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Chamber
KODALY DUO TRUMPS POPULAR MENDELSSOHN TRIO AT SLV CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, June 21, 2017
It’s not really a secret, but Sonoma County’s best chamber music series is one without much notoriety or publicity. The concerts at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village programs are only for residents and a few invited guests. Impresario Robert Hayden years ago honed his producer skills as founder of ...
Recital
DEMANDING VIOLIN SONATAS CONQUERED BY BEILMAN-WEISS DUO IN SCHROEDER
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 14, 2017
Violinist Benjamin Beilman’s ravishing Mozart performance at last summer’s Weill Hall ChamberFest finale lured an enthusiastic crowd to Schroeder Hall May 14 to hear if his secure virtuosity was up to a program of demanding sonatas. He did not disappoint. With the powerful pianist Orion Weiss in t...
Symphony
SOVIETS INVADE WEILL HALL, TAKE NO PRISONERS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 07, 2017
Bruno Ferrandis may be French, but he excels in Soviet repertoire. His Slavonic expertise was more than amply demonstrated at the Santa Rosa Symphony’s May 7 concert, where the program began joyfully with Khachaturian’s ballet suite from “Masquerade,” surged forward with Prokofiev’s second violin co...
Recital
MASTERFUL PIANISM IN GOODE'S WEILL HALL RECITAL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, May 05, 2017
Pianist Richard Goode programmed an evening of treasures May 5 from four great composers, and is an artist of intimacy and intelligence, power and passion, able to go deep and to soar. Hearing Mr. Goode play this literature was a reminder of how music does indeed bridge worlds and time. Bach’s E m...
Recital
ELEGANT ORGAN SALUTE TO THE REFORMATION
by Paul Blanchard
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Organist Jonathan Dimmock presented an April 30 recital in homage to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, playing Schroeder Hall’s wonderful Brombaugh instrument. Mr. Dimmock is the organist for the San Francisco Symphony, principal organist for the Palace of the Legion of Honor and teaches at...
Chamber
NOTES AND BARS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE
by Nicki Bell
Saturday, April 29, 2017
The Hermitage Piano Trio brought exuberant musicality and sumptuous sound to a packed house April 29 in Occidental's Performing Arts Center for the last concert in the Redwood Arts Council’s 37th season. With a wide interpretive range--from lush to delicate to passionate--these three young Russian v...
Recital
SCHUMANN AND BARTOK HIGHLIGHT BRONFMAN RECITAL IN WEILL
by Lee Ormasa
Friday, April 21, 2017
Those people once addicted to the “Angry Birds” game application likely suffered an auditory flashback during the opening measures of the allegro from Bartok’s Suite, Op. 14, the opening work in Yefim Bronfman’s April 21 recital at Weill Hall. The repetitive opening figures of the Bartok were...
Symphony
HULKING MAHLER "TITAN" AT SO CO PHIL'S SEASON FINALE
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, April 08, 2017
A composer’s first symphony rarely gives a clear indication of what beautiful complexities will follow over the years. Early Mozart and Tchaikovsky are examples, and the big exceptions to this axiom are the “firsts” of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Mahler. Tackling Mahler ‘s D Major Symphony (No. 1,...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY STAYS CLOSE TO HOME
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 26, 2017
Santa Rosa Symphony concerts usually feature high-powered soloists imported from afar, but for their recent “Bring on the Strings” concert set, they stuck close to home, thrusting their principal violin, viola and cello into the limelight. The violinist (Joseph Edelberg) and the violist (Elizabeth P...
Recital
SLAM BANG SONORITY IN HAOCHEN ZHANG'S SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 19, 2017
Piano Competition winners are in ample supply, and it’s often a hit and miss proposition as to their sterling interpretative qualities. However, the quadrennial Van Cliburn Competition in Ft. Worth has continually produced top-level artists, and the 2009 winner Haochen Zhang proved a formidable per...
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.