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Subject: Operas on a Shoestring Plus a `New Mendelssohn'
From: "Janos G." <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Janos G.
Date:Mon, 29 Nov 2004 21:08:03 -0800

text/plain (83 lines)

[From the 11/30]

There is altogether too much hue and cry over the land about the
relationship between funding and production. Large organizations feel
compelled to borrow millions of dollars on top of already bloated budgets,
as if artistic excellence depended on deficit spending. Artists should be
well-compensated, no doubt, but "overhead" seems to get in the way too
often. There are alternatives. Regional companies in Berkeley, San Jose,
Walnut Creek, Palo Alto are making do with relatively tiny budgets, but
there are also notable individual efforts all around. Below, just two local
examples of using imagination and dedication instead of a credit card.
Exhibit A: Earlier this year, Doug Han, a graduate student at the SF
Conservatory of Music, spotted an announcement about a 2005 conducting
competition in Romania, where the work for the final round will be B?la
Bart?k's opera, "Bluebeard's Castle." On a budget of zero dollars, Han has
spent months to organize a performance of the difficult work at the
Conservatory, "with piano, two talented young singers, myself ready with the
baton, uncut, and of course in the original Hungarian." The public is
invited to the free concert at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 11.

Of the passion leading to such enterprise, Han says: "I set my sights on
learning this daunting, haunting, wonderful piece, tracked down copies of
the vocal and orchestral scores, devoured every recording I could find,
began learning it with a fantastic German conductor I'd worked under the
previous summer, and found a Hungarian woman who was ever so enthusiastic to
help a young man pronounce the language correctly." For Conservatory
information, see

Exhibit B: Responding to an item in this column about San Francisco Opera's
financial problems, Robert Arnold Hall wrote that by contrast he had also
noticed Classical Voice's report on Mark Streshinsky's "economical but
dazzling staging of the Ring Legend in Berkeley with virtual scenery." To
take "technological artistry" further, and produce a new opera at a minimum
cost, Hall and a group of artists are preparing the premiere for his opera,
"Mrs. Carroll's Alice" in Randall Museum, on April 9. It will be a
"multimedia production of masked performers interacting with animated
virtual scenery that presents Alice's wild dream world." The artist is
Christine Desrosiers, a San Francisco illustrator, recent SF Art Academy
graduate; her vivid, original images are being turned into video by George

Principal singers of the cast - Suzan Hanson, Sally Mouzon, and Marie
Bafus - perform in multiple roles, which "makes for a budget-friendly
production in presenting such wild fantasy, an approach that could make new
and old opera repertoire more available to diverse audiences," Hall writes.
Staging is by Donald Cate, musical direction by Barbara Day Turner. See

* * *

"Uncle from Boston" to Oregon

Felix Mendelssohn composed an opera at 14, called "Uncle from Boston." If
you never heard of it, you're in good company. The work's US premiere, 180
years late, will take place next July, in Eugene, at the Oregon Bach
Festival. Festival director Helmuth Rilling conducted the opera's first-ever
public performance last month in Essen, Germany.

Rilling found the score in the Berlin state library, and found it
"stunning... a 250-page work that in its scope, structure, and technique
belies the composer's age and rivals that of Mozart's early operas. On par
with `Midsummer Night's Dream,' the opera elevates Mendelssohn's status as a
key figure in the era of Romanticism."

Mendelssohn drew on a libretto written 50 years earlier by Johann Ludwig
Caspar. The title refers to the American Revolution, but the story takes
place in Brandenburg, where two young lovers engage in deceits and
entanglements to hide their romance from their visiting uncle. "The usual
kind of silliness," Rilling said, "but with fantastic music." "Uncle from
Boston" uses a full chorus, orchestra, and seven soloists, though it likely
was scaled down for its only previous performance, at the Mendelssohn home
in Berlin for the composer's 15th birthday.

Janos Gereben
[log in to unmask]
Skype: gereben451

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