September is the traditional start of the performing arts season, so there's a lot going on:
The Exit Theater hosts the San Francisco Fringe Festival from 5 to 14 September – check the schedule and take a chance!
42nd Street Moon launches its season with a concert performance of the Peter Stone / Maury Yeston Titanic, directed by Daren AC Carollo and conducted by Daniel Thomas, at the Alcazar Theater on 7 - 8 September, followed by Hot Mikado, David H Bell and Rob Bowman's jazzy adaptation of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic, directed and choreographed by Jeffrey Polk with Dave Dobrusky as music director, at the Gateway Theater from 25 September to 13 October.
Prepare to swashbuckle at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward as they present Ken Ludwig's adaptation of The Three Musketeers from 12 to 29 September.
Crowded Fire Theater presents the west coast premiere of Christina Anderson's Inked Baby, directed by Lisa Marie Rollins, at the Potrero Stage from 12 September to 5 October.
Z Space and Word for Word co-present Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, directed by Delia MacDougall and Jim Cave, from 12 September to 12 October at Z Space in San Francisco.
Berkeley Rep has two plays opening this month: the American premiere of The Great Wave by Francis Turnly, directed by Mark Wing-Davey, runs at the Roda Theatre from 12 September to 27 October; and the west coast premiere of White Noise by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Jaki Bradley, runs at Peet's Theatre from 26 September to 10 November – I'll go see anything by Parks, so this is good news for me.
Ray of Light Theater presents Caroline, or Change (music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Tony Kushner), directed by Jenn BeVard with music director David Möschler, at the Victoria Theater in San Francisco from 13 September to 5 October.
Cal Shakes in Orinda (there is a shuttle from the Orinda BART station) presents Macbeth, directed by Victor Malana Maog, from 18 September to 13 October.
Cutting Ball Theater opens its 21st season this month, and the good news is that it is bookended by offerings from talented local writers; the bad news (for me) is that both are doing versions of plays I would very happily never see again in any form – Megan Cohen is adapting Strindberg's Miss Julie and Melissa Skudlarek Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac. (And the really bad news is that Titus Andronicus has dropped off the schedule.) Cohen's offering, Free for All, developed with and directed by Cutting Ball Artistic Director Ariel Craft, stars Stacy Ross and Philip Wong and runs from 19 September to 20 October.
Caryl Churchill's Top Girls, directed by Tamilla Woodard, comes to ACT's Geary Theater from 19 September to 13 October.
At Shotgun Players, Annie Baker's The Flick runs until 22 September, but the Champagne Staged Reading Series takes over on 23 and 24 September, when in conjunction with the Ubuntu Theatre Project they will present good friday by Kristiana Rae Colón.
The Fasting Girls, a new puppet play written by Amanda Jane Shank and directed by Alexis Macnab, plays at Z Space's Z Below from 27 to 29 September.
Custom Made Theater presents Alex Timbers & Michael Friedman's Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, directed by Brian Katz and with music direction by Armando Fox, from 27 September to 27 October.
The San Francisco Opera opens its fall season with Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, starring Bryan Hymel and Nadine Sierra and conducted by Yves Abel, on 13, 18, 21, 24, 29 September and 1 October (for that final performance, Pene Pati and Amina Edris will sing the lovers); there is also a performance on 6 September but be forewarned that is Opening Night and should be avoided unless that's your thing. There will be a simulcast of the 21 September performance at the beautiful ballpark of the San Francisco Giants; it's free but registration is strongly advised.
San Francisco Opera also revives Britten's Billy Budd (libretto by E M Forster based on Melville's short novel), with John Chest as Billy making his SF Opera debut along with William Burden as Captain Vere and Christian Van Horn as Claggart; Lawrence Renes conducts. Performances are 7, 12, 15, 17, 20, and 22 September.
Lieder Alive! offers two concerts this month, both at Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco: on 1 September, soprano Sarah Cambidge joins pianist Peter Grünberg in Strauss's Four Last Songs along with works by Wagner, and on 29 September Grünberg teams with baritone Eugene Villanueva for works by Schubert, Mahler, and Tosti.
Pianist Mike Greensill and vocalist Denise Perrier will explore the American Songbook at Old First Concerts on 1 September.
Opera Parallèle presents tenor William Burden and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade (with special guests soprano Christabel Nunoo and dancer Brett Conway) and pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi in recital on 19 September at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Cappella Romana sings traditional Byzantine chants in Greek and English inspired by Mary at the foot of her son's cross on 14 September at St Ignatius in San Francisco.
Chanticleer sings of Trade Winds in a program that ranges widely, from folk music of the Pacific Islands to contemporary works by Chen Yi and Zhou Tian to early music by Monteverdi, Gesualdo, Victoria, and Filipe de Magalhaes; the chorus will also be ranging widely through the Bay Area from 15 to 19 September with this program, with one San Francisco performance and others in Sausalito, Santa Clara, San Rafael, Pleasanton, and Sacramento.
Michael Tilson Thomas is entering his final season as Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony, and he's revisiting his favorites throughout the year, starting with the Mahler 6 on 12 - 15 September; other familiar names follow, with the world premiere of I Still Dance by John Adams along with the Schumann 3, the Rhenish, and the Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 4 with soloist Daniil Trifonov on 19 - 22 September; and the month closes out with the Haydn Cello Concerto 2 with soloist Oliver Herbert along with three Stravinsky pieces (the Canticum Sacrum with tenor Nicholas Phan and the Symphony Chorus, the Symphony of Psalms, and the Symphony in Three Movements) on 26 - 28 September.
Music Director Dawn Harms leads the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in their fall concert on 14 September at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, featuring Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel Overture, the Amy Beach Piano Concerto with soloist Daniel Glover, and the Shostakovich 10.
One Found Sound has two events this month: an evening of yoga (no prior experience necessary) to live music on 12 September, and a program featuring works by Bach, Ives, and Mendelssohn on 27 September.
New Century Chamber Orchestra kicks off its season under Music Director Daniel Hope with music from the turn of the 19th century by Elgar, Christian Sinding, Massenet, Schoenberg, Richard Strauss, and Chausson (the latter featuring guest violinist and concert master Simos Papanas and pianist Maxim Lando), and that's 26 September at First Congregational in Berkeley, 28 September at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 29 September at the Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael (the last performance is a matinee but I am delighted to see that the start times for the two evening concerts have been moved up to 7:30).
Tangonero (violinist Yuri Kye, pianist Celeste Chiam, double bassist Richard Duke,with Alex Roitman on bandoneon and vocals by Claudio Ortega), will perform Piazzolla's Ausencias at Old First Concerts on 8 September.
The San Francisco Symphony Chamber Music Series kicks off on 29 September with a matinee in Davies Hall featuring works by André Previn, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, Ron Minor, and Antonin Dvořák.
Early / Baroque Music
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents the Costanoan Trio (Cynthia Black, violin; Frédéric Rosselet, cello; Derek Tam, fortepiano) in The Harmonious Four, the four in question being Haydn, Mozart, Clementi, and Beethoven; you can hear them 20 September at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 21 September at St John's Presbyterian in Berkeley, and 22 September at Church of the Advent in San Francisco.
The Cantata Collective returns to St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley on 29 September with another free performance of Bach cantatas (this time it's BWV 61 and BWV 131), with soprano Christine Brandes, alto Dan Cromeenes, tenor Brian Thorsett, and bass Nikolas Nackley.
Modern / Contemporary Music
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players opens its season with a site-specific work by Bang on a Can founding composer Michael Gordon; the site in question is the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason, looking towards Angel Island, and the work, Oceanic Migrations, takes immigration to the Americas as its theme. The SFCMP is joined by vocal octet Roomful of Teeth and wind quintet Splinter Reeds for this 14 September performance; there is a related installation in the Immigration Station Barracks on Angel Island from 11 - 14 September and if you bring your Angel Island ticket you can get free admission to the concert.
Roomful of Teeth and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players join up again, along with special guests Alicia Hall Moran and Isaiah Robinson, perform Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), a Cal Performances co-commission exploring the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, with music by Bryce Dessner and a libretto by Korde Arrington Tuttle (featuring words by Essex Hemphill and Patti Smith), directed by Brad Wells, in Zellerbach Hall on 28 September.
On 28 September, as part of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music's Kick-Off Weekend, the SFCM's new music ensemble, led by Nicole Paiement, will perform works by Messiaen, Takemitsu, Laura Schwendinger, and John Luther Adams; the concert is free but reservations are recommended.
It's always a good idea to check the Center for New Music's calendar frequently, as it is updated regularly; some things that catch my eye in the current listings for this month are: Animals & Giraffes improvising in response to Annabeth Rosen’s ceramic sculptures (this one is offsite, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, where Rosen's pieces are on display) on 19 September; Colin Martin premiering new works on 20 September; dancer Christina Braun performing Deep States with Tom Nunn on original experimental instruments on 21 September; Harutyun Chkolyan playing Armenian music on the duduk on 25 September; and new music collective Dirt and Copper on 27 September; you may also attend CNM's 7th birthday party on 28 September, if you'd like to celebrate them and maybe give them some money so they can keep on keeping on.
Keyboards & Strings
On 13 September at Old First Concerts pianist Omri Shimron will explore the idea of transformation through works by Bach, Philip Glass, Schubert, and Menachem Weisenberg.
ZOFO (pianists Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi) celebrates its 10th anniversary on 15 September at Old First Concerts, when the duo will perform world premieres by Carl Vine, Kurt Rohde, and Erberk Ervilmaz, along with ZOFO commissions by Gabriella Smith and Robert Greenberg and arrangements by ZOFO of works by Frank Martin and Maurice Ravel.
Jonathan Biss comes back to Hertz Hall and Cal Performances on 21 and 22 September with the first two concerts in a seven-concert series covering all of Beethoven's piano sonatas.
On 20 September Old First Concerts presents Cello++ (violinists Liana Bérubé and Yuri Kye, violist Aaron Rosengaus, and cellists Brady Anderson and Michelle Kwon) in works by Schubert and Arensky.
On 22 September pianist Laura Magnani will perform works by Domenico Scarlatti, Beethoven, Schubert, Debussy, Gershwin, and Prokofiev at Old First Concerts.
San Francisco Performances opens its fortieth season with classical pianist Natasha Paremski and jazz pianist Alfredo Rodriguez combining their approaches to play music by Prokofiev, Ravel, and Balakirev on 27 September in Herbst Theater.
Elise S Haas: Building a Modern Art Collection, featuring many of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art's prized works, opens 24 August at SFMOMA and runs until 27 October.
The Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) has four shows opening on 4 September: Africa State of Mind (running until 15 November), which is the only US presentation of a touring exhibit exploring the work of young photographers from across Africa who are exploring the idea of Africa; The Sacred Star of Isis and Other Stories (running until 15 November), which features photographs by Adama Delphine Fawundu exploring her family's traditional Mende (from Sierra Leone) beliefs and her life as an American child; Against the End of History (running until 15 November), a solo exhibit by DeShawn Dumas which uses painting, video, and monochromes to explore the lasting effects of slavery (among other issues); and video works by Rashaad Newsome (running until 1 March 2020) exploring Harlem's queer ballroom scene.
At the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive there are several interesting-looking film series: Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace returns, with four showings of each of its four parts, from 1 to 27 September; Alternative Visions, the PFA's annual series of avant-garde and artist-made films, runs from 4 September to 13 November; Out of the Vault: Native American Reelism (which includes among its three programs The Silent Enemy, a silent film made in collaboration with Native American actors), runs from 12 September to 14 November; and No Regrets: A Celebration of Marlon Riggs, runs from 19 September to 25 November;
The Mark Morris Dance Group returns to Cal Performances with a reprise of Mozart Dances on 20-22 September in Zellerbach Hall.