‘Mordake’ at San Francisco Arts Festival

True Stories “One of the weirdest as well as most melancholy stories of human deformity is that of Edward Mordake, said to have been heir to one of the noblest peerages in England … His figure was remarkable for its grace, and his face—that is to say his natural face—was that of an Antinous. But upon the back of his head was another face, that of a beautiful girl, ‘lovely as a dream, ugly as a devil.’” Composer...

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‘Das Rheingold’ at San Francisco Opera

Much has been made of producer Francesca Zambello’s Americanization of Wagner’s Ring cycle. In theory, it makes a lot of sense to place this long quartet of operatic dramas, which examines and equates the lust for gold and power vs. sexual lust and love, within the context of our materialistically driven history. Practically, though, an Americanization of this monumental work seems a sad mix of narcissism and advertising appeal. Not so, though. S.F. Opera’s...

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San Francisco Lyric Opera’s ‘Turn of the Screw’

  Without a doubt one of the best small opera companies in the Bay Area (and there are so many of them!), San Francisco Lyric Opera, opened its production of Benjamin Britten’s Turn of the Screw on Friday at this season’s new venue, the Cowell Theater in Fort Mason. Turn of the Screw is one of the chamber opera gems of the 20th...

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Oakland Opera Presents Ellington’s ‘Queenie Pie’

  With a creamy smooth trumpet rising over the exotic beat and slightly moody sound, giving over to the close couple dance of flute and bass and followed by an ultra-cool sax solo, the Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra swung into the big band sound of Duke Ellington in the Oakland Opera Theater’s ebullient production of Queenie Pie, the jazz master’s only opera. ...

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’The Little Prince’ at Cal Performances

High flying with Saint-Exupéry A scrim of aerogrammes falling from the sky shades the middle of an enormous round portal like the window of an old fashioned ship, which in turn frames the front of the stage. A man enters dressed as an aviator from between the World Wars. He is followed and surrounded by children in striped pajamas and nightgowns, slippers on their feet. Addressing them, he begins his story of how when he was a child the pictures he drew were never...

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Bryn Terfel, Silver Tongued, at Cal Performances

“You’re a fabulous audience,” commented bass-baritone Bryn Terfel midway through the first half of his Thursday night recital at Cal Performances. Don’t they all say that? But walking forward to the edge of the stage, he added, “You can breathe, you know.” The audience laughed, and took a breath. That Terfel, a man born to perform, could so clearly feel the rapt attention of his audience and then mirror it back in a humorous and...

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