Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guest Announcement: Hausmann Quartet at SDSU Smith Recital Hall: April 8th, 2014.

'SDSU Artists in Residence Hausmann Quartet present Converge - Comedy & Dialogue: A dynamic interactive concert combining chamber music, comedy, and scholarly thought.

(San Diego, CA) – The Hausmann Quartet presents Converge, an inspiring and collaborative chamber concert series celebrating the intersection of music, art, literature and scholarly thought, on Tues., April 8 at 7:00 p.m. in Smith Recital Hall on the SDSU Campus. Converge is open to the public and is free of charge.

April’s Converge theme, Comedy and Dialogue, explores the engaging, communicative, playful and sometimes humorous qualities of musical dialogue in chamber music, and its parallels with improvisational acting. String quartet repertoire from Haydn, Bach and Kurtag, set against a comedic backdrop provided by special guests from SDSU’s School of Theatre, Television and Film and the improve comedy group lota Eta Pi, will encourage an evening of fun and surprises.

"As musicians we spend many of the most meaningful moments of our lives on stage, yet it can be easy to forget how much we have in common with the actors, comedians and artists who inhabit these same spaces” explains Alex Greenbaum, Hausmann Quartet cellist. “We are all stage performers, and we relish this opportunity to collaborate with our University colleagues from the world of comedy and drama."

Converge is presented by the acclaimed Hausmann Quartet, Isaac Allen, Guillaume Pirard, Angela Choong and Alex Greenbaum, Artists in Residence at San Diego State University.

More information, a map and downloadable directions and parking options can be found on the SDSU School of Music and Dance website at

Monday, March 24, 2014

Save the San Diego Opera (or at least make it do a proper operatic death scene before it goes)!

I'm embarrassingly not very 'on the ball' when it comes to covering the San Diego classical music & opera scene these days. By now many opera enthusiasts will have heard of and are profoundly surprised by the impending demise of the San Diego Opera, I think. The opera board voted to shut down the company at the end of this season, as Ian Campbell, the SDO's impresario put it, "we saw we faced an insurmountable financial hurdle going forward. -- We had a choice of winding down with dignity and grace, making every effort to fulfill our financial obligations, or inevitably entering bankruptcy, as have several other opera companies."

Madama Butterfly goes out in spurts of blood and chills....
It all seem very calm and rational and all that... but darn it, I'm an opera fan and this was way too calm for me for so final a matter. San Diego's only proper opera company quietly going out of business while so many fans and artists thought the company has been rebounding so well. Four full opera productions this year plus an all A-listers cast for the Verdi Requiem. Quite a far cry from the drastically reduced seasons since the 2008 recession! Honestly, if the company is going to give up the ghost, I say it should do a full operatic death scene with proper amount of wailing and trashing and milking of the high notes - a full opera-queens-worthy bloody pandemonium to make sure every citizen of this culture-starved city knows of its pending doom - before dropping the curtain and burning down the house (or something like that). At least then we audience members would know to try to do something to help...
Even Don Quixote does a proper operatic wailing before his demise...
So, if you're with me, please consider signing this petition to save the San Diego Opera (the least we opera queens can do is at least to try to make a scene, I guess). Better yet, buy a ticket and attend one or more of the upcoming Don Quixote or make a donation. A city of more than 1.3 million, and we can't support one proper opera house??? What is San Diego coming to!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guest post: Vesselina Kasarova in Samson et Dalila in Cologne (Köln) 2014

My fellow opera enthusiast friend John Carnegie traveled to Cologne to see Vesselina Kasarova in Saint Saens' Samson et Dalila earlier this week and kindly agreed to share his impression in this guest blog post below. Thank you, John!

Samson et Dalila at the Oper Köln – 19th March 2014
(2nd performance of the current revival of the 2009 production)

The performance did not take place in the Opernhaus (which is currently a building site where a completely new theatre is being constructed in place of the demolished former one). Instead it took place in the temporary Musik Dom venue that the Oper is using: a prefabricated structure under a bright blue tent next to the railway station.  It is a soulless shed with indifferent acoustics but good sightlines that can only be accessed via some unpleasant urine-drenched tunnels running under the station. Perhaps due to this (and the notorious reputation of the production), the house was only 70% full.
Foto: Lefebvre
Tilman Knabe’s production - which is in contemporary costume with the Philistines as Nazi-like fascists and the Jews as (well) Jews - is determinedly designed to épater le bourgeoisie and some of le bourgeoisie were duly épated and exited noisily at the end of Act Two when Dalila cut off Samson’s penis rather than his hair. If the departees had stayed for Act Three, they would have become even more upset when a triumphantly smiling Dalila presided over a crowd of extras being stripped naked, raped and machine-gunned.

Actually (to my surprise) I thought that the production worked very well indeed and (although melodramatic) it animated and illuminated the opera far more than the somewhat decorous production in which Vesselina Kasarova first gave her Dalila a couple of years ago in Berlin. What was even more surprising was how Frau Kasarova entered completely into the spirit of this production. She has always struck me as a delightfully modest performer who (as one reviewer put it) has always seemed more attractive when playing men than when playing women. (Even her Venus in Tannhauser was relatively chaste.) Not on this revelatory occasion when she turned on what can only be described as the "the full Netrebko". 

Foto: Lefebvre
The production conceives of Dalila as a thoroughly evil high-class prostitute whose pimp is the High Priest. Languorously draping herself in suggestive poses across a bed while wearing very little in the way of clothing, Kasarova's Dalila was sensationally sexy - both visually (she must have been spending all of her free time recently at the gym) and (most importantly) vocally. Her Dalila in Berlin (while she was recovering from illness) had been somewhat tentative. Here all her vocal guns were in place and she smouldered and then soared through the part. What a frustration it is that she is spending most of her time doing concerts when (as with her Romeo in Munich when I last saw her live) she is clearly at her peak of her powers as an opera artist.

As for the rest of the cast, the other highlight was Samuel Youn (Bayreuth's current Dutchman) in magnificent voice as the High Priest. His scene with Kasarova at the start of Act Two was the vocal highlight of the evening. As Samson, Lance Ryan sadly displayed all the faults of an over-employed Heldentenor. Starting the evening with a fearsome wobble in his voice, he gradually became more secure as the evening progressed but his is not an attractive sound and his acting was half-hearted to say the least. In the pit, Antonino Fogliani (who conducted Kasarova's recent concert performances as Romeo in Oslo) did an excellent job of standing in at the last moment for an indisposed Claude Schnitszler. The chorus and orchestra gave a good account of themselves despite the difficult acoustics.
Foto: Lefebvre
Overall, a sensational (and sensationalist) evening.


My friend Yvette also attended the March 19th performance and wrote her impressions on her blog, along with sharing a wonderful backstage photo of Frau Kasarova smiling to all the fans that couldn't make it to the show.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Guest Announcement: SDSU Jazz Ensemble upcoming March 20th concert

SDSU Jazz Ensemble performs concert with acclaimed Los Angeles jazz saxophonist and composer, Kim Richmond

(San Diego, CA)The SDSU School of Music and Dance is pleased to present the acclaimed SDSU Jazz Ensemble in concert with special guest, jazz saxophonist Kim Richmond, on Thurs. Mar. 20, 7:00 p.m. in Smith Recital Hall.  Bill Yeager directs.

"Kim Richmond combines the very best of jazz with a more classical approach to composition” explains SDSU Director of Jazz Studies Bill Yeager.  “His sense of humor is also evident in his selections of 'Peanut Vendor' and 'Zipidy Doo Da' for the upcoming concert. He is a masterful jazz saxophonist and is on a world class level."

Kim Richmond is a Los Angeles based musician whose first love is jazz.  His primary jazz voice is the alto saxophone, and he also plays soprano, tenor, and baritone sax, as well as clarinet, bass clarinet and flute.  Richmond has been involved in nearly every facet of the professional music industry, both as a player and as a composer/arranger.  He’s been a member of the orchestras of Stan Kenton, Louis Bellson, Bob Florence, Hill Holman and Vinny Golia, among others.  Richmond’s own Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra is a workshop for his writing, conducting and leading, and his sextet ensemble is a platform for free-form expression and improvisation. 

Also an educator, Richmond taught for 12 years in the Jazz Studies department of USC and presently teaches in the Jazz Department of the California Institute of the Arts.  He presents numerous jazz camps and clinics every year, is on staff at the Jim Widner Summer Jazz Camps, and assists with the Northwoods Jazz Camp/Jazz Party.  Whatever his mode of expression, Richmond strives to express a uniquely original voice, combining his extensive experience with the new sounds of our evolving musical world. 

Tickets to the SDSU Jazz Ensemble with Kim Richmond are $15 general admission and $10 for students and seniors (60+).  Tickets can be purchased through the online box office or at the box office window one hour before performance.  More information, a map and downloadable directions and parking options can be found on the SDSU School of Music and Dance website at

The SDSU Jazz Ensemble is a program of the SDSU School of Music and Dance and appears as part of the School’s 2013-14 season of performing arts offerings.  The SDSU School of Music and Dance presents over 200 concerts, recitals and dance performances each year, many with free or affordable admission.   
Still to come this season is the SDSU Choirs and Orchestra in concert featuring Fauré’s Requiem on Sat. April 26 at 7:30 p.m.; the SDSU Wind Symphony and Symphonic Band in concert on Tues. May 6 at 7:00 p.m.; the University Dance Company on Fri. May 2 at 7:30 p.m., Sat. May 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday May 4 at 2:00 p.m.; and the Kiwanis Cinco de Mayo Concert at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion on Mon. May 5 at 5:00 p.m.
For up-to-the-minute news and information about all of the recitals and performances at the SDSU School of Music and Dance, visit the School’s calendar or connect on Facebook or Twitter.


The SDSU Jazz Studies Program has long been one of the premier jazz studies programs in the United States and regularly attracts the finest talent from the U.S. and abroad. The program offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in jazz studies and its three full-time jazz professors, Bill Yeager, Rick Helzer, and Richard Thompson, are complemented by the finest studio faculty available in the region.  The program is committed to turning out students who are competent, passionate, highly motivated and willing to take risks. From education to research, from performance to composition, students can create strong individual profiles to enhance their musical development. Through immersion in an environment of rigorous teaching, open inquiry, and deep exploration, students are encouraged to create works, performances, and ideas that have yet to be imagined.

Bill Yeager is a Professor of Music and Director of Jazz Studies at SDSU, an active composer and arranger for both jazz and classical ensembles and is a well-known studio jazz and classical trombonist performing on hundreds of records, films, TV shows and commercials.  He has performed with Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Mel Torme and Dizzy Gillespie, to name a few, and has toured throughout the world.  Before coming to San Diego, Bill was founder/director of the Los Angeles Jazz Workshop where he recorded three successful albums and received a Grammy nomination.  Since coming to SDSU, Yeager, along with Rick Helzer and Richard Thompson, have built one of the largest jazz programs in California. His groups have recorded six top-notch albums, won numerous competitions and performed throughout the US, Europe, Taiwan, Boliva and Mexico.


The study of music was an early area of concentration at San Diego State University. Among the first seven professors hired in 1898 when the university was chartered, one was a music professor.  By 1907 the Department of Music at San Diego State University began conferring degrees, and a commitment to excellence in artistic innovation was dedicated. The commitment fostered a long legacy of educational and musical leadership for the program.  Today it flourishes as the SDSU School of Music and Dance.  For more information visit