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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...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
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.