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Chamber
STYLISH HAYDN QUARTETS CLOSE GREEN ROOM SERIES
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, May 9, 2021
Completing the Green Music Center’s spring series series of “Green Room” virtual concerts, the St. Lawrence String Quartet played May 9 a lightweight program of two Haydn works. Lightweight perhaps, but in every way satisfying. The G Major Quartet (Op. 76, No.1) began the music that was supplement...
Recital
ECLECTIC PIANISM IN SPRING LAKE VILLAGE VIRTUAL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, May 5, 2021
During the pandemic The Santa Rosa Symphony’s virtual concerts received their due in performance praise, but another series, Spring Lake Village, more quietly presented monthly virtual concerts to a select local audience. May 5 saw the latest event, produced by impresario Robert Hayden, and feature...
Symphony
SONIC CONTRASTS HIGHLIGHT SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SPRING PROGRAM
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, April 25, 2021
In a curious mixture of compositions, the Santa Rosa Symphony’s penultimate virtual concert of the season April 25 unfolded in ways both highly satisfying and a bit perplexing. Directed by resident Music Director Francesco Lecce-Chong, the event followed a familiar format – several contemporary wor...
Symphony
ZUILL PLAYS ZWILICH WITH SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The Santa Rosa Symphony took a cautious step toward the return of live music in their March 28 virtual concert by sharing the stage with an actual live soloist rather than an apparition. Star cellist Zuill Bailey was still masked, and his back was toward the equally masked and plexiglassed orchestra...
Chamber
ECLECTIC CELLO PIANO VIRTUAL RECITAL FROM TOMKINS ZIVIAN DUO
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, March 28, 2021
The venerable 41-year Redwood Arts Council Series in Occidental has joined the virtual recital world with low budget but artistically satisfying programs, mostly using videos filmed in the performer’s residences. March 28 saw the Tanya Tomkins-Eric Zivian duo present an eclectic program from their ...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HITS THE SWEET SPOT
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Small orchestras can inhabit a sweet spot between chamber ensembles and full orchestras, but how well they hit that spot depends on the composer's orchestration and the players' ability to project. That dependence was on full display in the Santa Rosa Symphony's Feb. 28 concert, which featured three...
Chamber
NOVEL OBOE-HARPSICHORD RECITAL FROM AIKEN DUO IN UKIAH
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, February 21, 2021
Oboe and harpsichord recitals are a rare North Bay event, even in a pandemic environment where a formal hall setting isn’t available. So it was a delight Feb. 21 to experience on the Ukiah Symphony’s website a recital by Symphony oboist Beth Aiken and harpsichordist husband Tom. The Aiken home vis...
Symphony
A HEALTHY MIX OF TRANSCRIPTIONS AND ORIGINALS FROM THE SR SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 24, 2021
Transcriptions and ascending arpeggios were the order of the day on Jan. 24, as the Santa Rosa Symphony performed uplifting works by Bach/Webern, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Marianna Martínes and Mozart. The concert video was made in Weill Hall on Jan. 9. The first transcription was Webern’s 1935 renderi...
Symphony
HEROIC EFFORT FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 13, 2020
December 13 was a rainy day, perfect for huddling indoors and watching a prerecorded “live” performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony. The program was expansive, with music from the 18th through 21st centuries, and the mood was festive, in keeping with the holiday season. There was something in the fea...
Symphony
MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
OPERA REVIEW
Sonoma State University Musicians and Dancers / Thursday, February 7, 2013
Sonoma State University Orchestra, conducted by Lynne Morrow. Danielle Cain, stage director. Soloists: Sara Sims, Canela Fulbright McCoubrey, Talia Trozzo (Vaughan Williams) and Katie Foster and Kathleen Barnes (Haydn)

Sara Sims, Canela McCoubrey and Talia Trozzo in Riders to the Sea (L. Mullins photo)

OPERATIC TWIN BILL OPENS AT SONOMA STATE

by Terry McNeill
Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two one-act operas--Haydn's "The Deserted Island" and Vaughan Williams' "Riders to the Sea"--currently being mounted by Sonoma State University's music, theater and dance departments, reflect the University's usual innovative staging and production. On the Feb. 7 opening night Person Theater's 400 seats were two-thirds filled, overwhelmingly by students. Both operas were in English and had supertitles. Is this common for our common language?

Haydn is known mainly today through his masterful symphonies, quartets and perhaps the keyboard sonatas. He wrote at least 14 operas, however, including the 1779 buff opera the buffa "l'Isola Disabitata," performed here in translation as "The Deserted Island." Conductor Lynne Morrow crafted a one 55-minute act from the original two-act version, and led a sprightly overture that with just 12 instruments resounded from the pit into the hall. The cello and bass parts (Laura McClellan and Steven Hoffman) carried well out of the pit, as did Ruth Wilson's horn playing.

Sonic problems began quickly with the appearance of sopranos Kathryn Foster and Kathleen Barnes, as the individual microphones gave an irritating electronic echo at the end of any sound above a mezzo forte. This was ultimately corrected and the singers settled down to performing the silly plot of separated spouses reuniting, and strangers about to be united, on the island of the title.

Peter Crompton's set design had low platform and large rock (the latter fits into the action as a carving stone) backed by a 20-foot round moon, with colors constantly changing. Now much happens with stage direction in this frothy opera, the scenes directed by Danielle Cain, and each vignette melds into the previous one. There is a lot of recitative and some witless stage walking as boys search for girls, and ultimately at least one girl searches for a boy.

Nonetheless, the bouncy Haydn score and deft singing were engaging. Ted Smith's Gernando, the character beached to find a lost mate, was resonantly sung, as was Ms. Barnes' Silvia with a secure top to her voice. Tenor Max Jennings (Enrico) has a small voice and not an especially colorful one for the part, but was careful to never upstage Mr. Smith as he courted the fetching Ms. Barnes, a novice in the ways of men and love.

The audience response to the final chords was raucous and clearly many of the loudest cheers came from friends of the cast. Ms. Morrow received a separate ovation.

Following intermission Vaughan Williams' 45-minute opera "Riders to the Sea" dampened any lingering Haydn frivolity. The set of this somber 1937 work depicted a seaside home of barren timbers, tattered fish netting drapes and stark Irish furniture. Material colors were drab and quickly set a depressive mood. The backdrop of the Deserted Island's first half moon had evolved into a changeable seascape, augmented by adroit lighting by designer Theo Bridant.

The cast was uniformly excellent, especially Sarah Sims' compelling singing of the daughter Nora's role and Talia Trozzo's woeful portrayal of the tragedy-struck family matriarch Maurye. In the early sections of the opera the composer introduces an ascending short leitmotif that precedes many of the short recitatives, and reflects the crushing series of deaths at sea that has been the family's fate. The piano, played by Yvonne Wormer, and Julia Harrell's percussion performance were stellar parts of the evocative sound Ms. Morrow's clear beat drew from the orchestra.

Seemingly innocuous events in this drama impacted the psychology of the singers, from Ms. Sims and Canela Fullbright McCoubrey folding laundry while speaking of their dead brother, to the penetrating look Ms. Trozzo gave to her last son Bartley, departing for his ride to the sea and his demise. A nine-woman chorus, swathed in heavy red cloaks that made them appear almost as apparitions, added to the vocal fabric in melisma. The play of ethereal orchestral sound, the lamenting chorus, Daniel Celidore's mournful oboe solo and Ms. Trozzo's palpable anguish were powerfully present over the last section of the opera. The wash of the sea, through the auditorium's speakers, was a benediction.

The ovation that followed, students recognizing cast members and being moved by the dark tableau, was loud and perhaps slightly incongruous given the stark drama they had just witnessed.

Additional production dates and times are listed in the Calendar tab at www.classicalsonoma.org, including a Feb. 13 matinee performance