzo is blessed with a huge expressive voice, blissful tone and a radiant style that enchanted the audience through two encores.  Erraught sang rarely performed songs by Ottorino Respighi and Hugo Wolf as well as Brahms, Handel and Rossini—she explained that the common thread was their engrossing stories.  The repertoire was varied and performed in German and Italian, giving a good opportunity to hear her impressive range as well as linguistic dexterity.  In the second half,  Handel’s “Dopo notte: from Ariodante and Rossini’s “Una voce poco fa” from Barber of Seville, were so enthralling that you could have heard a pin drop as the audience reveled in her dynamic and colorful voice accelerating into divinely executed trills.   This was my first time hearing her live and this repertoire and the acoustics of Weill Hall combined to create the perfect vehicle for her to display what’s so special about her singing.   She topped off the afternoon with an encore that included “Danny Boy” and the rapt audience immediately began sniffling and wiping away the tears.  What a joy to experience a young singer at the top of her game, something we’ll brag about years from now. 

Erraught’s ascent has been rapid, so much so that when the programmers at Green Music Center booked her, it was solely on the basis of her acclaim for jumping in with five-days’ notice to perform Romeo in a new production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi at the Bavarian State Opera.  She nailed it.  Since then, she’s been booked with debuts in several continents.  She is scheduled for a second North American recital tour in 2014, so you may be able to catch her then.  

In all, the GMC’s talent spotting radar has proved impeccable and that’s in large part due to Robert Cole whose connections are golden.  The inaugural season brought well-known delights—Joyce DiDonato, Yo-Yo Ma, Wynton Marsalis, and Alison Krauss—and introduced some top world musicians less familiar in these parts—Spanish world-music singer Buika and Mexican-American singer and composer Lila Downs. 

Now is the time to lock in tickets for the second season. Tomorrow at 8 a.m. (Monday, April 22, 2013), subscription tickets go on sale for the 2013-2014 season.

Green Music Center’s 2013-14 MasterCard Performance Series Season:   

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.

Subscriptions have already been offered to high-level patrons, followed by current subscribers and MasterCard cardholders.  On Monday, subscription tickets will be made available to the general public. ARThound checked with the GMC box office just before they closed on Friday and there are still plenty of great seats to be had, except for Renée Fleming, the season opener.

Opening Night Celebration, Sunday, September 15, 2013—Reminiscent of last fall’s inaugural festivities, this year’s season opener is global celeb soprano Renée Fleming, one of the world’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. There is very limited inside hall seating for this special performance. The only way to secure a ticket is to buy either a set subscription to one of the six pre-set series and purchase the concert as an add-on OR as part of the “Pick 6” package which allows patrons to select any six performances from the season lineup at a discount of 10% off single ticket prices.

Festivities will continue throughout the month of September with two additional Indian summer 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.

Descriptions of all packages and purchase options are at:

Package prices for three-concert sets range from $78 to $204 and four-concert bundles range in price from $138-$336. The “Pick 6” package allows patrons to select any six performances from the season lineup at a discount of 10% off single ticket prices. 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).

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 will go on sale this summer.


 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.

April 21, 2013 Posted by | Chamber Music, Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stealthy Soprano Nicole Cabell climbs a sink and balances on a wall in her debut at SF Opera’s “Capulets and Montagues,” through October 19, 2012

Singing on top of a sink means ditching your Christian Lacroix platforms and using those toes to grip. Nicole Cabell is the stealthy Giulietta in Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, “The Capulets and the Montagues,” which opens SF Opera’s fall season. Photo by Cory Weaver.

SF Opera’s fall season opener is Bellini’s 1830 bel canto masterpiece, The Capulets and the Montagues (I Capuleti e i Montecchi)—the doomed love story of Romeo and Juliet, but not Shakespeare’s version.  And in this production, it is Giulietta, the stunning Nicole Cabell, who does all of the work literally.  The poised soprano, in her SF Opera debut, first climbs atop a sink mounted high on a wall and delivers a lush aria and later teeters on a narrow wall and delivers another…all in the name of love.  The object of her affection is opera’s white hot mezzo, Joyce DiDonato, her Romeo.  As this 1830 opera begins, Romeo and Juliet have already met and fallen in love and there isn’t a single uplifting moment for the two young lovers.  Romeo, a Monatgue, is a real rebel and he has killed Giulietta’s brother and is on the verge of war with the Capulets, while his Giulietta (a Capulet) is engaged to her cousin Tebaldo, who is based on the character Tybalt.  Tormented Giulietta, holed up in the Verona palace, refuses Romeo’s numerous longing pleas to run away with him, offering the excuse that she cannot desert her father.  It’s only in death that the lovers are joined.  In fact this isn’t much of a love story at all—it’s more a sad commentary on being caught up in the fervor of war and the vulnerability of first love.  Bellini’s beautiful music, composed when he was just 29, and played with affecting beauty by the SF Opera Orchestra, expresses deep tenderness and pathos in the two lovers’ passionate solos and contains bloodthirsty choral parts, meant to drive home the unstoppable momentum of the war machine itself.

SF Opera opens its fall season with Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, “The Capulets and the Montagues” (“I Capuleti e i Montecchi”), the story of Romeo and Juliet sans Shakespeare. Joyce DiDonato (left) is Romeo and Nicole Cabell is Giulietta. Photo by Cory Weaver.

This Bavarian State Opera and San Francisco Opera co-production, directed by Vincent Boussard, had its world premiere at the Nationaltheatre in Munich in March 2011.  It features a sparse but confounding set design by Vincent Lemaire.  Minimalistic palace walls are illuminated with lovely Lascaux-like primitive drawings of running horses, the beauty of which is illuminated by Guido Levi’s skillful lighting but confounded by two dozen saddles awkwardly hanging down like pendant lamps over the Capulets.  These saddles, meant to remind us that battle is eminent, are much like the huge descending mirrors in Alessandro Cameo’s minimalistic set design for SF Opera’s 2011 Don Giovanni—they get very old very fast. The set also has an elegant shiny black floor which occasionally squeaked.  And then there’s the sink mounted high on one of the walls, a fixture that plays a heightened role as a platform for one of Cabell’s arias and seemed to work beautifully with minimalistic aspects of the set design.  Most confounding, to the point of annoying, was the interruption of the music and flow twice, both Act I and Act II, for changes in scenery.

The stylish costumes by Christian Lacroix, known for his use of vibant shades and textures, infused a palpabale visual energy into the angst-ridden vibe of the opera.  While it isn’t widely known outside the fashion world, Lacroix’s fashion house went into bankuptcy in 2009 and he subsequently lost the rights to design under his own name, so these gorgeous gowns, which look exceptional on the lythe bodied Cabell and supernunneries, are part of an bygone era of decadent couture that carries the name Chrstian Lacroix. (Now Lacroix, designing under the name “Monsieur C. Lacroix”, collaborates with the hihg-end Spanish chain, Desigual, known for using a kaleidoscope of colours.) The humorous Act II opening of the opera includes a scene that many men may find baffling but most women instinctively relate to—supernumeraries in confection-colored elegant Lacroix gowns slowly and somewhat noisily parade up steep metal bleachers in outrageously high Lacroix stilettos.  Just as the young lovers are hostage to doomed love, women are bewitched by stylish but impossibly cruel shoes.

What works magically is the singing and Cabell and DiDonato are very heart and soul of it.  Each is in top form, but the meshing of their voices, its exquisite tenderness, is what defines this production.   Cabell’s SF Opera debut will be long remembered. Her singing grew more sublime as the evening progressed, exemplifying what makes the bel canto repertory work: beautiful sound creatively embellished, driving home the emotion.  Her Act I aria, “Oh quante volte,” in which she longs for Romeo to return to her, was deeply melancholic.  And her acting—soulful, demented—delivered pathos in doses befitting a torn young woman.

From the minute she walked on stage, Joyce DiDonato, a former Merola participant, owned this trousers role.  She delivered an impassioned, idealistic, and highly impulsive young Romeo with an intoxicating sensuality and her expressive mezzo voice seemed capable of winning over every heart but hesitant Giulietta’s.

Here, Joyce DiDonato sings Romeo’s Act 1 aria from The Capulets and the Montagues (Paris, 2008).  Romeo has entered the palace in the guise of a Montague envoy and offers the guarantee of peace through the marriage of Romeo to Guilietta. He will leave distraught, knowing that he is an unwitting, inexorable part of the machinery of war that cannot be stopped.:

A strong supporting cast backed up the two soloists.  Albanian tenor Samir Pirgu seemed to struggle to find his sweet spot in his SF Opera debut as Tebaldo, Guilietta’s fiancé, but his singing improved as the evening progressed.  Chinese baritone and second-year Adler Fellow, Ao Li, made the most of his small role as Lorenzo, the doctor (not friar) of the Capuleti. American bass-baritone, Eric Owens was Capellio, leader of Capuleti and Guilietta’s father who, in an intense stand-off with Romeo, brashly refuses the young man’s offer to marry his daughter, setting the whole tragedy in motion.

In Vincent Lemaire’s sets for Bellini’s “I Capuleti e i Montecchi,” at SF Opera through October 19, 2012, dozens of saddles hang over the Capulets who are waiting at the palace to avenge the death of their leader Capellio’s son, who was killed by Romeo. Photo by Cory Weaver.

Riccardo Frizza, who made his SF Opera debut conducting Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia last season, again led the SF Opera orchestra in an exciting performance that was greatly enhanced by the enchanting solos of Kevin Rivard (French horn), and José González Granero(clarinet).

Details:  War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Remaining Performances:  Oct.11 (7:30 p.m.), Oct. 14 (2 p.m.), October 16 (8 p.m.), October 19 (8 p.m.) Tickets: : $22 to $340 at the Box Office, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, by phone at (415) 864-3330, or online at Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; $10 each, cash only.

Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently a 15 to 30 minute back-up on Highway 101 South from Sausalito onwards due to congestion around the toll-plaza. Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends. Recommended garages near the opera house are the Performing Arts Garage and Civic Center Garage (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

October 11, 2012 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment