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Chamber
FLORESTAN TRIO'S MENDELSSOHN AT SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Friday, March 08, 2019
Spring Lake Village’s monthly concerts usually clock in under an hour, but the March 8 Florestan Trio’s performance was more extended as so much good music was on tap for the 125 residents attending at Santa Rosa’s premiere retirement residence facility. Four short pieces made up the first half, be...
Chamber
TILDEN TRIO'S BOHEMIAN ENERGY AT DOMINICAN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 03, 2019
Hard on the heels of the Trio Navarro’s late February concert in Sonoma State’s Schroeder Hall, Northern California’s other premiere resident piano trio, the Tilden, played an equally convincing program March 3 in Dominican University’s Angelico Hall. Clearly each hall’s acoustics, stage pianos and...
Recital
24 SONGS IN A MENKE-THOMPSON RECITAL ODYSSEY
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, February 23, 2019
Sonoma County pop and country singing enjoys continued popularity but it rare to see a professional classical vocal concert announced. Diva Ruth Ann Swenson was once a local star, but she has long departed and not much virtuoso recital singing can be found in the North Bay. But the exception to th...
Chamber
UNEXPECTED ARENSKY AND MENDELSSOHN BY THE NAVARRO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
The 100 people entering Schroeder Hall Feb. 17 for a Trio Navarro concert were handed a program that appeared to feature two popular piano trios, Mendelssohn and Arensky. But continuing the Navarro’s tradition of repertoire exploration, the pieces were not the usual first Mendelssohn and first Aren...
Recital
GLOVER'S ECLECTIC PROGRAMMING HIGHLIGHT'S CINNABAR RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 17, 2019
Daniel Glover is arguably the busiest virtuoso pianist in the San Francisco Bay area, but rarely is heard in North Bay concerts. So 90 local pianophiles were anxious to hear him Feb. 17 in Petaluma’s charming small Cinnabar Theater, and they were rewarded with an eclectic program of sometimes unfam...
Symphony
MENDELSSOHN'S SCOTTISH SAVES THE EVENING IN SRS WEILL CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Monday, February 11, 2019
The audience entering Weill Hall for Santa Rosa Symphony concerts Feb. 9-11 were presented with a program that on first glance appeared a curious patchwork – a great symphony mixed with a seldom heard concerto and two disparate overtures, and a guest conductor unknown locally. Monday night’s concer...
Recital
INTRIGUING BELL-HAYWOOD RECITAL BEFORE FULL HOUSE IN WEILL HALL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, February 08, 2019
A big portion of the capacity audience in Weill Hall February 8th came to hear violinist Joshua Bell’s virtuosity, and were treated as well to splendid playing from Sam Haywood, Mr. Bell’s regular pianist since 2010. The duo performed three engaging sonatas, highlighted by Mr. Bell’s sterling techn...
Symphony
TRIPLE PLAY UKIAH SYMPHONY CONCERT AND TCHAIKOVSKY SERENADE
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, January 27, 2019
Over the years the Ukiah Symphony’s concerts have been in the Classical Sonoma Calendar sections, but rarely has this Orchestra, now in its 39th season, had a full winter season concert review. The provocative Jan. 27 program in Mendocino College’s Center Theater seemed a good reason to reacquaint ...
Symphony
JACKSON THEATER WELCOMES A NEW RESIDENT ORCHESTRA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, January 26, 2019
Moving to a permanent new performance venue can be a perilous undertaking for an orchestra, with different acoustics, the loyal audience finding the new spot and infrastructure challenges of lighting and lobby and backstage operations. In their first concert Jan. 26 in Windsor’s Jackson Theater the...
Symphony
ECLECTIC PASSIONATE PROGRAMMING AT MARIN SYMPHONY CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, January 26, 2019
The Marin Symphony’s second Masterworks concert of the 2018-19 season featured works by John Adams, Sibelius and Brahms, a masterful assembly. In a spoken introduction before the program’s first half, conductor Alasdair Neale primed the audience for the “terra incognita” of Adams’ The Chairman Dance...
OPERA REVIEW
Sonoma State University Dept. of Music / Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Zachary Gordin, conductor and continuo. Lily Bogas, Daniella Caveney, Anna Leach, Alexandria Alonso, Jennifer Silvera and Janell Balico, soprano; Rachel Levin, mezzo-soprano; Jack Adkins, baritone; Mathew Adiao, tenor; Caleb Forschen, violin; Brynn Dally, cello; Emma Webb, organ.

Daniella Caveney (l) and Lily Bogas (A. Wasserman photo)

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 university at the Green Music Center (the first was faculty member Brian Wilson’s one-act Agamemnon in 2014). For now, a second performance of Dido and Aeneas may take place next spring.

The vocal lineup was all Sonoma State students but two: Lily Bogas, a 16-year-old student at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, sang the role of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, with passion, queenly poise and a beautiful soprano voice; and soprano Daniella Caveney was brought in as a chorus member to bulk up the sound of the Chorus, which was bare-bones, numbering only five singers that were joined between duets and trios by most of the principals. It was a wise choice.

Dido and Aeneas is often presented as a concert performance, but not here. The work from 1689 was fully staged, featuring characterizations, dramatic action, mime, choreography, costumes, and set, with lighting and props. The costume of the Sorceress (black bustier, tights, cloak and a cape of dark feathers) was a standout. Dido’s lady-in-waiting’s dress was a little fancier than her sister Belinda’s dress, and because both were grooming Dido and singing to her, and there was no libretto in the program, initial confusion followed.

Purcell’s first and only true opera can be successfully scaled down, as this production showed. Joining Mr. Gordin in a tiny orchestra of four instruments were Caleb Forschen, violin; cellist Brynn Dally; and Emma Webb, organ. Ms. Webb’s organ part was her terrific evocation of a storm, which is brought on by the Witches to separate Dido and Aeneas in Act I, Scene 2.

This opera lends itself to youthful voices. The young singers' breath control and pitch accuracy were impressive. Along with Ms. Bogas’ exquisite Dido there were lovely performances by soprano Janell Balico (Belinda) and by mezzo-soprano Rachel Levin as the evil Sorceress who wants to destroy Dido. Soprano Anna Leach sang beautifully as Dido’s lady-in-waiting; baritone Jack Adkins was a handsome and conflicted Aeneas; and tenor Mathew Adiao performed a elegant aria “Come Away, Fellow Sailors,” with precise enunciation. The two Witches, minions of the Sorceress, were sung with sweet malice by sopranos Jennifer Silvera and Alexandria Alonzo.

The narrative sweep of the opera leaves something to be desired, as there are many spaces that could be filled dramatically, but the drama hinges on the passionate love that is sparked between Dido and Aeneas. Eros was not an element explored in this production as much as the supernatural. Though the story is based on Virgil’s Aenead, it’s a tale of magical manipulation and poor choices by mortals, royal though they may be.

The Sorceress’s Elf, who impersonates Mercury to convince Aeneas to abandon Dido, is a singing part for counter-tenor or mezzo-soprano. In this production chorus member Joshua Lovell as Elf/Mercury had to stand silently as the Sorceress, like a ventriloquist, delivered his message from a balcony above. This somewhat drained the moment, and it might have worked better for Ms. Levin to sing directly behind Mr. Lovell, showing that he is her creature. High points in the music were many. They included the Act I duet between Belinda and Dido’s lady-in-waiting, “Fear No Danger to Ensue”; the wonderful and sinister “The Queen of Carthage” (“Ha Ha Ha”), sung by the Sorceress, Witches and Chorus; and Dido’s glorious tragic lament “When I Am Laid in Earth”.

The audience, which included many family members and friends of the cast, gave the performers a standing ovation, and then surrounded them in the post-concert lobby with love and celebratory flowers.