Exit Theatre presents Congresswomen, freely adapted from the Ecclesiazusae of Aristophanes as well as directed by Stuart Bousel, from 3 to 26 May.
Cal Performances presents Ex Machina, director Robert Lepage's production group, in 887, a one-man show about his childhood; that's 4 and 5 (matinee) May in Zellerbach Hall.
Cal Performances presents the Japanese taiko troupe TAO in Drum Heart on 6 May in Zellerbach Hall.
San Francisco Playhouse presents An Entomologist's Love Story, written by Melissa Ross and directed by Giovanna Sardelli, from 8 May to 23 June.
Shotgun Players presents Dry Land, written by Ruby Rae Spiegel and directed by Ariel Craft, about two girls on a high school swim team, from 17 May to 17 June.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents a double-bill of John Musto's Bastianello and William Bolcom's Lucrezia (in the world premiere of a new orchestration by Bolcom, commissioned by the Conservatory), directed by Heather Mathews and conducted by Curt Pajer, on 4 and 6 (matinee) May; free but reservations are required.
It's Guest Conductor Month at the San Francisco Symphony: Juraj Valčuha conducts Andrew Norman's Unstuck, the Brahms Violin Concerto with soloist Ray Chen, and the Prokofiev 3 on 3 - 5 May; Stéphane Denève conducts Ibert's Escales, the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto 1 with soloist Gautier Capuçon, Guillaume Connesson's E chiaro nella valle il fiume appare, and Respighi's Pines of Rome on 10 - 12 May; Itzhak Perlman conducts and plays violin in a Bach concerto for violin, oboe, and orchestra (Eugene Izotov on solo oboe), the Tchaikovsky Serenade for Strings, and Elgar's Enigma Variations on 17 and 19 - 20 May; David Robertson leads the band in Brett Dean's Engelsflügel, the Haydn 102, and the Brahms Piano Concerto 1 with soloist Kirill Gerstein on 25 - 26 May; and Semyon Bychkov leads us into June with Taneyev's Oresteia Overture, the Bruch Concerto for Two Pianos with soloists Katia and Marielle Labèque, and the Tchaikovsky 2, the Little Russian, and that's on 31 May and 1 - 2 June.
On 13 May the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra, led by Christian Reif, plays Ligeti's Concert Românesc, the suite from Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande, and Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, a program that looks much more interesting than lots of the programs on the "adult" stage.
Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in Leonard Bernstein's Serenade after Plato's Symposium for Violin and Orchestra (with soloist Liana Bérubé) and the Tchaikovsky 6, the Pathétique, on 18 May at the Paramount Theater.
New Century Chamber Orchestra closes its season with Guest Concertmaster Zachary DePue leading the west coast premiere of a new piano concerto by Philip Glass, with soloist Simone Dinnerstein. The program also features works by Bach, Purcell, Dessner, and Geminiani, and you can hear it 16 May at the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts, 17 May at First Congregational in Berkeley, 18 May at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center in Palo Alto, 19 May at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 20 May (matinee) at the Osher Marin Jewish Community Center in San Rafael.
A small ensemble of San Francisco Symphony musicians will perform chamber works by Fauré, Harbison, Rouse, and Dvořák in unfortunately cavernous Davies Hall on 6 May; then on 13 May, this time up at the Gunn Theater at the Legion of Honor, San Francisco Symphony players Alexander Barantschik (violin), Jonathan Vinocour (viola), and Peter Wyrick (cello) will play Shostakovich and Brahms.
On 19 May Old First Concerts presents the Friction Quartet, joined by theremin player Thorwald Jørgensen, in Dalit Warshaw's Transformations and the US premiere of Simon Bertrand's The Invisible Singer.
Early / Baroque Music
Pocket Opera presents Handel's Semele, with Maya Kherani in the title role, on 29 April at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco and 6 May at the Hillside Club in Berkeley (both performances are matinees).
San Francisco Performances presents Jordi Savall on viola da gamba, his ensemble Hespèrion XXI, and Carlos Núñez on Galacian bagpipes in an exploration of early Celtic music; that's 3 May at Herbst Theater.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents a program of baroque rarities featuring soprano Hana Blažíková and cornettist Bruce Dickey. They will be joined by Ingrid Matthews and Tekla Cunningham on violin, Joanna Blendulf on viol, Michael Sponseller on organ and harpsichord, and Stephen Stubbs on theorbo and guitar in works by Biagio Marini, Nicolò Corradini, Giovanni Battista Bassani, Giacomo Carissimi, Tarquinio Merula, Alessandro Scarlatti, and Maurizio Cazzati. That's 4 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 5 May at St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley, and 6 May at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University.
American Bach Soloists presents two concerts this month: baritone William Sharp sings Bach in the Chapel of Grace in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco on 4 May, and Jeffrey Thomas leads the ensemble in Bach's Orchestral Suites on 11 May in St Stephen's in Belvedere, on 12 May at First Congregational in Berkeley, on 13 May at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and on 14 May at Davis Community Church in Davis.
On 13 May Ragnar Bohlin leads the San Francisco Symphony Chorus in works by Bach, including the Magnificat, and Arvo Pärt.
Paul Flight leads Chora Nova in works by Johann Adolph Hasse and Jan Dismas Zelenka at First Congregational in Berkeley on 26 May.
Modern / Contemporary Music
Volti ends its season with Bay and Beyond, a program featuring composers with strong ties to the Bay Area: Danny Clay, ŽibuoklMartinaitytė, Robin Estrada, Terry Riley, and Henry Cowell. You can hear them on 4 May at the Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco or 6 May at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive.
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble closes out its season with a rare performance of Schoenberg's Serenade for Baritone and Seven Players, along with Sándor Jemnitz's Trio for Violin, Viola, and Guitar and the world premiere of Rinconcito by Nicolas Lell Benavides. That's 19 May at the Berkeley Hillside Club and 21 May at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
As always, check the entire schedule for the Center for New Music, as events are frequently added after I've posted the monthly preview. Some things that jump out at me from the current listings for May are: soprano Jane Spencer Mills, pianist Ian Scarfe, and flutist Jessie Nucho in Of Cats, the Moon, and Rain on 2 May; Solo Collective, featuring UC-Berkeley composers in Myra Melford's composition seminar on 3 May; the Brooklyn Art Song Society on 12 May; the Ghost Ensemble on 17 May; Kurt Rohde's Farewell Tour – Part One on 18 May; Friction Quartet concerts on 20 May (music from composers of the John Adams Young Composers Program) and 25 May (works by Pascal Le Boeuf and Danny Clay); and Diana Wade's You Made it Weird, San Francisco on 31 May.
See also the Philip Glass premiere at New Century Chamber Orchestra under Orchestral and the Volti concert under Choral.
Keyboards & Strings
Cal Performances presents pianist Leif Ove Andsnes playing Nielsen, Sibelius, Beethoven, Schubert, and Jörg Widmann at First Congregational on 4 May.
San Francisco Performances and the San Francisco Symphony present pianist Yuja Wang at Davies Hall on 6 May, playing Chopin, Scriabin, Ligeti, and Prokofiev. [UPDATE: Unfortunately Yuja Wang has had to cancel this concert due to illness. I hope she recovers soon!]
On 6 May Old First Concerts commemorates the centennial of the end of the First World War with a concert featuring the Ives Collective, tenor Brian Thorsett, and violinist Jessica Chang in music written during the war or by artists involved in the war.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents two San Francisco debut piano recitals at Herbst Theater this month: on 5 May Yeol Eum Son plays Mozart, Pärt, Ravel, Schubert (as adapted by Liszt), Rachmaninoff, and Gulda; and on 20 May Alexander Gavrylyuk plays Bach (as adapted by Busoni), Haydn, Chopin, Scriabin, and Rachmaninoff. (Gavrylyuk will repeat his program on 19 May in Walnut Creek and on 21 May in Palo Alto.)
On 18 May Old First Concerts presents the second concert of its four-concert series marking the death-centennial of Debussy; this one features pianists Daniel Glover, Laura Magnani, Keisuke Nakagoshi, Robert Schwartz, and Brent Smith along with soprano Christa Pfeiffer and mezzo-soprano Katherine McKee in Pour le piano, Images Books 1 & II, Estampes, Suite bergamasque, Salut printemps, and other works.
Old First Concerts presents pianist Stephen Porter on 20 May in a program of religious music by Franz Liszt.
Felix Hell gives an organ recital at Davies Hall, presented by the San Francisco Symphony, on 27 May (matinee).
Pianist Sarah Cahill will perform works by Lou Harrison, Jon Scoville, Paul Dresher, and Ruth Crawford at the Berkeley Art Museum on 27 May (matinee). The performance is free with admission to the galleries, and there are several interesting exhibits there now.
The great Audra McDonald is spending the evening of 18 May with the San Francisco Symphony, led by Andy Einhorn; the program has not been announced (other than "Broadway classics and contemporary musical theater works") but all you really need to know is that it's Audra McDonald.
Cal Performances presents an evening with David Sedaris at Zellerbach Hall on 8 May.
René Magritte: The Fifth Season, an in-depth look at the surrealist painter's late career, opens on 19 May at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and runs until 28 October.
Cal Performances presents the eco ensemble performing a new score by Martin Matalon for The Oyster Princess, Ernst Lubitsch's 1919 comedy (it's not as slyly subtle as his later films, but it's still Lubitsch) at Zellerbach Playhouse on 6 May. Departing Cal Performances Director Matías Tarnopolsky will interview Matalon on stage before the film.
The Golden Gate Symphony, led by Urs Leonhardt Steiner, will perform Prokofiev's score at a screening of Eisenstein's Alexander Nevsky (with mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Baker as soloist) at the Southern Pacific Brewing Company on 21 May.
On 30 May the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive presents a program of Garbo rarities from the Swedish Film Institute, including the bit remaining from Victor Seastrom's The Divine Woman, which I think is the only Garbo film that doesn't survive intact. Archivist Jon Wengström, in town to receive an award from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, will discuss the clips and put them in perspective and Stephen Horne will accompany on piano.
And we close out the month with the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, which is always a highlight of the year. The 2018 edition of the annual festival runs from 30 May to 3 June at the period-appropriate Castro Theater, with twenty-three programs (with live musical accompaniment) highlighting the diversity and artistry of silent film, ranging from familiar classics like Buster Keaton's Battling Butler to newly discovered and restored rarities like E A Dupont's Das Alte Gesetz (The Ancient Law) or Richard Oswald's Der Hund von Baskerville (The Hound of the Baskervilles). I have my festival pass and will be sitting in the dark for four days, living on popcorn and dreams.