Classical Music News of the Week, May 21, 2016

Merola Opera Program's Schwabacher Summer Concerts July 7 and 9

The acclaimed Merola Opera Program, one of the most prestigious and selective opera training programs in the United States, opens its 2016 Summer Festival with the popular Schwabacher Summer Concerts Thursday, July 7 at 7:30 pm and Saturday, July 9 at 2 pm at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Conducted by Eric Weimer and directed by Omer Ben Seadia, the Schwabacher Summer Concert features this year's Merola Opera artists performing extended scenes from operas including Handel's Serse, Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, R. Strauss's Arabella, Wagner's Lohengrin, Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites, and Rossini's Le Comte Ory. Tickets for the concerts at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music range from $25 to $40, with a limited number of $15 student tickets.

Eric Weimer worked with Merola Opera artists as a resident coach for many summers (1991, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013), and returns to the Merola Opera Program this year in the capacity of conductor. He has established himself as one of the pre-eminent coaches and assistant conductors in the international opera world. Through his work at some of the world's leading companies, primarily Lyric Opera of Chicago and the Metropolitan Opera, he has prepared some 200 productions, collaborating with most of the world's greatest opera conductors and virtually all the major singers active on the international opera stage.

After participating as apprentice stage director in the 2014 Merola Opera Program, emerging Israeli director Omer Ben Seadia returns to direct the Schwabacher Summer Concerts. Ben Seadia is a graduate of the Opera Directing program at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, where she directed numerous productions including Don Pasquale (Donizetti), Le Docteur Miracle (Bizet), and Saint John's Passion (Bach). She has previously directed an array of repertoire, including The Golden Vanity (Britten), Der Kaiser von Atlantis (Ullmann), Brundibár (Krása), and most recently L'italiana in Algeri (Rossini) at Opera Santa Barbara. She has been on staff at Houston Grand Opera, The Israeli Opera, Cincinnati Opera, and The International Vocal Arts Institute.

Tickets for the July 7 and July 9 Schwabacher Summer Concerts are $25 and $40, in addition to a student price of $15*. Tickets for all performances may be purchased by calling San Francisco Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330 between 10 am to 5 pm Monday and from 10 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Friday or online at *Student tickets must be purchased in person at the Box Office window, located inside the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Ave. Valid student ID is required.

For more information, visit

--Jean Shirk Media

Miami Music Festival Announces Season 3
Miami Music Festival (MMF) is proud to announce its third season, with the expansion to eight-week programming, the introduction of the unprecedented Miami Wagner Institute, an orchestral tribute to celebrated violinist Ida Haendel, an increase to six full-scale opera productions, and the welcome of several renowned guest artist and faculty members through the months of June and July, 2016.

The announcement of a professional division with the Miami Wagner Institute heralded news of an elite, one-of-a kind, tuition-free program for young professional dramatic singers led by program director and Metropolitan Opera soprano Christine Goerke. Launching July 5-16, 2016, the creation of the Miami Wagner Institute aims to provide much-needed training and professional-level performance opportunities for the unique demands of the dramatic Wagnerian singer.

The inaugural Wagner program culminates with a return to South Beach's premier venue, the New World Center, in an MMF gala concert featuring two of the world's most in-demand Wagnerians in excerpts from Die Walküre; Christine Goerke, "Brünnhilde" in productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Houston Grand and Washington National Opera, and international bass-baritone Alan Held, "Wotan" in productions at the Canadian Opera Company and Washington National Opera. They will be joined by featured singers from the Wagner Institute, and the MMF Symphony Orchestra. MMF's gala concert will also feature Strauss's Suite from Der Rosenkavalier and excerpts from Wagner's Ring Cycle.

This season, the MMF Opera Institute increases to six mainstage productions presenting classic stagings of Puccini's La bohème and Gianni Schicchi, Britten's The Turn of the Screw, and Robert Ward's retelling of The Crucible in a provocative setting of social commentary. MMF also continues its popular Family Opera Series with family-friendly productions of Mozart's The Magic Flute in English, and Ravel's whimsical L'enfant et les sortilèges. The Studio Program will also undertake two lesser-known chamber operas, Giordano's Mese Mariano and Offenbach's La chanson de Fortunio, marking two South Florida premieres.

For a complete listing of artists, concerts and performance dates and locations visit the Festival's Web site at

--Sydnee Mir, Miami Music Festival

NEC Student Ji-Won Song Wins 2016 Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition
Highly acclaimed violinist and New England Conservatory student, Ji-Won Song, has won the 2016 Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition. Originally from Seoul, South Korea, Song will take home a €10,000 first place prize, a CD recording, concert opportunities, and also the €2,000 audience prize. Song is currently earning her M.M. degree ('17) at NEC where she studies with Donald Weilerstein and Soovin Kim. The Leopold Mozart International Violin Competition serves to carry on the vision of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart's father, Leopold, and also to support the next generation of violinists. Sitting on the 2016 jury were Paul Roczek, Achim Fiedler, Suzanne Gessner, Vladimir Ivanov, Min Kim, Senta Kraemer, Gyorgy Pauk, Baiba Skride, Wei-Dong Tong and Petru Munteanu.

A native of Seoul, South Korea, Ji-Won Song has performed on stages worldwide. She performed at the Kennedy Center for the Conservatory Project in 2005 at age 12 and has been a featured soloist with many prestigious orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Her many awards include prizes in the Schadt Competition, the Yehudi Menuhin International Competition for Young Violinists, and the Stulberg International String Competition.

The competition is held in honor of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart's father, Leopold, in the elder's birthplace of Augsburg, Germany. Wolfgang's father was an excellent teacher to his famous son. The year Wolfgang was born, his father opened his important Violin School in Augsburg. In recent years, Leopold Mozart's Violin School has experienced a renaissance in the city and students from all over the world travel there to study.

--Lisa Helfer Elghazi, Media Relations

Livestreams Announced for 21C Music Fesitival
Mervon Mehta, Executive Director of Performing Arts at The Royal Conservatory of Music, today announced that all 21C Music Festival concerts that take place in Koerner Hall will be livestreamed for free at, in order to share these unique and special evenings with an audience throughout the world.

This is the third edition of 21C Music Festival, which runs from May 25 to May 29, 2016 and includes seven concerts featuring music composed mostly during the 21st century, which crosses boundaries and genres: classical, Inuit throat singing, jazz, contemporary Japanese sounds, progressive rock, atmospheric orchestral, and electro-acoustic music.

The concerts being livestreamed include:
Kronos Quartet with special guest Tanya Tagaq on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Brad Mehldau – Three Pieces After Bach on Thursday, May 26, 2016 at 8:00 pm
Jherek Bischoff, Dawn of Midi, and The Visit on Saturday, May 28, 2016 at 8:00 pm
James Ehnes & Andrew Armstrong on Sunday, May 29, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Free Livestream link:

Tickets and subscriptions to Royal Conservatory of Music concerts are available online at, by calling 416.408.0208, or in person at the Weston Family Box Office.

A limited number of $10 BMO Rush Tickets are available starting 90 minutes before all performances presented by The Royal Conservatory.

All concerts take place at The Royal Conservatory of Music, TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning, 273 Bloor Street West, Toronto.

--Amanda Sweet, BuckleSweet Media

Ojai in Berkeley Pays Tribute to Heroines: June 16-18
From the inspiration, to the composers to the performers, Music Director Peter Sellars has planned performances that pay tribute to heroines. Two of the concerts feature dazzling soprano Julia Bullock. In the first, on Thursday, June 16, she portrays 20th-century French radical philosopher Simone Weil in composer Kaija Saariaho's "La Passion de Simone" with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) and Roomful of Teeth, all conducted by Joana Carneiro. In the second, on Saturday, June 18, Bullock sings the role of the legendary Josephine Baker in jazz drummer Tyshawn Sorey's "Josephine Baker: A Portrait," also with ICE. The Friday, June 17 concert in Zellerbach Hall stars Egyptian singer, composer and guitarist Dina Al Wedidi and her band who appeared at Cal Performances previously as part of The Nile Project.

Tickets for Ojai at Berkeley, June 16–18, are $20. A Festival Pass good for all three Ojai at Berkeley performances is $45. Half-price tickets are available for UC Berkeley students. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at, and at the door. For more information about discounts, visit

For a complete listing of events and performances, visit

--Jeanette Peach, Cal Performances

92Y Box Office Now Open for June 11 YPC Spring Celebration Concerts
Young People's Chorus of New York City Spring Celebration Concert

Saturday, June 11, 2016
92nd Street Y, Kaufmann Concert Hall, NYC

Two Performances: 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.
(Tickets are available for both concerts)

Tickets start at $20
Purchase early for best seats at 92nd Street Y Box Office (at Lexington Avenue), or call 212-415-5500, or on-line at

--Katharine Gibson, YPC

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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 simpleminded, 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 Arcam CDS50 CSD/SACD CD player, Goldpoint SA4 Passive Preamp, Legacy Audio PowerBloc2 amplifier, and a pair of Legacy Audio Focus SE loudspeakers. 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 cell phone. 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.

William (Bill) Heck, Contributing Reviewer

Among my early childhood memories are those of listening to my mother playing records (some even 78 rpm ones!) of both classical music and jazz tunes. I suppose that her love of music was transmitted genetically, and my interest was sustained by years of playing in rock bands – until I realized that this was no way to make a living. The interest in classical music was rekindled in grad school when the university FM station serving as background music for studying happened to play the Brahms First Symphony. As the work came to an end, it struck me forcibly that this was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard, and from that point on, I never looked back. This revelation was to the detriment of my studies, as I subsequently spent way too much time simply listening, but music has remained a significant part of my life. These days, although I still can tell a trumpet from a bassoon and a quarter note from a treble clef, I have to admit that I remain a nonexpert. But I do love music in general and classical music in particular, and I enjoy sharing both information and opinions about it.

The audiophile bug bit about the same time that I returned to that classical music. I’ve gone through plenty of equipment, brands from Audio Research to Yamaha, and the best of it has opened new audio insights. Along the way, I reviewed components, and occasionally recordings, for The $ensible Sound magazine. Recently I’ve rebuilt--I prefer to say reinvigorated--my audio system, with a Sangean FM HD tuner and (for the moment) an ancient Toshiba multi-format disk player serving as a transport, both feeding a NAD C 658 streaming preamp/DAC, which in turn connects to a Legacy Powerbloc2 amplifier driving my trusty Waveform Mach Solo speakers, supplemented by a Hsu Research ULS 15 Mk II subwoofer.

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