And we're off into 2017!
ACT presents On Beckett starring Bill Irwin at the Strand Theater, from 10 to 22 January.
Aurora Theater presents Tom Stoppard's The Real Thing, directed by Timothy Near, from 27 January to 26 February.
Cutting Ball Theater presents Ibsen's Hedda Gabler, translated by Paul Walsh and directed by Yury Urnov, who did their wonderful Ubu Roi a few years ago; Hedda will be doing it beautifully (well, urging others to do it beautifully) from 19 January to 26 February.
Theater Rhinoceros presents Gertrude Stein and a Companion by Win Wells, directed by Kathryn L. Wood and John Fisher, at the Eureka Theater from 28 December 2016 to 8 January 2017.
Shotgun Players is continuing to run the season in repertory through the month.
West Edge Opera is starting a program called Snapshot, featuring excerpts from new operas-in-progress. There will be two concerts, one this month and the other in February; each will feature four excerpts. This month you can sample Famous (music by David Conte, libretto by John Stirling Walker), Why I Live at the PO (music by Stephen Eddins, libretto by Michael O'Brien, based I assume on the story by the great Eudora Welty), Hagar and Ishmael (music by William David Cooper, libretto by Will Dunlap), and Afterword (music and libretto by Alden Jenks). Each program will be performed twice, and you can hear this first one on 21 January at the David Brower Center in Berkeley or on 22 January at the Bayview Opera House in San Francisco. I'm not familiar with the SF venue, but I have been to the Berkeley venue, and am delighted that it is public-transportation friendly, and I wish West Edge would follow its own example and switch its regular season to a venue that does not require a car (though lack of public transportation access is just one of the problems with the abandoned train station in Oakland, their summertime venue). No word yet (at least none that has reached my ear) on singers, but the instrumentalists will be drawn from Earplay, the awesome local new-music ensemble, and led by Earplay Principal Conductor Mary Chun and West Edge Music Director Jonathan Khuner.
There's another new opera this month, and it will receive a piano / vocal workshop production at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music: Mary Pleasant at Land's End, "an historical drama set in Barbary Coast San Francisco," with music by David Garner to a libretto by Mark Hernandez, conducted by Ian Robertson. That's 14 January and it is free.
Nicholas McGegan leads Philharmonia Baroque in a program featuring violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock in the Mozart Violin Concerto 5, the Turkish. The band will also play Haydn's Symphony 91, along with a (possibly) interesting rarity, a Haydn-influenced symphony by his contemporary Adalbert Gyrowetz. You can hear the concert on 25 January at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, 27 January at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 28 January at First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, or 29 January at the Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church in Lafayette.
Joana Carneiro leads the Berkeley Symphony in the Cello Concerto by Mason Bates with soloist Joshua Roman and the Beethoven 4 in Zellerbach Hall on 26 January. UPDATE: Carneiro is pregnant and under doctor's advice not to travel, so she has withdrawn from this engagement and Christian Reif will conduct in her place. Best wishes to both of them.
The big attraction over at the San Francisco Symphony is the semi-staged performance of Das klagende Lied / The Song of Lamentation (the all-Mahler program also includes Blumine and the Lieder eines fahrendren Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer)), led by Michael Tilson Thomas and directed by the reliably awesome James Darrah. The enticing soloists are soprano Joélle Harvey, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, tenor Michael König, and baritone Brian Mulligan. Performances are 13 - 15 January (the 15th is a matinee).
James Gaffigan returns to the San Francisco Symphony to conduct Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, Prokofiev's Violin Concerto 2 (with soloist Simone Lamsma), the Mozart 36 (the Linz), and the Dance of the Seven Veils from Strauss's Salome. That's 19 - 22 January (the 22nd is a matinee).
The week after (26 - 28 January), Lionel Bringuier conducts the San Francisco Symphony in Kodály's Dances of Galánta, Ravel's Piano Concerto in G major (with soloist Jean-Yves Thibaudet), and the Beethoven 4.
On 29 January, the San Francisco Symphony presents the Prague Philharmonia, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume, in a program featuring Vltava (The Moldau) from Má Vlast (My Homeland) by Smetana, the Dvořák Cello Concerto (with soloist Gautier Capuçon), and the Dvořák 8.
San Francisco Performances presents The Bad Plus at Herbst Theater on 21 January.
Not sure quite where to put this, but jazz seems as capacious a category as any: Cal Performances presents Kodo, percussionists in the ancient tradition of Japanese taiko drumming. That's on 28 - 29 January in Zellerbach Hall.
San Francisco Performances presents the Telegraph Quartet playing Webern, Berg, and Schubert at Herbst Theater on 31 January. This is SFP's annual concert featuring the previous year's Naumburg Competition winner.
Old First Concerts presents the Farallon Quintet on 13 January, when they will perform two world premieres, Alice Etudes by Gregory Vajda and The Integrity of Clouds by Joseph Sowa, along with Jean Francaix's Quintet.
On 15 January, Old First Concerts presents the Berkeley Choro Ensemble, which specializes in a traditional Brazilian style that combines European classical with native and Afro-Brazilian musical styles.
Old First Concerts presents the Ives Collective in an all-Beethoven program on 29 January.
Piano / Violin
Cal Performances presents Emanuel Ax playing Schubert and Chopin in Zellerbach Hall on 22 January.
The San Francisco Symphony presents famed violinist Itzhak Perlman with pianist Rohan De Silva at Davies Hall on 16 January in a program of Vivaldi, Beethoven, Schumann, and Stravinsky.
Early / Baroque Music
Cal Performances presents Jordi Savall and Hespêrion XXI in a program "exploring Venetian influences in musical Europe between 1500 and 1700"; that's on 27 January. Usually this group performs in First Congregational, which it always sells out; due to the recent fire in the church, the concert has been relocated. The good news is that therefore tickets are available; the bad news is that the performance is in Zellerbach Hall, not a venue conducive to intimacy and early strings.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents House of Time in Imaginary Theater: Stage Music by Handel and Rameau. as arranged for the ensemble by the group's oboist Gonzalo X. Ruiz. You can hear the results on 20 January at St Mark's Episcopal in Palo Alto, 21 January at St John's Presbyterian in Berkeley, or 22 January at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.
Old First Concerts presents MUSA in a lovely looking program of French baroque pieces on 22 January.
Modern / Contemporary Music
Cal Performances presents Ensemble Signal with conductor Brad Lubman in an all-Steve Reich program, including the US premiere of Runner, a Cal Performances co-commission; that's in Hertz Hall on 29 January.
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players present a modernist classic, Ligeti's Chamber Concerto, along with Kate Soper's Door, Michael Pisaro's ricefall, and the premiere of Richard Festinger's Careless Love, which SFCMP commissioned. The website gives full details on the performers, but does not mention who wrote the words for Careless Love and Door (presumably there are words, as the Festinger features baritone Daniel Cilli and the Soper soprano Amy Foote). All will presumably be revealed at the concert on 20 January at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
In addition to accompanying West Edge Opera's Snapshot programs, Earplay will present its first concert of its season: entitled Air, it will feature works by Peter Josheff, Tonia Ko, Elena Ruhr, Laurie San Martin, and Toru Takemitsu (the latter is this season's focus composer). Mary Chun leads the ensemble on 30 January at Herbst Theater.
The San Francisco Ballet presents its first two programs this season: Program 1 runs 24 January to 4 February and includes Haffner Symphony (choreography by Helgi Tomasson to Mozart's symphony), Fragile Vessels (Jiří Bubeníček to music by Rachmaninov), and In the Countenance of Kings (Justin Peck to music by Sufjan Stevens, orchestrated by Michael P Atkinson); Program 2 runs 26 January to 5 February and includes Seven Sonatas (choreography by Alexei Ratmansky to Domenico Scarlatti), Optimistic Tragedy (Yuri Possokhov to music by Ilya Demutsky), and Pas / Parts 2016 (William Forsythe to music by Thom Willems).
You have until 29 January to catch the Le Nain Brothers show at the Legion of Honor. The Asian Art Museum's exhibit exploring the Rama Epic runs until 15 January. Both shows are worth visiting, or re-visiting.