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Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
OPERA REVIEW
Tiburon Music Festival / Saturday, June 21, 2008
Two from Tiburon

Linda Noble Brown

OPERA DOUBLE BILL IN TIBURON

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 21, 2008

Launching a fledgling music festival with two contemporary chamber operas is a little unusual, but the opening Tiburon Music Festival concert June 21 was a successful if not quite memorable event. Before 100 people in Tiburon's classy St. Hilary Church's Parish Hall, operas by Marin-based composers Ron McFarland and Vincent Stadlin were given, the latter a world premiere, with a repeat performance June 27 at 7:30 p.m. The Festival, directed by College of Marin faculty member Paul Smith, will feature five additional events, all at St. Hilary, and ending June 28.

Though written in 1968, Mr. Stadlin's opera Erik, never been mounted prior to the Festival, is a tight 35-minute exploration of the relationship of a wealthy and emotionally-constrained mother (Marin soprano Linda Noble Brown) with her son, soon to be sent to Vietnam. Singing the role of Erik was Stefan Schermerhorn, with Michael Crozier the long-abandoned, or abandoning, husband. The opera works well on a dramatic scale, though placing much of Ms. Brown's vocal line in an uncomfortable high tessitura, and frequently covered by Mr. Smith's energetic piano part. There is conflict at every turn in both acts, underscoring the mostly tonal harmonic language. Ms. Brown's voice was most comfortable in the lower registers where her fetching pianissimo and adroit phrasing carried well. The duet ending Act 1, where mother and son finally find common ground, was telling. As an orchestra of one, Mr. Smith at the piano impressively delivered the score in near darkness, indeed a feat of sight reading.

The composer, currently Music Director at St. Hilary, clearly has a strong command of theater, and one looks to future presentations of his more recent work. He was greeted with loud applause at the conclusion, with Ms. Brown receiving a diva's accolade.

Arguably Marin's best-known active composer, Ron McFarland's Tamson Donner is a reduced version of his full-length opera The Donner Party, and as in Erik, just a few vocal parts have prominence. Here, with stage orchestra of two violins, flute, clarinet and Mr. Smith's commanding piano and conducting, the dramatic range is limited but persuasive. A ten-person chorus is mute much of the time, standing silently as 'trees' in the snow-bound Sierra Nevada, where the Donner expedition is marooned and where some will perish. The role of Tamson Donner was well sung by soprano Carole Klein, tending to her exhausted husband (Boyd Jarrell) and her daughters, the latter departing for safety before the violence of the storm wrecks death and cannibalism. Thematic interplay and dissonant harmonies were contrasted with the principal's lushly romantic duet with about family, and an equally-assured threnody delicately sung by Ms. Klein, over arpeggios in the piano part, as her spouse succumbs to the cold. The composer has packed a lot into just 40 minutes, and the balance between the orchestra and singing was artful. Entrances for the orchestra were frequently ragged, understandable given the difficult sightlines to Mr. Smiths conducting from the piano at stage right. Wendy Hindley's flute solos were captivating.

Recently Mr. McFarland's music was on display at a San Francisco gala, highlighting his chamber music, songs and piano preludes, and thus it was fitting in his hometown area for this 'pocket' opera to have exposure. He is a Marin treasure, a worthy colleague to Bay area composers Wayne Peterson and Roger Nixon, all enriching our musical experience.

Both operas were the product of Contemporary Opera Marin, associated with College of Marin, with a history of producing more than 50 operas and 30 premieres. Additional information regarding the Festival is at www.tiburonmusicfestival.org and (415) 457-5226. Mention must be made of the excellent acoustics of the hall and the gratis hors d'ouvres, combining with the music to fashion a beguiling place for intimate opera. This is a Festival which should become an annual Marin event.