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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital itís easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handelís seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if itís the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcellís Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the schoolís Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossiniís ďWilliam TellĒ overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonicís Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
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.