By Steve Zilles, Lecture Committee Chair
The Fall Lecture Series of the San José Opera Guild is almost upon us. We have a terrific line-up of events all of which will take place at 10 AM on Tuesdays at the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos (14855 Oka Rd.). There will be four lectures on operas that will be presented by San Francisco Opera and two season previews by West Bay Opera and Opera San José, respectively.
The season begins on the day after Labor Day, September 3rd, with a lecture on Boito’s Mephistopheles by Simon Williams. The opera is a re-telling of Goethe’s Faust, but one which is a bit more true to the original source. It is also a telling in which the devil is unable to succeed in leading the aged Faust astray. Our lecturer, Simon Williams, has been a frequent lecturer to the San José Opera Guild, most recently, last year on Lohengrin. He is a Professor in the Department of Theater and Dance at UC Santa Barbara where he studies European theater, operatic history and performance practice. He is also an active director and reviewer of operas.
Our second lecture, on September 10th, is on Dolores Claiborne by Tobias Picker. This new opera will have its World Premiere at San Francisco Opera. The opera is based on ’Stephen King’s story of the same name which was translated to the silver screen in 1995 starring Kathy Bates. Dolores, sung by Dolora Zajick in the opera, is willing to do whatever it takes to save herself and her daughter — even if it means taking a life. The lecture will be given by Lynne Morrow who gave us such a fine preview of the Gospel of Mary Magdalene this past summer. Dr. Morrow is Opera and Musical Theatre Director and Vocal Program Director at Sonoma State University. Dr. Morrow is also the Music Director of the Oakland Symphony Chorus.
Our next event, on September 17th , is not really a “lecture”. It is a preview of the West Bay Opera season given by José Luis Moscovich and singers from West Bay Opera. Their season opens with performances of Tosca by Puccini. The following two operas are L’Elisir d’Amore by Donizetti and Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. The lecture will give an overview of all three operas, and we will have excerpts from Tosca sung by members of the cast. Maestro Moscovich has been General Director of West Bay Opera since 2006 and a conductor of many of its productions.
The opera lectures resume on October. 1 with a lecture by Alexandra Amati-Camperi on Giuseppe Verdi’s Falstaff. This is Verdi’s last opera and his only comedy. It is based on Shakespeare’s The Merry Wives of Windsor and wistfully shows the vain attempts of the self-deluded old man to seduce two women at the same time. Prof. Amati-Camperi has been a frequent and popular lecturer for the San José Opera Guild and last spoke to us on Verdi’s Attila. She is Chair of the Performing Arts Department and Professor of Music at the University of San Francisco.
The final San Francisco Opera Lecture is on October 15th. The topic will be the Flying Dutchman by Richard Wagner. Stephen Hinton will be the lecturer. The Flying Dutchman is one of the most approachable Wagner operas. It tells the tale of a sea captain cursed to roam the seas until the curse is broken by a woman’s love. The music is evocative of the situations in which the main characters find themselves. Stephen Hinton is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Stanford University and was a recent chairman of the Department of Music there. He last lectured to us on Nixon in China by John Adams in the summer of 2012.
The final presentation is an overview of the remainder of Opera San José’s season by Larry Hancock. Their season begins with Verdi’s Falstaff in September. This presentation, which will cover the final three operas, will be on Tuesday, November 19th and will include excerpts by singers from Opera San José. The final three operas are Hansel and Gretel in November, Madama Butterfly in February and Don Giovanni in April. Larry Hancock is the General Manager for Opera San José and over his career has filled many roles, including educating the public on opera history, and the operas that Opera San José has performed. He always provides interesting insights into these operas.
Please plan on attending these lectures which can only increase your knowledge of the operas discussed.