Gods and Monsters: Haunting Classical Music Events :: Bay Area Reporter


The evening fog cools the city, creating a mysterious cover for things bumping into the night. The San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and San Francisco Opera provide the soundtrack as Halloween approaches.

Photo “Dialogues of the Carmelites”: Vincent Pontet, Theater des Champs-Élysées

nuns above
The San Francisco Opera (SFO) centennial season continues with gay composer Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogues des carmélites” at the War Memorial Opera House (WMOH), October 15-30.

There are, of course, singing nuns in the powerful psychological drama, but they aren’t the sunny-faced stereotypes of “The Sound of Music” or “Sister Act.” Nor are they harsh or abusive caricatures, but individual human beings with personalities ranging from shy to heroic. You don’t have to be Catholic or even Christian to identify with them. Atheists and agnostics are also convinced of their own beliefs.

The question is, would they be willing to die for them?

Poulenc based his own insightful libretto on a work by Georges Bernanos, adding lyrical, delightfully orchestrated expression to the deeply moving story of a group of Carmelite nuns facing the Reign of Terror during the most violent period of the Revolution. French.

French director Olivier Py’s acclaimed production brings Poulenc’s uplifting masterpiece back to the WMOH after four decades. SFO presented the American premiere in 1957 under the direction of the legendary Erich Leinsdorf and featuring Leontyne Price’s first American opera as Lidoine. A 1963 revival featured Regina Resnik as Madame de Croissy and fellow groundbreaking African-American soprano Reri Grist (Consuelo in the original cast of Bernstein’s “West Side Story”) as Sister Constance.

The most recent revival was director John Dexter’s 1982 production under the direction of Henry Lewis. The cast included Carol Vaness as Blanche, Leontyne Price repeating the role of Lidoine, and French superstar Regine Crespin as Mother Superior.

Olivier Py’s reimagining, a co-production between Paris and Brussels companies, will create a new story, staged for SFO by director Daniel Izzo with sets and costumes by designer Pierre-André Weitz and lighting designed by Bertrand Killy , all making their debut in the Company . SFO Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts.

The cast employs Company veterans, including soprano Heidi Stober who debuts as the terrified Blanche of the Force, and tenor Ben Bliss returns as the Knight of the Force. Bass-baritone Dale Travis is the father of Blanche and the Chevalier, the Marquis de la Force, and favorite mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook is Mother Jeanne.

In her house and her beginnings, Michaela Schuster is the Mother Superior, Madame de Croissy. Soprano Deanna Breiwick makes her SFO debut as Sister Constance.

The Friday, October 21 performance will air live at 7:30 p.m. and the performance will be available to watch on demand from October 22-24.

It’s hardly a spoiler to call the opera’s conclusion a low-key but heartbreaking twist. The power of the climax will haunt your dreams. www.sfopera.com

Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” with a live orchestra

Goblins and Murderers
Stroll cautiously down Grove Street to Davies Symphony Hall (DSH) for about 15 Halloween-themed concerts and events from October 20-29 with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.

From October 20-22, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leads a project featuring Mussorgsky’s feverish “Night on Bald Mountain” (remember Disney’s “Fantasia”?) with Hector Berlioz’s brooding orchestral centerpiece.” Fantastic Symphony” (with “Dream of a witches” Sabbat’ and ‘Marche à l’échafaud’). “Totentanz (Dance of the Dead)” by Franz Liszt features French pianist Bertrand Chamayou in his debut in the orchestral series.

On October 25 at 7:30 p.m., Sarah Hicks leads the SFS in a performance of Disney’s “Hocus Pocus” with a live orchestra, energizing composer John Debney’s atmospheric score. The film is having an anniversary and something of a renaissance this year with the release of a sequel. Besides, who could resist the trio of exaggerated witches, Bette Midler (Winifred), Sarah Jessica Parker (Sarah) and Kathy Najimy (Mary)?

Esa-Pekka Salonen, musical director of the SF Symphony;
baritone Christopher Purves

Honestly my dear
From October 27-29, Salonen leads a performance of HK Gruber’s completely insane “Frankenstein!!”, featuring baritone Christopher Purves making his Orchestral series debut. He may have to change his name to Christopher Pervy for the occasion. Based on frighteningly eccentric children’s rhymes by HC Artmann, is “Frankenstein!!” a cabaret, a cycle of jazz songs or a surrealist performance? Who knows, who cares? It offers a unique and totally engaging experience.

On the same poster, Salonen includes music that has earned him accolades on record with other orchestras: a suite from Bernard Herrmann’s memorable score for Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho” and Bela Bartok’s Suite Sauvage de ” The Miraculous Mandarin”. The Hungarian composer’s shocking depiction of murder and robbery is a tour de force for orchestra.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going during these difficult times. To support local, independent, and LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.


Comments are closed.