A large audience turned out Friday evening for the opening night of Santa Catalina’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, which will be running for four performances during the next two weeks. The stagecraft for this production was ingenious in the way it used modular units on stage (the back of each unit representing parts of a different scene), which could be joined and then moved easily, quickly and silently in between scenes. It worked brilliantly. Stage lighting and sound management were likewise effectively managed and enhanced each scene. Director Lara Wheeler Devlin deserves a lot of credit for making all the complicated elements of this production work so well together. Musician Chris West also deserves kudos for the way she kept the nine musicians in the pit totally coordinated with the action on stage.
A small but highly appreciative audience attended the Wednesday, October 16 recital by tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist-composer Brad Mehldau at Stanford’s Bing Hall. The program rubric, “The Folly of Desire,” featured music by two composers, Mehldau and Robert Schumann. For the eleven songs by Mehldau, the self-immolating and often debased aspects of desire became subject matter for a series of jazzy treatments, more rhythmic and harmonic than conspicuously melodic. The poems Mehldau selects, from his “post MeToo” sensibility, derive from such diverse talents as Auden, Cummings, Shakespeare, Yeats, Blake, Brecht, and Goethe. Their content affirms, denies, mocks, and even salaciously depicts the more carnal implications of love – or rather, lust – in its attempt to achieve the spiritual resolution it might offer as agape. For Robert Schumann, whose music commanded the second half of the concert, his four independent songs and the 1840 cycle Dichterliebe, Op. 48, seek to reconcile love with Nature’s ineluctable tendency to make ephemeral our most exalted moments.
On Sunday, October 13, the Santa Cruz Symphony under the direction of Maestro Danny Stewart opened its 62nd season at the Mello Center for the Performing Arts with three works that covered a time span of some 250 years. In perfect tune with Maestro Stewart’s imaginative programming, the concert offered works the audience knows and loves, a concerto from Beethoven’s growth and development period, one of Stravinsky’s finest ballet scores and a new work by Mason Bates. The 2019-2020 season was off to a most exciting start.
Presented by the Carmel Music Society, Russian-American pianist Olga Kern made a triumphant return yesterday afternoon to Sunset Center in Carmel. Kern was elegantly dressed in a flowing red designer gown for the first half of the recital and in a flowing silver designer gown for the second half. Not only did her appearance make quite an impression, but so did her stage presence. An engaging smile and a charming manner when speaking to the audience won us over before she even played a note.
Peter Thorp, President of the Carmel Music Society had added some new technology to the afternoon’s recital. A video camera suspended over the piano keyboard projected a view from above of the pianist’s hands during the performances onto a screen over the stage. Thus, we could enjoy a side view from the audience plus a video top view of the pianist’s hands.
After a warmup performance of a rarely-heard Beethoven set of Variations on a Theme by Salieri, Kern settled in to perform one of the greatest works Beethoven ever composed for the keyboard, the Sonata No. 21 in C Major, Op. 53, known as the “Waldstein.” We heard a masterful performance of the first movement that held our attention throughout Beethoven’s presentation of compelling musical ideas, its powerful development section and satisfying recapitulation and coda. The brief second movement, Adagio Molto, served as an introduction to the concluding Rondo that was capped off by the Prestissimo finale. Kern brought a lot of charm, vitality and easy virtuosity to her performance of this sonata and made it look easy in the process.
It was a full house yesterday afternoon in the Recital Hall at MPC — 250 loyal fans, none of whom would miss an opportunity to hear David Gordon at his best. He fills all the roles of entertainer, raconteur, “dramaturge” (if he didn’t invent that term, he certainly owns it) and knock-em-dead singer in every style and genre known to man. Simply stated, he is a great and natural all-around musician, plus, incidentally, his guitar playing ain’t bad, either.