Tuesday, April 10, 2018

San Francisco Opera’s Triumphant and Dramatic Summer Season: ‘The Ring’ Cycle Returns to San Francisco


I’ve set aside the month of June to this extraordinary festival, and will be attending the full cycle of four operas, starting June 12. It is one of the great stage productions and profoundly involving, thrilling. Evelyn Herlitzius, Falk Struckmann and Daniel Brenna will be bowing with San Francisco Opera for the first time.

This is a long post with a lot of information—everything you must know.

The season is expected to sell out, and many opera lovers have already secured their favorite seats. I don’t want you to miss this great immersive experience.

Please reserve your ticket now (see information at the end of my post.)



A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera is the only North American opera company mounting full cycles of Wagner’s ‘Ring’  this year.

According to my knowledgeable source, opera lovers from all over the United States and from at least 28 countries will travel to San Francisco from June 12–July 1 to experience Francesca Zambello’s production starring Evelyn Herlitzius, Greer Grimsley and Karita Mattila. I love this very international aspect of the audience at 
‘The Ring’  festivals…people speaking German, Italian, Russian, Spanish, and French…Australian.

And note: United Airlines has special fares, code ZYZA796715 (call United 800-426-1122).


A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


A scene from "Siegfried," the third opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


Richard Wagner’s ‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring of the Nibelung) Returns to the War Memorial Opera House: June 12 – July 1, 2018

Check the San Francisco Opera website for public enrichment events for Ring Festival including lectures, symposia, film screenings and musical programs. 

San Francisco Opera presents Richard Wagner’s 
‘Der Ring des Nibelungen’ (The Ring of the Nibelung) in three complete cycles, each presented over the course of one week as the composer originally intended. From June 12 through July 1 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Encompassing four operas—Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung—and more than 17 hours, the story and music of Wagner’s 
‘Ring’  are the acme of the operatic artform and one of the most ambitious works of music, theater and stagecraft ever created. 

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Siegfried," the third opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera



‘The Ring’ — My Musical Obsession

‘The Ring’ is one of the great musical creations, and to see all of the cycle is a major commitment. It is also an achievement.

The last time San Francisco presented their ‘Ring’ production, I figured that I committed over 20 hours total to attend the cycle.

And at the end…the curtain fell finally one Sunday afternoon around 6pm, and after seeing the whole production, I wanted to start over…and see it all again. 
I recall thunderous applause and foot-stamping and whistles and shouts of ‘Bravi’ as the curtain fell and rose and the artists bowed, and the audience was reluctant to leave after almost inhabiting the opera house for the four operas.

It is powerful, engaging, and the artists who perform are among the greatest opera singers in the world. Wagnerian performers are a special group! The men are noble, the women are regal, and their voices are the highly trained thoroughbreds of the music world.

“If there is one artistic undertaking that demonstrates the complete mettle of an opera company it is Wagner’s ‘Ring’.  San Francisco Opera has a storied history with this life-affirming work, and it is a great privilege for all of us to bring it to the stage once again. It will take us all on a powerful journey, deep into the very understanding of what it means to be human.” — San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock

An internationally-renowned cast of Wagnerian artists has been assembled for San Francisco Opera’s performances of Wagner’s epic, including Evelyn Herlitzius (Brünnhilde), Greer Grimsley (Wotan), Daniel Brenna (Siegfried), Karita Mattila (Sieglinde), Brandon Jovanovich (Froh and Siegmund), Falk Struckmann (Alberich), Jamie Barton (Fricka) and many others, directed by Francesca Zambello and under the baton of Wagnerian conductor Donald Runnicles. 


A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


The New Updated ‘Ring’ 2018

Utilizing visuals from the American landscape, Francesca Zambello’s interpretation, which the New York Times called “boldly contemporary” at its San Francisco Opera unveiling in 2011, will include new features, including technologically advanced projections, new imagery and restudied stage action. 


Director Francesca Zambello

“Since directing ‘The Ring’ here in 2011 and again in 2016 in Washington, D.C., I found the power of the work seems even more contemporary. The great overarching themes of the ‘Ring’ nature, love, power and corruption—resound through America's past and haunt our present. As I have worked on it I find I have placed more emphasis on the role of the family and the power of redemption through all the female characters.”Francesca Zambello 

 Conductor Donald Runnicles. Photo: Michael Winokur

Maestro Donald Runnicles will conduct all of the operas. He is one of the great Wagnerian interpreters today. He led Francesca Zambello’s production in 2011 and previous ‘Ring’ productions with San Francisco Opera in 1990 and 1999.


A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Die Walküre," the second opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera


Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About ‘The Ring’

I asked Teresa Concepcion, communications associate at San Francisco Opera, to help unravel some of the questions and mysteries surrounding Wagner’s ‘Ring’ Cycle…and in particular how long it takes, the mythology, the music.  Listen in to our conversation...

DDS: Mythology, drama, a gold ring, a journey, maidens, beauty and heroic quests for a gold ring...the drama in one sentence?
SF Opera: ‘The Ring’is a story, based on Norse and German legend, about Gods and mortals, the redeeming power of love; greed; the end of the world; and rebirth.


DDS: Why are opera lovers flying in from all over the world to see this ‘Ring’ cycle? I think two words: Richard Wagner. 

SF Opera: The music is enthralling, noble, great in concept, powerfully emotional, and it engages the audience, individually, in its operatic scope and grandeur. The production, modern, is dramatic and inventive…with moments of wild imagination. The costumes are somewhat irreverent, mixing modern with traditional.

DDS: Many opera fans consider Richard Wagner’s Ring (the total work consists of four operas) the ultimate epic musical experience.
SF Opera:
It is rarely performed because only a few opera companies have the resources to pursue Wagner’s requirements. There are always new interpretations; opera companies look for imaginative, creative artists to tell the story of the 
‘Ring’ in compelling ways. The demanding vocal challenges of the ‘Ring’ require top tier singers to perform it. Moreover, it is a huge undertaking for the musicians and conductor in the orchestra pit.


DDS: It opens on what date and closes on what date?
SF Opera:
There will be three complete cycles of the four operas of the 
‘Ring’.  Cycle One begins on Tuesday, June 12 (with Das Rheingold) and Cycle Three closes on Sunday, July 1 (with Götterdämmerung)


DDS: Which is the ideal sequence to see the entire ‘Ring’ cycle?
SF Opera:
Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung, which are presented over the course of six days (Tuesday through Sunday). Richard Wagner wanted his audience to “binge-watch” his masterpiece in this order.


DDS: How many total hours on stage is the complete cycle of four operas?
SF Opera:
17 hours (including intermissions)


DDS: How many performers will be on stage for the entire cycle?
SF Opera:
177


DDS: What are some highlights to watch for? ‘The Ride of the Valkyrie’ of course, and each opera has maximum drama.
SF Opera:
Instrumental and vocal highlights include:

Das Rheingold—Prelude, Erda’s warning, Entrance of the Gods to Valhalla

Die Walker—Act I Sieglinde/Siegmund duet, Brünnhilde’s battle cry “Ho-jo-to-ho,” Annunciation of Death, The Ride of the Valkyries, Wotan’s Farewell

Siegfried—Sword forging song, Forest Murmurs, Brünnhilde’s Awakening

Götterdämmerung—Rhine Journey, Siegfried’s Funeral Music, Brünnhilde’s Immolation


DDS: How many performances will there be and what are the names of each performance?
SFOpera:
There will be three cycles of the complete 
‘Ring’,  which is comprised of four operas: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung

DDS: Sung in German, of course.
SFOpera
: Yes, sung in German with English supertitles


DDS: During ‘the Ring’ I don’t think about dining…only music as I watch 17 hours (four operas over the course of six days)
SFOpera
: Café at the Opera (in the Lower Lounge) is open two hours before curtain (reservations are strongly recommended). There’s also going to be Brünnhilde’s Biergarten in the Loggia/Grand Tier level, which will be open 1 hour before curtain and during intermission, where you can try local beers and German fare. Neighborhood restaurants near the opera house are very much aware of the operas' timing and be sure to tell them you have tickets.


DDS: Thanks…if there are other factoids…such as name of the production designer, costume designer…are all costumes made at the opera house studio?
SFOpera:
In Francesca Zambello’s production of the 
‘Ring’ cycle, the Set Designer is Michael Yeargan and the Costume Designer is Catherine Zuber. 

All of the costumes for Götterdämmerung were built in San Francisco Opera’s Costume Shop. The costumes for Das Rheingold, Die Walküre and Siegfried were originally built at Washington National Opera, but some were redesigned at San Francisco Opera in 2010.

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Götterdämmerung," the fourth opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera



In anticipation of the performances, San Francisco Opera announced a schedule for its 
‘Ring’ Festival events designed to provide the public, from first-timers to experienced Ring-goers, with enriching activities including lectures, symposia, film screenings, musical programs, public discussions and a Ring Community Day for families. 


The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. Photo by Joel Puliatti.


For More Information:

Tickets for Ring Cycle and Ring Festival Activities at www.sfopera.com and (415) 864-3330.

Photography:
Courtesy of San Francisco Opera

A scene from "Das Rheingold," the first opera in Wagner's "Ring of the Nibelung" cycle.
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera



Monday, April 2, 2018

Travels with The Style Saloniste: Dreaming of Venice and the Belmond Hotel Cipriani

Where to Travel Next:  The Cipriani opened for the 2018 season on March 21. Please join me this week for an insider visit. 

Every May/June, I head to Venice, a week after the opening of the Venice Biennale, It’s the perfect time to be there. The Biennale opening group has departed, and summer crowds have not yet arrived. It’s bliss.

If I’m really lucky, I will check in to the Cipriani. It is one of the most beautiful hotel resorts in the world…in one of the most beautiful locations. I hope to spend my days reading and writing in the garden, inviting friends for cocktails or dinner at Cip’s Club, and criss-crossing the Bacino in the hotel launch.

I’ll invite friends for drinks at the legendary Cipriani bar to make a toast to good fortune with a ‘Buona Notte’ cocktail, (vodka, lemon, ginger, bitters, cranberry juice) first concocted for George Clooney.







This week I’ve got the latest news of the Hotel Cipriani, plus this year's dates of the Venice Biennale, and special tours and trips happening at the hotel this summer.

It’s no secret that George Clooney and his wife Amal are fans of the Cipriani…but there are also super-fans who arrive from New York, Sydney, or London with boatloads of luggage and stay for the summer, for a month, or to celebrate an anniversary. 


Last summer at the Cipriani I met a lovely family from Connecticut (grandparents, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, and grandchildren) who have been staying there for a month every summer for the last thirty years. Nan Kempner used to move in for the month of July. Dodie Rosekrans was a frequent visitor. And noted artists and writers, actors and royals arrive quietly, assured of privacy and a warm, low-key welcome.






The Cipriani (formally known at the Belmond Hotel Cipriani, Venice) is only accessible by boat. Specifically the hotel launch, which plies back and forth, day and night, from the Cipriani private dock on San Marco.

It’s ultra-private. Hidden behind trees and walls and ancient buildings along the waterfront, and turned towards the lagoon, the Cipriani can’t be seen. Guests arrive at the dock, and disappear into their own world. 




The Cipriani in the News

In honor of its 60th anniversary, the Belmond Hotel Cipriani will be hosting cooking classes highlighting historical Venetian recipes. Chefs gather ingredients from their adjacent biodynamic vegetable garden.

Guests who stay for a week or a month or the whole summer at the Cipriani seldom leave for the day. Why would they? It’s a dream location.

But…for guests who would like to take an afternoon excursion or a late-morning trip, there are new private tours throughout Veniceto see private glass-making studios, to meet artists, to see restoration underway at hidden chapels or churches, or to meet a noted artisan such as a man who operates a hand-cranked printing press, or a specialist in papermaking and the art of marbleizing and other arts.

There is also a new scenic boat tour aboard the meticulously restored, 16-meter motor/ sailing yacht, Edipo Re, into the lagoon to visit impossible-to-forget islands, or to go to Torcello, or for lunch on Burano.





Venetian Bliss

The Belmond Hotel Cipriani affords a summer escape with garden villas, a pool, and private residences in a sixteenth-century palazzo.

A well-kept secret for over six decades among its loyal guests, the Cipriani is accessible only by the hotel’s private launch that arrives at one closely guarded landing. Stars of the annual Venice film festival such as Brad Pitt, Nicole Kidman, and Uma Thurman hide out in sunny suites among its fragrant gardens.




The hotel’s history dates back to 1958 when Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice and inventor of the Bellini cocktail partnered with three English noblewomen to create a club-like hotel.

Residences and suites have been created in two 16th-century palazzi, or a Bacino-view Venetian-style villa, decorated individually with Murano glass chandeliers, and Venetian antiques.

Suites are light-filled and airy, and created with a subtle color palette necessary when afternoon temperatures may reach into the nineties.

The hotel’s ninety-five rooms and suites, many with balconies or terraces and magnificent views over the gardens, offer a true taste of classic Venetian style.

Elaborate antique Venetian mirrors, tapestries, marble floors, Rubelli silks and jacquards, and gold-printed Fortuny fabrics embellish the harmonious interiors. They are selected by Parisian architect Gérard Gallet, also responsible for decor of hotels and trains of the Belmond collection.

Many guests don’t leave the jasmine-scented property, only taking an afternoon excursion to follow the Oro restaurant chef as he gathers fresh lettuces and ripe tomatoes in the synergistic garden just through a locked gate from the romantic Casanova Garden and the hotel’s vineyard.

Diners at Cip's Club enjoy views of the Doge’s Palace and the legendary Punta della Dogana, and the striking baroque silhouette of the 17th-century Santa Maria della Salute basilica.







Suites with a View

The Palladio Suite contains antique and one-of-a-kind pieces acquired throughout the years from antique shops in Venice including an 18th-century Chinoiserie chest of drawers. The opulent suite features 180-degree views of the Venetian lagoon through floor-to- ceiling windows. Guests enjoy an airy living room with private balcony, elegant dining area (perfect for hosting small dinner parties served by a personal butler), and large terrace with
an outdoor heated plunge pool with Jacuzzi whirlpool. Guests arriving by boat can land directly at the suite’s private dock. 








The Dogaressa Suite has breathtaking views over St Mark’s and the Doge’s Palace. The sitting room—the largest in the Palazzo—is decorated with original 18th-century Coromandel screens, a collection of antiques enriched by priceless Rubelli fabrics.

Guests enjoy an airy living room with private balcony, elegant dining area (perfect for hosting small dinner parties served by a personal butler.





At the hotel’s center, and one of the reasons many guests return year after year, is the largest swimming pool in Venice. Its buoyant saltwater, treated and heated to a constant 28 Celsius, is very popular with young guests as well as devoted athletes who devotedly swim laps. Parents of youngsters know that during siesta, 2pm—4pm, a hush descends on the resort and children play at the kid’s club, hidden in the garden.

After a quiet repose, guests bask in the sun attended by pool staff offering cold drinks. Late lunch of salads and lobster is enjoyed on the terrace. 








Fresh herbs, vegetables and fruit are picked in the hotel’s ‘farm’ garden. This is an enchanted world, suspended in time, where edible flowers and herbs are harvested daily (nasturtium, fennel, parsley) to supply Chef Davide Bisetto’s Oro restaurant. It’s truly from farm to table, as he chef harvests, then walks back to his kitchen to start creating his light cuisine.

And, befitting the Venetian tradition of supporting artists, last year the Cipriani is once more participating in the international Art Biennale Venice, with a dramatic art work, Art-lantis, beneath the waters of the resort’s pool.



Visible most clearly by swimmers, six large-scale aluminum-mounted photographs depicting dramatic photography of Venice landmarks mythically underwater are secured at the bottom of the pool, taking artistic messages to places where people would not expect to find them.

The art project is the Cipriani’s tribute to a much-loved city and a delight for fortunate guests. No wonder guests eagerly return each summer, to once more experience a truly magical place.






FOR MORE INFORMATION:

www.belmond.com

The Cipriani opened for the season on March 21 2018. It will close at the end of the season, in early November 2018.



CREDITS:
Images courtesy of Belmond.





The Venice Biennale 2018

Architecture and Ideas: ‘Freespace’

CURATORS 2018:  YVONNE FARRELL and SHELLEY MCNAMARA


The President of La Biennale di Venezia, Paolo Baratta, together with the curators of the 16th International Architecture Exhibition, Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, have announced that the 16th International Architecture Exhibition will take place from May 26th to November 25th 2018 (Preview May 24th and 25th) in the Giardini and the Arsenale, and around other venues in Venice.

Curators Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara titled the 16th International Architecture Exhibition Freespace, and explained their choice with the following words:

“Freespace describes a generosity of spirit and a sense of humanity at the core of architecture's agenda, focusing on the quality of space itself.

Freespace focuses on architecture’s ability to provide free and additional spatial gifts to those who use it and on its ability to address the unspoken wishes of strangers.

Freespace celebrates architecture’s capacity to find additional and unexpected generosity in each project - even within the most private, defensive, exclusive or commercially restricted conditions.

Freespace provides the opportunity to emphasize nature’s free gifts of light — sunlight and moonlight, air, gravity, materials — natural and man-made resources.”





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