Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The Fairy Queen at SFCM
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music Baroque Ensemble gave a pair of performances of Henry Purcell's 1692 "semi-opera" The Fairy Queen last weekend, and the Saturday evening rendition was utterly delightful. In late 17th century England, there was a vogue for spoken plays interleavened with musical masques involving song and dance that commented on the play allegorically. In the case of The Fairy Queen, this involved an abridged version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with musical interludes after each of the five acts.
The Act 1 interlude featured Conservatory students Ashley Valentine and Jarrett Porter (top) singing Come, let us leave the town, followed by a funny Scene of the Drunken Poet with Justin Bays as the soused scribe being confronted by Tatiana's fairies sung by Jessica Biano and Cara Gabrielson.
Purcell's music is just about perfect for a student performance, as the songs are short and offer a wide variety of opportunities for different voice types. The concert style staging was unfussy, with individuals stepping to the front of the stage from the chorus and then rejoining their fellows when their soloist duties were complete. The student voices ranged from adequate to extraordinary, and if there were a competition between genders, the women would have won on Saturday evening. Pictured above left to right are Jie Pan, Erin O'Meally (who was spectacular all night), Whitney Steele, and Elizabeth Dickerson.
I have noticed at previous Conservatory performances that voices tend to take longer attaining professional maturity than instrumentalists. For instance, Michael Minor on double bass and Eugenio Solinas on cello sounded ready for prime time duties with the American Bach Soloists or the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra.
Dominic Favia above also gave a splendid performance on the insanely difficult Baroque trumpet.
Baroque Ensemble Director Corey Jameson, who plays in most of the original instruments ensembles around the Bay Area, led the two and a half hour performance, and it never flagged. This is in part due to Purcell's music itself, which is one surprisingly delightful tune after another, and partly because Jameson is a lively conductor and great harpsichord player.
By the way, the performances were free to the public if you reserved a seat ahead of time. Check out the SF Conservatory calendar for further delights by clicking here. (Pictured above are Meagan Rao and Cara Gabrielson with Mariya Kaganskaya and Justin Bays below.)