Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Opera on the Spot Prepares Two Programs for the Summer

Opera on the Spot is a group of talented, young, classically trained singers that describes itself as “San Francisco’s pop-up opera troupe.” “Pop-up” means that the group has no set venue that serves as a base of operations. Instead, they choose less conventional places for performances, including bars, restaurants, and community spaces. For the summer months they have prepared two strikingly different programs, the first a “grand tour” of Europe through the art song repertoire and the second a double-bill of one-act operas.

The art song recital will be a house concert held under the auspices of groupmuse. The “grand tour” will traverse Germany (Clara Schumann), France (Cécile Chaminade, Claude Debussy, and Ernest Chausson), and Norway (Edvard Grieg), returning to the United States with Margaret Bonds, one of the first black composers to gain public recognition. The major song cycle on the program will be Debussy’s Ariettes oubliées (forgotten songs), a setting of a poem by Paul Verlaine in six movements. Six songs will also constitute Grieg’s Opus 48. The other “organized collection” will be Bonds’ three songs, which she called Dream Portraits.

This house concert will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, July 21. The venue will be a home in the upper Civic Center. Admission will require a $10 minimum donation for the performers. Specifics are maintained on the groupmuse Web page through which reservations must be made. There will be a total of 45 spots available for reservation, and those accepted will receive specific information about the venue. All guest must be at least 21 years of age. Those who attend will be invited to bring a bottle of wine or snacks to share with other guests. The venue is wheelchair accessible.

The two operas to be presented as a double bill. The program will begin with Samuel Barber’s “A Hand of Bridge,” written with a libretto by Gian-Carlo Menotti. The second opera will be composed by Menotti, “The Old Maid and the Thief.” Both of these are social comedies, each involving only four characters. The first brings together two married couples at their weekly bridge game with each player wrapped up in his/her own idiosyncratic interior monologue. The first couple will be sung by baritone Sergey Khalikulov and soprano Jordan Amann, playing against tenor Kevin Gino and mezzo Claire MacKenzie. Menotti’s opera deals with the sexual frustrations of an old maid (mezzo Emma Lacenski) and the “thief” she encounters (Khalikulov). The other characters are the neighbor with whom the old maid gossips (soprano Aisha Campbell) and the old maid’s servant (soprano Emily Thebaut).

This production will be given two performances in two different venues, both beginning at 7:30 p.m. The first will be at the Center for New Music (C4NM) on Friday, August 4. The second will be held at the Caffe Delle Stelle restaurant on Monday, August 7. Admission at both venues will be $20 with a $15 rate for students. On Friday C4NM members will also be entitled to the reduced rate. C4NM is located at 55 Taylor Street, half a block north of the Golden Gate Theater, where Golden Gate Avenue meets Market Street. Caffe Delle Stelle is in Hayes Valley at 305 Hayes Street, on the southeast corner of Gough Street. Tickets may be purchased in advance online, for C4NM through a Vendini Web page and for Caffe Delle Stelle through an Eventbrite event page.

Finally, the vocalists will preview excerpts from both operas at the Monroe club in Jackson Square. They will also perform selected arias and art songs by both Barber and Menotti. This event will begin at 8 p.m. one week from today, Wednesday, July 19, and should last about 90 minutes. The Monroe is located at 473 Broadway, near the northeast corner of Kearny Street.

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