Archive for the ‘Symphony’ Category

Madama Butterfly brings magic and tears to Opera SJ

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly). Photo by Pat Kirk.

Last weekend I was lucky enough to see Opera San Jose’s tremendously entertaining production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, starring one of opera’s most dastardly villains: Lt. BF Pinkerton.

When you have two strong, educated, feminist women in the audience of Madama Butterfly for the first time, you can expect a lot of crossed arms, raised eyebrows, and smirks.  But though the story of an American lieutenant – who believes wives can be as changeable and temporary as the screens in his Japanese home – is barely tolerable, the opera as a whole is gorgeous, tragic, emotional and an auditory blessing.

The story:  Lieutenant BF Pinkerton signs a 999 year lease on a house in Japan that (Bonus!) comes with a free geisha wife!  Even better, the lease is also sort of month to month, and Japanese divorce laws are subject to the whim of a husband, so it’s a win-win deal for Pinkerton.

Not so lucky is sweet young Madama Butterfly, who has fallen in love with her husband and believes this is a till death do them part situation. Unfortunately, Pinkerton has other ideas, and already plans to get a “real” wife when he ships back to America.  Sweet 15 year old Butterfly, to Pinkerton, is merely a “toy” for sex while he’s in Japan, and there is a lot of talk of “breaking her wings” and pinning her for display purposes.  Nice.

Cast 1: Tenor James Callon as BF Pinkerton and soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san. Photo by Pat Kirk.

Even better, Butterfly gives birth to Pinkerton’s son after he leaves for America, and during the entire three years he is gone she believes he will return to meet his son and they will be a permanent family.  On the contrary, Pinkerton plans to return to Japan with his new American wife, and take the child from Butterfly to raise as their own.

Without giving away the ending, you can assume it follows the typical line of opera tragedies.  However, I have learned that the last few seconds of Opera SJ’s show, which brings a swift karma payment to Pinkerton, was added for this production.  I don’t know how opera purists feel about this change, but for me it made the whole story much more palatable.

I have always known I am very lucky to be able to see all these opera productions for the last several years.  This show, however, I felt truly privileged.   The music and singing is beautiful perfection as always, but in Act II Madame Butterfly sings “Un Bel Di” (One Beautiful Day), and it was a magical experience.  I have never felt that before at the opera, but Cecilia Violetta López made me feel I was present for something important.  By the end of Act III López is singing with tears in her eyes, and they were still present during the standing ovation at the end.  Cecilia Violetta López, having previously charmed me as Leila in The Pearl Fishers, has earned her place in this company, and should be considered a huge benefit to Opera SJ.

Cast 1: Soprano Cecilia Violetta López as Cio-Cio-san (Madame Butterfly). Photo by Pat Kirk.

Resident tenor James Callon is a perfectly awful BF Pinkerton (in the best way possible) with an amazing voice as usual. Lisa Chavez and Zachary Altman (Suzuki and Sharpless) are spectacular as the only two characters who speak any sense.  And special mention goes to an actor who really deserves mention: Sammy Tittle as Butterfly’s son.  Sammy is quite young and the part requires him to be on stage for much of the show.  He was a quiet scene stealer because he was so absolutely perfect.

There are many visual treats in this production.  The main feature of the set is a changeable lighted screen at the back of the stage.  This provided an impressive opening when the curtain went up.  The screen was lit with giant red and white stripes, and the figures of Lt. Pinkerton and friends standing at attention in uniform set the scene and mood immediately.  Later in Act I Madame Butterfly and her friends and sisters appear in their full geisha costumes and make-up, and gorgeous multicolored parasols.  But while there were some individual scenes that stood out, I was underwhelmed by the stage setting as a whole.  I have seen some drop-dead stage designs at Opera SJ before, and I was really looking forward to being immersed in a gorgeous Japanese setting.  On the contrary, I was not.  However, this is a minor disappointment in what quickly became one of my best experiences at the opera.

I am open about not knowing anything technical about opera, but I know entertainment and a great show when I see one.  Not only is this show now one of my favorite operas I’ve seen so far (and by now I’ve seen quite a few), but some scenes moved me in ways I’ve never felt before.  It’s a show that is suitable for both opera experts and opera newbies.  It’s a show you should not miss.

Madama Butterfly
Opera San Jose
Through March 2nd
California Theatre


Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II

Bugs Bunny at the Symphony II is an orchestra-and-film concert this weekend (December 28-29, 2013). Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Elmer Fudd, Pepe Le Pew, Tweety, Sylvester, Wile E. Coyote, and Road Runner along with others are projected on the screen while their original scores are played live by Symphony Silicon Valley.

Symphony Silicon Valley
Center for the Performing Arts
255 S Almaden Blvd, San Jose, CA ‎

Saturday, Dec. 28, 2013 at 2:30pm, 7:30pm
Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013 at 2:30pm

Tickets here

Take a chance in love: La Rondine at Opera San Jose

Magda in La Rondine

Opera San Jose recently invited us to attend opening night of Puccini’s La Rondine, and as I have a few friends who are crazy about opera, I decided to give it a go.  The result was that I loved La Rondine and cannot wait to attend more shows at Opera San Jose.  I also think that everyone would love this show whether you think you would like opera or not.  The problem in which I find myself now is that I realize I have no real knowledge of opera, so this review is going to be written from a strictly layperson’s point of view.

But perhaps this is a good thing.  Because I went into this show with an open mind and came out a huge fan, and I am a little disappointed to realize I have missed a lot of opera productions over the years.   But perhaps I can encourage some readers to give it a try with my novice’s take on the delightful show.

Cancan Dancers!

First, the opera productions are held in the beautiful California Theatre, and really I’ll take any excuse to attend an event at the Cal Theatre.  Second, the audience is dressed to the nines.  If you’d like an excuse to dress like a movie star, you’ll fit right in at the opera!  On the other hand, I wore black slacks and a nice blouse and my friend wore a dress with boots and we felt fine.  I do not recommend jeans.

Second, there are subtitles!  That’s right, subtitles at a live opera production!  There is a long screen hanging from the top of the stage where the subtitles are broadcast.  This puts it completely out of the way for anyone who wants no part of this technology, but is 100% helpful for those of us opera newbies.   So there is nothing to not understand, it is right there in front of you. (more…)

Free tickets to Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale

Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale and soloist Michelle Jordan in a previous performance.

Unfortunately there’s only two free tickets, and you have to take a short survey to be entered in the drawing to win them. The deadline to enter is March 6.

The tickets are for the Friday, March 19, performance, Festival of Choirs: American Roots, featuring Will Todd‘s Mass in Blue. Mass in Blue is a jazz setting of the Latin mass, billed as “a brilliant blend of driving jazz rhythms, rich tonal colors, and groovy melodies”. Soloist Renee Calvo stars alongside Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale in this presentation. The second half of the evening will be given over to a set of African-American spirituals with East Bay-based soloist Michelle Jordan, and additional selections of 19th and 20th century folk music and musical theater. Several guest choirs will join the Symphony Silicon Valley Chorale for the later pieces.

For those of us not lucky enough to win free tickets, seats are $25 each. The performance begins at 8:00 pm at the California Theater, 345 South First Street.

Summer Pops Music Series at SJSU 2009

clefsA free music series at San Jose State University begins this weekend, continues Tuesday, and winds up next weekend, between August 22 and 30.

What kind of music you ask?
John Williams film scores, Lemony Snicket music, a legendary jazz vocalist, Beatles music a brass band, and more performed by Symphony Silicon Valley along with other artist.

The concerts, bottled water, harmonicas for children at the Family Concert and ice cream at the Brass Band Concert, are all free.

Saturday August 22, 7:00 pm
John Williams Film Scores

Maestro Bruce Hangen and the orchestra’s performance may include Jurassic Park, ET, Star Wars, Jaws, Schindler’s List, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter.

Sunday August 23, 3:00 pm
Family Concert

A family concert, with Lemony Snicket music The Composer Is Dead and harmonica virtuoso Robert Bonfiglio playing Gershwin. The first 1,200 kids receive a free harmonica.

Tuesday August 25, 5:30 pm
Cleo Laine & John Dankworth

Jazz songstress Cleo Laine and saxophonist John Dankworth the “king and queen of British jazz.”

Saturday August 29, 7:00 pm
Classical Mystery Tour

A Beatles tribute band from the Broadway show “Beatlemania” joins the orchestra to perform classics from the Lennon-McCartney Songbook, strings and horns! Classical Mystery Tour conductor Martin Herman along with soloists Jim Owen,Tony Kishman, Chris Camilleri, and Tom Teeley.

Sunday August 30, 3:00 pm
Brass Band & Ice Cream Social

The 39-piece band led by Tony Clements, principal tubaist with Symphony Silicon Valley perform Bugler’s Holiday, Thoughts of Love, Holst’s Mars, and selections from Phantom of the Opera. The ice cream is free.

The concerts held on the grassy mall at San Jose State University; enter at 4th Street and West San Carlos. Bring a picnic and your beach chair. Arrive early!

408-286-2600 x 23

Music in the Meadow

Symphony Silicon Valley, led by Bruce Hangen, former Principal Guest Conductor of the Boston Pops, will perform a live concert for the family to enjoy featuring music by Bernstein, Mendelssohn, Bizet, Beethoven and more. Bring a picnic and come early as the first 700 children receive a free recorder and instruction how to play it beginning at 2:15 pm.

Discovery Meadow Park
Woz Way and San Carlos Street, San Jose

Sunday, August 24
Beginning 3:00 pm

Admission: Free

Free SFS Concert In The Plaza

symphonyThe San Francisco Symphony visits downtown San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez this Tuesday.

James Gaffigan leads the Orchestra for a lunchtime program that includes Verdi’s Overture to La forza del destino, Dvořák’s Allegro con fuoco from Symphony No. 9 in E minor, and Tchaikovsky’s Andantino in modo di canzona and Allegro con fuoco from Symphony No. 4 in F minor.

The free concert begins at noon in the circle of palms, Plaza de Cesar Chavez. Bring the boss so you can spend extra time outside. Mention the word “free.”

San Francisco Symphony
Plaza de Cesar Chavez, San Jose

Tuesday, July 15
Begins 12:00 noon
Admission: Free

Symphony Silicon Valley – Beethoven’s 9th


Ludwig van Beethoven, (1770 – 1827) was a German composer and one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.

The Ninth Symphony is one of Beethoven most famous symphonies and his last. He was totally deaf when he began composing the symphony in1818; his hearing gradually deteriorated beginning in his twenties. Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 Choral was completed early in 1824 and then premiered on May 7, 1824 in Vienna.

This Thursday through Sunday at the California Theatre Brazilian-born Fabio Mechetti conducts Symphony Silicon Valley and the hundred-voice Chorale in performances of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 in D minor Choral proceeded by Johannes Brahms’ Schicksalslied (Song of Destiny).

You will be humming Ode to Joy for weeks.

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
The California Theatre
345 South First Street, San Jose

Thursday 7:30 pm, March 27
Friday 8:00 pm, March 28
Saturday 8:00 pm, March 29
Sunday 2:30 pm, March 30

For more information including tickets, check here.

Center for Beethoven Studies at San Jose State University

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