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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An otherworldly and beautiful “Rusalka”

Is it something about the northern cold of Scotland that makes its children comfortable in the world of dark elementals? Certainly production lead David MacVicar and set designer John Macfarlane, both Scottish, conjure up a natural world laced with mystery, grief and magic in their production of Dvořák’s Rusalka, which premiered at Chicago Lyric Opera in 2014 and is now at San Francisco Opera. And what an enticing and gorgeous world it is. Dvořák’s fairy tale opera, using...

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San Francisco Opera’s elegant “Orlando”

Orlando, Handel’s Italian opera for English audiences, is based on an epic poem by the 16th-century poet Ludovico Ariosto. Orlando Furioso, loosely translated as the Madness of Roland, is set in the midst of the Crusades, and its hero is driven mad by his love for a pagan princess. The setting of San Francisco Opera’s production of Orlando is also in the midst of war, but the pastoral setting of the poem, which included a shepherdess, has definitely gone urban. British...

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