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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
Sonoma State University Dept. of Music / Wednesday, December 05, 2018
Zachary Gordin, conductor and continuo. Lily Bogas, Daniella Caveney, Anna Leach, Alexandria Alonso, Jennifer Silvera and Janell Balico, soprano; Rachel Levin, mezzo-soprano; Jack Adkins, baritone; Mathew Adiao, tenor; Caleb Forschen, violin; Brynn Dally, cello; Emma Webb, organ.

Daniella Caveney (l) and Lily Bogas (A. Wasserman photo)

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 university at the Green Music Center (the first was faculty member Brian Wilson’s one-act Agamemnon in 2014). For now, a second performance of Dido and Aeneas may take place next spring.

The vocal lineup was all Sonoma State students but two: Lily Bogas, a 16-year-old student at Tamalpais High School in Mill Valley, sang the role of Dido, the Queen of Carthage, with passion, queenly poise and a beautiful soprano voice; and soprano Daniella Caveney was brought in as a chorus member to bulk up the sound of the Chorus, which was bare-bones, numbering only five singers that were joined between duets and trios by most of the principals. It was a wise choice.

Dido and Aeneas is often presented as a concert performance, but not here. The work from 1689 was fully staged, featuring characterizations, dramatic action, mime, choreography, costumes, and set, with lighting and props. The costume of the Sorceress (black bustier, tights, cloak and a cape of dark feathers) was a standout. Dido’s lady-in-waiting’s dress was a little fancier than her sister Belinda’s dress, and because both were grooming Dido and singing to her, and there was no libretto in the program, initial confusion followed.

Purcell’s first and only true opera can be successfully scaled down, as this production showed. Joining Mr. Gordin in a tiny orchestra of four instruments were Caleb Forschen, violin; cellist Brynn Dally; and Emma Webb, organ. Ms. Webb’s organ part was her terrific evocation of a storm, which is brought on by the Witches to separate Dido and Aeneas in Act I, Scene 2.

This opera lends itself to youthful voices. The young singers' breath control and pitch accuracy were impressive. Along with Ms. Bogas’ exquisite Dido there were lovely performances by soprano Janell Balico (Belinda) and by mezzo-soprano Rachel Levin as the evil Sorceress who wants to destroy Dido. Soprano Anna Leach sang beautifully as Dido’s lady-in-waiting; baritone Jack Adkins was a handsome and conflicted Aeneas; and tenor Mathew Adiao performed a elegant aria “Come Away, Fellow Sailors,” with precise enunciation. The two Witches, minions of the Sorceress, were sung with sweet malice by sopranos Jennifer Silvera and Alexandria Alonzo.

The narrative sweep of the opera leaves something to be desired, as there are many spaces that could be filled dramatically, but the drama hinges on the passionate love that is sparked between Dido and Aeneas. Eros was not an element explored in this production as much as the supernatural. Though the story is based on Virgil’s Aenead, it’s a tale of magical manipulation and poor choices by mortals, royal though they may be.

The Sorceress’s Elf, who impersonates Mercury to convince Aeneas to abandon Dido, is a singing part for counter-tenor or mezzo-soprano. In this production chorus member Joshua Lovell as Elf/Mercury had to stand silently as the Sorceress, like a ventriloquist, delivered his message from a balcony above. This somewhat drained the moment, and it might have worked better for Ms. Levin to sing directly behind Mr. Lovell, showing that he is her creature. High points in the music were many. They included the Act I duet between Belinda and Dido’s lady-in-waiting, “Fear No Danger to Ensue”; the wonderful and sinister “The Queen of Carthage” (“Ha Ha Ha”), sung by the Sorceress, Witches and Chorus; and Dido’s glorious tragic lament “When I Am Laid in Earth”.

The audience, which included many family members and friends of the cast, gave the performers a standing ovation, and then surrounded them in the post-concert lobby with love and celebratory flowers.