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GAULIST FLAVOR IN FINAL SF PIANO FESTIVAL CONCERT AT OLD FIRST
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, August 29, 2021
Final summer music festival programs are often a mix of what has come before, with the theme and even a featured composer taking a last stage appearance, with a dramatic wrap up composition. San Francisco’s International Piano Festival defied the norm August 29 with an eclectic French-flavored prog
SPARE DUO PRECEDES MYSTEROUS DUO AT DEN BOER RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 27, 2021
In a departure from usual summer festival fare Julia Den Boer played an August 27 virtual recital in the San Francisco Piano Festival’s 4.5 season with four works, all mostly quiet but all in separate ways insistently demanding of artist and listener. Throughout the 40 minutes there was nary a powe
HARMONIC COMPLEXITY IN PHILLIPS' ALL-GRIFFES RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, August 20, 2021
Charles Griffes’ piano music is similar to that of Busoni, Reger and even Poulenc, in that there is a sporadic flourish of interest with concerts and scholarly work, then a quick fade into another long period of obscurity. So, it was a delight to have an all-Griffes recital August 20 on the San F
Chamber
ONE PIANO, TWO PIANO, THREE PIANO, FORE
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Schroeder Hall was nearly full July 29 for the final pianoSonoma concert of their season, and presumably the draw and highlight for many of the 150 attending was Bach’s Concerto for Four Pianos. And that performance was probably going to be a North Bay premiere. However, it wasn’t the highl
Chamber
PENULTIMATE VOM FESTIVAL CONCERT FEATURES GORGEOUS VOCALISM
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Thursday, July 29, 2021
The 2021 Valley of the Moon Music Festival continued on July 29 with a sumptuous online offering of French songs, concluding with the second piano quartet by Fauré, Op. 45. Such a beautiful bouquet of video performances wonderfully filmed and recorded softened the disappointment of not being able to
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SIX GUITARISTS IN UNIQUE NAPA RECITAL
by Gary Digman
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The first Napa Valley Guitar Festival was held at Napa’s First Presbyterian Church July 25, and featured performances from six classical guitarists. The Church is an iconic structure in downtown Napa, its huge white presence dominating the scene, and the white theme continues inside punctuated by be
Chamber
BOGAS' TENURE ENDS IN OUTDOOR GUALALA CHAMBER CONCERT
by Iris Lorenzfife
Sunday, July 25, 2021
The preconcert call that music lovers should gather at Gualala Arts July 25 to attend the final Roy Bogas and Friends Concert was not quite as dire as it sounded. It seems that a year of Covid 19 and an 88th birthday had combined to convince Mr. Bogas that he was working too hard. But with cellist P
Chamber
CLARA SCHUMANN TRIO COMMANDS VOM CHAMBER MUSIC CONCERT AT HANNA
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, July 24, 2021
The Valley of the Moon Chamber Music Series has begun several virtual and a few live concerts in its new seventh season, some broadcast from Sonoma’s Hanna Center Hall and some in posh local venues. July 24’s video had a small live audience and a well-produced video program of three works. Titled “
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RARE LANG SONGS SPARKLE AT VOM FESTIVAL VIDEO RECITAL
by Pamela Hicks Gailey
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Unexpected pleasures are often the best. Valley of the Moon Chamber Festival presented a such a pleasure last week-a July 21 recorded performance by tenor Kyle Stegall and pianist Eric Zivian in another mini-recital (very mini-just 15 minutes!) of six songs by the nineteenth century German composer
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EXEMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MENDO FESTIVAL FT. BRAGG CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Faced with the impossibility of presenting concerts in the iconic large white tent on the bluff, the Mendocino Music Festival opted to use Ft. Bragg’s Cotton Auditorium for ten events in the abbreviated 35th season. San Francisco’s Alexander String Quartet played July 21 to a fully masked audience
OPERA REVIEW

Baritone Eugene Brancoveanu

A PROVOCATIVE DON GIOVANNI AT MENDOCINO FESTIVAL

by Terry McNeill
Friday, July 18, 2014

At each Mendocino Music Festival a key evening is given over to a staged opera in the big tent, and last year Rossini’s frothy “Il Signor Bruschino” was an audience hit but hardly comprehensive operatic fare.

Times change. Mozart’s weighty opera Don Giovanni was given a propulsive but often confusing single performance July 18 before a sold out audience in the Festival tent.

Confusion began early with masked black-robed faces roaming the semi-bare stage and Dennis Rupp, performing the wonderful Leporello role, arriving in a costume akin to the Ballet Russe impresario Serge Diaghilev: swallow white shirt, red-colored glasses, tails and huge top hat. The Don, played by Eugene Brancoveanu, appeared to be a Jack Nicholson knockoff with sunglasses, open shirt and swagger. But there was not an aristocratic swagger in sight, just jumping about the stage and sporadically running up and down the aisle. It went on from there with the first scene death of the Commandatore caused not by the rapier thrust (as it said in the ill-timed and often wrong supertitles) but by the Don ripping away the oxygen cylinder and mask from the old man that arrived through the curtain in a wheel chair.

Many in the audience presumably loved the director ‘s vision of the cutesy and titillatingly long performance, but perhaps now it’s best to turn to the meat of any operatic experience, the orchestra and the singing.

The singing, though forceful and playing to the director’s concepts, was never convincingly compelling. Tenor Sergio Gonzales, underpowered in the large space, was the most lyrical as Don Ottavio, and Masetto (unidentified in the program, and a baritone as is the Don) had vocal heft. Kelly Britt as Donna Anna, the Commandatore’s daughter, presented a character of palpable sympathy for the lecherous Don, mixed with vengeful hatred.

Success in this great opera stands or falls on the greatness of the Don’s singing and his exciting repartee with his long-suffering servant Leparello. Mr. Brancoveanu’s singing had excellent Italian diction, admirable athleticism and just a bit of the sinister. His voice was smooth in all registers but continually monochromatic and never gave this listener any notion of sly charm beneath the surface of his sexual license. The same role sung recently in the local Cinnabar Theater and Met HD Cast productions was compelling and made the Don almost likeable. Almost.

As in previous tent concerts the amplification was helpful for vocal volume and clarity of language, but it hampered sonic differentiation and made the voices of sopranos Zerlina (Adina Dorband) and a first act Donna Elvira (Youn Ryu) take on a brittle and shouting character.

Behind the minimal set Festival co-director Allan Pollack conducted with authority and generated a lively and balanced sound, though too often the playing lacked polish and tight ensemble. But it is a dramatic opera inside a busy festival and there was just a sole performance.

The evening’s program did not mention the names of the costume, lighting, choreography and set designers, and most crucially the name of the opera’s director. The woman playing continuo for recitatives was also unidentified.