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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
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.