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Choral and Vocal
NOBLE BRAHMS REQUIEM PERFORMANCE CLOSES SONOMA BACH'S SEASON
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Saturday, June 01, 2019
Sonoma Bach, conducted by Robert Worth, presented a truly grand finale to their 2018-19 "Light Out of Darkness" season in two sold out Schroeder Hall performances June 1 and 2. The program "A Human Requiem" was received rapturously with a well-deserved standing ovation for the main work, Brahms' ...
Chamber
THREE SONG CYCLES HIGHLIGHT VIBRANT SLV RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks-Gailey
Wednesday, May 08, 2019
An ambitious recital of vocal and piano music was presented May 8 at Santa Rosa’s Spring Lake Village by mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur. The duo engaged the enthusiastic audience with scholarly friendliness and artistry in performances of Beethoven's short cycle of six song...
Symphony
ALEXANDER TORADZE DELIVERS A LESSON IN SERENITY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, May 05, 2019
An entire concerto movement consisting of serene piano melodies over a soothing backdrop is probably not the first thing that springs to mind when seeing Shostakovich’s name on an orchestra program, but that’s exactly what pianist Alexander Toradze delivered--twice--at Sunday’s Santa Rosa Symphony c...
Symphony
MARIN SYMPHONY SEASON CLOSES WITH AUTUMNAL ELGAR AND THEATRICAL BEETHOVEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Mozart’s enchanting Overture to his opera The Magic Flute, a miniature tapestry of gems from the 1791 work, opened the Marin Symphony’s final concert of the 2018-2019 season. Under conductor Alasdair Neale, the playing of the sprightly seven-minute piece by a reduced-size classical ensemble sparkled...
Recital
SHAHAM-EGUCHI DUO'S EXCITING MUSICAL GENEROSITY IN WEILL
by Abby Wasserman
Friday, April 26, 2019
Violinist Gil Shaham may be the most modest virtuoso on the concert stage today, and it is the great music he most wishes to put forward, never himself. Generosity, a quality he is known for, was abundantly clear in Weill Hall April 26 when he performed, with pianist Akira Eguchi, a generous program...
Recital
GLITTERING PIANISM IN LI'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Piano prodigies have always been a fascination for the music public, and the greatest of them (some were Mozart, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Saint Saëns, Hofmann) went on to legendary fame. George Li, who made is local debut at a Music at Oakmont recital April 11, was a remarkable recent keyboard prodigy t...
Symphony
SO CO PHIL'S SEASON CLOSER WITH EXPANSIVE PROKOFIEV 5TH IN JACKSON
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 07, 2019
Closing their 20th season with their usual programming aplomb, the Sonoma County Philharmonic played a provocative set of concerts April 6 and 7 in the Jackson Theater, the Orchestra’s new home at the Sonoma Country Day School by the Sonoma County Airport. Local composer Nolan Gasser’s Sonoma Overt...
Choral and Vocal
SISTINE CHAPEL INSPIRATION FOR THE TALLIS SCHOLARS IN WEILL HALL
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, April 05, 2019
Returning to Weill Hall April 5 after a seven year absence, the ten singers of the Tallis Scholars brought the sacred choral tradition of Palestrina and his contemporaries to an audience of delighted music lovers. Under the direction of Peter Phillips, the 1973 founder of the group, the program was...
Symphony
AUTUMNAL SIBELIUS 7TH HIGHLIGHTS VSO'S SEASON CLOSING CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 31, 2019
Closing their 87th Season March 30 and 31 the Vallejo Symphony has moved from a single weekend concert to a set of two, and the late March response was two full houses in the charming downtown Vallejo Empress Theater. Conductor Marc Taddei opened the Sunday program with a rousing performance of B...
Recital
SHARED INSTRUMENTAL BEAUTY IN VIEAUX-MEYERS WEILL HALL CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Saturday, March 30, 2019
Exciting timbral sound and intricate counterpoint, made possible when two artists with complementary instruments play together, were richly explored by violinist Anne Akiko Meyers and guitarist Jason Vieaux March 30 in Weill Hall. Whether in close harmony, or unison, or weaving separate melodies to...
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.