Friday, August 18, 2017

Last Weekend of the West Edge Opera Festival

For the second Sunday in a row last weekend, I enjoyed a ferryboat ride from the SF Ferry Building to Jack London Square, and marveled at the height of the new butt plug shaped Salesforce headquarters which is dominating the skyline.

I was in Oakland to see West Edge Opera present a stripped-down version of a 19th century French Grand Opera written by Ambroise Thomas based on Dumas' French translation of Shakespeare's Hamlet. I pretty much disliked everything about the opera except for Edward Nelson's beautiful baritone as the title character and the 10-person makeshift chorus who sounded like a crack 30-person ensemble while navigating some very clunky blocking. It also confirmed that my long-time disdain for 19th Century French Grand Opera as a genre is probably justified. Other people seemed to like it including Joshua Kosman and Stephen Smoliar (above right).

Other than that, it was a completely delightful afternoon. The abandoned Pacific Pipe Company warehouse has much better acoustics than the abandoned Oakland Train Station of the last two years. The troupe is also figuring out how to make their predominantly elderly, adventurous audience feel comfortable. The free BART shuttle service this summer from the West Oakland BART station received rave reviews from friends who used it. And near the beer garden there are a pair of the most luxurious port-a-potties I have ever experienced, lording over a row of lesser, traditional models. All three operas of the Festival will be making their last appearance this weekend, and it's very much worth checking out, especially The Chastity Tree on Saturday night.

11 comments:

Monica Frame said...

Here's one member of that makeshift chorus who also loves that beautiful baritone enough to want you to correct his name. He's Edward Nelson.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Monica: Thank you so much for the proofreading/copy editing. I'll change it right now. And your chorus really was good.

Monica Frame said...

Anything for that gorgeous baritone. And thanks!

Stephen Smoliar said...

I see you resort to photography when we have a difference of opinion! I must confess that I have absolutely no idea what I was doing when you took that shot. Perhaps I was catching 40 winks to make sure I would have my full attention ready for the performance. I have to wonder what may happen if we differ over Merola tonight!

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Stephen: I'm sure you were contemplating the universe right before explaining it to us. And I didn't "resort to photography" over a difference of opinion, so much as I just liked the shot of you briefly worshiping the sun. In any case, our musical opinions differ at least half the time so I wouldn't be concerned about Merola tonight. It's all completely subjective.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Monica: Not only did I get Edward Arnold/Edward Nelson wrong, I misspelled the first name of the composer. I'm firing my copy editor immediately.

Monica Frame said...

Haha,now I'm embarrassed I didn't catch that. Oh well, he won't care.

chris enquist said...

The butt-plug building, AKA the Salesforce tower. I love that nickname and hope it sticks.

Hattie said...

I'm wondering if people say they like things because they are impressed by the money and effort that go into them rather than in their intrinsic value. We have a lot of crap around here in the way of "art," but at least it's not expensive.

Michael Strickland said...

Dear Hattie: No, the people who liked this particular opera performance are sincere and smart. Just not my cup of tea. And West Edge Opera pulls off extravagant productions on an absolute shoestring, so they are the opposite of expensive crap and more smart, penniless adventurer.

Hattie said...

OK. I stand corrected, then.