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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
Cinnabar Theater / Saturday, June 13, 2015
Mary Chun, conductor. For cast see June 12 entry

Jo Vincent Parks as Sir John Falstaff June 12 (E. Chazankin Photo)

SIR JOHN'S VISUAL FEAST IN CINNABAR THEATER FALSTAFF PRODUCTION

by Terry McNeill
Saturday, June 13, 2015

Verdi’s operas tend to have a visceral impact on listeners, the connection forged by emphasizing starkly realistic human emotions and glorious tunes for singers and richly hued orchestra writing. But not in his last opera written in 1893: Falstaff.

In only the Italian master's second comedy, Falstaff can seem at well over two hours drawn out and lacking the catchy melodies of the operas Rigoletto, Aida or Ernani. Petaluma’s Cinnabar Theater production began June 12, running for nine performances to June 28, and on opening night overcame the familiar with a brilliantly conceived production that featured theatrical rather than musical splendor. It was a different kind of Falstaff.

The cast was strong, led by Jo Vincent Parks as the insouciant Sir John, Eileen Morris’s Alice Ford, veteran Cinnabar artist William Neely as Alice’s husband, Krista Wigle as Mrs. Quickly, and Scott Joiner and Aurélie Veruni as the young lovers Fenton and Nannetta. And the production was large, combining 23 singing roles with a 12-piece orchestra conducted by Cinnabar Music Director Mary Chun.

Sonic balances through the three acts in the small hall were mostly good, the orchestra occasionally covering the singers, but never Mr. Parks stentorian baritone, Ms. Morris’ soprano or Mr. Neely’s paced and agile baritone. In many ways the women’s roles upstaged those of the men, and Ms. Wigle and Kim Anderman (Meg) added as much comedy as Mr. Parks with his pratfalls and pomposity, and his groupies Bardolf and Pistol (Ted Zoldan and Sepp Hammer). Throughout the opera Falstaff is pummeled, derided, thrown into a huge laundry basket, and finally unceremoniously tossed into the river after being constantly tricked by four savvy women that know the territory far better than he does. But in Mr. Park’s interpretation he survives physical and emotional upsets to achieve a small triumph, where at the end he declaims the world is folly and people are simply figures of mirth.

In this unique production, the first Falstaff on the North Coast in many years, there is a novel development. Stage Director Elly Lichenstein has fashioned a glittering visual drama, full of busy choreography and vaudeville touches, but as the acts unfold the opera’s core impact moved from the audio to the visual. The subtlety of Verdi’s urbane music faded into to the background of farcical revelry and evocative stage sets. The secretive sliding windows in the back wall location allowed pungent vocal “asides” to be rapidly delivered and kept interest centered on the dramaturgy and Sir John's foolish amorous ambitions.

This is not to say the beguiling score was not well presented, as Ms. Chun deftly controlled the string sound and contrasting colors from percussion, winds and even chimes (12 of them) when Falstaff in costume is moving to an anticipated assignation with Alice Ford. First violinist Claire-Jeanne Martin played graceful solos, string tremolos and horn calls highlighted the drama, and Steven Hoffmann (bass viol) and keyboardist Michael Anthony Schuler provided sonorous continuo support.

Costumes in this production, designed by Lisa Eldredge, were exemplary and especially extravagant in Scene Two of the Third Act and worn throughout by Mr. Parks and Ms. Wigle. They were delightfully outrageous costumes, in the Cinnabar tradition, as the production set in the 1950s featured bright orange, pink and blue tints on dresses, pants and even shoes.

Eileen Morris in the role of Alice was an organizing force in the group conspiring to bring Sir John Falstaff to his comeuppance, and she captured the bit of devil in the role. The part of Meg is not so prominent, though Ms. Anderman aided Ms. Wigle in moving the uninhibited slapstick forward. It was a performance without extended arias, save for Mr. Neely's Act 2, Scene 1 solo, Mr. Joiner’s lyrical singing that began Act 3, and Ms.
Veruni's fetching "Queen of the Fairies" aria in Act 3.

Cinnabar has a sparkling history of adding new twists to conventional opera plots, always in English, and connecting trenchantly with the audience. This Falstaff production meets a high professional standard and the packed opening-night audience applauded with gusto.