The Schwabacher concert for the new Merola participants was held Friday night at Herbst with a free repeat performance today at Yerba Buena Gardens. It was a beautiful afternoon for an outdoor concert and just the thing I needed to get over the unpleasant aftertaste left by the shooting which took place in the neighborhood last night. Plus the company was excellent and we had a nice chat with Axel Feldheim after the show. Also spotted was the Opera Tattler, whose summer ensemble achieved a new height of fashion fabulousness though we didn't have a chance to chat.

When the show is outdoors and amplified, casting a critical eye toward things is really pointless. This is really just about enjoying the perks of living in an interesting city and taking advantage of it. Having said that, the stand-out of the afternoon for me was Susannah Biller, whose voice always grabbed my attention and held it whenever she sang. Keep an eye out for her in the future.

I wondered a bit about the programming itself. I always think the idea behind these free shows is to expose potential new fans to the art as well as throwing a freebie for the fans. So I really didn't get the logic behind the first half of the show which featured three scenes from from The Flying Dutchman, the baroque Orfeo and Euridice and Menotti's(!) The Medium. Regardless of what I think about the selections, performing full scenes is definitely a much better idea than a show of arias without any context. I'd like to see that format permanently retired or saved for individual recitals.

The second half featured scenes from L'Italiana in Algeri and La Boheme- selections that made a lot more sense to me, of course. Nicely done everyone, though my companion and I agreed that a bright red backdrop would have made the singers more visible on the stage and we really didn't get the point of having all those random chairs onstage as props. It kind of looked like a Tenderloin sidewalk sale from where we were sitting.

The Merola particpants (Merolinis) will be performing Cosi Fan Tutte and L'Amico Fritz later this month down at Fort Mason. These performances are always worth attending so get yourself a ticket. The opportunity to see the rarely performed Fritz is something I'm really looking forward to seeing.