The Silk Road Ensemble returns to Zellerbach Hall on 3 May with Heroes Take Their Stands; created by Ahmad Sadri, with music directors Colin Jacobsen and Kayhan Kalhor, this Cal Performances co-commission is an exploration through music, movement, video, and animation of five heroic figures from different times and cultures.
Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in Bernstein's West Side Story on 10 May at the Paramount Theater.
Custom Made Theater presents Aaron Posner's Life Sucks, described as "sort of adapted" from Chekhov's Uncle Vanya, directed by Brian Katz, from 2 May to 1 June.
Polish troupe Song of the Goat Theatre comes to Cal Performances on 11 - 12 May performing Songs of Lear, an adaptation of King Lear directed by Grzegorz Bral with music by Jean-Claude Acquaviva and Maciej Rychly in Zellerbach Playhouse. Be forewarned that the photos on the website suggest the performers are all amplified.
Shotgun Players presents Kings, written by Sarah Burgess and directed by Joanie McBrien, from 16 May to 16 June.
Ubuntu Theater Project presents Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, directed by Susannah Martin, from 17 May to 9 June; performances will be at the FLAX Building at 1501 Martin Luther King Jr Way in Oakland (walking distance to both the 12th and 19th Street BART stations).
Ray of Light Theater presents American Psycho (music and lyrics by Duncan Sheik, book by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, directed by Jason Hoover with music director Ben Prince and choreographer Leslie Waggoner), from 17 May to 8 June at the Victoria Theater.
Cal Shakes in Orinda opens its season with Shakespeare's beloved A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Tyne Rafaeli; in case you're wondering, Midsummer Night is 24 June, the feast of St John the Baptist, so sadly you will not be able to attend the show on the actual day. as the play runs from 22 May to 16 June.
ACT presents Ionesco's Rhinoceros, translated by Derek Prouse and directed by Frank Galati, from 29 May to 23 June.
There are some operatic events scheduled this month at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music: on 2 and 3 May you can see Later the Same Evening, inspired by five Edward Hopper paintings, with music by John Musto, libretto by Mark Campbell, conducted by Curt Pajer and directed by Heather Mathews (performances are free but reservations are recommended); and on 23 May Music of Remembrance presents their new commissioned piece, The Parting, with music by Tom Cipullo and libretto by David Mason, centered on the last evening the Hungarian poet Miklós Radnóti and his wife Fanni spend before the Nazis send them to the camps. The evening also includes music by three Hungarian composers who were killed by the Nazis: Laszlo Weinger, Sandor Vandor, and Sandor Kuti.
The Wagner Society of Northern California holds its annual celebration of The Master's birthday at St Mark's Lutheran on 25 May (the actual date is 22 May) with a concert by Steven Bailey and Mai-Linh Pham of music by Wagner adapted for piano; a reception will follow.
San Francisco Performances presents soprano Deborah Voigt and pianist Steven Bailey performing Lerner & Loewe, Zemlinsky, Grieg, Mahler, and Cole Porter on 2 May at Herbst Theater.
Lila Downs will be at the SF Jazz Center from 16 to 19 May.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents countertenor Iestyn Davies and lutenist Thomas Dunford, playing works by Dowland, Purcell, and Handel, on 19 May at First Congregational in Berkeley.
Festival Opera presents baritone (and Festival Artistic Director) Zachary Gordin and pianist (and Festival Principal Conductor) Bryan Nies in a recital of songs by Schumann, Reynaldo Hahn, Vaughan Williams, and Jake Heggie, on 28 May at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek (this theater is BART-accessible).
Cappella Romana presents Venice in the East, an exploration of the music of Renaissance-era Crete, on 11 May at St Ignatius in San Francisco.
Clerestory sings American popular songs (back from when they were good) and folk songs on 11 May at Holy Innocents Episcopal in San Francisco and on 12 May at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.
Sacred & Profane celebrates contemporary women composers, including Alice Parker, Libby Larsen, Gabriela Lena Frank, Ysäye Barnwell, Carol Barnett, Tina Andersson, Alissa Firsova, Caroline Mallonée, and Karin Rehnqvist, on 18 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco and on 19 May at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley.
Chora Nova, led by Paul Flight, sings Poulenc's Gloria and the Saint-Saëns Requiem on 25 May at First Congregational in Berkeley.
Early / Baroque Music
Jeffrey Thomas leads the American Bach Soloists in Brandenburgs 2, 4, 5, and 6 on 3 May at St Stephen's in Belvedere, 4 May at First Congregational in Berkeley, 5 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and 6 May at Davis Community Church in Davis.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents Antic Faces, a new group recreating the Elizabethan mixed consort, performing works by Dowland, Byrd, Morley, Phillips, Allison and Coperario, on 10 May at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 11 May at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, and 12 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
Chamber Music SF presents the Archetti Baroque String Ensemble at Herbst Theater on 12 May, when they will play works by Bach, Purcell, Telemann, and Hellendaal.
Cal Performances presents Orlando di Lasso's Lagrime di San Pietro (Tears of Saint Peter), conducted by Grant Gershon and performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in a staging by Peter Sellars, on 17 May in Zellerbach Hall.
Modern / Contemporary Music
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players do their part in the on-going Julius Eastman revival with two different programs at the SF Jazz Center, featuring music by Eastman and music inspired by him: on 10 May you can hear Eastman's Stay on It along with a west coast premiere by LJ White and world premieres by Sidney Corbett and Fernanda Aoki Navarro; on 11 May you can hear Eastman's Gay Guerrilla along with world premieres from Adam Strawbridge, Wyatt Cannon, and Myra Melford.
On 20 May at Herbst Theater Earplay performs a new work (and Earplay commission) by Kyle Hovatter, along with the west coast premiere of Xinyan Li's The Dunhuang Lovers, Tristan Murail's Treize Couleurs du soleil couchant, and Olly Wilson's Piano Trio.
On 31 May Wild Rumpus along with puppeteer Niki Ulehla, will perform scenes from the Russian folktale Vasilisa the Beautiful and Baba Yaga, with music composed by David Coll, Christopher Pratorius, and Yunxiang Gao, at a location yet to be announced.
Wind octet Nomad Session ends its season at the Noe Valley Ministry on 31 May with a program that includes the premiere of Figure Eight by Mario Godoy.
Here's the monthly reminder to check the calendar of the Center for New Music, as it is frequently updated. Some things listed so far that jump out at me: Tongue Depressor & the Matsumoto/Sonnet Duo on 2 May; the showcase for Innova Recordings on 5 May featuring, among others, Volti, the Friction Quartet, and Pamela Z; Icelandic-American cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir performing pieces by four contemporary Icelandic composers on 17 May; Beth Custer's Drawdown on 18 May; and the Black Cedar Trio premiering three commissioned pieces by Javier Contreras, Andre Gueziec, and Victoria Malawey on 30 May.
The Afro-Cuban All-Stars with Juan de Marco visit the SF Jazz Center from 2 to 5 May.
On 10 May Old First Concerts presents pianist and composer Jon Jang and the Jon Jangtet with guest artist poet Genny Lim performing the world premiere of A Chinaman's Chance, A Choy's Chance! (celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad and honoring the Chinese immigrants who helped build it) along with his Yank Sing Work Song and The Butterfly Lover's Song.
The Marcus Shelby Orchestra will be at the SF Jazz Center from 23 to 26 May.
On 2 May in Zellerbach Hall, Guest Conductor Christian Reif leads the Berkeley Symphony in Bizet's Carmen Suite #1, Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier Suite, Dances from Powder Her Face by Thomas Adès, and This Midnight Hour by Anna Clyne (the latter two with the ODC dance company, choreographed by KT Nelson).
Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlán plays Davies Hall on 5 May.
Guest artists the Marcus Roberts Trio join Concertmaster Daniel Hope and the New Century Chamber Orchestra in an all-American program featuring works by Bernstein, along with Barber's Adagio for Strings, Copland's Old American Folk Songs, and Gershwin's Song Suite for Violin and Orchestra (the latter two arranged by Paul Bateman). You can hear the program on 9 May at First Congregational in Berkeley, 10 May at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, 11 May at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and 12 May at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.
The San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, led by Christian Reif, plays the Mahler 1 on 19 May at Davies Hall.
There are concerts of interest at Davies Hall, as the San Francisco Symphony starts the slide into the home stretch: Marek Janowski conducts Mendelssohn's Ruy Blas Overture, the Bruch Violin Concerto 1 with soloist James Ehnes, and Wagner's Overture and Venusberg Music from Tannhäuser plus the Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde on 2 to 4 May; Michael Tilson Thomas conducts Ligeti's Piano Concerto with soloist Pierre-Laurent Aimard, along with Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn, Nocturnes, and La Mer, on 9 to 11 May; MTT returns the next week, 16 to 18 May, to lead the Mahler 7; then the highly praised Krzysztof Urbański arrives from 23 to 25 May to conduct the Elgar Violin Concerto with soloist Vilde Frang, along with an Overture by Grażyna Bacewicz and the Mendelssohn 4, the Italian; then Juraj Valčuha leads us into June with the Shostakovich 8 and the Bach Violin Concerto 2 with Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik as soloist.
The Mellon International Chamber Players (violinist Stephanie Zyzak, cellist Eunghee Cho, and pianist Roger Xia) perform works by Pēteris Vasks, Brhams, and Dvořák on 3 May at Old First Concerts.
Chamber Music SF presents cellist Mischa Maisky and pianist Lily Maisky at Herbst Theater on 4 May, when they will play works by Marcello, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, and Shostakovich.
Old First Concerts presents the Ives Collective performing string sextets by Frank Bridge and Brahms on 5 May.
Chamber Music SF presents the San Francisco debut of the New York Philharmonic String Quartet at Herbst Theater on 9 May, when they will play works by Haydn, Shostakovich, and Brahms.
San Francisco Symphony players Alexander Barantschik (violin), Peter Wyrick (cello), and Anton Nel (piano) play works by Hummel, Ravel, and Schumann on 12 May at Gunn Theater (in the Legion of Honor).
The Bell-Isserlis-Denk Trio (Joshua Bell on violin, Steven Isserlis on cello, and Jeremy Denk on piano) perform works by Mendelssohn, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel in Davies Hall on 12 May.
Keyboards & Strings
Cal Performances presents violinist Michael Barenboim playing works by Tartini, Sciarrino, Paganini, and Berio on 5 May in Zellerbach Hall.
Pianists Sarah Cahill and Regina Myers come to Old First Concerts on 17 May with a music on the theme of social justice, including works by Elinor Armer, Ruby Fulton, Frederic Rzewski, Pauline Oliveros, and a premiere by Sharmi Basu.
Old First Concerts presents pianist Jason Stoll on 19 May, performing works by Mompou, Chopin, Earl Wild, Richard Rodgers via Andy Villemez (Fantasy on Themes from the Sound of Music), Nikolai Kapustin and Gershwin.
Chamber Music SF presents the San Francisco debut of violinist Alexandra Soumm on 19 May, when she will join with pianist Xiayin Wang at Herbst Theater to play music by Stravinsky, Grieg, Saint-Saëns, Bartók, Tchaikovsky, Gershwin, and Ravel.
San Francisco Performances presents the San Francisco debut of pianist Francesco Piemontesi on 21 May at Herbst Theater, where he will play works by Bach, Debussy, and Rachmaninoff.
Pianist Audrey Vardanega plays Beethoven and Brahms for Old First Concerts on 31 May.
San Francisco Performances and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts co-present Dorrance Dance in ETM: Double Down from 9 to 11 May at the YBCA Theater.
Cal Performances presents the US premiere of Eifman Ballet's The Pygmalion Effect, with choreography by Boris Eifman to music by Johann Strauss Jr, from 31 May to 2 June at Zellerbach Hall.
The San Francisco Ballet closes its seasons with a revival of Shostakovich Trilogy (music by, no surprise, Shostakovich and choreography by Alexander Ratmansky) from 7 to 12 May.
ODC Dance hosts the 2019 Walking Distance Dance Festival from 12 to 19 May.
Andy Warhol: From A to B and Back Again opens 19 May at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and runs until 2 September.
The San Francisco Silent Film Festival runs from 1 to 5 May at the lovely period-appropriate Castro Theater, and I assume that it will as usual be a highlight of the year. And they seem to an unusually large number of rarities (meaning ones I've never seen) this year. See you in balcony – just kidding, I sit up close in the movie theater as well.