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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
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.