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Choral and Vocal
A SEASONAL MESSIAH WITH BALANCE AND HEFT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, December 10, 2017
The mid-December concert season seems for jaded reviewers to invariably include a Messiah performance, and perhaps a Messiah in a long string of similar and mundane performances. This was decidedly not the case when San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque mounted Handel’s eminent three-part 1742 Orato...
Symphony
ANDREW GRAMS FINDS HIS GROOVE SR SYMPHONY IN RACHMANINOFF
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 03, 2017
Last Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony concert featured two elegant and refined guests: music director candidate Andrew Grams and pianist Stewart Goodyear. Both displayed dazzling technique and consummate artistry, but Goodyear was the more consistent of the two. Some of Grams’ inconsistency may have st...
Symphony
SONIC SPLASH AND ENSEMBLE DELICACY AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 18, 2017
Franck’s wonderful D Minor Symphony is a rarity on today’s concert programs, and I can’t remember a North Bay performance in many years from any of the six resident area orchestras. So it was good to see the Sonoma County Philharmonic feature it in their Nov. 18 and 19 concerts at Santa Rosa High S...
Chamber
TETZLAFF QUARTET'S MASTERY IN MOZART AND SCHUBERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, November 11, 2017
German violin virtuoso Christian Tetzlaff presented a critically successful Weill Hall recital Feb. 18, and returned to the same venue Nov. 11 with his admirable Tetzlaff Quartet in a program of Berg, Schubert and Mozart. Clarity of ensemble has always been a hallmark of this Quartet, and contrapun...
Chamber
RAVISHING SHORT OPERAS FROM FRENCH TROUPE IN WEILL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 10, 2017
Standard Weill Hall fall and winter classical programs are pretty routine – symphonic music, chamber, solo recitals – so it was a rare treat Nov. 10 when just two works from the 17th century were gloriously presented. With such specialized compositions, period performers with commanding authenticit...
Symphony
MEI-ANN CHEN PROVES A WORTHY CONTENDER FOR SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CONDUCTING POST
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 05, 2017
These days the focus of Santa Rosa Symphony concerts is as much on the conductor candidates as on the soloists. This past weekend’s concerts featured the second of those candidates, Mei-Ann Chen, along with pianist Nareh Arghamanyan, each of whom cut an imposing figure on the stage. Chen is diminut...
Symphony
TO RUSSIA WITH BRILLIANCE
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 03, 2017
Russian pianist Denis Matsuev’s high velocity and frequently slam-bang virtuosity came to the Green Music Center last year with a thrilling and equally perplexing solo performance. So many in Weill Nov. 3 were interested to hear if his pianistic style would mesh well in a concerto, and with a fine ...
Symphony
THUNDEROUS TCHAIKOVSKY FOURTH OPENS MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Tuesday, October 31, 2017
North Coast weather is turning cool and the nights longer, ideal for Tchaikovsky’s big boned symphonies. The Santa Rosa Symphony recently programmed the Fourth (F Minor Symphony) as did the San Francisco Symphony. Norman Gamboa’s Sonoma County Philharmonic just played the Tchaikovsky First, forgoi...
Recital
RESPIGHI'S PUNGENT SONATA HIGHLIGHTS KENNEY-GUTMAN RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, October 29, 2017
Respighi’s B Minor Violin Sonata seems never to gain conventional repertoire status. Perhaps the great Heifetz recording is intimidating, and I can recall over many years just two local performances: Jason Todorov and William Corbett-Jones years go in Newman, and a titanic reading in March by Anne S...
Chamber
MIRÓ QUARTET AND JEFFERY KAHANE PROVIDE MUSICAL RELIEF FOR FIRE-RAVAGED SONOMA COUNTY
by Steve Osborn
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sonoma County’s Green Music Center has stood silent but unscathed the past few weeks as the county begins to recover from the devastating fires that began on the evening of October 8, only a few hours after a Santa Rosa Symphony concert in the Music Center. Since then, concerts by the Symphony, the ...
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