I'm sure I've complained before about the tendency of some major arts groups to segregate their more adventurous offerings into separate programs held in special tiny and difficult venues at inconvenient times, thereby allowing these groups to fill their main stage with the same exhausted nineteenth-century warhorses they trot out each year, so here's a related complaint: the increasing number of these offbeat performances from major arts groups that are open seating, even in venues where it's easy enough to sell assigned seats. I'm sure there is some annoying little "theory" behind this trend, like generating "buzz" or something equally vague, but even movie theaters, traditional home of general admission, are starting to sell reserved seats (presented as part of a more luxurious and convenient experience, to lure people away from their home theaters) so it's extra-depressing to see the fine arts once again loping after an indifferent culture in last decade's direction. Presenters! You're selling something valuable: show some respect for your artists and your audience. I don't want to waste my time milling around a lobby so that when the doors open (which is always later than they're supposed to) I can bolt Oklahoma-land-rush-style to my preferred seat. Selling general admission tickets doesn't even make sense from the theater's box-office and financial planning point of view: if my seat is determined not by when I buy my ticket but by where I'm positioned near the doors on the day of performance, then why should I buy my ticket in advance? And it's one thing if you're paying $30 for a show in a blackbox theater in the Tenderloin (but even those theaters will reserve seats for subscribers and donors as an easy way to encourage people to subscribe or donate) but it's especially appalling when groups charge premium prices (looking at you, SF Opera Center) and then make us scramble for seats once they've grabbed our cash. I've been in some of these scrums and believe me, they are not pretty. Could presenters please stop being lazy and could we just roll back on the general admissions?
The New Conservatory Theatre Center presents the world premiere of Leaving the Blues, about Alberta Hunter, written by Jewelle Gomez and directed by Arturo Catricala; that's 3 March to 2 April.
Crowded Fire presents the Bay Area premiere of You for Me for You by Mia Chung, directed by M. Graham Smith, from 9 March to 1 April at the Potrero Stage (which used to be known as Thick House Theater).
The Aurora Theater presents Leni, about the Nazi film-maker, written by Sarah Greenman and directed by Jon Tracy, from 10 March to 23 April. The play is presented at their smaller upstairs space, not their main stage.
Shotgun Players opens its season with Nora, described as "a stage version of Ibsen's A Doll's House" – I'm not sure what the phrasing there means, as I thought A Doll's House was already the stage version of Ibsen's A Doll's House – written by Ingmar Bergman, translated and adapted by Frederick J. Marker and Lise-Lone Marker, and directed by Beth Wilmurt. The show runs from 16 March to 16 April at the Ashby Stage.
Cal Performances presents Britain's Filter Theater in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, directed by Sean Holmes, from 22 to 26 March in Zellerbach Playhouse.
Early / Baroque Music
Philharmonia Baroque presents music and arias by Handel, Hasse, Zelenka, Arne, CPE Bach, and Gluck, featuring countertenor Iestyn Davies, with guest conductor Jonathan Cohen leading the band; Davies has a really wonderful sound (I heard him in a Cal Performances recital a few years ago) so I'm glad to see him back in this area. Performances are 1 March at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, 3 March at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 4 March at First Presbyterian in Berkeley, and 5 March at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church in Lafayette.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents Voices of Music in a program featuring Pergolesi's famous Stabat Mater along with works by Scarlatti and Vivaldi; that's 17 March at All Saints Episcopal in Palo Alto, 18 March at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and 19 March at St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents Handel's Atalanta on 11 March and 12 March (matinee). Both performances are free.
Ars Minerva presents company director mezzo-soprano Céline Ricci and harpsichordist Derek Tam in a salon evening of arias written for the sorceresses Armida, Medea, and Circe by Lully, Clérambault, Charpentier, Handel, and Pietro-Antonio Ziani, whose La Circe is being revived (an eagerly awaited Modern World premiere) by the group this coming September. That's 26 March at the Hotel Rex.
Cal Performances presents the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin playing Telemann, Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and Rebel on 11 March at Hertz Hall.
Modern / Contemporary Music
The Hot Air Music Festival takes place at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 5 March, with programs starting at 11:00 AM, 1:30 PM, 3:30 PM, and 7:00 PM.
There's a new group in town, Bard Music West, presumably related to the annual festival at Bard College in the Hudson Valley of New York, which focuses on single composers and their cultural milieux. Anyway they are presenting a two-day series built around György Ligeti and his world. That's 17 - 18 March in the Noe Valley Ministry (1021 Sanchez Street at 23rd) in San Francisco.
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents Brahms through the Looking Glass, a program in which the great Johannes's Piano Trio in B Major Op. 8 inspires new works by Jennifer Jolley, Kenneth Lim, and Sam Nichols; you can hear the results on 18 March at the Berkeley Piano Club or 21 March at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Earplay presents music by Linda Bouchard, Peter Maxwell Davies, Jason Federmeyer, Toru Takemitsu, and Stephen Yip at the ODC Theater on 20 March.
And as always check out the various enticements at the Center for New Music.
San Francisco Opera's Opera Lab presents Anna Caterina Antonacci in the Poulenc / Cocteau monodrama La Voix Humaine, along with Berlioz'a La mort d'Ophélie, Debussy's Chanson de Bilitis, and Poulenc's La fraîcheur et le feu (Coolness and fire) on 11, 14, and 17 March at the Taube Atrium Theater. Please note that tickets are $95 (exclusive of any fees) and the seating is general admission: two clauses that should never, ever be joined.
See also the Conservatory of Music's production of Handel's Atalanta under Early / Baroque Music.
Matthew Shilvock, General Director of the San Francisco Opera, will be speaking to the Wagner Society of Northern California on 18 March; that starts at 1:00 at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco. I assume, given the audience, that his talk will focus on Wagner and SF Opera's 2018 Ring revival, but the talks at the Society are often wide-ranging and there's generally a Q-and-A afterwards in case you want to ask about local plans to stage Meyerbeer or someone like that.
On 11 March at Herbst Theater, Dawn Harms leads the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in the Sibelius 5, along with Andrée's Concert-Overture in D, Paganini's Moses Fantasy for Bass and Orchestra, and Koussevitzky's Concerto for Bass, with soloist Gary Karr on double bass.
New Century Chamber Orchestra is reunited with the chorus guys of Chanticleer in a program called Americans in Paris, featuring works by Gershwin (of course!), Stravinsky, Fauré, Satie, Rorem, and songs associated with Edith Piaf and others. There is an open rehearsal at the Wilsey Center for Opera on the morning of 15 March and performances on 16 March at First Presbyterian in Berkeley, 17 March at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, 18 March at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 19 March at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.
At the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas conducts an all-Russian program from 1 to 4 March, including the Tchaikovsky 6 (the Pathétique), Mikhail Gnesin's The Jewish Orchestra at the Ball of Nothingtown (which certainly has one of the more intriguing titles I've come across this month), and the Shostakovich Cello Concerto 1, with soloist Gautier Capuçon; Tilson Thomas returns on 23 - 24 March to conduct John Cage's The Seasons (with video), Robin Holloway's Europa and the Bull (a Symphony co-commission), and Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra; he conducts the same program on 25 - 26 March, except the Holloway is swapped for Bruch's Violin Concerto 1, with soloist Nicola Benedetti; and finally he closes out the month leading an all-Mahler program, featuring the Mahler 1 and the Adagio from the Mahler 10, and that's on 30 - 31 March and 1 - 2 April.
In between Tilson Thomas's concerts, you can hear Marek Janowski conduct the Brahms 4, along with Beethoven's Coriolan Overture and Hindemith's Violin Concerto with soloist Arabella Steinbacher, on 9 - 12 March; and Juraj Valčuha conduct the Beethoven 7, along with Schreker's Chamber Symphony and Barber's Violin Concerto with soloist Gil Shaham, on 16 - 18 March.
The San Francisco Symphony will present Yuri Temerkinov leading the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic in two concerts, one on 19 March featuring selections from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet and his Violin Concerto 2 (with soloist Sayaka Shoji) and Ravel's Daphnis and Chloe Suite 2, and another on 20 March featuring the Shostakovich 5 and the Brahms Piano Concerto 1 (with soloist Garrick Ohlsson).
Cal Performances presents the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine, conducted by Theodore Kuchar, in a program of Verdi (the Overture to La Forza del Destino), Prokofiev (the Piano Concerto #3, with soloist Alexei Grynyuk), and the Shostakovich 5; that's 26 March in Zellerbach Hall.
On 31 March at the Paramount Theater, Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in the Dvořák 9 (From the New World), along with Gabriela Frank's Concertino and Bruckner's Te Deum, with soloist Hope Briggs (soprano), Betany Coffland (mezzo-soprano), Amitai Pati (tenor), and Anthony Reed (bass), as well as the Oakland Symphony Chorus.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents the Pavel Haas Quartet on 26 March in Herbst Theater, playing Martinu, Dvořák, and Smetana.
Strings / Keys
Cal Performances presents pianist Jeffrey Kahane playing works by Schubert, Chopin, Timo Andres, and his son Gabriel; that's 12 March at Hertz Hall.
San Francisco Performances and the San Francisco Symphony co-present pianist András Schiff in an all-Schubert program in Davies Hall on 13 March.
San Francisco Performances presents cellist Harriet Krijgh and pianist Magda Amara in a program of Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Rachmaninoff on 16 March at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
San Francisco Performances and the San Francisco Symphony co-present violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and pianist Lambert Orkis playing works by Sebastian Currier, Mozart, Respighi, and Saint-Saëns in Davies Hall on 26 March.
Cal Performances presents soprano Miah Persson, baritone Florian Boesch, and pianist Malcolm Martineau in an all-Schumann program on 19 March in Hertz Hall.
San Francisco Performances presents composer/pianist/vocalist Gabriel Kahane performing Schumann (Dichterliebe) and some of his own works, including Craigslistlieder. That's 5 March at the SF Jazz Center.
San Francisco Performances presents tenor Mark Padmore and pianist Jonathan Biss in an all-Schubert program on 17 March at Herbst Theater; this is the fourth and final installment of a series programmed by Biss exploring the concept of late style.
San Francisco Performances presents tenor Nicholas Phan with pianist Robert Mollicone, performing selections from Phan's latest CD, Gods & Monsters, on 22 March as part of the series Salons at the Rex.
San Francisco Performances presents mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly with pianist Joseph Middleton in a program of Schumann, Mahler, Poulenc, Copland, and Richard Rodney Bennett on 23 March at Herbst Theater.
The San Francisco Opera Center and the Merola Opera Program present the first of this year's Schwabacher Debut Recitals on 26 March at the Taube Atrium Theater, when mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven and baritone Cody Quattlebaum will be accompanied by pianist Mark Morash in a not-yet-announced program.
Volti presents a concert they're calling Mantras, Miracles, Meditations, featuring one movement of Path of Miracles by Joby Talbot, an evening-length depiction for choreographed chorus and dancers of the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage across Spain (the entire work will be done by Volti next season), along with Lux Aeterna by György Ligeti, The Blue of Distance by ibuoklé Martinaityté, Into Being by Ingrid Stölzel, and the world premiere of Caeli Enerrant by Robin Estrada; that's 3 March at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley or 4 March at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
Chora Nova performs Dvořák's Mass in D Major and Rheinberger's Stabat Mater on 17 March at St Perpetua in Lafayette and 18 March at First Presbyterian in Berkeley.
Lacuna Arts Chorale celebrate's Bach's birthday with works not only by Bach but later works bearing his influence by Mendelssohn, Herzogenberg, and Brahms; that's 17 March at 1111 O'Farrell Street in San Francisco and 18 March at 1661 15th Street in San Francisco.
Cal Performances presents the Hot Sardines and Jason Moran: Fats Waller Dance Party on 11 March at the Paramount Theater in Oakland.
The SF Jazz Center has a show with the sort of cumbersome title Aaron Diehl presents Jelly & George featuring Adam Birnbaum & Cécile McLorin Salvant; "Jelly" is Jelly Roll Morton and "George" is George Gershwin. That's 16 - 19 March.
The SF Jazz Center presents Joshua Redman along with Ron Miles, Scott Colley, and Brian Blade, from 23 to 26 March.
Cal Performances presents the all-male ballet parody group Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo in a 40th anniversary celebration on 3 - 4 March in Zellerbach Hall.
Cal Performances presents the annual residency of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 14 to 19 March in Zellerbach Hall.
San Francisco Ballet has two repertory programs this month: Program 4, from 7 to 18 March, which is an all-Balanchine program featuring Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Prodigal Son (music by Prokofiev), and Diamonds (music by Tchaikovsky); and Program 5, from 9 to 19 March, which is an all-contemporary program featuring Fusion (choreography by Yuri Possokhov, music by Graham Fitkin and Rahul Dev Burman), the world premiere of Salome (choreography by Arthur Pita, music by Frank Moon), and Fearful Symmetries (choreography by Liam Scarlett, music by John Adams).
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art presents Matisse / Diebenkorn, which examines the influence of the French modernist on the Californian. This sounds very exciting, and it runs from 11 March to 29 May, so plan several visits.
And just like that, a third of this year has gone by. . . .