05 July 2016

fun stuff I may or may not get to: July 2016

A dyspeptic entry this month, which is possibly a coincidence and possibly related to a number of annoying trends, most of them involving bad websites, inconvenient locations, odd times, the idea that art exists as an excuse for noisy parties, and various other nuisances that I complain about regularly.

The last few performances of the San Francisco Opera's season go into the early days of July, but the Opera's new website is such a mess I'll leave you to figure out what's going on, if you're interested. Dear SF Opera: for the love of God, would you please put a regular calendar, with an obvious link, back on your awful site? And maybe restore the front-page list of the season's operas, with a link to each, the way you used to have them, before you decided it was much more important to have huge slow-loading garish photos of wankers drinking from champagne flutes than it was to provide easy access to basic information about the season?

The Merola program starts up this month as well. Don't even waste your time trying to find any information on the Opera's perplexing website; I'll make things easy for you and give you the link right here. The annual Schwabacher summer concert, featuring opera excerpts, takes place 7 and 9 July at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and the first of the two summer operas, Conrad Susa's Transformations, to a libretto by Anne Sexton, will take place 21 and 23 July, also at the Conservatory of Music.

West Edge Opera continues its streak of presenting wonderful repertory at inconvenient times and locations; we're back to the abandoned train station in Oakland and 8:00 start times (there are also some matinees). Their website gives directions to the train station, but all of them assume that you have a car, as well as some interest in wandering around the abandoned train station district of Oakland late at night. Last year I think there was a shuttle from a BART station but it looks as if there isn't even that this year, so unless you can hitch a ride – well, good luck. (I should perhaps mention that a kind friend has offered to drive me to the performances she's going to, so I'm complaining here on general principle: thought should be given to non-drivers.) At least this year some of the seats are reserved so you might be spared the added irritation of open seating. This year's program is Thomas Adès's Powder Her Face (matinees on 31 July and 6 August and an evening performance on 13 August), Janáček's The Cunning Little Vixen (30 July, matinees on 7 and 13 August), and Handel's Agrippina (6 and 12 August and a matinee on 14 August). And I'd have subscribed to a season like that in a snap if it were offered at a time and place that were more easily manageable for a non-driver who has to work for a living.

Visual Arts
There's an enticing exhibit at the Asian Art Museum: Emperors' Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, featuring more than 150 objects from the former imperial collection. The show runs from 17 June to 18 September. I used to love to go to the museum on Thursday nights, when it was open late. Then, unfortunately, the Museum decided that Thursday nights should not only be cut back drastically (no more late Thursdays during what passes for winter around here), but they should be trashed with obnoxious parties. After fleeing a few of these thumpingly noisy annoyances (there was no escape, even in the farthest reaches of the building) I let my membership lapse and the Asian Art Museum pretty much dropped off my radar. So choose your visiting time carefully if you make the effort. Their website does have a Thursday warning page, complete with cringe-inducing prose with a tech-sector slant ("mingle with innovators" – ugh, no thanks, I really just wanted to look at art), so you can avoid the more egregiously offensive evenings. I also let my membership in the DeYoung / Legion of Honor lapse because the DeYoung's Friday night late hours were similarly trashed. I have no idea why becoming a third-rate nightclub has suddenly become the beau ideal of local arts groups. Perhaps there simply aren't enough people who are actually interested in, you know, experiencing art.

Modern / Contemporary Music
The sfSoundFestival has a wonderful series of concerts from 8 to 10 July, all at inconvenient times in a possibly inconvenient location (the Gray Area Grand Theater at 2665 Mission – no idea if this is near a BART station; the website doesn't seem to have a section on "how to get here" though they do have an "Incubator" section, which sent me screaming into the night, because techtalk seems to have infected everything around here). The only place I've seen this series mentioned is on Iron Tongue of Midnight, so check it out there and I tip my hat (once again) to Lisa Hirsch for posting the information.

San Francisco Playhouse presents the satirical noir musical City of Angels (music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by David Zippel, book by Larry Gelbart, directed by Bill English) from 6 July to 17 September. The Playhouse does really good work, but . . . they amplify their musicals. Not sure why that's necessary in a fairly small theater. I find it alienating, and it reduces the intimacy of the space. In last season's otherwise generally excellent production of Company, I found all those little mikes taped to the actors' faces really distracting. The Playhouse loves to call itself the Empathy Gym – you go there for your empathy workout – so why are they using steroids for their musicals?

Shotgun Players continues its season with Grand Concourse by Heidi Schreck, directed by Joanie McBrien. That plays from 13 July to 14 August. And I've complained enough for this month – I have nothing but love for the Shotgun players. Go see their Hamlet!


Lisa Hirsch said...

2665 Mission is a block and a half from 24th St. BART.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

thanks, good to know

Eric Pease said...

$6.55 uber ride from West Oakland BART to West Edge Opera train station.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Thanks, good to know. Uber requires a smartphone, though, so you'd need to add in the cost of that. I don't own one and don't plan to. I also am not really wild about supporting Uber.

There are always taxis, of course. I realize that there are ways to get places, even the most dubious venue. There are work-arounds and adjustments for just about anything. For some people, the difficulty is an enticement. For me, it's not. I do think it's preferable to make things as easy as possible for potential attendees.

John Marcher said...

Last year I walked to the train station from BART. Not a bad walk, and I caught a ride home with someone I knew in the audience. Undoubtedly you (meaning Patrick) will know someone in the audience who can give you at least a lift back to the BART station.

Great list this month. Even better commentary.

Patrick J. Vaz said...

Many thanks. Good to know that the station is walkable, though I probably would only do that for matinee performances since I don't know the area at all. Most people I know are as useless as I am when it comes to providing rides, though.