Countertenor Brings Baroque Classics to the Bay Area

"I wanted to create a costume that fit into the style and silhouette of the period without making it look like another copy of an emperor's robe." - Master Costume Designer Matthew Nash on creating Brian Asawa's period costume for San Francisco Renaissance Voices' Boar's Head Gala on January 3rd and 4th, 2015.  Photo credit: Matthew Nash

“I wanted to create a costume that fit into the style and silhouette of the period without making it look like another copy of an emperor’s robe.” – Master Costume Designer Matthew Nash on creating Brian Asawa’s period costume for San Francisco Renaissance Voices’ Boar’s Head Gala on January 3rd and 4th, 2015. Photo credit: Matthew Nash

San Francisco –  Countertenor Brian Asawa returns to the Bay Area in San Francisco Renaissance Voices’ 5th Annual Boar’s Head Gala on January 3rd and 4th. In the role of Emperor Kangxi, Asawa will perform duets with soprano solo artists Susan Gundunas and Alice N. Ko.  The evening’s storyline is driven by a meeting between the respective courts of Emperor Kangxi and Queen Elizabeth I.

“I’m thrilled that Brian will join our most popular and festive production of the season, and look forward to a live performance of some of the wonderful Spirits of the Air duets,” said Katherine McKee, SFRV Music Director. “I recently had the honor of attending Brian’s Spirits of the Air live interview sponsored by the Merola Opera Program, so I know first-hand what an incredible treat this will be for our audiences.” 

San Francisco Renaissance Voices’ Executive Director J. Jeff Badger concurs.

“Our Boar’s Head Festival is bigger every year, but this year should be our best yet, due in no small part to Brian’s participation. In addition to the solos that Brian will perform, he’ll duet with our Queen Elizabeth (soprano Susan Gundunas) and Lady Alice, soprano Alice N. Ko, who first introduced us to Brian. Our audiences will also be treated to music from period instruments, lion dancers, and select pieces sung by our stellar choristers.”

While at the recent Spirits of the Air event in San Francisco, Asawa reconnected with master costume designer Matthew Nash. In a quick turn of events, Nash, who made Asawa’s Die Fledermaus costume at San Franicsco Opera in the 1990s, was engaged by SFRV to create Asawa’s Emperor Kangxi costume. “I researched photos of the Qing dynasty, finding most references to the Imperial Robes of the Forbidden City exhibit that’s been on display in many places,” said Nash. “I wanted to create a costume that fit into the style and silhouette of the period without making it look like another copy of an emperor’s robe. I took elements from several sources and came up with a garment that is flattering and comfortable, while keeping the visual impact of an imperial robe.”

For his part, Asawa is excited with how quickly his involvement in the San Francisco Renaissance Voices’ Gala came together, not to mention feeling thankful to the creative forces working together  to make the event materialize.

“It’s amazing how everything came together as it did. Working with J. Jeff and Kathy has already proven to be a fun and meaningful collaboration and I’m really looking forward to working with Susan (Gundunas), Alice (Ko) and the entire SFRV Company. Having Matthew (Nash) as my costume designer is a dream come true. I can’t wait to bring Emperor Kangxi to life while wearing Matthew’s beautiful creation.”

Brian Asawa performs at the San Francisco Renaissance Voices’ 5th Annual Boar’s Head Winter Gala on January 3rd and 4th, 2015. San Francisco and Menlo Park, CA., respectively.   

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