Headlines From West Edge

San Francisco Classical Voice

> A Mimi Glowing With Music, Not (Yet) Radioactivity

Soprano Alexandra Sessler will sing Mimi in the West Edge Opera's La bohème, beginning July 26.

On Friday, July 18, she turned 29. On May 23, she underwent a six-hour operation to remove a cancerous growth "between my thyroid and the interior side of the sternocleidomastoid muscle."

After the successful surgery, Sessler was prescribed radioactive iodine therapy, which will actually make her radioactive (see description below). She will not be allowed to be near people or pets, so she decided to postpone the treatment until after Bohème, a recital in Mexico, and a recording with Ragnar Bohlin's Cappella SF. "My doctors wanted me to do the radiation right about now, but they agreed to wait."

Sessler's decision to give priority to performance over medical advice brings to mind another Puccini heroine, Tosca, and her "Vissi d'arte" (I lived for art).

A number of singers have survived throat cancer (to use a general, if imprecise, term) and resumed their careers (most recently, tenor Toby Spence, who recently sang a gorgeous Serenade with the San Francisco Symphony). But Sessler's short recovery time and the postponement of follow-up treatment make her unique...

Opera Today

> Opera Theater Around San Francisco

The theatrical dimension was very present in Berkeley. Vanessa was about aging soprano Marie Plette and her shallow young tenor lover Anatol, Jonathan Boyd. Innocent if weird young Erika, San Francisco Conservatory graduate soprano Nikola Printz simply wanted real love whatever that is, and dumbly wise bass Phillip Skinner was the Doctor who even knew how vapid he was. Not to forget the grand­motherly Baroness, Malin Fritz who sang very little but looked very stern. Very believable characters indeed, who were also quite real singers and very good artists. Even the staging was their own (there was no stage director), and seemed completely true to character — how could it have been otherwise.

...The chamber format imposed by the small theater responded to the wit and fun that permeates Barber’s music, and revealed his brilliance as a composer of mid-century complexities—like the splendid quintet that winds up Vanessa.

San Jose Mercury News

> West Edge Opera brings Paul Gauguin to life on stage

Anders Froehlich, Shawnette Sulker
If Richard Wagner were able to take a peek into our 21st-century world of opera, he likely would take particular interest in the goings on at West Edge Opera. Wagner, the great 19th-century composer of such iconic works as "Der Ring des Nibelungen," may have been the one who coined the long German word "Gesamtkunstwerk," which he used to describe his ideas regarding ideal opera.

...So, when one considers the opera's subject, post-impressionist painter Paul Gauguin's iconoclastic career as it ranged from Brittany and France to Tahiti in the South Seas, you come up with a striking example that would please old Wagner.

San Francisco Classical Voice

> Christine Brandes: Singing While Rome Burns

Christine Brandes
...She's the kind of person who looks on her career and success and says, simply, "I've had the sort of happy luck of opportunities presenting themselves when I was ready to take them up." Bay Area audiences have been grateful for her much-lauded performances with Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and other ensembles, and can count themselves lucky to look forward to her upcoming interpretation of the emperor Nero in West Edge Opera's production of Monteverdi's Poppea, which runs at El Cerrito High School's Performing Arts Theater Feb. 1-2 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 3 at 3 p.m. Of director Mark Streshinsky's take on the piece, she says, "It is very interesting. It's 1962 before the Cuban Missile crisis, and Ottavia is Jackie Kennedy, Nero is Jack Kennedy, and Poppea is Marilyn Monroe. So, what would have happened if he, mid-administration, had dumped Jackie and picked up with Marilyn Monroe?!"

> West Edge Monteverdi, Title Changes, NEA Grant

West Edge Opera's upcoming production of Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea is recommended for a $12,500 National Endowment for the Arts grant. The award is one of 832 grants totaling $23.3 million in funding nationwide, announced by NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman...

Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky has been named General Director. He and MusicSources Artistic Director Gilbert Martinez are creating a reduced performance version of the 1642 L'incoronazione di Poppea, based on an orchestral edition by early-music scholar Alan Curtis. Streshinsky is stage director, Martinez will conduct a Baroque ensemble from the harpsichord.

San Francisco Chronicle

> 2013 Bay Area classical music preview

Joshua Kosman (selecting 12 productions of interest in the next four months):

"L'incoronazione di Poppea" (Feb. 1-3, El Cerrito High School) West Edge Opera inaugurates its season with Monteverdi's 1642 operatic masterpiece of love and treachery in ancient Rome, with Christine Brandes as Nero and Emma McNairy as Poppea.

"Bonjour, M. Gauguin" (April 6-14, El Cerrito High School) Fabrizio Carlone's opera about the painter's life gets its American premiere from the West Edge Opera and Kunst-Stoff, in a production featuring Shawnette Sulker as Gauguin's inner voice.

Repeat Performances

> Bay Area Opera-opening the season

West Edge Opera, formerly the Berkeley Opera, has had two successful seasons in its digs at the new El Cerrito Performing Arts Center... They have not only rein­vented themselves, but grown into a new creative identity.  Last year’s “Popera” season was a smashing success, and they continue their focus on artistic accessibility with a new season that stretches from baroque classic to American premiere.

Chronicling a journey from mistress to empress, Monteverdi’s L’Incoranazione di Poppea was steamy in 1642 and still surprising today, as well as a good fit for chamber orchestra. Artistic Direc­tor Mark Streshinsky is certain to add flair to the careful period sensibility of conductor and harpsichordist Gilbert Martinez of MusicSources, and it will be sung with an accomplished cast that includes renowned Christine Brandes as Nero (yes, that Nero!) and coloratura soprano Emma McNairy as Poppea (stealing the show last year in Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos). Performances will be held Fri Feb 1 and Sat Feb 2 at 8:00 p.m. and Sun Feb 3 at 3:00 p.m.

In April Fabrizio Carlone’s Bonjour M. Gauguin immerses us in the world of French post-Impressionist Paul Gauguin, with text derived from his own writings and dance collaboration by the Kunst-Stoff Contemporary Dance Company, all set amidst a video backdrop of the artist’s arresting neo-primitivism. They end their season in July with Benjamin Britten’s gorgeous and chilling The Turn of the Screw.

fluteSan Francisco Classical Voice

> Sin City at West Edge Opera

West Edge's program in late July and early August features two fantasies—one about an unreal city but with real experiences, the other about a real city with unreal experiences.

...Perhaps it's not what most people would think of for an opera company, but rest assured, there's still a strong operatic basis in its next unusual offering.

Mercury News

> West Edge Opera mounts a double bill...

Today's world would be barely recognizable to people living in past centuries. But although there have indeed been dramatic changes in the world itself, its human inhabitants seem to have changed very little...

This contention will be explored later this month when West Edge Opera presents City of Sin, a double bill of one-act operas telling the tales of two cities. Although each city exists in a different era and locale, the human characters in each could be interchangeable. The first, Mahagonny Songspiel, was completed in Germany in 1927, and the second, Vera of Las Vegas, in the United States in 2003.


> Theatre Bay Area Editor's Picks: City of Sin: Mahagonny Songspiel / Vera of Las Vegas

...This production dresses up the "Songspiel's" ferocious social satire in luxe 1920s cabaret and jazz style, pairing it with another one-act, "Vera of Las Vegas," which features a pop-music mashup score reorchestrated for the slinky house cabaret band. Don't even try to tell me you don't want to hear that...

fluteSan Francisco Classical Voice

> West Edge's Marley/Manga Flute

"No matter how many productions you might have seen of Mozart's Magic Flute, almost certainly none was like what West Edge Opera is serving up March 4-11. It's the famously "different" David Scott Marley's new English adaptation in Japanese manga (comics/cartoons) style..."

> The Magic in That Flute

"...'It's my fantasia on a theme by Mozart,' Marley said. 'In my adaptations, what I'm concerned with is to bring out the qualities in a work that've been neglected by translating them to modern-day equivalents.' To that end, Marley turned to Manga, the Japanese comic book and animated film style."

finkSan Francisco Chronicle

> Richard Paul Fink to debut as Wotan in Berkeley

"Doesn't matter how good you are at something, nobody appreciates being pigeonholed. Baritone Richard Paul Fink, one of today's leading interpreters of Wagnerian villains, will confirm the point..."

San Francisco Chroniclejonathan

> Prompter helps singers get back in the groove

"When a baritone goes "cold" and forgets a line, Jonathan Khuner is there. When a soprano gets lost in her character and sings ahead of the beat, Khuner reins her in. He's the prompter at the San Francisco Opera, "the first line of defense," he says, against a singer's potential humiliation..."

Opera Off the Deep End

The Fourth Annual West Edge Opera Comedy Night

Join us for an evening of laughter as we pull back the curtain to reveal opera’s rarely seen — and often seamy — comic underbelly. This year’s comedic program is packed with mirth, waggery, and gossip:

  • Music Director Jonathan Khuner presents sketches including Operatic Nightmares I Have Known, or, Tales from the Prompter’s Box
  • Back by popular demand, Marie Plette will edify and entertain us with her own updated version of Anna Russell's slyly hilarious lecture on Wagner’s Ring Cycle. (Warning: includes sexual improprieties and org charts)
  • Always a treat — a special appearance by the delightful (and hilarious) Kathleen Moss!
  • Delicious elegant dinner with wine and dessert

Saturday, September 13, 6:30 p.m.
St. Alban’s Episcopal Church
1501 Washington Avenue, Albany

6:30 p.m. – Wine and hors d’oeuvres
7:00 p.m. – Dinner
8:00 p.m. – Program

Regular Tickets: $75 per person
VIP/Underwriters Tickets*: donation of $150 or more per person

All proceeds support West Edge Opera’s productions and $50 of each regular ticket ($125 of each VIP ticket) is tax deductible.

*VIP Tickets — Great seats!
VIP/Underwriter ticket holders get preferred seating with company principals and special recognition in the program booklet.
Purchase Tickets:

Online: BUY TICKETS (online fee applies)

By Phone: 510-841-1903

By Mail: Send a check to 1700 Shattuck Ave #312, Berkeley CA 94709


Photos from the Summer Festival

Linda Kennedy with Jordan Eldredge

Director Mark Streshinsky, Christine Capsuto (Musetta in La bohème), Brandon Biggs (Colline in La bohème),
and some of the La bohème chorus members

Tessa Twomey at her first opera — with Alexandra Sessler

Sylvia Ahern, Daniel Alley, Vanessa Aldrich

Keith Phares (Maurice Bendrix in The End of the Affair) with composer Jake Heggie

Ken Kellogg (Hydrogen Jukebox) with John and Bernice Lindstrom

V. Savoy McIlwain and James Callon (Marcello and Rodolfo in La bohème)

Helen Burke and Kathryn Kasch with James Callon (Rodolfo in La bohème)

Zanna Knight with Alexandra Sessler (Mimi in La bohème)

Donna Olson and Mark Hernandez (Mrs. Bertram and Mr. Parkis in The End of the Affair)

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