12. August 2010 · Comments Off on Wall Street Journal on Merola · Categories: Merola, Opera

Check it out!

There’s even a paragraph on Elixir.

I wasn’t completely tuned in to how Merola operates, and wasn’t clear on the Adler Fellows, so I found it an interesting read.

Then, as Ms. Graham put it, “they throw you into the deep end of the pool, even if you don’t know how to swim.” I interviewed 10 participants in the program, from the class of 1980 to the class of 2010. All agreed on the frantic intensity of the pace, the incredible amount of information you were expected to absorb—while preparing for at least three public performances—in less than three months. “We were all little sponges, ready to cram in as much as possible,” said Ms. Voigt, between rehearsals in Japan. “The faculty throw such a crazy amount of information at you,” says Eleazar Rodriguez, ’09-’10. “Only now, a year later, am I beginning to understand it.” Elza van den Heever, ’03-’04—who has an astonishing career already lined up—compared the program to a young doctor’s high-pressure residency in a hospital.

Since there were two casts for Elixir some folks like to attend two performances to catch all the singers. And some people go to all four performances! So here are a few more reviews I’ve now located:

Opera Tattler (from the final performance)
Civic Center (from Thursday night, I believe)
Examiner (a second review, this one from Sunday)

09. August 2010 · Comments Off on Elixir, Over & Out · Categories: Merola, Opera

So I’m done with Merola for the year. They have one more concert, the Grand Finale, but the “real” opera folks play that one. I will just be arriving home from a trip the day before, so I can’t imagine having the energy to get up to San Francisco to hear them, but I sure would have loved it if I could. I think this year gave us such a treat; what a fine group of singers!

And yet they, like yours truly, manage to have issues too. Today I arrived at the hall to see last night’s Dulcamara, Thomas Florio rehearsing with today’s Adina, Valentina Fleer. Clearly today’s scheduled Dulcamara, Sidney Outlaw, was ill. (Later this was confirmed.) On the second night of performances the tenor, Alexander Lewis, singing Nemorino, had to leave partway into act two and Daniel Montenegro had to jump in (he sang the previous night). It was clear Mr. Lewis was suffering, as we could hear him coughing. Poor guy. I was so happy to see and hear him on stage today, though, and he did a wonderful job!

To add to the hearing aid noise of Saturday night, Sunday’s performance brought in some attendees who, sitting in the second row, placed two bouquets of very fragrant flowers in the empty first row in front of them (I sit right in front of that empty row). I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to handle this, but I did survive. They were at the other end of the “pit” and I wondered if the strings were at all bothered. (Without those flowers we still are “blessed”. I smell what to me seems like a cabbage stench which I believe is from the bay water or some such thing. I don’t know if everyone smells it as strongly as I though; I have a very keen sense of smell.)

I never know, from year to year, if I’ll be asked back. The hiring order has been “real” opera folk first (they usually turn it down), then two other players who toured with Merola back when they did that sort of thing, and finally me. So far. You never know if you’ll remain on a list when you aren’t under any sort of contract. I do hope I get to do something next year; I really love hearing these incredibly talented young singers! I start to feel as if I know them, even while they wouldn’t even recognize me if they walked by me. (Shoot, I’d go to the post-performance reception listed below if I had the time and $$ … ah well!) You never know which of these singers will go on to do incredible things. I do recall playing in the Grand Finale (back when they had to hire and extra and I was miraculously called) for Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazón, among others. (I should pull out my programs to see what other names appear!)

If you are interested in the Grand Finale here’s a bit of info:

Merola Grand Finale

Saturday, August 21, 7:30 PM
War Memorial Opera House
$45 Orchestra Premium and Grand Tier Premium | $35 Orchestra and Grand Tier
$25 Dress Circle | $15 Students
Merola Grand Finale Reception

Saturday, August 21, post-performance
War Memorial Opera House, Lower Level Cafe

To purchase tickets by phone:

San Francisco Opera Box Office
Phone: (415) 864-3330
Monday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Tuesday-Friday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm

07. August 2010 · Comments Off on Another Review · Categories: Merola, Opera

Here’s one, again by Opera Tattler, about last night’s performance. It’s a different cast. For the most part. Until Nemorino had to be pulled due to what sounded like a cold or something that hit his voice. (Believe me, I know how it can be … not that I sing, but my throat is NOT pleased that I’m playing oboe right now.)

Opera Tattler writes about the singer switch as well as other things. I had wondered if the horrible hearing aid was heard by the entire audience. From what she writes I’m guess so. How sad for the audience. The elderly man was sitting within arm’s reach of me. If I were a brave sort I might have said something to him. But of course I’m not brave, so never mind. She also write about the orchestra not being together. Well. Yes. There’s that. In other words, she’s correct. I’ll just leave it at that, aside from saying she’s right about the space. And I hadn’t really thought about how the play within a play thing doesn’t quite work. I just like the set & costumes and wasn’t thinking about it in any “this doesn’t quite work” kind of way. Because that would … well … require thinking. Now why would I start thinking at this point in my life, eh?

I always feel bad for a singer when things go awry. I remember many years ago when I actually heard a popping sound on a soprano note right at the very end of a first act. Sure enough, the singer wasn’t able to continue. The poor girl was crying; her parents had come all the way here to hear her, and she had done something that disabled her for, if I’m remembering correctly, the rest of the run. I believe that last night’s first Nemorino has his mother here from Australia. I’m sure he was distraught too. I wish him a speedy recovery … in time for Sunday if at all possible!

06. August 2010 · Comments Off on First Reviews Are In · Categories: Merola, Reviews

Some reviews are in, and one, that is supposed to be up at the Mercury News says it’s no longer available and I should search the archives. Hmmm. I think they have a problem. And, now that I check another, so does Contra Costa Times. I’m going to guess they are by the same writer, Richard Scheinin. Maybe they had to correct something on those, and the links will be up and running soon.

Update @ 12:05 AM (yes, I’m just home from Friday night’s opera)
The Mercury News review is nowhere.

Here are those I’ve found so far:

Opera Tattler (Charlise Tiee)
Examiner (Mark Rudio) (also found here (A Beast in a Jungle)
SFGate.com (Joshua Kosman)
SFCV (Jason Victor Serinus)

Some liked it. Some didn’t.

Do I have opinions? Yep. Am I gonna give ’em. Nope. I was performing, and when I’m performing I keep things to myself for the most part. When I remember to. 😎

04. August 2010 · Comments Off on Final Dress, Over & Out · Categories: Conductors, Merola, Opera

So now it’s on to the four performances of L’Elisir d’Amore.

Four years ago the same conductor, Martin Katz, was here. I had to cancel out on a rehearsal because I was sick. This year I don’t have to cancel out, but I do have a stupid cold. Sigh. Last night I had a few coughing spells, but otherwise I survived. Now I’m on to the constant sniffly stage. Not fun when one is playing oboe, but what can ya do?

The opera is easy for second oboe (as I’ve told readers earlier) but it is certainly not easy to play as softly as required due to the non-pit. Last night a colleague asked an audience member (they bring in donors and others for the dress rehearsals) how the balance was and she said we did still cover up the singers at times. I can honestly say I can’t play any softer, and I already have a swab in the bell to mute the sound. I could play “air oboe” if necessary, though. That doesn’t even require a good reed!

The conductor, Martin Katz, has been a pianist for a number of singers, including Marilyn Horne. From what I can see, I can’t put up anything with Horne, as all the YouTube videos request I don’t embed them. So here are some links from his younger days:

Rossini: “Se il vuol, la molinara”
Copland: Simple Gifts
Saint-Saëns: “Mon coeur s’ouvre a ta voix”

… and of course there are more.

Here is an interview with Martin Katz:

Part 1:

Part 2:

02. August 2010 · Comments Off on Merola Update · Categories: Merola, Opera

Just received from those in the know:

“Patty, Sunday is nearly sold out, but we still have great seats available for Thursday, Friday and Saturday! If you don’t have your tickets yet, it’s not too late!”

So get those tickets if you want ’em! 🙂

This Thursday through Sunday you can hear some mighty fine voices. Truly. This is my fourth year playing with Merola, and I must say I’m really blown away this year by the quality.

Someone complained that the prices were too high, which I find rather ridiculous. You have an orchestra. You have a staged opera. And you are hearing some wonderful singers, some of whom will, I’m sure, go on to sing on the big stages where the prices will be far too high. But they’ll be (and are) worth it!

L’Elisir d’Amore

by Gaetano Donizetti
Libretto by Felice Romani
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
Thursday – Saturday, August 5, 6 and 7, 8:00 PM
Sunday, August 8, 2:00 PM
Cowell Theater at Fort Mason Center
$60 | $40 | $25 Students

Thursday, August 5 and Saturday, August 7 at 8:00 PM
Adina: Nadine Sierra
Nemorino: Daniel Montenegro
Belcore: Benjamin Covey
Giannetta: Hye Jung Lee
Dulcamara: Thomas Florio

Friday, August 6 at 8:00 PM and Sunday, August 8, 2:00 PM
Adina: Valentina Fleer
Nemorino: Alexander Lewis
Belcore: Ao Li
Giannetta: Abigail Santos Villalobos
Dulcamara: Sidney Outlaw

We saw a production (see below) of this with the Big Guys up in San Francisco a while back. Believe me, the tickets cost more. (Of course at this point it doesn’t matter, since “my” Elixir is sold out!)

02. August 2010 · Comments Off on Final Merola Week · Categories: Merola, Opera, Videos

Today we begin our final week with Merola; two more rehearsals, and four performances to go. The singers really are fantastic. I’d tell people to buy tickets, but I was told they sold out a month ago, so never mind. (If I find out there are seats available you can be sure I’ll blog about it!)

I’m having a great time; the principal oboist is great fun to work with, my carpool buddies are great, and it’s a rather non-stressful job, which I’ve not had for a long time. The only “but” in all of this is the fact that I have to play softer than I’ve ever played. I finally gave up and shoved a swab in the bell. I play nearly the entire opera with that thing crammed in the oboe. The issue is the hall; there’s no pit! So we are on the same level as the audience, and the stage is only a bit above us. This does cause issues for balance. Ah well … keeps me working hard, to play that softly.

Here’s Valentina Fleer, who sings Adina in one of the casts:

I would love to put videos up of all the singers, but I couldn’t find any more. Too bad. I wonder if they haven’t been allowed to put any up, or if they just don’t have any yet, as they are rather young.

I’ve written about this before, and I’m sure I’ll continue to write about this: I do hope the union rules change about things recording use. I think we should all be allowed to use video clips and recordings. I’m not asking for a full work, but to not even allow 5 minutes of work is ridiculous. Times have changed, and the union hasn’t kept up. They need to.

27. July 2010 · Comments Off on Happy Happy · Categories: Merola, Opera

Today, as I mentioned before, was a two rehearsal day for Merola. The first was merely us orchestra folk, but the second one included a cast of Elixir. My, oh, my there are some good voices there. I mean … wow! I’m so enjoying hearing these talented young singers!

To add to this joy, I am playing second oboe and there is nothing stressful about the opera for me. This past year had its ups and downs, and definitely had a lot of stressful moments, what with principal oboe for opera and English horn for some of symphony. So I am now just basking in beautiful voices and no stress at all.

Happy times, to be sure! 🙂