Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Interval

While at Fort Mason today I discovered that the Long Now Foundation has remade its vague storefront space into a fancy bar called The Interval. The Long Now was founded by people who did well in the 1st tech boom & is a think tank for ideas about planning & sustainability over very long time periods. Their flagship project is the 10,000 Year Clock, a huge timepiece built inside a mountain & designed to last for 10 millennia.

Bar decor includes an orrery, silhouette portraits of board members, & books neatly arranged on unreachable shelves.

There was a gathering of international students when I popped in to take a look. I was mistaken for one of their event speakers while I was perusing the drinks menu.

There's a nice nook with a bridge view in the back.

The place probably works better as party space than a bar or cafe, but someone with a laptop & cellphone managed to turn one of the few tables into an office.

Generous donors to the foundation may be allotted a personal flask of high quality gin, which hangs in a numbered space in the ceiling, awaiting their next visit.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Bookish Beasts

This Sunday afternoon, as the final game of World Cup 2014 got underway, the Center for Sex & Culture hosted a small zine fest. The offerings were eclectic. There were old school xeroxed & stapled zines, art & books from independent publishers. I saw a stack of pre-Internet, mint condition adult comic books as well as a children's picture book explaining principles of anarchism. Unusually, there was a high proportion of women exhibitors. The atmosphere was low-key, & I had friendly chats with the familiar faces of Jon Macy, Tyler Cohen & David Kelly. It was nice to hear Mr. Macy say that he liked creating work for a small niche audience. I also got to see someone climb up the venue's dance pole & strike a pose.

§ Bookish Beasts
July 13, 2014, noon-6PM
The Center for Sex and Culture

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Outdoor Movie: Frozen

Saturday night Union Square was filled with young people & families waiting for a free outdoor showing of Disney's Frozen. A lot of people were camped out with blankets, food & drinks & had clearly arrived early to claim their spots. The column in the middle of square unfortunately makes for awkward sight lines. The crowd got bunched up around the periphery of the square.

The projection wasn't very bright, so most of the movie looked like it took place in a dark forest at night. I missed Frozen when it was in the theaters last year, & a few times I wasn't sure what was going on. The audience obviously knew the movie well, though, & they applauded the "Let It Go" song & as well as a moment when the heroine punched the evil prince in the face.

§ Frozen (2013)
Film Night in the Park
Saturday, July 12th, dusk
Union Square

Friday, July 11, 2014

Merola Opera: A Streetcar Named Desire

Adelaide Boedecker & Julie Adams
Photography by Kristen Loken
Thursday night I saw Merola Opera's production of André Previn's opera version of A Streetcar Named Desire. The opera sticks closely to its source, & the show's emphasis on acting & its young, dramatically convincing, cast made me feel I was sitting at a play rather than an opera. It's definitely a vehicle for the soprano playing Blanche, & Julie Adams sang with impressive stamina, consistency & commitment. Her voice has a substantial, viscous sound, & her singing was smooth & connected. She gave us soft high notes that were secure & lovely. Her physical performance was jittery, & her character was clearly under strain from mental illness right from the start. The audience gave a big ovation to her act 2 narration about the suicide of her husband.

The rest of the cast gave dedicated performances as well. Soprano Adelaide Boedecker sounded supple & bright as Stella. Her sultry post-coital vocalise accompanied by the plucking of a double bass is my favorite part of the opera. Baritone Thomas Gunther was an angry Stanley Kowalski, & his voice was focused & firm. Tenor Casey Candebat as Mitch sang with great clarity & control, & he had the most apparent Southern accent in the cast. He's a fun actor to watch, though his Mitch sometimes seemed like a 12-year-old boy. I also liked the vivid acting of Eliza Bonet as Eunice.

Chong Wang, Thomas Gunther,
Benjamin Werley, & Casey Candebat
Photography by Kristen Loken
The terrific set depicts the Kowalski's home with a grimy realism yet is also a bit dream-like. There are no black-outs between scenes, so supers dressed like Stanley's poker buddies reset the stage in full view of the audience. We get to see Stanley having sex with Stella & Blanche. There's also a lot of cigarette smoking.

The opera is mostly dialogue. There are a few arioso scenes but no full-blown arias. The music is lush, & the orchestra is kept busy providing a constant flow of colorful, melodic fragments that encompass movie score romanticism, modern dissonance & jazz. The overall mood is ominous. Mark Morash's conducting was evenly paced. The Everett Middle School Auditorium does not have a pit, so the orchestra was in the auditorium in front of the stage. I sat 6 feet from the tuba. The orchestra's bright, prominent sound overbalanced the singers.

The performance ran for 3 & 1/2 hours, including 2 intermissions. The audience was engaged throughout, though there was a loud clunk from the right side of the auditorium in a quiet moment during one of Blanche's scenes. The insistent clanging of a cow bell signaled the end of each intermission. The show will be repeated this Saturday afternoon.

§ A Streetcar Named Desire
By André Previn
Libretto by Philip Littell
New orchestral reduction by Peter Grunberg

Merola Opera Program
Conductor: Mark Morash
Director: Jose Maria Condemi

Blanche DuBois: Julie Adams
Harold “Mitch” Mitchell: Casey Candebat
Stella Kowalski: Adelaide Boedecker
Stanley Kowalski: Thomas Gunther
Eunice Hubbell: Eliza Bonet
Steve Hubbell: Benjamin Werley
Mexican Woman: Shirin Eskandani
A Young Collector: Mingjie Lei

Thursday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, July 12, 2 p.m.
Everett Middle School Auditorium

Thursday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.
Everett Middle School Auditorium
Merola: A Streetcar Named Desire

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Casting for Merola Opera's Don Giovanni

Karen Chia-Ling Ho, Rhys Lloyd Talbot,
Edward Nelson, Amanda Woodbury
  Photo credit: Kristen Loken
The Merola Opera Program has announced casting for its 2 staged performances of Don Giovanni at the end of this month. The production is conducted by Martin Katz & directed by James Darrah. Other Merola performances this month are 2 performances of Andre Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire this Thursday & Saturday & the Schwabacher Summer Concert next week.

§ Don Giovanni
W.A. Mozart

Merola Opera Program
Thursday, July 31, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, August 2, 2 p.m
Everett Auditorium, 450 Church Street in San Francisco.

Conductor: Martin Katz
Director: James Darrah

Don Giovanni: Edward Nelson
Leporello: Szymon Wach
Il Commendatore: Scott Russell
Donna Anna: Amanda Woodbury
Don Ottavio: Benjamin Werley
Donna Elvira: Karen Chia-Ling Ho
Masetto: Rhys Lloyd Talbot
Zerlina: Yujin Kim

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

PCBA BookWorks 2014

The 6th floor of the Main Library currently has a large exhibit of artists' books by members of the Pacific Center for the Book Arts.

The items display a wide variety of forms.

Many of them are like sculptures, kits or toys rather than books.

This intricate flag book is a marvel of engineering in itself.

I so wanted to flip through the pages of this one.

Ultimately it was annoying not to be able to handle anything.

§ BookWorks 2014
Pacific Center for the Book Arts
15th Triennial Members' Exhibition
Saturday, 6/21/14 - Saturday, 9/06/14
Skylight Gallery, Main Library

Asian Art: Gorgeous

This past Sunday afternoon I took advantage of a free day at the Asian Art Museum to see Gorgeous, an exhibit mixing works from the museum with objects from the SFMOMA.

Rather than presenting things in an historical or cultural context, the show asks viewers to examine the pieces' aesthetic impact on themselves.

The selections are a deliberate hodge-podge, but I had fun looking at the diverse array of objects. Buddhas, painted scrolls & Tibetan furniture share space with art by de Kooning, Jeff Koons & Tom of Finland. The original iPhone is in there as well.

Glamor is clearly an important aspect of gorgeousness for the curators. Even the catalog is in the form of a glossy fashion magazine.

To me, the objects were often simply kitschy or decadently decorative, though Dan Flavin's untitled (1987) fluorescent light sculpture looked gorgeous to me for some reason, ...

... as did Tobias Wong's conceptual Coke Spoon 02 (2005), a McDonald's coffee stirrer made of gold & bronze.

To emphasize that the exhibit is about the viewer, there is a set of tidy videos of man-on-the-street interviews in which people at colorful San Francisco locations are asked what they find gorgeous.

There were a lot of visitors, though not as many as I would have expected for a holiday weekend. Many people posed for pictures in the galleries. After all, what is more indisputably gorgeous than ourselves?

§ Gorgeous
Asian Art Museum
Jun 20 - Sept 14, 2014

Monday, July 07, 2014

SF Opera: La Traviata

Over the weekend I heard the 2nd cast of San Francisco Opera's summer production of La Traviata. All the principals were solid. Soprano Ailyn Pérez gave a high-energy performance in the title role. I felt the same power behind both her big high notes & her soft, quiet ones. Her Violetta was a strong woman, even in capitulation. Tenor Stephen Costello sounded resonant, vigorous & free, & he portrayed a convincingly youthful & inexperienced Alfredo. Baritone Quinn Kelsey sang Germont with an attractive smooth, supple sound that was nicely colored. He might have made the character more sympathetic than he should be. Conductor Giuseppe Finzi led briskly & with clearly accented phrasing. The oboe & clarinet solos were beautifully legato & delicate.

The production from the 1980s is traditional & uses a lot of crinoline. It was nice to recognize Adler Fellows past & present filling the party scenes. Flora's party was particularly lively, featuring a flashy trio of alarmingly good-looking flamenco dancers as well as a public spanking. The curtain was up during the 1st intermission so the audience could watch the set change, while Production Director Greg Weber gave a live color commentary from the stage & took questions via Twitter. Someone wanted to know if Violetta drank real wine on stage.
This was also the performance being simulcast live to several thousand at AT&T Park for Opera at the Ballpark. The video cameras are so cunningly concealed that it looked like a normal perfomance to those of us in the house, except that the cast donned Giants gear for their curtain calls. I was in upstairs standing room & saw a lot of latecomers taking their seats in the balcony during the overture. A gentleman in the 2nd-to-last row kept flopping his head backward, & I was worried that he was going to snap his neck.

§ La Traviata
Music By Giuseppe Verdi
Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Giuseppe Finzi
Original Director: John Copley
Director: Laurie Feldman

Violetta Valéry: Ailyn Pérez
Doctor Grenvil: Andrew Craig Brown
Baron Douphol: Dale Travis
Flora Bervoix: Zanda Švēde
Marquis d'Obigny: Hadleigh Adams
Annina: Erin Johnson
Gastone: Daniel Montenegro
Alfredo Germont: Stephen Costello
Giuseppe: Christopher Jackson
Messenger: Bojan Knežević
Giorgio Germont: Quinn Kelsey
Flora's Servant: Torlef Borsting

Solo Dancers: Fanny Ara, Devon LaRussa, Timo Nuñez

Sat 07/5/14 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House