Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in a semi-staged performance of the Bernstein / Comden & Green musical, On the Town. Outside of Candide, I'm mostly indifferent to Bernstein and his works, but this production has several thing going for it: first, the semi-staging is by the very talented James Darrah, whose other local work, including the Symphony's stunning Peter Grimes and Merola's powerful and inventive Don Giovanni, has been, well, stunning, powerful, and inventive; second, there is a large and dazzling cast, which includes several members of the recent Broadway revival, including Alysha Umphress, and here comes the local angle: she grew up in this area, and for a while lived in Martinez, across the street from V and her children. Somewhere I have a cassette tape she recorded as a child, and even then she sang like a junior Ethel Merman, and as I listened to this pre-teen's powerful pipes unleashed I made some gloomy predictions as to how long she could continue to sing like that. I am very happy that once again I prove to be a poor prophet, as she is still singing like that, and on Broadway yet, and now in San Francisco: you can go On the Town from 25 to 29 May at Davies Hall.
San Francisco Playhouse presents Red Velvet, written by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Margo Hall, based on the true story of Ira Aldridge, a young American in the early nineteenth century who became the first black man to perform on the British stage; that's 10 My to 25 June.
Shotgun Players present The Village Bike, written by Penelope Skinner and directed by Patrick Dooley, from 25 May to 26 June.
Cutting Ball Theater presents August Strindberg's A Dreamplay, in a translation by Paul Walsh, directed by Rob Melrose, from 20 May to 19 June.
Custom Made Theater presents John Guare's Six Degrees of Separation, directed by Stuart Bousel, from 19 May to 18 June.
ACT presents Jason Robert Brown's cult musical The Last Five Years, from 11 May to 5 June at the Geary Theater.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents William Finn's A New Brain on 5 and 8 May. The performances are free.
Ars Minerva, a new group led by soprano Céline Ricci and dedicated to reviving forgotten operas from the great baroque days of the Venetian Carnival, returns for its second production, Carlo Pallavicino's Le Amazzoni nelle Isola Fortunate (The Amazons in the Fortunate Isles), unheard since its premiere in 1679. The group's premiere last year, with Daniele da Castrovillars's La Cleopatra, was a triumph and a delight, so I'm eager to hear this one. If you also are eager, you can check it out on 21 or 22 (matinee) May at the Marines Memorial Theater in San Francisco.
San Francisco Opera starts the second half of its season with Bizet's Carmen; the big draw here is the American debut of director Calixto Bieito, though I feel obliged to point out that this production is described in the small print as "based on" Bieito's production; nonetheless, we are warned (in boldface type, suitable for boldface behavior) that the production contains nudity, violence and suggestive behavior, and while the nudity is an add-on, I think violence and suggestive behavior are pretty much what this opera has always been about. You can decide whether to be thrilled, shocked, or blasé on 27, 28, 29, 31 May or 1, 17, 23, 26, 30 June or 2, 3 July at the Opera House.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents Jonathan Dove's adaptation of Austen's Mansfield Park on 4 and 6 May. The performance is free but you must make a reservation, which you can do here.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents the world premiere of Out of Darkness, an opera exploring the Holocaust, particularly as it affected homosexuals, with music by Jake Heggie and a libretto by Gene Scheer. That's 25 and 26 May.
Cal Performances presents countertenor Philippe Jaroussky and pianist Jérôme Ducros in a program featuring poems by Paul Verlaine set by Fauré, Debussy, Hahn, Poldowski, Bordes, Séverac, Chausson, and Chabrier; that's 12 May at First Congregational Church.
San Francisco Performances presents the American recital debut of soprano Rosa Feola, accompanied by pianist Fabio Centanni, in a program of Italian songs by Martucci, Liszt, Tosti, Verdi, Donizetti, and Rossini; that's 6 May at Herbst Theater.
San Francisco Performances presents tenor Ian Bostridge and pianist Wenwen Du in an all-Schubert program on 21 May at Herbst Theater.
SFJazz presents Cassandra Wilson singing music associated with Billie Holiday on 19 - 22 May at the Jazz Center.
Modern / New Music
Cal Performances presents the Kronos Quartet in Terry Riley's Sun Rings on 1 May in Zellerbach Hall.
Old First Concerts presents ZOFO (pianists Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi) playing music by Terry Riley, Dylan Mattingly, Gabriella Smith, Katherine Balch, Harold Shapero, Ryan Brown, and Paul Schoenfield. There are several world premieres in there. You can hear them 22 May at Old First Church on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco.
Curious Flights presents another interesting-sounding program on 28 May at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music concert hall: tenor Brian Thorsett sings several songs by Korngold, followed by a sextet by Aaron Copland; Stopwatch and an Ordance Map, a choral work by Samuel Barber; and the west coast premiere of Marc Blitzstein's The Airborne Symphony, conducted by Alasdair Neale, with vocal soloists Brian Thorsett (tenor), Efraín Solís (baritone), and David Latulippe (narrator).
New Century Chamber Orchestra closes out its season with Delight in Dancing, a concert featuring the world premiere of a dance suite commissioned from this year's featured composer, Jennifer Higdon, along with Richard Strauss's Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome, Khachaturian's Sabre Dance, and Stravinsky's ballet Apollon musagète (Apollo, Leader of the Muses). That's 5 May at First Congregational in Berkeley, 6 May at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, 7 May at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 8 May at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael; there's also an open rehearsal at 10:00 AM on 4 May at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center.
The Berkeley Symphony closes its season with Joana Carneiro leading the west coast premiere of Mark Grey's Frankenstein Symphony and the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with soloist Simone Porter. That's 5 May at Zellerbach Hall.
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in a program that includes Berlioz's La Mort de Cléopâtre, Schubert's Nachtgesang im Walde, the Brahms Variations on a Theme by Hadyn, and the Schumann 4; that's 19 - 22 May.
Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms, Barber's Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (with soprano soloist Nicole Joseph), John Adams's The Dharma at Big Sur (with Tracy Silverman on electric violin), and Ravel's La Valse, which apparently every local orchestra is legally obligated to schedule at least once a season. That's at the beauteous Paramount Theater on 20 May.
Cal Performances presents cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han in a program of Richard Strauss, Messiaen, Albéniz, Glazunov, and Chopin on 7 May in First Congregational Church in Berkeley.
Ragnar Bohlin's Cappella SF ends its current season with a late afternoon concert of Norwegian music on 15 May at St Matthew's Lutheran Church in San Francisco (that's at 3281 16th Street – I think it's very near Mission Dolores).
Ragnar Bohlin also leads the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in their annual concert, held this year on 1 May and featuring (in addition to the chorus, of course) soprano Joanna Taber and baritone Hadleigh Adams, as well as Jonathan Dimmock on organ and Mason Bates doing electronic stuff. They will be performing Brahms's Fest- und Gedenksprüche, Mason Bates's Mass Transmission, and Fauré's Requiem.
Volti closes out its season with another offering of the latest in choral compositions: Bob Geary leads the group in a new piece by Tonio Ko based on Woolf's short story Monday and Tuesday, along with Kui Dong's Painted Lights (for which Volti is joined by guest artists from the Piedmont East Bay Children's Choir), John Muehleisen's . . . is knowing . . . , Eric Banks's The Paths of Peace, and Paolo Longo's Quare fremuerunt gentes; that's 13 May at St John's Presbyterian in Berkeley and 14 May at the First Unitarian Universalist Center in San Francisco.
San Francisco Performances presents Sarah Cahill on 4 May in an all-Chaconne concert (featuring chaconnes by Gubaidulina, Nielsen, John Bull, Couperin, Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, and others) as the 6:30 Salon at the Rex at the Hotel Rex.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents Nelson Freire in a program of Bach, Beethoven, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov, and Chopin, on 12 May at Herbst Theater (the group's brochure lists the start time as 8:00 but the website says 6:00, so make sure you check the time if you decide to buy a ticket).
SFJazz presents Keith Jarrett on 2 May (but in Davies Hall, not the Jazz Center).
It's been three long years, but on 14 May the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art re-opens after a major expansion. I'm looking forward to spending many hours wandering the galleries. Check here for information on the opening exhibitions and information on memberships.