San Francisco Opera Principal Oboist Mingjia Liu knows it takes a whole lot of time and preparation for any orchestra member to prepare their music for an opera performance. What many people do not realize is that playing the oboe includes a whole other type of preparation--reed preparation. In this video, Mingjia explains the unique task he tackles every single day before he even lifts his instrument out of the case.
Posted: 11/14/2011 by
Mingjia Liu (Principal Oboe)
Inexplicable things happen to me in London. Several years ago I made an early morning visit to Westminster Abbey, that great reliquary of historical memory, and found it almost empty and utterly silent, a rare state for one of the world’s great tourist magnets. I intended to spend a few quiet moments at the memorial stone of my favorite composer, George Frideric Handel (1685–1759), the great German-born composer, Italian-trained, and rightly claimed by England as their own.
Posted: 11/11/2011 by
Patrick Summers (Conductor, Xerxes)
As the lutenist in San Francisco Opera’s 2011 production of Xerxes, I play not only an unusual role in the orchestra, but also a number of unusual instruments not well known to many opera goers. While the traditional opera repertory is not often thought of as utilizing improvisation, baroque music has a rich history of it. Nowhere is this truer than in this production of Xerxes where the harpsichord and I make up what could essentially be called the rhythm section of the orchestra. We play from a bass line, much like what a cellist uses, but we have figured bass (numbers under the bass notes which tell us which harmonies to play) added to our parts. Similar to how a jazz pianist might accompany a song, both the harpsichord the lute family instruments play the harmony, which is improvised in keeping with musical content of the composer.
Posted: 11/05/2011 by
Michael Leopold (Theorbo, Arch Lute and Baroque Guitar, Xerxes)
We are thrilled to be kicking off our official Backstage at San Francisco blog. This first blog post comes from Christopher Theofanidis—the composer of Heart of a Soldier, our world premiere commission based on the book of the same name by James B. Stewart. Heart of a Soldier will have its premiere on September 10, 2011—the eve of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks. While the opera may be new to all of us, there are many who have been working on it for years now. Read on to gain insight into some of the musical challenges Christopher worked through early in his composing process.
Posted: 08/15/2011 by
Christopher Theofanidis (Composer, Heart of a Soldier)