Susan Graham and the beauty of the art song

The fabulous Susan Graham sang in recital this past Sunday afternoon at Hertz Hall as part of Cal Performances 2020 season. She was accompanied by the equally fabulous Malcolm Martineau, pianist to the diva stars. The house was packed and the venue provided its wonderful concert hall acoustics. The well-loved, and rightly so, America mezzo opened the program with five songs by Reynaldo Hahn. Her interpretation like her voice was warm, and her French graced with clarity, which enhanced the...

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The delightfully daft “Princess Ida”

Founded in 1869 by Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon, Girton College was Britain’s first residential college for women offering a college degree. Its opening was followed two years later by Newnham College, and at the University of Oxford, Somerville College in 1879 and Lady Margaret Hall in 1878. The University of London opened its first women’s college in 1882. Women’s education was on the move in Victorian England. On January 5, 1884, the latest Gilbert and Sullivan comic...

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The sweetness of home: San Francisco Opera’s “Hansel and Gretel”

Grimm’s folk tales are indeed grim. Often functioning to terrify children, they frequently pit innocence against malevolence. We don’t seem to be able to free ourselves of them and our childhoods remain full of girls in red hoods chased by wolves and starving children abandoned by their parents in dark woods. For what keeps the stories alive and seductive is that the innocents often defeat the evil forces that threaten them. Hansel and Gretel, the 1893 opera by Engelbert...

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New fireworks for “Le Nozze di Figaro”

There aren’t many operas that I can watch over and over with the same degree of interest, joy and eagerness as I do with new operas, even if in the end I don’t really like the premiering opera that much. This puts me at odds with most major opera companies, whose programming is financially obliged to reproduce repertoire, repeating the same 10 or so operas with a few lesser known and new operas in between. However, there is one opera I’d go see any day of the year, any year of the...

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Renée Fleming at Cal Performances

The always lovely Renée Fleming gave a recital filled with her personal beauty at Zellerbach Auditorium this past weekend. Accompanied by pianist Richard Bado, a sensitive accompanist and skilled musician, she gave Cal Peformances’ adoring audience a remarkable tour through the history of European and American song. The recital began with four songs by Schubert, described by Fleming as the “foundation of classical recitals.” The songs were filled with the composer’s heated intensity...

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Mapplethorpe and the question of beauty

Since the mid 20th-century and perhaps earlier, depending on the art form and how radical the practitioners, beauty as a feature of high art has been suspect. Beauty, it’s claimed and with reason, soothes and distracts, makes us accept the unfair and corrupt in our society and revel in the gorgeousness of art before all things. Beauty is easily duplicitous. Certainly Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), which played at CalPerformances’ Zellerbach Auditorium this past weekend,...

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