Something Merry . . .
Sunday, December 15 at 4pm
A West Edge Opera Holiday concert at the Piedmont Center for the Arts
Christmas Eve scene from Leoncavallo's La Boheme, Paris Opera, 1899
Starring Marie Plette and Christine Abraham
with pianist Sun Ha Yoon
Celebrating traditional, sacred, and contemporary music of the season
West Edge Opera is thrilled to offer Something Merry, our second concert at the Piedmont Center for the Arts, 801 Magnolia Avenue in Piedmont.
We know you'll love nationally-acclaimed soprano Marie Plette, who has performed major roles at the Met and who sang the title role in our recent Vanessa. Joining Marie will be Christine Abraham, another national standout who serves on the voice faculties of Mills College, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and California State University, East Bay. They'll be accompanied by Sun Ha Yoon, a first-year Adler Fellow pianist at the San Francisco Opera.
Please join us for an elegant and festive holiday benefit concert, followed by wine and chocolates (included). $25 adult, $15 youth
West Edge Opera thanks Anne Brandon and Rick Richetta of Alain Pinel Realtors in Montclair
for their generous sponsorship of this concert.
About Marie Plette
American soprano Marie Plette is acclaimed in the major opera houses of North America and Europe for her compelling portrayals from Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly to Love Simpson in Cold Sassy Tree and the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro. She recently sang the title roles in Strauss's Ariadne auf Naxos and Barber's Vanessa for West Edge Opera.
Immediately after winning the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 1992, Marie Plette was invited to make her Metropolitan Opera debut as the First Lady in Die Zauberflöte. She has performed frequently with the Met in roles including Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, Gutrune in Götterdämmerung, and Kristina in The Makropoulos Case. The New York Times wrote of her performance of Madama Butterfly, "The opera did partake of the other great unifying factor here: a star turn, by Marie Plette in the title role."
About Christine Abraham
Declared "radiant" by the Los Angeles Times and "Glamorous and melting of voice" by the Wall Street Journal, Christine Abraham has performed a varied operatic and orchestral repertoire to great artistic acclaim. Her successful career as a high mezzo-soprano included several soprano roles such as Valencienne in The Merry Widow with Utah Opera, Despina in Così fan tutte with Toledo Opera, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro with Tulsa Opera, and Blanche in Dialogues of the Carmelites with Palm Beach Opera. She has now made the formal switch to soprano, adding many new roles into her repertoire including Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Mimi in La bohème, and the title role in Rusalka.
In 2013-14 Christine Abraham sings Amelia in Giancarlo Aquilanti's Oxford Companions at Stanford University. Recent performances include Sarah in the North American premiere of James MacMillan's Clemency at Boston Lyric Opera, Sesto in Handel's Giulio Cesare with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni with Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and was soprano soloist in Mozart's Requiem and Bach's Magnificat with the Berkshire Choral Festival in Sonoma.
About Sun Ha Yoon
Originally from Seoul, South Korea, the pianist and vocal coach is a first-year Adler Fellow at San Francisco Opera. In the summer of 2012 she was a participant in the Merola Opera Program. She has been a vocal piano fellow at the Music Academy of the West, where she coached Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Giovanni. In January of 2012, she collaborated with soprano Megan Hart in a duo recital at Carnegie Hall as part of Marilyn Horne's "The Song Continues" series. Yoon recently graduated with a doctorate in collaborative piano performance from the University of Maryland and worked as a coach for the Maryland Opera Studio in two world premiere performances: Later the Same Evening by John Musto and Shadowboxer by Frank Proto.
Critical acclaim for Marie and Christine:
"The performers—led by the superb soprano Marie Plette in the title role—had an opportunity to bring the audience directly into the world of the opera.... The most powerful contribution came from Plette… singing with vibrant, dynamically responsive sound and skillfully modulating her vocal power for the circumstances."
—Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle
"The soprano of the night was Marie Plette as Liu, always the opera's most sympathetic character. The beauty of her voice and the expressive nuances she imparted to her arias combined to make the most stellar single performance of the evening." [TURANDOT - Columbus Symphony Orchestra]
"Abraham, nimble-footed and nimble-voiced in the trouser role of Orsini, displayed supreme intelligence, superb acting skill and rhythmic and tonal agility. The supple ease of her delivery, movement and phrasing were a delight." [LUCREZIA BORGIA - Opera Boston]
"... the festival rounded up a distinguished group of vocal soloists. The most eloquent was mezzo-soprano Christine Abraham, whose directness of expression and stylistic assurance provided bountiful wisdom and warmth." [Baldwin-Wallace Bach Festival]
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
And coming in February . . .
The final concert in the series:
Something Sweet . . .
February 14 at 7:30 pm
The Piedmont Center for the Arts is located at 801 Magnolia Avenue, Piedmont.
Headlines From West Edge
San Jose Mercury News
> West Edge Opera brings Paul Gauguin to life on stage
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
...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.
> 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.
San 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.
> 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...
San 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."
San 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 Chronicle
> 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..."
Call for Vocalists
West Edge Opera is inaugurating its new series, Opera Medium-Rare (but well-done!), with three special concert productions this winter/spring season. We are seeking enthusiastic and qualified young singers who would be interested in the musical and performance experience singing works by Rossini, Donizetti, and Verdi:
- Sunday, January 19, 3pm
- Rossini's Elisabetta, regina d'Inghilterra
- Sunday, March 30, 3pm
- Donizetti's Caterina Cornaro
- Sunday, May 4, 3pm
- Verdi's Aroldo
Each of these is a relatively unknown, but dramatically solid work, full of wonderful vocal writing and vivid theatricality. Our presentations will be with piano accompaniment and musical direction by our music director Jonathan Khuner, with several (evening-&-weekend) rehearsals to arrive at a fully professional performance level. The performances will be on-book, without staging or costumes, in Italian, and the audience will have enhanced supertitles to help them imagine the action. Tickets for these concerts will be very affordable with a fund-raising element in order to offset the low price.
We want to give exposure to new talent that we can then consider for future fully-staged productions. The project is ideal for young artists who want professional-level role experience in this repertoire, and love exploring beautiful operatic literature.
All the performances will be at 3:00 pm, at the Northbrae Church sanctuary in Berkeley.
Interested singers should submit name and resume, detailing your particular role interest, to Jonathan Khuner at email@example.com.
Please do not submit MP3 or any other sound samples unless requested.
If we select you for further consideration, we will send pdf excerpts (mostly arias) from the roles,
and arrange for an audition in Berkeley.
We may be recruiting chorus members individually, apart from our soloist recruitment. If you are interested in this way of participating, please submit a separate note to that effect, with your resume.
Here are the roles being cast. Note that the Rossini roles display a great deal of typical bel canto virtuosic athleticism, the Donizetti roles a medium amount of same, and that the Verdi is middle-period writing which demands strong lyric lines.
|Rossini:|| Elisabetta - soprano|
|Matilda - soprano or mezzo-soprano|
|Enrico - mezzo-soprano or contralto (pants role)|
|Norfolk - tenor|
|Leicester - tenor|
|Guglielmo - tenor (supporting role)|
|Donizetti: ||Caterina - soprano|
|Matilde - soprano (short role)|
|Gerardo - tenor|
|Strozzi - tenor (minor role)|
|Un Cavaliere - (brief role)|
|Lusignano - baritone|
|Mocenigo - bass-baritone|
|Andrea - bass (supporting role)|
|Verdi: ||Mina - soprano|
|Elena - mezzo-soprano (short role)|
|Aroldo - tenor|
|Godvino - tenor|
|Enrico - tenor (short role)|
|Egberto - baritone|
|Briano - bass (supporting role)|