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Geneva Anderson digs into art

Sonoma Chapter of the San Francisco Opera Guild readies for the Ring…Cori Ellison speaks Thursday at Kenwood Depot

Cori Ellison, dramaturg and consultant for Francesca Zambello's new production of the Ring cycle currently at San Francisco Opera, will lecture on Wagner's Ring cycle to branches of the SF Opera Guild. Photo: Carol Rosegg

 This Thursday, June 9, 2011, the Sonoma Chapter of the San Francisco Opera Guild will host Cori Ellison, dramaturg, New York City Opera, who will offer an in-depth look at Wagner’s Ring cycle operas.  Ms. Ellison will speak at 10:30 a.m. at the Kenwood Depot in Kenwood, CA.  San Francisco Opera Guild preview lectures bring renowned musicologists to the greater Bay Area for an in-depth look at the season’s operas.  Cori Ellison was a consultant to Francesca Zambello in the new production of the San Francisco Opera’s Ring cycle which is beginning next Tuesday, June 14 and running through July 3, 2011.  Ellison is also speaking this week at the Marin, San Jose, Peninsula, San Francisco, and East Bay Chapters of the San Francisco Opera Guild.   She will also talk about female protagonists in the Ring in an all day Ring Symposium (“Wagner’s Ring: The Love of Power, the Power of Love—Cycle 1 Symposium.”) sponsored by the Wagner Society of Northern California on Saturday, June 18, 2011.

Ellison’s talk in Kenwood will establish why Wagner’s Ring is so popular and important.  She will situate the 4 operas contextually in Wagner’s career, in European history, and in philosophical thought, also discussing his source materials.  She will introduce Wagner’s idea of “Gesamtkunstwerk” or “total work of art” that aims to make use of all or many forms of art.  She will also give signposts that the audience can grab onto throughout the production to help them get the most out of their experience, with emphasis on leitmotifs.  She will also share special details about the production based on her experience as part of Francesca Zambello’s core creative team.

“One of the wonderful things about Wagner and the Ring is that it really sparks deep thought and conversation in a way that other operas don’t,” said Ellison. “One of the biggest challenges in talking about Wagner, which I’ve done all over the country for a number of years, is that you are pretty much in a little red school house situation where some of the people are themselves experts and the others are novices.  Bridging this divide is tricky—I’ll try to find thoughts that will be of help to both groups.”

“What interests me most about Francesca’s production in San Francisco is that she has so wisely revealed the threads that speak to the American experience in particular.  Of course, every character speaks to forces within each of us, but she’s managed to make us see America too.  That’s why she’s a visionary–no one sees the big picture the way she does.”

Swedish Soprano Nine Stemme, one of the finest Wagner sopranos of our day, has received rave reviews for her Brünnhilde in the San Francisco Opera’s premiere productions of Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Francesca Zambello’s new production emphasizes the role of the spiritual feminine and Brünnhilde emerges as the true hero in the four epic dramas. Photo: Cory Weaver

“And without Wagner’s even realizing it, this is so much a story about women and the way they are treated by society and how what’s unique in the feminine can save the world,” added Ellison.  “This is not superimposed by Francesca–it’s organic in the work, but it took Francesca to see that and tease it out in this remarkable way.  It’s like looking at a vast tapestry where there are millions of details and she finds one of those details that she feels is a basic.  She shines a light on it and, of course, that leads to what she’s know for–some very psychologically probing interpretations.”  

The Sonoma guild has roughly 1,500 members, 250 of whom are active participants.  “We’ll have a turn-out for this lecture because of the group’s interest in Wagner,” said Neva Turer, who’s been running the group for several years now.   The guild’s educational component is one of its most important functions.  “We host 6 annual music education lectures for our members and the community with experts selected by the San Francisco Opera,” said Turer.  “Even if people don’t make it in to the operas themselves, they will get a lot out of these wonderful talks.  We also do education programs in about 25 local schools to provide the important foundation that they can’t anymore with all the cuts they’ve had.”

It was Turer who worked with Ky Boyd to bring the very popular Met Opera: Live in HD opera broadcasts to the (former) Rialto Lakeside Cinemas.  The series, now in its 5th season, is currently held at the Jackson Theatre at Sonoma Country Day School and is a program of the Jewish Community Center of Sonoma County by arrangement with Rialto Cinemas.  “I had to plead with Ky to get them to bring this here and I promised that we’d fill the seats,” explained Turer. “Now, it’s become a phenomenon with a life of its own.”   Attendees have had their Wagner appetites whetted this season with two ambitious Robert Lepage productions in the Met’s new Ring Cycle. Das Rheingold, which opened the 2010-11 Met Opera: Live in HD season and Die Walküre, which it closed with in May.

“We have members in our group who live for Wagner and some new ones who are excited to get into it,” explained Turer.  “We are all looking forward to this SF Opera production.  Several saw Zambello’s 2008 production of Das Rheingold in San Francisco and we’re waiting to see how it all comes off.    

In San Francisco Opera’s new production of Götterdämmerung (Act 3, Scene 2), the three Rhinemaidens—Woglinde (Stacey Tappan), Wellgunde (Lauren McNeese) and Flosshilde (Renee Tatum) are dressed in filthy gowns and are surrounded by washed up plastic bottles as they mourn the lost Rhine gold and plead with Siegfried (Ian Storey) to act now and return the ring to avoid the coming crisis. Photo: Cory Weaver.

David Marsten of Calistoga is one member of Sonoma group who has seen the Ring over 20 times and has a passion and breadth of knowledge that is inspirational.   When I called him, he was just running off to St. Helena with books and recordings to share with a member who was new to the cycle.  Marsten tries to catch all the major performances and has found camaraderie in the group.  In 2009, when his granddaughter was being born, he suddenly found himself with a spare ticket to a Ring cycle in Seattle, so he persuaded another member, who he didn’t know at the time, to spontaneously travel with him to see the performance.  He also went to the Los Angeles Opera’s cycle in 2010.

“When you’ve done this for awhile, and needless to say, you have recordings of all the major performances—you find that there’s an enormous breadth of interpretation, different versions of the same opera, and that’s exciting.  It’s amazing that Götterdämmerung, for example, can be as short as 5 ½ hours and as long as 6 ½ hours and that’s without intermission, just straight musically.   You come to the realization that this breadth can encompass very slow conducting to more rapid versions—and generally it’s all valid.  And what makes it work is that concept of Gesamtkunstwerk—a unity of the arts–when it all comes together poetically.”

“Wagner was one of the few operatic conductors who really did it all,” said Marsten.  “He wrote the story and then he put the text into a very curious verse form of the archaic German ‘stabreim’ (alliteration) which had the effect of liberating him from normal rhyme patterns.  Then, he wrote the music and created all sorts of incredible effects with a huge orchestra that he could only imagine.  In fact, in the case of the brass section, he invented three completely new instruments that didn’t exist previously—the Wagner tuba, bass trumpet and bass trombone.  The most amazing thing about this was that he imagined the sound he needed to complete the tonal range and it was written on paper and lived inside of his head for 25 years until he actually heard it in the rehearsals in 1876.   He was just a remarkable visionary…. It’s not so easy, but step by step, you enter and you begin to see that beyond the genius of the music itself, it’s all a gigantic metaphor, like a Tibetan sand mandala, that operates on many levels that you can work your way around and into.”

Marsten’s recommendation: buy and read William Cord’s An Introduction to Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.  Cord is a former music professor at Sonoma State University and has written extensively and insightfully on Wagner and the Ring

Enjoying Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung with Speight Jenkins is a 2 CD set, one per opera, of the 1954 Bayreuth performance, with each playing about an hour that presents some of the major themes and leitmotifs in the Ring.

M. Owen Lee’s (University of Toronto) Wagner’s Ring: Turning the Sky Round, an excellent introduction to the Ring cycle.

Details:  Cori Ellison will speak Thursday, June 9, 2011, at 10:30 a.m. at the Kenwood Depot, 314 Warm Springs Road, Kenwood, CA.  Admission is $10 at the door.  Refreshments will be served.  For more information, contact Pat Clothier at (707) 538-2549 or Neva Turer at (707) 539-1220.     

Visit sfopera.com/calendar and select “Ring Festival Event” from the “All Events” dropdown menu to explore upcoming events by month.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smart marketing: the de Young Museum’s foray into pay-per-view–hook ‘em by streaming a sold-out Balenciaga Symposium and later they will visit

Cristóbal Balenciaga, Cocktail hat of ivory silk satin, 1953. Originally published in Vogue, October 15, 1953. Photo: John Rawlings.

This Saturday, for the first time ever, viewers will be able to take in a long sold-out Balenciaga symposium at San Francisco’s de Young Museum without leaving their homes.  The museum is streaming the Balenciaga and Spain Symposium live at 1 p.m. and for $10 viewers can watch the simulcast on Fora.TV and access it as many times as they want until July 4, when the exhibition closes.  The move to pay-per-view makes good business sense for the museum, currently the 5th most highly attended museum in the country and known for its progressive and immensely popular shows.  

“Pay per view is the greatest way to make our collections and special exhibitions available and accessible to as many people as possible and that’s what we’re all about—education and illumination,” said John Buchanan, director FAMSF.  “We have these scholars and resources here and sharing the word in this streaming fashion geometrically multiples our audience and it will get people to come in and see the real thing.  Streaming is a logical and profitable step.”  For those of us who live in the extended Bay Area, this appetite whetter may just the enticement we need to cross the bridge for culture.  For those more distant, it puts the show and the museum high on to-do lists.  Win-win.

Museums are the newest entrants to the streaming and HD-live craze that has paid off big for the Metropolitan Opera which began simulcasting six of its operas in 2007 in select movie theatres across the country and hit pay dirt.  As Peter Gelb, the company’s managing director, stated in the New York Times (May 17, 2007) the number of people who attended Met Live performances during the first season of the program, 324,000 at $18 a piece, led him to believe that the audience for the second year of the program would reach 800,000 and actually match the audience attending the two hundred plus performances in the actual Met auditorium.  He called the simulcasts “a powerful marketing tool.”   In 2010, Gelb reported that, for 2010, 2.4 million people in 1,500 theatres in 46 countries bought tickets to the series for a gross of $47 million.  Half of that went to expenses, but still left a hefty and unheard of profit.  Gelb also reported that the series has had an enormous impact on donations, adding almost 7,000 donors to the list of Met contributors in recent seasons.  

“Embracing new technology is something we’re very proud,” said Buchanan.  “When images from museum first went online, people in the museum world were saying that people would stop coming to museums.  In fact, that proved very false and it lured people in to the museums.  This is going to have the same impact.”     

Hamish Bowles, European editor at large, Vogue, and guest curator of Balenciaga and Spain is participating in the de Young's first live streaming of a symposium this Saturday. Photo by Arthur Elgort.

For museum-goers and even those unfamiliar with the museum world, a simulcast featuring the trend-setting and enormously popular Vogue editor Hamish Bowles talking about Balenciaga might just take off big.  Bowles guest curated  Balenciaga and Spain and has already made a number of media appearances since he arrived in the Bay Area last week.  The museum’s auditorium can seat an audience of 270 and the event sold out within an hour reported the FAMSF’s communications department.  The FORA.tv option immediately makes the event accessible to an unlimited audience who can access the event at their leisure.   The de Young Museum is already one of the highest profile museums in the country.  Since it’s re-do six years ago, the latest statistics, current to 2010, show that it has attracted over 8 million visitors, and The Art Newspaper has ranked it as the 5th most highly attended museum in the country.  Pay per view could bolster its popularity, especially if the programming has the popular (and non-academic) appeal of fashion. 

Under the helm of FAMSF Director John Buchanan and FAMSF Board Chair De De (Diane) Wilsey, the de Young Museum has expanded its offerings to  a number of tremendously popular shows addressing fashion–Nan Kempner: American Chic (2007), Vivien Westwood: 36 Years in Fashion (2007),  Yves Saint Laurent (2008).  Its sister institution, the Legion of Honor, has done the same and is currently offering Pulp Fashion: The Art of Isabelle de Borchgrave through June 5, 2011.  “I firmly believe that if you buy the best that money can buy and you show the best there is to show, people will come,” said De De Wilsey.  “Fashion and art are completely intertwined and it’s been my mission to show people the very best art.  The very best designers are true artists.”

Saturday's live streamed symposium will discuss Spanish influences on Balenciaga such as painter Diego Velazquez. His portrait of the Infanta Maria-Margarita, daughter of Felipe IV, King of Spain inspired Balenciaga's famous Infanta dress. Photo: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY.

Saturday’s symposium will examine the underlying themes in Balenciaga and Spain which kicks off with a gala on Thursday and opens to the public this Saturday and runs through July 4, 2011.  The highly anticipated exhibition focuses on the remarkable oeuvre of Spanish haute couture designer Cristóbal Balenciaga.  His now iconic “balloon” skirt, “baby doll” and “sack” dresses, the 7/8-length “bracelet sleeve,” and the “dropped waist” created a new silhouette for women.  Born in 1895 in a remote fishing village in Spain, Balenciaga learned sewing and tailoring at his mother’s knee.  From this humble start, the persistent young man, opened his own fashion house in Paris in 1937 where he was greeted with immediate success.  In the years following World War II, he became one of the most influential haute couture fashion designers.   Balenciaga was a sculptor with a strong and unique vision who worked with space, the female body and fabric.  Balenciaga and Spain features nearly 120 haute couture garments, hats, and headdresses designed by Balenciaga, some of which have never been seen before.  This exhibition, conceived by American fashion designer Oscar de la Renta for a show last fall at the Queen Sofia Spanish Institute in New York, will be nearly twice as large at the de Young  and it includes 17 pieces from the private collection of Hamish Bowles.   The exhibition explores Balenciaga’s expansive creativity and is the first to focus on the impact of Spain’s art, bullfighting, dance, regional costume, and the pageantry of the royal court and religious ceremonies.  Pieces were selected from Balenciaga’s archives in France, private collections, the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, as well as from the FAMSF’s immense collection of over 12,000 textiles.

Symposium Speakers: 

Hamish Bowles, “Balenciaga and Spain: Cristóbal Balenciaga and the Power of the Spanish Identity”  Hamish Bowles, fashion journalist, is the European editor at large for the American edition of Vogue. A graduate of the Saint Martin’s School of Art and Design, Bowles worked as a fashion editor and style director for Harpers and Queen from 1984 until 1992 and then joined Vogue in 1992.

Balenciaga’s sketch for his "Infanta" evening dress clearly shows the influence of Diego Velazquez’s Portrait of the Infanta Maria-Margarita (circa 1665); from Vogue Magazine (September 15, 1939). Carl Erickson/Conde Nast Archive; © Conde Nast.

Bowles is author and co-author of several books including Vogue Living: Houses, Gardens, People; Philip Treacy: “When I Met Isabella”; and Carolina Herrera: Portrait of a Fashion Icon.  He also served as curator for the landmark exhibition Jacqueline Kennedy: The White House Years and as guest curator for Balenciaga and Spain.

Miren Arzalluz, “Cristóbal Balenciaga. The Making of the Master (1895–1936)”
Miren Arzalluz studied History at the University of Deusto (Spain) and Comparative Politics at the London School of Economics before specializing in the history of dress and fashion at the Courtauld Institute of Art. After working in various British museums, such as the V&A and Kensington Palace, she became curator at the Balenciaga Foundation in 2007. Her research covers the history of fashionable dress on the 20th century with particular emphasis on the life and work of Balenciaga. She has recently published the book Cristóbal Balenciaga. La Forja del Maestro (1895–1936), which focuses on the life and professional development of Balenciaga before establishing his haute couture house in Paris, and she is currently working on the permanent exhibition and catalogue of the new Balenciaga Museum project in Getaria, the couturier´s hometown.

Lourdes Font, “Austere Splendor: Balenciaga’s Legacy of Spanish Court Costume”
This talk is a survey of costume at the Spanish court from the late 15th c. to the late 18th c. as seen in royal and aristocratic portraits,  making connections with surviving garments and accessories and tracing the influence of this legacy on Balenciaga’s designs.
Lourdes Font is associate professor in the department of History of Art and in the M.A. program for Fashion and Textile Studies at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Among her recent publications are Fashion and Visual Art.  Font is the co-editor of and contributor to the Grove Dictionary of Art Online. She has also contributed articles and essays to West 86: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History, and Material Culture, to the Cooper-Hewitt Museum’s exhibition catalogue Fashion in Colors, and to Fashion Theory.

Balenciaga's "Infanta" evening dress; 1939. Photograph by George Hoyningen-Huene. © R.J. Horst. Courtesy Staley/Wise Gallery, NYC.

Pamela Golbin, “Balenciaga’s Designs and Development (1937–1968)”
Pamela Goblin, chief curator of the Musée de la Mode et du Textile at the Louvre in Paris, is an internationally renowned figure in the fashion industry with extensive historical knowledge of cultural and design issues. She is a leading expert in contemporary fashion and has organized landmark exhibitions worldwide. Ms. Golbin has organized more than fifteen exhibitions, including major retrospectives on iconic fashions legends such as Balenciaga and Valentino. Her latest exhibition was an award-winning retrospective of Madeleine Vionnet.

To sign up for the Balenciaga and Spain symposium, click here and you will be directed to the FORA.tv’s webpage.  The pay-per-view symposium streams live this saturday at 1 PM and is available for unlimited viewing until the exhibition closes.

Details: The de Young Museum is located at 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA.  Admission to Balenciaga and Spain is $25 adults and free for members and children 5 and under.  There is a $5 discount for purchasing tickets in advance.  Ticket includes admission to the special exhibition Olmec: Colossal Masterworks of Ancient Mexico through May 8, 2011. 

For a complete listing of the numerous special events associated with the exhibition visit its webpage Balenciaga and Spain.

March 23, 2011 Posted by | Art, de Young Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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