Sunday, December 07, 2008
The Adler Fellows Concert
I was scheduled to spend twelve hours at the Swedenborgian Church running a multimedia presentation for the marathon Other Minds Seance fundraiser on Saturday, but mischievous spirits intervened and suddenly my computer was mysteriously rebooting itself every thirty seconds and nobody could figure out why.
I fled in a panic over concerns about my personal electronic equipment, and then accepted an invite from my friend Charlie Lichtman to hear the student Adler Fellows give their annual San Francisco Opera House recital Saturday evening instead.
Sheri Greenawald, the visionary leader of the professional education wing of the opera, gave a short speech....
...and then we were on our way to a deeply unsatisfactory concert, starting with a scene from Strauss' late, obscure "Capriccio."
The real problem with these annual concerts is the format, where instead of the singers coming out onto an empty stage and blasting out an aria or a duet, the focus is on performing an entire scene. What's wrong with that approach is that without any real sets or costumes, it's difficult for anyone, let alone students, to create a convincing piece of drama out of nothing, and this year's strip of red carpet and half-dozen red chairs on the stage was essentially ridiculous.
Plus, everyone seemed to be singing the wrong music, including Katherine Tier (above) who did a big scena from "Samson et Dalilah." She's got a huge, beautiful contralto voice that should be singing Erda and "Alexander Nevsky" and instead she was grasping for Dalilah's top notes.
In fact, just about everybody seemed miscast all evening, except during the one bright spot, a duet from "Semele" where the conductor Patrick Summers finally led the orchestra in a reading that didn't sound like it was the first time they'd played it together. The audience and all the talented singers deserved better.