28 January 2019

Museum Monday 2019/4

a female shinto spirit (Japanese, approximately 1100 - 1200 CE), from the Asian Art Museum, San Francisco

26 January 2019

fun stuff I may or may not get to: February 2019

Playwright Young Jean Lee appears in conversation with Crowded Fire Artistic Director Mina Morita at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco on 5 February.

The Lamplighters present Sondheim's beloved A Little Night Music (based of course on Bergman's film Smiles of a Summer Night), directed by Dennis M Lickteig and conducted by Karl Pister, from 2 to 3 February at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco, from 9 to 10 February at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, and from 16 to 17 February at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.

The Ubuntu Theater Project kicks off its season on 8 February with Tony Kushner's adaptation of Brecht's Mother Courage and her Children, directed by Emilie Whelan and running until 3 March; performances are at Lisser Hall at Mills College.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton, the Show Boat / Oklahoma! of our time, returns to the Orpheum Theater on 12 February as part of the Best of Broadway series. It's currently scheduled to run until 8 September; maybe I'll get to see it this time around.

The Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward presents Eugene O'Neill's Ah, Wilderness!, directed by Sharon Robinson, from 14 February to 3 March.

The Best of Broadway series presents the touring company of the Jerry Zaks revival of Hello, Dolly!, starring Betty Buckley, at the Golden Gate Theatre from 19 February to 17 March.

ACT presents Her Portmanteau by Mfoniso Udofia, directed by Victor Malana Maog, from 15 February to 31 March at the Strand Theater.

Cal Performances presents Montreal's modern circus troupe, The 7 Fingers, in Reversible, directed by Gypsey Snider, at Zellerbach Hall from 22 to 24 February.

42nd Street Moon presents Fiorello! (music & lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick, directed by Karen Altree Piemme and music direction by Daniel Thomas) from 27 February to 17 March at the Gateway Theater in San Francisco.

There are three plays this month that have exclamation points in their titles, and they're not even all musicals, and that's not including Oklahoma!, which I mention but which is not playing here. That's . . . exciting!

Shotgun Players doesn't begin its 2019 season until March, but the Ashby Stage is not dark; there are four shows you can check out: The Shooting Gallery by Aaron Davidman, directed by Michael John Garcés, from 1 to 3 February; BASH: Bay Area Storytelling Hijacked, produced by Scott Sanders, on 4 February; Josh's Brain Improv ("Josh" is Josh Kornbluth), on 8 - 9 and 15 - 16 February; and The Infinite Wrench on 13 - 14 February, an evening of short plays (really, really short plays) by the Neo-Futurists.

Pocket Opera presents its version of Donizetti's Elixir of Love on 24 February at the Hillside Club in Berkeley, 3 March at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, and 10 March at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto.

The Wagner Society of Northern California presents director Jasmin Solfaghari, discussing her work with Wagner (in particular her production of the Ring for Odense); that's 9 February at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco.

Ars Minerva founder and Artistic Director Céline Ricci, along with mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz, harpsichordist Kelly Savage, and Stanford Professor of Classics Richard Martin, will appear at the Italian Cultural Institute in San Francisco on 20 February to discuss upcoming projects and to perform works by Domenico Freschi, Antonio Vivaldi, and Giovanni Porta; admission is free but an RSVP is required.

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra performs Handel's Acis and Galatea; Benjamin Simon conducts, with soloists soprano Natalie Image (Galatea), tenor Isaiah Bell (Acis), tenor Kevin Gino (Damon), and bass Alex Rosen (the monster Polyphemus), and you can hear them 22 February at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, 23 February at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, and 24 February at First Congregational in Berkeley.

Earplay and RealOpera present the world premiere of Howards End, America, a new chamber opera with music by Allen Shearer and a libretto by Claudia Stevens adapting the E M Forster novel, at Z Space on 22 - 24 February. Mary Chun leads the ensemble and Philip Lowery directs, leading roles are taken by Nikki Einfeld, Philip Skinner, Sara Duchovnay, Michael Dailey, and Daniel Cilli. (If you attended West Edge Opera's Snapshot program a couple of years ago, you had a preview of the work in progress, which sets the story in Boston and adds a racial angle to the original.)

Clerestory has an interesting-looking program, Movement of Colors, connecting music to (in their words) "visual art through meditations on the works of Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Gerhard Richter, Paul Rubens and even Dr. Seuss"; you can hear (and I assume see) the results on 17 February at St Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal in San Francisco and 23 February at the David Brower Center in Berkeley.

Ragnar Bohlin's Cappella SF sings new music from Sweden and the United States (including works by Eric Whitacre, David Conte (a world premiere), Fredrik Sixten, Carl Unander-Scharin, and Jacob Mühlrad (a USA premiere) on 23 February at First Congregational in Berkeley and 24 February at Mission Dolores Basilica in San Francisco.

San Francisco Opera's Schwabacher Recital Series opens its 2019 season this month with two concerts: tenor Woo Young Yoon, baritone Seokjong Baek, and pianist Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad perform on 13 February and baritone David Pershall and pianist John Churchwell perform on 27 February. As of this posting, the programs have not been announced.

Lieder Alive! presents pianist Mikael Eliasen and five traveling (and as far as I can tell, as yet unnamed) musicians from the Curtis Institute in the Brahms Liebeslieder Waltzes, along with selected lieder and duets, on 17 February at the Noe Valley Ministry.

San Francisco Performances presents tenor Ilker Arcayürek and pianist Simon Lepper performing Schubert's great song cycle Winterreise on 20 February at Herbst Theater.

Mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and a small band (Craig Terry on keyboards, Chuck Israels on double bass, Jimmy Madison on drums, Lautaro Greco on bandoneon and Charlie Porter on trumpet) bring Songplay, an evening mixing baroque arias with American jazz standards, to Cal Performances on 20 February at Zellerbach Hall.

Dianne Reeves returns to the SF Jazz Center for four nights: on 21 and 22 February she explores the music of Brazil and on 23 and 24 February she revisits her 1999 Blue Note release Bridges.

Guest conductor Edwin Outwater, with student conductor Yangchunzi Duan and soprano Desirae Gonzalez, joins the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra on 2 February to perform Mazzoli's Violent, Violent Sea, Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne, Ravel's Pavane pour une infante defunte, de Falla's Ritual Fire Dance, and Debussy's La mer.

Music Director Daniel Hope returns to New Century Chamber Orchestra in a fun-looking program called Recomposed, featuring arrangements or revisions by one composer of another's original. You can hear Purcell and Schumann arranged by Britten, the Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, Warlock's Capriol Suite, and Max Richter's Recomposed: Vivaldi - The Four Seasons on 7 February at First Congregational in Berkeley, 8 February at Oshman JCC in Palo Alto, 9 February at the Wilsey Center for the Arts in San Francisco, and 10 February at Osher Marin JCC in San Rafael.

Michael Morgan leads the Oakland Symphony in an evening with Emanuel Ax and Beethoven on 8 February at the Paramount Theater; featured works include the Piano Concerto 1 and the Choral Fantasy.

Violinist Rachel Barton Pine visits Philharmonia Baroque as Nicolas McGegan leads the group in works by Mozart, Schubert, and Franz Clement that move from the Classical style to the Romantic. Performances are 6 February at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, 8 February at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 9 - 10 February at First Congregational in Berkeley. UPDATE: Sadly, Rachel Barton Pine has had to cancel due to illness: the featured violinist is now Alana Youssefian, and the program will now consist of Mozart's Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, the Beethoven Violin Concerto, and the Schubert 6.

One Found Sound plays Ravel's Pavane pour une Infante Défunte (Pavane for a Dead Princess), Bartók's Suite No 2, Opus 4, and the Prokofiev 1, the Classical, at Heron Arts in San Francisco on 8 February.

At the San Francisco Symphony you can hear Michael Tilson Thomas conducting a world premiere (and Symphony commission) from Steve Mackey along with the Prokofiev Violin Concerto 1 (Gil Shaham soloist) and the Tchaikovsky 4 on 7 - 9 February; András Schiff plays and conducts Bach and Mendelssohn (the latter's Lobgesang) on 14 - 15 and 17 February; and then Daniel Harding closes out the month on 22 - 24 February with an all-Schumann program, featuring Lars Vogt as soloist in the piano concerto along with the 2nd Symphony and the Overture to Genoveva.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music Chamber Orchestra, led by guest conductor Steven Schick, will play works by Pamela Z, Webern, Dallapiccola, and Thorvaldsdottir, interspersed with movements from the Beethoven 1; that's 24 February and the concert is free but reservations are recommended.

Chamber Music
A chamber music group from the San Francisco Symphony will play music by (or influenced by) African-Americans on 3 February at Davies Hall; composers include Leo Smit, Chick Corea, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, and Anton Dvořák.

Old First Concerts presents Ensemble San Francisco on 3 February, playing works by Gabriel Fauré, Jose Gonzalez Granero, and Sheridan Seyfried; Granero, who is principal clarinet for the San Francisco Opera orchestra, will be joining the ensemble at this performance.

Amsterdam wind group Calefax will come to Herbst Theater on 10 February under the auspices of Chamber Music San Francisco to play arrangements of Locatelli, Wilms, Gesualdo, Debussy, and Bach.

San Francisco Performances presents the Alexander String Quartet and pianist Joyce Yang in two works by Mozart and the West Coast premiere of Samuel Carl Adams's Quintet with Pillars on 14 February at Herbst Theater.

Old First Concerts presents violinist Madeleine Mitchell, cellist Theodore Buchholz, and pianist Mack McCray playing piano trios by Brahms and Beethoven (the Archduke) on 15 February.

Cal Performances presents the Danish String Quartet playing Haydn, Webern, and Beethoven at Hertz Hall on 17 February.

At Old First Concerts on 22 February, Curium plays piano trios by Jennifer Higdon, Germaine Tailleferre, and Johannes Brahms.

Chamber Music San Francisco brings the Casals Quartet to Herbst Theater on 23 February, where they will play Haydn, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven.

Cal Performances brings the Takács Quartet to Hertz Hall on 24 February, where they will perform works by Haydn, Bartók, and Grieg.

Keyboards & Strings & Percussion
Cal Performances presents pianist Yefim Bronfman playing Schumann, Debussy, and Schubert on 1 February in Zellerbach Hall.

Old First Concerts presents guitarist Adam Levin on 1 February playing music from Spain, including west coast premieres from Salvador Brotons and Eduardo Morales-Caso along with works by Joaquin Turina, Isaac Albéniz, Antón García Abril, and Cristobal Halffter.

Japanese taiko troupe Kodo visits Zellerbach Hall under the auspices of Cal Performances on 2 and 3 February.

Sergio and Odair Assad visit Herbst Theater on 9 February under the auspices of San Francisco Performances to play works for two guitar by Giuliani, Albéniz, Pizazzolla, Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Jobim, Gismonti, and Sergio Assad himself.

The San Francisco Symphony presents an organ recital by Michael Hey on 10 February, featuring music by Ives, Dupré, Bingham, Buck, Elgar, Widor, Elmore, Dove, and Sowerby.

Other Minds presents Maki Namekawa and Dennis Russell Davies playing two-piano works by Shostakovich (including the west coast premiere of his own adaptation of his Fourth Symphony) and Stravinsky on 10 February at the Taube Atrium Theater.

San Francisco Performances will celebrate Leon Fleischer's 90th birthday with a special concert featuring Fischer and fellow pianists Jonathan Biss and Katherine Jacobson playing Bach, Kirchner, Schubert, Dvořák, and Ravel on 12 February at Herbst Theater.

San Francisco Performances presents Garrick Ohlssohn in an all-Brahms concert, the first of a multi-year series in which he will play all of the composer's piano works; the series begins 21 February at Herbst Theater.

Early / Baroque Music
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents vocal group Cut Circle (directed by Jesse Rodin) in Renaissance love music by Du Fay, Ockeghem, and Josquin; that's 8 February at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, 9 February at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and 10 February at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford.

Jeffrey Thomas leads the American Bach Soloists in popular cantatas by Bach (with soprano Nola Richardson, countertenor Jay Carter, tenor Zachary Wilder, and baritone Tyler Duncan as soloists); you can hear them 14 February at St Stephen's in Belvedere, 16 February at First Congregational in Berkeley, 17 February at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, and 18 February at Davis Community Church in Davis.

The Cantata Collective continues its second season of free performances at St Mary Magdalen's in Berkeley on 24 February, with BWV 36 (Schwingt freudig euch empor) and BWV 124 (Meinem Jesum lass ich nicht).

See also Handel's Acis & Galatea, listed under Operatic.

Modern / Contemporary Music
Harpsichordist Faythe Vollrath visits Old First Concerts on 8 February to play works by Toru Takemitsu, Lou Harrison, and Sunny Knable.

Old First Concerts presents the Wooden Fish Ensemble on 10 February, playing works by Galina Ustvolskaya and Hyo-shin Na as well as folks songs from Korea and Japan.

Earplay kicks off its 2019 season on 11 February at the Taube Atrium Theater, where the ensemble will play works by Patricia Alessandrini (a USA premiere), Stephen Blumberg, Hi Kyung Kim (a world premiere), Charles Nichols (a world premiere and Earplay commission), and Tristan Murail (a USA premiere from this season's focus composer).

Wild Rumpus New Music Collective visits the Osher Salon at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 23 February with Remembrances, a concert featuring works by Georg Haas, Chris Cresswell, Salvatore Sciarrino, Amanda Feery, and two Wild Rumpus commissions from Eliza Brown and Julian Day.

David Conte, Chair of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Composition Department, has a concert dedicated to his music at the Conservatory on 25 February, featuring In Praise of Music (with the San Francisco Girls Chorus), the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, the Sinfonietta for 11 Instruments, and the Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (with Emil Miland on cello). The concert is free but reservations are recommended.

And here's your monthly reminder to check the calendar of the Center for New Music in San Francisco, as events are added frequently; currently some things that jump out at me for February are Meshes, in which solo violinist Leslee Smucker plays music by Conor Abbott Brown, Lera Auerbach, Luc Brewaeys, Michael van der Aa, and Locatelli against a film by Maya Deren on 1 February; the Elevate Ensemble's Low-Hanging Fruit program, featuring the title piece by Michael Gilbertson along with works by Ligeti, Bartók, and Ana Sokolović on 2 February; Wayne Horvitz's Snowghost Sessions with Sara Schoenbeck on 9 Februaryand pianist Jared Redmond playing world premieres from Carolyn Chen, Kurt Rohde, Saman Samadi as well as works by Salvatore Sciarrino on 15 February.

There are two mixed programs at San Francisco Ballet this month, once they wrap up Don Quixote on February 3: Program 2, Kaleidoscope, runs from 12 to 23 February and features Divertimento No 15 (music by Mozart, choreography by Balanchine), Appassionata (music by Beethoven, choreography by Benjamin Millepied), and Anima Animus (music by Ezio Bosso, choreography by David Dawson); Program 3, In Space & Time, runs from 14 to 24 February and features The Fifth Season (music by Karl Jenkins, choreography by Helgi Tomasson), Snowblind (music by Amy Beach, Philip Feeney, Arthur Foote, and Arvo Pärt, arranged by Philip Feeney, and choreography by Cathy Marston, inspired by Edith Wharton's Ethan Frome), and Études (arranged and orchestrated by Knudåge Riisager, with choreography by Harald Lander).

San Francisco Performances presents Jessica Lang Dance at the YBCA Theater from 28 February to 2 March.

Visual Arts
Kimono Refashioned opens at the Asian Art Museum on 8 February and runs until 5 May; the exhibit explores the influence of the traditional Japanese kimono on designers world-wide, starting with the nineteenth century and continuing to the present day.

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Arts (SFMOMA) will be showing new work by Rodney McMillian from 9 February to 9 June, new work by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon from 23 February to 28 April, and sculpture shaped by the natural world from Alexander Calder starting on 16 February.

The de Young Museum opens Monet: The Late Years on 16 February, running until 27 May. I'm already dreading the crowds.

Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction opens at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) on 27 February, running until 21 July.

I've mentioned the Fritz Lang & German Expressionism film series at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) but I have to mention in particular their two-part showing of The Nibelungen: Part 1, Siegfried's Death, is on 2 February, and Part 2, Kriemhild's Revenge, is on 3 February, and Judith Rosenberg will be on piano for both parts.

Film-maker James Ivory, of the famous Merchant-Ivory collaboration, will appear in person at the Berkeley Art Museum / Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) to present three of his films: Autobiography of a Princess on 20 February, Shakespeare Wallah on 22 February, and The Guru on 23 February.

The 52nd California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held at the Oakland Marriott City Center (right by the 12th Street BART station) on 8 - 10 February. The Fair will include a special exhibit of the works of L Frank Baum, the creator of Oz, who died a century ago this coming May.

21 January 2019

20 January 2019

for Mary Oliver

The Other Kingdoms

Consider the other kingdoms. The
trees, for example, with their mellow-sounding
titles: oak, aspen, willow.
Or the snow, for which the peoples of the north
have dozens of words to describe its
different arrivals. Or the creatures, with their
Thick fur, their shy and wordless gaze. Their
infallible sense of what their lives
are meant to be. Thus the world
grows rich, grows wild, and you too
grow rich, grow sweetly wild, as you too
were born to be.


Just As The Calendar Began To Say Summer

I went out of the schoolhouse fast
and through the gardens and to the woods
and spent all summer forgetting what I'd been taught –

two times two, and diligence, and so forth,
how to be modest and useful, and how to succeed and so forth,
machines and oil and plastic and money and so forth.

By fall I had healed somewhat, but was summoned back
to the chalky rooms and the desks, to sit and remember

the way the river kept rolling its pebbles,
the way the wild wrens sang though they hadn't a penny in the bank,
the way the flowers were dressed in nothing but light.

– Mary Oliver

Both of these poems are from Oliver's collection Devotions.

The poet Mary Oliver died last week, on Thursday 17 January 2019, aged 83.

I've been a little surprised by the somewhat grudging tone of several obituaries I've seen, which note that she is extraordinarily popular and perhaps overly quotable (I guess they mean popular for a poet, and I don't know what's wrong with being cherished by many readers, or saying memorable things in a memorable way), that the New York Times didn't think highly of her (that's fine with me; I don't think highly of the New York Times), and that her poetry is "simple" (by which I guess they mean she strives for clarity, which, again, does not strike me as a fault in a writer trying to communicate a message). Simple? She is the Wordsworth of our time, and he too was often criticized or mocked for his deeply subversive "simplicity". Like him, she is very much a poet of the healing power of Nature, and of oneself alone in Nature, and of the power of memories conjured up in trying circumstances. Look at the two poems I've posted above: in the first, the odd line endings keep you off-balance as she walks you through the worlds around us. Significantly, she starts off not by describing these separate kingdoms of trees and snow as they are on their own, but by describing the names we have given them – this not only puts us in direct relation to these kingdoms, it emphasizes that it is our perception of them that has the greatest effect on us, so that at the end of the poem she can remind us that we too, in our inmost selves, are inextricably part of this natural world. The modifier sweetly added to the earlier wild (Thus the world / grows rich, grows wild, and you too / grow rich, grow sweetly wild) brings us to an elemental joy in our union with the natural world around us. In the second poem, it is not so much learning that she runs from and tries to forget, but the social shackles forced on children as they are trained to be members of our wasteful, money-obsessed society – diligence, and modesty and plastics and money and "success" that isn't defined because it's clear what it means in this world she is supposed to enter. The repetition of and so forth indicates the wearying sameness of these lessons, and that we also know all too well what they're comprised of. Her true education, and this ironically also happens to her in the classroom, comes in the precise memories of the world outside her, the world from which school is trying to separate her. Oliver's insistence on the importance of noticing not what we are supposed to see but what is actually there, on finding for ourselves that which will bring us meaning, and on the crucial importance of, and our dependence on and co-existence with, the natural world that we mostly exploit and ignore, makes her one of our leading political poets.

18 January 2019

14 January 2019

Museum Monday 2019/2

a porcelein water dropper in the shape of a boy sitting on a carp, made in China (Jingdezhen, Jiangxi province, Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911)), from the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco

11 January 2019

07 January 2019

Museum Monday 2019/1

"skeleton" ensemble (jacket & overlay), from the 2015 Spring / Summer collection from the Saudi Arabian fashion house Pose / Arazzi, from the show Contemporary Muslim Fashion as the de Young Museum in San Francisco