It’s sugarplum month, but we don’t need to let that stop us. There will be Christmas-tinged items on this list, but that’s hardly avoidable, even if I wanted to. I will proceed along my usual arbitrary and personal lines (no Nutcrackers, but the Hard Nut would be listed if it was being staged this year in these parts, which it isn’t being). There will be Messiahs! I know it’s one of the ultimate holiday chestnuts, but this is the season for chestnuts, and even though I should be tired of it I’m not. In fact I’m listening to it right now. Because I probably won’t make any of the live performances, due to conflicts beyond my control.
Thursday, December 2, the Pacific Film Archive, Paramount Theatre, and the San Francisco Silent Film Festival unite to present Carl Theodor Dreyer’s astounding 1928 film, The Passion of Joan of Arc, at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, accompanied by a live performance of Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light, an oratorio inspired by the film. Information here. Go and marvel!
John Adams and El Nino return to the San Francisco Symphony December 2-4. Later in the month there’s a little more Adams and a lot more Messiah.
Philharmonia Baroque presents Messiah on December 3, 4, 5, and 7, in various locales as is their wont. And American Bach Soloists presents Messiah on December 16, 17, and 18. If the calendar or location don’t decide for you, you can compare casts and other relevant information: here for Philharmonia Baroque, here for American Bach Soloists, and here for the San Francisco Symphony.
Magnificat mixes it up by presenting Marc-Antoine Charpentier’s Messe de Minuit, which uses old French carols as its basis, along with other seasonal music. December 17-19 in various locales; details here.
Berkeley Rep revives Mary Zimmerman’s fun production of The Arabian Nights, December 11-30.
Cutting Ball Theater extends its production of The Tempest to December 19 (my thoughts here, but in case you don't want to click through, it's a recommendation). And if you want more of the Elizabethans, Cutting Ball’s Hidden Classics Reading Series (which is free), has Ben Jonson’s Epicoene, or The Silent Woman, on December 5. (Opera fans may know the play as the source for Richard Strauss’s Die Schweigsame Frau, though the opera is possibly done even less often than the play. I have actually seen the play staged, but never the opera.) By the way, can anyone explain to me why there is no good (that means affordable and scholarly yet meant for the public) complete edition of Jonson’s plays and masques? He must be fuming over how his rival Shakespeare has outstripped him.
I would be at Epicoene on the 5th if I didn’t already have a ticket for Elza van den Heever’s solo recital, presented by San Francisco Performances, part of their always worthwhile Young Masters series.
And Cal Performances has a full slate, including Christian Tetzlaff playing Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin on December 4, and Nicholas Hodges on the 12th, with the Hammerklavier and Stockhausen’s Klavierstuck X.