Classical Music News of the Week, November 4, 2012

Ensemble Parallele, San Francisco, Changes Name to Opera Parallele

The 2012-2013 will be highlighted by the Bay Area premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar, an evening double bill of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahaiti and Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge and a workshop reading of commissioned opera from Dante de Silva, in addition to significant community engagement activities. Tickets for Ainadamar go on sale October 15.

The acclaimed San Francisco opera company, Ensemble Parallèle, has formally changed its name to Opera Parallèle and expanded its offering to a full season of activities. Opera Parallèle’s 2012-13 Series is highlighted by the Bay Area premiere of Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar February 15, 16 and 17, 2013 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. On April 26, 27 and 28, the company presents the San Francisco premiere of Garth Sunderland’s re-orchestration of Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti in a double bill with Samuel Barber’s A Hand of Bridge at ZSpace. The season closes June 7 at San Francisco Conservatory of Music when Opera Parallèle presents a public workshop reading of the company’s first commission, Dante De Silva’s Gesualdo, Prince of Madness.

“As Opera Parallèle, we are enlarging our presence in the world of contemporary opera,” said Artistic Director Nicole Paiement, “and I am thrilled that we are able to offer the community three fully staged operas from such highly respected composers as Golijov, Bernstein and Barber, in addition to giving a first hearing to the world premiere commission from Dante De Silva. With the popularity of our past productions, we realize that there is a pressing interest for both high quality performances of contemporary opera and for community activities that expand knowledge and appreciation of this art form. Changing our name to Opera Parallèle better reflects who we are now and gives us a broader platform in which to serve the passionate opera audiences here in the Bay Area.”

For Osvaldo Golijov’s riveting opera, Ainadamar, Artistic Director Nicole Paiement again collaborates with Stage Director and Concept Designer Brian Staufenbiel. Inspired by the confrontation between poet Federico García Lorca and the Fascist regime during the Spanish Civil War, the opera artfully combines singing, visual arts and flamenco. This poignant story, with a libretto by award winning playwright David Henry Hwang, is told in flashback through the eyes of Catalan actress Margarita Xirgu, Lorca’s muse and most fervent advocate. Soprano Marnie Breckenridge, La Princesse in Opera Parallèle’s spring 2011 production of Philip Glass’ Orphée, heads the cast as Margarita Xirgu. Mezzo-soprano Lisa Chavez, who recently portrayed Maria in Frank Loesser’s widely successful The Most Happy Fella in New York City, is featured as the poet and playwright Federico. Casting also includes soprano Maya Kherani, St. Settlement in Opera Parallèle’s summer 2011 production of Four Saints in Three Acts, as Nuria; bass John Bischoff, Compère in Opera Parallèle’s Four Saints in Three Acts, as Tripaldi; internationally acclaimed gypsy flamenco singer Jesus Montoya as Ruiz Alonso; and members of the San Francisco Girls Chorus for the chorus of girls, or niñ as. Brian Staufenbiel will be joined by a strong artistic team including scenic and lighting designer Matthew Antaky, video artist Austin Forbord, costume designer Christine Crook, choreographer La Tania, wig and make-up artist Jeanna Parham and props artisan Valerie Niles.

One of Opera Parallèle’s primary ambitions is to attract new and younger audiences for opera through intimate performances of contemporary masterworks given in settings appropriate to the music and staging. ZSpace is an ideal venue for an evening featuring two operas, both of which deal with the intricacies and struggles of married life. Barber’s A Hand of Bridge, with a libretto by Gian Carlo Menotti, will serve as a 10-minute snapshot opener into married life followed by Garth Sunderland’s chamber orchestration for 15 musicians of Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti. The composer’s bitingly ironic one-act opera speaks of a couple in a troubled marriage, desperate to find the way back to the “Quiet Place” of their love for one another.

Opera Parallèle closes the 2012-13 performance season June 7, 2013 at the Sol Joseph Recital Hall in San Francisco with a workshop reading of its first commission, Gesualdo, Prince of Madness, a new opera by Los Angeles composer Dante De Silva. The two-act opera examines the sometimes flexible nature of justice through the figure of Carlo Gesualdo, a 16th century composer accused of murder who escaped prosecution because of his noble status.

During the fall, Opera Parallèle launches its program of significantly expanded community engagement activities beginning with a return visit on October 26 to the popular Friday Nights at the de Young program. In November, the opera company joins efforts with Drew School to initiate Hands-on Opera, a pilot program designed to expose students to the world of opera, both as a performance art and as an entrée to global culture. Under the direction of Ms. Paiement and Stage Director Brian Staufenbiel, Opera Parallèle will lead a group of young performers from the Drew School, guided by Maya Kherani and Brendan Hartnett, to prepare and perform Ronald Perera’s children’s opera The Araboolies of Liberty Street for selected audiences of elementary school students on November 1 and 2 and for family members and the general public on November 2 and 3. Both The Araboolies of Liberty Street and the de Young Museum performances are presented as part of Opera Parallèle’s support for Opera America’s National Opera Week.

Later in the year, as part of another pilot program, Engage in Opera, Ms. Kherani will visit both Lowell High School and San Francisco School of the Arts to present interactive experiences based on Golijov’s Ainadamar. Opera Parallèle will also continue its Opera on Display activities, where the public is invited to peek behind the scenes at events that serve as introductions to works currently in progress. This season’s activities will include two Sneak Previews in advance of Ainadamar and Trouble in Tahiti with A Hand of Bridge where excerpts from upcoming productions are performed by the cast with commentary from key members of the creative team, open rehearsals where the audience is invited to witness in real time the interaction between the conductor, stage director and cast members followed by a Q & A session, pre-concert talks prior to the performances and free student matinée of Ainadamar for invited student groups.

Opera Parallèle is a professional opera company-in-residence at San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the only organization in the Bay Area that presents contemporary opera exclusively. Most recently, Opera Parallèle presented the world premiere of Jacques Desjardins’s re-orchestration of John Harbison's The Great Gatsby. In collaboration with SFMOMA, the company presented the critically acclaimed production of the rarely performed Four Saints in Three Acts by composer Virgil Thompson and librettist Gertrude Stein and the world premiere of Luciano Chessa’s A Heavenly Act. In spring 2011 the group produced the Bay Area premiere of Philip Glass’ Orphée and in 2010, the chamber version of Alban Berg’s 20th century masterpiece Wozzeck. In February 2007, Opera Parallèle presented the world premiere of Lou Harrison’s opera Young Caesar in conjunction with what would have been the late composer’s 90th birthday. In prior years, with its mission more broadly focused on contemporary music, Opera Parallèle presented 125 performances including 28 world premieres, released 12 recordings and commissioned 19 new works.

As a non-profit 501(c)(3) arts institution, Opera Parallèle must raise support and funds throughout the year to be able to present contemporary opera to a wide audience at affordable prices. This year, for the second time, Opera Parallèle is among the rank of noteworthy arts organizations that receive funding from San Francisco’s Grants for the Arts. Other foundational support comes from the Columbia Foundation, Zellerbach and Fleishhacker. Additional information is available at

Don’t miss this opportunity to experience Opera Parallèle’s next presentation, Osvaldo Golijov’s Ainadamar on February 15, 16 and 17, 2013 at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Lam Research Theater. Tickets priced from $35 to $85 will go on sale October 15. They can be purchased in person at the YBCA's box office located inside the Galleries and Forum Building, 701 Mission Street at Third, over the phone at (415) 978-ARTS (2787) or online at

--Kristin Schellinger, Karen Ames Communications

Music Institute of Chicago Sponsors Young Composer’s Competition
Application Deadline: December 15, 2012

To encourage and promote the development of young composers ages 10–18, the Music Institute of Chicago is sponsoring the Generation Next Young Composer’s Competition. Prizes range from $75 to $350. In addition, winners will hear their works performed live at Nichols Concert Hall, receive a CD recording of the performance and become eligible for scholarships to participate in the Music Institute’s Composer’s Lab. The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2012.

For information, please call Sue Polutnik at the Music Institute of Chicago, 847-905-1500 ext. 122. For complete guidelines and an application, visit

While there are abundant performance opportunities and competitions for young musicians, there are far fewer opportunities to recognize talented young composers. In an effort to stimulate interest in the music of our time and support young composers in their endeavors, the Music Institute began the Generation Next Young Composer’s Competition in 2006. Each year talented young musicians from the Music Institute’s Academy and Community School programs perform the winning works at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston.

This year the Winner’s Concert, which is free and open to the public, takes place March 8, 2013, as part of the Music Institute’s annual Four Score Festival. In addition to performances of the winner’s composition, the program also will feature works from the Music Institute’s Composer’s Lab Program, created by Composer-in-Residence Mischa Zupko, and performances by young composers from the studios of Chicago-based composer Patricia Morehead and Ilya Levinson. The Music Institute again has partnered with 98.7 WFMT to record the performance for future broadcast on the popular radio program Introductions, which celebrates talented pre-college classical musicians.

Music Institute of Chicago
The Music Institute of Chicago believes that music has the power to sustain and nourish the human spirit; therefore, our mission is to provide the foundation for lifelong engagement with music. As one of the three largest and most respected community music schools in the nation, the Music Institute offers musical excellence built on the strength of our distinguished faculty, commitment to quality, and breadth of programs and services. Founded in 1931 and one of the oldest community music schools in Illinois, the Music Institute is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts and accredited by the National Association of Schools of Music. Each year, our world-class music teachers and arts therapists provide the highest quality arts education to more than 5,000 students of all ability levels, from birth to 101 years of age at campuses in Evanston, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Winnetka, and Downers Grove. The Music Institute also offers lessons and programs at the Steinway of Chicago store in Northbrook and early childhood and community engagement programs throughout the Chicago area and the North Shore. Nichols Concert Hall, our education and performance center located in downtown Evanston, reaches approximately 14,000 people each year. Our community engagement and partnership programs reach an additional 6,500 Chicago Public School students annually. The Music Institute offers lessons, classes, and programs through four distinct areas: Community School, The Academy, Creative Arts Therapy (Institute for Therapy through the Arts), and Nichols Concert Hall.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

Music Institute of Chicago Presents the Chicago Q Ensemble Concert and Music Institute Open House
Sunday, November 18, 2 p.m. at Faith United Methodist Church, 432 59th Street, Downers Grove, Chicago, Illinois.

Admission is FREE; donations of non-perishable food items at the door appreciated.
Information: or call 847.877.4854.

The Music Institute of Chicago presents a free family concert featuring the Chicago Q Ensemble playing Joseph Haydn’s String Trio in D Major, Marcos Balter’s Vision Mantra, and Alexander Borodin’s String Trio in G Minor.

Following the performance, families are welcome to meet Music Institute faculty, take student-led tours of classrooms, try out instruments at an Instrument Petting Zoo, and enjoy refreshments at a free open house.

Since their founding in 2010, Chicago Q Ensemble has appeared in concert throughout Chicago, including performances at the Green Mill, Northwestern University, DePaul University, Ganz Hall, Uncommon Ground Devon, and the Music Institute of Chicago. The quartet is committed to interdisciplinary collaboration and the work of living composers.

--Jill Chukerman, JAC Communications

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Meet the Staff

Meet the Staff
John J. Puccio, Editor, Publisher, Reviewer

Understand, I'm just an everyday guy reacting to something I love. And I've been doing it for a very long time, my appreciation for classical music starting with the musical excerpts on The Big John and Sparkie radio show in the early Fifties and the purchase of my first recording, The 101 Strings Play the Classics, around 1956. In the late Sixties I began teaching high school English and Film Studies as well as becoming interested in hi-fi, my audio ambitions graduating me from a pair of AR-3 speakers to the Fulton J's recommended by The Stereophile's J. Gordon Holt. In the early Seventies, I began writing for a number of audio magazines, including Audio Excellence, Audio Forum, The Boston Audio Society Speaker, The American Record Guide, and from 1976 until 2008, The $ensible Sound, for which I served as Classical Music Editor.

Today, I'm retired from teaching and use a pair of bi-amped VMPS RM40s loudspeakers for my listening. In addition to writing the Classical Candor blog, I served as the Movie Review Editor for the Web site Movie Metropolis (formerly DVDTown) from 1997-2013. Music and movies. Life couldn't be better.
Karl W. Nehring, Contributing Reviewer

For more than 20 years I was the editor of The $ensible Sound magazine and a regular contributor to its classical review pages. I would not presume to present myself as some sort of expert on music, but I have a deep love for and appreciation of many types of music, "classical" especially, and have listened to thousands of recordings over the years, many of which still line the walls of my listening room (and occasionally spill onto the furniture and floor, much to the chagrin of my long-suffering wife). I have always taken the approach as a reviewer that what I am trying to do is simply to point out to readers that I have come across a recording that I have found of interest, a recording that I think they might appreciate my having pointed out to them. I suppose that sounds a bit simple-minded, but I know I appreciate reading reviews by others that do the same for me -- point out recordings that I think I might enjoy.

For readers who might be wondering about what kind of system I am using to do my listening, I should probably point out that I do a LOT of music listening and employ a variety of means to do so in a variety of environments, as I would imagine many music lovers also do. Starting at the more grandiose end of the scale, the system in which I do my most serious listening comprises an Onkyo C-7030 CD player, Legacy Audio StreamLine preamplifier, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE speakers augmented by a Legacy Point One subwoofer. I also do a lot of listening while driving in my 2016 Acura RDX with its nice-sounding ELS Studio sound system through which I play CDs (the ones I especially like I rip to the Acura's hard drive so that I can listen to them whenever I want) or stream music through the system using my LG G7 ThinQ cell phone, which features surprisingly sophisticated audio circuitry. For more casual listening at home when I am not in my listening room, I often stream music through the phone into a Vizio soundbar system that has remarkably nice sound for such a diminutive physical presence. And finally, at the least grandiose end of the scale, I have an Ultimate Ears Wonderboom Bluetooth speaker for those occasions where I am somewhere by myself without a sound system but in desperate need of a musical fix. I just can't imagine life without music and I am humbly grateful for the technology that enables us to enjoy it in so many wonderful ways.
Bryan Geyer, Technical Analyst

I initially embraced classical music in 1954 when I mistuned my car radio and heard the Heifetz recording of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. That inspired me to board the new "hi-fi" DIY bandwagon. In 1957 I joined one of the pioneer semiconductor makers and spent the next 32 years marketing transistors and microcircuits to military contractors. Home audio DIY projects remained a personal passion until 1989 when we created our own new photography equipment company. I later (2012) revived my interest in two channel audio when we "downsized" our life and determined that mini-monitors + paired subwoofers were a great way to mate fine music with the space constraints of condo living.

Visitors that view my technical papers on this site may wonder why they appear here, rather than on a site that features audio equipment reviews. My reason is that I tried the latter, and prefer to publish for people who actually want to listen to music; not to equipment. My focus is in describing what's technically beneficial to assure that the sound of the system will accurately replicate the source input signal (i. e. exhibit high accuracy) without inordinate cost and complexity. Conversely, most of the audiophiles of today strive to achieve sound that's euphonic, i.e. be personally satisfying. In essence, audiophiles seek sound that's consistent with their desire; the music is simply a test signal.

Mission Statement

It is the goal of Classical Candor to promote the enjoyment of classical music. Other forms of music come and go--minuets, waltzes, ragtime, blues, jazz, bebop, country-western, rock-'n'-roll, heavy metal, rap, and the rest--but classical music has been around for hundreds of years and will continue to be around for hundreds more. It's no accident that every major city in the world has one or more symphony orchestras.

When I was young, I heard it said that only intellectuals could appreciate classical music, that it required dedicated concentration to appreciate. Nonsense. I'm no intellectual, and I've always loved classical music. Anyone who's ever seen and enjoyed Disney's Fantasia or a Looney Tunes cartoon playing Rossini's William Tell Overture or Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2 can attest to the power and joy of classical music, and that's just about everybody.

So, if Classical Candor can expand one's awareness of classical music and bring more joy to one's life, more power to it. It's done its job. --John J. Puccio

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"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa

"Their Master's Voice" by Michael Sowa