Maybe it's because of a calendar quirk that leaves a whole week of November after Thanksgiving, or maybe it's just part of a seasonal spread that's been going on for a while, but there's more Christmas stuff on this list than I recall from previous Novembers. 'Tis the season, ready or not!
The Champagne Staged Reading Series at Shotgun Players presents The Secretaries by the Five Lesbian Brothers (Maureen Angelos, Lisa Kron, Babs Davy, Dominique Dibbell, and Peg Healey), directed by Brady Brophy-Hilton, on 5 and 6 November.
ACT's MFA program presents Sheridan's The School for Scandal, adapted and directed by Christine Adaire, from 8 to 17 November at The Rueff at the Strand Theater – I have no idea what The Rueff is, but the Strand is a nice theater, conveniently located right by the Civic Center BART station. I am delighted to see that all performances start at 7:00; the parent company, which I think is the only major Bay Area theater that still starts every evening performance at 8:00, might take note. (I should mention there is one performance each run that starts earlier, due to an audience talk-back that follows the play, and of course you can flee that like a sensible person.)
Cutting Ball Theater brings back its Variety Pack from 8 to 18 November; no word yet on what different performances will be available for sampling.
Custom Made Theatre revives In the Heights, the musical Lin-Manual Miranda wrote before you-know-what. The book is by Quiara Alegría Hudes and the show is directed by Nikki Meñez and it runs from 8 November to 15 December.
The Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward presents Dracula, adapted by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston from Bram Stoker's novel, from 15 November to 2 December.
The Curran Theater presents Taylor Mac's Holiday Sauce from 21 November to 1 December.
42nd Street Moon revives Dames at Sea, with book and lyrics by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller and music by Jim Wise, directed and choreographed by Nicole Helfer and with music direction by Dave Dobrusky, from 28 November to 16 December.
The New Conservatory Theatre Center presents Avenue Q (music and lyrics by Robert Lopez and Jeff Marx and book by Jeff Whitty), directed by Jay Manley with musical direction by Mark Dietrich, from 30 November to 6 January 2019.
The Ubuntu Theater Project presents Conference of the Birds, adapted by Sholeh Wolpé from the famous Sufi poem and directed by Giulio Perrone, from 30 November to 16 December at the Brooklyn Preserve at 1433 12th Avenue in Oakland (and please note this is 12th Avenue, not 12th Street as in the 12th Street BART station).
Shotgun Players presents Tom Stoppard's Arcadia (at last I get to see it!), directed by Patrick Dooley, from 30 November to 6 January 2019.
If you are anywhere near Washington DC on 3 November, do not miss Michael Hersch's On the Threshold of Winter. I saw this amazingly powerful piece last January in Salt Lake City. It is worth traveling for.
If you are near a movie theater that shows the Met livecasts, you can catch Marnie, Nico Muhly's new opera (which stars the wonderful Isabel Leonard and Christopher Maltman), on 10 November.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents two evening performances of Poulenc's surrealist opera Les Mamelles de Tirésias on 15 and 16 November; performances are free but reservations are recommended.
San Francisco Opera closes out its fall season with It's a Wonderful Life (libretto by Gene Scheer and music by Jake Heggie), which had its world premiere in Houston in 2016. There are nine performances, running into December.
The Wagner Society of Northern California presents Stanford professor Thomas Grey discussing Wagner's theories of Gesamtkunstwerk versus his actual practices; that's 17 November at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco.
Ars Minerva returns with its fourth annual revival of a hitherto forgotten baroque opera; this time it's Giovanni Porta's Ifigenia in Aulide, and if past productions are anything to go by this is sure to be one of the year's highlights. The Bay Area is very lucky to have Céline Ricci, who founded and leads the group, unearthing these treasures for us. She is also staging this production and singing Achille; the rest of the fine cast includes Aura Veruni (Ifigenia), Nikola Printz (Agamennone), Shawnette Sulker (Clitennestra), Cara Gabrielson (Elisena), Kevin Gino (Ulisse), Matheus Coura (Teucro), and Spencer Dodd (Arcade); Derek Tam conducts. You can experience the results on 30 November and 1 December at the ODC Theater in the Mission; you can also hear an abridged concert version on 9 November at First Congregational in Berkeley.
San Francisco Performances presents baritone Christopher Maltman in a program of animal-centered songs, including works by Poulenc, Schumann, Ravel, Reger, Chabrier, the aptly named Wolf, and Flanders & Swann; that's 13 November at Herbst Theater.
You can start the holiday parties early when Pink Martini joins the San Francisco Symphony on 27 and 28 November.
San Francisco Performances presents Luciana Souza, joined by Chico Pinheiro on guitar and Scott Colley on string bass, in a program featuring texts by Emily Dickinson and Leonard Cohen set to music by Souza, along with works by Brazilian composers Hermeto Pascoal and Milton Nascimento, on 30 November at Herbst Theater.
Laurie Anderson is in residence at the SF Jazz Center from 28 November to 2 December; I find the SF Jazz website clunky, but you should be able to see the range of concerts if you click here and explore.
There are some interesting choral works on offer this month, but I've listed them under different categories: check out Volti under Modern / Contemporary Music and Cappella SF and Chora Nova under Early / Baroque Music.
Early / Baroque Music
Jordi Savall explores the influence of enslaved Africans on the musical life of Europe and the Americas in a wide-ranging program called The Routes of Slavery: Memories of Slavery (1444–1888) on 3 November in Zellerbach Hall, presented by Cal Performances.
Nicholas McGegan leads Philharmonia Baroque in a mostly Vivaldi program, with some Corelli and Geminiani added in, on 7 November at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, 9 November at Herbst Theater, and 10 - 11 November at First Congregational in Berkeley. In an innovation which I hope spreads far and wide, the usual pre-concert talk is replaced by a Prelude Recital featuring the evening's guest artists, forty-five minutes before each concert. The recital program includes Handel, Vivaldi, and Telemann.
The Messiahs are starting early this year: you can hear Paul Flight lead Chora Nova in this justly beloved work on 18 November at First Congregational in Berkeley.
The Cantata Collective continues its series of free concerts exploring the cantatas of JS Bach on 25 November, when soprano Sherezade Panthaki and baritone Paul Max Tipton perform BWV 57 and 58 at St Mary Magdalen at 2005 Berryman Street in Berkeley.
Paul Flight leads the California Bach Society in five centuries of Italian Christmas music on 30 November at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 1 December at All Saints' Episcopal in Palo Alto, and 2 December at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley.
Robert Geary leads the San Francisco Choral Society in Part 1 of Bach's Christmas Oratorio on 30 November and 1 December at St Ignatius in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents Ragnar Bohlin and his excellent choral group, Cappella SF, in works by Schütz, Josquin, Couperin, and Allegri on 30 November at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 1 December at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, and 2 December at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
And be sure to check out Ars Minerva's latest revival of a forgotten baroque opera (this time it's Porta's Ifigenia in Aulide), listed under Operatic.
Modern / Contemporary Music
Cal Performances presents pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Tamara Stefanovich playing works by Bartók, Ravel, Birtwistle, and Messiaen; the Birtwistle is a new work co-commissioned by Cal Performances and written especially for Aimard and Stefanovich. You can hear them at Zellerbach Hall on 1 November.
Volti joins the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble for a program featuring works by Benjamin Britten, Addie Camsuzou (world premiere), Laurie San Martin (world premiere), and Gregory Spears (west coast premiere) on 18 November at the Berkeley Hillside Club and 19 November at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
As always, check the full schedule of the Center for New Music, as new events are added all the time; this month's schedule is a little heavy on electric guitars/electronica for my taste, but as they say YMMV. Some things that jumps out at me are: Oboetronics II with Glenda Bates and Brandon Labadie on 2 November; Enhakē's Beyond Messiaen: 21st Century works for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano on 9 November; the Long Tone Choir: Autumn on 11 November; Duos and Trios with Scott R Looney, Joseph Noble, and Kjell Nordeson on 16 November; Martin Azevedo & Planarian Collective with Dennis Aman in Disassembling the Clocks on 18 November; and pianist Clara Yang exploring works old and new by Debussy, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Chen Yi, Zhou Long, and Phil Young on 19 November.
Myra Melford and and her quintet, Snowy Egret, come to the SF Jazz Center on 2 - 3 November.
Violinist Regina Carter, drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, and trumpeter Eddie Henderson join pianist Kenny Barron at the SF Jazz Center on 8 - 11 November.
Smith Dobson and his band play material from Thelonious Monk's Underground on 15 November at the SF Jazz Center.
Dorado Schmitt and the Django All-Stars perform Django Rheinhardt-style music at the SF Jazz Center on 23 - 25 November.
Guest Concertmaster Anthony Marwood leads the New Century Chamber Orchestra in Sally Beamish's Seavaigers, Peteris Vasks's Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra: Distant Light, and Dvořák's Serenade for Strings; you can hear the music 1 November at First Congregational in Berkeley, 2 November at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, 3 November at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and 4 November at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.
Daniel Barenboim brings his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra to Zellerbach Hall, where they will play the Tchaikovsky 5 and Richard Strauss's Don Quixote, on 10 November under the auspices of Cal Performances.
Jakub Hrůša conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Bartók's Suite from The Miraculous Mandarin, the Borodin 2, and the Shostakovich Violin Concerto 1 (soloist Karen Gomyo) from 8 to 10 November.
Urs Leonhadt Steiner leads the Golden Gate Symphony in Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata (arranged for harp with Ricardo Rasura as soloist), the Beethoven Piano Concerto 5, the Emperor, with soloist Allison Lovejoy, and the Beethoven 5; there's also the world premiere of Chaconne by resident composer Michael Kimbell, and that's all on 10 November at Herbst Theater.
Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in the Dvořák 7 on 11 November (matinee); and you can hear more – in fact, the mostly the same – Dvořák that night when Semyon Bychkov leads the Czech Philharmonic in the Dvořák 7 and the Cello Concerto (soloist Alisa Weilerstein).
Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in the Beethoven 3, the Eroica, and his own From the Diary of Anne Frank (with narrator Isabel Leonard) from 15 to 18 November.
Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony (along with the Oakland Symphony Chorus led by Lynne Morrow and the Oakland Gay Men's Chorus led by William Sauerland) in a program memorializing the Ghost Ship Fire of 2016. After Bernstein's Take Care of This House from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (with soprano Patricia Westley) comes the premiere of Richard Marriott's Ghost Ship Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (with soloist Matthew Linaman) and then Brahms's Ein Deutsches Requiem with soprano Westley and baritone Richard Sims. You can hear it all at the Paramount Theater on 16 November.
Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in the Beethoven 9, the Choral, with soloists Susanna Phillips (soprano), Kelley O'Connor (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Davóne Tines (bass-baritone); the program also includes Berg's Sieben frühe Lieder (Seven Early Songs) (presumably Susanna Phillips is the soloist, though it's not clear from the Symphony's website). You can hear the results from 23 to 25 November.
The Persephone Chamber Ensemble comes to Old First Concerts on 4 November, performing the world premiere of Elinor Armer's Noctures for Mezzo-Soprano and Piano Quartet along with two works by Brahms.
The Telegraph Quartet performs works by Schulhoff, Dvořák , and Enescu on 9 November at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; the concert is free but reservations are recommended.
Old First Concerts presents Strobe on 9 November, playing the world premiere of Water Colors by Alexis Alrich, the San Francisco premire of Vincent Russo's Visions and Visitations, and works by Schubert and Britten.
Joined by an ensemble of musicians and dancers in performing traditional music of the Mediterranean, Ali Paris sings and plays the Qanun, a 76-string middle eastern zither dating back to the 14th century, on 11 November at Old First Concerts.
San Francisco Performances presents quartet Brooklyn Rider at Herbst Theater on 16 November, where they will play Beethoven's Quartet #15, Op 132, along with new responses to it by Reena Esmail, Gabriela Lena Frank, Matana Roberts, and Caroline Shaw.
Pianist Pascal Le Boeuf is joined by the Friction Quartet to perform Le Boeuf's Ritual Being on 30 November at the SF Jazz Center.
The Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra, well known in these parts for their work with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, comes to Old First Concerts on 30 November to perform works related to the early days of cinema.
Wind Octet Nomad Sessions opens its second season on 30 November at the Noe Valley Ministry with a program featuring works by Eric Whitacre, Gustav Holst, George Gershwin, and a premiere by Emily Shisko.
Keyboards & Strings
San Francisco Performances presents pianist Igor Levit examining Romantic-era versions of earlier composers, featuring works by Brahms (adapting Bach), Busoni (again, after Bach), Schumann, Wagner as transcribed by Liszt, and Liszt as transcribed by Busoni; that's 1 November at Herbst Theater.
San Francisco Performances presents guitarist Paul Galbraith with cellist Antonio Meneses (formerly of the Beaux Arts Trio), playing works by Haydn (arranged by Galbraith), Schubert, Clovis Pereira, Radamés Gnatalli, and Andre Mehmari, on 3 November at Herbst Theater.
Awesome violinist Hilary Hahn plays a solo recital in Davies Hall on 4 November, presented by the San Francisco Symphony.
The 7th Annual California Banjo Extravaganza (with Bill Evans, Ned Luberecki & Christ Coole and Their All-Star Band (John Reischman, Chad Manning, Jim Nunally, and Sharon Gilchrist)) is at Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on 10 November.
Old First Concerts presents pianist José López on 18 November in a program featuring Schubert, Liszt, and Nicolás Ruíz Espadero.
Pianist Gilbert Kalish gives a free master class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 29 November.
See also the Aimard & Stefanovich recital at Cal Performances listed under Modern / Contemporary Music.
Cal Performances presents modern dance group Compagnie Käfig in Pixel on 16 - 17 November in Zellerbach Hall.
East Meets West: Jewels of the Maharajas from the Al Thani Collection opens at the Legion of Honor on 3 November and runs until 24 February 2019.
Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein, exploring the influence of 20th century science on its contemporary artists, opens at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive on 7 November and runs until 3 March 2019.
Art and China after 1989: Theater of the World opens at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on 10 November and runs until 24 February 2019.
You can explore Brassaï's photographs of Paris between the wars at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art from 17 November to 18 February 2019.
Gauguin: A Spiritual Journey opens at the de Young Museum on 17 November and runs until 7 April 2019.
You can explore the works of radical French filmmaker Jean Vigo at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive from 2 to 23 November.
On 3 November Theatre of Yugen is showing Noh Men: The Spirit of Noh, a documentary on Noh masks by Jeffrey Dym.
The 5th Annual Urban Film Fest will be held from 11 to 18 November; on 11 November at the Roxie Theater you can see a short film directed by Mischa Hedges about the 21 January 2017 Women's March – the film features my friend Angela Washington and her daughter Maya, and Angela will be taking part in a panel discussion following the film.
The Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive explores the works of contemporary Romanian filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu from 8 to 16 November; Porumboiu will appear in person at many of the films.