Author Archives: Sarah Morris

San Francisco Symphony — Pictures & Percussion

Adam Schoenberg

It was the moment Adam Schoenberg had been anticipating since early 2018: the world premiere of ‘Losing Earth’, his first percussion concerto. Also in the spotlight was Jacob Nissly, the soloist for the piece and the SFS Principal Percussionist. Wondering how long we have left before our earth succumbs to global warming, Schoenberg wrote the piece as pondering on what is to come.

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Archived in these categories: 20th Century, 21st Century, Orchestral


Opera San Jose — Die Fledermaus

Vienna in the 19thcentury was having a love affair with the waltz, and Johann Strauss II’s 1874 operetta (a pre-cursor to today’s musical) satisfied this desire in an excellent way. Having learned from his conductor/composer father, Strauss II knew exactly how to employ his techniques as a serious composer and how to incorporate the dance tunes of the day into his works. 

Act I opens with a fun scrim of a newspaper clipping intended to be read by the audience to give them background on the wide number of characters they’re about to meet, created by set designer, Charlie Smith. The scrim gives way to the Klimt-style home of Mr. and Mrs. Eisenstein, and the action begins. The number of characters and the farcical nature of their relationships is quite dizzying at times, but by the end of the first act, Elena Galván as Adele, Maria Natale as Rosalinde and Eugene Brancoveanu as von Eisenstein are the clear main characters all hoping for a secret bit of fun at the expense of each other. The trio ‘Oh dear, oh dear, how sorry I am’ is acted brilliantly by all three. Robyn Tribuzi’s choreography in this song is gleeful and witty, a sneak-peek of much more to come in the dazzling second act. The short trumpet solo was particularly of note, played with a lovely, dark tone. 

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Archived in these categories: Opera


Third Coast Percussion at Herbst Theater

What an imaginative and extraordinary way to spend Wednesday night, April 3, in San Francisco. I had the privilege of attending a performance by Third Coast Percussion at Herbst Theater presented by San Francisco Performances.

Having recently released its newest album, ‘Perputulum’, Third Coast Percussion is, if they haven’t already, becoming a force to be reckoned with. ‘Perpetulum’ is a joint venture with Philip Glass, its latest commissioned composer. Glass has never before written for percussion alone, and TCP thought it was time. They premiered the West Coast performance of the piece written last year (2018) last Wednesday at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco to a very receptive, but not sold out crowd. In the spirit of musical convergence, Glass leaves the cadenza between the second and third movement mostly up to the performers. 

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Archived in these categories: 21st Century


Opera San Jose: Pagliacci

Image result for Pagliacci - images

Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci was written just over 125 years ago, and with a duration of only about 65 minutes, is considered a very short opera. While usually double-billed, the choice to perform it on its own was a nice surprise and perhaps the reason more children were in the audience. 

The resident company and orchestra were on point and did justice to this truncated opera. Baritone Anthony Clark Evans, as Tonio (the fool in the acting troupe) opened the performance stating, ‘I am the prologue’. There were some members of the audience who gave him a standing ovation for his opening dialogue. He was exquisite and completely captivating and it is surely a sad fact that we won’t be seeing him again this season. Setting the scene, the character of Tonio explains the roles of the three men vying for the attention of Nedda, sung by Maria Natale: her husband, Canio(Cooper Nolan), part of the company, Tonio(Evans) and Silvio(Emmett O’Hanlon), her secret lover. Setting the scene, the curtain rises and we watch the scene play out, ‘on the stage’ and ‘off it’. The line between the ‘real life’ lives and the parts they play on the stage are blurred throughout the opera, eventually leading to a blow up in front of the whole town during a performance.  Read full story

Archived in these categories: Opera, Romantic Era


Mozart — The Abduction from the Seraglio

From September, 15-30, Opera San Jose is presenting Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. First performed in 1782 this opera is still amusing audiences today. When the curtain opened, set designer, Steven C. Kemp’s attention to detail was immediately apparent: a large Turkish palace painted over every inch in intricate paintings, landscaped greenery and fig trees. Decked out in a pith helmet, the lead tenor, Matthew Grills, made his company debut in quite a lively, comical way. Running around hiding from the guards outside sultan Pasha Selim’s palace, he runs into Osim, played by Ashraf Sewailam. Both singers are perfectly suited for these comedic roles and their rapport was wonderful. One slight drawback to the quick banter was that the singers tended to get slightly ahead of the orchestra in the fast recitative sections. Read full story

Archived in these categories: Opera