Archive for the ‘sondra radvanovsky’ Tag

jcm’s Top 10 Show Picks of 2018

WELCOME to my 10th ANNUAL (!) post of the finest shows that the SF Bay Area has to offer. I’ve loved taking in local live/stage shows all these years, and sharing my resonances and reactions with you. In that vein, I pass on to you Langhorne Slim’s poignant message (from the Rooster Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, my #5 entry below): “Wishing you peace, love & ALL THE SWEET SHIT in life!”

Especially in the past few years, the amount of what I’ve been able to experience has necessarily lessened, so this is hardly a comprehensive list. But I know what I like, and am grateful to have sampled even this much crème on top of another year of shows!

What were your favorite Bay Area performances of the year? Please share in the comments.

1) Erasure, World Be Gone Tour, The Masonic, August 17

Andy Bell gave us all (esp. the gays) a lesson in what 50-something can look like. He displayed boundless energy and a giving spirit, a fearless and bold play with his sensuality/sexuality (donning a faux tattoo full body tight), a voice nearly as fresh as in their earliest recordings (starting in ’86)…and THIS from someone who has had BOTH hips replaced! It was wonderful to dance with them for nearly half the concert. It was nearly impossible to stay in our seats.

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(credit: Fredy Rimando)

Their setlist included every hit I craved to hear: Oh L’Amour, Ship of Fools, Breathe, Just a Little Love, Chains of Love, Sweet Summer Loving, Victim of Love, Phantom Bride, World Be Gone, Who Needs Love Like That, Atomic (Blondie cover), Love to Hate You, Blue Savannah, Drama!, Love You to the Sky, Sometimes, Always, Stop!, Encore: A Little Respect

2) Stacey Kent, I Know I Dream, The Fairmont, February 24

This was my second time seeing Stacey, her husband and bandleader Jim Tomlinson at the Fairmont. This concert was just as transporting. I lapped up the broad range of songs she performed, from diverse cultures and song traditions. But it is her Bossa Nova repertoire that will remain my favorite from her. Thankfully, this setlist offered at least 4 of them. Stacey always leaves me wanting more…just like travel, love, and sex, which most of her songs are about.

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Highlights included: Make it Up, (a Jobim song), Les Amours Perdues, Happy Talk (by Rogers & Hammerstein), The Very Thought of You, Polka Dots and Moonbeams (Sinatra’s first hit, a requested song), Bullet Train, To Say Goodbye (by Edu Lobo, Brazilian), La Rua Madureira, Je Palle d’amore (by Nina Ferrer, performed as a samba, with a more hopeful air), Mon Jardin Hiver

The lyrics to their original, Make it Up really resonated to me:

“I love you and you love me
And I can’t tell you why
You’d have thought by now we’d have figured out
The reason and the rhyme
You love me and I love you
And it’s been this way so long
That if we knew what were doing
We’d be doing it all wrong
So let’s just make it up as we go along.”

3) Roberto Devereux, San Francisco Opera, September 18

Sondra Radvanovsky displayed dramatic and vocal fearlessness. A voice of this grand scale (aka true dramatic coloratura) was a treat in this repertoire. It made me crave some Wagner rep. from her, perhaps Senta, or even an attempt at Isolde, neither or which she has performed. Her final mad scene was surprisingly beautiful, and affecting. Her haggard and harried appearance never disrupted the sung line. It elicited a level of feeling from me the rest of the opera hadn’t, as much of it was VERY technically polished, but perhaps a bit too period.

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(credit: Cory Weaver)

I really liked the production, particularly the mini opera that accompanied the overture. Jamie Barton delivered gobs of glorious tone, and with great dramatic commitment, even if some of the surtitles, and period cultural considerations elicited laughter. As always, she called to mind Marilyn Horne’s fach, but with cleaner technique. I could have done without her rape by the Duke.

Russell Thomas was very impressive too. It was great to see this trio back together again after our ’14 SFO Norma!

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jcm’s Top 10 Show Picks of ’14

My show-going in 2014 started out slowly, all thanks to grad school. But, thankfully, by the summer, it was in full swing again. So, there is plenty to gush about on my annual list. Always so grateful for the Bay Area offerings…and no doubt one of the reasons I continue to call it home, especially as travel is a bit fewer and farther between these days. Performer friends, if you’re show’s not on here, I didn’t see it <wink, wink>. I hope you enjoy my musings! What were your favorites of the year?

1. Cher, with Cyndi Lauper, at SAP Center – San Jose

Cher tops my list. Surprised? Cyndi was her opening act, with a voice still in surprisingly rocking’ shape. Can she really be 61? And, for that matter, can Cher really be 68?! (Don’t answer that.) Highlights were “If I Could Turn Back Time,” “Believe” (a remix), a “Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves,” and “Half Breed” carnival-themed set, and a Burlesque-themed set (incl. “You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me”), a duet with Sonny, and a staging in which she was floated above the audience, as if a religious icon (not that she isn’t). The show was really perfectly crafted…and OFFICIALLY her last. It indeed felt like a farewell. No one could pull off what she did. My friends and I had a ball, shaking our tail feathers and lip-syncing from our nose-bleeds once things heated up.

2. Matt Alber, at Great American Music Hall

Matt is the only solo repeater this year. He topped last year’s list. His brother, Lou Jane was the opening act this time. Matt’s set included “The Wind,” “The Stars,” “Field Trip Buddy,” “Rivers and Tides,” “Handsome Man,” “Velvet Goldmine,” “Rescue,” “Make You Feel My Love,” “House on Fire,” “Spectacularly,” “Brother Moon” (duet with brother, Lou Jane), “Always” (a jazzy, ACAP cover), “End of the World,” “Walking on Sunshine,” “Send in the Clowns”. It was a transfixing and warm, familial night. He alternated between piano and guitar accompaniment. His band and some classical instrumentalists joined for various songs, including a sensitively played cello, and his dad sweetly tickled the ivories as well.

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3. Karrin Allyson, Jazz at Filoli Gardens

Her smoky tone and easy swagger make her one of my jazz favorites of late. Highlights included “All You Need to Say (Never Say Yes),” which features the moving line: “Search to find true happiness and the world will say yes – yes is all you need to say.” Also, Simon & Garfunkel’s “April Come She Will,” “All I Want” (Joni Mitchell), “What a Difference” (with Kenny Washington), Cat Steven’s “Wild World,” “O Baquino,” and “I Can Do Anything As Long As I Know You Love Me,” a beautiful new song by her. This is also a fantastic, intimate outdoor venue.

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4. “Luster,” SFGMC, with Ann Hampton Callaway, at Davis Symphony Hall

This show featured “Tyler’s Suite,” a commissioned tribute to Tyler Clementi. Out of the three SFGMC shows I attended this season, this one was the stand-out. The chorus soloists were surprisingly solid, and the chorus delivered finely textured harmonies. Ann did an improvisational piano solo before which she asked for names and local/SF places of note from the audience, and incorporated them into her song. She had us rolling in the aisles. And that voice! So soulful, nurturing, contralto-ey. Cuts to my heart.

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5. Nutcracker, SF Ballet

This production is still very fresh after 10 or so years, and delivers on all its holiday promise. Highlights were the Grand Pas de Deux, featuring Yuan Yuan Tan, and her VERY dashing prince, Luke Ingham (not pictured; I wonder if HE was “taught to be charming, not sincere”), and the magical snow scene, very moving with audible en pointe and snowfall onstage. They do NOT scrimp on the amount…for five minutes your head is in the Sierras. Calling the Zamboni!

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6. Norma, SF Opera

The level of musical attunement, and true bel canto shared between Sondra Radvanovksy and Jaime Barton is a rarity these days. It harkened back to the Sutherland/Horne pairing in its best moments. How to say it…Rad’s voice is never not interesting to me. I don’t understand her vocal production, which makes it fascinating. It’s richly textured at best…buzzy at worst. Reminiscent of Callas in the lower range, and belted utterances. She was very liberal with the gossamer pianissimi, and offered some thrilling full-throttle high notes. Barton displayed moments of Horne in her lower chest. She knows how to move, and seems really “in her body,” which offered a sensuality. She’s also the most youthful Adalgisa I’ve yet seen, which made Pollione’s passion all the more believable. The production offered some nice detail, but didn’t inspire, and the Avatar-style makeup was mystifying. Norma’s two children were beyond precious.

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7. Jimmy James, at Rebel

Highlights included his impersonations of Cher, Bette (doing “Feliz Navidad“), Barbra, Billie, and Liza (doing “Single Ladies”!!!) had us alternately in tears and stitches. He is a very skilled entertainer, with an incredibly versatile and impressive voice. I hope he’s fast becoming more of a gay household name that he should already be, aside from his ’80s appearances on the talk show circuit as THE perfect Marilyn impersonator.

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8. Esalen Work Scholar “Reading,” in the Solarium

It was a privilege to sit in on this informal, private event. It featured teacher John Smith’s “If I Were a Robin,” and included original songs and poems/prose by the students. My emotional response to the event was no doubt stoked by the Big Sur setting, and the crackle of new writers growing their creative wings. Here’s “…Robin” from a previous show.

9. Showboat, SF Opera

What a treat to see this great american musical for the first time, and performed at this level. Standout performances were by Morris Robinson as Joe, and Kirsten Wyatt as Ellie Mae. Patricia Racette’s rendition of my favorite “Bill” was beautifully and movingly handled. Not operatic in the least. Perfectly scaled down. The production was beautiful and really served the piece.

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10. Mary Lambert, at the Nourse Theatre

Mary is such an open-hearted, disarming, and authentic artist. She warmly invites you into her unique vision and storytelling. Highlights included “Jessie’s Girl” (cover), “My Body,” “She Keeps Me Warm,” and “No Secret” (encore). Her themes of body image, and mental illness/health are much needed in our current culture. Young Summer was the opening act. She was reminiscent of Lana del Rey.

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Other Notable Performances:

• Michael Fabiano, as Rodolfo, La Boheme, SFO, delivered Golden Age tenorial squillo and passion
• Heidi Melton, in recital, SF Performances, SF Conservatory of Music, a Merola/Adler star returns again, incl. idiomatic and stunning Sibelius and Strauss sets
• Jef Valentine, in Panorama, ACT Costume Shop, a beautifully committed and personal vision of the Peter Pan legend
• Sean Patrick Murtagh, in Holiday Test Drive II, Martunis, incl. a perfect, refulgent “Oh Holy Night”

Favorite Drag Show of the Year:

MASCARA “Burlesque,” hosted by the Castro Country Club, featuring irreverent, moving, messy, unforgettable numbers by Uphoria, Serenity Heart, Jada Stevens, Dina Isis, Dusty Porn, and more. All in service of, to inspire, and raise funds for the queer recovery community.

Top 5 Best Movies of the Year (that I saw):

1. The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Into the Woods
3. Boyhood
4. Love is Strange
5. The Theory of Everything

Check out last year’s list >

Share your favorites. And, here’s a toast to what 2015 brings!