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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
The Magic Flute / Saturday, June 11, 2016

Jacob Thompson and Morgan Harrington in Mozart's Magic Flute

FROTHY FROLICKING AT CINNABAR'S MAGICAL FLUTE

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 11, 2016

Though having just two acts, Mozart’s Opera “The Magic Flute” encompasses a jumbled fairy tale plot with complicated staging and myriad performers in demanding vocal roles. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater took up the arduous challenge of this 1791 work, among Mozart’s last, in a series of performances that opened on the June 10 weekend.

Even with intricate staging, an opera’s success usually rides on achieving a glorious performance of the score and vocal lines, and here Mozart’s composition was surely glorious, as conductor Mary Chun drew from a 12-musican orchestra placed stage right a warmly nuanced reading that never covered the singers. In fact, the singing, in an English translation by Ross Halper, was crystal clear in the intimate 115-seat theater with zero reverberation. Ms. Chun’s tempos were judicious all evening and she sculpted precise attacks and releases. The musical phrases were always supple.

Cinnabar’s annual opera is invariably extravagantly staged and this “Flute” production was no exception. Though using only one set, the wide stage was brilliantly alive with a kaleidoscopic-lit back wall and touches of bright blue and yellow lights (from designer Wayne Hovey) and Lisa Claybaugh’s period costumes fit the actors perfectly. Stage Designer Sharlyn Klein and Stage Director Elly Lichenstein fashioned a theatrical romp that paid homage to the Beatles and had copious references to 1960’s clichés and jargon. The premise for this “magical mystery tour” is the convoluted plot (originally in Egypt) that leads a pro-forma opera
hero (Tamino) and a slapstick bird catcher (Papageno) on a quest for romantic satisfaction, with many false starts, physical trials and comedic predicaments.

This lavish mounting of an opera of exceptional fantasy may not have been to everyone’s taste, as vaudeville and inane humor can easily move attention from the radiant music and slide into absurdity. But the full-house audience Saturday night loved the showy histrionics and the playoff of Las Vegas-style costumes and dance (the three ladies) with the commanding and august personage of Sarastro (bass Richard Mix) and his dutiful and stoic priests.

Well, how was the singing in this hybrid drama (“Singspiel”) that combined spoken words and snippets of arias? On the whole it was convincing and meshed well with the stage action. Tenor Jacob Thompson (Tamino) and Soprano Morgan Harrington (Princess Pamina) had the most lengthy roles, and Mr. Thompson sang with a healthy if never really lyrical voice, and Ms. Harrington’s light spinto voice had ardent charm. Both were often upstaged by the antics of Eugene Walden’s portrayal of the witless but determined Papageno, whose athleticism and clowning stole several scenes from the adjacent royalty and even the menacing Dana Pundt as Queen of the Night.

Ms. Pundt sang the flowing black-dressed Queen's famous Act II aria (Der Hölle Rache)) with the requisite power and Julia Hathaway’s bouncy interpretation of Papagena brought an equally lively response from her not-now-reluctant suitor Papageno. Their boisterous solos (Papageno's “Papagena! Papagena! Papagena!” and the “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa-Papagena!” duet) were highlights of the drama. All the frolicking came to an end with the demise of insidious Queen and her acolytes, and Mr. Mix pronouncing a stentorian blessing on the assemblage.

If a scintillating mixture of farcical stage theatrics and meticulously crafted classical-era music is attractive, and it should be, Cinnabar’s new production cannot be missed.

Additional performances, with some cast changes, are set for June 17 (8 p.m.), June 18 (8), June 19 (2), June 24 (8), June 25 (8) and June 26 (2)