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Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
OPERA REVIEW
Cinnabar Theater / Saturday, June 13, 2015
Mary Chun, conductor. For cast see June 12 entry

Jo Vincent Parks as Sir John Falstaff June 12 (E. Chazankin Photo)

SIR JOHN'S VISUAL FEAST IN CINNABAR THEATER FALSTAFF PRODUCTION

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 13, 2015

Verdi’s operas tend to have a visceral impact on listeners, the connection forged by emphasizing starkly realistic human emotions and glorious tunes for singers and richly hued orchestra writing. But not in his last opera written in 1893: Falstaff.

In only the Italian master's second comedy, Falstaff can seem at well over two hours drawn out and lacking the catchy melodies of the operas Rigoletto, Aida or Ernani. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater production began June 12, running for nine performances to June 28, and on opening night overcame the familiar with a brilliantly conceived production that featured theatrical rather than musical splendor. It was a different kind of Falstaff.

The cast was strong, led by Jo Vincent Parks as the insouciant Sir John, Eileen Morris’s Alice Ford, veteran Cinnabar artist William Neely as Alice’s husband, Krista Wigle as Mrs. Quickly, and Scott Joiner and Aurélie Veruni as the young lovers Fenton and Nannetta. And the production was large, combining 23 singing roles with a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Cinnabar Music Director Mary Chun.

Sonic balances through the three acts in the small hall were mostly good, the orchestra occasionally covering the singers, but never Mr. Parks stentorian baritone, Ms. Morris’ soprano or Mr. Neely’s paced and agile baritone. In many ways the women’s roles upstaged those of the men, and Ms. Wigle and Kim Anderman (Meg) added as much comedy as Mr. Parks with his pratfalls and pomposity, and his groupies Bardolf and Pistol (Ted Zoldan and Sepp Hammer). Throughout the opera Falstaff is pummeled, derided, thrown into a huge laundry basket, and finally unceremoniously tossed into the river after being constantly tricked by four savvy women that know the territory far better than he does. But in Mr. Park’s interpretation he survives physical and emotional upsets to achieve a small triumph, where at the end he declaims the world is folly and people are simply figures of mirth.

In this unique production, the first Falstaff on the North Coast in many years, there is a novel development. Stage Director Elly Lichenstein has fashioned a glittering visual drama, full of busy choreography and vaudeville touches, but as the acts unfold the opera’s core impact moved from the audio to the visual. The subtlety of Verdi’s urbane music faded into to the background of farcical revelry and evocative stage sets. The secretive sliding windows in the back wall location allowed pungent vocal “asides” to be rapidly delivered and kept interest centered on the dramaturgy and Sir John's foolish amorous ambitions.

This is not to say the beguiling score was not well presented, as Ms. Chun deftly controlled the string sound and contrasting colors from percussion, winds and even chimes (12 of them) when Falstaff in costume is moving to an anticipated assignation with Alice Ford. First violinist Claire-Jeanne Martin played graceful solos, string tremolos and horn calls highlighted the drama, and Steven Hoffmann (bass viol) and keyboardist Michael Anthony Schuler provided sonorous continuo support.

Costumes in this production, designed by Lisa Eldredge, were exemplary and especially extravagant in Scene Two of the Third Act and worn throughout by Mr. Parks and Ms. Wigle. They were delightfully outrageous costumes, in the Cinnabar tradition, as the production set in the 1950s featured bright orange, pink and blue tints on dresses, pants and even shoes.

Eileen Morris in the role of Alice was an organizing force in the group conspiring to bring Sir John Falstaff to his comeuppance, and she captured the bit of devil in the role. The part of Meg is not so prominent, though Ms. Anderman aided Ms. Wigle in moving the uninhibited slapstick forward. It was a performance without extended arias, save for Mr. Neely's Act 2, Scene 1 solo, Mr. Joiner’s lyrical singing that began Act 3, and Ms.
Veruni's fetching "Queen of the Fairies" aria in Act 3.

Cinnabar has a sparkling history of adding new twists to conventional opera plots, always in English, and connecting trenchantly with the audience. This Falstaff production meets a high professional standard and the packed opening-night audience applauded with gusto.