Classical music's culture alley & underworlds

  • by Philip Campbell
  • Tuesday November 8, 2022
Share this Post:
Pretty Yende will perform in 'La Traviata' (photo: Dario Acosta), <br>and Jakub Jozef Orlinski will star in "Orpheus and Eurydice," both with SF Opera.
Pretty Yende will perform in 'La Traviata' (photo: Dario Acosta),
and Jakub Jozef Orlinski will star in "Orpheus and Eurydice," both with SF Opera.

The San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center or "culture alley" on Van Ness Avenue is ablaze with activity this month. The Opera House, Davies Symphony Hall, and Herbst Theatre are presenting festive and diverse musical events as we head towards Thanksgiving.

The San Francisco Opera wraps the fall Centennial Season with two new productions, both featuring major debuts by intercontinental artists.

South African soprano Pretty Yende appears in what has become something of a signature role, that of the tragic party girl Violetta Valery in Verdi's ever-popular "La Traviata," for eight performances November 11-December 3 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Yende is on the fast track to stardom following her acclaimed performances in the role at the Paris Opera, Barcelona, Palermo, Vienna, Hamburg, London and Naples. She brings her portrayal to an American stage for the first time alongside Chilean American tenor Jonathan Tetelman and Italian baritone Simone Piazzola, also making their SFO debuts.

Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts the new staging by director Shawna Lucey (general director Opera San Jose), designed by Robert Innes Hopkins (SFO's "Tosca," "Lohengrin," "The Cunning Little Vixen."

The Company is relying on a big hit and they should be right, but there is another gem coming up Nov. 15-Dec 1 that could well prove the sleeper hit of the season.

SF Opera's 'La Traviata'  

Gluck's luxuriously melodic "Orpheus and Eurydice" rejects pointless virtuosity in favor of "a beautiful simplicity" (as the composer said). The new production by Matthew Ozawa, bold director of Beethoven's "Fidelio" in 2021, focuses on Orpheus' journey to the Underworld. Seen as a passage through the stages of grief, it resonates with present-day world trauma.

Polish countertenor (and handsome model, YouTube sensation and dedicated break-dancer) Jakub Jozef Orlinski makes his eagerly awaited SFO debut as Orpheus. With the voice of an angel and street cred with millennials, Orlinski is riding high on the renaissance of countertenor popularity.

Soprano Meigui Zhang makes her role debut as Eurydice. Nicole Heaston is Amore, the goddess of love. Conductor Peter Whelan, Artistic Director of the period instrument Irish Baroque Orchestra makes his American debut.
The Nov. 20 performance will be live-streamed at 2 pm.

A free live simulcast 'Opera at the Ballpark' takes place on opening night at Oracle Park.

A digital live-stream of "La Traviata," may be purchased Nov. 16 at 7:30pm (available for 48 hours repeat after).

Michael Tilson Thomas returns to conduct the San Francisco Symphony  

Beloved Music Director Laureate of the San Francisco Symphony Michael Tilson Thomas returns to Davies Symphony Hall for two-weeks of concerts mid-November. After 25 years of leadership from the podium and a brave journey through heart surgery, brain cancer and resulting professional fallout, he emerged from the pandemic years with characteristic resolve and commitment.

The fortnight of concerts are not his first return to DSH since he stepped down, but loyal supporters and fans cannot help but worry he might be overdoing it. The trusted maestro still knows best and if husband Joshua Robison says it is okay, let us all enjoy the reunion.

The programs are classic MTT, mixing the old and new with guest appearances by outstanding soloists.

Three performances — Nov. 11, 12 and 13 (matinee) feature French cellist Gautier Capucon in the SFS commissioned U.S. Premiere of the Cello Concerto by film and concert composer Danny Elfman (anybody remember 1980s new wave band Oingo Boingo, the theme music for "The Simpsons," or lots of Tim Burton movies?). Stravinsky opens the bill and Tchaikovsky closes it.

November 17-19 concerts include an all-Brahms program of Serenade No. 1 and Piano Concerto No. 1. Pianist Emanuel Ax (a regular onstage partner with MTT) is well suited to the mighty First and the amiable Serenade, chamber-sized with orchestral weight, will make good ballast.

cellist Gautier Capucon  

Go for Baroque
Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra welcomes Music Director Laureate Nicholas McGegan back to the podium at several Bay Area venues conducting his 1,000th performance with one of his musical fortes —French Baroque dance music— November 16-20.

The program might sound a little too niche-audience for some, but the ever-engaging McGegan has been baptizing grateful newbies and making converts for more than 35 years. The elegance and rhythmic allure of Baroque music can prove irresistible, especially in the hands of a historically informed performance pioneer.

French composers Andre Campra, Francois Francoeur are on the bill with Jean-Philippe Rameau (brilliant writer and musical theorist) whose suite of dances lends the enticing concert its name, "The Surprises of Love."
Nov. 16 at First United Methodist Church, Palo Alto.
Nov. 18 at the Herbst Theatre, San Francisco.
Nov. 19, 8pm and Nov. 20, 4pm at First Congregational Church, Berkeley

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.