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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Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s artistic operas

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s Dorothea and Artemisia, featured world premieres of two chamber operas, and although the operas were billed as being each about an extraordinary woman artist, the reach of both operas was far larger, touching upon the structure of our lives as we live them today. From the Field, by composer Christopher Stark with libretto by Megan Stark, is listed in the program as a micro-opera of only 25 minutes. Using the work of Depression-era...

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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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