Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Operatic flights of fancy

Out There

Mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung will star in San Francisco Symphony's upcoming semi-staged production of composer Bela Bartok's macabre opera, Duke Bluebeard's Castle. (Photo: San Francisco Symphony)
Print this Page
Send to a Friend
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on MySpace!

Here's a tip on an unusual offering coming next week to Davies Symphony Hall. Music director Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony 's semi-staged production of composer Bela Bartok's macabre one-hour psychodrama opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle is coming to Davies on June 21-23. These performances will star mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung as a curious bride poised to learn some very dark truths about her new husband, Duke Bluebeard, as portrayed by bass-baritone Alan Held. The production will be directed by filmmaker Nick Hillel of film company Yeast Culture (Nitin Sawney , Akram Khan, Beastie Boys), who has created evocative imagery and unusual staging to help tell the story. Pianist Jeremy Denk opens the evenings with Liszt 's Piano Concerto No. 1, and following the concert on Friday night, June 22, John Vanderslice & Magik*Magik Orchestra perform their own musical response to the concert during a Davies After Hours party in the second-tier lobby.

From the SFS' explication of the opera: "Duke Bluebeard's Castle is based on Hungarian poet Bela Balazs' version of the story of a young wife learning about her mysterious, considerably older husband and all his secrets, unaware that exposing these secrets will cause their relationship's demise. This dark expressionist tale reveals his violent past through the opening of seven doors, behind which are blood-soaked evidence of his torture chamber, armory, treasury, garden, kingdom and a lake of tears. The final door reveals Bluebeard's previous wives, whom new wife Judith must subsequently join.

"This production had its world premiere in the UK in October 2011 by the Philharmonia Orchestra. MTT has since conducted its U.S. premiere at the New World Symphony in Miami in April 2012. Michelle DeYoung has performed the role of Duke Bluebeard's wife Judith in all of its performances. It is sung in Hungarian with English supertitles."

Cast including Chou En-lai (Chen-Ye Yuan), Mao Tse-tung (Simon O'Neill), Richard Nixon (Brian Mulligan) and Henry Kissinger (Patrick Carfizzi) in the San Francisco Opera premiere of composer John Adams' and librettist Alice Goodman's Nixon in China.
(Photo: Tim Matheson)

While we're on the opera beat, Out There was in the War Memorial Opera House for opening night of composer John Adams ' masterwork Nixon in China presented by San Francisco Opera, reviewed on this week's arts cover. It made us recall a New York Times "Dining" feature last month, about the place of food and drink in the great art of opera. Adams' Nixon "features one of the best-known feasts of modern opera, the banquet scene in which the character [Chinese premier] Chou En-lai and the American president toast each other during Richard Nixon's groundbreaking visit in 1972.

"But the historical nature of the subject would have made the details easy to provide. The Nixon Foundation has the official menu, which includes shark's fin in three shreds (sooo un-p.c.), fried and stewed prawns (the Chinese had heard Americans like shrimp), mushrooms, mustard greens, steamed chicken with coconut, almond junket, pastries, and fruits."

Well, that's a tall order to replicate onstage, but surely the banquet would be easier to stage than the state dinner in which the first President Bush threw up in the Japanese prime minister's lap. In the press room on opening night, SFO General Director David Gockley graciously offered a toast to the press corps with flutes of Napa Schramsberg generously supplied by the winery, the very same sparkling wine that was used for those diplomatic toasts in Peking, all those years ago.

Smokey Robinson has a date with the San Francisco Symphony in July.

Coming up in the summer opera season, Verdi' s Attila, and Japanese-American artist Jun Kaneko's design for an all-new production of Mozart's The Magic Flute. Right now you can see a pair of six-foot ceramic heads from Kaneko's HEADS series installed in front of the Opera House. There they will remain until November 2012. Also, the Rena Bransten Gallery (77 Grant) is currently showing a selection of Kaneko's work from his Dango series, through July 21. Info at

Coming up in the San Francisco Symphony 's Summer & the Symphony series, concerts featuring Ann Hampton Callaway with the San Francisco Symphony (July 3), the SFS 4th of July concert with fireworks (July 4, Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View), Smokey Robinson with the SFS (July 5), Cirque Musica with the SFS (July 6), SFS free at Stern Grove (July 8), Michael Feinstein and his Big Band (July 15), Tiempo Libre with the SFS (July 21; free in Dolores Park, July 22), The Wizard of Oz with the SFS (July 26, 27), Pixar in Concert (July 28, 29), and finally, Classical Mystery Tour: The Music of the Beatles with the SFS (August 2, 3). Then we're impatient for the new music season to begin!


Star personnel

1. And now for something completely porn legendary: filmmaker KG Sherman has announced the launch of a hotline about late gay porn star Joey Stefano in preparation for the upcoming documentary project Joey Stefano (whatever you want me to be). Call (951) GOT-JOEY to leave messages sharing your thoughts, memories, feelings, confessions and stories about Stefano.

"Even though Joey Stefano died in 1994, his legend has lived on," Sherman said. "Director ChiChi LaRue has warned against the number of people who might have spent five minutes with him and think they knew him. But rather than ignore these many voices, we want to hear them.

"In particular we want to hear from his fans. We want to show what it meant to be a porn star in that era, and how Joey stood out with his particular kind of star quality. The voice messages will be used as part of an audio montage in the film. Calls can be anonymous, or people can leave their contact information if they wish. Anyone who may have any personal photographs or video of Joey just being himself (Nick Iacona ) should contact us as well. People can e-mail photos to"

2. Heartfelt congratulations go to our fabulous B.A.R. colleague Jim Provenzano, whose novel Every Time I Think of You was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Gay Romance, last week in NYC.

3. Correction: In our edition of June 7, 2012, in the review of the San Francisco Ballet School 's performances, the name of the dancer Kathleen Dahlhoff was misspelled. The B.A.R. regrets the error.


Follow The Bay Area Reporter
facebook logo
facebook logo
Newsletter logo
Newsletter logo
ISSUU logo