Thursday, May 14, 2009

After a bit of a hiatus

It's been a busy time for me since I came back from Deutschland at the end of January...and I've been a totally delinquent blogger, mea culpa, folks.

I've had lots of rehearsing, auditioning, and performing, including Micaela in Carmen, concerts with the Athena Trio (of arias and duets) and Vinaccesi Ensemble (of great 17th century music). Next up: new music, hot off the twenty-first century press. In the midst of all this: decisions about downsizing...dealing with the economy, mono in the family, etc., etc., and so forth.

What prompted my return, other than guilt? (Never underestimate the siren call of guilt...) Over the past month, I've heard, read, and seen pieces so good that I feel compelled to write about them.

What I saw: StarTrek (2009). Oh my! This is a feast for Trekkies and the unitiated few alike. What was a cultural phenomenon is now a warm, feel-good return, with all sorts of sly, prequel-ish comments. Besides the overused cliche of a de rigeur, post-Matrix, multi-opening metal-clawed villain ship, there are very few missteps in this marvelous film. I have to see it again, so that I can relish more of the references and repartee.

What I heard: Donato Cabrero and the SF Symphony performing Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (in the familiar Ravel orchestration). Cabrero stepped in at the last minute--with very limited rehearsal time, according to what I heard--to replace the ailing Alistair McNeal, who had himself been a replacement for Oliver Knussen, also due to illness. The Mussorgsky is one of my favorite warhorses, and Cabrera made Davies Hall rock with it. Textures, voicings, and timbres were particularly illuminating: I heard a clarity of detail and interpretation that has generally gotten lost in a muddy wash in past performances. Tempi were nice, too. Cabrera got a standing O for good measure--deservedly so.

What I read: Rupert Kingfisher's Madame Pamplemousse and her Incredible Edibles. A delightful--and quick--MG read about a young Parisian girl who can cook. The villain of the piece is her dreadful Uncle Lard...and I'll leave the rest to you to read. Beyond my personal dismay at the heroine's name, Madeleine (which is enshrined in my memory--any French protagonist named Madeleine, no matter the spelling will forever be Ludwig Betelmans'), I loved this old-fashioned tale.

I also read Nation, by Terry Pratchett. I'm a big Pratchett fan: I've devoured most of his Discworld books, the Unseen Academicals, Wintersmith, etc. So when I first started Nation, I knew I was in for a good read. ButI put it down after some pages, finding the opening slow somehow. It had won the L.A. Book Prize... It was by Terry Pratchett, and yet... Skip a few weeks here. Finally I picked the book back up and loved it: the book gets better and better as it picks up steam and winds up with a wonderfully moving ending. Along the way, Pratchett deals with life, the universe, and everything.

And last but oh-so-not least: Neil Gaimon's Newbery-winning Graveyard Book: a briliant, poignant, moving book about growing up, moving on, living and caring. 'Nuff said. Go read it!

What I'm working on right now: music by Bay Area composers: Jean Ahn's song cycle Open (2005) and Mark Alburger's Sex and Delilah (2009, part of his larger Bible opera).