Arts & Events

Beethoven’s Missa solemnis: MTT Should Stick to the Music

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday June 11, 2015 - 08:32:00 PM

Kicking off the San Francisco Symphony’s three-week Beethoven festival, Michael Tilson Thomas conducted Beethoven’s monumental Missa solemnis on Wednesday, June 10 at Davies Hall. Of the semi-staged production that he master-mined , MTT explains, “The mission of this performance is to create more space around the music allowing us to better understand the streams of Beethoven’s thought. By strategically placing specific vocal groups, using lighting to suggest underlying moods, and video to create environments and to suggest the design of the piece, we hope to reveal these many musical streams and the incredible impact of this work.”

Let’s just say that as a choreographer, MTT leaves a lot to be desired. His multi-media approach to Beethoven’s Missa solemnis, replete with starburst videos (by Finn Ross), intrusive lighting effects (by David Finn), and near constant parading of soloists to and from all corners of the stage (at the misguided direction of James Darrah), ended up being highly distracting. When the work was over, one listener, who happened to go to school with MTT at USC, dismissed this entire Hollywood extravaganza as “atrocious.” Where the visuals are concerned, I quite agree that it was atrocious. Musically, however, any decent performance of the Missa solemnis – and, musically, at least, this was a decent performance – cannot help but make a huge, if somewhat impenetrable, impact.


Film Review: Testament of Youth

Gar Smith
Thursday June 11, 2015 - 07:09:00 PM

Opens June 19 at the Landmark Shattuck

Based on the best-selling 1933 autobiography of the real-life Vera Brittain, Testament of Youth tells the story of a remarkable young woman who broke barriers at Oxford, lost her brother, his closest friend and her own lover in the bloodbath of WWI, wound up working as a nurse in the battlefields of France and survived the war to become one of her country's most outspoken pacifists.


Berlioz’s LES TROYENS at San Francisco Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Thursday June 11, 2015 - 07:00:00 PM

Dramatizing the story of the Fall of Troy and the subsequent voyage of Aeneas and his Trojan refugees to Carthage, then to Italy, Hector Berlioz’s epic opera Les Troyens is rarely given in the form Berlioz conceived it. The composer himself was fated never to hear the complete version of Les Troyens, for at its première at Paris’s Théâtre-Lyrique in 1863, only the second part, known as Les Troyens à Carthage, was performed. Berlioz died six years later. Now San Francisco Opera has mounted, for the first time in this company’s existence, the full five-hour plus version of Les Troyens. -more-