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David Sloss and the Fremont Symphony proved last weekend that the rave review for the Fremont Opera's inaugural production of La Bohème last year was not the result of a fluke. This time, the fledgling but impressively talented company took on Rossini's Barber of Seville, also one of the most popular — and therefore "transparent" — operas, singing it in Italian, with English subtitles.
Music@Menlo's survey of music history arrived triumphantly at 20th Century Unlimited over the weekend. Program IV, "The Rise of Modernism," shone with rousing performances of Debussy, Stravinsky, Gruenberg, Ives, Britten, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich. The sold-out house in St. Mark's Episcopal Church was hot not only in the wake of an unusual 90-degree day in Palo Alto, but also from the heat of creative juices flowing freely all evening long.
Few rock concerts are as eventful as the Wagner-Mozart-Bach presentation at Festival del Sole last Thursday turned out to be. The news included the disruptive effects of a Presidental visit and roadblock, a serious injury to the conductor/violinist the day before the concert, and a near-catastrophic memory lapse by the pianist.
Another huge feather — Cyrano's famed plume, even — in Berkeley Opera's tiny cap, the double-bill of Béla Bartók's 1918 A Kékszakállú Herceg Vára (Bluebeard's Castle) and Maurice Ravel's 1925 L'Enfant et les sortilèges (The child and the magic spells) opened Saturday night at the Julia Morgan Theatre with a fabulous production and some kind of prestidigitation.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music's young artists went way back in time to present an opera three-and-a-half centuries old, last weekend in Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater. Richard Harrell, director of the Conservatory's Opera Theater, has bravely (and judging by the results, wisely) selected Francesco Cavalli's 1643 L'Egisto, a sensation in its time, but virtually impossible to find performed today.
Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack comes from Buenos Aires, and her home is now in San Francisco, but her future is in the great opera houses and recital halls of the world. Her Schwabacher Debut Recital Sunday only confirmed what her Merola Program appearances last year — especially in the title role of La cenerentola — clearly indicated: She is a phenomenon.
It doesn't matter how much hype is swirling around conductor Gustavo Dudamel. He is the real deal, a great all-around young talent, who consistently delivers the goods, as his debut concerts with the San Francisco Symphony last week proved.
L'elisir d'amore (The elixir of love) is not only one of most melodious and rhythmically exciting works in all opera, it also testifies to its composer's defiant humanity. Gaetano Donizetti endured many personal tragedies, including the loss of his wife in a cholera epidemic in 1837, the deaths of all three of his children shortly after their births, and a horrible, debilitating disease, which caused his mental deterioration and death in 1848.
When Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld was first performed in Paris, in 1858, the famed critic Jules Noriac, of mighty Le Figaro, stammered with delight: "Unheard-of. Splendid. Outrageous. Graceful. Charming. Witty. Amusing. Successful. Perfect ..."
West Bay Opera's current production of Così fan tutte stands tall on the twin ramparts of Barbara Day Turner's rock-solid conducting of a fair-to-middling orchestra, and Douglas Nagel's vital, if risky, staging. Combined, they made for fine musical theater, if not quite dramma per musica.
If noble titles were given as rewards for excellence, the FOG Trio would be royalty. While "FOG" also indicates the trio's connections with San Francisco, the name is formed by the players' last names: F is for violinist Jorja Fleezanis (former San Francisco Symphony associate concertmaster), O is for world traveler/San Francisco resident pianist Garrick Ohlsson, G is for San Francisco Symphony principal cellist Michael Grebanier. W is for Wow.