26 May 2015

fun stuff I may or may not get to: June 2015

the BART reminder
Again, here's a reminder before you buy any tickets for upcoming events: BART is shutting off part of its tracks on certain weekends through August; since this will affect traffic as well as the rest of the BART system, you may want to check your plans against the latest shut-down dates, which are currently:

* Saturday and Sunday 6 - 7 June, all day;

* Saturday and Sunday 13 - 14 June, all day.

But be sure to check here for the latest information, since they've been switching the dates around, which is annoying.

The big item at San Francisco Opera is of course Hector Berlioz's Les Troyens, conducted by Donald Runnicles and staged by David McVicar, with Anna Caterina Antonacci / Michaela Martens as Cassandra, Susan Graham as Dido, Bryan Hymel as Aeneas, Sasha Cooke as Anna, Brian Mulligan as Chorebus, Christian Van Horn as Narbal, and René Barbera as Iopas. But wait! as they used to say – there's more! You can also catch the world premiere of Marco Tutino's Two Women (based on the film starring Sophia Loren, which was based on Alberto Moravia's novel), with Nicola Luisotti conducting and Francesca Zambello directing; this also stars Anna Caterina Antonacci. The Opera is also presenting one of my favorites, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, conducted by Patrick Summers, with a promising cast including Philippe Sly, Lisette Oropesa, Nadine Sierra, Kate Lindsey/Angela Brower, and Luca Pisaroni. Unfortunately it's the same production I've disliked (actually, loathed) in previous outings, but we can't have everything.

You can also go across the street to Davies Hall to hear some opera presented by the San Francisco Symphony. Charles Dutoit conducts a program including Ravel's one-act L'Heure Espagnole with the beauteous mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard on 4 - 6 June (the rest of the program is Ravel's Alborado del gracioso and de Falla's Nights in the Garden of Spain). Later in the month, as part of their Beethoven festival, you can hear his only opera, Fidelio, led by Michael Tilson Thomas, with an excellent cast headed by Nina Stemme as Leonore and Brandon Jovanovich as Florestan. That's 25 - 26 and 28 June.

The San Francisco Symphony is dedicating most of its month to Beethoven. Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the performances unless otherwise noted. One highlight is sure to be the Missa Solemnis, with excellent soloists (Joélle Harvey, Sasha Cooke, Brandon Jovanovich, and Shenyang) along with our beloved SF Symphony Chorus. The performances will be semi-staged by James Darrah, who directed last year's stunning Peter Grimes at the Symphony as well as a brilliant Don Giovanni for the Merola Opera Program, so that's a good sign. You can experience that on 10 - 13 June. You can hear the Pastoral Symphony along with the Overture to the Creatures of Prometheus, the Piano Concerto No 4 with soloist Jonathan Biss, and the concert aria Ah, perfido! with soprano Karita Mattila on 17 and 19 June. You can hear the Fifth Symphony, the Sanctus from the Mass in C Major, and the Choral Fantasy and Piano Fantasy in G minor (with Biss as soloist again) on 18 June. And you can put all that together on 20 June in the Beethoven Marathon, a recreation of the famously overpacked concert that featured the premieres of the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies along with the Piano Concerto No 4 and the Choral Fantasy. On 30 June you can hear the Fifth Symphony, this time led by Edwin Outwater, along with Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No 2 with Garrick Ohlsson as soloist.

If you're not in the mood for Beethoven but you still want to hear an orchestra, preferably playing rarities, then check out the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony's 6 June concert at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Titled Portrait of the Artist as a Young Woman and led by Music Director Dawn Harms, the concert features music by three women composers: the Partita for Piano and Strings by Vitězslava Kaprálová, the Piano Concerto by Clara Wieck Schumann, and Serenade by composer, suffragette, and friend of Virginia Woolf – that's not a euphemism, she really was a friend of Woolf's – Dame Ethel Smyth. The piano soloist will be Sara Davis Buechner. Earlier that same day, Buechner will give a program called Crossing the Concourse: Sara Davis Buechner in Words and Music, in which she will (quoting from the press release) "illustrate her life story and transgender journey with short piano pieces, including one of her own compositions." You can find out more and get tickets to either or both performances here.

At Cutting Ball Theater the annual Risk Is This. . . series of new play readings continues; you can still catch Katharine Sherman's nightcap (31 May - 1 June); Andrew Saito's Whisper Fish (7 - 8 June); and Andrew Saito's Beauty Secrets (14 - 15 June). More information may be found here.

Shotgun Players has Heart-Shaped Nebula running through the 14th. On 8 and 9 June they present as part of their "Champagne Reading Series" Madeline George's The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence. A few years ago Shotgun presented another play by George, Precious Little. I had mixed feelings about it, but there was enough there of interest so that I would be interested in seeing another of her plays. You can find out more here.

The American Conservatory Theater is opening a new venue on Market Street, not far from its home theater on Geary: the newly renovated Strand Theater. Like the Geary, the Strand was built in the early years of the twentieth century, but unlike the Geary it suffered a slow yet dramatic decline, ending up as a porn house (which I guess is another business model, like independent bookstores, hit hard by the Internet). It has been thoroughly renovated as a venue for smaller productions, with the hope that it will make a seedy section of Market Street a cultural center; it's opening on 3 June with Caryl Churchill's Love and Information, directed by Casey Stangl; check here for more information on the theater and the play.

Modern/New Music
Composer Terry Riley is turning 80 this year, and he's being celebrated musically:

Old First Concerts presents pianist Sarah Cahill on 19 June in A Piano Party for Terry Riley at 80, in which she will play new works in celebration of Riley's birthday by Samuel Carl Adams, Pauline Oliveros, Gyan Riley, Evan Ziporyn, Christine Southworth, Danny Clay, Dylan Mattingly, Luciano Chessa, Elena Ruehr, and Keeril Makan.

The Kronos Quartet presents a Terry Riley Festival at the SF Jazz Center from 26 - 28 June, with performances of Riley's music by the Kronos Quartet, Wu Man, Zakir Hussain, and others. There's a different program each night – the third night is Riley's vast string quartet Salome Dances for Peace. You can click here to see the first night but go here to the Jazz Center schedule to get to the others (and while you're there you can check out the other concerts going on there in June).

Pierre Boulez is also having a birthday year (his 90th), and he is being celebrated at Ojai at Berkeley (which is what used to be known as Ojai North). Presented by Cal Performances, this year's festival runs from 18 - 20 June. Steven Schick, this year's guest music director, has included lots of other great music, in addition to the Boulez. There are several concerts each day; check here for the full program.

The Center for New Music has its usual wide variety of possibilities; you can check the full schedule here, but some programs that jump out at me are: the Del Sol String Quartet playing Ken Ueno's Peradam on 4 June; Andrew Jamieson's Talking with Spirituals program, in which he improvises on the piano in response to traditional African-American spiritual, on 5 June; Ensemble San Francisco's Amor program, featuring new songs by Jose Gonzalez Granero sung by baritone Efraín Solís as well as music by Mark Ackerley, Osvaldo Golijov, Brahms, and Kodaly, on 11 June; and the Zofo piano duet playing music by Kurt Rohde and Terry Riley on 25 June.

Visual Arts
The DeYoung Museum is hosting JMW Turner: Painting Set Free, starting 20 June and running until 20 September. Like Les Troyens at the Opera, this is self-recommending.

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