It's time for one of my occasional warnings about BART, our on-going slow-motion disaster of a transit system. Starting in February, BART, which has apparently neglected basic repairs for decades, changed its schedule to accommodate retrofitting on the transbay tube. This change involved starting their weekday schedule an hour later than usual (and still ending shortly after midnight); what they did not announce, or played down, was that they are now running shorter trains during commute hours, with even longer waits between trains at night, and (at least on some lines) a radical curtailment of direct service on Sunday between the east bay and San Francisco. Most of these changes seem to hit mainly the Warm Springs - Richmond line (the one you'd take to get to downtown Oakland or Berkeley); it's long been obvious that this line, which services mostly the historically lower-income, mostly black or Latino neighborhoods of Fruitvale, Oakland, and Richmond, receives poorer service than the lines going to wealthier and whiter suburbs like Orinda or Moraga. I have no idea why shorter trains are necessary for retrofitting; it's been obvious for decades that BART needs to run full-length trains and run them more often, and instead, inexplicably, they run shorter trains with longer wait times. Commute hour trains have become dangerously crowded. Given how overheated the cars are at the best of times, I'm sure people are going to start getting sick and/or violent on them. We already have frequent delays for "medical emergencies" and though I assume this is a euphemism for "dealing with a crazy drug-addicted homeless person" the trend will no doubt spread to the rest of the population. Speaking of the homeless, it's become popular to blame them for the current state of BART, and BART does nothing to discourage this feeling, but if all the homeless disappeared tomorrow we'd still have to deal with BART's long-neglected infrastructure, its failure to make obvious improvements, or any improvements at all, its outmoded station design, its bone-headed management . . . . Even the problems the homeless are frequently blamed for – fare evasion, noisy and disruptive behavior, trashing the trains and stations – can easily be seen in many other riders, of all demographics. Amidst this latest fiasco, BART is preparing to request yet another fare hike (on top of the one scheduled anyway for next January), even though service has steadily declined for years despite all the money they've already been given. If you contact them to complain they send you some boilerplate PR nonsense about "checking 'Know Before You Go'" but checking their website is useless if all it's telling you is that there will be a series of too-short trains too far apart when you need to get to work or back home. I am stunned once again by the incompetence, stupidity, callousness, and cynicism displayed by BART management. So how does all this affect our possible aesthetic adventures below? Basically, if it's a burden to get to a venue, things on the "that might be interesting to check out" list drop to the "too much of an ordeal" list. (And to make a point that should be more obvious than it apparently is: driving or taking Uber are not really good alternatives, as the already horrible Bay Area traffic gets even worse when people avoid public transit.) Decent public transit is vital to our survival, not only in a world poisoned by environmental degradation but in a society where people need to learn to live together respectfully. Too bad our local transit offers such a dire reflection of our actual social state.
The Berkeley Playhouse presents the Steven Schwartz musical Pippin from 5 April to 5 May.
The Exit Theater offers Nigga-Roo, an examination of racism, blackface, and American life by Dazié Grego-Sykes, from 5 to 27 April.
The New Conservatory Theater Center presents The Gentleman Caller, imagining a night shared by Tennessee Williams and William Inge, by Philip Dawkins and directed by Arturo Catricala, from 5 April to 5 May.
Aurora Theater presents Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest, directed by Josh Costello, from 12 April to 12 May.
42nd Street Moon revives 110 in the Shade, with music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones (not the singer; this is the duo that wrote The Fantasticks), and book by N Richard Nash, directed by Josh Marx, from 24 April to 12 May at the Gateway Theater in San Francisco.
Speaking of The Fantasticks, you can see it at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (directed by Michael Mohammed, with music director Michael Horsley) on 12 and 13 April; the performances are free but reservations are recommended.
Shotgun Players and TheatreFirst present Far, Far Better Things, a modern-day twist on A Tale of Two Cities (as the title might tell you, if you remember the second-most famous line in the novel), written by Geetha Reddy and directed by Katja Rivera, from 26 April to 19 May at the Live Oak Theater in Berkeley.
SHN/Best of Broadway presents David Payne in An Evening with CS Lewis from 25 to 28 April at the Marines' Memorial Theater in San Francisco.
Cal Performances presents the Théâtre National de Bretagne in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, directed by Arthur Nauzyciel, at Zellerbach Hall from 26 to 28 April; despite the French provenance of the troupe, the performance is apparently in English.
Shotgun Players presents the first in this season's Champagne Staged Reading Series, Charles Francis Chan Jr's Exotic Oriental Murder Mystery, written by Lloyd Suh and directed by Michelle Talgarow, on 29 - 30 April.
The Ubuntu Theater Project, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, and Marin Theatre combine to present August Wilson's autobiographical one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned, directed by Margo Hall and starring Steven Anthony Jones, from 30 April to 5 May at the Rothwell Center Theater at Mills College in Oakland.
Barbara Heroux directs the Lamplighters in Gilbert & Sullivan's Trial by Jury, along with the Lamplighter's spoof sequel, Trial by Jury Duty, on 21 March at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 29 March at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, and 6 - 7 April (both performances are matinees) at Herbst Theater in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music presents Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, conducted by Curt Pajer and directed by Jose Maria Condemi, on 5 and 7 (matinee) April.
The Wagner Society of Northern California has Jeff McMillan speaking on Parsifalmania: The early history of Wagner's final opera in America on 6 April at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco. As part of the presentation we may get to hear excerpts from Marston's forthcoming release of the 1938 Met Parsifal broadcast, featuring Melchior and Flagstad.
Pocket Opera presents Puccini's La Rondine on 28 April at the Hillside Club in Berkeley and 5 May at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Opera's Schwabacher Recital Series ends its season with two recitals this month in the Taube Atrium Theater: on 3 April soprano Mary Evelyn Hangley, tenor Christopher Oglesby, and pianist Mark Morash perform works by Schubert, Britten, Richard Strauss, Dvořák, Ives, Fauré, and unspecified Italians who wrote duets; and on 24 April soprano Hangley, mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon, tenor Zhengyi Bai, and bass-baritone Christian Pursell join pianist Martin Katz to perform works by Hugo Wolf, Barber, and Brahms.
Lieder Alive! also hosts two recitals this month, both at the Noe Valley Ministry: on 7 April you can hear bass Kirk Eichelberger and pianist Simona Snitkovskaya performing Veronika Krausas's Kandinsky Lieder as well as Mussorgsky's Songs and Dances of Death; and on 28 April you can hear mezzo-soprano Kindra Scharich and pianist Jeffrey LaDeur performing Beethoven's An die ferne Geliebte and Schumann's Frauenliebe und Leben and his Fantasie Opus 17.
Mariza, the "Queen of Fado", plays the SF Jazz Center from 12 to 14 April. At some point I should actually go hear some fado, but honestly I feel I've spent enough of my life listening to the lamentations of the Portuguese.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents the Choir of New College Oxford on 8 April at Grace Cathedral in a program of works by Palestrina, Victoria, Josquin des Prez, Francisco Guerrero, Walter Lamb, Nicholas Ludford, John Taverner, John Sheppard, and Thomas Tallis.
Lynne Morrow leads the Oakland Symphony Chorus's spring concert on 13 April at the First Congregational Church of Oakland; the program features African-American spirituals and a newly commissioned Mass for Freedom by Michael T Roberts inspired by them.
Bob Geary leads the San Francisco Choral Society in Rossini's Petite Messe Solonnelle at Calvary Presbyterian on 27 and 28 April.
Early / Baroque Music
Philharmonia Baroque gives us the gift of Handel's Saul: Nicolas McGegan leads the orchestra and the Philharmonia Chorale (Bruce Lamott, director), along with soloists soprano Sherezade Panthaki, soprano Yulia Van Doren, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, tenor Aaron Sheehan, tenor Jonathan Smucker, baritone Daniel Okulitch, and bass-baritone Christian Pursell, and this is clearly not to be missed. You can hear it 6 - 7 April at First Congregational in Berkeley, 12 April at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, and 13 April at First United Methodist in Palo Alto. And while we're talking about Philharmonia Baroque, I have to say they have a pretty spectacular season lined up for McGegan's farewell year.
The San Francisco Early Music Society presents Ensemble Caprice performing music by Bach, Falconiero, Schmelzer, and Vivaldi under the rubric Lovestories: Great Composers and Their Loved Ones on 12 April at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 13 April at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley, and 14 April at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco. (Lovestories is spelled thus on the website.)
Paul Flight leads the California Bach Society in works by two seventeenth-century Italians who worked in Vienna; you can hear madrigals by Giovanni Valentini, a student of Gabrieli, and the US premiere of Antonio Bertali's Missa Redemptoris; and that's 26 April at St Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 27 April at All Saints' Episcopal in Palo Alto, and 28 April at St Mark's Episcopal in Berkeley.
The Cantata Collective concludes its season with BWVs 62 and 72 with soprano Christine Brandes, alto William Sauerland, tenor Kyle Stegall, and bass Nikolas Nackley on 28 April at St Mary Magdalen in Berkeley.
Modern / Contemporary Music
San Francisco Performances presents Third Coast Percussion, playing new works by Philip Glass, Devonté Hines, and the ensemble itself, at Herbst Theater on 3 April.
Cal Performances brings Sō Percussion to Hertz Hall on 7 April, when they will perform west coast premieres of music by Vijay Iyer, Jason Treuting, Dan Trueman, and Donnacha Dennehy, as well as works by Caroline Shaw and a new work by Suzanne Farrin.
Ensemble for These Times brings The Film Noir Project to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music on 6 April, where they will perform commissioned world premieres by David Garner, Lennie Moore, Aleksandra Vrebalov, and Polina Nazaykinskaya, along with new works by Stacy Garrop, Justin Merritt, and David Garner.
Earplay has its second concert of the season on 8 April at the Taube Atrium Theater, where you can hear world premieres by Yu-Hsin Chang and Claire Jordan, a US premiere by Carola Bauckholt, a US and also a west coast premiere by Tristan Murail, and the 2018 Earplay Aird prize winner by A J McCaffrey.
As always, keep an eye on the Center for New Music's calendar, as it is frequently updated; and as always, here is a list of some things this month that catch my eye: horn player Nicolee Kuester and cellist Eric Moore are joined by pianist Jenny Hunt in new music by Dongryul Lee, Serio Cote, Morton Feldman, and Alvin Lucier (the first two commissioned by Kuester and Moore) on 4 April; a new music sampler from the 113 collective on 8 April; a lecture-recital from Amr Selim on 11 April demonstrating traditional Arabic music on the French horn; a salon-style evening of music by Patricia Wallinga on 12 April; Summits, a song cycle by Daniel Corral based on texts from "summit registers" (notebooks found at the tops of many mountain trails in which hikers can write their thoughts) on 13 April; the Amaranth Quartet on 14 April; contemporary piano music performed by Sakurako Kanemitsu on 20 April; Meredith Maloney using the inside as well as outside of the piano on 23 April (presented by Arab.Amp); the Galax Quartet playing music from 1607 to 2007 on 26 April; and Elinor Frey performing new music for baroque cello on 28 April.
At the San Francisco Symphony you can hear Andrey Boreyko conduct Zemlinsky's Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) along with the Brahms Piano Concerto 2 with soloist Emanuel Ax on 11 - 12 and 14 April; Simone Young conduct Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade along with Ravel's Pavane pour une infant défunte (Pavane for a dead princess) and his Piano Concerto with soloist Louis Lortie on 18 - 20 April; and James Gaffigan conduct Wagner's Good Friday music from Parsifal, the Beethoven Piano Concerto 4 with soloist Hélène Grimaud, the Mozart 31, Paris, and the Barber 1, and that's on 25 - 27 April.
Christian Reif leads the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra in the Tchaikovsky 4, Rimsky-Korsakov's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, and the Saint-Saens Piano Concerto No 5 in F Major Op 103, The Egyptian, with soloist Jinzhao Xu on 23 April.
Goran Bregović and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra play their Balkan music at the SF Jazz Center from 25 to 28 April.
San Francisco Performances presents the Elias Quartet playing works by Sally Beamish, Benjamin Britten, and Robert Schumann at Herbst Theater on 1 April.
Old First Concerts hosts pianist Audrey Vardanega along with violinist Hannah Tarley and cellist Monica Scott in works by Beethoven, Schumann, and Janáček on 12 April.
Old First Concerts presents its tenth Annual Birthday Tribute to Maestro Ali Akbar Khan with two concerts (an afternoon and an evening session; you may buy tickets to either or both) on 13 April celebrating the late master of traditional Indian music.
San Francisco Performances presents the Tetzlaff-Tetzlaff-Vogt Trio playing works by Mozart, Shostakovich, and Dvořák on 27 April at Herbst Theater.
The San Francisco Symphony chamber ensemble will play works by Spohr, Brahms, and Fauré in Davies Hall on 28 April.
Old First Concerts presents the Meráki Quartet on 26 April, playing pieces inspired by folk music from composers Debussy, Bartók, and Preben Antonsen.
Keyboards & Strings
Old First Concerts presents violinist Patrick Galvin (along with pianist Jungeun Kim and other unnamed guests) on 5 April in a program featuring Schubert, Bach, and the world premiere of Axel Herrera's The Road of the Pilgrim.
The San Francisco Symphony hosts a recital by violinist Midori and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet on 7 April at Davies Hall.
Pianists Bobby Mitchell and Jeffrey LaDeur play mostly Schumann for Old First Concerts on 7 April.
San Francisco Performances presents Piotr Anderszewski performing Beethoven (the Diabelli Variations) and Bach at Herbst Theater on 13 April. UPDATE: Anderszewski has cancelled his American tour due to complications from the flu; instead, SFP will present the San Francisco recital debut of Alexandre Tharaud; he will play Bach's Goldberg Variations, still in Herbst Theater, but the performance date is now 23 April.
Old First Concerts presents pianist Hadley McCarroll on 14 April in works by Bach, Helmut Lachenmann, Elliott Carter, and Debussy, along with world premieres by Monica Scott and Matt Ingalls.
Chamber Music San Francisco presents pianist Nelson Goerner playing Brahms, Beethoven, Schumann, and Chopin at Herbst Theater on 14 April.
Cal Performances presents violinist Gil Shaham and pianist Akira Eguchi at Zellerbach Hall, playing Kreisler, Scott Wheeler, Avner Dorman, Bach, and Franck, on 29 April.
Cal Performances presents the Monterey Jazz Festival on Tour at Zellerbach Hall on 3 April, with music director Christian Sands and singer Cécile McLorin Salvant.
The Havana Cuba All-Stars return to the Paramount Theater in Oakland on 13 April under the auspices of Cal Performances.
The Sasha Berliner Quartet comes to the SF Jazz Center on 26 April.
On 28 April Freight & Salvage in Berkeley presents Mary Lou's Apartment, an all-women big band inspired by the lives and legacies of Mary Lou Williams and Melba Liston.
San Francisco Performances presents Rosie Kay Dance at the Atrium Theater on 11 - 13 April, performing 5 Soldiers, which examines the body in wartime.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has its annual residency at Cal Performances from 9 to 14 April, when they will be performing four different programs in Zellerbach Hall.
The Alonzo King Lines Ballet presents a world premiere collaboration with Vietnamese musician Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ, along with a revival of 2016's Art Songs, from 12 to 21 April at the Yerba Buena Center in San Francisco.
The San Francisco Ballet revives The Little Mermaid (score by Lera Auerbach and choreography by John Neumeier) from 9 to 28 April; I gather the show is controversial but I really loved it when I saw it a few years ago. It is a complex and adult take on Andersen's famous story and his life – in other words, don't go in expect a live romp through the Disney film (which I also enjoy, but it's a very different thing).
The Legion of Honor justifies my membership renewal by hosting Early Rubens, opening 6 April and running until 8 September. I am very excited about this one.
The Oakland Museum of California presents Queer California: Untold Stories from 13 April to 11 August.