Archive for the ‘karina gauvin’ Tag

jcm’s Top 10 SF Performances of ’12

In the midst of the embarrassment of riches jcm partook in this year, above all, it was the year of the art song, “Hasa Diga Eebowa,” and contemporary american opera (and THIS without even having seen Moby Dick ;-(. This was particularly good news for art song and american opera, as it’s more the norm to bemoan their demise these days.

In capturing the highlights of the year, the performance and production were weighed most heavily, but in the case of new material, the script and score were of course considerations. Oh, and who can help some personal biases slipping in? Not jcm (ie: West Side Story = the greatest show ever written)! SO, here goes…

1) Sandrine Piau, (Susan Manoff, piano) CalPerfs, Hertz Hall

It was as if a gentle, gamine spirit had landed for just an hour or two, gracing us with her rare magic. She left us transfixed, susceptible to the whims of her potent storytelling. The program was studio-ready in its refinement and attention to detail, yet never bland or white-washed. She uses her lyric instrument to full advantage, painting a broad palette of tones and expressions. The very satisfying program featured french, german and english sets of Fauré, Bouchot, Chausson, Mendelssohn, Strauss and Britten, followed by a generous set of encores: “Voyage a Paris,” “Clair de lune,” and Strauss’s “Madchen Blumlein.”



Karina Gauvin,  (Michael McMahon, piano) Weill Hall at the Green Music Center

The Bay Area has been given a great gift in the form of the new Green Music Center. In structure it is reminiscent of the great Musikverein of Vienna. It is nearly all wood, which is visually rich, and acoustically perfect. In a word, intoxicating. This was the inaugural recital of the hall’s vocal series. They programmed very well, especially as Karina’s Bay Area appearances are rare. Highlights included: “Le Printemp” by Hahn, “Phylidé” and “L’Invitation au Voyage” by Duparc. For her encores, she performed Weill (ie: Weill Hall) and the Scottish “Ae Fond Kiss.” The latter was deeply satisfying. Her english diction is stunning, and her textual delivery particularly soulful. On a personal note, her sister and mother were in the audience, just a few rows in front of me. She shared that this was the rare performance they were able to attend, and dedicated a song to her sister. A special night indeed.


2) The Book of Mormon, National Tour, Curran Theatre

It takes you by the balls, and won’t let you go. I’ve rarely seen the kind of go-for-broke commitment from a cast as this. 21 year-old Grey Hensen, who played Moroni and Elder McKinley, as well as Jared Gertner as Elder Cunningham stole the show. I live for Gavin Creel, but oddly he seemed not to embody the role as much as to act it. Surely he’s settled into it by now, or will fully by its UK West End run. The first 20 minutes have to be the most perfectly crafted portion of almost any Broadway show I’ve seen LIVE. You know…those laughing-and-crying at the same time moments? The vocal power in the ensemble numbers was very impressive. Having an 8 year-old behind us in the audience made the profanity and vulgarity seem even more raucous and saucy.


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Delicacies: The Finest Light Lyric Sopranos

Why LLS (Light Lyric Sopranos)? Why now?

In April, I attended the Cal Perfs recital of Sandrine Piau at Hertz Hall. I’ll wait until my “Top 10” EOY post to review it, but needless to say, she was sensational. I bought my tickets well in advance, knowing it would be the sleeper of the season.

However, at the time it crossed my mind that the recital came and went without much fanfare, she had no SF Opera presence in this or any season to date, the hall was only half full despite its intimate size, AND even few if any of my opera friends in-the-know had it on their must list. The reasons? Her career has been almost entirely in Europe, she’s essentially a “specialist” (ie: early music, Mozart, and lieder/art song), and she’s an LLS. Unfortunately, this fach rarely commands the same mainstream attention as the big guns, and in more standard operatic fare usually serves ensemble or comprimario roles.

I’ve spent much time on jcm raving about my beloved coloraturas, dramatic sopranos, and at times full lyrics, but it’s time I shed a spotlight on the finest LLS of our time (all of them active). I hope you discover an artist new to you.

Wikipedia shares that an LLS “has a bigger voice than a soubrette, but still possesses a youthful quality.” SO, clearly this doesn’t include the full lyrics, typified by a Fleming, Moffo, or Steber. Their predecessors are Elisabeth Schumann, Bonney, and Cotrubas.

What are the qualities I want in my LLS?

I look for well modulated technique, emission “on the breath” (unless for expressive purposes), singing within one’s “column of sound” (— L. Price), a balance of sweetness and brightness (not too much of one), good taste (which is VERY important in this fach, lest they become cloying), and of course unique interpretive and expressive abilities/gifts.

There’s no hard line drawn between fachs, so some of these singers have characteristics of a coloratura, soubrette, and lyric, but I believe they are at their essence LLS. It should come as no surprise that many of their coloratura skills are astonishing, as a leaner voice is wont to move fast at times.

Karina Gauvin

She was the inspiration for this post, because, she, like Sandrine is offering a Bay Area recital this year (this weekend!), which I’m not going to miss. As with Sandrine, it likely won’t be sold out, has been rather under-marketed, BUT will surely contain some of the finest singing the Bay Area has heard all year. Her holiday album Images de Noël is always a part of my Christmas. I also recommend her Baroque duet album with Marie-Nicole Lemieux: “Streams of Pleasure.”

Sandrine Piau

She is the definition of good taste, portraying a supreme elegance, self-possessed carriage, and pristine tone. Her Mozart aria recital CD is superior to Dessays, but she’s less flashy and more reserved, so not the mainstream marketing darling that Dessay has become. (I admire Dessay’s art too for different reasons.)

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Hankerin’ for some fresh Christmas music?

Looking for some fresh (if not new) Christmas/Holiday/Winter music to add to your annual listening tradition? I know, nobody really buys or listens to “albums” anymore, with our iTunes-driven music world being so song-centric. Well, that may be true most of the time, but at Christmastime I’m still quite album-centric, since I prefer to pack my cds away with the decorations, and essentially rediscover them each year.

Plenty of the mainstream classics are among my annual favs too, including those by John Denver & The Muppets, Vince Guaraldi, The Carpenters, Leontyne Price, and Mariah Carey. BUT, it’s a relief to have less touted treasures to lean on, especially when the classics are getting overplayed…like right about now! Please weigh in on your own rarer holiday favorites.


Images de Noël: Karina Gauvin (’99)
A phenomenal, underrated crystalline soprano, who specializes in baroque repertoire. Here, she offers spirited renditions of holiday-themed art songs.

The Christmas Album: Original Masters: Various Artists (’03)
Vintage German/Austrian favorites, originally recorded from ’52 to ’70. Includes greats Gundula Janowitz, Fritz Wunderlich and Hermann Prey. You’ll feel like you’re having a Christmas in Salzburg! The retro graphics are charming too.

Carols From the Old and New Worlds: Theatre of Voices (’93)
I first experienced this album thanks to my old voice teacher, who was a member of Theatre of Voices at the time of this recording. It features TIGHT harmonies that feel authentically old world, but still fresh.


A Cold December Night: Erin Bode (’08)
This album offers perfect winter simplicity, delivered in Bode’s gentle spirit.

Classic Christmas: Billy Gilman (’00)
This is easily my most fun and cheerful Christmas album…it’ll make you feel a bit more like a kid again.

The Hotel Café Presents: Winter Songs: Various Artists (’08)
A great compilation of atmospheric, moody contemporary performances, including many originals. Tracks 1, 7, 11, and 15 are favs.

Christmas Means Love: Joan Osborne (’95)
Originally released by Barnes & Nobles, this album didn’t get wide enough distribution. You’ve gotta listen to “What Do Bad Girls Get?”. Her inspired pipes are showcased throughout!


Have Yourself A Jazzy Little Christmas: Various Artists (’89)
There is NO better jazz compilation than this. All tracks are mid-century recordings, performed by jazz greats. Originally given to me as a gift, it has become a necessary annual tradition for me! Truly perfect!

An Oscar Peterson Christmas: Oscar Peterson (’95)
Tired of Guaraldi, but you like the whole jazzy Christmas thang? This is another great option.

Hymns Carols and Songs Sbout Snow: Tuck Andress (’91)
Of Tuck & Patti fame, Andress offers up some gentle renditions of the classics.


Christmas Disco: The Mistletoe Disco Band (’78)
Wanna shake things up a bit (literally!)? I grew up on this album, and was SO obsessed with the girl on the cover (or, was it her outfit?)! This is some of THE finest Christmas cheese, and the periodic sexy back-up singers are priceless.

The Bells of Dublin: The Chieftains (’91)
I’m honestly not sure how many or few have this album, but I’ve never heard it get any play on the radio, nor heard a friend reference it. So, I’m going to assume it’s not as well known as it should be. Do some vicarious travel to Ireland, thanks to this cd.

So, pour a glass of egg nog, nestle under your most comfy blanket (with a loved one, pet or just yourself), and enjoy some less “played” tunage!