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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...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
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...
OPERA REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Friday, July 15, 2016
Festival Orchestra, Alan Pollack, conductor. Directed by Erin Neff. Singers: Phil Meyer (Osmin); Chester Pidduck (Pedrillo); Nikki Einfeld (Konstanze); Molly Phelan (Blonde); Sergio Gonzales (Belmonte)

Molly Phelan (l) and Paul Thompson (r) with Seraglio Cast Curtain Call July 15

ONE-NIGHT STAND AT MMF'S ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO

by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 15, 2016

Mozart’s Opera “Abduction from the Seraglio” has a long reputation as being tough for singers, and it was with some trepidation that I entered the Mendocino Music Festival’s massive white tent July 15 to hear and see the new production from the 30th season. Not to Worry.

Conducted by Festival Artistic Director Allan Pollack, the three-act work from 1782 was staged with minimal sets and a small cast of six. As in past MMF operas the orchestra was placed behind the sets, and the tent’s direct and non-reverberation sound was fresh and live, though as in Wagner’s Festspielhaus not seeing the conductor and bow movement can seem disconcerting.

Erin Neff directed the production that was sung in the original German with English supertitles positioned in the middle of the set and long intra-aria monologues, also in English. Set lighting and costumes were minimal.

Bass Phil Meyer (Osmin) dominated the first act with antics that bordered on slapstick, with plot twists in the Turkish harem pitting Sergio González (Belmonte) against Pasha Selim (Paul Thompson) and Osmin to rescue ladies captured by ersatz pirates. Mr. Thompson had a commanding deep speaking voice and Mr. Meyer captured throughout the three acts the comic nuances of Osmin’s villainy. His legs had ample spring.

A highlight of Act II, and perhaps the entire opera, was Nikki Einfeld’s (Konstanze) extended aria “Martern Aller Arten” where she nailed the character’s romantically faithful pain and lament, and with the subsequent mundane torture scene brought down the house with loud applause. In these sections of the score Mr. Pollack drew lovely playing from the horns and timpanist Mark Veragge, and a bevy of short solos from of cello (Stephen Harrison), flute (Mindy Rosenfeld) and clarinet (Eric Kritz). In this music one could hear snippets of Mozart (other operas, the “Jupiter” Symphony) that would appear in the following decade, and Mr. Pollack made a deft selection of tempos that elegantly supported the singers.

A foil for both Osmin and Pedrillo (Chester Pidduck) was the lively Molly Phelan, playing Blonde with great panache but with pinched notes in the high treble. The famous quartet, mirroring the duos and arias “Durch Zärtichkeit und Schmeichein” and Welch Ein Geschick,” easily established for the singers and the audience of 600 that devoted and steadfast love would conquer the Pasha’s seduction demands and Osmin’s murderous threats.

Mr. González’s voice on this evening lacked a rich tenor glow but had enough projection to carry to the back of the tent, and Mr. Pedrillo’s big moments during the third act’s midnight scene, when escape for all four is at hand, was both urgent and funny. After the singer’s release from Seraglio captivity the conductor drove the music to a potent conclusion, and then joined Ms. Neff and the cast on stage for an extended ovation.

A common request for Festival listeners is to ask for repeat performances of opera productions, but alas, like in past seasons, this masterly opera was mounted just for one night. The composer surely would have demanded more.