03 November 2015

fun stuff I may or may not get to: November 2015

There's kind of an overwhelming number of things going on this month, with a lot of problematic conflicts. But I am glad that at last we have some autumnal weather. What better way to celebrate the beautiful chill in the air than by walking home through it late at night after a wonderful live performance?

Aurora Theater presents The Monster-Builder by Amy Freed, directed by Art Manke. My recollection from the season announcement is that this is a comic take on Ibsen's Master Builder, though the website doesn't make that clear. Performances start 6 November and run through 6 December. You may buy tickets on the website, but since they don't allow you to pick your own seat you may be better off calling 510-843-4822 from Tuesday through Friday between 1:00 and 5:00.

Incidentally I just saw the Wallace Shawn/Andre Gregory/Jonathan Demme A Master Builder and it's a powerhouse. Shawn did make a significant structural change which I won't give away but I ended up being OK with it, though at first I thought it might simplify things too much. Highly recommended! Or, instead of listening to me, you could listen to the person on Netflix who said, "This was a terrible movie. I won't not waste [sic] my time watching it. I feel all the people in the movie were crazy. It is not worth rating but will give it a one [sic] star."

San Francisco Playhouse presents Stage Kiss, a back-stage drama by Sarah Ruhl, directed by Susi Damilano. That runs 17 November to 9 January 2016.

At Shotgun Players, Aphra Behn's The Rover continues until 15 November (and just as I posted this, I received the message that the show has been extended to 21 November). And as part of their reading series, on 9 - 10 November they present The Mechanics of Love by Dipika Guha, directed by Beth Wilmurt. This is a switch from the play previously scheduled for this slot, Penelope Skinner's The Village Bike, which is now being done as a full-scale production next season. (Honestly, though: to me, The Mechanics of Love sounds like a more interesting play. I think a lot about how upcoming shows are presented to us, and what makes some appealing to me and others not. It's all such a strange and shifting thing. Obviously everything is meant to sound enticing, but more often than not I'll read a description and think nope. Sometimes it's just that everything is laid out in a line or two and I know just what to expect – for instance anytime a character is described as being "not what she seems" – possibly she's not, but too often she's exactly what I expect. . . Enticing people is a tricky art, prone to inevitable failure. This may be especially true for me because I'm not really big on "plot" or "social issues" and that's often what people go for. Years ago I attempted to describe to a friend the "plot", such as it is, of The Magic Flute, and he finally said, "Patrick, you're not really selling me on this." I was mildly stunned, because it had never occurred to me that anyone would need to be sold on the Magic Flute – I mean, it's Mozart, right? – and if I had realized I had to do that, I would have avoided the plot almost altogether.)

Speaking of readings, Cutting Ball Theater's Hidden Classics Reading Series presents Racine's Phèdre, directed by Ariel Craft, on 8 November at 1:00. You may get a ticket here. Like the San Francisco Opera, Cutting Ball has a new website which has lots of white space and attractive pictures but not so much in the way of easily accessed and useful information. If there's a way to find the Hidden Classics series on the website, I couldn't find it, and I wouldn't have known about the reading if they hadn't sent out an e-mail.

The Douglas Morrisson Theater in Hayward presents Love's Labor's Lost, a musical by Michael Friedman and Alex Timbers, based on the play by Shakespeare, directed by Lisa Tromovitch. It runs 5 to 29 November.

The sixth season of the SF Olympians Festival runs 4 - 21 November (Wednesdays through Sundays) at the Exit Theater. Each night features a brand-new play (or plays) based on a theme from Greek mythology; the theme this year is The Wine-Dark Sea. You can check out the full schedule here. Every year I vow to make it to this festival and every year I miss it (I tend to be already booked on weekends and increasingly reluctant to go to week night shows that don't even start until 8:00.) I'm hoping this will be the year the stars align for me and the Olympians.

Cal Performances presents the Rude Mechs in Stop Hitting Yourself, 19 -22 November in the Zellerbach Playhouse.

Mummenschanz returns to Cal Performances on 27 - 29 November (all performances are matinees) in Zellerbach Hall.

Here's a great way to celebrate Veterans Day (11 November): head to the War Memorial Veterans Building in Civic Center and attend the Heroes' Voices Veterans Concert. Heroes' Voices is an organization that uses music to help returning vets handle the multiple physical and psychological stresses from their service and their re-entry into civilian life. Performers include Pete Escovedo and his Latin Ensemble, OSA Vocal Rush, and the Heroes' Voices Bluegrass Band. The concert is free for vets, who may request vouchers on or before 8 November here. Others may buy tickets here.

Paul Flight conducts Chora Nova in two works by Haydn: the Lord Nelson Mass and the Autumn section of The Seasons. The soloists will be soprano Jennifer Paulino, alto Gabriela Estephanie Solis, and baritone Jeff Fields. That's 21 November at First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley (at the corner of Dana and Channing).

Volti presents new choral music, featuring works by composer Amy Beth Kirsten as well as Forrest Pierce, Stacy Garrop, and Žibuoklė MartinaitytėThat's 7 November at the Piedmont Center for the Arts and 8 November at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.

Ragnar Bohlin leads Cappella SF in Songs for the Earth, music celebrating and exploring our relation to the natural world. That's 7 November at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.

Modern/New Music
The Ensemble Intercontemporain visits Cal Performances on 6 - 7 November, with a different program each night.

If you want to get an early start on Christmas, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is offering an evening of new Christmas carols by American composers, in conjunction with the release of a new CD, December Celebration. Composers include Mark Adamo, Jake Heggie, Joan Morris & William Bolcom, David Garner, and Gordon Getty; and performers include soprano Lisa Delan, baritone Bruce Rameker, Volti, members of the New Century Chamber Orchestra, and pianist Steven Bailey. The concert is 20 November and it's free but reservations are required, and you can get them here.

See also Volti's concert under Choral and Jennifer Koh/Shai Wosner under Chamber Music. And as always you can find lots of intriguing stuff listed at the Center for New Music.

San Francisco Opera has a revamped website. I do not feel it is an improvement on the old one, unless you've been longing for fewer words and bigger pictures that all load very slowly. My immediate impression is that it's more difficult to find information that might actually be useful, like what is playing when and who's in it. Anyway: the big item this month is Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. Years ago I read Fr Owen Lee's short book on this opera, and he makes a powerful case for the work, though it has always been my least favorite of Wagner's works. I feel that if I'm going to sit in a theater for over five hours, the end needs to give me something like the Universe burning down rather than a hymn to Holy German Art. The San Francisco cast, though, looks particularly strong, with Greer Grimsley, Brandon Jovanovich, Sasha Cooke, and Alek Shrader, conducted by Mark Elder (since I typed out that sentence, Grimsley has had to drop out for medical reasons and James Rutherford has stepped up as our Hans Sachs). Performances are 18, 21, 24, and 27 November and 2 and 6 (matinee) December. Evening performances start at 6:00 and the matinee at 1:00. I know scheduling can be tricky, but it seems odd to me that there is only one matinee for an opera that is notoriously long.

In conjunction with these performances, the Wagner Society of Northern California is presenting an all-day symposium on Die Meistersinger, featuring Evan Baker, Scott Foglesong, Arthur Colman, and Simon Williams. That will be 21 November at the Jewish Community Center on California Street. The entrance fee includes lunch. The Society's Symposia are always interesting and fun. You can find out more here.

The Magic Flute also continues at SF Opera, and Il Barbiere di Siviglia starts up at the end of the month. Daniela Mack is in Barbiere; I liked her a lot in Partenope last year.

Baroque / Early Music
Richard Egarr leads Philharmonia Baroque in Brandenburg Concertos 1, 3, 4, and 5 on November 12 (San Francisco), 13 (Stanford), 14 and 15 (Berkeley).

I'm sticking this next event under Baroque/Early Music because it always gets referred to as Janet Cardiff's The Forty Part Motet and I think Thomas Tallis deserves at least some of the credit, because the forty-part motet is his massive masterpiece Spem in alium. What Cardiff cleverly did is arrange a recording so that individual voices come out of forty elevated speakers arranged in a circle. On one of my sadly infrequent trips to New York City I was at the Museum of Modern Art and I heard something I never expected to hear there: Renaissance choral music. I thought, that sounds like Spem in alium! and I wandered over and spent some time in the installation. It's pretty remarkable. You can stand right next to each speaker and hear the individual voices, or stand in the middle and hear them all, or walk around and notice which parts rise and fall in prominence. Even if you're lucky enough to attend a live performance you can't do these things, especially the one about standing very close to each singer while he or she is singing. Unfortunately I saw it at MOMA's clunky, sterile renovated building, but our own SF MOMA (no relation) is presenting it at the Fort Mason Center, which is sort of out of the way but in an attractive seafront locale once you get there. Advanced tickets are free and recommended by the museum. You can find out more here.

The San Francisco Early Music Society presents The Baltimore Consort in a Shakespeare-themed concert called The Food of Love, featuring songs from the plays and related music. You can catch them on 20 November in Palo Alto, 21 November at St John's Presbyterian in Berkeley, or 22 November at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.

The Oakland Symphony presents Lost Romantics on 13 November at the Paramount. The program features Stokowski's arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, Mendelssohn's Piano Concerto 1 with soloist Llewelyn Sanchez-Werner, arias by Offenbach and Lehar with tenor Brent Turner, and Danish composer Victor Bendix's Symphony No 3 from 1895. Nice to see some of the less-explored corners of the symphonic repertory getting an airing.

At the San Francisco Symphony, Michael Tilson Thomas leads two works by Sibelius – The Swan of Tuonela and the Violin Concerto with soloist Leonidas Kavakos – along with Schumann's Rhenish Symphony, on 13 - 15 November. Tilson Thomas also conducts Schumann's Spring Symphony, along with Richard Strauss's Serenade and Brentano Lieder (with soloist Laura Claycomb) on 19 - 22 November.

Chamber Music
Violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Shai Wosner present the first two of their four Bridge to Beethoven concerts, presented by San Francisco Performances in newly renovated Herbst Theater. They will perform Beethoven's ten sonatas for violin and piano, along with new pieces designed to reflect on or connect with the Beethoven. For the first concert, on 4 November, they will play Beethoven's Op 12, No 1 in D Major and the Kreutzer sonata, followed by Vijay Iyer's Bridgetower Fantasy in conversation with Kreutzer. For the second concert, on 7 November, they will play Beethoven's Op 23 in A Minor; Op 12, No 2 in A Major; and the Spring Sonata, along with Jörg Widmann's Sommersonate. The third and fourth concerts are in March and April; more information may be found here.

Cal Performances presents violinist Leila Josefowicz and pianist John Novacek in a program of Falla, Messiaen, Schumann, Erkki-Sven Tuür, and John Adams; that's on 8 November.

The Danish String Quartet visits Cal Performances on 22 November with a program of Adès, Haydn, and Beethoven.

San Francisco Performances presents the second of Anonymous 4's two farewell concerts; this one commemorates the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War with a program of American music; that's 15 November at St Mark's Lutheran.

San Francisco Performances and the San Francisco Symphony co-present Leif Ove Andsnes, playing works by Sibelius, Beethoven, Debussy, and Chopin; that's 18 November in Davies Hall.

Sarah Cahill and violinist Stuart Canin play Brahms, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and other works at Old First Concerts on 13 November.

San Francisco Performances and the Yerba Buena Center present the Akram Khan Company in Kaash, 20 - 21 November at the YBCA Theater.

The Alonzo King LINES Ballet performs in collaboration with singer Lisa Fischer at the Yerba Buena Center from 6 to 15 November.


Civic Center said...

Father Owen Lee? I haven't heard that name in many years. Just checked Wikipedia and found out he's still alive at age 85. As for "Meistersinger," I've never been so excruciatingly bored by an opera in my entire life and have still not made it through the piece in one sitting. I even appeared once in the 1990s as a supernumerary for the "midnight riot" in the second act and as a happy burgher in the third act, which was F---ING interminable. I thought I was going to pass out and fall asleep on stage, and I was surrounded by the great young Ben Heppner and Karita Mattila, so it wasn't the cast. Of course, I am not as wise as Father Owen Lee, so maybe one day I will understand the genius of this work about High Holy German Art defending itself against all those "foreign" influences.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

So . . . you'll be there opening night?

I've read (from some reliable source -- possibly even Fr Lee) that Wagner wanted to cut that "holy German art" number at the end, but that the (non-German) Cosima insisted that he leave it in. I think we also need to remember (though I need to doublecheck the chronology of this) that Germany was not a unified state at the time -- I mean, we're coming at the whole thing from the other side of history.

But I can't say I'm disagreeing with your assessment. I'm trying to decide if I should give it another shot.

Civic Center said...

In truth it's not really the worship of Holy German Art that puts me off this work, it's the fact that it's an elephantine five-hour-plus oxymoronic German Comedy. And I think Hans Sachs is a bully.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Yes -- to me, comedy needs to be swifter, though Nozze di Figaro is quite lengthy (but then, it doesn't make me laugh). Hans Sachs is a tricky role, and last time I saw Meistersinger, with James Morris, I can see why you'd call him a bully. He's one of those characters like the Marschallin in Rosenkavalier whose wisdom can come across as snotty condescension unless there's a powerful actor expressing other emotions.

I've also spoken to at least one person who was irritated that Eva has to marry whoever wins the contest, no matter what that tenor looks or acts like.