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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...
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 it’s 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 Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s 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 Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s 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 Rossini’s “William Tell” 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 Philharmonic’s 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...
Symphony
PEACE AND LOVE FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 04, 2018
Before the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 4 performance of Leonard Bernstein’s “Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” Symphony CEO Alan Silow took a moment to acknowledge the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack and to observe that music offers a more peaceful and loving view of the world. Mr. ...
OPERA REVIEW
Sonoma State University Musicians and Dancers / Thursday, February 07, 2013
Sonoma State University Orchestra, conducted by Lynne Morrow. Danielle Cain, stage director. Soloists: Sara Sims, Canela Fulbright McCoubrey, Talia Trozzo (Vaughan Williams) and Katie Foster and Kathleen Barnes (Haydn)

Sara Sims, Canela McCoubrey and Talia Trozzo in Riders to the Sea (L. Mullins photo)

OPERATIC TWIN BILL OPENS AT SONOMA STATE

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 07, 2013

Two one-act operas--Haydn's "The Deserted Island" and Vaughan Williams' "Riders to the Sea"--currently being mounted by Sonoma State University's music, theater and dance departments, reflect the University's usual innovative staging and production. On the Feb. 7 opening night Person Theater's 400 seats were two-thirds filled, overwhelmingly by students. Both operas were in English and had supertitles. Is this common for our common language?

Haydn is known mainly today through his masterful symphonies, quartets and perhaps the keyboard sonatas. He wrote at least 14 operas, however, including the 1779 buff opera the buffa "l'Isola Disabitata," performed here in translation as "The Deserted Island." Conductor Lynne Morrow crafted a one 55-minute act from the original two-act version, and led a sprightly overture that with just 12 instruments resounded from the pit into the hall. The cello and bass parts (Laura McClellan and Steven Hoffman) carried well out of the pit, as did Ruth Wilson's horn playing.

Sonic problems began quickly with the appearance of sopranos Kathryn Foster and Kathleen Barnes, as the individual microphones gave an irritating electronic echo at the end of any sound above a mezzo forte. This was ultimately corrected and the singers settled down to performing the silly plot of separated spouses reuniting, and strangers about to be united, on the island of the title.

Peter Crompton's set design had low platform and large rock (the latter fits into the action as a carving stone) backed by a 20-foot round moon, with colors constantly changing. Now much happens with stage direction in this frothy opera, the scenes directed by Danielle Cain, and each vignette melds into the previous one. There is a lot of recitative and some witless stage walking as boys search for girls, and ultimately at least one girl searches for a boy.

Nonetheless, the bouncy Haydn score and deft singing were engaging. Ted Smith's Gernando, the character beached to find a lost mate, was resonantly sung, as was Ms. Barnes' Silvia with a secure top to her voice. Tenor Max Jennings (Enrico) has a small voice and not an especially colorful one for the part, but was careful to never upstage Mr. Smith as he courted the fetching Ms. Barnes, a novice in the ways of men and love.

The audience response to the final chords was raucous and clearly many of the loudest cheers came from friends of the cast. Ms. Morrow received a separate ovation.

Following intermission Vaughan Williams' 45-minute opera "Riders to the Sea" dampened any lingering Haydn frivolity. The set of this somber 1937 work depicted a seaside home of barren timbers, tattered fish netting drapes and stark Irish furniture. Material colors were drab and quickly set a depressive mood. The backdrop of the Deserted Island's first half moon had evolved into a changeable seascape, augmented by adroit lighting by designer Theo Bridant.

The cast was uniformly excellent, especially Sarah Sims' compelling singing of the daughter Nora's role and Talia Trozzo's woeful portrayal of the tragedy-struck family matriarch Maurye. In the early sections of the opera the composer introduces an ascending short leitmotif that precedes many of the short recitatives, and reflects the crushing series of deaths at sea that has been the family's fate. The piano, played by Yvonne Wormer, and Julia Harrell's percussion performance were stellar parts of the evocative sound Ms. Morrow's clear beat drew from the orchestra.

Seemingly innocuous events in this drama impacted the psychology of the singers, from Ms. Sims and Canela Fullbright McCoubrey folding laundry while speaking of their dead brother, to the penetrating look Ms. Trozzo gave to her last son Bartley, departing for his ride to the sea and his demise. A nine-woman chorus, swathed in heavy red cloaks that made them appear almost as apparitions, added to the vocal fabric in melisma. The play of ethereal orchestral sound, the lamenting chorus, Daniel Celidore's mournful oboe solo and Ms. Trozzo's palpable anguish were powerfully present over the last section of the opera. The wash of the sea, through the auditorium's speakers, was a benediction.

The ovation that followed, students recognizing cast members and being moved by the dark tableau, was loud and perhaps slightly incongruous given the stark drama they had just witnessed.

Additional production dates and times are listed in the Calendar tab at www.classicalsonoma.org, including a Feb. 13 matinee performance