First, a word of warning: as of this time, the BART labor situation is still unsettled. Even for those who don't rely exclusively on public transportation, a strike will roil and snarl Bay Area traffic horribly, and so in the continuing absence of a signed contract I would exercise extreme caution in making plans or buying expensive tickets for any events after 10 October, when the current sixty-day "cooling off" period expires, a period which appears to have been mostly wasted. My understanding is that if BART shuts down again due to a strike, there is little to nothing that anyone (such as the governor) can do. I am normally very pro-union, and hate the long-term trend in America of lavishing benefits on the few at the top by squeezing the rest of us, but I have no sympathy for the notoriously lazy and unhelpful BART employees, who give unions a bad name. They are already grotesquely overcompensated, and increases to their bloated salaries and benefits will be coming out of fare hikes and tax increases on people who do not make nearly as much – a further squeeze on people who can't afford it. I do not consider opposing the BART unions anti-worker, since I also consider BART management grossly overcompensated. It would be nice if any excess money in the system were used to improve their lousy service, but that doesn't seem to be a concern of any party involved.
While I'm talking about BART, here's a reminder that due to earthquake retrofitting on the transbay tube for the next year or so, trains after 10:00 PM Tuesdays through Thursdays will be delayed by up to twenty minutes. This means that, for all practical purposes, if you attend an event on those days that starts at the conventional 8:00 PM, your transbay trip is most likely going to be seriously delayed (twenty minutes counts as a serious delay when you have to get up to go to work the next day).
Over at the War Memorial, San Francisco Opera has a few October performances of Boito's Mefistofele (2 October) and the world premiere run of Picker's Dolores Claiborne (1 and 4 October). Bicentennial birthday boy Verdi is represented by his wonderful Falstaff, the only opera that actually improves on a Shakespearean source (granted the source is the weak Merry Wives of Windsor), opening 8 October, with Bryn Terfel in the title role and Nicola Luisotti conducting; and the other bicentennial birthday boy, Richard Wagner, is represented by The Flying Dutchman, opening 22 October, with Greer Grimsley in the title role and Patrick Summers conducting. There is also a one-off performance of Verdi's Requiem on 25 October, with Luisotti conducting and soloists Leah Crocetto, Jamie Barton, Michael Fabiano, and Vitalij Kowaljow.
There's also a lot going on across the street at the San Francisco Symphony, starting with Pablo Heras-Casado conducting a mini-festival of mostly Mendelssohn and Adès: 3 October (evening) Adès himself joins baritone John Brancy and members of the Symphony in chamber music by Debussy, Ravel, and Adès; then on 3 (matinee) - 6 October Leila Josefowicz joins them as soloist in Stravinsky's Violin Concerto, along with works by Lully and Adès, and Mendelssohn's Scottish Symphony; 10 - 12 October, in addition to works by Mendelssohn, soprano Audrey Luna, mezzo-soprano Chrlotte Hellekant, and baritone Rodney Gilfrey will perform scenes from Adès's The Tempest. Later in the month Edwin Outwater conducts works by Ligeti, Dvorak, Lutoslawski, and Prokofiev (Piano Concerto 3, with soloist Simon Trpceski), 24 - 26 October. There are also solo concerts by Andras Schiff (Bach Partitas, 6 October, and both the Goldberg and Diabelli Variations, 13 October) and Yuja Wang (Prokofiev, Chopin, and Stravinsky, 15 October), among other things. Get more details and check out the other scheduled concerts here.
For more in the symphonic vein, there's Wagner, Rachmaninoff, and a world premiere by Edmund Campion at the Berkeley Symphony on 3 October, with Joana Carneiro conducting. UPDATE: for medical reasons Carneiro is unable to travel, so Gerard Schwarz will now conduct this program.
Countertenor David Daniels and soprano Carolyn Sampson join Philharmonia Baroque in a program called Pergolesi in Naples, though it also features arias from Handel's Giulio Cesare and Rodelinda and a concerto grosso by Durante. The Pergolesi works are his famous and beautiful Stabat Mater and the sinfonia from his opera L'Olimpiade. That's 2, 4-6 October, in their usual variety of venues, though note that the San Francisco performances are at the Jazz Center due to Herbst's closure for retrofitting.
Curious Flights closes its inaugural season with a program called Transatlantic Crossings (collaborations between Bay Area and UK musicians and composers), featuring new or newish works by Dylan Mattingly, Larry London, and Edwin Roxburgh. I missed CF's second concert, a Britten tribute, since I was having a cornea scrape, which is exactly what it sounds like (I've been having a superfun year!), but I was at their first concert, the pleasures of which made me want to attend the others. This one is 18 October at the SF Conservatory of Music.
Also at the Conservatory of Music, BluePrint new music ensemble, led by Nicole Paiement, plays David Del Tredici (Dracula), Stephen Hartke (Meanwhile: Music for Imaginary Puppet Plays), Tobias Picker (selected songs), and John Cage (Living Room Music), on 5 October. At the other end of the chronological line, you can hear the Conservatory's baroque ensemble in vocal music of Monteverdi, 24 October.
If you're looking for further adventures in new music, check out the schedule of the Center for New Music. A couple of events that jump out at me are pianists Sarah Cahill and Adam Tendler on 19 October and vocalist Ken Ueno with Tim Feeney on percussion and electronics on 31 October. I have not yet been to this venue, which is conveniently located right by the Powell Street BART stop, but I hear great things about it.
Another interesting new music event is composer/vocalist Lisa Bielawa's Airfield Broadcast, which involves hundreds of performers spread over Crissy Field, so that (at least this is my understanding) as you move around you will have different musical/spatial experiences, each unique to that particular moment and situation. That's 26 - 27 October, and you can find out more here.
San Francisco Performances opens its season this month; they are co-sponsors of the Andras Schiff concerts listed above under the Symphony, and they have the Juilliard String Quartet playing Beethoven, Schubert, and a new work by Jesse Jones on 27 October. Their season opener on 18 October features the exciting young singers Isabel Leonard and Alek Shrader, both of whom have appeared in solo recitals presented by SFP, but it is a season opener and a benefit and tickets are priced accordingly.
Cutting Ball opens its season with Sidewinders by Basil Kreimendahl, directed by M. Graham Smith, 18 October to 17 November at the EXIT on Taylor. Shotgun Players continues its season with Strangers, Babies, by Linda McLean, directed by Jon Tracy, 15 October to 17 November at the Ashby Stage. Both these plays are new and I don't know much about them, but both these theaters have good track records, so dive in.
Speaking of diving in, there is the usual abundance of possibilities over at Cal Performances; highlights include Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette on 4 October, mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor and soprano Jessica Rivera on 13 October, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe with Les Violons du Roy on 20 October, and Musicians from Marlboro on 26 October; find out more about those programs and check out the other possibilities here.