Bay Area Cabaret presented opera mezzo soprano Stephanie Blythe in one evening only at the quintessential San Francisco room The Venetian, which Blythe called the divine gravy after her two months performing her role debut as Mrs. Lovett in San Francisco Opera’s ‘Sweeney Todd’. The lovely and gracious Marilyn Levinson took the stage to introduce Blythe. Blythe seemed to perform as an American musical historian, talking of this higher calling to serve the nation when radio was the first social network. Radio unified during World War II, when everybody heard the same thing at the same time in a world divided. She sang the poignant ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ of 1941, a song promising life will return to sweetness and beauty once again. Blythe told of Smith’s service in the war effort, giving some big numbers for Tiny Little in terms of miles traveled and amount of war bonds sold; ships and bombers launched.
Blythe followed ‘White Cliffs of Dover’ with ‘Last Time I Saw Paris’ then provided some comic relief from the wistfulness and nostalgia with a bad English translation of ‘La Barcarole’. Next, ‘Look for the Silver Lining’. Blythe showed a good natured sense of humor throughout, a fighting spirit, and moved on to her interpretation of a household favorite, the German ‘Bie Mir Bist du Shoen’. She moved into a sense of effervescence and jubiliation with a rousing ‘Here Comes the Sun’ from 1940. ‘Without Love’ came with a sadder story about how she was abused on stage by Ray Bolger, the cowardly lion. She planned to leave the theater after the humiliation in front of her family who had come to see her in person. Instead, she ended up signing a contract with the agent Ted Collins. Collins agreed she was not an actor and got her into radio where she made 30 million dollars, half going to the agent.
Related: San Francisco Opera staged ‘Sweeney Todd’ with Blythe and Mulligan
Blythe hailed her own opera family seated near her in the audience, ‘Sweeney Todd’ principal Brian Mulligan the bass baritone. Blythe made her role debut as Mrs. Lovett to Mulligan’s superb Mr. Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street, to whom she sang ‘By the Sea’ to woo him into marriage. Mulligan had other opera singers around him at the Venetian Room, including soprano Diana Damrau and her performer husband Nicolas Testé; and Sweeney Todd dialect coach Lynn Soffer who also coaches at Cal Shakes. She can refer you to the internet for pages of Shakespearean insults. Interestingly, Blythe followed this shout out to Mulligan with ‘What Price Happiness’. She moved on to 1940’s ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’. With that, she sang the climactic song of her tribute and her grand finale’, ‘When We Meet Again’. One left the room feeling in the presence of greatness, an American classic.
Related: Cal Shakes closes season with Shakespeare’s ‘King Lear’
Ticket information and the elegant buffet at Laurel Court
$100 premium/$70 general/$50 subscribers. The Fairmont offers a beautiful and elegant buffet and parking at $45 with Bay Area Cabaret. The Laurel Court desserts look like works of art, check out the slideshow. The Venetian Room offers adult beverages to enjoy at your table but they are extremely expensive, up to $16 for a small one. Sometimes one will find street parking on Nob Hill since it’s a Sunday evening. The closest public transportation would be the One California bus that comes from the Financial District and stops at the Fairmont. The One California in the other direction is best disembarked from at Taylor to have a more level walk. The California Street Cable Car also goes to the Fairmont on Nob Hill. BART riders may disembark at Powell Street but it’s a very steep climb on foot up Powell to Nob Hill.
For more information: Bay Area Cabaret