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Recital
ELEGANT PIANISM IN WATER MUSIC CHARMS HOUSE RECITAL AUDIENCE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, September 03, 2017
A standard component of house concerts often involve listeners hearing the music but also smelling the lasagna and seeing the champagne in the adjacent kitchen. But it was not the case Sept. 3 at Sandra Shen’s Concerts Grand House Recital performance, as her riveting piano playing enthralled the sm...
Chamber
YOUNG MUSICIANS SHINE AT PIANO SONOMA CONCERT
by Lee Ormasa
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
The third in a series of four concerts by Piano Sonoma artists in residence, part of the Vino and Vibrato Series, was held August 1 in Schroeder Hall at the Green Music Center. Entitled “The Masters,” the program included works by Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and Haydn. Piano Sonoma is a summer artist-in...
Chamber
THRILLING PROGRAM CLOSES VOM CHAMBER FESTIVAL AT HANNA CENTER
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, July 30, 2017
The finale of the two-week Valley of the Moon Music Festival closed July 30 with “The Age of Bravura” concert at the Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. The musical selections held to this year’s Festival theme “Schumann’s World - His Music and the Music He Loved.“ This summer Festival features chamber mus...
Chamber
PERIOD INSTRUMENTAL SOUND AT PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, July 30, 2017
In the Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Festival’s penultimate concert July 30 the perennial issue of period and modern instruments was apparent. But only in the concluding Mendelssohn Trio, as the performances in the two first half works easily avoided instrumental comparisons. Clara Schumann’s t...
Chamber
ECLECTIC REPERTOIRE IN FETCHING VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 22, 2017
One of the purposes of summer music festivals is to present unfamiliar music in an attractive and often small audience setting. The Valley of the Moon Music Festival delightfully met these requirements July 22 and 23 with two concerts in the small hall at Sonoma’s Hanna Boys Center. Classical Sono...
Recital
ADAMS' PHRYGIAN GATES HIGHLIGHTS MORKOSKI FESTIVAL PERFORMANCE
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Attendees at the Molly Morkoski Mendocino Music Festival recital July 22 were in for a treat, both pianistically and if they happened to buy a tasty cookie during intermission. The program included Beethoven’s Op. 27 Moonlight Sonata, Adams’ Phrygian Gates, a surprise add-on of Grieg’s Holberg Suit...
Symphony
SOARING VERDI REQUIEM CLOSES 31ST MENDOCINO FESTIVAL
by Lee Ormasa
Saturday, July 22, 2017
We speak frequently about how there is nothing like the experience of a live performance. Seldom was this truer than at the July 22 closing performance of the two-week Mendocino Music Festival. The Festival Orchestra, conducted by of Allan Pollack, joined with the Festival Chorus in a moving renderi...
Recital
ORGAN REGISTRATION MASTERY HEARD IN WALHAIN'S RECITAL
by Robert Young
Tuesday, July 18, 2017
A group of 65 lucky attendees July 18 had the pleasure of hearing Etienne Walhain’s recital at the Church of the Incarnation in Santa Rosa. Mr. Walhain is organist at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Tournai, Belgium, and played to a varied program Bach, Franck, and Reger. He used the tonal resource...
Opera
DONIZETTI'S DON PASQUALE HAS LYRICAL CHARM IN MENDOCINO FESTIVAL PRODUCTION
by Elly Lichenstein
Friday, July 14, 2017
Mendocino Music Festival's production of Donizetti's beloved opera buffa Don Pasquale - a one-night affair July 15 that was presented in an enormous tent on a greensward overlooking the Pacific Ocean - delighted an audience of more than 600 while doing some real justice to this frothy gem of commedi...
Recital
NOVACEK'S 2ND HALF TRIFECTA SCORES AT MENDO MUSIC FESTIVAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 13, 2017
Modern classical piano recitals are in two parts, with longer and perhaps more profound music proceeding perhaps shorter and usually stimulating lighter fare. In John Novacek’s July 13 Mendocino Music Festival recital the best playing came unexpectedly in the eight abbreviated works comprising the ...
SYMPHONY REVIEW
Sonoma County Philharmonic / Saturday, November 19, 2016
Norman Gamboa, conductor. John Kelley, baritone; Bonnie Brooks, mezzo-soprano; Mark Kratz, tenor; Ivalah Allen, soprano

Sopano Ivalah Allen

SENSUAL OPERATIC BON BONS AT SO CO PHIL CONCERT

by Alan Bloom
Saturday, November 19, 2016

Music Director Norman Gamboa never fails to come up with interesting programs for his Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts. It was all opera music for the second concert set of the 2016-2017 season Nov. 19 in the Santa Rosa High School Auditorium. From the romantic opening swells of the Berlioz’ Overture to Benvenuto Cellini, the well-rehearsed volunteer musicians gave a thrilling evening of theatrical entertainment. The tempo in the Berlioz was slower than usual, but had the benefit of increased instrumental transparency.

The powerful voice of soprano Ivalah Allen gave me goose bumps from the opening bars of Puccini's timeless aria "O mio babbino caro" from the opera Gianni Schicchi, and in just 32 bars of music the piece packs an emotional wallop from the first note. Ms. Allen captured the stage.

Probably the most famous aria from the 1877 opera Samson and Dalila by Saint-Saëns is Dalila's aria "Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" (My heart opens itself to your voice) in which she tries to seduce Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. This achingly beautiful melody was well served by the rich voice of mezzo-soprano Bonnie Brooks.

The two women then took the stage together to perform "Sous le dôme épais", the flower duet from Delibes’ opera Lakmé. I'm not sure why this aria is not performed more often; it has been used frequently in ads and films over the years and is a lovely piece. Their interpretation demonstrated once again how music can sound so much more compelling in a live concert than on a recording.

After the intermission, the concert continued with another overture, this one for Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman. A rare error, a mis-timed entrance by one of the musicians did not detract from Wagner's stirring recapitulation of the story of the sea captain cursed to sail the seas for eternity to be saved only by the faithful woman Senta. Mr. Gamboa supplied deft control to this surging music from 1843.

Due to illness tenor Mark Kratz was not able to perform one of the concert’s works,"La Fleur que tu m'avais jetée" from Bizet’s Carmen, which made an already rather short concert even shorter. However he was able to sing well collaborating with baritone John Kelley in the famous "Au fond du temple saint" from same composer’s opera Pearl Fishers. They combined acting with the singing as they embraced while singing the final lines, "Yes, let us share the same fate, let us be united until death!"

That was even more true with Mr. Kelley's performance of "Largo al factotum," the "Figaro" song from Rossini's wonderful The Barber of Seville. It's a difficult piece to sing because of the rapid-fire triplets and tongue-twisting Italian words, but he pulled it off with aplomb and an extroverted stage presence perfect for this comic aria.

The concert finale featured all four singers performing arguably opera’s most famous vocal quartet, "Bella figlia dell'amore," from Verdi’s Rigoletto (1851). The quartet sang perfectly together, each with facial and body gestures expressing their own emotions, yet with melting harmony. As is becoming traditional at Sonoma County Philharmonic concerts, they took their ensemble bows to a standing ovation.