Sunday, September 30, 2007

Book Sale at Fort Mason

Today I was at Fort Mason to check out the annual Friends of the Library Book Sale. This thing is huge. Today is the last day of the sale, & everything is $1 or less. There were buyers pushing around shopping carts piled over the top with books. You have to have some patience to pick through the piles of books. The computer books table was fun to browse through. It was an excellent survey of obsolete technologies. Remember when VRML was the hip new thing? The check-out line snaked nearly to the back of the pavillion. That long line discouraged me from trying to buy anything. I'm trying to get a grip on my own book buying anyway.

While I was at Fort Mason, I also stopped by the somewhat opaque exhibit space for the Long Now Foundation. The space has been slowly developing this year, but it represents a very big idea. They have an orrery on display at the moment. It's a nice melding of Renaissance technology with modern materials.


Since everyone has figured out that this is the time of year when SF gets its best weather, there's a lot of great outdoor stuff going on in the City this weekend. To name just a few things: Folsom Street Fair, Bridge to Bridge Run, Blues Festival, Summer of Love Treasure Hunt.

I spent about an hour at Civic Center yesterday to see what the LoveFest was all about. It was quite the party scene. Some very cool modified vehicles that provided music. A lot of people showed up in in costumes (& costumes that are no costumes). A touch of Burning Man, I think.

A lot of energy here. Big flatbed trucks with dancers & enormous speakers on them blasting house music kept arriving, eventually surrounding the Civic Center Plaza entirely. The music was really loud & inescapable. My ears were ringing for a while after I left. If I check this out again, I'll be wearing ear plugs.

While I was in the Civic Center neighborhood, I also ducked into the Main Library & checked out the exhibit of contemporary book arts from Germany. I like these sorts of things, but it's always frustrating that the books are under glass & you can't handle them.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Il Re Pastore

Last night I heard Nicholas McGegan lead the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & an excellent quintet of singers at Herbst Theatre in Mozart's teenage operatic effort, Il Re Pastore. I'd never heard it before, & if this is supposed to be a lesser work, none of the performers seemed aware of this. I was pleasantly surprised to hear truly operatic voices. The cast was uniformly excellent, though mezzo Margaret Lattimore stood out for the size & heft of her voice.

McGegan is the kind of conductor who directs every musical detail. He even plays the harpsichord continuo for the recitatives. He made clear all the rapid shifts in mood or the surprising little flourishes in the music. & there is much of musical interest here. It starts with a splashy overture, which one can't help imagining is the young Mozart precociously announcing his talented presence. The act 2 overture features a jangly Turkish percussion instrument that the player pounds on the floor. Aminta has a wistful 2nd act aria accompanied by English horns & a solo violin.

The performance was semi staged. The orchestra was in front of the stage. On stage were just had 2 benches & 2 potted plants at the sides. The cast wore contemporary concert dress. They acted out what little action there was, but also carried scores, which they referred to in order to get through the lengthy recitatives.

& this gets to what is probably the reason why this piece is fairly obscure. The performance lasted 2 1/2 hours, but there is basically just one aria in each act for each character, plus an extra aria each for Aminta & Alessandro, plus short ensemble numbers to end each act. The rest is filled with long recitative. I'm guessing that the recitatives gave time for the social activities of the original audience, who likely weren't paying much attention to the stage anyway. There's not that much actual music, as far as operas go. The modern audience has to pass through these desolate expanses of recitative to reach the occasional arias, brilliant though they may be.

Aminta -- Lisa Saffer, soprano
Elisa -- Heidi Grant Murphy, soprano
Agenore -- Michael Slattery, tenor
Alessandro -- Iain Paton, tenor
Tamiri -- Margaret Lattimore, mezzo-soprano

Brokeback Mountain Opera?

Via The Rest Is Noise (Gay 12-tone cowboys) I learned that Charles Wourinen is talking about writing an operatic version of Brokeback Mountain. I can't really imagine how such a thing would work, since the characters are so un-articulate. However, if they were to do this now, I would definitely want to see Nathan Gunn in it. I also thought about Rod Gilfry, but then both cowboys can't be baritones, can they?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Muni Shelter Tampering

It's 12:40am, & I can see 4 young people with video cameras, tripods & flashlights doing something with a Muni shelter located somewhere in the Marina. At one point they filmed someone flailing around in the shelter. Later on they removed then re-attached the bus map inside the shelter. What kind of mischief is this?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Rebel Without a Cause at Union Square

The San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation had an outdoor screening of Rebel Without a Cause in Union Square last night. Unfortunately I missed the 1st 10 minutes. It was a mild night, so it was actually kind of pleasant to be out there. Because of all the store lighting, it's really bright in the plaza. A lot of the movie takes place at night, so sometimes it was hard to see. It would be very cool if someone could get all the surrounding buildings to dim their lights for these events (How about the International Dark-Sky Association?).

It's hard to think that James Dean had already passed away when this movie first came out. That was over 50 years ago, & there's still nothing dated about his charismatic performance, both so strong & so vulnerable. He makes me feel that I want to be his best friend in the whole world.