Wednesday, January 01, 2014

New Year's Eve at the San Francisco Symphony 2013/14

The San Francisco Symphony held its annual New Years Eve Masquerade Ball last night...

...and it was loads of fun, especially the people watching...

...and running into Amelia Kusar and Meredith Clark above, two legendary Symphony support staffers who looked glamorous as they worked the long evening.

The main stage concert was unexpectedly good, too, with the British conductor Michael Francis above playing genial host and leading the orchestra in seriously good renditions of light classical ear candy. The first half was devoted to Viennese waltzes and operetta (Lehar, Strauss and Lortzing) while the second half was all Broadway (Gershwin, Weill, Loewe, etc.).

The guest stars were the husband and wife singing team of Kelly Markgraf and Sasha Cooke above. Even though they ended the evening with Irving Berlin's Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better, it wasn't really true. Markgraf is a pleasant, unremarkable baritone while Cooke has a mezzo-soprano voice that is one of the wonders of the world. Possibly the worst thing about The Gospel According to Mary Magdalene at the San Francisco Opera last summer was that it effaced Cooke's artistic divinity. Last night she sang Villja, the hit tune from The Merry Widow, so beautifully that I was in tears by the end. Since I can't stand The Merry Widow, that is a serious accomplishment.

Kelly and Sasha were amplified for the Broadway second half, which was unnecessary because they had comfortably filled Davies without microphones in the Viennese half, so we skipped the last few numbers and got ready for the food and Prosecco drinkathon in the lobby.

The stage was cleared for the Peter Mintun band, accompanied by The Jesters singing trio, to serenade the dancing audience onstage and in the aisles. Some of us stayed in the lobby and at one point a young audience member jumped onto the piano above and proceeded to impress a girlfriend and amaze passersby with an extraordinary classical improvisation.

Then everyone joined the midnight countdown in the auditorium, balloons dropped, and we toasted a happy new year.


Lisa Hirsch said...

If you took the mystery pianist's mask off, would he be Keisuke Nakagoshi?

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Lisa: That's a good guess from the hair but no, this guy wasn't Japanese. He was a startlingly fine pianist, though, whoever he was.