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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 ...
Symphony
CONDUCTOR PLAYOFFS BEGIN IN SANTA ROSA
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 08, 2017
The Santa Rosa Symphony is calling 2017-18 “a choice season” because the next few months offer the audience and the symphony’s board of directors a chance to choose a new conductor from a pool of five candidates. Each candidate will lead a three-concert weekend set this fall and winter, with a final...
Recital
PIANISTIC COMMAND IN SCHROEDER RECITAL
by Lee Ormasa
Sunday, October 08, 2017
Nikolay Khozyainov’s Oct. 8 debut at the Green Music Center’s Schroeder Hall was one of those rare moments in a young artist’s career when a performance approaches perfection. From the opening notes of Beethoven’s A-Flat Major Sonata (Op. 110) through a delightful recital ending transcription, 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.