San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Gala is happening tonight. Conductor Michael Tilson Thomas welcomes soprano Alexandra Silber, baritone Nathan Gunn, and Emmy Award winner Kelsey Grammer to Davies Hall with a program that will include Respighi’s Roman Festivals, selections from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel and South Pacific, and Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady. A pre-concert wine reception begins at 7pm in the Davies Symphony Hall lobbies, the concert begins at 8pm. At 10:00pm, ticket holders are invited to an indoor/outdoor after-party in Tent Pavilion on Grove Street. Complimentary drinks and food will be available from an array of San Francisco establishments including Alta, Cadence, The Beer Hall, Sutro’s at the Cliff House, Mr. Tipple’s Recording Studio, and more. The featured entertainers include DJL!, Foreverland, and The Sam Chase. “The San Francisco Symphony feels like a spiritual home to me,” said Alexandra Silber. “I’m really excited to do this with MTT. It’s going to be a wonderful reunion.”
In 2013, Al and I did an interview for HuffingtonPost. She’d been engaged by San Francisco Symphony to sing the role of “Maria” for the summer concert presentation of West Side Story. Cheyenne Jackson would sing “Tony”. I was eager to talk to Al, especially because she had recently made her Carnegie Hall debut in the leading role of “Nina” in a concert version of the 1944 operetta, Song of Norway. The role demands a soprano with lots of Classical savvy. A professional audition notice would describe the character’s voice as “legit”. Shortly after that, she went on to do “Amalia” in She Loves Me – a staged concert at the Caramoor Arts Festival. Following a series of challenging auditions, including a Skype session with MTT, Alexandra was on her way to Davies Symphony Hall. Since its Broadway premiere in 1957, permission had never been granted for the entire score of West Side Story to be presented on a concert stage. Then along comes Michael Tilson Thomas. Done! Five performances plus a live recording to be released the following June. The opening night performance was magnificent. When the recording was released, Michael Tilson Thomas said, “This is a new and rare opportunity to hear Bernstein’s complete score sung by a sensational young cast and a knock-your-socks-off orchestra. We show the Broadway roots of the piece and how its universal qualities translate into the way we think about it today.” The recording was honored with a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album. So, Al’s back to open the 2015/16 Season – sinking her legit soprano chops into I Could Have Danced All Night. Good show!
“I just did a production of My Fair Lady with Anthony Andrews as Higgins at The Muny in St. Louis. We decided to raise the original key of I Could Have Danced All Night a whole step. It’s really exhilarating for me. It’s wonderful to bust out with that classical sound – like I did in West Side Story with I Have A Love. I’m doing Wouldn’t It Be Loverly, The Rain In Spain with Kelsey, and also Wonderful Guy. Kelsey will be doing three of Higgins’ songs – Why Can’t the English, A Hymn to Him, and I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face. Nathan Gunn is doing selections from Carousel and South Pacific. It’s such an honor to be up there with these masters.”
In August 2014, Al sang at The BBC Proms. Another staged concert, very high tech – Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate. Click on the photo below to watch her sing the Act I showstopper, “I Hate Men”. Its range and rage make the song one of the most difficult numbers in the Broadway Soprano canon.
“Other than Julie Jordan, Lilli Vanessi/Kate is the only other role I have been straight-offered. I didn’t audition for it. It came my way. On multiple levels, I went – ‘What?!’ My first instinct was vocally. Have they heard what I sing? Do they know? The other thing was temperament. I’ve never played anybody who accesses their anger like that. In both instances, I’ve never had so much fun. It was like an experiment – let’s see how it goes. At Royal Albert Hall. Live on BBC. For thirty-nine-million people! When it’s offered, you’ve got to take it. Sometimes you have to take a risk and try something different.”
“I know every cell in this piece of music. It’s now imprinted in my DNA. You can hear that I have a lower timbre in my speaking voice. So, I knew that the role was accessible to me. It was about creating a healthy technique for it – and it’s opened up so much. I think you’ll hear it when I sing Wonderful Guy from South Pacific. That was Mary Martin’s role. She was one of our great singers. I love Mary Martin’s voice. When you really listen to it, when you spend time with the recordings – her voice is masterful in terms of its purity of tone. Mary Martin produces a pure sound. So, you’re going to see a slightly different slice of me in this concert.”
Tonight at 8 –
Click here for ticket information