Thursday, August 06, 2015
Versailles & The Parisian Baroque Preview
For the last six years, the American Bach Soloists in San Francisco have been creating a new institution at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, a summer Bach Festival that's built around a training academy for young singers and instrumentalists specializing in early music. Happily, the performances and the Festival vibe have been getting better every year, with old masters playing with young magicians for an audience that's half elderly and half college age. (Pictured above are Kyle Stegall and Jason Rylander, soloists in Handel's oratorio Esther from 2013.)
The Festival lasts for a fortnight, with two weekends featuring performances of Bach's Mass in B Minor conducted by Music Director Jeffrey Thomas above with a mixture of gifted students and teaching professionals.
Each Festival has been constructed around a theme, and this year it is the French Baroque with performances of fascinating, rarely heard music by Rameau, Aubert, Philidor, and Couperin among others. The marquee event is the U.S. premiere of Marin Marais' 1709 opera, Semele. When the program was announced, it sold out immediately, so the festival has added another performance on Thursday, August 13th.
There is usually a program at the end of the Festival devoted to a "Distinguished Artist." Last year it was soprano Mary Wilson, seen above with countertenor Eric Jurenas, and on Saturday the 15th it will be John Thiessen on Baroque trumpet joined by soprano Kathryn Mueller in a grab-bag of Baroque rarities mixed in with a few favorites.
New to the Festival this year is a Baroque Marathon on Monday the 10th and Tuesday the 11th. Admission is free and it promises to be a wild cornucopia of performances, from 3-6 and 8-11 on Monday, and 8-11 on Tuesday. (Pictured above are instructors/performers Robert Mealy and Elizabeth Blumenstock.)