Tuesday, July 31, 2018

San Diego Opera 2018-2019 Season Opener: Le nozze di Figaro

This is a truncated press release from the San Diego Opera
San Diego Opera’s 2018-2019 Season Opens with Mozart’s Beloved The Marriage of Figaro

Bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee makes anticipated Company debut as Figaro
Mezzo-sopranos Emily Fons (Cherubino) and Susanne Mentzer (Marcellina) make welcome returns to the Company
New production to San Diego Opera audiences
These performances made possible by Lead Production Sponsor Darlene Marcos Shiley
San Diego, CA – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s boisterous romantic comedy The Marriage of Figaro opens San Diego Opera’s 2018-2019 season on Saturday, October 20, 2018 at 7 PM for four performances at the Civic Theatre. Additional performances are October 23, 26, and 28 (matinee), 2018.  Assembled for the opening opera of the season is an exciting young cast including the house debut of American bass-baritone Nicholas Brownlee as Figaro. He will be joined by baritone John Moore as Count Almaviva and soprano Caitlin Lynch as the Countess, both in exciting Company debuts. Soprano Sarah Shafer makes her welcomed San Diego Opera debut as Susanna. Returning mezzo-sopranos Emily Fons, last heard as Zerlina in 2015’s Don Giovanni, returns to sing Cherubino and Susanne Mentzer, last heard as Octavian in 1992’s Der Rosenkavalier returns to sing the role of Marcellina. Rounding out the cast is returning bass-baritone Ashraf Sewailam, last heard as Alidoro in 2016’s Cinderella, as Dr. Bartolo; returning tenor Joseph Hu, last heard as Goro in 2016’s Madama Butterfly, as Basilio and Don Curizo; returning bass-baritone Scott Sikon, last heard as Marquis D’Obigny in 2017’s La traviata; and soprano Lisa Frisque as Barbarina. John Nelson conducts the performances and Stephen Lawless stages the action in this production. The Marriage of Figaro is a co-production between San Diego Opera, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Opera Philadelphia, and Palm Beach Opera.
Performed in Italian with English translations above the stage, The Marriage of Figaro was last performed by San Diego Opera in 2007. This will be the sixth time the opera has been performed by the Company with additional performances in 1998, 1992, 1986, and 1973.
The scenery and costumes of The Marriage of Figaro are designed by Leslie Travers. The choreographer is Eric Sean Fogel. The Lighting Designer is Thomas C. Hase.
The Marriage of Figaro will have a radio broadcast on Saturday, June 8, 2019 at 8 PM on KPBS radio, 89.5 FM (97.7 FM Calexico) and online at www.kpbs.org
These performances of The Marriage of Figaro are made possible by the Lead Production Sponsor, Darlene Marcos Shiley.
Performance Schedule
Saturday           October 20, 2018          7 PM
Tuesday            October 23, 2018          7 PM
Friday               October 26, 2018          7 PM
Sunday             October 28, 2018          2 PM
Get Connected
Pre-Opera Lectures
These 30-minute informative lectures for the main stage operas take place in the Civic Theatre one hour prior to every performance and offer wonderful insights into the production audience members are about to see. These lectures are free to all ticket holders.
Post-Opera Talkbacks
Join the cast, crew, musicians and artists right after the performance of the main stage operas for an engaging, entertaining and informative Q&A session moderated by a San Diego Opera staff member. These lectures are held in the Civic Theatre and are free to all ticket holders. 
San Diego Opera Podcast Series
Get to know the artists and operas of the 2018-2019 Season. These insights into the singers and productions can be enjoyed by opera fans as well as those who are new to the art form. Casual and fun, this is a great way to learn about our artists and the operas they star in. Watch online at http://www.sdopera.org/Company/Education/Podcasts. These videos are also available on our YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/SanDiegoOpera
San Diego Opera on Twitter
Get frequent updates about San Diego Opera and opera in general by following us on Twitter. Follow tweets from backstage during a performance and learn about special offers and contests before anyone else by following us @SDOpera.
San Diego Opera on Facebook
San Diego Opera’s Facebook page offers a place for fellow opera fans to discuss performances, opera news, connect with other fans and get up-to-date information on upcoming events. Look for “San Diego Opera” at https://www.facebook.com/SanDiegoOpera/
San Diego Opera on YouTube
Now viewers can watch a large portion of San Diego Opera’s programming at their convenience on YouTube. Archived versions of OperaTalk!, Stars in the Salon, Opera Spotlight, our video podcast series and much more can be found on the San Diego Opera channel at: http://www.youtube.com/SanDiegoOpera
San Diego Opera on Instagram
A picture is worth a thousand words! Take a look at what happens backstage and in the office on San Diego Opera’s Instagram page. http://instagram.com/sandiegoopera
Purchasing Tickets
Subscriptions to the 2018-2019 season are now on sale. Single tickets are on sale in the summer.
Single tickets start at $49 for all mainstage performances. Single tickets start at $35 for all dētour Series operas. Children prices exist, please visit www.sdopera.org or call 619.533.7000 for more information.
Senior citizen discounts of 15% are available to the Main Stage series on Tuesday and Friday subscription packages. Senior citizen discounts of 15% are available to the dētour Series on Saturday subscription packages.
Military discounts (active and retired) of 50% are available to the Main Stage series on Tuesday and Friday subscription packages. Military discounts of 50% are available to the dētour Series on Saturday subscription packages. 
For information about tickets please visit www.sdopera.org or call 619.533.7000
San Diego Opera 2018-2019 Season
The Marriage of Figaro                                      Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart                 October 20, 23, 26, and 28 (mat), 2018
All is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914          Peter Rothstein                                     December 7, 8, and 9 (mat), 2018
Rigoletto                                              Giuseppe Verdi                                    February 2, 5, 8, and 10 (mat), 2019
Three Decembers                                                Jake Heggie                                         March 8, 9, 10 (mat), 2019
Carmen                                                               Georges Bizet                                      March 30, April 2, 5, and 7 (mat) 2019
One Amazing Night –Stephen Powell and Stephen Costello                                           May 15, 2019

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The boons of going on neighborhood walks/bike rides

It's amazing how you can live in a neighborhood for a long while and still haven't discovered all it has hiding behind its most boring facades. Sometimes all it takes is a good long stroll or not-that-long bike ride in the right directions for you to run into things like a hidden BMX-ish oak-covered dunes, lovely boulder formations, a secret private lake, a hugely scary-looking rottweiler that will instantly turn into a purring pussy cat when offered a milk bone, lovely panoramic lookout, a pet-friendly rainbow bridge,

Or, maybe even a waterfall!

I'm in debt to my friend Maya for guiding me to that last gem. I mean, who would have thought to go look for a waterfall between a housing development and a seedy commercial parking lot just a block from a major freeway?

So, whenever the current American life gets you down, go out on a hike or a bike. You never know what's hidden behind the dumpsters.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Happy Holidays 2017

Oh boy, the holidays sure crept up on me (again). It's hard to believe 2017 is almost over already!

It's been almost a full year since I moved to Vista/Oceanside area last January. I didn't expect much, to be honest, but it has been some kind of wonderful after the horrible year up in Riverside. I've been enjoying stable works, an extremely easy-to-live with roommate (and her endlessly cute mini-poodle), and living close to a few really wonderful friends who are always looking after me.

My roommie's endlessly cute mini-poodle couldn't quite decide whether to come in to visit.
Vista and San Marcos also proved to be full of nice surprised. There are so many cool nature preserved close by, along with loads of trails that are very road-bike-able, and a couple of hideously steep hills to keep my pudginess in check.

The gorgeous auditorium (with wonderful acoustics) at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.
Alas, I'm still quite far away from classical concert & performance arts venues (far, is of course, in the context of being able to get to those venue by bicycle or public transportation), as it's quite a travel to get to either downtown Los Angeles or downtown San Diego. A wonderful friend and I did manage to make it to Disney Hall last month to catch Emmanuelle Haim in concert with the Los Angeles Philharmonics, though. She was conducting a very pious program of Purcell, Bach, and Pergolesi (starring Laura Claycomb and Christophe Dumaux). As it was an LA Phil ensemble rather than her usual Le Concert d'Astree, we didn't hear period instruments. It was still a stellarly Baroque night, nonetheless, and even ending cheekily with the very unpious final duet from Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea as the encore number.

Lilac Fire smoke plume from Vista Village the day it broke out.
We had a bit of a scare when Lilac Fire broke out a few weeks ago. Luckily, though, it never got closer than 6 miles from my pad, even though the smoke plume at times looked as though it was just on the other side of the hill that I live on. I'm afraid wild fires are 'expected' thing in this neck of the woods.... but the season used to be over by mid-November rather than two weeks before Christmas! I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we do get some winter-ish weather in before summer is here again.

Anyhow!! Here is wishing everyone a very happy end of 2017, and hope you are looking forward to a brighter 2018!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

San Diego rest stop

San Diego is not a pedestrian-friendly place. We are apparently supposed to drive everywhere. Our sidewalks come and go (and when there is one, it is usually not well kept), there are hardly any trash bin around (ergo the third-world-like proliferation of trash everywhere), and only once in a while do you come upon public benches outside of the touristy waterfront. So, when I ran into one while roaming around Mission Valley area the other day, it was a welcomed respite.

It was a very friendly bench that even asked me to stop to visit. Naturally, I didn't need to be asked twice... Thanks for a good sit, benchy friend!

Friday, June 2, 2017


Written by, and posted courtesy of Mr John Carnegie. Thank you, John!

ON 28TH MAY 2017

A year after the last time that Vesselina Kasarova’s schedule and mine last coincided, I was fortunate enough to be in Berlin when she was appearing in series of concerts at the prestigious Konzerthaus.  This is an excellent venue with good sight-lines, resplendent décor and (most importantly) superb acoustics. 

 Appearing alongside the venue’s own orchestra (a top flight band), VK featured in two performances of a full length concert of Haydn (cantata and symphony) and Saint-Saëns (aria and symphony) – plus a shorter morning concert for family audiences in which the Haydn items were featured alongside a Mozart aria. I managed to catch this morning concert and the repeat performance of the full length concert later the same day.

The morning concert was part of a long-standing tradition at the Konzerthaus entitled Mozart-Matinee in which parts of the full-length concert on at the time are combined with something by Mozart to form an hour-long event to which concertgoers are encouraged to bring their children and grandchildren. The presentation is very informal with spoken introductions to each item and onstage interviews with the conductor and soloists. Most of the many children in the audience were very well behaved and attentive. The only exception was a young boy with a clear case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder who was sitting a few seats along from me in the front row. VK charmingly managed to calm him down during her interview by including him in the conversation. Thereafter he was putty in her hands and sat entranced and alert.

VK opened the proceedings with Haydn’s cantata Ariadne auf Naxos. Dressed in a simple black jump suit but with a resplendent pair of earrings (more about those later), she was given an exceptionally large area between the conductor and the first violins in which to perform – and perform she certainly did. This was no standard-issue concert performance of just the notes. Prowling around her allotted space like a caged tiger, VK gave a full-on operatic rendition of Ariadne’s passion and grief that proved totally involving for the audience. (There was scarcely a cough to be heard from them throughout.) However, it was not just the theatrics that were enthralling. Vocally, VK was in as fine as condition as I’ve ever heard her. There was not a trace of the problems that have occasionally marred her performances in recent years. This was VK at the top of her game and she produced some thrilling singing.

She followed the Haydn with an aria from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito – not one from her usual character of Sesto but the Non più di fiori of Vitellia. Again this was a superb rendition that was enhanced by something that could have wrecked its effect but which VK took completely in her stride. Halfway through the aria, one of her earrings disengaged itself and fell to the floor. Unfazed, VK whipped off the other earring and then scooped up the fallen one from the floor – all within a few notes and while maintaining character and vocal production. It was an excellent example of her innate stage craft (and also the reason why the earrings do not appear in the photograph of her curtain call above).

Later in the day, VK reappeared on the same stage for the full-length concert – dressed in the flaming red ball gown that features on the cover of her Russian Arias CD. (No earrings this time – presumably so as to forfend against any further malfunction!) She repeated the Haydn cantata to equal effect and later gave her familiar rendition of Dalila’s Mon Coeur from Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Dalila. Although the latter was more of a challenge for VK with her having to contend against a greatly expanded orchestra that she is more used to having down in the pit of an opera house for this aria, both offerings went down a treat with the audience and they gave her sustained applause.

For both concerts, conductor Jean-Christophe Spinosi proved to be a sympathetic accompanist and he came into his own with his witty rendition of Haydn’s Symphony No. 82 (with its multiple false endings designed to provoke premature applause) and his mastery of the huge forces involved in Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony.

All in all, this was a thoroughly satisfying double helping of VK’s artistry.