Howard’s End—a birth and re-birth

A powerful work of literature was given new life last Saturday, Feb. 23, at San Francisco’s Z-space, a venue known for its experimental theater and its many premieres. Howard’s End, a page-turner by E. M. Forster, was repurposed as the opera Howard’s End, America by composer Allen Shearer and librettist Claudia Stevens, and it was skillfully done. In the original story the lives of the wealthy Wilcoxes, the middle class Schlegels, and the poor Basts are twisted together...

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Howards End, America

The new opera by Bay Area team, librettist Claudia Stevens and composer Allen Shearer, ran this past weekend at Z Space in San Francisco as part of Earplay’s 2019 season. Howards End, America is based on the 1910 novel by E.M. Forster, and the opera is an ambitious endeavor, librettist and composer opting not only to set a complicated and subtle story but also to place it into a milieu that is easily read by contemporary Americans as familiar and pertinent to their lives. Set in...

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Operatic Snapshots

An elegant blonde in off-white straight skirt, coat and black pumps sings, “I like order … straight margins, brief conversations.” She is Ivonne, head secretary of the steno pool, and we feel we know her – her primness, her insistence on order, her unwavering devotion to distance and form. She stands before the audience, as if it were a mirror in the company bathroom, and she instructs on the neatest, most efficient way to apply lipstick: Cherries in the Snow, Revlon’s finest: “the...

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Opera Parallèle’s “The Little Prince”

Holiday glitter and desert blooms Opera Parallèle paid tribute to the season last Saturday, Dec. 8, with a heartwarming performance and plenty of tinsel. That was Rachel Portman’s opera adaptation of The Little Prince, an oft-republished story by Antoine de Saint-Exupery that uses the form of a children’s book to impart some ageless wisdoms. And the “tinsel” was a cast of top-notch voices and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus who dressed in gold and silver with...

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“It’s a Wonderful Life” turns operatic

It’s oddly ironic that Frank Capra’s 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” was released by his production company Liberty Films. For the film and the opera, revised from its 2016 premier, both look at freedom as seen by an American Everyman who wants to rid himself of the shackles of small-town living and capitalist venality, and live a larger, grander life. A life he has freely constructed out of his imagination and idealism. The opera version that opened this Saturday at San...

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Love from the hinterlands: San Francisco Opera’s “Arabella”

Arabella, lovely Arabella, positioned to buy her family out of debt through marrying off her beauty to the highest bidder, but searching wistfully for Mr. Right. Can the two inharmonious approaches to love resolve into one happy ending? In Richard Strauss’ opera they do indeed. And in the San Francisco Opera production that opened on Tuesday they resolve, like Tobias Hoheisel’s production design, from black and white into varieties of gray. Nonetheless suggesting, somehow, that an...

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