Posts Tagged ‘opera’

A Streetcar Named Desire – Opera Style!

Opera San José resident artist Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and guest artists Ariana Strahl as “Blanche” and Stacey Tappan as “Stella”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San José resident artist Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and guest artists Ariana Strahl as “Blanche” and Stacey Tappan as “Stella”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San Jose has really been outdoing itself this year, as it does every year.  February’s Carmen was outstanding, and now they have taken a dip in the theatre-pond, bringing us Mr. Tennessee Williams. Did you know A Streetcar Named Desire was also an opera by André Previn? Well there was no way I was going to miss this. I was so excited to see this show, in a completely different way than I usually am.

As soon as you step into the California Theatre you can see this opera is going to be different. The curtain was already up and there were actors already on stage sitting on chairs! And not a velvet gown in sight. These were manly men, shirtless and dirty, drinking from bottles as they lounged in the chairs waiting for us to sit. Also, the orchestra was behind the stage. All of this was so different from anything I’d seen at the opera before, I was bouncing in my chair waiting for it to begin.

Opera San José resident artists Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and Kirk Dougherty at “Mitch”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San José resident artists Matthew Hanscom as “Stanley” and Kirk Dougherty at “Mitch”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Now I’ll be honest. It had to grow on me. When Ariana Strahl as Blanche DuBois strolls onstage and starts singing my mind had a terribly difficult time connecting what I was seeing to what I was hearing.  My heart fell just a tiny bit as I realized I might not enjoy it as much as I had anticipated. But the music was outstanding, it has the feel of a 1950s film score.  And of course the story of Blanche, and Stanley, and STELLAAAAAAAAA is fantastic no matter what, so I sat and tried to enjoy the show as much as I could.

Fear not, it was already growing on me before the first intermission (there are two).  And it wasn’t long before I realized Streetcar is actually your typical opera story: the male is somewhat of a… trying to come up with a family friendly adjective here… jerk.  Yeah, let’s call him that.  So your main male character is a big, fat, jerk, and the main female that the story revolves around is basically a whore.  Sigh.  And because Streetcar is no Comedy, we know what’s going to happen to the “whore” in the end.

If you’ve never seen or read Streetcar in any version before, note that this is not a show for young children. There is talk of homosexuality, suicide, “loose women”, domestic violence and a choreographed rape.  The setting is a tough time in a tough neighborhood where men earn the money and the women do what they’re told. But it is also an amazing, touching story, and the entire production is done extremely well.

Stacey Tappan is a luscious Stella, Matthew Hanscom is as manly a Stanley as you can get, and I adored Kirk Dougherty as Mitch. But another standout for me was Cabiria Jacobsen as Eunice. She has a smaller role, but it was a great one.

Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Mitch” and guest artist Ariana Strahl as “Blanche”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Mitch” and guest artist Ariana Strahl as “Blanche”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

The finale of the show at opening night got the standing ovation that it deserved.  From the catchy, more “modern” music, to the 1950s era costumes, to our amazing resident opera singers, and even the sparse, perfect staging, this is an outstanding production. It did grow on me, and then it bloomed, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to see the show. I think the show might be a very good introduction to opera newbies, but the music and voices are the usual perfection to please long-time opera fans as well. Perhaps even some English majors can get their noses out of their books and get out for a night to see a story really brought to life.

I’m so glad the show is going to be playing all the way through May 1. It is a great show to end the season with, while we look forward to next year which will include:

Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor
Rossini’s The Barber of Seville
Puts & Campbell’s Silent Night
Puccini’s La bohème

Don’t miss this amazing modern opera at the California Theatre.

A Streetcar Named Desire
Opera San Jose
playing through May 1
Tickets

 

A Magical Evening at Opera San Jose

Well, I was at the afternoon matinee, but still. It was one of the best times I’ve had at the opera, and I’m so happy that there is still time for you to see it. The Magic Flute is a show for adults and children, oldies and newbies, opera and theatre lovers. And it includes a majestic dragon!!

The dragon attacks Tamino in The Magic Flute. Photo credit Pat Kirk

The dragon attacks Tamino in The Magic Flute. Photo credit Pat Kirk

This may not be the best show I’ve ever seen at Opera San Jose, but I still enjoyed it so much and it is a great show for other Opera Novices and Newbies.  As always, the performances were incredible, the story was great, the music was beautiful, the costumes were gorgeous, …but there are some stand-outs that make this a show you should not miss.

1.  This is a great opera for Newbies and families with children.  The Magic Flute is sung in German but has spoken words in English. It always throws me off when an opera is not entirely sung, which is probably the only issue I had with this show, but for newbies and children this is a great plus and makes for an easy introduction to opera.  As always, the lyrics (and spoken lines) are projected in super titles above the stage so you can follow along.  The show has children involved, though they are not the stars, and there were many children in the audience. Although I wasn’t sure they would be able to follow the story entirely, there was not a peep from any of them during the entire three hours.

2. Chris Salinas, Daniel Ostrom and Winter Felton-Priestner are three very young men who can now add “Soprano, Opera San Jose” to their resumes and I don’t think they’ve even hit middle school yet. This certainly trumps my own resume and I might be a tiny bit jealous.

3. There are a couple scenes with children silently wearing beautifully painted animal masks, and the animal-like choreography was riveting. Kudos to both the choreographer and the kids for nailing each of their parts and creating a magical tableau whenever they were on stage.

4. The show is often very funny, usually thanks to Matthew Hanscom as hapless Papageno.  Papageno just wants a wife to love him, but how will he find a woman who wants to marry a poor bird trainer?

5. Isabella Ivy (soprano) is breathtaking as the Queen of the Night.  Two of the songs she sang were so intricate and complicated that any Newbie could see these must be some of the most difficult pieces in opera.  Even more amazing, she sang one of these very complicated pieces in the upper ranges of the scale, while kneeling down, and as she stood her foot got tangled in her skirts. She not only calmly untangled herself, but she never missed a beat or a note in one of the most amazing sections of music I have ever heard. Every jaw in the theater was hanging open. She was incredible.

6. THE DRAGON.  The dragon was simply the most beautiful prop I have ever seen. It was huge and graceful and gorgeous and majestic.  Its wings moved, it spouted smoke from its mouth (the kids in the audience LOVED this), and for me it was the star of the show.  During intermission I voiced my hopes that the dragon would make another appearance, and it did when everyone came out for a bow. That dragon earned its ovation, and so have the operators, the designers and creaters of that piece.  More dragons like that need to be in opera!!

When the entire thing was over I realized that I had had a really fun time. I haven’t always enjoyed every opera I’ve attended, and it has taken me a while to appreciate some parts of opera. But ever since Madama Butterfly, Opera SJ has been drawing me in. I may still be the Opera Novice in most aspects, but I am also quite certainly becoming an Opera Lover.

Recently I have noticed the shows have not had two casts, and are instead having one cast do a shorter run of each show. I don’t know if this is a financial decision (or just a coincidence), but I can say that the performers have upped their game, and the performances are tighter than I’ve ever seen. Try if you can to make one of the last performances (I have heard they are close to selling out all shows) but if you don’t make this one, mark your calendars quickly to get seats for next season. It starts with Puccini’s Tosca, and after that come The Marriage of Figaro (YAY!), Carmen (YAY!), and then A Streetcar Named Desire. That is going to be one amazing season and this Opera Novice is looking forward to it more than ever.

The Magic Flute
Opera San Jose
Thru May 3

SJ Opera: Where Angels Fear to Tread

Opera San José resident artists Chloe Smart as "Padrona, the innkeeper" and Lisa Chavez as "Harriet Herriton," guest artist Jennie Litster as "the Opera Singer, " and Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as "Philip Herriton".  Photo credit Pat Kirk

Opera San José resident artists Chloe Smart as “Padrona, the innkeeper” and Lisa Chavez as “Harriet Herriton,” guest artist Jennie Litster as “the Opera Singer, ” and Opera San José resident artist Kirk Dougherty as “Philip Herriton”. Photo credit Pat Kirk

This weekend I attended the World Premiere of Opera San Jose‘s Where Angels Fear to Tread, based on the novel by E.M. Forster, and I haven’t really stopped thinking about it since. I was very excited to see a brand new opera. Good or bad it is great to occasionally see something new, and that is a pretty rare occasion with opera. I felt like it had a shaky start, and I had some issues with the story itself, but as an opera it was completely enjoyable and I would definitely go see it again – something I do not often say.

I have not read Forster’s story, but the opera was quite an emotional roller coaster and I’m still not sure if this is considered a tragedy or comedy.  It opens with Lilia, a young English widow, and her friend Caroline Abbot vacationing in Italy. Lilia’s brother-in-law Phillip has rushed to see them because he has heard that Lilia has fallen in love with a young Italian, Gino, and not only that, but the young man is – hold on to your hats, folks – the son of a DENTIST. I know, it can’t get much worse than that, right??  Well, this is apparently a horrific situation to the English, but Phillip is too late as Lilia has impetuously gone out and married the young man already. Several months later we see the marriage has not gone well, but Lilia is now pregnant, so once again it is too late. But then Lilia dies in childbirth and her English in-laws have decided there is no way they will let the child be brought up by those wretched Italians (especially the son of a dentist! *GASP*) so Phillip and his sister come back to Italy to try to convince Gino to give them his son. Caroline Abbott also wants to adopt the boy, and is upset that the English family is really only concerned about appearances.

But then another tragedy strikes, and it is so upsetting I thought the woman sitting next to me was going to collapse in a fit. She could not stop exclaiming and clutching her hands to her heart until the end of the opera, and I have to agree, it was shocking and truly tragic.

And yet there is a lot of comedy in this opera too, including an adorable dachshund who completely steals the show at the end of Act I. I have heard the dog was trained to howl on cue, but it appeared to the audience that he was barking for everyone to STOP THAT SINGING and Act I ended with the audience in hysterics.  Later, almost immediately after the tragedy in Act III, Phillip gets his heart broken by the woman he loves, and it was a bit funny so we all laughed at him while also feeling weird for laughing so soon after the tragedy. The play ends with both Phillip and Gino deciding to live it up and be happy in Italy while the two women seem to sulk back to England, alone. How nice that the men, once again in opera, get to have the happy endings.

Guest artist Christie Conover as “Caroline Abbott”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

Guest artist Christie Conover as “Caroline Abbott”. Photo credit Pat Kirk.

The story may have given me some problems, but opera storylines often do with me. The opera itself however was spectacular. I was not too thrilled in the beginning, when I had troubles understanding the connections with the music, the libretto, and what was going on, but by the end of Act I I was all in, and from that point on the music and singing were simply amazing.  Jenny Litster has a small part as the Opera Singer, but she was adorable and completely won over the audience (along with the amazing dachshund). Guest artist Christie Conover plays Caroline Abbott and did an outstanding job, and I hope we can see more of her in the future. But the winner of the night was Brian James Myer, who stepped into the role of Gino when Matthew Hanscom was unable to perform. Brian James Myer made the show. During intermission the audience could not stop talking about the song he sang to his baby. It was a moving performance and made the later tragedy that much more horrendous and upsetting. When he is given his tragic news later, he sobs into Caroline’s lap in a scene that tore at our hearts. At the end he was given the loudest applause, and he deserved it. Brian James Myer is a name to look for in the future.

Aside from the bumpy beginning, which may have been problematic for no one else but me, the Opera Novice, the rest of the opera was incredible. Conductor Joseph Marcheso did a masterful job leading the orchestra. I particularly loved a short piccolo (possibly flute) solo, and there are plenty of oboe parts which are always my favorite. This is the World Premiere, and I look forward to hearing the music in the future and seeing the opera again as well.

The stage was set beautifully in Italy, with several tall columns that were turned to create slightly different scenes: a hotel lobby, a sitting room, a dining room, etc. The lighting, especially in the opening scene, was simply breathtaking.  The opera is in English with supertitles in English.

I may have issues with the story, but I have no problem recommending this opera or the music. I commend Opera San Jose for giving a new piece a chance and obviously putting a lot of time, effort, sweat and tears and money into this production. It was well worth it.

Where Angels Fear to Tread
Opera San Jose
Through February 22
California Theatre

 

And a rollicking good time was had by all…

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Roselinde and tenor MIchael Dailey as Alfred. Photo by Pat Kirk

I have now attended close to a dozen different shows at Opera San Jose, and I can honestly say that Strauss’s Die Fledermaus was like no other I have ever seen.  If you are looking to attend your first opera, or even if you would like to introduce opera to your teenager (that’s right!) then this is the opera for you… and yet it is still perfect and worthy for the seasoned attendee.

 

Die Fledermaus is about one man seeking hilarious revenge for an embarrassing practical joke from the past, and in the process there are endless mistaken identities which will leave you in sidesplitting stitches.  There is no love story in this opera, requited or otherwise; nothing particularly deep in the plot; neither is there a tragic death or a particularly happy ending.  More than half the songs are about drinking, and the second act revolves around a party of debauchery which may (or may not) include beautiful dancers skinny-dipping in a pool.

 

The songs are in German, and as usual are translated on a screen over the stage.  But there was something quite surprising in this show that I had never seen before:  a good deal of the story was spoken in English!  This was less like an opera and more like musical theater – and it was lovely.

 

Cast 1: Soprano Elisabeth Russ as Adele, soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Roselinde, tenor Alexander Boyer as von Eisenstein. Photo by Pat Kirk.

I had been disappointed that I could not make it to opening night, however last night was an unexpected treat as I got to see Cast 1 who were absolutely delightful and just as talented as any Cast A I’ve seen.  It was refreshing to see some new faces and there were no disappointments.  Soprano Elizabeth Russ was delicious as the petulant chambermaid Adele; soprano Cecilia Violetta Lopez was virtually unrecognizable to me from her role as Leila in The Pearl Fishers, and I still adored her immensely.  The familiar faces of tenor Alexander Boyer (Eisenstein) and tenor Michael Dailey (Alfred) were welcome and played their comedic roles beautifully.  Special mention goes to bass-baritone Isaiah Musik-Ayala as Frank the prison warden – who I just LOVED, and also Kelly Houston who plays a hilarious Frosch.  Some of these performers were newer to me than others, ALL of them I hope to see more often.

Wait, did I forget to mention baritone Jo Vincent Parks, as Dr. Falk (Die Fledermaus!)?  He has a small part for the title character, however he too was perfect.

Marc Jacobs makes his Opera San Jose debut as stage director, and this is a perfect show for his background in musical theater.  I hope we see more from him at OSJ.

 

Cast 1: Baritone Isaiah Musik-Ayala as Frank. Photo by Pat Kirk.

And as often happens at Opera San Jose, there was another star, and that was the set design.  It does not surprise me to find out that Charlie Smith also designed the Pearl Fisher’s sets, and I’m excited to see what he does for the upcoming double-bill of Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi.  It is too bad there are no available photos to show you the complete beauty of the designs.  Acts one and two were set in a sweeping, gorgeous, art deco residence with subtle hints of the jail term awaiting Eisenstin… indeed, it transformed seamlessly into the jail itself in Act three.  As well there was an amazing newspaper print curtain with “articles” pertaining to the characters in the story.

This was not the usual opera I attend at Opera San Jose.  There were not so many ball gowns and sparkling jewelry in the audience that I usually see, perhaps because it was not opening night, perhaps because this show is just not as “stuffy” as some others (which I recommend no matter the stuffiness!!).  There was raucous laughter heard throughout the show, as if we were all drunk with the comedy we were watching.  “That was the most fun I’ve had at the opera ever!” stated my guest, Danielle Roberts.  And indeed, she is quite right.  This opera plays through November 25, and I can recommend without any reservation whatsoever that you should see it – and take your teenagers too.

 

Die Fledermaus
Opera San Jose
Through November 25
California Theatre
San Jose, CA

 

Opera Novice gets delightfully frightened at FAUST

Mephistopheles (Silas Elash) conducts a mesmerized chorus in Opera San Jose’s production of Gounod’s Faust. Image by Pat Kirk Photography

Better late than never, the Opera (not so-) Novice is here to tell you to make fancy shmancy plans to see FAUST this weekend! This is the final weekend, and you’re not going to want to miss this thoroughly entertaining show. My guest and I absolutely adored it, and I think it was my favorite of the entire season.

It really was one of our best opera dates ever. We always have a great time at Opera San Jose, but sometimes the perfection of what they do can dull the excitement and cause me to wonder how to write a review: “The music was perfect,” “The Baritone was perfect,” “ the scenery was perfect,” “the costumes were perfect.” You know what? Last night wasn’t perfect, for me. And you know what else? Still one of the best operas EVER.

But what’s not to like? Méphistophélès, dressed as a sort of pirate, steals the show. You also have a scary, supernatural child angel who scared me more than Méphistophélès did. There’s one song which is all about drinking “beer and wine” and “anything but water” — Gotta love it! There are religious symbolism and bargains with the devil, doomed love and terrifying horror, and always the perfection of the opera orchestra and singers (which I would never really complain about!).

These were all awesome things, but some were also a little out of the ordinary (even for my short experience with the opera, where I’ve learned opera is NEVER what you expect). I’ve rarely felt as uncomfortable about a character as I did the tiny little angel on stage, and kudos to her for pulling off that Stephen King-like creepiness along with the religious grandeur and horror, all at the same time. Unfortunately, I cannot figure out the name of this young actress, but she did a splendid job.

I was also taken off guard by watching Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste on stage for the first act and a half without singing a note (that I noticed). She finally gets her turns in the second and third acts, but having watched her in production after production over the years, this was strange for me. (You don’t watch George Clooney just walk through scenes in half a film before speaking a word).

But Opera Novice, are these really things to complain about? Of course not! There were just interesting changes from the norm which piqued my interest and kept me on my toes. But I did have one problem with the show which surprised me. By the end of the first act I was clutching my friend’s arm, exclaiming how much I absolutely loved the set design. The lighting, the artwork backdrops, the bank of colored spotlights on the left and right… somehow it all came together for a most exciting, tremendous setting for the show. But the curtain went up for the second Act and I was taken by surprise. An abnormally small painted back drop was all there was, along with the bank of lights on the side… and it confused me in a less exciting way. I kept thinking they must have spent their entire budget on the amazing backdrops for Idomeneo… but I see from my materials that Idomeneo had the same set designer. What gives, Opera SJ? I’m going to assume that I’m not understanding the message of the set designer this time, and don’t get me wrong: the end of Act II was beautiful… but was it up to the gloriousness of previous Opera SJ productions? I say No.
But then! I guess I was not the only one to wonder about the set designs, because Opera San Jose gave set designer Steven Kemp a chance to tell us poor novices about his reasons for each setting. I now understand what it was he was trying to bring to the production… I’m not entirely sure it succeeded. However, aside from Act II, I absolutely adored the settings of Act I and III.  Simply gorgeous.  Click the link to see some great shots of the amazing designs.

So, is this a good opera for a beginner? YES. Resounding Yes. It has an intensely moving and interesting storyline, amazing, charismatic characters and some really fun songs, along with a great deal of terror. And for those who already love Opera, Faust is one of the most often performed operas of all time, and Opera San Jose, as always, does it perfectly.

FAUST
Opera San Jose
408-437-4450
Follow them on Facebook for news, pictures, and often discounts!

Can’t make it to see Faust?
Season 2012/2013 is coming up! Plan your dates now, or get your season tickets!
On the menu for next season is:
THE PEARL FISHERS
DIE FLEDERMAUS
IL TROVATORE
SUOR ANGELICA & GIANNA SCHICCHI

The Opera Novice visits The Barber of Seville

Figaro (Krassen Karagiozov) gives Dr. Bartolo (Silas Elash) a shave. Photo by Robert Shomler.

Rossini’s Barber of Seville at Opera San Jose turns out to be a great introduction to opera, probably the best possible choice if you’re looking for one to try.  Every red blooded, television watching American child was introduced to Rossini at a very young age through the Looney Tunes Bug Bunny cartoon Rabbit of Seville (see below).  But having watched that seven minute short hundreds and hundreds of times (no exaggeration there), I still expected that the actual Barber of Seville would be a long, boring, stuffy opera.   I never would have expected that the real opera was even funnier than the Bug Bunny cartoon.

The excitement began for my guest and me as soon as the familiar overture music started.  All of the music from this opera is peppy, upbeat and, most important to a beginner, familiar.  We couldn’t help bouncing around in our chairs to the music during the introduction, half expecting Bugs himself to appear when the curtain went up.  We were dancing around through the entire opera, except for the moments when we were laughing too hard.

The uproarious laughter from the entire theatre almost never stopped.  Barber of Seville is a hilarious few hours of jokes, concealed identities, more jokes, and mischievous hijinks.  Rosina is a delightful, petite, spunky young lady with a large dowry and protected from the world (and other men) by her much older ward, Dr. Bartolo.  A young man, Count Almaviva, has managed to spot Rosina and enlists the barber of Seville to help him gain her hand in marriage.  This involves creating several different disguises, and playing lots of jokes on Bartolo.  Betany Coffland played Rosina on opening night, and I thought she was amazing.

Count Almaviva (Michael Dailey) and Rosina (Betany Coffland) prove that love conquers all! Photo by Pat Kirk

There were several young people in the audience on opening night, including even some small children, yet I never heard any rustling or cries of boredom.  Perhaps they were just drowned out, but I suspect the kids were laughing as hard as were the adults.  I noticed at one point that I wasn’t even reading the subtitles; the physical comedy and actions on stage told the entire story without help. The Barber of Seville is like Looney Tunes for grownups.

I thought the music was OUTSTANDING, and congratulations go out to conductor Bryan Nies and the rest of the orchestra.  I went straight home and downloaded every piece of music from the opera I could find.  And, okay, I also watched Bugs Bunny again as well.

Even after an entire year of unexpectedly enjoying the opera, I never thought I would say this, but for a really fun evening out, go see The Barber of Seville.  I even recommend taking your family, your entire family, and that includes the young ones.

The Barber of Seville
by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini
Based on
Le Barbier de Séville and Le Mariage de Figaro by Beaumarchais
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
February 12 – 27, 2011

The Rabbit of Seville
Woody Woodpecker does Barber of Seville

The Opera Novice goes to TOSCA

But this time I took a friend who was more familiar with opera!  And she thought it was beautiful.

Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste as the fiery opera diva in Puccini's passionate, political thriller Tosca at Opera San José. Photo by Chris Ayers

The story of Tosca is a tragedy of grand proportions:  there are tortured political prisoners, executions, shattered romances, and the tragic death of almost every major character.  Even the set designs are dark and gloomy, though still rich and sumptuous.  But to me, the novice, it seemed that this opera was much more about the singing and the music than the story.  While this might be good news for the seasoned opera lover, it was a little difficult for me to pay attention.  My loss, absolutely.

But there is nothing about Tosca to complain about.  The music really was beautiful, perfection as always at Opera San Jose, and the singing too was amazing.  This was my first time seeing Jouvanca Jean-Baptiste (Tosca) in a role and she was certainly a treat.  Her huge expressive eyes made her appear vulnerable and childlike, however Tosca really was anything but.  I loved her voice and the petulant way she directed her lover to repaint the eyes of a portrait on the church wall.  Jean-Baptiste also gives Tosca a certain ferocious quality, and a will to get done whatever is required.  Tosca is quite the tragic heroine.

I thought the singing and music were beautiful as well, but Tosca might be less newbie-friendly than my previous two operas.  It is slightly less exciting or overtly entertaining.  On the other hand, it seemed the audience of opera aficionados was much happier with Tosca than with the previous two operas.  My guest, the opera-lover, was overjoyed to finally see this opera, but I was just not so excited about this one as I have been with the others.  Both of these summations can be correct.

My recommendation for this one:  Opera fans should absolutely go see it!  The knowledgeable opera critics I have read appear to love it and as far as my untrained ear could tell it was fabulous.  My fellow Opera Newbies might want to wait for the next show:  The Barber of Seville. I am sure that one will be a delight for us all!  (But don’t let me stop you — go see it and report back your own opinion!)

Tosca
by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica
Based on the drama
La tosca by Victorien Sardou
Sung in Italian with English supertitles
November 13 – 28, 2010
California Theatre

345 South 1st Street, San Jose
Ticketing Information

It’s time to start planning your November show nights!

We survived the many great October shows, now we have an even more packed November!  This month I can honestly say I am VERY excited about every one of these shows.  These are the ones we are set to review this month – get your tickets now!

Flying Karamazov Brothers

The Flying Karamazov Brothers
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 10 – 14
Welcome to the zany world of The Flying Karamazov Brothers, where the daring and goofy take center stage. This ground-breaking blend of nouveau cirque, comedy, theatre, music, and, of course, juggling is nothing short of genius. Innovative and unique, they display their juggling prowess in such show stopping numbers as “The Gambler.” In this daring act, the Karamozov champion Dimitri will juggle three items presented to him by audience members. If the champion succeeds he gets a standing ovation. If he fails, he gets a pie in the face! This exuberant and hilarious off-Broadway rave is full of fast-paced virtuosity and fun as the four brothers deliver a stupendously entertaining evening like you’ve never experienced.

As if that wasn’t fun enough: The audience is encouraged to bring zany items to the theater for the Karamazov champion to juggle!

Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night
San Jose State University Theatre
November 12 – 20
Theater director Kathleen Normington and English Professor Dr. Adrienne Eastwood are continuing to draw a great deal of attention with their provocative steampunk Shakespeare production.  Director Normington intends to use the steampunk aesthetic to style the production and highlight some of the themes of disguise and gender ambiguity within the play.  Dr. Eastwood, as dramaturge, is helping to guide the marriage of steampunk visuals with Shakespeare’s written words into the creation of a beautiful new version of the play.  This combination is sure to bring Twelfth Night’s message to a wider audience in unexpected ways.  DO NOT MISS this innovative vision that will stay true to its original ideas.

Tosca

Tosca
Opera San Jose
November 13 – 28
She’s a superstar: brilliant, beautiful, and spoiled. Yet Floria Tosca, despite her wealth and privilege, cannot save her aristocratic lover without consenting to debase herself. An opera diva as wildly popular in 1800 Rome as any rock or movie icon today, she finds that living for “art, love, and prayer” isn’t enough to protect her in a society run by wicked, powerful men. She is a beauty pursued by a beast determined to have her, and killing her stalker – chief of the secret police, Baron Scarpia – still doesn’t end her suffering. Suicide is her final act of defiance

The Color Purple

The Color Purple
Broadway San Jose
November 23 – 28
A soul-stirring musical based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the moving film by Steven Spielberg. It is the unforgettable and inspiring story of a woman named Celie, who finds her unique voice in the world. Nominated for eleven Tony® Awards, THE COLOR PURPLE is a landmark theatrical event, a celebration of love, and a Broadway phenomenon. With a joyous GRAMMY®-nominated score featuring jazz, gospel and blues, THE COLOR PURPLE is capturing the hearts of young and old, and uniting audiences in a community of joy.


Backwards in High Heels

Backwards in High Heels
The San Jose Repertory Company
November 24 – December 19
The remarkable life of the legendary actress Ginger Rogers comes to life onstage!
This intimate musical dances its way through Ginger’s life with unforgettable music, show-stopping dance numbers and a captivating story that chronicles her journey from hometown to Hollywood and from one love affair to another. Best known as Fred Astaire’s dance partner, Ginger defied her overly-protective mother to become one of Hollywood’s biggest stars and one of the industry’s first women to demand equal pay. Funny, moving and a visual feast, Backwards In High Heels is a toe-tapping, swirling, gliding account of her ambitious public and private life.

A Wonderful Life (Musical)

A Wonderful Life (MUSICAL)
Hillbarn Theatre
December 2 – 19
Although this show starts in December I want to make sure you are all notified in time.  Hillbarn has been putting on consistently fantastic productions, and has been selling out of many shows.  I’ve had my fill of Wonderful Life over the years, but I am truly excited to see Hillbarn’s new musical version.  I’m sure it will be a Don’t Miss production!

October show round-up

Metblogs has a very busy month of shows ahead and we hope you will join us!  These are some of the shows we are hoping to review for you this month.  If you’re looking for some fun nights out before the busy holidays arrive, or if Halloween parties just aren’t your thing, take a look at just four of the great shows headed our way this month:

Secret Order

San Jose Repertory Company
Secret Order
Corporate greed and the politics of science collide in this biomedical thriller.
When Dr. Shumway, a relatively obscure and naive cancer researcher, is thrust into the high stakes world of science, the notion of noble “truth-seeking” is dissected with a scalpel’s precision. Shumway is in over his head when he and a young student researcher get swept up in the dangerous world of political maneuvering, corporate loyalty and scientific ethics. But it’s Dr. Brock, the chief administrator at a famous research institute, who will stop at nothing in his pursuit to find a cure for cancer. Responsible science hangs in the balance in the race to be first to trial, first to publish and first to find a cure in this brilliant exploration of the business of science.
October 14 – November 7
Tickets

Dial M for Murder

Hillbarn Theatre
Dial M for Murder
Tony Wendice has married his wife, Margot, for her money and now plans to murder her for the same reason.  He arranges the perfect murder; he blackmails a scoundrel he used to know into strangling her for a fee of one thousand pounds, and arranges a brilliant alibi for himself.  But who murders whom and does the real villain come to justice?
October 21 – November 7
Tickets


Giselle protects Albrecht

Ballet San Jose
Giselle
The tale of a peasant girl named Giselle who falls in love with Albrecht, a nobleman from a neighboring land who disguises himself as a villager to win her heart – and the betrayal that leads to her death.  Driven by his own guilt to mourn at Giselle’s graveside, Albrecht encounters the Wilis – beautiful, but deadly spirits who force men to dance to their deaths.  Only Giselle can protect him… if she can find it in her heart to forgive him.
October 22 – October 24
Tickets


Photo credit: Joan Marcus

Broadway San Jose
Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles
FROM ED SULLIVAN TO ABBEY ROAD! – They look like them and they sound just like them! All the music and vocals are performed totally live! RAIN covers the Fab Four from the earliest beginnings through the psychedelic late 60s and their long-haired hippie, hard-rocking rooftop days. A multi-media, multi-dimensional experience…a fusion of historical footage and hilarious television commercials from the 1960s lights up video screens and live cameras zoom in for close-ups.
October 26 – October 31
Tickets

The Opera Novice attends Anna Karenina, falls in love with opera

Jasmina Halimic as Anna Karenina and Krassen Karagiozov as her lover, Alexei Vronsky. Photo by Pat Kirk

So here we are again, the second opera of my entire life.  But after last season’s La Rondine I know that the opera can be pretty darn fun, and I was excited to see Anna Karenina.   Once again I’m going to write this review from a beginner’s point of view and I hope that I get through to some of you out there who have yet to see an opera – because this show has the ability to turn an opera hater into a season pass holder.

It just so happens that I read Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina over the summer and I was ready to see what Opera SJ did with the story.  Well let me tell you what they did with it:  Utterly and completely created a SMASH HIT.  In what has to be one of the most novice-friendly operas ever created, Opera SJ also put everything they had creatively, imaginatively, financially and talent-wise, into this production.  This isn’t a great opera dumbed down for the masses, this is a spectacular production that is also easy for an opera newbie to understand… and love.

Eight reasons to see Anna Karenina:

  1. It follows Tolstoy’s story. We all hate when Hollywood gets hold of our favorite book and renders it unrecognizable.  While this opera does leave out some parts of Tolstoy’s novel, it keeps the main love tri- and quadrangles in and focuses on those.  If you know the novel well it is unlikely you will miss the side plots that have been left out.
  2. Musical familiarity. The musical influence of Tchaikovsky is undeniable, and it brings an understanding that even someone unfamiliar with any classical music will recognize.  There is also quite a bit of American Musical Theatre in the melodies and some parts that resonate as a well produced Hollywood musical.  Perhaps the opera veteran will not appreciate the American style of this opera, but an unfamiliar newbie will feel very at home here.
  3. English! That’s right, not only is this opera in English, but they STILL have the English supertitles playing above the stage in case you missed something.
  4. Seamless Scene Changes Galore: With 15 scenes and 18 scene changes, this is a show that is undeniably difficult to produce.  However from the stark but beautiful opening scene with only a fallen chandelier on the floor, to a country scene in both spring and fall, to elaborate interior sets, these changes were performed quickly and imaginatively, and sparing no opportunity to add another piece of beauty at every chance.
  5. Sumptuous costumes: What I’m learning is that the opera spares no expense with their beautiful costumes.  The women were gorgeous, the men were handsome, Anna herself could be picked out at any moment in any scene, and even the little kids were dressed to perfection.
  6. Hollywood/Broadway staging and choreography: No, there are no big dance numbers here, but there are several scenes with crowds that are choreographed beautifully.  Yes, the word beautiful is being overused in this review, but this show really is a visual treat.
  7. A great story. I wasn’t all that enthused with the novel Anna Karenina, to tell you the truth.  But it certainly is a great story, and watching the characters brought to life exactly as I had imagined really was fun.  And if you’ve never read the story you will really enjoy the tale of loveless marriages, cheating and affairs, broken and mended hearts, death and birth.
  8. My 18 year old loved it. “That was the best of all the shows you’ve ever dragged me to,” said my daughter.  And I have “dragged” her to a lot of shows.  This was her first opera and she is ready for her next.  She also can’t wait to dress even MORE fancy, now that she has seen what regular opera patrons wear.  If my 18 year old daughter can fall in love with this show, then I can assure that you will too. (more…)
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