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Symphony
A SLICE OF HEAVEN FROM THE SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, January 13, 2019
Under its vibrant new music director, Francesco Lecce-Chong, the Santa Rosa Symphony this past Sunday offered a nearly perfect afternoon of Mozart (Symphony No. 40) and Mahler (Symphony No. 4). While the two works share a common digit, the only element uniting them is genius. They made for a dazzlin...
Recital
KHOZYAINOV'S BRILLIANT PIANISM IN MILL VALLEY RECITAL
by Abby Wasserman
Sunday, January 13, 2019
In its third concert of the season the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society Jan. 13 presented Russian virtuoso Nikolay Khozyainov. His intelligent and sensitive interpretations, masterful pedal work, and virtuoso technique left the near-capacity audience in Mt. Tamalpais Methodist Church astounded and ...
Chamber
A COMPLETE MUSICAL PACKAGE IN ARRON'S OAKMONT RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Cellist Edward Arron has been a welcome artist at the Music at Oakmont series, and after his Jan. 10 recital it’s easy to understand his popularity. His artistry is a complete package, with potent instrumental technique wedded to integral musical conceptions. In a nearly flawless concert with pian...
Choral and Vocal
COMPELLING WEILL HALL MESSIAH ORATORIO FROM THE ABS
by Terry McNeill
Saturday, December 15, 2018
Each holiday season when a Classical Sonoma reviewer is assigned to cover a concert with Handel’s seminal Oratorio The Messiah, the question arises about what new commentary can possibly apply to the often performed choral work. Well, if it’s the American Bach Soloists performing the piece, written...
Opera
PURCELL'S DIDO IN YOUTHFUL SSU OPERA
by Abby Wasserman
Wednesday, December 05, 2018
A doomed royal love affair, the theme of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas, was brought to lovely life at Sonoma State University Dec. 5 in the school’s Schroeder Hall. Conducted by faculty member Zachary Gordin, who also played continuo, the performance was only the second opera production presented by the...
Symphony
SANTA ROSA SYMPHONY HERALDS THE HOLIDAYS
by Steve Osborn
Sunday, December 02, 2018
Antlers are typical headgear during the holiday season, but the ushers and one bassist at the Santa Rosa Symphony concert on Dec. 2 sported apples atop their heads. The red fruits were festive but perplexing until the orchestra began Rossini’s “William Tell” overture, at which point even the dull-wi...
Symphony
A HERO'S ODYSSEY IN SO CO PHIL CONCERT
by Art Hofmann
Sunday, November 18, 2018
The audience at the Sonoma County Philharmonic’s Nov. 18 concert was warned at the outset that the old Santa Rosa High School auditorium boiler was turned off, and there was a steady eminently audible tone in the hall. Conductor Norman Gamboa said the tone was an A, a high one. But there it was, a...
Recital
MTA BENEFIT CONCERT FEATURES FAURE, DVORAK, JANACEK AND BARBER WORKS
by Terry McNeill
Sunday, November 11, 2018
In a splendid concert Nov. 11 the Music Teachers Association of California, Sonoma County Chapter, presented their sixth annual benefit concert before 40 avid listeners in the Santa Rosa home of Helen Howard and Robert Yeats. Highlights of the performances, involving eight musicians in various perf...
Recital
SERKIN'S SINGULAR MOZART AND BACH PLAYING IN WEILL RECITAL
by Terry McNeill
Friday, November 09, 2018
Returning to Weill Hall following a fire-related recital cancellation in 2017, pianist Peter Serkin programmed just three works in his Nov. 7 concert, three masterworks that challenged both artist and audience alike. It needs to be said at the outset that Mr. Serkin takes a decidedly non-standard a...
Chamber
LUMINOUS FAURE TOPS LINCOLN TRIO'S SPRING LAKE VILLAGE CONCERT
by Terry McNeill
Wednesday, November 07, 2018
Familiarity in chamber music often evokes warm appreciation, and it was thus Nov. 7 when the Chicago-based Lincoln Piano Trio made one of their many Sonoma County appearances, this time on the Spring Lake Village Classical Music Series. Regularly presented by local impresario Robert Hayden, the Lin...
OPERA REVIEW
Mendocino Music Festival / Friday, July 13, 2018
Festival Orchestra, Luçik Aprahämian, conductor. Singers include Shawnette Sulker, Tonia D'Amelia, Sylvie Jensen, Michael Desnoyers, Bojan Knezevic and Ben Brady. Erin Neff, stage director

Cast In The July 13 Cimarosa Opera Production (Nicholas Wilson Photo)

SPARKLING CIMAROSA OPERA HIGHLIGHTS MENDOCINO MUSIC FESTIVAL

by Kathryn Stewart
Friday, July 13, 2018

The Classical music era was a time of extraordinary innovation. Dominated by composers from the German-speaking countries, the period witnessed the handiwork of masterpieces by two classical giants, Haydn and Mozart. Both composers put forth a tremendous catalog of masterful works and perhaps to our modern ears hold the status of creative giants.

The downside of giants is that they cast shadows, certainly over the centuries. Such is the case for Domenico Cimarosa. Despite having written over 80 operas in his lifetime, and enjoying more success than his contemporary Mozart saw in his lifetime, his works are oft-neglected and undervalued in today’s halls, both large and small.

What a shame, because the 1792 opera Il Matrimonio Segreto is a delightful romp of an operatic romantic comedy that aptly depicts the anxieties and difficulties of two young and unhappy lovers who live surrounded by gossip and selfishness. And the Mendocino Music Festival Orchestra and an adept cast of Festival singers brought Italian composer’s charming score to effervescent life July 13.

The opera was scheduled as part of the 32nd season of the Festival. A crisp, coastal evening proved no challenge for the large white tent, which filled slowly but steadily with opera fans, old and young, despite the performance taking place during a month surely filled with travel and vacations. Ushers seemed decked out for the festive occasion, a few donning top hats. Unticketed music lovers wandered by, listening to the music from afar and enjoying a late sunset over the bluffs.

The set and lighting were impressive, given the limitations of creating a makeshift stage under the massive tent. With orchestra and guest conductor Luçik Aprahämian hidden behind a curtain (surely helping to provide the semblance of a house set but doing nothing for the enjoyment of watching the conductor-orchestra relationship) the overture got the opera buffa in two acts off to a swift start. Her tempi throughout were lively and fitting of the style, which translated into an amusing moment onstage, with the young lovers central to the opera’s plot engaging in private moments in the shadows of the stage curtain.

If the orchestra took a few minutes to find their cohesive sound, the singers did also. Tenor Michael Desnoyers displayed terrific range as Apolino, both vocally and dramatically, but one had a sense with the first duet that he had not quite yet presented his full talents. Shawnette Sulker was sprightly of voice and character as Carolina, with a lovely sound that opened up especially when singing above the staff. Despite the opening duet slowly finding its way in the drama, the music and nerves soon came together, with other cast members joining the stage, giving a sense of ease and playfulness to director Erin Neff’s staging.

Tonia D’Amelia was charmingly clever in vocalism, with a good sense of comedic timing as the overlooked sister Elisetta. Sylvie Jensen’s “Real Housewives” style aunt Fidalma was campy in all the right ways, with a beautiful and rich mezzo quality which perhaps was lost a bit with the tent’s acoustic challenges. The tent also caused much of the Italian language to be absorbed before hitting the audience. Only the two bass singers seemed to display enough “oomph” in their diction to project past the first few rows. Young bass Ben Brady sang with a deep legato that matched the role of the sly and dodgy Count. Bass Bojan Knezevic was a standout in the cast, with the perfect amount of vocal character, over the top facial expressions, and grumpiness of spirit to play into the fatherly stereotype.

The end of the opera was met with robust applause and standing ovations. Indeed, a fun and delightful evening of opera under the white tent.