The beauty of “Billy Budd”

Out of the near dark an old man hobbles slowly to the front of the stage. With a light illuminating only his face and chest, creating the image of an unfinished man, a half of a man, he begins his story. He is Captain Edward Fairfax Vere, who commanded the British warship “Indomitable” during the Napoleonic Wars. And he is filled with self-doubt and remorse as he looks back at his failure as a leader of men. Vere will also close Benjamin Britten’s opera Billy Budd, because...

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West Edge Opera’s “Breaking the Waves”: An interview with Sara LeMesh and Robert Wesley Mason

This past week West Edge Opera opened its West Coast premier of composer Missy Mazzoli and librettist Royce Vavrek’s opera, Breaking the Waves. The opera premiered at Opera Philadelphia in September 2016. Based on the 1996 film by Lars von Trier, the opera is set in the Scottish highlands and tells the story of Bess McNeill, a young woman from a closed Calvinist community who marries a Scandinavian oil-rigger, Jan Nyman. When he is paralyzed in a work accident, Nyman encourages...

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Visions of Gluck in new politics

For some years now West Edge Opera has presented three operas at their summer festival. One of these has been an opera from the baroque or classical periods, which has led to some wonderful musical and theatrical performances, based on wilder contemporary imaginings and re-staging of opera from a very different time and mindset. This year the company’s opera was Gluck’s 1762 Orfeo ed Euridice, updated politically to encompass the vision of director and choreographer KJ Dahlaw....

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Laugh-a-lot at “Spamalot” in Marin

“Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!” cries the grimy man in tatters. He and his mates are dragging a cart full of bodies through plague-ridden England. Moments before, a line of monks passed by, each hitting himself in the forehead with a huge book. A burly man dumps a body in front of the cart. “But I’m not dead!” protests the heap of thin body parts. “You will be soon enough!” is the reply. And in protest, the thin body parts reassemble themself, leap up and begin to...

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Someone’s sneaking ’round the corner …

Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera has long been my favorite opera. By the time I was 12 I knew every word of every song in this darkly comic study of the cruelties of human nature revealed in the interlocking mechanisms of class and capitalism. Mess with my memories of Threepenny and you mess with my primal love of theater. Which is what happened last Saturday at the West Edge Opera’s production of Threepenny. When the lights went down...

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A new opera for Merola

Who wouldn’t want to write a new opera for the Merolini, with their fresh voices and boundless talent? The Merola Opera Program has a reputation for fostering the best of each generation’s young opera singers. The program, now in its sixth decade, has an enviable alumni roster that includes many of today’s luminaries:Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Nadine Sierra, Ruth Ann Swenson, Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Brian Asawa, Brian Jagde, Stuart...

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