30 November 2017

Haiku 2017/334

dead leaves glow golden
yellow against bright blue skies
daggers of daylight

29 November 2017

Haiku 2017/333

through afternoon blues
waiting for the orange skies
light's eye-catching end

28 November 2017

fun stuff I may or may not get to: December 2017

So here's some stuff to carry you through the end of 2017, though most of these events, even many of the holiday-related ones, are crammed into the first couple of weeks of December. There's still a lot to see and do to carry you into the next year, which is an artificial construct anyway, but then that's what art is. . . .

After an absence of I think three years, Cal Performances is bringing back The Hard Nut, Mark Morris's profound and masterly version of The Nutcracker. When I describe it to people who haven't seen it, all I tell them is that it's not a parody of the Nutcracker, but it's own thing, and you should take it on its own terms. If you are one of the people who has never seen it, here's your chance: 15 - 24 December at Zellerbach Hall.

The SF Jazz Center has the magnificent Dianne Reeves in a Christmas-themed program from 30 November through 3 December.

Paul Flight leads the California Bach Society in a celebration of Christmas in Poland and the Baltic Countries, which promises some rare works both new and old, from composers such as Mikolaj Zielenski, Arvo Pärt, and Veljo Tormis; you can hear the results on 1 December at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 2 December at All Saints' Episcopal in Palo Alto, and 3 December at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley.

The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players are continuing their annual participatory performance of Phil Kline's Unsilent Night on 9 December at Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco; I haven't been to one of these but have heard lovely things about it, and you can find out more here.

San Francisco Performances presents the male vocal quartet New York Polyphony at St Mark's Lutheran on 3 December in a program called Sing Thee Nowell, featuring works by Philippe Verdelot, Camille Saint-Saëns, Peter Maxwell Davies, Alexander Craig, and others.

Theater of Yugen is reviving A Noh Christmas Carol, which is exactly what it sounds like, except it includes elements of other Japanese theatrical styles, like kabuki and butoh, as well as Noh. I saw this show a couple of times when they first did it years ago, and Dickens's famous Victorian story of ghosts and redemption translates very well into the traditional Japanese forms. If you're looking for a refreshing take on a holiday classic, you can check it out from 1 to 24 December.

Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra in Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, with Zachary Quinto as narrator, on 10 December.

Lacuna Arts Chorale returns to Old First Concerts on 15 December for a program of new choral music for the holidays, including works by Emma Lou Diemar, Morten Lauridsen, Theodore Morrison, Paul Mealor, and Abbie Betinis.

Messiahs & One Christmas Oratorio
Nicholas McGegan leads the forces of Philharmonia Baroque in Messiah, with soloists Yulia Van Doren (soprano), Diana Moore (mezzo-soprano), James Reese (tenor), and Philip Cutlip (baritone), on 8 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 9 December at First Congregational in Berkeley, and 10 December at the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park.

As part of their Great Performers series, the San Francisco Symphony presents Masaaki Suzuki leading the Bach Collegium Japan in Bach's Christmas Oratorio, with soloists Sherezade Panthaki (soprano), Jay Carter (countertenor), Zachary Wilder (tenor), and Dominik Wörner; that's in Davies Hall on 9 December.

Ragnar Bohlin leads the San Francisco Symphony performances of Messiah on 14 - 15 December, with soloists Layla Claire (soprano), Tamara Mumford (mezzo-soprano), Leif Aruhn-Solen (tenor), and Morris Robinson (bass).

And if you have the pipes for it you can also join a Sing-It-Yourself Messiah sponsored by the Golden Gate Symphony and led by Urs Leonhardt Steiner. Please note you'll be singing the choruses, not the whole thing, as they do have soloists: Yi Triplett (soprano), Erin Neff (alto), William Wiggins (tenor), Richard Fey (bass), and Franklin Beau Davis on trumpet, and it's a very nice touch that they list the trumpeter among the soloists. That's 11 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and on 17 - 18 December there is the pub crawl version, at respectively the Southern Pacific Brewing Company and The Homestead in San Francisco.

American Bach Soloists gives its annual performances of Messiah in Grace Cathedral on 13 - 15 December; Jeffrey Thomas conducts, with soloists Suzanne Karpov (soprano), Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (countertenor), Zachary Wilder (tenor), and Hadleigh Adams (baritone).

The Curran Theater presents Bright Star, a musical by Steve Martin and Edie Brickell, from 28 November to 17 December.

42nd Street Moon presents The Secret Garden, the recent musical with book and lyrics by Marsha Norman and music by Lucy Simon, directed by Dyan McBride, from 6 to 24 December at the Gateway Theater.

The African-American Shakespeare Company presents its own adaptation of Cinderella from 22 to 24 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.

The San Francisco Opera ends its fall season (before returning in the June with Wagner's Ring) with the final performances of Turandot and Girls of the Golden West. You can also catch the latest Adler Fellows in their final concert together on 8 December with James Gaffigan conducting the Opera orchestra.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents Britten's The Rape of Lucretia on 8 and 10 December; performances are free but reservations are required.

On 7 December in Zellerbach Hall guest conductor Gemma New leads the Berkeley Symphony in the west coast premieres of Chasing Light by Rene Orth and Abstractions by Anna Clyne, as well as Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and Liszt's Totentanz with pianist Conrad Tao.

Conductorless chamber ensemble One Found Sound plays works by Rameau, Brahms, and Ginastera on 8 December at Heron Arts in San Francisco.

Guest conductor Cyrus Ginwala leads the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony in Copland's Outdoor Overture, the Prokofiev Piano Concerto #3 with soloist Roger Woodward, and the Shostakovich 5, on 16 - 17 December at the Taube Atrium Theater.

Early / Baroque Music
If you want to hear a baroque oratorio that doesn't feature the Hallelujah Chorus, Philharmonia Baroque is presenting a rarity: Handel's Joseph and His Brethren. Nicholas McGegan conducts, with soloists Sherezade Panthaki (soprano), Gabrielle Haigh (soprano), Diana Moore (mezzo-soprano), Abigail Levis (mezzo-soprano), Nicholas Phan (tenor), and Philip Cutlip (baritone). Performances are 14 December at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 15 December at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, and 16 and 17 December at First Congregational in Berkeley.

The San Francisco Symphony presents Christian Tetzlaff playing some of Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin in Davies Hall on 17 December.

Modern / Contemporary Music
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble presents a free concert on 1 December; Christopher Rountree leads the group in De Staat by Louis Andriessen, Sear by Tina Tallon, Corpus Callosum by Andrew Tholl, and Tuning Meditation by Pauline Oliveros.

The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble is performing a free concert on 3 December at the CARe Doug Adams Gallery at 2465 Le Conte Avenue in Berkeley, in conjunction with the gallery's current show, Seeds of Contemplation: Works by Arturo Araujo; the ensemble will be performing Testy Pony by Eve Beglarian, Chaconne by Dallapiccola, and additional music by Glière and Bach.

Cal Performances presents flutist Claire Chase in two concerts (4:30 and 8:30) of new music she has commissioned, part of her on-going project of commissioning new works for solo flute until we reach the centennial of Varèse's 1936 piece Density 21.5. I assume the program is different for the two concerts though that's not really clear on the site. The program will be at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive.

As always, check out the calendar at the Center for New Music, which has new events added frequently.

Cal Performances presents tenor Simon O'Neill, along with fellow tenors Pene Pati and Amitai Pati and pianist Terence Dennis, in recital on 3 December in Hertz Hall, performing Beethoven, Donizetti, Rossini, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Mozart, and Cilea.

Chamber Music
Violinist Alexander Barantschik, pianist Anton Nel, and Peter Wyrick of the San Francisco Symphony play piano trios by Schubert and Mendelssohn at the Legion of Honor on 3 December. While you're up there you can also catch the Klimt / Rodin show.

The Telegraph Quartet, San Francisco Conservatory of Music's quartet-in-residence, presents a free program of Beethoven and Schoenberg on 9 December.

Cal Performances presents the Takács Quartet and pianist Garrick Ohlsson in a program of Mozart, Shostakovich, and Brahms, in Zellerbach Hall on 10 December.

Cal Performances presents the Ragamala Dance Company in Written in Water, based on an ancient Indian board game, on 2 - 3 December in Zellerbach Playhouse.

Cal Performances presents Camille A. Brown & Dancers in BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play on 8 - 10 December in Zellerbach Playhouse.

Visual Arts
The other day, killing time before a concert, I wandered into the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive and caught enough of Martin Wong: Human Instamatic to convince me that I needed to go back when I had more time. You have until 10 December to check out the show.

The San Francisco Silent Film Festival is running A Day of Silents on 2 December at the Castro Theater. As usual there is a great program with live musical accompaniment showcasing the richness of silent cinema, starting with Lotte Reiniger's delightful Arabian Nights mash-up The Adventures of Prince Achmed (the earliest surviving full-length animated film) to William Dieterle's Geschlecht in Fesseln (Sex in Chains), which, despite its lurid-sounding title, is actually a high-minded social message film about prison reform and what we can call situational same-sex relations. Check out the full schedule here; you can buy either individual tickets or an all-day pass.

And if you want to get a jump on their annual festival, running from 30 May to 2 June 2018, the SFSFF is selling an all-Festival pass at a big discount until 1 January 2018.

The Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive has a series highlighting the last 70 years of Polish animation, running from 3 to 20 December.

And thus another year melts away into the past. . . .

Haiku 2017/332

trees strung with white lights
stretch down the holiday road
rain splashes gently

27 November 2017

Haiku 2017/331

glittering windows
under the glittering stars
cool blue winter night

Museum Monday #11

detail of Bruce Lee in the Afterworld by Martin Wong; you have until 10 December to see the excellent exhibit Martin Wong: Human Instamatic at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive

26 November 2017

Girls of the Golden West at San Francisco Opera

Last Tuesday I was at the War Memorial Opera House for San Francisco Opera's world premiere of Girls of the Golden West, a new work set during the California gold rush in the Sierra Nevada in 1851. The music is by John Adams and the staging and libretto by Peter Sellars. As was his practice in earlier collaborations with Adams, Sellars has formed the libretto from an eclectic variety of texts: news reports, diaries, popular songs, poems, mostly from the period being covered.

The first notes of the opera were not what I had expected (and this was pretty much the last surprise of the very long evening), mostly because I have become used to increasingly rich and complex sounds from Adams, and this sounded thinner, sparser: I read later in the program that this was his deliberate attempt to mirror the "spartan, simple, almost crude life" of the camps (I guess the richness of the natural landscape doesn't enter into it, or the richness inherent in anyone's emotional life), but it ended up sounding mostly like a stripped-down version of his usual style. It hits a number of familiar Adams tropes – the chugging rhythms and turbulent choruses, the elevated strings that halo the words with a sense of mystery, lyrical passages setting Spanish poems, a setting of a distinguished early modern English poet (this time not the John Donne of Dr Atomic but Shakespeare), and an ending that, like that of Nixon in China, offers calmness and contemplation after the action. If you like Adams, you will like or at least be intrigued by this score, though if you love Adams perhaps you won't, as it ends up sounding not like a new development but like Adams Lite. Of course any score by an artist like Adams is worth listening to, but that's the sunny-side-up way of saying that this score maybe isn't worth listening to on its own, outside the context of his body of work. I have heard that this music is extremely difficult to perform, which makes the accomplished singing and playing on opening night a real achievement, though perhaps once it's all been absorbed more deeply the performance will start to feel a bit less controlled and maybe wilder and more intense, especially in the violent second half.

The opera opens with Clarence center stage, a character that, I found out later from the program, is a miner, though he is dressed in fancy fringed buckskin over what looked like a flowered shirt: the effect is a bit camp, and I don't mean mining camp, particularly as he starts off by singing an almost hilariously homoerotic Whitmanesque paean to the lusty, eager, brawling young men of the mines, with "nothing feminine about them" – looking later at the sources of the libretto listed in the program (which is a general list, without specific citations or passages, just a list of authors) I guessed that this was maybe from Mark Twain, which makes me wonder if there wasn't some irony built into the original that was missing without the larger context of the passage, which is one of the recurrent problems with the libretto (though by no means the only one). To give another example, anticipating a bit: in the second half of the opera Ned Peters, a mule driver described as "a mulatto", gives us Frederick Douglass's famous speech "What to a slave is the Fourth of July?", which specifically mentions Virginia, and though I'm sure life wasn't easy for African-Americans on either side of the country,  the situation in California (a frontier free state) was surely distinct enough from that in Virginia (one of the original colonies and a slave state) so that using the speech here jolts us out of the moment (even if you accept, and I am willing to, that an uneducated mule driver can match the towering eloquence of Douglass). It seems odd and arbitrary to import such famous words into a different time and place. We are told that the crowd of whites tried to lynch Ned after this, but since what he says here was actually imported from a different person on a different occasion we are left to wonder what, if anything, really prompted the attempt. It's one of many puzzles in an opera that strenuously claims to be based in historical facts.

Back to our buckskinned miner: I did hope when he appeared that at least the miners would be allowed to tell their side of their story (one of my criticisms of the Dr Atomic libretto was that all the military men, when we actually got to see any, were consistently buffoonish), but that hope didn't last long, as right away the closest thing we have to a narrator or guide, Dame Shirley, shows up and gives him that "putting the blowhard man in his place" look so familiar from 1950s sitcoms. ("Dame Shirley" was the pseudonym of Louise Clappe, a New England woman who lived in the camps for a while with her husband Fayette; she wrote entertaining letters to her sister back east, and these descriptive letters form a very large and beautifully written though undramatic part of the libretto.) There's a moment at the end of the opera in which Clarence and Shirley are seated at opposite sides of a table while tragic events unfold around them and it would have been a dramatically powerful tableau if there had been any sense that here were two equal opposing forces.

But there's little complexity or individuality in how the miners are portrayed – "the miners" by the way are presented as mostly white American men, which I think is not quite  historically accurate; but here the men of color, like Ned or the Mexican Ramón, are otherwise engaged (as mentioned earlier, Ned is a mule driver, and Ramón works at a hotel, or maybe it's a casino or a restaurant or all three). The women, besides Dame Shirley, include a Chinese prostitute named Ah Sing (I assume the name is meant to be heard as "I sing"), a Mexican woman named Josefa, and the touring Lola Montez, who is given a silly version of her celebrated "spider dance" by choreographer John Heginbotham, which ends with her pulling out a huge Flit gun, which, according to Wikipedia, was not even invented until the late 1920s, but then the mining camp bar also had neon lights, not invented until 1910, so clearly the staging is not going to take too literal an approach to historical period.

Perhaps these anachronisms are a deliberate attempt to pull us into a more flexible sense of historical meaning so that we see the events of the past in relation to our present day, though it hardly seems necessary to make a point of doing this, given how zeitgeisty the approach is to the subject matter. It seems odd that Adams and Sellars apparently think they need to enlighten the audience with lectures on how rough things were for women and people of color, as if this had never previously been brought to our attention in other works, or the news, or the comments section of anything on-line, or just by living life and observing it. In this opera the people of color get eloquent speeches or lovely romantic songs in Spanish; they are given passages that give them some sort of interior life and reactions to the life around them. The white miners mostly speak in doggerel popular songs, including ones lamenting betrayal by their girlfriends or the hardness of a miner's life (no one here seems to find any actual gold); presumably this is meant to explain their violent anger in the second half, which ends in a lynching, but none of the miners actually analyze their own situation or speak individually; the treatment of them is very de haut en bas.

And there's more than a whiff of really unpleasant condescension in hearing this opera's two white male creators offer the standard denunciation of white male power as if these working class miners, mostly poor, uneducated, and struggling (and, of course, long dead, and as anonymous in death as they were in life), were as privileged, connected, and successful as Adams and Sellars. This isn't a political objection, but an aesthetic one: if you're putting these characters on stage, and spending so much time on them, give them their own voices (and let me emphasize the plural). As it is, the miners take up a lot of stage time but mostly as bad guys who react to the failures of their own lives by mistreating or abusing the men of color and the women. The ultimate effect is to make us see the latter almost entirely in relation to the white men, as victims of their power and their violence, and not as people with lives independent of that power. But such are the hazards of seeing people as groups rather than as individuals.

The opera's first half, which is about 80 or 90 minutes long, meanders around. We hear from Ah Sing, a sex worker ambitious for a better life through marrying a miner; we meet Dame Shirley and her husband Fayette, who is silent even when his wife apparently takes up with Ned the handsome mulatto mule-driver. She leads Ned around hand-in-hand while her husband follows making ineffectual "Hey, wha. . . ?' gestures. I have no idea why he stuck around for their affair, or if it really happened; although I tried to avoid reading about the opera before seeing it, I did read the bullet points in an e-mail sent to subscribers by Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock, which said:

"The libretto is made up of a rich panoply of voices from Dame Shirley (our narrator) to Mark Twain, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, the Argentine poet Alfonsina Storni, and original mining songs. All of the stories in the opera are true and come from first-hand accounts. The love interests between various characters are dramatic constructs that help us contextualize the emotional world these characters might have inhabited, but the stories themselves all happened."

Insofar as I can figure out what this means, I think we're being told that, as in a Lifetime movie, this opera is "based on actual events" that didn't really include the emotional framework (that is, the fairly conventional romances) the creators have imposed on what we're seeing. This may help explain why so many of the relationships seem arbitrary or at least unfleshed.

Dame Shirley comes across some Native women, whom she describes as "wretched creatures" and "Macbethean witches" – so is this an educated nineteenth century New Englander's racially prejudiced view, or are we supposed to infer that these women are already suffering from the incursion of foreign (American) miners, or . . . something else? What is this incident doing here, besides checking off the "Native Peoples" box? The large projected face of a native woman at the back of the stage keeps its secrets. I like the nonlinear, collage-type librettos, but of course they will always work at some level, because any semi-intelligent observer can draw some sort of conclusion from the various juxtapositions, though it's also often the case that our thoughts tend to run along their usual tracks unless jolted out of them by a strong point of view. Such librettos can also be arbitrary and lack focus, which was the case here; the first half is busy with random incidents, all of which run on a bit too long, and the whole first act struck me as mostly pleasant.

The first act, I realized later, must have been meant as a contrast to the more violent (and even longer) second act, but it goes on too long to have its intended effect: by the time the second half started it was already nearly 9:30, and I had been working all day, and my expensive seat (second row in the center orchestra) was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. There were a few departures during intermission but on the whole I was pleased to see a new work greeted so respectfully by the audience, though I can't say I sensed a huge amount of enthusiasm around me.

The second half opens with Dame Shirley, costumed like Ellen Terry's Lady Macbeth in John Singer Sargent's 1889 portrait, declaiming the speech "The raven himself is hoarse . . ." – this is the speech that includes Lady Macbeth saying "unsex me here", which might have provided an interesting angle on the male/female dynamics in this play if it weren't already all too obvious which side we needed to be on. It was pleasing, however, to see some acknowledgement that cultural life, often on a very sophisticated level, sprang up with the mining camps. The passage hearkens back to the "Macbethean witches" Dame Shirley saw in the native women, but I felt no real resonance there, just a coincidence.

Things rapidly turn sour: this is the Fourth of July, and the American miners are having a rowdy celebration that keeps threatening to turn ugly, until finally violence breaks out against the Asians and Latinos in town, culminating in a semi-judicial hanging/lynching of Josefa, who has stabbed Joe, a drunken miner who kidnapped and attempted to rape her.

What we see on stage is Josefa at home with her beloved Ramón; the drunken and armed Joe breaks in, abducts Josefa, and later tries to rape her. She stabs him in self-defense but is hanged for the murder, dressed with great dignity and beauty, and "no one speaks up to defend her". Where was Ramón? His disappearance here doesn't speak well for him. [Update: See the comments for clarification on this point.] But it turns out that this is one of those semi-invented incidents, and maybe Ramón was just shoe-horned into the opera, having failed to appear in life to offer a satisfyingly operatic romance. According to the program, there was an actual woman named Josefa, who killed and was killed in a similar manner. She was a waitress who was "harassed by a drunken white miner", whom she stabbed. I have no idea what "harassed" means in this context, and no one seems to know exactly what happened. Does that matter? It does if you wonder if her murder was justified ("her murder" meaning both the murder she committed and the murder committed on her, and assuming you can find any killing "justified").

Here come the conventional disclaimers: I certainly wouldn't minimize, excuse, or dismiss whatever this drunken miner did, even given the different behavioral expectations between the San Francisco Bay Area in 2017 and a gold rush mining camp in 1851 – how you treat waitstaff is an excellent indication of what kind of person you are. But there are degrees in everything and if you're talking about a kidnapper/rapist, yes, by all means, stab away; but if you're talking about someone who is just being a jerk in a crowded public place, the punishment should maybe stop short of, you know, death. So possibly what we could have had here is a woman who is slightly sociopathic, and stabbing someone who is annoying but not physically threatening is actually kind of hilarious and almost endearing in a John Waters kind of way (which is not the high-minded Adams/Sellars way). If her reaction was, in fact, let me say overkill, then I can see why "no one spoke up for her". But such a character is stronger, stranger, and frankly more interesting than the Sellars version, which is very Birth of a Nation: a loving woman in an age- and gender-appropriate romance whose home is invaded protects her virtue and is punished for it. This wasn't a complex take on simplistic melodrama, it was the thing itself. The Adams/Sellars Josefa is, simply, a victim of gross injustice, whereas the shadowy historical woman is  possibly, ambiguously, a more or less cold-blooded killer, and you can see why "no one would speak up" for someone who is potentially so coolly unhinged. Why are we given the simplest, most sentimental version possible of her story? There's nothing in the Girls version of the story that the staunchest Victorian patriarch would find threatening.

Reading the synopsis in the program after seeing the opera, it looks as if Adams and Sellars intended, or thought they had achieved, more of a dramatic arc than I saw on the stage. The whole first half seemed so low-key that I wondered several times if the piece wouldn't have been more effective semi-staged across the street at Davies Symphony Hall; there is very little interaction among the characters, who mostly give long speeches to us rather than to anyone else on stage. Did the mere fact of staging the work in an Opera House lead me almost subconsciously to expect greater dramatic impact and interest in character? The ghost of Puccini's Fanciulla del West hangs over this whole production, starting with the title and its pointed plural (by the way, unlike many of those I heard from after the opera was first announced, I like the title and its clear implication of a revisionist take on the Puccini/Belasco work). The last of Shilvock's bullet points about the opera was:

"The title reflects another opera – the singular “Girl of the Golden West” by Puccini. The reference is not intended as a critique of Puccini. Rather it’s intended as a contemporary interpretation of the source material that bridges both operas, seen through very different eyes 100 years later. To explore this and other fascinating discussions about this work, we invite you to visit sfopera.com/goldenwest where you can delve into a wonderful variety of insightful background materials."

That's diplomatic, and I think smudges what's really going on, as everything else I've seen about the creation of this opera, including what's in the program book, suggests that correcting Puccini was indeed a major factor here. And this is in line with Adams's continuing agon with past composers; after grappling with Beethoven in Absolute Jest and Handel and Bach in The Death of Klinghoffer,  El Niño and The Gospel According to the Other Mary, why wouldn't one of the pre-eminent opera composers of our day tackle the man who still dominates opera schedules nearly a century after his death? But I have to give this round to Puccini, his librettists, and Belasco, whose strange work, despite some stereotypes that grate on viewers nowadays, provides a much more emotionally complex experience than Girls of the Golden West: The Fanciulla lead is a strong woman with a conflicted inner spirit; the romantic lead is a Mexican bandit who longs for a different life, the heavy is a white man, the sheriff, the official keeper of law-and-order, whose unrequited love makes him both dangerous and sympathetic. The miners have individual quirks, and as a group they may be quick to anger, but can be persuaded by eloquence to justice and compassion. A strange air of homesickness and dissatisfied longing hangs over Fanciulla, and – ironically in view of the conventional American narrative – hope is found only by leaving the frontier, which remains beloved. By contrast, the effect of Girls is too often simplistic and preachy.

The orchestra, led by Grant Gershon, was in fine form, and all of the performers – singers Ryan McKinney as Clarence, Julia Bullock as Dame Shirley, Kai Brothers as Fayette, Davóne Tines as Ned Peters, Paul Appleby as Joe Cannon, Hye Jung Lee as Ah Sing, Elliot Madore as Ramón, J'Nai Bridges as Josefa, and dancer Lorena Feijóo as Lola Montez – were outstanding and I would love to hear them all again, though perhaps in a different piece, and preferably without what I assume was the amplification of the voices, which led occasionally to some odd effects. There are five remaining performances if you'd care to check the opera out for yourself.

Haiku 2017/330

I sweep leaves one way
the wind blows them another
the dead leaves don't care

25 November 2017

Haiku 2017/329

one morning glory
twining 'round a wooden fence
turning to the sun

24 November 2017

23 November 2017

Haiku 2017/327

consider the hours;
rise up wherever you are,
blessing the sad earth

for Thanksgiving Day

22 November 2017

Haiku 2017/326

in strong enough light
even trash in the gutter
looks so dramatic

Haiku 2017/325

dirty dinner plates
piled up so picturesquely
another still life

20 November 2017

Haiku 2017/324

little stone angel
washed by rain and dried by sun
you keep your secrets

Museum Monday #10

detail of The Martyrdom and Last Communion of Saint Lucy by Veronese in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC

19 November 2017

Haiku 2017/323

out in the darkness
I heard a bird sing to me
or did I dream it

18 November 2017

Haiku 2017/322

long before nightfall
sleep comes as a reminder
of darkness ahead

17 November 2017

16 November 2017

Haiku 2017/320

rain drums on the seats
scattered in the empty park
no sound but rainfall

15 November 2017

Haiku 2017/319

staring at the sky
parsing enigmatic clouds
is a storm coming

14 November 2017

Haiku 2017/316-318

2017/318 (14 November 2017)
ascending jets roar
bird flocks scatter left and right
the palm fronds rattle


2017/317 (13 November 2017)
a string of white lights
brightening as the sun sets
baffling the pale stars


2017/316 (12 November 2017)
leaves drift on the porch
overripe pumpkins soften
Christmas music plays

13 November 2017

Museum Monday #9

At the exhibit Degas, Impressionism, and the Paris Millinery Trade, July 2017 at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco. Many of those attending the exhibit were inspired to wear their own fancy hats.

11 November 2017

Haiku 2017/315

round and round they go
under bright electric lights:
skaters on thin ice

(I may or may not have computer access the next few days.)

10 November 2017

Haiku 2017/314

when the sun came out
rain-slick streets started shining
puddles glowed like glass

Friday Photo 2017/45

view of the Capitol Building from the National Mall, Washington DC, October 2017

09 November 2017

Haiku 2017/313

sitting on a bench
bent under the daily weight
Tell me a story

08 November 2017

Haiku 2017/312

rain over the lake
grey falling into greyness
ducks dive for cover

07 November 2017

Haiku 2017/311

words jump off the page
some slide into memory
others fly away

06 November 2017

05 November 2017

Haiku 2017/309

last plums of summer
still so juicy on the tongue
among fallen leaves

04 November 2017

03 November 2017

Haiku 2017/307

the crunch of dead leaves
we hurry under shelter
first rain of autumn

Friday photo 2017/44

in front of Union Station, the Columbus Memorial: Washington DC October 2017

02 November 2017

Haiku 2017/306

A seagull in flight:
beautiful, but a cliché.
But look, there it is.

01 November 2017

Haiku 2017/305

Are those pigeons proud
of their lovely coral feet?
Do they even know?