By Sue Gilmore

Contra Costa Times
10/03/2008 12:01:00 AM PDT

She won't be coming with an orchestra from the land of her heritage
as originally planned, but the beautiful Armenian-Canadian soprano
Isabel Bayrakdarian will make her San Francisco Performances debut
Saturday night at the Herbst Theatre in good company nonetheless.

The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, an ensemble from the province
the 34-year-old singer now calls home, has replaced the Armenian
Philharmonic, which had to withdraw due to funding difficulties. But
the center of the program still revolves around the songs of composer
Gomidas Vartabed (1869-1935), a monk and lifelong champion of the
Armenian cause who is considered the founder of Armenian classical

Bayrakdarian, who first captured attention by winning the 2000
Operalia competition founded by Placido Domingo, may strike a chord
in some music lovers' memories here. She appeared here as Cleopatra
with the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in March, singing excerpts
from four operas based on the Egyptian queen; two years earlier, she
sang in the world premiere of Jake Heggie's mini-opera "To Hell and
Back" with the same ensemble. And that's her voice you hear floating
ethereally in the "Evenstar" portion of "The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers" soundtrack.

In addition to performing some of Gomidas' haunting music, Bayrakdarian
has shaped the rest of her program to complement the Armenian theme. It
includes Bartok's "Romanian Folk Dances," Ravel's "Deux

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Melodies Hebraiques," Skalottas' "Greek Dances" and Klein's "Variations
on a Moravian Folksong." Piano accompaniment will be provided
by Bayrakdarian's husband, Serouj Kradjian, who arranged several
works on the program and also accompanied her on "Gomidas Songs," a
just-released Nonesuch CD recorded with the Armenian Philharmonic. The
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra will be conducted by Anne Manson.

Details: 8 p.m. Oct. 4, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.; $40-$65; 415-392-2545

Online: To see and hear Bayrakdarian perform Gomidas' "Andouni"
("Homeless"), go to or

TUNE IN ALSO TO: Cal Performances has the Goode stuff on tap Sunday
afternoon with preeminent pianist Richard Goode scheduled to play music
by Bach, Chopin and Schubert in a recital in Zellerbach Hall. Details:
3 p.m. Sunday, Bancroft at Telegraph, Berkeley; $34-$62; 510-642-9988

Organizers of the Jewish Music Festival (March 21-29) have gathered
quite an assortment of musicians for a preview concert Sunday night
at the Jewish Community Center of the East Bay. Members of the San
Francisco Opera, the Ballet Orchestra and Symphony ensembles join
musicians from Earplay, Philharmonia Baroque and other groups to
collaborate on the music of Kurt Weill, Arnold Schoenberg and Hanns
Eisler. They're labeling it the "Degenerate Music of Weimar Berlin"
because that's what Hitler, who didn't much cotton to it, called
it. Details: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, 1414 Walnut St., Berkeley; $15-$20;
800-838-3006 or

Berkeley's Crowden Music Center launches its new season of the
[email protected] Chamber series this weekend with a concert featuring the
Afiara String Quartet, the in-residence ensemble at San Francisco
State's International Center for the Arts. On their program are
Schubert's "Quartetsatz," Berg's "Lyric Suite" and Beethoven's
String Quartet No. 8 in E-minor, one of the famous "Rasumovsky"
quartets. Details: 4 p.m. Sunday, 1475 Rose St., Berkeley; $12 (free
for 18 and younger); 510-559-2941 or

SOMETHING TO CROW ABOUT: Our multiple Grammy-grabbing local vocal
heroes, the a cappella male singers of Chanticleer, are putting another
feather in their, um, crowns. Last week came the announcement that
the 12-member ensemble will be inducted into the American Classical
Music Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Cincinnati's Memorial Hall on
Thursday. They'll perform a program at the Cathedral of Saint Peter in
Chains there the next day, but you can catch them at 5 p.m. Oct. 19
in San Francisco's St. Francis Church, 1112 26th St., with their
first season program, "Wondrous Free." Tickets are $25-$44. Contact
415-252-8589 or

The guys have also just released a new Warner Classics CD-DVD,
"Mission Road," which explores the Mexican- and Spanish-influenced
music of the California Mission period. I've heard it, and I won't be
a bit surprised if it lands among the Grammy nominees early next year.

VANCE ADVANCES: And while we're in a congratulatory mood, here's a
convivial pat on the back to former San Francisco Symphony Chorus
conductor Vance George, who stepped down from that post last year
after 23 years. Last week, it was announced that George will join
the San Francisco State University faculty to lead the S.F. State
Chamber Singers, the top choir in the School of Music and Dance. And
he'll be an honored guest at the school's Opera Gala at 7:30
p.m. Oct. 17. For program and ticket information, call 415-405-2849
or visit

Tuned In appears every other Friday in Weekend Preview. Reach Sue
Gilmore at [email protected]