Arts & Events

See Opera Live in Berkeley This Sunday Afternoon and the Following Saturday Night

Thursday November 09, 2017 - 03:39:00 PM
Rodolpho (Salvatore Atti) meets Luisa Miller (Eliza O'Malley)

There’s probably no place in the United States except New York City that offers more live opera performances of all kinds than the Bay Area. The commendable broadcast presentations of the Metropolitan Opera in movie theaters have increased public awareness of opera, and now fans who are ready for the next step in the opera experience have ample opportunity to see this art form up close and personal, in small houses for reasonable prices.

The list of local companies is long and getting longer: Island City, West Bay, Verismo, West Edge and Bay Shore Lyric are just a few.

Now Berkeley Chamber Opera, a relative newcomer (third season) on the scene, is gearing up for its second production this year, following its very successful production of Menotti’s The Consul in August.

Verdi’s Luisa Miller will be performed in Berkeley’s intimate Hillside Club on Sunday afternoon, November 12, and Saturday night, November 18.

The title role will be sung by Eliza O’Malley, a company founder who is a veteran of many Bay Area productions and a fervent advocate of what she calls “locally sourced opera”.

Locally-sourced food has been all the rage for a while now, but locally-sourced opera?

Berkeley Chamber Opera hopes to provide just that—productions which showcase the work of the Bay Area’s wealth of resident professional talent in accessible settings, at a price which is affordable for a wide range of opera fans. -more-

Valery Gergiev Leads Mariinsky Orchestra in All-Russian Concert

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 10, 2017 - 02:51:00 PM

The Mariinsky Orchestra, formerly the Kirov, presented two concerts under the auspices of Cal Performances at Zellerbach Hall, Saturday-Sunday, November 4-5, with their General Director Valery Gergiev conducting. I attended Saturday evening’s concert featuring an all-Russian program. Leading off was Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 9 in E-flat Major, Op. 70. This symphony, written in 1945 as World War II was coming to an end, was hardly the epic victory celebration the Soviet Union’s musical watchdogs wanted. Instead, it was a cheerful, effervescent symphony that stands out as one of Shostakovich’s most accessible works. Initially nominated for a Stalin Prize, Shostakovich’s 9th Symphony was later banned from performance for a few years, thereby mirroring the on-again off-again treatment Shostakovich received over and over throughout his career from Stalinist-era bureaucrats. -more-

Solid Singing in a Dreadful Staging of Massenet’s MANON

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday November 10, 2017 - 12:47:00 PM

After the brief orchestral prelude to Manon, the curtain rises on what is supposed to be the courtyard of an inn in Amiens, France. At this year’s San Francisco Opera production of Manon, all we saw was a bare stage and silhouettes of chairs lined up against a bare wall. So, we thought, this will be an abstract production. However, we soon found out that it was merely a bad, indeed, a very bad production. Its foibles were too numerous to recount, but one bit of absurdly miscalculated stage direction must be mentioned. It occurred in the opening minutes of Manon. Once Lescaut, sung by baritone David Pershall, has greeted his young cousin, Manon, sung by Ellie Dehn, and Manon has sung her delightfully breathless aria about making her first trip away from home, “Je suis encore tout étourdie,” (“I’m all in a tizzy”), Lescaut leaves Manon alone briefly while he deals with her luggage. An old roué, Guillot de Morfontaine, makes a pass at Manon and insinuates that his coach is at her disposal for an assignation. Lescaut reappears and puts Guillot to flight, warning his cousin to be on guard. Then off he goes once again. Alone, Manon daydreams about a life of pleasure. Then she pulls herself together with the aria, “Voyons, Manon, plus de chimères.” (“No more daydreaming, Manon.” She accepts, albeit with some remorse, that she must enter a convent. -more-