Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fall Free for All

Fall Free for All, 09.30.2012 California Golden Overtones at Cal Performances Fall Free for All on UC Berkeley Campus.After a week of chilly San Francisco weather, it was amazing to get off BART in Berkeley this morning & experience hot, sunny weather during Cal Performance's Fall Free for All, a day of free performances on the UC Berkeley campus. When I arrived, an energetic jazz set was going on under a big tent set up in front of Zellerbach Hall. I had fun seeing some of the student vocal groups performing in various locations outdoors, especially since I now have a family member in one of them.

Performances go on continuously all over the campus, so it's only possible to take in a fraction of the offerings. I saw the Shotgun Players perform a good portion of their up-coming production of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins, accompanied by a fine band of musicians who play multiple instruments. The show looks completed twisted, & the cast performed with a scary intensity. Susannah Martin, the show's director, assured us beforehand that the casts' guns were not loaded, but she urged us to see the actual show if we wanted to see them fired. The couple sitting next to me had come from Santa Rosa for the Free for All.

Fall Free for All, 09.30.2012 Young audience member at Cal Performances Free for All.Later in the day I saw Gamelan Sekar Jaya, who presented 2 gamalan ensembles plus dancers. I enjoyed the joyfully synchronized playing & resonant sound of the bamboo ensemble. Many families attended. Once the music started, kids ran from their seats to sit on the floor in front of the stage. I was in line a half hour early to get a good seat, but the venue easily accommodated everyone. The line for the Kronos Quartet in Zellerbach went around 3 sides of the building, but I assume that everyone got in.

§ Fall Free for All
Open House at Cal Performances
Sun, Sept 30, 2012
A Full Day of Free Performances
UC Berkeley Campus

Saturday, September 29, 2012

MTT Conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony

MTT Conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony, 09.28.2012 MTT Conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony Davies Hall. San Francisco Symphony at Davies Hall.To get to Davies Hall on Friday night, my concert companions & I had to walk through a sea of bicycles that stopped traffic on Market Street. When MTT showed up on the podium at 8:10p, he congratulated everyone for having arrived. He also told us to listen for the electronic & metal-on-metal sounds of the Samuel Adams piece that opened the program. Adams's Drift and Providence uses a large orchestra with extra percussion. It lasts about 20 minutes & is in 5 continuous movements, though I did not discern the different sections. The piece is atmospheric & built on various rolling orchestral textures. The slow-moving climaxes reminded me of Debussy's La Mer. The ending seemed to come out of nowhere, during a series of descending scales. MTT peered out into the auditorium looking for the composer, & after a bit of a delay the young Mr. Adams emerged from the stage door to take a fast bow.

MTT led the Mahler 5 without a score, often swaying & making big swinging gestures. He seemed to be conducting along with the orchestra, or even a little behind it. Tempos were moderate. The violins were split, & the strings had a shimmering sound. I enjoyed the violas' articulated & assertive playing. Principle viola Jonathan Vinocour wailed on his pizzicatos in the Scherzo. The orchestra's texture was somewhat shivery & brittle. The brasses played out brashly & were piercingly loud in the climaxes. The audience was chatty, especially between movements, but did not seem bored or inattentive. They gave the performance an immediate standing ovation & cheered especially for trumpeter Mark Inouye & the brass section.

§ MTT Conducts Mahler's Fifth Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Samuel Carl Adams, electronica
San Francisco Symphony

Samuel Carl Adams: Drift and Providence (West Coast Premiere)
Mahler: Symphony No. 5

Fri, Sep 28, 2012 at 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Friday, September 28, 2012

Niagara Falling

IMG_20120927_213916, 09.27.2012 Aerial dance performance at 7th Street & Market by Flyaway Productions.Last night at 9:30p I stood on the sidewalk at 7th Street and Market to watch this aerial dance in which 6 brave performers dangled down the side of the Renoir Hotel. The half-hour show included recorded music & video projected onto the wall. The videos included people talking about the destitution of the surrounding Market Street area & a once vibrant district in the city of Niagara Falls. The performers progressed up & down the wall suspended from ropes, slowly swinging & twirling as if they were underwater. Life jackets, a metal frame representing a boat, & a bicycle also went up the wall. The crowd watched from the sidewalk across the street & cheered for the performers. The location is not very congenial. John Marcher & I cut short our chance encounter on the corner after being accosted by an angry habitué of the neighborhood. Niagara Falling will be repeated at 8:30p & 9:30p this Friday & Saturday.

§ Niagara Falling
Flyaway Productions & Dancers' Group/ONSITE
Choreography & Direction: Jo Kreiter

West Wall of the Renoir Hotel
Wed - Sat, Sep 26 - 29, 2012
30 minute performances nightly at 8:30p & 9:30p

Berlin & Beyond Opening Night

Berlin and Beyond 2012, 09.27.2012 Actor Mario Adorf being interviewed on the red carpet, opening night of the Berlin and Beyond Film Festival.The 17th Annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival opened Thursday night at the Castro Theatre. Actor Mario Adorf, who receives a tribute at this year's festival, was interviewed on the red carpet before the show. He has a magnificent head of white hair. The opening night film was Christian Petzold's Barbara, a taut historical drama about escaping the GDR. It is Germany's entry for next year's foreign film Oscar. The packed audience listened to introductory speeches from Festival President Sabine Erlenwein, Festival Director Sophoan Sorn, & Jaimey Fisher of UC Davis, who told us that the film is Petzold's response to the 2006 Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others). The director wanted to show a more colorful GDR.

The storytelling in Barbara is meticulously efficient. There are no inessential details. The atmosphere is so tense that the audience jumped when a character accidently shattered a coffee cup. The film's title character is a doctor, recently released from prison, presumably for attempting to flee the country. She is assigned to a provincial hospital where she compassionately goes about her job & nervously engineers her escape, while the Stasi keep her on a tight leash. Despite the dread situation, the film ends as a love story. The festival audience was patient & attentive throughout.

The Castro Theatre organ was played before the screening. As 3 young women removed the speaker's podium after the introductions, the woman next to me commented that these were the best-dressed stagehands she'd ever seen.

§ Barbara
Director: Christian Petzold
Germany (2012), 90 min. (35mm film projection)

Berlin & Beyond Film Festival 2012
Thursday, September 27, 7:00 pm
Castro Theatre

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Up-Coming: Berlin & Beyond Film Festival

The Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, featuring films from Germany, Austria & Switzerland, begins at the Castro Theatre this week. Highlights include opening & closing night films about the GDR, the West Coast premiere of the director's cut of Volker Schlöndorff's The Tin Drum, & a festival appearance by actor Mario Adorf.

§ The 17th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival
September 27th - October 4th, 2012
Castro Theatre in San Francisco

Thursday, September 27

  • 7:00 pm Opening Night Film: BARBARA (Christian Petzold)
  • 9:15 pm Opening Night Party
Friday, September 28
Saturday, September 29
  • 10:30 am LESSONS OF A DREAM / Der ganz große Traum (Sebastian Grobler)
  • 1:00 pm AUDRE LORDE: THE BERLIN YEARS 1984 to 1992 (Dagmar Schultz, in person)
  • 2:00 pm Animation Workshop with Tomer Eshed, in Goethe-Institut Auditorium
  • 4:00 pm THE FOSTER BOY / Der Verdingbub (Markus Imboden)
  • 6:15 pm BAIKONUR (Veit Helmer, in person); Preceded by Flamingo Pride (Tomer Eshed)
  • 8:45 pm THE TIN DRUM — DIRECTOR’S CUT / Die Blechtrommel (Volker Schlöndorff)
Sunday, September 30
  • 10.30 am Masterclass with Veit Helmer, in Goethe-Institut Auditorium
  • 11:00 am TOM SAWYER (Hermine Huntgeburth)
  • 1:30 pm COLOR OF THE OCEAN / Die Farbe des Ozeans (Maggie Peren)
  • 2:00 pm Animation in the German Classroom / Launch of “Kurz + Gut macht Schule II” (by invitation only)
  • 4:00 pm THE WALL / Die Wand (Julian Roman Pölsler)
  • 6:30 pm 4 DAYS IN MAY / 4 Tage im Mai (Achim von Borries)
  • 8:45 pm THE DOOR / Die Tür (Anno Saul)
Monday, October 1 (in Goethe-Institut Auditorium)
  • 6:30 pm THE SUBSTANCE: ALBERT HOFMANN’S LSD (Martin Wit, in person)
  • 8:30 pm BREATHING / Atmen (Karl Markovics)
Tuesday, October 2 (in Goethe-Institut Auditorium)
Wednesday, October 3
Thursday, October 4

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Up-Coming: Open House at Cal Performances

This Sunday the 30th is Cal Performance's Free for All, a day of free performances occuring all over the UC Berkeley Campus & featuring local professional performers as well as student groups. Judging by my experience 2 years ago, the indoor venues will fill up, so it pays to arrive early for performances you really want to see. Many of the events are family-friendly.

Fall Free-For-All!
Sunday, September 30, 2012
A Full Day of Free Performances across the UC Berkeley Campus
Free and Open to the Public — No Tickets Needed

10:30 am

  • Cal Band Opening Fan Fare: Lower Sproul Plaza
11 am
  • Lily Cai Dance Company: Zellerbach Hall
  • Cypress String Quartet: Hertz Hall
  • George Brooks: Lower Sproul Plaza
  • Noteworthy: Sather Gate
11:30 am
  • Bare Troupe: Upper Sproul Plaza
  • Noteworthy: Wheeler Hall Plaza
12 pm
  • Eth-Noh Tec Story Tellers: Wheeler Hall
  • Shotgun Players: Pauley Ballroom
  • Instrument Petting Zoo opens: Choral Rehearsal Hall, Cesar Chavez Student Center
  • Gamelan Sari Raras: The Loft at Morrison Hall
  • Bare Troupe: Sather Gate
  • UC Men's Octet: Hertz Hall Plaza
12:30 pm
  • Perfect Fifth: Hertz Hall Plaza
1 pm
  • Chitresh Das Dance Company: Zellerbach Hall
  • Davitt Moroney, harpsichord: Hertz Hall
  • Marcos Silva Brazilian Jazz: Lower Sproul Plaza
  • Daniel Barash shadow puppets: Stephens Lounge (adjacent to Pauley Ballroom)
  • California Golden Overtones: Sather Gate
1:30 pm
  • Men's Octet: Sather Gate
  • California Golden Overtones: Wheeler Hall Plaza
2 pm
  • Sather Tower Campanile concert: Lower Sproul Plaza
  • Kitka: Wheeler Hall
  • Dianne Ferlatte, story teller: Pauley Ballroom
  • TDPS and UC Jazz Ensembles: Bancroft Studio
3 pm
  • SF Taiko Dojo: Zellerbach Hall
  • University Chorus: Hertz Hall
  • Interactive Ribbon Dance, Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company: Lower Sproul Plaza
3:30 pm
  • UC Men's and Women's Chorales: Sather Gate
  • Cal Jazz Choir: Wheeler Hall Steps
4 pm
  • Gamelan Sekar Jaya: Pauley Ballroom
  • Pamela Rose: Wheeler Hall
  • TDPS and UC Jazz Ensembles: Bancroft Studio
4:30 pm
  • Cal Jazz Choir: Hertz Hall Plaza
4:30-7 pm
  • Afterglow: Campanile Esplanade (ticketed event)
5 pm
  • Kronos Quartet: Zellerbach Hall
  • Shai Wosner, piano: Hertz Hall
  • Daniel Barash shadow puppets: Stephens Lounge (adjacent to Pauley Ballroom)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

9th Annual Roadworks

9th Annual Roadworks
It took forever to get out to Potrero Hill by Muni, but I made it out there for Roadworks, an outdoor event where large linoleum cut prints are made by dramatically running them over with a steamroller in the street.

9th Annual Roadworks
The big moment is when the printed image is peeled off the linoleum block & revealed to the crowd. The images are sold at the event to raise money for the San Francisco Center for the Book, & I overheard one of the printers say that all the prints made that day had been sold.

9th Annual Roadworks
There is also a small art fair, live music & hands-on printing & book-binding demonstrations. The weather was gorgeous.

9th Annual Roadworks
For once I was at an art event that had more children than dogs. The moving steamroller was an irresistible magnet for the kids, & they often had to be physically restrained as it approached.

9th Annual Roadworks
This older gentleman drove the steamroller & was every inch the part.

§ 9th Annual Roadworks: A Steamroller Printing Festival
San Francisco Center for the Book
Saturday, September 22, 2012, 12-5pm
Rhode Island Street between 16th and 17th Streets

Friday, September 21, 2012

Free SF Symphony Concert

SF Symphony, 09.21.2012 Free San Francisco Symphony Concert at Justin Herman Plaza.The San Francisco Symphony seems to change the time & location of their season-opening free concert every year. This year's pleasing, all-French program felt appropriate for the late afternoon time, & the weather remained sunny & almost balmy. The orchestra's playing was trim & slightly reserved. Violinist Alina Pogostkina was soloist for the Saint-Saëns Introduction and Rondo capriccioso. She is a youthful & genial performer with a warm, connected sound & a dexterous bow arm. MTT introduced each piece, & the audience applauded when he announced the Ravel Boléro. The turn-out was excellent, & the people sitting in the middle of the plaza were an attentive audience. PG&E, the concert sponsor, handed out free stainless steel water bottles to visitors at their booth.

§ FREE San Francisco Symphony Concert
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Alina Pogostkina, violin
San Francisco Symphony

Key: The Star-Spangled Banner
Berlioz: Festivity at the Capulets' from Roméo et Juliette
Saint-Saëns: Introduction and Rondo capriccioso
Ravel: Boléro

Bizet: Farandole from L'Arlésienne

Justin Herman Plaza
Fri Sep 21 5pm

iPhone 5 Release


iPhone product releases continue to be a kind of performance art, even at the neighborhood Apple Store in the Marina. There were at least a dozen people camping out just before midnight last night.

8 hours later, the line went around the corner.

4 camera crews jockeyed for positions & interviewed people in line.

This on-camera presenter posed atop a packing case, waiting patiently for his cue.

At 8am, Apple employees in blue t-shirts led a count-down & then cheered & clapped as the 1st batch of customers entered the store. Reporters waited outside to pounce on the 1st purchasers to emerge with the new product.

Nerd Nite SF #28

Nerd Night SF #28, 09.19.2012 Line outside Richshaw Shop for Nerd Night SF #28.Wednesday night I attended Nerd Nite SF, an informal talks series taking place in a club space on the opposite side of the block from the SF Conservatory of Music. I arrived about 15 minutes before the advertised start time, 7pm, but this turned out to be when the doors opened. The venue's seats quickly filled up, & by the time things started at 8pm, people had to sit on the floor or stand at the back. Attendees were lively & enviably young. Over the next 2 and half hours there were 3 main presentations, each with slides & a brief Q&A.

Biologist Jane Ishka told the skin-crawling true tale of her battle with an infestation of red mites in her home. She is a pithy storyteller, & the audience groaned when she described lying down in bed & feeling the mites crawl into her ear. In a brief appearance, Kishore Hari plugged the up-coming Bay Area Science Fair & then mocked the questionable story of the origin of tandoori chicken.

Self-confessed local history nerd Carl Nicolari exhibited a constant state of glee & led a rapid chase through 10 anecdotes about San Francisco during World War II. Stories ranged from the wacky, such as the air attack panics in which San Franciscans thought they were under aerial attack from the Japanese, to the not-so-wacky, such as the 1st inmate of the POW camp on Angel Island.

Nerd Night SF, 09.19.2012 Nonsemble 6 taking questions at Nerd Night SF.To close the event, Nonsemble 6 performed 7 selections from Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Pianist Ian Scarfe introduced the piece with a breezy, illustrated talk that assumed nothing about the audience. He told us that Schoenberg wrote the piece while a "big freaking war was going on." Soprano Amy Foote explained sprechstimme, so that we wouldn't think she was just a really bad singer. The venue has no piano, so Mr. Scarfe played an electric keyboard, but everyone else was unamplified. The ensemble gave a smooth & tidy performance. Everyone but the pianist played from memory. A translation of the text was projected behind the musicians, & Ms. Foote put a lot of acting into her part. All the non-seated performers moved around during the performance. Violinist Kevin Rogers is a solid & secure player. He sometimes knelt while playing. The group will perform a staged version of the complete work at the SFCM on October 4th, directed by Brian Staufenbiel. They will all appear in clown make-up.

§ Nerd Nite SF #28: Mites Mystery, Weird WWII SF, and Pierrot Lunaire

The Year of the Mite: A scientific Detective Story
Jane Ishka

Prowling Subs & Panic Attacks: Ten Bizarre Stories from World War II San Francisco
Carl Nicolari

Pierrot Lunaire, Cabaret for a Crazed Clown: A Performance-Presentation on Arnold Schoenberg’s Expressionist Chamber Music Masterpiece
Nonsemble 6
Amy Foote, soprano
Justin Lee, flutes
Annie Phillips, clarinets
Kevin Rogers, violin
Ian Scarfe, piano
Annie Suda, cello

Wednesday, September 19, 2012, 7 PM
Rickshaw Stop

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Big Book Sale

Big Book Sale, 09.20.2012 Shopper at Friends of the Public Library Big Book Sale.The huge used book sale, sponsored by the Friends of the Public Library, is underway at Fort Mason. The books are sorted on long tables by subject matter, but that's about it, so searching for a particular title is unreasonable. One can only browse & see what serendipity turns up. I came across a wonderfully illustrated Radio Shack programming manual from the 1970s in the computer section. For some reason Sebastian Junger's Fire was in among hardback fiction.

Big Book Sale, 09.20.2012 Shopper at Friends of the Public Library Big Book Sale.The pricing is simple: $3 for hardcovers, $2 for paperbacks & media. On Sunday everything is $1. People buy by the boxful, so expect lines checking out. My cashier freaked out when I did not have exact change for my modest $4 total, & a security guard checked my receipt against my purchases on the way out.

§ 48th Annual Big Book Sale
September 19-23, 2012
10 AM-6 PM

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Opera House Poster

Yesterday I waited for a bus along Market Street next to this poster of the grand tier level of the War Memorial Opera House, drawn by Paul Madonna. He makes the interior look quite sinuous. The text quotes soprano Patricia Racette regarding her marriage with fellow opera singer Beth Clayton.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Ceramics Annual of America 2012

Esther Shimazu, Dragon / 2011, stoneware

When I bought a book at the used book store at Fort Mason last Friday, the cashier gave me a pass for the Ceramics Annual of America. This turned out to be a large 3-day exhibit of ceramic sculptures, with works mostly by Bay Area artists. 2 flamboyant lithographs by Robert Arneson are at the entrance, & I learned that many of the sculptors in the show are Arneson's direct artistic progeny.
Carmen Lang, Trophies at play / 2011, white stoneware, glazes
Pieces ranged from these small, uninhibited figurines...

Lisa Reinertson, River / 1989, ceramic this larger-than-life reclining figure.

Claudia Tarantino, Collections / 2011, porcelain
There were abundant displays of virtuosity. When I told the artist that I couldn't tell which items in this assemblage were real, she explained that everything but the marbles & the jacks is porcelain.
Evan Hobart, Away we go / 2010, Stoneware ceramic, steel
It was hard to stop looking at Evan Hobart's City Skulls sculptures, overbuilt cityscapes in the shape of dinosaur skulls.
I love their traffic jams, inspired by matchbox cars.
Avery Palmer, Posterity / 2011, ceramic
This sleeping head in Avery Palmer's surreal construction almost seemed to be breathing.
Shalene Valenzuela, Proper/Improper pumps / 2001
Many pieces were amusingly anti-classical, like Shalene Valenzuela's ceramic versions of a housewife's accessories ...
 Belinda Berger, Country Life, "The Big Piggery" / 2012, earthenware
... & Belinda Berger's pile-up of pigs.
The pavilion's open space never felt crowded. There seemed to be a lot of art students checking out the show during my visit late Saturday afternoon. Many of the artists were present. Some were chatty & informative. Others silently watched over the people viewing their work. Sadly, I missed the pottery wheel demonstrations.

§ Ceramics Annual of America 2012
September 14 - 16, 2012
Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Halloween is the new Christmas

I saw this Halloween painting on the window of a local French bakery today, a mere 6 weeks before October 31st. The nearby Paper Source has been promoting their Halloween related products for at least a week. This is a lead time comparable to Christmas. Even my 6-year-old nephew eagerly modeled his ninja costume for us last month.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


This week I saw Samsara, cinematographer Ron Fricke's wordless film essay containing spectacular documentary footage shot all over the world. The imagery is wide-ranging. The film might jump from Balinese dancers to Hawaiian volcanoes to prison inmates to sand dunes. The organizing principle was not obvious to me, so I experienced the film simply as a compilation of arresting visuals. Aerial shots of temples sprouting from the landscape of Myanmar are breathtaking. Stunning footage of pilgrims circling the Kaaba made me dizzy. I gasped at the wushu demonstration by a seemingly infinite number of red-jacketed practitioners.

A segment about over-consumption, using cliched time-lapse photography of traffic & assembly line workers, is blunt. The soundtrack of synthesized, New Age music is frankly awful. Sometimes I did not get exactly what was going on. I had no idea what to make of the massive cow carousel in what must be a dairy or slaughterhouse. I recognized the interior of Teatro alla Scala, but it wasn't until the closing credits that I realized I should have been suspicious of the nubile Thai go-go dancers.

§ Samsara (2011)
Ron Fricke, director; US
A; 102 min.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Pearl Fishers

Opera San Jos, 09.09.2012 Curtain call for Opera San Jos production of The Pearl Fishers.Sunday I heard the matinee performance of The Pearl Fishers at  Opera San José. I've only heard this opera once before, but I like its undemanding & pretty music. I heard the 2nd of 2 casts for this production. They all gave consistent performances, though pitch drifted slightly throughout the afternoon. Tenor James Callon's voice is gritty but bright. He maintained a very soft dynamic level in his "Je crois entendre encore." Soprano Melody King portrayed a robust & independent Léïla with both her singing & acting. Baritone Zachary Altman has a clear, slightly metallic, sound, & his popping climaxes filled the hall. He was a swaggering Zurga. I liked the directorial decision to have him leap off the cliff at the end, Tosca-style. Bass Silas Elash as Nourabad has a pleasing, round sound that he seems to produce with ease. The relatively small chorus sang with gusto & sounded bigger than a mere 2 dozen singers. They were especially vivid in act 2 as an angry, knife-wielding mob.

The picturesque set depicts an ancient stone ruin overrun with vines & lit by small fires. Stars shine in the sky for the nighttime scenes. At several points 7 young dancers joyfully perform rough-hewn choreography containing an eclectic variety of poses & leaps. A couple of happy children appear on stage in the opening scene.

Conductor Anthony Quartuccio led with a square, metronome-like beat which made act 1 move slowly. The orchestra played assertively. Oboeinsight had a very exposed oboe solo in act 2, which she phrased with nice detail. It was fun to chat with her over the pit railing during the 2nd intermission. The San Jose audience was generally appreciative & attentive, & they gave the performance a standing ovation.

§ The Pearl Fishers
An Opera in Three Acts
Georges Bizet

Opera San José
Conductor: Anthony Quartuccio
Stage Director: Richard Harrell
Chorus Master: Andrew Whitfield

Léïla: Melody King
Nadir: James Callon
Zurga: Zachary Altman
Nourabad: Silas Elash
Opera San José Orchestra, Chorus, Dancers and Supers

Sunday, September 9, 2012, 3pm
California Theatre

Sunday, September 09, 2012

SFO: Rigoletto

San Francisco Opera, 09.07.2012 Opening night audience at San Francisco Opera.On Friday, I attended the opening night of San Francisco Opera in upstairs standing room. The curtain went up half an hour late. There was an unexplained delay then supererogatory speeches from Chairman of the Board John Gunn & Opera President George Hume. A photographer took a picture of the audience from the stage, & we sung the national anthem.

This was the 1st of a dozen performances of Rigoletto, which is double cast. Tenor Francesco Demuro as the Duke has a robust voice with a rough but bright edge. He was strongest in the opening scene of act 2. His "La donna è mobile" kept in the flow of the scene & did not pop out as a show-stopping aria. Baritone Željko Lučić was completely at home in the part of Rigoletto. His voice is clear & ringing & has a bracing tension. I liked soprano Aleksandra Kurzak's dark, solid voice. Her high notes were clean & secure, & she has nice dynamic control. Her Gilda, instead of being hopelessly naive & foolish, seemed assertive & more than a match for the Duke. Bass Andrea Silvestrelli's Sparafucile was my favorite bit of casting. His deep, open voice seems to originate from somewhere beneath the building. He was chilling.

The male chorus sang with a barbed, vivid sound. Secondary roles, many filled by Adler Fellows, were all sung strongly. Conductor Nicola Luisotti led with a lot of rubato & made the music a connected flow instead of a series of oom-pah-pah numbers. The orchestra, especially the strings, played vigorously for him, & I liked the clean, floating clarinet solos. The climaxes were thundering.

This is the familiar production designed by Michael Yeargan. The stark street settings are inspired by the paintings of Giorgio de Chirico. Red, yellow & blue predominate. Period costumes establish the time & place. The staging is straightforward.

The opening night audience gave the performance a low-key response. They were treated to champagne served on all levels of the house immediately following the show, in celebration of SF Opera's 90th season. There were few standees upstairs, & I saw many empty seats in the last rows of the balcony. It was a pleasure to be at the rail with SF Mike & the Opera Tattler. Someone gave the Tattler a "Brava Diva!" for her rendition of the national anthem in her hefty baritone.

§ Rigoletto
Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Harry Silverstein
Set Designer: Michael Yeargan

The Duke Of Mantua: Francesco Demuro
Matteo Borsa: Daniel Montenegro
Countess Ceprano: Laura Krumm
Count Ceprano: Ryan Kuster
Rigoletto: Željko Lučić
Marullo: Joo Won Kang
Monterone: Robert Pomakov
Sparafucile: Andrea Silvestrelli
Gilda: Aleksandra Kurzak
Giovanna: Renée Rapier
A Page: Laura Krumm
An Usher: Jere Torkelsen
Maddalena: Kendall Gladen

Fri 09/7/12 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

Friday, September 07, 2012

Ansel Adams: The Manzanar Project

At lunchtime I visited the Scott Nichols Gallery at 49 Geary to see a show of 50 Ansel Adams photographs of the World War II Manzanar relocation camp. Many photos emphasize Manzanar's natural surroundings, but there are also portraits & scenes of everyday life, imagery not typically associated with Ansel Adams. I liked the fleeting moment he caught of a woman, in a long handmade scarf, perhaps saying good-bye to the unseen occupant of an automobile. The pictures are not overtly political in the way that Dorothea Lange's photos of the same subject are. A staff member at the gallery told me that on opening night people commented on how happy the internees look, but the images need to be read with the appropriate cultural & political subtext. The prints on display were made from the original negatives in 1985 by the Fresno Metropolitan Museum. This institution has since gone bankrupt, & its 6 sets of these photos are now in various hands.

§ Ansel Adams
The Manzanar Project
September 6 – October 27, 2012
Scott Nichols Gallery

Sunday, September 02, 2012

SF Zine Fest 2012

San Francisco Zine Fest silkscreened printSaturday afternoon I visited the SF Zine Fest, taking place this weekend in the County Fair Building in Golden Gate Park. The show gathers local creators of self-published comics, zines, books & print art. The exhibitors fill 2 rooms, & there is an events schedule & a zine reading room. Sarah Oleksyk designed the event's pretty 2-color silkscreen poster.

There were a fair number of attendees, despite the holiday weekend. A strong sense of personal investment comes across from all the exhibitors. Michael Denning's intricate, mandala-like drawings are fun to look at, & he was eager to explain how he works from the edges in, without any pre-planning. In retrospect, I think the small, surreal dream comics of Hob made me uneasy. It was nice to get the latest issue of Laterborn from Jason Martin after a 3 year gap. Mr. Martin scrupulously explained how to read the "flip side" of the issue. In another generation, no one will get the metaphor.

SF Zine Fest 2012, 09.01.2012 SF Zine Fest 2012.Many attendees came with their dogs, including artist MariNaomi, who was quite amused by my Facebook cluelessness. I had a good time trading anecdotes about badly-behaved postal employees with mail art maven Jennie Hinchcliff. Comics creator Brian Herrick advised me that "owls are trending." Announcements occasionally blared from the PA system, but they were unintelligible.

§ 11th Annual San Francisco Zine Fest
September 1st + 2nd, 2012
11am - 6pm
San Francisco County Fair Building
1199 9th Ave and Lincoln Way
in Golden Gate Park