It's a jam-packed schedule to start off the autumn arts season, but once again I need to issue the BART warning: yes, our sad joke of a public transit system will (once again!) be shutting down major areas of the track on various weekends (currently the September dates are 1 - 3 September – yes, Labor Day weekend – and 22 - 23 September, but check the BART site as they've been known to switch the dates around with little or no warning). There will be a bus bridge between the 19th Street and West Oakland stations, so prepare to add time on to your trip, particularly if you need to cross the bay. I think this is actually the same section of track they allegedly repaired just a few years ago, but I'm so disgusted at their long downward slide that I can't be bothered to check. Just use caution in picking dates and buying tickets, particularly if you depend on BART. Also keep in mind that traffic in general will probably be even worse on those weekends due to people driving rather than taking public transportation.
Shotgun Players in association with Golden Thread Productions presents the west coast premiere of Kiss by Guillermo Calderón, directed by Evren Odcikin, at the Ashby Stage from 23 August to 23 September.
Aurora Theater presents Dominique Morisseau's Detroit '67, directed by Darryl V Jones, from 31 August to 30 September, and I have to say this is one of the few instances in which a blurb actually worked for me; I didn't have much interest in this until I saw that the theater's website quoted someone saying it was in the line of works by Lorraine Hansberry, Tennessee Williams, and August Wilson, and company like that is good enough for me.
The Ubuntu Theater Project presents Philip Kan Gotanda's Pool of Unknown Wonders: Undertow of the Soul, a work inspired by Hermann Hesse's Journey to the East, directed by Michael Socrates Moran, from 31 August to 23 September, at Julia Morgan Hall on Catalina Avenue in Berkeley.
Berkeley Rep presents A Doll's House, Part 2, Lucas Hnath's sequel imagining Nora's return after fifteen years, directed by Les Waters; it runs from 6 September to 21 October.
The eclectic San Francisco Fringe Festival takes place at the Exit Theater from 6 to 15 September.
Theater Rhinoceros presents Chissa Hutchinson's Dead and Breathing, a look at a dying woman who wants to speed up the end, directed by AeJay Mitchell, from 7 to 22 September, at the Gateaway Theater on Jackson Street in San Francisco.
The Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward is putting on Once Upon a Mattress, the musical comedy riffing on The Princess and the Pea, with music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer, directed by John Maio, from 13 to 30 September.
Crowded Fire Theater presents the Bay Area premiere of Church by Young Jean Lee, directed by Mina Morita, from 13 September to 6 October at the Potrero Stage.
Ray of Light Theater presents Hedwig and the Angry Inch, with music and lyrics by Stephen Trask and book by John Cameron Mitchell, directed by Sailor Galaviz, from 14 September to 6 October at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco.
The African-American Shakespeare Company presents Ntozake Shange's For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, directed by Elizabeth Carter, from 15 to 29 September at the Taube Atrium Theater.
San Francisco Playhouse presents Christopher Chen's You Mean To Do Me Harm, directed by Bill English, from 18 September to 3 November. I have seen other works by Chen, and they make me think this one will be well worth the time and money.
Custom Made Theater presents Albee's The Goat; or, Who Is Sylvia?, directed by Paul Stout from 20 September to 20 October; I saw this play at ACT several years ago and did not like it, but I'm listing it anyway because I'm feeling indulgent.
The Berkeley Playhouse presents Dreamgirls, the Michael Bennett musical (book and lyrics by Tom Eyen and music by Henry Krieger), directed and choreographed by Brendan Simon, from 21 September to 21 October.
The New Conservatory Theater Center is gracing us with Charles Busch's Red Scare on Sunset, directed by Allen Sawyer, running from 21 September to 21 October; they are describing this as the "San Francisco premiere" but they must mean professional premiere, as I saw this play about ten years ago done by the students at ACT. Set during the Red Menace days, it's about a communist plot to infiltrate Hollywood and shut down the Arthur Freed unit at MGM (the group that made the flossy musicals) and replace it with one that makes socially conscious dramas in black and white with no make-up on the actors and no star billing. This assault on American values will not stand! The play is absolutely hilarious and says more about the complications of American identity than many a more ponderous work by Miller and O'Neill.
Cutting Ball Theater presents Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, translated by Paul Schmidt and directed by Paige Rogers, from 21 September to 21 October.
Cal Shakes presents Marcus Gardley's black odyssey, from 25 September to 7 October in Orinda.
San Francisco Opera opens its fall season this month with two productions: the traditional double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci, on 12, 16, 19, 22, 28, and 30 September (there is also a performance on 7 September, but be aware that is the season opening night, and should be avoided unless you care passionately about what rich women are wearing and not so much about, you know, opera) and Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, featuring the return of Sondra Radvanovsky and Jamie Barton, on 8, 11, 14, 18, 23, and 27 September. Radvanovsky will be giving a master class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 16 September; it is free but reservations are recommended.
At the San Francisco Symphony, the dazzling pianist Yuja Wang joins Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra to play the Ravel Piano Concerto in D Major for the Left Hand, along with Copland's Appalachian Spring and Inverno In-ver by Niccolò Castiglioni (with video by Clyde Scott), and that's 13 - 16 September; the rest of the month, Tilson Thomas leads a Stravinsky Festival, featuring some of the composer's most popular works: The Firebird and Perséphone (with tenor Nicholas Phan) on 21 - 23 September and Petrushka (1947 version), The Rite of Spring, and the Violin Concerto (Leonidas Kavikos, soloist) on 27 - 30 September.
One Found Sound opens its season with Mozart's Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, Arvo Pärt's Fratres, and Dvořák's Legends, Op 59, on 29 September at Heron Arts in San Francisco.
Early / Baroque Music
Yo-Yo Ma returns to Cal Performances on 30 September with the complete Bach Suites for Solo Cello, works which he has played and played with his entire career. In his current tour he is revisiting the Suites in a variety of venues; the Berkeley performance is in the Greek Theater, which is a large open-air space, and that's going to make this a non-starter for some, but as they say YMMV.
The Cantata Collective, which describes itself as the Bay Area's only professional ensemble dedicated solely to performing the cantatas of JS Bach, is launching its second season of free concerts at St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley on 23 September with BWV 169 and selected arias and sonfonias featuring alto Reginald Mobley.
Modern / Contemporary Music
The Chapel at 777 Valencia Street in San Francisco is hosting a 65th birthday celebration for John Zorn with six concerts from 1 to 4 September. You can buy individual tickets or get a 7-show pass.
Ensemble for These Times performs Nocturne by Alexandre Tansman and Die Eichne Tuer by David Garner as part of SF Music Day on 30 September at the War Memorial Veterans Building, and in case you're wondering what SF Music Day is, you can read all about it here.
Here's your monthly reminder to check the calendar for the Center for New Music, as intriguing concerts are added frequently; some things that jump out at me from the current September listings are new works for oboe and vibraphone by Eldad Tarmu, performed by Tarmu (vibraphone) and Glenda Bates (oboe) on 14 September; Charles Xavier's Cow Walk Orchestra on 15 September; Dirt & Copper exploring "radical new music" on 21 September; and pianist Jihye Chang exploring the music of contemporary Korea. featuring composers Texu Kim, Unsuk Chin, Shinuh Lee, Hyoshin Na, and Jean Ahn, on 29 September.
Appearances to the contrary, this is a "curated" list; my main rule is that anything listed has to be something I am attending or, given world enough and time, would attend, but there are other rules too: for example, I don't list sold-out events, on the grounds that if you want to encourage people to buy tickets, they have to be available; and I don't list benefits or galas, on the grounds that they are mostly parties and social events without enough music to make them worthwhile. (If you are interested in an organization, they will be more than happy to tell you how to give them money, without any help from me.) And of course another rule is that I can ignore the usual rules if I want to. So I'm going to mention the San Francisco Performances season gala on 28 September, as it includes a performance of Stravinsky's L'Histoire du Soldat jazzed up (literally) by violinist Regina Carter and trumpeter Sean Jones. You can do the full gala if you are so inclined, but there are also concert-only tickets, though I think they are only in certain sections of Herbst Theater.
Cécile McLoren Salvant sings for you at the SF Jazz Center from 6 to 9 September.
Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley, and Brian Blade celebrate their new album, Still Dreaming, by performing from 13 to 16 September at the SF Jazz Center.
Jane Bunnett & Maqueque play Cuban-style jazz at the SF Jazz Center from 20 to 23 September.
The Cyrus Chestnut Trio with Buster Williams and Lenny White plays at the SF Jazz Center from 27 to 30 September.
Cal Performances presents the Jazz from Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis and special guest Jon Batiste in a celebration of Duke Ellington on 23 September at the Greek Theater.
Artistic Director Ragnar Bohlin leads Cappella SF through Crown Jewels of Britain – A Journey Through Centuries of British Music on 15 September at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland and on 16 September at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.
Benedict Sheehan leads Cappella Romana in Rachmaninoff's All-Night Vigil and other Russian sacred choral works on 29 September at St Ignatius in San Francisco.
Soprano Winnie Nieh and pianist Paul Dab visit Old First Concerts on 16 September to perform works by Purcell, Strauss, Ravel, the west coast premiere of Richard Aldag's Five Songs for Voice & Piano, and the world premiere (with piano) of Richard Festinger's Love Wanders There and Winds of May.
At Lieder Alive! on 16 September, mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Ricardo Ballestero perform music by the nineteenth-century Brazilian composer Alberto Nepomuceno, along with music by composers who inspired him – Brahms, Grieg, and Chausson.
Book of J (vocalist Jewlia Eisenberg and vocalist/guitarist Jeremiah Lockwood) visit Old First Concerts on 30 September with traditional music associated with Sukkot, the Jewish harvest festival.
See also Cécile McLoren Salvant under Jazz.
Pianist Lynn Schugren visits Old First Concerts on 9 September to play works by Miriam Gideon, Mark Vance, Bruce Nalezny, and Samuel Barber.
There is a Hammond B-3 organ festival at the SF Jazz Center from 20 to 23 September, with concerts by the Joey Defrancesco Trio, the Dr Lonnie Smith Trio, and Cory Henry and the Funk Apostles.
Pianist Jihye Chang plays a fantasia-based program at Old First Concerts on 28 September, featuring world premieres by Peter Kramer, Daniel Godsil, Seungyeon Kim, and Shinuh Lee as well as works by Chopin, Mozart, Schumann, Carl Czerny, Addie Camsuzou, and Earl Wild.
The Mark Morris Dance Group returns to Cal Performances from 28 to 30 September with Pepperland, a tribute to the landmark Beatles album Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, which is the basis for an original score by Ethan Iverson. In connection with the performances, Morris is curating a film series at BAM / PFA: In the Age of Pepperland is scheduled from 28 September to 25 November.
BAM / PFA has some interesting film series this month, in addition to the Age of Pepperland referenced right above: as part of the Ingmar Bergman centennial celebration, some of his Discoveries & Rarities are scheduled from 1 September to 4 November; Frederick Wiseman is the focus of a series from 13 to 30 September that includes an evening with the master documentarian himself; and Luchino Visconti: Cinema of Struggle & Splendor is scheduled from 14 September to 30 November.
On 15 September at the Castro Theater, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival presents the Club Foot Orchestra in a day of live accompaniment to their "greatest hits": first some short films from Buster Keaton and Felix the Cat, followed by three major masterpieces of German Expressionism: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Metropolis (which looks more and more like a documentary), and Nosferatu.
Veiled Meanings: Fashioning Jewish Dress, from the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem opens 30 August at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco and runs until 6 January 2019.
There's another fashion-centered show at the de Young Museum: Contemporary Muslim Fashion opens on 22 September and runs until 6 January 2019.
The Asian Art Museum in San Francisco opens Painting Is My Everything: Art from India's Mithila Region on 7 September, running until 30 December. The show explores a style that originated about a half-century ago as wall murals painted by women of Mithila.
Two appealing-looking exhibits are opening on 19 September at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) in San Francisco: Ficre Ghebreyesus: City with a River Running Through is the first museum showing and first west coast exhibition of paintings by Ghebreyesus, a political refugee from Eritrea, and Second Look, Twice: Selections from the Collections of Jordan D Schnitzer and His Family Foundation shows prints from artists including Glenn Ligon, Martin Puryear, and Kara Walker; both shows run until 16 December.
You have until 16 September to see Sublime Seas, the powerful video installation by John Akomfrah (with accompanying painting by Turner) at SFMOMA (the Magritte show is running until near the end of October, so you have some time on that one, though it's not going to get less crowded as the closing weekend approaches).
Some interesting exhibits are opening (all on 19 September) at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive: Old Masters in a New Light: Rediscovering the European Collection runs until 16 December; Redacted: Art for Human Rights runs until 21 October; and Christina Quarles / Matrix 271 runs until 18 November.
And you have until 30 September to catch Truth and Beauty: the Pre-Raphaelits and the Old Masters at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.