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MASKED SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY CARRIES ON BRILLIANTLY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, November 15, 2020
In some ways the Santa Rosa Symphony’s Nov. 15 concert on YouTube resembled a Conceptual Art performance from the 1970s. On display were about 30 masked orchestral musicians playing six feet apart from each other on stage, some of them separated by plexiglass barriers. In the 1970s, the concept behi...
Chamber
SPLENDID STRINGS IN A SUNLIT GARDEN
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, November 1, 2020
A sun-drenched autumn afternoon, a Marin County garden and six superb string players from the Santa Rosa Symphony were manna from heaven to a pandemic-weary audience starved for live music. The sextet of Santa Rosa Symphony musicians performed to a small group of 20 Nov. 1, the day after Halloween....
Chamber
EXAMPLARY QUARTET PLAYING IN MARIN GARDEN CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, October 22, 2020
Taped video concerts have pretty much dominated the recent fare for classical music fans, but sporadic live music making can still be found in the North Bay with outdoor chamber music. Of course with the obligatory social distancing and often decorative facial masks. Four San Francisco Opera Orc...
Chamber
VIDEO CHAMBER MUSIC FROM LINCOLN CENTER IN GREEN'S BROADCAST
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, October 17, 2020
Along with hosting its resident the Santa Rosa Symphony, Weill Hall has contracted to produce sporadic virtual programs of classical music, and began Oct. 17 with a charming three-part concert from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York. Hosted with comely introductions by CMSLC di...
Symphony
THRILLING SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY PERFORMANCE IN AN EMPTY WEILL HALL
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, October 11, 2020
Viewers of the Santa Rosa Symphony’s inaugural socially distanced YouTube concert on Oct. 11 could be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled upon a performance of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” (A Masked Ball), given that the string players in the opening shot all wore black masks. The sole excepti...
Symphony
BROWN VIDEO GALA LAUNCHES SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY SEASON
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, September 12, 2020
Similar to many North Coast musical organizations the Santa Rosa Symphony has scheduled a series of virtual concerts on video, spotlighting sections of the orchestra and the exuberant activities of its conductor Francesco Lecce-Chong. However, as an introduction to the season, a Sept. 12 gala vide...
SONGS AND ECHOES OF HOME IN AIZURI QUARTET CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, March 8, 2020
From the first richly layered harmonies of Dvořák’s Cypresses, the Aizuri Quartet held the March 8th audience at Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church in thrall. The church was more than half full, a good crowd considering present anxiety about the spread of the coronavirus. Taking precautions, the M...
COLORFUL BORN BACH AT AGAVE BAROQUE'S SCHROEDER HALL CONCERT
by Sonia Morse Tubridy
Friday, February 28, 2020
Bach’s obituary records that “Johann Sebastian Bach belongs to a family that seems to have received a love and aptitude for music as a gift of Nature to all its members in common.” Agave Baroque presented their Feb. 28 concert, Born Bach, as a partial musical story of several generations in this rem...
ECLECTIC VIOLIN AND PIANO WORKS IN VIRTUOSIC MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 23, 2020
Blending virtuosity with sublime artistry, violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky and pianist Wu Qian gave the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society audience many thrills February 23, performing four muscular and soulful works by four composers from four countries: de Falla, Schumann, Stravinsky, and Grieg. T...
PREMIER OF KAIZEN AND DRAMATIC MOZART HIGHLIGHT ECHO CHAMBER CONCERT
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, February 16, 2020
As concertgoers took their seats in San Anselmo’s First Presbyterian Church for ECHO Chamber Orchestra’s February 16 program, they were surprised to see at center stage two bass drums, a tom-tom, bongos, high hat and cymbals. It was the occasion of the world premiere of "Kaizen," composed and perf...
OPERA REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Friday, July 17, 2015
Allan Pollack, conductor. Chester Pidduck (Almaviva); Eugene Brancoveanu (Figaro); Nikki Einfield (Rosina); Igor Vieira (Bartolo); Dennis Rupp (Basilio); Adina Dorband (Berta)

I. Vieira E. Brancoveanu C. Pidduck N. Enflield D. Rupp A. Dorband J, Russell (N. Wilson Photo)

OPERA BUFFA HI JINX IN ROSSINI'S BARBER AT MENDO FESTIVAL

by Ken Bullock
Friday, July 17, 2015

During his July 17 lecture before the sole Mendocino Music Festival performance of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, stage director Eugene Brancoveanu spoke of Commedia Dell’Arte. Mr. Brancoveanu, who sang the baritone title role of Figaro, alluded to the stylized clowning that is sometimes performed in the huge festival tent, and cast his eyes upward, humorously, to the top of the tent.

Beside mentioning Commedia (the comedy of craft) where lying is to tell the truth, and masked characters unmask the self, Mr. Brancoveanu pointed to the revolution Rossini effected in opera with his new treatment of vocal ornamentation in Bel Canto. “When someone hears a Rossini opera today, they’ll say it’s standard repertoire. But in his time, he was avant-garde and very controversial.”

And in a most refreshing way the Festival production brought Opera Buffa back to popular musical theater, to the delight of a nearly full house. The cast of seven played and sang with an often half-careless brilliance that almost seemed planned, and was wholly in the spirit of the Opera and Mr. Brancoveanu’s staging.

In Figaro’s famous first aria the baritone’s vocal and stage presence showed clear enjoyment of the mischievousness of the impish rogue, barber and procurer. The singing was so clever that it proved a showstopper with the audience cheering above its own applause.

Soprano Nikki Einfeld acted physically like a bored and love-crazed girl, but sang Rosina’s Una voce pocco fa with a knowing and mature voice, exciting in high melisma that continued through both acts. As Count Almaviva, tenor Chester Pidduck excelled both in the ornamental word play and the sweetness of the love songs. He acted with deft humor when disguised as a drunken soldier seeking to get free housing, and as a conspiratorial music student trying to be near Rosina.

Bass singers Igor Vieira and Dennis Rupp were convincing as Doctor Bartolo, Rosina’s overly doting guardian, and as Basilio (Mr. Rupp), the clownish clerical music teacher in cahoots with Bartolo. Mr. Vieira sang and acted brilliantly as the sourpuss that knows everyone is out to get him but quickly switched to falsetto to cruelly mimic his tormentors.

Even the minor roles were well performed. Soprano Adina Dorband as the superannuated old maid governess, stirringly sang Il vecchio cerca moglie. As the officer, James Russell doesn’t speak or sing, but had the audience in laughter trying to arrest the ersatz music student. The latter proves he is a nobleman with a gesture, and Mr. Russell joined the scene with the full cast going frozen in a tableau vivant, and where Mr. Russell’s features slowly oscillate between rubber-faced mugging and wry expressions of fear, disorientation and loathing.

The big final trio of Almaviva, Figaro and Rosina was performed elegantly.

The Opera’s four scenes ran the gamut of comic and serious emotions, and the Festival Orchestra (conducted by Allan Pollack) buoyed up the singing and occasionally soared above the vocal lines.