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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
Mendocino Music Festival / Friday, July 18, 2014
Festival Orchestra, Allan Pollack, Conductor. Singers TBA

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu

A PROVOCATIVE DON GIOVANNI AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 18, 2014

At each Mendocino Music Festival a key evening is given over to a staged opera in the big tent, and last year Rossini’s frothy “Il Signor Bruschino” was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare.

Times change. Mozart’s weighty opera Don Giovanni was given a propulsive but often confusing single performance July 18 before a sold out audience in the Festival tent.

Confusion began early with masked black-robed faces roaming the semi-bare stage and Dennis Rupp, performing the wonderful Leporello role, arriving in a costume akin to the Ballet Russe impresario Serge Diaghilev: swallow white shirt, red-colored glasses, tails and huge top hat. The Don, played by Eugene Brancoveanu, appeared to be a Jack Nicholson knockoff with sunglasses, open shirt and swagger. But there was not an aristocratic swagger in sight, just jumping about the stage and sporadically running up and down the aisle. It went on from there with the first scene death of the Commandatore caused not by the rapier thrust (as it said in the ill-timed and often wrong supertitles) but by the Don ripping away the oxygen cylinder and mask from the old man that arrived through the curtain in a wheel chair.

Many in the audience presumably loved the director ‘s vision of the cutesy and titillatingly long performance, but perhaps now it’s best to turn to the meat of any operatic experience, the orchestra and the singing.

The singing, though forceful and playing to the director’s concepts, was never convincingly compelling. Tenor Sergio Gonzales, underpowered in the large space, was the most lyrical as Don Ottavio, and Masetto (unidentified in the program, and a baritone as is the Don) had vocal heft. Kelly Britt as Donna Anna, the Commandatore’s daughter, presented a character of palpable sympathy for the lecherous Don, mixed with vengeful hatred.

Success in this great opera stands or falls on the greatness of the Don’s singing and his exciting repartee with his long-suffering servant Leparello. Mr. Brancoveanu’s singing had excellent Italian diction, admirable athleticism and just a bit of the sinister. His voice was smooth in all registers but continually monochromatic and never gave this listener any notion of sly charm beneath the surface of his sexual license. The same role sung recently in the local Cinnabar Theater and Met HD Cast productions was compelling and made the Don almost likeable. Almost.

As in previous tent concerts the amplification was helpful for vocal volume and clarity of language, but it hampered sonic differentiation and made the voices of sopranos Zerlina (Adina Dorband) and a first act Donna Elvira (Youn Ryu) take on a brittle and shouting character.

Behind the minimal set Festival co-director Allan Pollack conducted with authority and generated a lively and balanced sound, though too often the playing lacked polish and tight ensemble. But it is a dramatic opera inside a busy festival and there was just a sole performance.

The evening’s program did not mention the names of the costume, lighting, choreography and set designers, and most crucially the name of the opera’s director. The woman playing continuo for recitatives was also unidentified.