02 October 2023

25 September 2023

Museum Monday 2023/39


detail of Half-Portrait of a Young Woman by Anna Dorothea Therbusch-Lisiewska, current on view at BAMPFA as part of their exhibit What Has Been and What Could Be: The BAMPFA Collection

22 September 2023

Another Opening, Another Show: October 2023

Some useful information as the performance season gets into full swing: you can check for rush tickets to the San Francisco Symphony by calling 415-503-5577 before the concert you're interested in (availability varies by week); and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has many programs that are free & open to the public (reservations usually required), which you can check here; the programs are updated through the month, so it's worth checking more than once a month.


Ray of Light Theater revives the Rocky Horror Show, starring D'Arcy Drollinger as Dr Frank N Furter, in an immersive production at the Oasis Nightclub from 6 to 31 October; if you want to see the celebrated cult film as well, see the Curran's presentation (listed below under Cinematic).

At the Potrero Stage from 13 October to 4 November, Golden Thread Productions gives us ReOrient, an evening of six short plays from or about the Middle East, including Stamp Me by Yussef El Guindi (directed by Sahar Assaf), Closure by Arti Ishak (directed by Susannah Martin), The Suicide Bomber by Hamed Sinno (directed by Becca Wolff), A Massacre by Katrin Arefy (directed by Sahar Assaf & Amal Bisharat), Picture Bride by Judith Boyajian Strang-Waldau (directed by Amal Bisharat), & Data Queen by Adam Ashraf Elsayigh (directed by Adin Walker).

Z Space & Word for Word present Citizen by Greg Sarris, directed by Gendell Hing-Hernández, about Salvador, a young man born in the USA & raised in Mexico who returns to California to find his mother's family, & that's a Z Below from 18 October to 12 November.

The Curran Theater presents Anthony Rapp's Without You, a one-person musical in which Rapp discusses his early career & in particular his time with Rent, & that's from 19 to 22 October.

BroadwaySF presents Eddie Izzard in The Remix: The First 35 Years, in which she roams through & revisits her career, & that's from 19 to 21 October at the Orpheum.

Custom Made Theater & CounterPulse present the world premiere of Aimee Suzara's Tiny Fires, directed by Nikki Meñez, about two scavengers in the Philippines who question their survival tactics when a Filipino-American arrives on the scene, & that runs from 19 to 29 October.

Cutting Ball Theater presents Karel Čapek's Rossum’s Universal Robots, translated by Paul Selver & adapted & directed by Chris Steele, from 20 October to 12 November.

New Conservatory Theater presents the west coast premiere of Harrison David Rivers's we are continuous, directed by ShawnJ West, tracing the effects a young man's coming out has on his family, & that's 20 October to 26 November.

Theater Lunatico presents a double bill of Washington Irving's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, adapted & directed by Gendell Hing-Hernández, & Faulkner's A Rose for Emily, adapted by Joseph Robinette & directed by Tara Blau Smollen, in the Subterranean Theater below La Val's Pizza, from 21 October to 5 November.

From 27 October to 3 December, Berkeley Rep presents Eisa Davis's Bulrusher, directed by Nicole A Watson, about a multiracial girl found under mysterious circumstances near Boonville; an operatic version by Nathaniel Stookey, made with Davis's participation, is scheduled for West Edge Opera's 2024 Summer Festival, & it might be interesting to compare the two.

John Cameron Mitchell's Hedwig & The Angry Inch, directed by Richard Mosqueda & with music direction by Daniel Alley, opens at Shotgun Players on 28 October & runs through 3 December.

The African-American Shakespeare Company presents Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, directed by Ted Lange, at the Taube Atrium Theater from 28 October to 12 November.


Cal Performances presents Ezra Klein talking about A Liberalism That Builds at Zellerbach Hall on 5 October.

On 7 October at the Legion of Honor, Steven Tuck, professor of history & classics at Miami University, will speak about Gladiators at Pompeii: Roman Spectacle in a Small Town.

City Arts & Lectures presents George Saunders in conversation with Ingrid Rojas Contreras at the Sydney Goldstein Theater on 11 October.

City Arts & Lectures presents Jhumpa Lahiri in conversation with Peter Stein on 13 October at the Sy Sydney Goldstein Theater.

BroadwaySF's Unscripted series gives us local gal Rachel Maddow, speaking about her career, answering audience questions, & discussing Prequel, her new book (a copy of which is included with each ticket, courtesy of Book Passage), & that's 21 October at the Golden Gate Theater.


At the San Francisco Opera, you can catch the final performance on 1 October of Il Trovatore, & the final two performances of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs on 3 & 7 October; Eun Sun Kim will lead Wagner's Lohengrin in the David Alden production, with Simon O'Neill in the title role, Julie Adams as Else, Brian Mulligan as Telramund, & Judit Kutasi as Ortrud, on 15, 18, 21, 24, 27 October & 1 November. In connection with Lohengrin, the Wagner Society of Northern California will present Professor Simon Williams speaking on Lohengrin: The Challenge of Production at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco on 14 October.

That local jewel Ars Minerva presents its latest modern world premiere of a work buried since its inception; this time it is Domenico Freschi's Olimpia Vendicata, directed by company Founder & Artistic Director Céline Ricci & conducted by Matthew Dirst, & that's at the ODC Theater on 20 - 22 October.

Opera Parallèle opens its season with The Emissary, with music by Kenji Oh & libretto by Kelley Rourke, based on a novel by Yoko Tawada, at the ODC Theater on 27 - 28 October.


SF Jazz presents a series of vocalists under the rubric Sing, Sing, Sing: on 12 October, Veronica Swift will perform songs from her new eponymous album; on 13 October, Carminho will explore old & new directions in fado; on 14 October, blues singer Shemekia Copeland will perform music from across her career, up to her latest album, Done Come Too Far; & on 15 October, Gretchen Parlato (vocals) & Lionel Loueke (guitar & vocals) will perform songs from their new album, Lean In.

On 15 October at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, SF Jazz presents Lila Downs in her annual celebration of Día de los Muertos, featuring folklorico dancing, visual projections, & of course singing.

San Francisco Performances gives us tenor Ian Bostridge & pianist Wenwen Du performing Schubert's Winterreise at Herbst Theater on 21 October; in conjunction with this performance, Bostridge will give a Master Class on 20 October at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Bassist/singer/songwriter Meshell Ndegeocello, along with as yet unannounced special guests, will play music from her 2023 album The Omnichord Real Book at SF Jazz on 27 - 29 October.


Voices of Music performs music by Mozart (Exsultate, jubilate), CPE Bach, & Maddalena Sirmen, with soloists Liv Redpath (soprano), August McKay Lodge, & Shelby Yamin (both violinists), & that's 27 October at First Congregational in Berkeley, 28 October at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, & 29 October at Saint Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.

Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in the world premiere of an SFS-commissioned piano concerto by Anders Hillborg, with soloist Emanuel Ax, for whom the concerto was written; the program also includes the Brahms Variations on a Theme of Joseph Haydn & the Beethoven 2, & that program runs on 12 - 14 October.

Shiyeon Sung, joined by pianist Awadagin Pratt, leads the Oakland Symphony in Valerie Coleman's Seven O’clock Shout, Bach's Piano Concerto in A, BWV 1055, Jessie Montgomery's Rounds for Piano & String Orchestra, & Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances on 13 October at the Paramount Theater.

Music Director Joseph Young leads the Berkeley Symphony in American Kaleidoscope, featuring Barber's Essay for Orchestra #2, James P Johnson's Yamekraw: A Negro Rhapsody (written by Johnson in response to the Rhapsody in Blue; this performance features the Marcus Roberts Trio), Peter S Shin's Relapse, & then Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (also with the Marcus Roberts Trio), & that's at Zellerbach Hall on 15 October.

On 21 October at the Paramount, the Oakland Symphony will present one of its Playlist concerts, this time featuring Angela Davis, who will "share the music that inspired her courage and her commitment" (the specific program is not listed on the website); the evening is hosted by W Kamau Bell & Rickey Minor is the conductor.

On 21 October, Edwin Outwater leads the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra in the world premiere of a new arrangement by Edmar Colón of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (with piano soloist Lara Downes), along with the world premiere of Jameson Caps's Ruminations (winner of the 2022 Highsmith Composition Competition), concluding with Mason Bates's Anthology of Fantastic Zoology.

Jory Fankuchen leads the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra in Gratitude & Commemoration, a program consisting of Florence Price's Andante Moderato for String Orchestra, Shostakovich's Chamber Symphony in C minor, Opus 110a, & the Mendelssohn 3, the Scottish; & that's 20 October at Saint Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco, 21 October at First United Methodist in Palo Alto, & 22 October at First Congregational in Berkeley.

On 21 - 22 October, former Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony in Olly Wilson's Shango Memory & the Beethoven 9, with soloists Angel Blue (soprano), Tamara Mumford (mezzo-soprano), Ben Bliss (tenor), & Dashon Burton (bass).

Daniel  Harding leads the San Francisco Symphony in the Symphony premiere of Vaughan Williams's On Wenlock Edge (with tenor soloist Andrew Staples), along with Holst's The Planets, on 26 - 28 October. [UPDATE: Harding has withdrawn from this program & Elim Chan will now conduct; she retains The Planets but Staples will now be singing Britten's Les Illuminations instead of the Vaughan Williams.]

Thomas Green leads the UC Berkeley Philharmonia Orchestra in the Dvořák 8 at Hertz Hall on 27 October.

Chamber Music

On 2 October at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, you can experience Octubafest, a celebration of brass featuring Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70 with Massimiliano Castor on tuba & Margaret Halbig on piano; Bach's Sonata for Flute in E-flat Major, BWV 1031, with Seth Cook on tuba & Sophia Kim Cook on piano; Mozart's Concerto for Horn #4 in E-flat Major, K 495, with Jeffrey Anderson on tuba & Margaret Halbig on piano; & Christer Danielsson's Concertante Suite for Tuba and Four Horns, with Massimiliano Castor on tuba & Jaxson Padgett, Seth Shumate, Yolanda Zheng, & Drew Patterson on horn.

The San Francisco Symphony's chamber trio (Alexander Barantschik, violin; Peter Wyrick, cello; & Anton Nel, piano) will perform music by Hummel, Mozart, & Shostakovich at the Legion of Honor's Gunn Theater on 8 October.

San Francisco Performances presents the Calder Quartet with guest pianist Timo Andres, performing Andres's Machine, Learning; The Great Span (Piano Quintet), Schubert's Rosamunde Quartet, & Ann Southam's Remembering Schubert, at Herbst Theater on 10 October.

The San Francisco Symphony presents violinist Lisa Batiashvili, cellist Gautier Capuçon, & pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet performing piano trios by Haydn, Ravel, & Mendelssohn on 15 October at Davies Hall.

Cal Performances presents mandolinist Avi Avital & accordionist Hanzhi Wang performing works by Fritz Kreisler, Stravinsky, Bach, Bartók, Pablo de Sarasate, Manuel de Falla, & Saint-Saëns at Hertz Hall on 15 October.

As part of his week-long residency at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, pianist Inon Barnatan will join Conservatory students in a chamber music program on 17 October, featuring Amy Beach's Piano Quintet in F-sharp Minor, Opus 67 & Beethoven's Piano Trio in E-flat Major, Opus 1, #1.

Old First Concerts on 22 October presents Cornelius Boots & The Wood Prophets (Kevin Chen, Karl Young, Hiromi Inaba, Darrell Hayden, all playing the bass shakuhachi, a style of Japanese bamboo flute) in an album release party for Bigfoot Revelation.

The JACK Quartet will be performing works by John Luther Adams for San Francisco Performances at Herbst Theater on 26 October.

San Francisco Performances once again presents a Saturday morning lecture series at Herbst Theater, with musicologist Robert Greenberg as host & lecturer & the Alexander String Quartet providing the musical examples; the theme this year is Music as a Mirror of Our World: The String Quartet from 1905 to 1946 & the first lecture, on 28 October, centers on Austria & will feature performances of Schoenberg's String Quartet #1 & Webern's Langsamer Satz & his Five Movements for Strings.


Cal Performances presents pianist Tom Borrow in Hertz Hall on 1 October, when he will play works by Debussy, Chopin, Rachmaninoff,& Prokofiev. [UPDATE: From a Cal Performances press release: ". . . pianist Tom Borrow has withdrawn from his season-opening recital scheduled for Sunday, October 1, 2023, on the advice of his doctor following a bicycle accident; the performance will be rescheduled at a later date. Pianist Jeremy Denk will replace Borrow in a concert program that includes Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor; Ligeti’s Études, Book 1, Bach’s Keyboard Partita No. 6 in E minor, and Beethoven’s Piano Sonata in E major.]

San Francisco Performances gives us pianist Isata Kanneh-Mason performing music by Haydn, Fanny Mendelssohn, Schumann, & Chopin in Herbst Theater on 6 October.

On 6 October at Old First Concerts, pianist/composer Utsav Lal, with guests Nilan Chaudhuri on tabla & George Brooks on saxophone, will perform traditional as well as adapted versions of Indian classical ragas.

Guitarist Stephanie Jones will visit Saint Mark's Lutheran on 7 October under the auspices of San Francisco Performances, where she will perform music by Bach, Richard Charlton, Ross Edwards, Jakob Schmidt, Quique Sinesi, Rostislav Holubov, Pazzolla, & Jobim (as arranged by Roland Dyens).

On 15 October, Old First Concerts presents pianist/composer Monica Chew in Best Friends, a program juxtaposing pieces that she feels belong side by side, including music by Stacy Fahrion, Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou, Ali Osman, Shostakovich, Lucrecia Kasilag, Joshua Uzoigwe Ukom, Ulvi Cemal Erkin, & Chew herself.

Cal Performances presents pianist Michelle Cann in Hertz Hall on 29 October, when she will play works by Ginastera, Joel Thompson, Ravel, Florence Price, & Liszt.

Early / Baroque Music

Please note the latest Ars Minerva production, listed above under Operatic.

On 8 October at Old First Concerts, lute & theorbo player Zachary Donaldson will explore Renaissance music for lute from Spain, Italy, France, & England, including pieces by Luís Milán, Francesco da Milano, John Dowland, Alessandro Piccinini, Giovanni Kapsberger, Josquin des Prez & others.

Paul Flight leads the California Bach Society in the Mass in B Minor on 13 October at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, 14 October at Saint Mark's Episcopal in Palo Alto, & 15 October at First Congregational in Berkeley.

Richard Egarr leads Philharmonia Baroque, joined by countertenor Tim Mead & dramaturg Reginald Mobley, in Garden of Good & Evil, an exploration of Handel's theatrical music, along with new pieces by Errollyn Wallen & PBO Composer-in-Residence Tarik O'Regan, & that's 18 October at Bing Concert Hall at Stanford, 19 October at Herbst Theater in San Francisco, & 21 October (both matinee & evening performances) at First Congregational in Berkeley.

The San Francisco Early Music Society presents El Mundo, led by guitarist & lutenist Richard Savino, in an exploration of the archives of the Cathedral of Guatemala City, "where classical 16th-century polyphony blended with secular indigenous dances to create a unique Hispanic style"; the composers include Juan Iribarren, Sebastián Durón, & Jose de Torres of Spain along with Guatemalan composers Manuel José Quiroz & Rafael Antonio Castellanos, & you can hear them all on 27 October at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, on 28 October at First Congregational in Berkeley, & on 29 October at the First Unitarian Universalist Society in San Francisco.

Cal Performances presents the Los Angeles Master Chorale in Schütz’s Musikalische Exequien (which they translate as Music to Accompany a Departure, though I've also seen Funeral Music as a rendition), conducted by Grant Gershon & staged by Peter Sellars, on 28 October in Zellerbach Hall.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music Baroque Ensemble, led by Corey Jamason & Elisabeth Reed, will play music by Vivaldi, Telemann, Albinoni, & Graupner on 29 October.

Modern / Contemporary Music

On 6 - 7 October at Davies Hall, Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leads the San Francisco Symphony in the world premiere of an SFS commission, Convergence by Jesper Nordin, featuring violin soloist Pekka Kuusisto; the piece involves Nordin's Reactional Music platform, which is related to video-gaming technology, & allows for "unprecedented interaction between live performers and technology as gestures inspire the surrounding musical atmosphere"; there are also projections, & then to round out the evening the Orchestra will also perform John Adams's Naïve and Sentimental Music. (I believe this is the first time I've put an entire SF Symphony concert under this rubric; usually the new pieces are ten minutes or so before we get to the standards, so consider this a step in the symphonic right direction.)

Mills College presents the Darius Milhaud Concert, honoring his time at the College, in the Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Concert Hall on 6 October, with a program featuring soprano Shauna Fallihee & pianist Miles Graber performing Milhaud's Poems Juifs, 3 Poems de Lucile de Chateaubriand, & Poulenc's Banalites & baritone Roco Córdova & pianist Brett Carson performing Milhaud's Quatre Poèmes de Paul Claudel, Trois Poèmes de Jean Cocteau, & Debussy's Beau soir & his Deux romances: Le Cloches.

On 20 October at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, the Friction Quartet & pianist/composer Helen Sung will perform music from her new album, Quartet+, which includes original music by Sung as well as her arrangements of pieces by Geri Allen, Mary Lou Williams, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Carla Bley, & Marian McPartland.


Wynton Marsalis brings his Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to the SF Jazz Center on 1 - 2 October.

You can celebrate the Disney Centennial with a jazz tribute to the Disney Songbook at SF Jazz; When You Wish Upon a Star plays on 7 October & features Sean Mason on piano, vocalists Sasha Dobson & Kim Nalley, & other players to be named later.

Jazz flutist Christian Artmann brings his quartet (the others are Laszlo Gardony on piano, Jeff Denson on bass, Yoron Israel on drums), along with special guest vocalist Elena McEntire, to the California Jazz Conservatory on 7 October to celebrate the release of his new album, The Middle of Life.

The Electric Squeezebox Orchestra brings its big-band sounds to the California Jazz Conservatory on 8 October.

The SF Jazz Center will again hold its annual birthday celebrations for the great Thelonious Monk; on the day itself (10 October), Marcus Shelby leads his New Orchestra, joined by pianists Gerald Clayton & Benny Green, "in an evening inspired by Monk’s legendary 1959 Town Hall concert"; on 12 October, the Aaron Bennett Trio (Bennett on tenor saxophone, Dan Seamans on bass, & Smith Dobson Jr on drums) perform music from Monk's 1958 album Thelonious in Action; on 13 October, the SF Jazz Collective will partner with the SF Conservatory of Music's Roots, Jazz, & American Music (RJAM) program, in a concert featuring vocalist Carmen Bradford, bassist Matt Brewer, & drummer Matt Wilson; on 14 October, pianist Larry Vuckovich & his Trio will perform pieces by Monk & from the Great American Songbook; & on 15 October, guitarist John Schott will lead a group of "exploratory musicians" in a six-hour version of his evening-length meditation on Monk’s ’Round Midnight.

Bassist Jeong Lim Yang & her Zodiac Trio (the other two are pianist Santiago Leibson & percussionist Gerald Cleaver) visit the Center for New Music on 14 October with their recreation of Mary Lou Williams's 1945 Zodiac Suite.

Clarinetist Anat Cohen, joined by drummer Mark Ferber, pianist Frank Martin, & bassist Jeff Denson, will perform original music by Cohen as well as Brazilian & jazz standards at the California Jazz Conservatory on 13 -14 October.

On 19 October at SF Jazz, Brazilian pianist/composer/singer Eliane Elia, accompanied by bass player Marc Johnson, will play music of Bill Evans & Antonio Carlos Jobim along with other Brazilian & American jazz classics, & on 20 -22 October she & her quartet will perform music from her two most recent albums, Mirror Mirror & Quietude.

On 27 October at SF Jazz, bassist & singer Aneesa Strings performs in celebration of the release of her new album.

Tuba player Theon Cross brings his London-based sounds to SF Jazz on 28 - 29 October.


Alonzo Kings Lines Ballet presents moments from King's work over the past 24 years, including passages from Suite Etta, Following the Subtle Current Upstream, Dust and Light, Writing Ground, Resin, & Child of Sky and Earth, & that's 12 - 15 October at Yerba Buena.

Art Means Painting

Por el Pueblo: The Legacy and Influence of Malaquías Montoya, presenting works by the Chicano artist & activist, as well as works by other artists he has influenced, opens at the Oakland Museum on 6 October & runs through 30 June 2024.

Duane Linklater: mymothersside, the artist's first major survey exhibit, will present his view of contemporary life for Indigenous peoples at BAMPFA from 7 October to 25 February 2024.

SFMOMA opens Yayoi Kusama: Infinite Love, featuring two of the artist's Infinity Mirror Rooms, on 14 October (running until 7 September 2024); in conjunction with that exhibit, the museum has also installed Kusama's Aspiring to Pumpkin’s Love, the Love in My Heart on a different floor.

SFMOMA also offers Pacita Abad, the first retrospective of the Filipina artist's work, on 21 October (running until 28 January 2024).

Deities, Paragons, and Legends: Storytelling in Chinese Pictorial Arts, featuring depictions of "well-known historical stories and love romances, tales of popular deities and heroic figures, and anecdotes of filial sons and celebrated scholars in Chinese art", will open at the Asian Art Museum on 12 October & run through 8 July 2024.

The Kehinde Wiley show, An Archaeology of Silence, will close at the de Young on 15 October, & it's worth the trek out there if you have not yet seen this powerful show; there will be a Grand Finale Concert all day on 14 October.

Contemporary Indigenous Voices of California’s South Coast Range, an exhibition of portraits by Kirti Bassendine of Indigenous peoples from the San Francisco peninsula through the Santa Cruz mountains, Monterey Bay, & lower Salinan Valley, accompanied by statements from Indigenous peoples, will open at the de Young on 7 October & run through 7 January 2024.

The second triennial de Young Open, featuring works from local artists, will, as the name suggests, be open at the de Young from 29 September through 7 January 2024. & you can compare & contrast that show with an alternate Bay Area local arts triennial exhibit when the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts opens Bay Area Now on 6 October (running until 5 May 2024).


Here are the film series launching at BAMPFA this month: the African Film Festival 2023 begins 1 October & runs through 16 November; the Mill Valley Film Festival at BAMPFA starts 7 October & runs through 15 October; an interesting-looking series of Chinese Musicals from 1957 to 1963 opens 19 October & runs through 28 October; & Artists on Film commences 22 October & runs through 5 November.

On 4 October, the Curran presents the 48th Anniversary Spectacular Tour of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, hosted by Brad himself, Barry Bostwick; if you want to see the live original show as well, check out Ray of Light's production (listed above under Theatrical).

The SF Jazz Center will screen the new documentary Zero Gravity, examining the life & music of the late Wayne Shorter, on 8 October, with a pre-screening conversation between SF Jazz Executive Artistic Director Terence Blanchard & film director Dorsay Alavi.

The French animated film The Triplets of Belleville will be shown at Zellerbach Hall on 21 & 22 October, presented by Cal Performances, with composer Benoît Charest in person leading a live rendition of his score.

City Arts & Lectures & the Telluride Film Festival present Werner Herzog in conversation with Caterina Fake at the Sydney Goldstein Theater on 21 October.

SF Jazz presents its annual Halloween film at Grace Cathedral on 30 October; this year you can see the 1920 John Barrymore Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde, with Dorothy Papadakos accompanying on the cathedral organ.

Friday Photo 2023/38


Mission Dolores, San Francisco

18 September 2023

Museum Monday 2023/38


detail of the Coit Tower murals in San Francisco; I think this section is by Maxine Albro but the signage was confusing & difficult to read

11 September 2023

Museum Monday 2023/37


detail of Nicholas Hilliard's Portrait of Sir Amias Paulet, seen as part of the exhibit The Tudors: Art and Majesty in Renaissance England at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco

28 August 2023

Museum Monday 2023/35


detail of Looking at Barney & Mark by Frank Bowling, currently at SFMOMA as part of the special exhibit Frank Bowling: The New York Years 1966 – 1975

21 August 2023

20 August 2023

West Edge Opera: Le Rossignol / Erwartung

My third Sunday afternoon at West Edge Opera was spent with Stravinsky's Le Rossignol (The Nightingale) & Schoenberg's Erwartung (Expectation), both conducted by Jonathan Khuner (who also prepared the orchestral reduction for Erwartung) & directed by Giselle Ty. When I first saw the West Edge 2023 schedule, this was the offering I was most excited about, as, contrary to the bizarre complaints that are, or used to be, common about the iron & unforgiving grip of Modernism on the concert hall, chances to hear music like this live have been relatively scarce even over my decades of dedicated concert-going. This lack is especially gaping when it comes to live performances of Schoenberg's music, though I did hear Erwartung live once before, in 1986 at the Boston Symphony, with Seiji Ozawa conducting & Hildegard Behrens as soloist (a combination which a friend of mine felt was echt '80s, & in retrospect I guess it was).

The set for Le Rossignol

Musically the afternoon was outstanding. The sets & costumes for Nightingale were as gorgeous to look at as the music was to hear. I was a little less happy with the staging. I remembered enough both of Andersen's source story & the libretto to follow the action in broad outlines, but from a stage story-telling point of view it wasn't always quite clear who was doing what & why. (This is a frequent occurrence with opera direction, though; there does seem to be a presumption that we're all so familiar with the story that the staged action can take off in sometimes fanciful directions.) There seemed to be some sort of ecological theme added on; in the lobby beforehand, as I was finishing my glass of free wine (a lovely & generous feature of West Edge performances) a petite young woman with a plastic garbage bag came up & offered to take our trash. Her hair was short & particolored & she looked as if she had stepped freshly from the world of anime. It turns out this was none other than our Nightingale, Helen Zhibing Huang, & once the show started I realized that the trash-collection was more thematic metatheatricality than mere housekeeping. But the significance was still unclear to me. One problem is that, as with Zambello's "American" Gotterdammerung, in which the deterioration of the environment is also shown by piles of plastic water bottles, those piles, stacked up & lit dramatically, tend to look on stage like a glamorous modern art installation rather than mere trash.

That didn't matter much, though. Huang had an exquisitely crystalline, though also strong & flexible, voice, suitable for the famously captivating song of the Nightingale; no wonder she entranced the surprisingly young & hunky Emperor (Patrick Scully) (or has the Emperor Altoum from Turandot just conditioned me to assume that stage emperors of China are wizened elderly men?). The whole cast was strong: Kevin Gino as the Fisherman, Kristin Choi as the Cook, Alice Chung as a formidable Death, Chung-Wai Soong as the Chamberlain, Wayne Wong as the Bonze, & David Ahn, Michael Kuo, & Brieanne Martin as the Foreign Emissaries. It was a feast for eyes & ears.

The set for Erwartung

Erwartung is a one-woman show, & Mary Evelyn Hangley as the possibly delusional, possibly wandering, possibly murderous woman was a tower, shaping the dramatic action easily for the duration of the monologue's roughly 30 minutes. I had found the staging for Rossignol, though not always clear as to action, quite enjoyable to watch, but I found the staging of the Schoenberg disappointing. It was set in a hospital, which I think restricts & guides our assumptions & reactions too narrowly. There were dancers, & though some friends of mine objected to them, I did not (& one of them danced wearing eyeglasses, which you seldom see & which I liked). But some of the dancers entered smoking cigarettes, which I guess is to show us they're figments of the woman's imagination, as it's been decades since smoking was allowed in hospitals, but I have a visceral dislike to smoking on stage; as it's generally unnecessary, as well as tacky & conventional, and, again, defining the figures as imaginary limits our possible interpretations of this piece's ambiguous interplay between subconsciousness & outward reality. But given the power of Hangley's performance & the gorgeous playing Khuner elicited from the orchestra, it was easy enough to ignore the stage trappings. On the whole the double-bill was an excellent end to an outstanding festival.

19 August 2023

West Edge Opera: The Coronation of Poppea

The second opera I saw at the West Edge Opera summer festival was Monteverdi's The Coronation of Poppea, conducted by Adam Pearl & directed by NJ Agwuna. with Shawnette Sulker as the bewitching, scheming Poppea, Sarah Coit as the weak & willful Nero, Sara Couden as Nero's soon-to-be-abandoned wife Octavia, Philip Skinner as the sober philosopher Seneca, Michael Skarke as Poppea's former lover Ottone, Samuel Faustine in the comic drag role of Poppea's attendant Arnalta, & Rayna Mia Campbell as Ottone's would-be lover Drusilla. All were top-notch & musically the afternoon was a delight.

With its complicated but emotionally logical plot, its richness & range of characterization, its easy alternation between comedy & tragedy, high & low, its dramatic irony & moral ambiguities, this opera is more Shakespearean than many of those directly based on his work; &, as with Shakespeare, whatever you think of as the ur-text is likely to arrive in somewhat altered form in performance. In this performance the prologue with Fortune, Virtue, & Love debating was cut, as it often is, & various other alterations are made (the only one that for me disrupted the flow – meaning it brought me out of the performance & into considerations of the text – was the absence of Seneca's acolytes during his suicide, as their cries of Non morir, Seneca have always seemed to me a key part of that scene – nonetheless, their absence did not detract much from Skinner's sober, wise, & ineffectual philosopher). The story flowed smoothly & clearly, & in this production, more than in others I've seen (live or on video) you were aware of Poppea as the puppetmaster (or, I guess, puppetmistress) manipulating the action – Sulker was, not surprisingly to those who have heard her before, fabulously seductive in the role. Octavia, portrayed with appropriately delusional dignity by Couden, didn't stand a chance with the sensuous Nero, though we in the audience were free to enjoy her more than he did (but then, few of us are decadent emperors, at least outside of our own minds).

The setting was semi-contemporary, semi-classical, which works fine. The salacious aspects of the plot were emphasized by projections at the back, with typically lurid tabloid headlines describing the goings-on of the rich & famous; all very suitable, even if the tabloid presentation is harmlessly anachronistic. I will say that many of these projections were partly blocked for me by the set, but I got the gist. I did have a problem with one part of the staging: when Ottone, spurred & blackmailed by Octavia into attempting the murder of Poppea as she sleeps unattended, disguises himself in the clothes of Drusilla & then flees when he is foiled, Poppea & the interrupting Arnalta think the attempted assassin is, in fact, Drusilla. In this production, Drusilla wore a distinctive ensemble of dull red over a green skirt, but that's not what Ottone borrows – he's in some sort of brownish cloak that we've never seen before, & doesn't much look like a woman's garment anyway, so it's unclear why everyone thinks, "Oh, Drusilla!" With this gender-fluid outfit, you also miss the sense that he is unmanning himself in obedience to the Empress Octavia's murderous orders. & then the tabloid projections start, & we see paparazzi-style photos of the fleeing killer – only we can clearly see his face, which is easily identifiable as Ottone's, & which has masculine facial hair – so, again, why is everyone convinced that Drusilla was the would-be assassin? I don't know what they were thinking there. Other than that, this was a solid, even captivating, afternoon, & the gorgeous final duet between Poppea & Nero, sung in stillness & partial darkness, sent us out floating; historically & psychologically, we know better than to be convinced by this love duet, but isn't the whole point of the opera the overwhelming appeal, despite our moral qualms & realistic assessments of a given situation, of such gloriously gorgeous sounds?

18 August 2023

West Edge Opera: Cruzar la Cara de la Luna

The West Edge Opera festival started for me with Cruzar la Cara de la Luna (To Cross the Face of the Moon), the mariachi opera composed by José “Pepe” Martínez to a text by Leonard Foglia.

My Sunday afternoon visit was also my first time at West Edge's new performance location, the Scottish Rite Center on Lake Merritt in Oakland; they performed there last summer, but I had not resumed post-lockdown concert-going then. It looks as if the wandering troupe has finally found a workable venue; the building is grand enough for any opera & eccentric enough to fit the West Edge aesthetic. The auditorium is up on the fourth floor, with a convenient arrangement of lobbies outside, including one where West Edge can offer its signature free wine before the performance & during intermission (donations are always accepted but not required). It's a convenient walk from the Lake Merritt BART station – just 10 minutes, straight down the street – & I was able to visit the Oakland Museum beforehand. & it's always lovely to be on a lake.

Cruzar has been making the national rounds, though I believe this was the Bay Area premiere. I will say that I like mariachi music but my association with it is mostly with inconsiderate neighbors & ruined weekends; having mariachi blasting into your house from blocks away is certainly better than having to put up with rock or rap or suchlike, but I object to all overamplified music, particularly when it mostly reaches me as a nonstop series of monotonous thumps. This performance was, in fact, amplified, but it's different when it's something you've chosen to hear. But there were problems with the amplification, which seems to be the inevitable sentence one writes after any amplified performance. I don't really understand why they didn't just give us natural sound; certainly most of the voices could carry to the back reaches of the auditorium.

The opera itself is fairly short (maybe roughly an hour?), so Mariachi Azteca, who accompanied the opera, gave us a concert beforehand; they were arrayed around the stage in their vivid & elegant costumes while singers came out for their various numbers. They were more like a jazz ensemble than I had expected; various instrumentalists were highlighted in turn, as were the singers, some of whom were also in the opera, including the main singer for the concert, tenor Moisés Salazar, who got his start in his family's mariachi band. The unfortunate amplification kicked in at the worst possible time, as Salazar introduced his first music teacher, his father, & they sang together, but accompanied by the high whine of a wayward system. It was really too bad, at such a moving moment. But I enjoyed the concert quite a lot, & it was clear a lot of the audience was thrilled.

There were no surtitles for the mariachi concert, I assume due to its perhaps semi-improvised nature. It turned out, when the opera started after the intermission, that I had trouble reading the surtitles anyway (as did some others around me). I don't know if it was the way the light was hitting the screen or what, but they were quite washed out, & unfortunately my Spanish isn't strong enough to do without them, though I could pick out some key words. I didn't have this problem with the other operas, so I don't know what was going on there.

The opera itself turned out to be almost surprisingly moving. It is more in the nature of a fable, or an archetypal incident, than a drama about individuals; a man, Laurentino, is dying, & in flashback we find out that he left Mexico to earn money in the United States, leaving behind Renata, his beloved wife, & their young son Rafael. They try to join Laurentino but Renata dies in the desert crossing as her helpless son looks on; he is taken back to Mexico & raised by her family. In the present, as Laurentino is in his final days, his second, Mexican-American, family works to reunite him with Rafael. I usually don't read an opera's plot synopsis until after I've seen it, if I read it at all, as I like whatever surprises the work on stage can give me, but even without knowing how deeply sadness runs through this story I had wondered how mariachi, which strikes me as essentially, for lack of a better word, life-affirming (this might just be my ignorance of the style) could convey the darker, deeper emotions that are almost required in opera.

The creators of Cruzar solved that by framing a potentially tragic story as one of acceptance & reconciliation, with joyful scenes (Laurentino & Renata's wedding, for example) highlighted. The guiding metaphor is the butterfly, its fragility, its rebirth into beauty (fortunately, given the surtitle situation, mariposa is one of the Spanish words I recognize, as well as corazón). Director Karina Gutiérrez used the space well, with Laurentino's death bed (from which he arose for the flashbacks) right in the center of the stage, keeping us in mind of his impending passing. Baritone Efraín Solís was Laurentino, & to anyone who's seen him perform (to take just one West Edge example, his memorable Golaud from 2018's Pelleas), it was no surprise that he held the stage with magnetic warmth; you could feel he loved this material. The rest of the cast kept up with him, though: Kelly Guerra as Renata, Moisés Salazar as Laurentino's old friend Chucho, Sergio González as the adult Rafael . . . all excellent.

The opera was strangely powerful. I was deeply moved by it. I wondered if this was just the inevitable reaction to any story of loss & the hope for reconciliation, themes which became ever more present, & even omnipresent, as we age, but I think it went beyond that (I recently saw for the first time the Pixar film Coco, which deals with some similar themes, & I was considerably less moved). It was just that magic operatic union of suggestive words, powerful music, & committed performers. But of course, in life, at least for me, the understanding, forgiveness, & reconciliation (whether with the living or their spirits) that we hope for turns out not to be a lasting feeling. Spurred on by fiction, I had always imagined a certain finality there, but the hard-won, struggled-for sense of reconciliation recedes & old angers, fears, & frustrations rise back up to the surface; & then you work through those again to reconciliation, but then that recedes (again) & the waves keep washing over you until you, too, are worn down & swept out to some metaphysical sea.

Friday Photo 2023/33


Chinatown, San Francisco

17 August 2023

West Edge Opera: Dolores preview

Last Sunday there was an addition to West Edge Opera's usual three-opera summer festival in the shape of a preview with orchestra of Dolores, a forthcoming work about labor & civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, with music by Nicolás Lell Benavides (who is related to Huerta) & libretto by Marella Martin Koch, the finished version of which is scheduled for West Edge's 2025 season. Instead of their usual venue, the Scottish Rite Center on Lake Merritt in Oakland, the Opera put the preview in the Taube Atrium Theater at the War Memorial Complex in San Francisco; not a theater I'm fond of, but I wanted to hear this so I went.

There were some speeches beforehand, as was to be expected, first from the Opera's Artistic Director, Mark Streshinsky, then from Benavides, both of whom thanked the sponsors & artists who helped make the work possible, & finally, in an exciting & previously unannounced appearance, Huerta herself; I wonder how many other opera subjects have seen themselves on stage? The 93-year-old is still looking to the future (past today's gloomy American situation), still an activist, still in touch with what's going on politically (as shown especially by her sharp emphasis on Senior when she mentioned the unifying, liberal politics of Bobby Kennedy Senior; Junior, of course, is far from the inspiring progressive his father was). She ended by paying tribute, not just to the on-going struggles of the workers who help feed America, but to the power of music to feed our souls.

(Not a very good photo, but that's Huerta in the turquoise jacket, with Benavides on her right-hand side & tenor Alex Boyer behind her.)

The preview lasted about an hour (which, I'm guessing, is roughly half of what the finished work will be); the first half hour was mostly complete & then we had some nonconsecutive scenes & solos from the rest, with the omitted material summarized in projections behind the performing space. The singers were in a row in front of the orchestra (which was led with her usual aplomb by Mary Chun) & there was no staging. The backdrop was a changing series of photographs, many of them taken during the events portrayed by photojournalist Ted Streshinsky (father of Artistic Director Mark, who had gone with his mother to his father's archives in the Bancroft Library to choose images, some of which had not been published before).

The action centers on the United Farmworkers' grape boycott & strike of the late 1960s, leading up to the assassination of one of their first major political supporters, Bobby Kennedy. The opening music thrums ominously as Huerta, joined by Cesar Chavez & Filipino farmworker activist Larry Itliong, urge their fellow workers to strike for decent working conditions. The music often seems on the verge of turning into a march, but is it a march of the strikers or of their gathering opponents? The chorus chants Strike! in Spanish & English. The sequence explodes with the aesthetic power & conviction of a Soviet silent film montage.

Huerta is sung by mezzo-soprano Kelly Guerra, the quality of whose voice, as clear as a mountain stream, so strong, so pure, so beautiful, became not just a means of characterization but a moral signifier. By contrast we had an insidiously seductive turn from none other than Tricky Dick (as he is named in the program), sung by high tenor Samuel Faustine. It would never have occurred to me to cast that voice type as Nixon (maybe I have listened to Nixon in China too often), but the decision was as brilliant as it was unexpected, & the historical Nixon is a rich enough character to accommodate many interpretations. Our high tenor Dick does not attack the Farmworkers Union or the grape boycott directly; instead he delivers a lyrical paean, sometimes heading into falsetto territory, on the delights of eating grapes, to a lilting accompaniment that carries at its heart a suggestion of the sound of a decadent Weimar cabaret, another unexpected but plausible aspect of Nixon (how we have fallen! nowadays our villainous politicians are bloated cartoons, devoid of the Shakespearean depth & complexity of Nixon).

A contrasting tenor sound comes from Alex Boyer, who manages to sound like both an experienced politician & a genuinely warm person as Robert Kennedy. He gives a speech of thanks after winning the California primary; this was the one scene that I felt went on a bit too long. I assume the purpose here is to give us a sense of him not just as a coalition builder, but one whose coalition included usually overlooked citizens, but as the thanks to various groups roll on it began to seem mostly like a boilerplate political victory speech. But of course it is difficult to tell how this scene would play out in the context of the full opera.

Cesar Chavez, sung by the warm bass-baritone Jesús Vicente Murillo, is given slower, lower music; he ponders how a man should behave – "a man should sacrifice himself for others" – suggesting a thoughtful man, but also one with something of a messianic complex, & one who perhaps has some resistance to a woman leader (in a brief scene, it is clear that he has ignored a decision Huerta had made). He unilaterally makes the decision to go on a hunger strike, which of course attracts much attention & sympathy, but also makes him somewhat above the movement, with a Christ-like aura of sacrificing himself for others.

Shortly after Kennedy's victory in California, the news comes that he has been shot; Juan Romero, an immigrant Mexican busboy from the hotel, sung with spiritual intensity by tenor Sergio González, describes bringing room service to Kennedy, who treated him with a respect he generally did not see in this country. Huerta receives the news of the shooting as she is boarding a plane; she prays to the Virgin (as we in the audience know, unsuccessfully) for his life, & she reflects on her own life so far.

To fill out the cast list with those I haven't mentioned yet: baritone David Castillo is a passionate & powerful Itliong, bringing searing conviction to his calls for a strike, & soprano Chelsea Hollow lends grace to a number of smaller roles, most particularly Helen Chavez. The chorus, which lends so much power to the strike scenes, is made up of Andrew Green, Julia Hathaway, Alexis Jensen, Michael Kuo, Richard Mix, & Leandra Ramm.

I was chatting briefly with Benavides before the show started, & realized later that instead of blathering about whatever I was blathering about, I should have asked him to sign my program (just another opportunity missed in a lifetime of missed opportunities. . . ), because the afternoon felt like a bit of a landmark. Dolores's words & music can only increase in richness & complexity when the whole thing is completed, & I am very eager for its local premiere as part of the 2025 West Edge season. As I left the theater & walked towards my BART station, I passed a bus covered with an ad supporting the unionization of Starbucks workers, because the fight is not finished, the fight is never finished, the struggle never ends. . . . 

16 August 2023

Musical Mishaps at SFMOMA

I was at SFMOMA yesterday, partly to wander but mostly to take another look at the gorgeous Frank Bowling exhibit & a first look at the exhibit commemorating the late Hung Liu. But when I reached the Liu exhibit on the 2nd floor there was the persistent, annoying thumping of overamplified trash music. I ended up fleeing the galleries with barely a glance at the exhibit I had come to see. It turns out that the intrusive noise was coming from several rooms away, & was part of a "sound sculpture" in an exhibit on lowrider cars.

Lowrider cars are as good a subject for an art exhibit as anything else; personally, I have almost zero interest in or sympathy with car culture of any sort, but it's easy enough for me to avoid those galleries, or give them a cursory look. What I object to is having trash music imposed on me when I'm trying to experience something else. You know those idiotic assholes who cruise through neighborhoods, stereos at top volume, setting off car alarms, rattling windows, & generally forcing anyone within half a mile to stop what they wanted to do & wait until the noise mercifully diminishes? It turns out the experience isn't any better when you call the obnoxious irritant a "sound sculpture" & stick it in a gallery rather than a suburban neighborhood.

I will also mention that there's a similar problem on another floor; a Nam June Paik video, which was originally set to Beatles songs which were then stripped out by the artist, has now, if I understood the label correctly, had a bunch of the songs added back in by the curators at SFMOMA, for reasons that were not at all clear. You are forced to hear the songs out of context in the adjacent galleries. But at least up there, because of the volume of the songs & the size & arrangement of the galleries, the effect, though annoying, is less intrusive.

This incident reminded me of something that used to irritate me regularly about the museum pre-lockdown: as far as I know, SFMOMA has had almost no engagement with modern music in any non-pop/rock sense. I don't expect them to highlight music, as they're mostly about visual arts, but almost all of what they play in the store, in their restaurants, in related exhibits, is the regular stuff you'd hear on commercial radio. Do they partner with new music ensembles, or offer them a performing space? Has there ever been a mention in the museum of the Second Viennese School, or the postwar Darmstadt school, or Glass/Reich/Adams/Riley & others of their school? Has there been any jazz, any neo-romantics or neo-tonalists? any interest in experimental instruments or tunings? . . . It's pretty much just grating rock songs (I used to have to flee the museum store fairly regularly because of what they were playing). Why is modern music so little recognized or promoted by a place that considers itself a central spot for modern & contemporary art? They wouldn't install a Burger King or McDonald's as the museum café (nor would I eat there if they did, but still) – why is the only music they ever highlight the aural equivalent of corporate-run fast food?

15 August 2023

Another Opening, Another Show: September 2023

September is usually considered the start of the performance season, & though the big guns of the SF Opera & SF Symphony are certainly clanking into place, it does seem as if over the last few years more & more groups are actually pushing events out to October or even November, & of course the first week of December is usually a pile-up before everything dissolves into sugarplums dancing in our dreams. There are also reports that a new COVID surge may be coming this autumn, so though most venues have dropped mask mandates you might still want to wear one, & be on the lookout for possible COVID-related cancellations.

By the way I have unilaterally resolved the "do we spell it theater or theatre?" dilemma by setting myself firmly down on the "theater" side.


Aurora Theater presents Liz Duffy Adams's Born with Teeth, directed by Josh Costello, about Shakespeare & Marlowe & their early days together, from 1 September to 1 October.

Shotgun Players present Hansol Jung's Wolf Play, directed by Elizabeth Carter, which incorporates puppetry & human actors to explore the life of a boy who feels more connected to wolves than people; that starts 2 September & runs to 1 October.

The Oakland Theater Project gives us the west coast premiere of Taylor Mac's Gary: A Sequel to Titus Andronicus, directed by Emilie Whelan; I have a very soft spot for Titus Andronicus & have wanted to see something by Taylor Mac for years now, so this looks promising; it runs from 8 September to 1 October.

Berkeley Playhouse brings back the popular Broadway musical Kinky Boots (book By Harvey Fierstein, music & lyrics by Cyndi Lauper), directed by William Thomas Hodgson, from 8 September to 15 October.

Ray of Light Theater presents Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical, created by Jordan Ross, Lindsey Rosin, & Roger Kumble, based on the movie which, if I'm remembering correctly (I never saw it, only read some reviews) is an updated American teen version of Dangerous Liaisons; the songs will be familiar to anyone who listened to pop music in the 1990s, which is very much not me, but you can check it out at the Victoria Theater from 8 September to 1 October.

BroadwaySF brings back Hadestown, the Tony-winning musical updating of the story of Orpheus & Eurydice, to the Orpheum Theater from 12 to 17 September.

The New Conservatory Theater Center presents Before the Sword, a world premiere commission from Andrew Alty, directed by Ed Decker, about TH White & the beginnings of The Sword in the Stone, & that's 15 September to 15 October.

From 21 September to 1 October, Theater Rhinoceros presents Overlooked Latinas, written & performed by Tina D’Elia & directed by Mary Guzmán, in which "Butch dyke Angel thinks she’s having one of the best days of her life. Enter the femme fatale who creates chaos with Angel’s wife and Angel’s life."

On 25 & 26 September, as part of their Champagne Staged Reading Series, Shotgun Players, in partnership with Crowded Fire Theater, presents (trans)formada by lily gonzales, directed by linda maria girón, about Sam, who is "queer, a little trans, and a child of Mexican immigrants living in Texas." 

San Francisco Playhouse gives us Nollywood Dreams by Jocelyn Bioh, directed by Margo Hall, from 28 September to 4 November, about a young woman in Lagos who dreams of becoming a star in the Nigerian film industry, & complications, of course, ensue.

Berkeley Rep presents Selina Fillinger's POTUS: or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying To Keep Him Alive, directed by Annie Tippe. from 16 September to 22 October, & I went back & forth on whether to list this at all because it honestly sounds like complete rubbish: "When the President unwittingly spins a PR nightmare into a global crisis, the seven brilliant and beleaguered women he relies upon most [sic] risk life, liberty, and the pursuit of sanity to keep the commander-in-chief out of trouble. (Any resemblance to past White House shenanigans is purely coincidental.)" Shenanigans? Shenanigans? What are they talking about? "Shenanigans" are when you filch the rival football team's mascot. Anything in the White House that turns into a "global crisis", which is something that could potentially upend or even destroy the lives of millions, is something beyond "shenanigans" – maybe high crimes & misdemeanors? & what "past" White House are they talking about? John Quincy Adams, Rutherford P Hayes, or is this just another coy evasion of criticizing Trump? Name, blame, & shame, I say. I've heard & seen way too many announcements & speeches from various stages or newsletters since 2016 that talk about these days or our times & similar euphemisms, & I don't understand why they're afraid to say pointblank that we're all under threat by lunatic thugs – yet they discreetly decline to name the prime mover. (What's the risk? I truly doubt that the Bay Area performing arts audience, even for the more mainstream institutions like Berkeley Rep, is full of die-hard, or even lukewarm, Trumpers.) Also, if it is in fact Trump they're suggesting here, the idea that there would be no less than seven "brilliant" women around him is . . . unlikely. I mean, just look at the women who actually are around him. "Brilliant" women, or even ones with normal levels of integrity, intelligence, & competence, are not going to be kept around by someone like Trump, if they're even working for him in the first place. & if they're not talking about Trump here, then what's the point? Do we really need to highlight comparatively minor missteps by Biden or Obama? On top of that, the whole notion that men in power are, of course, all "dumbasses" who were privileged into their positions while the "brilliant" women are doing unappreciated dogwork in the background is a particularly tired & implausible cliché (though certainly one that is going to please rather than challenge many in the Berkeley Rep audience). The whole thing sounds like an inflated version of The Honeymooners. Proceed at your own risk.

a view of Lam Tung Pang's Past Continuous Present at the Asian Art Museum


On 2 September at the Asian Art Museum, poet Forrest Gander & artist Lam Tung Pang, assisted by Senior Associate Curator Abby Chen as moderator, will discuss "the role of craft, memory, landscape, and innovation in literature and the arts" as well as their new collaboration, a limited-edition artists' book published by Arion Press with a poem by Gander inspired by Pang's gorgeous Past Continuous Tense, a monumental piece currently on view at the Museum.

BroadwaySF presents Jane Goodall on 15 September at the Golden Gate Theater, where she will talk about her life & work & take questions from the audience.

Cal Performances, in association with BAMPFA & the Townsend Center for the Humanities, present Ai Weiwei in conversation about life, art, & politics, with Peter Sellars & Orville Schell at Zellerbach Hall on 24 September.

On 27 September the Curran Theater will kick off Unscripted, "an all-new original series where culture-shaping luminaries and innovators bring their singular perspectives to San Francisco for an unforgettable evening of engaging conversation and captivating storytelling, live on stage"; Unscripted: The San Francisco 49ers will feature Harris Barton, Dwight Hicks, Brent Jones, Ronnie Lott, & Steve Young in conversation with Olympian Kristi Yamaguchi about "their extraordinary lives both on and off the football field."


The San Francisco Opera opens its 101st season this month. They have wisely abandoned the idea of presenting an actual opera on opening night, as it only delays that particular audience from getting to the party, so instead they have an Opening Night Concert on 8 September, with conductor & Music Director Eun Sun Kim leading the orchestra & chorus along with guest soloists Roberto Alagna (tenor) & Aleksandra Kurzak (soprano); no repertory has been announced but expect popular favorites & greatest hits. I generally don't list galas, benefits, &c, as they tend to be more about the party than the performance, but this seems like sort of a borderline case & you are the best judge of your own tolerance level for the opening-night crowd.

There are two operas being presented this month: first, & I am happy to see this as it's one of my all-time favorites, Verdi's Il Trovatore, in a David McVicar production conducted by Eun Sun Kim with Angel Blue as Leonora, Anita Rachvelishvili as Azucena, Arturo Chacón-Cruz as Manrico, & George Petean as the Count di Luna, & that's on 12, 17, 20, 23, & 29 September & 1 October; next up is the Mason Bates (music) / Mark Campbell (words) The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, rescheduled after its pandemic postponement, conducted by Michael Christie, with John Moore as Jobs & Sasha Cooke as his wife, & that's 22, 24, 27, & 30 September & 3 & 7 October.

San Francisco Opera’s Dramaturg Emeritus Kip Cranna will discuss Opera & the Bible: Epic Stories from the Stage at the Jewish Community Center in San Francisco on 19 September.


Chanticleer presents Music of a Silent World, exploring & imagining the sounds of the natural world, centering around a new arrangement of Majel Connery’s The Rivers are our Brothers, along with music by William Byrd, Heinrich Isaac, Max Reger, arrangements of songs by Tom Petty & the band Lawrence, & a new piece by the group's composer-in-residence, Ayanna Woods, & that's 23 September at Mission Santa Clara, 24 September at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, & 26 September at Saint John's Lutheran in Sacramento.


Nicholas McGegan leads the Orchestra of the Cantata Collective in the Haydn Symphonies 6, 7, & 8 (the Morning, the Noon, & the Night) & Mozart's Deh Vieni from Le Nozze di Figaro & Voi avete un cor fedele with soprano soloist Sherezade Panthaki on 9 September at First Congregational in Berkeley.

David Milnes leads the UC-Berkeley Symphony Orchestra in Dreaming a world’s edge by Cindy Cox, the Shostakovich Cello Concerto 2, (with Emile Serper as soloist), & the Prokofiev 5 at Hertz Hall on 22 & 23 September.

Edwin Outwater leads the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra on 23 September in Anna Clyne's Masquerade, William Walton's Viola Concerto (with soloist Isabel Tannenbaum), Glinka's Kamarinskaya, & the Shostakovich 1.

The San Francisco Symphony launches its season at the end of the month, first with the inevitable gala opening on 22 September, featuring Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen leading Richard Strauss's Don Juan, Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer (with soloist Simon Keenlyside), Anders Hillborg's Rap Notes, & Ravel's Boléro; the season continues on 29 - 30 September & 1 October, when Salonen leads the first SFS performance of Herald, Holler and Hallelujah! by Wynton Marsalis, along with the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (with soloist Leonidas Kavakos) & Richard Strauss's An Alpine Symphony.

Donato Cabrera leads the California Symphony in Juan Pablo Contreras's MeChicano, Wynton Marsalis's Violin Concerto in D (with soloist Kelly Hall-Tompkins), Ruth Crawford Seeger's Rissolty Rossolty, & Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring Suite at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek on 30 September & 1 October.

Chamber Music

The American Patchwork Quartet (vocalist Falu Shah, guitarist Clay Ross, bassist Yasushi Nakamura, & drummer Clarence Penn) celebrate the immigrant roots of American music, particularly roots & jazz, on 23 September at the SF Jazz Center.

The Berkeley Symphony's chamber series launches on 24 September at the Piedmont Center for the Arts with American Intersections, a program including Vijay Iyer's Dig the Say, Credo by Margaret Bonds, Anatomy is Destiny by Molly Joyce, Source Code by Jessie Montgomery, & Dvořák's String Quintet 3 in E-flat Major.

The Ives Collective will perform Fauré's Piano Quintet 2 in C minor, Opus 115, & Brahms's Clarinet Quintet in B minor, Opus 115, at Old First Concerts on 24 September.


Pianist Francesca Khalifa will perform Debussy's Images, Book I as well as pieces by Brian T Field, Bartók, Gabriela Ortiz, & Miguel del Aguila at Old First Concerts on 8 September.

Early / Baroque Music

The Cantata Collective continues its series of free concerts exploring the Bach cantatas on 17 September in Saint Mary Magdalen's in Berkeley, where you can hear Sie werden euch in den Bann tun (BWV 44) & Herr, gehe nicht ins Gericht mit deinem Knecht (BWV 105), with soloists Sherezade Panthaki (soprano), Sara Couden (alto), Derek Chester (tenor), & Paul Max Tipton (bass).

The San Francisco Early Music Society presents Ensemble Mirable in a program of baroque rarities, including some by Buxtehude & Corelli but also by such little-known masters as Biagio Marini, Jean Zewalt Triemer, Sylvius Leopold Weiss, Dietrich Becker, Andrea Falconieri, & more; that's 29 September at First Presbyterian in Palo Alto, 30 September at First Congregational in Berkeley, & 1 October at Saint Mark's Lutheran in San Francisco.

Modern / Contemporary Music

Composer John Zorn will celebrate his 70th birthday with a five-day run of concerts from 30 August to 3 September, mostly at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco but with one event (an organ recital) at Grace Cathedral; check out the full line-up here & get more information here.

On 16 September at the Center for New Music, composer Brett Austin Eastman & flutist Jessie Nucho give the third & final concert exploring the various means & meanings of "feedback"; the program includes Elizabeth Shearon’s I Want You To Panic, Allison Loggins-Hull’s Homeland, & Eastman’s Feedback Suite, which includes the premiere of its third & concluding part.

On 22 September at Old First Concerts, Ensemble for These Times will explore Transformations in a program including Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), arranged for piano trio by Eduard Steuermann, Darian Donovan Thomas's Fluid, Lisa Bielawa's The Dragon and the Girl, inti figgis-vizueta's a bridge between starshine and clay, & songs by Franz Schreker.

Nicole Paiement leads the San Francisco Conservatory of Music New Music Ensemble on 29 September in Jocelyn Morlock's Lacrimosa, Clayton Luckadoo's Phenomenologies (with Luckadoo as clarinet soloist), Jay Cruz's Hermes, Saariaho's Terrestre, & David Garner's Cello Capriccio.

Jazz, Roots, Folk, & Blues

The Mike Greensill Trio, joined by guest singer Gale Terminello, will give its annual Labor Day celebration of the Great American Songbook at Old First Concerts on 3 September.

Fado singer Camané visits the SF Jazz Center on 6 September.

Jazz singer Lizz Wright appears at the SF Jazz Center from 7 to 10 September, performing music from her forthcoming album, Shadows.

Jazz singer Ledisi will perform her tribute to Nina Simone on 8 September at Davies Hall, accompanied by a full orchestra (not the SF Symphony, I should clarify, lest the mention of Davies Hall confuse anyone).

As part of the celebrations for its Opening Week, the SF Jazz Center brings together past & present members of the SF Jazz Collective to do their thing; on 7 - 8 September, you can hear Etienne Charles (trumpet), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Helen Sung (piano), Matt Penman (bass), & Kendrick Scott (drums); on 9 - 10 September, the line-up will be Martin Luther McCoy (vocals), Mike Rodriguez (trumpet), Warren Wolf (vibraphone), Matt Penman (bass), & Obed Calvaire (drums).

Trombonist Jennifer Wharton, accompanied by fellow trombonists John Fedchock, Nate Mayland, & Alan Ferber, will play pieces from their albums Bonegasm & Not A Novelty at the California Jazz Conservatory on 15 September.

Pianits Vijay Iyer, vocalists Arooj Aftab, & bassist Shahzad Ismaily perform from their new album, Love in Exile, at the Great American Music Hall on 21 September.

Bass player Christian McBride brings his quartet, New Jawn (McBride on bass, Marcus Strickland on  saxophones, Josh Evans on trumpet, & Nasheet Waits on drums) to the SF Jazz Center on 24 September.

The Manhattan Transfer is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a final world tour, which will be stopping at the SF Jazz Center on 29 - 30 September.


The Smuin Ballet presents Dance Series I, featuring The Man in Black (choreography by James Kudelka, set to recordings by Johnny Cash), Tutto Eccetto il Lavandino (everything but the kitchen sink) (choreography by Val Caniparoli), & a world premiere by Darrell Grand Moultrie to an original Cuban jazz score by Charles Fox; & that's 15 - 16 September at the Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, 21 - 24 September at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, & 29 September - 7 October at the Cowell Theater at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

On 29 September at the Paramount Theater, the Oakland Ballet Company & Misty Copeland's Life in Motion Productions present Flower, a family-drama film directed starring Copeland & paying homage to Black silent films, with music by Raphael Saadiq & choreography by Alonzo King and Rich + Tone Talauega; the movie is preceded by performances from Babatunji Johnson, Krow, Angela Watson, Destiny Arts, TURF dancers, & artists of the Oakland Ballet Company.

Art Means Painting

Takashi Murakami: Unfamiliar People — Swelling of Monsterized Human Ego, the first solo exhibition in San Francisco by the artist, opens at the Asian Art Museum on 15 September & runs through 12 February 2024. The Museum has also announced the postponement of the opening of its new Art Terrace to some as yet unspecified time in the fall.

MOAD has some interesting exhibits opening at the end of this month: starting 27 September, there will be an exhibit, the first in a San Francisco museum, of works by self-taught painter/collage-maker/installation artist Joe Sam; on the same daySpectrum: On Color & Contemporary Art will explore the ways color is used by contemporary Black artists; also opening on that same busy day is Salimatu Amabebe's GRASS, a multimedia show "dedicated to Black nightlife, communication, communion"; &, finally, on the same dayThe Only Door I Can Open: Women Exposing Prison Through Art and Poetry will also open.


The PFA portion of BAMPFA launches a number of film series for the fall this month, starting on 2 September with a Rialto Pictures Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Salute, featuring a dazzling array of foreign classics from Godard, Fellini, Kurosawa, & others, including Carol Reed's The Third Man; that's followed on 6 September by Alternative Visions, the PFA's annual showcase of classic & new experimental films; then Georgian Filmmaker Salomé Jashi in Person from 10 - 17 SeptemberIlluminations: Jerome Hiler, starting on 13 September, with the filmmaker in person, & including films that explore his love of medieval stained glass, among other things; then documentarian Dawn Porter in Person from 21 to 23 SeptemberCambodian Cinema: Rising from the Ashes starts on 24 September, & The People Are Present: Films of Želimir Žilnik on 28 & 29 September, with the filmmaker present.