Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In and Out of Print

In and Out of Print: The New World of Books
Mechanics' Institute
Wednesday, 29 June, 2010 6:00pm

PhotobucketLast evening the Mechanics' Institute hosted a panel discussion in which 4 Bay Area writers talked about the disparate routes each took to getting a book published. The event was aimed at writers & focused on the how to get the attention of publishers & readers. The panel was smartly moderated by Constance Hale. Laura Fraser represented the traditional model, submitting a proposal & then receiving an advance in order to write full time, though she admits that it is no longer so easy or profitable to go this route. Matt Stewart distributed his novel via twitter & then used this stunt to garner articles in the New York Times & TechCrunch, which then brought him to the attention of publishers. Lisa Alpine, an entrepreneur by profession, goes the self-publishing route, "because I don't want to wait around for approval." Ransom Stephens put his novel up on scribd, where it was one of the top ten downloads for weeks. All the authors use social media & do most of their publicity themselves. The basic message was that, besides writing the best book you can, you need to do a lot of self-promoting. They also emphasized the need to hire a professional editor, since most publishers no longer offer this service.

The panelists were all very forthcoming about outlays of time & money required for their books. There was little mention of digital books, Kindles or iPads, & each author was clearly proud to have a physical book to sell. I was thankful that no one seemed to think that the Web was a bad thing or a threat in any way. At the end of the event, Mr. Stephens, who is also a particle physicist, told me how in the early 90s he was one of the 1st Americans to get on the World Wide Web, using a browser client written by Tim Berners-Lee himself.

Monday, June 28, 2010

SFO: Fanciulla

San Francisco Opera
La Fanciulla del West

Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Lorenzo Mariani

Minnie: Deborah Voigt
Dick Johnson a.k.a. Ramerrez: Salvatore Licitra
Sheriff Jack Rance: Roberto Frontali
Nick: Steven Cole
Sonora: Timothy Mix
Ashby: Kevin Langan
Joe: Brian Jagde
Harry: David Lomelí
Trin: Matthew O’Neill
Handsome: Austin Kness
Sid: Kenneth Overton
Jake Wallace: Trevor Scheunemann
Happy: Igor Vieira
Larkens: Brian Leerhuber
Wowkle: Maya Lahyani
Billy Jackrabbit: Jeremy Milner
Pony Express Rider: Christopher Jackson
José Castro: Bojan Kneževiċ

Sun Jun 27 2010 2pm

After being on the stage before the curtain went up on the Sunday matinee of Fanciulla, I was in the balcony for the actual performance. The orchestra makes a thunderous impression right from the opening chord, & the excitable Maestro Luisotti continued to get a big, lush sound from the orchestra. His conducting evoked the spaciousness of the opera's western setting better than the set, which consists of huge vertical cliffs for all 3 acts.

The singing of all 3 principals was strong. Roberto Frontali's singing & acting projected self-assured power without making Jack Rance into an evil, Scarpia-like, heavy. Deborah Voigt's high notes were big & secure, especially in the finales of Acts II & III. Salvatore Licitra has a beautifully smooth, classically Italian voice. His high notes are very full, & his Ch'ella mi creda was terrific. Even though Puccini does not stop the proceedings for applause, someone yelled a hearty "Bravo!" at the end. I also enjoyed the characterful singing of Timothy Mix as a long-haired Sonora.

The staging of the ending had changed since the dress rehearsal I saw 3 weeks earlier, perhaps because they did not want Minnie's horse to misbehave as he did then. Now, after Minnie dismounts, the horse is led off. Also, the lovers simply walk offstage at the end, instead of riding upstage in a wagon.

During the card playing scene in the Act II, a cell phone rang repeatedly in the last row of the balcony. Everyone in the row dove for their phones, but it kept ringing. Finally, an usher had to ask the offending patron to turn off her phone, as she was evidently not able to hear it herself. During the intermission, this much embarrassed woman approached me, & I helped her disarm the phone.

During the intermission I also had time to read the program notes by the ever-erudite Entartete Musik, who references Gershwin, John Adams & Bernstein, & even manages to find a connection to the Second Viennese School.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Backstage at Fanciulla

Backstage TourJust 45 minutes before Sunday's matinee of La Fanciulla del West at the SF Opera, I was standing in Minnie's Polka Saloon, on a backstage tour for members of the Orpheus club. Drew Landmesser, Director of Productions, took us onstage & around the back of the enormous stone cliffs that dominate the set for Fanciulla. Italian sculptors carved these cliffs out of styrofoam, & Mr. Landmesser jokingly admitted that the cliffs represent the Italians' rather peculiar idea of California rather than anything resembling the real thing. The cliffs are so tall that the tops had to be made removable so that they can fit through the stage doors.

BackstageThe space backstage is actually not that large compared to modern houses, & it was fun to see bits of the sets for all 3 summer productions piled together at the back of the stage. They looked like parts of a giant toy set. Members of Orpheus were curious about the animals that appeared on stage this summer. Mr. Landmesser thought that the dogs in Die Walküre were more effective when they barked offstage before running on. A real horse is not in the cards for next summer's Götterdämmerung, though. I was also surprised to learn that the parachuting Valkyries are actually male stage hands in wigs!

I like the honesty & humor with which Mr. Landmesser talked about the financial & practical challenges of working in the War Memorial Opera House, now somewhat dated by modern standards. I was frankly touched by his sincere love & affection for the job. He is already anticipating the technical rehearsals for 2011's Götterdämmerung, which begin next Monday.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Meet the Merolini

Friday, June 25 5:30pm
Veterans Building Green Room

This is the 1st official event for the 2010 class of the Merola Opera Program. Each of the 25 young singers, coaches & directors sat briefly with Opera Center General Director Sheri Greenawald, President Patrick Wilken & Chairman Jayne Davis & answered one or two questions in a light & chatty vein. This moved quickly & was followed by a reception for the Merolini & the program supporters. Only baritone Ao Li could not be present. A visa problem was rumored to be the cause.

The interviews often revealed the well-rounded lives of the participants. Mezzo Robin Flynn swam from Alcatraz the previous Sunday. Tenor Alexander Lewis listed "jumping off of things" as one of his hobbies. Tenor Daniel Montenegro went into business making vodka & whiskey. Several singers admited to being "freaked out" by their imminent Auditions for the General Director taking place this Sunday.

There is no singing at this event, but we can look forward to their performances this summer. The Schwabacher Summer Concerts on July 16 & July 25 will include excerpts from Rodelinda, Werther, Barbiere, The Bartered Bride & The Merry Wives of Windsor (Otto Nicolai). L'Elisir d'Amore will be presented at Fort Mason August 5 - 8, & the Merola Grand Finale at the Opera House will be August 21st.

During the reception I had the pleasure of chatting with SFMike before he hastily ran off to the all-Berlioz program at the SF Symphony. He also wondered aloud how the likes of myself & the Opera Tattler had been admitted to such a swank event.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Persephassa on the Lake

File this under "Why don't I live in New York?" Earlier this week, Make Music New York put on a performance of Xenakis's percussion piece Persephassa, featuring performers situated on floating platforms & along the shore of The Lake in Central Park. The audience enjoyed the performance from row boats in the middle of the lake. The event description instructs that after the "stunning conclusion, members of the audience will row their boats back to the dock."

Some links to coverage of the event here.

Carmen 3D

It is good to know that 3D is not just for Pixar movies & sporting events. The Royal Opera House has filmed Francesca Zambello's Carmen in 3D. It sounds like the production, featuring acrobats, animals & attractive singers, is a natural for this treatment. In an article in the WSJ today, Ms. Zambello says, "I really hope this turns on new operagoers and also people who love 3-D."

MTT conducts Berlioz

MTT conducts Berlioz

San Francisco Symphony
Michael Tilson Thomas, conductor
Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano
Jonathan Vinocour, viola

Berlioz: Roman Carnival Overture
Berlioz: Les Nuits d'été
Berlioz: Harold in Italy

Wed, Jun 23, 2010 8:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

I was drawn to this week's SF Symphony concert by the chance to hear Jonathan Vinocour, the much talked-of new principal violist. The all-Berlioz program also looked attractive. I think Berlioz is a pretty strange composer, but MTT made it all sound bright & lively, if a bit uninflected. I felt like I was sitting through an efficient run-through of the program. Sasha Cooke, in a shimmery, pale green dress, gave a pretty performance of the songs Les Nuits d'été with her buttery voice. I especially liked her floating high notes with their crisp attacks. In the song Absence, she did nice crescendos & diminuendos on those high notes that really did make me think of a flower opening & closing. She acted out the 2 voices of L′île inconnue with discretion.

Jonathan Vinocour had a chair to sit in for the stretches of Harold in Italy in which he does not play, emphasizing that the piece is not a viola concerto. The harp was moved to the front of the orchestra so it could accompany him in the 1st movement. Mr. Vinocour looks like an affable & studious undergraduate, & I was amused to read in his bio that he has a degree in chemistry from Princeton. His playing is clean & smooth & has an easiness to it. The viola's opening theme flowed seamlessly, & the endlessly repeating arpeggios of the 2nd movement sounded airy & even. The harmonic that ends the 3rd movement was perfectly solid. At the end of his performance, the viola section very sweetly presented Mr. Vinocour with a bouquet of flowers.

During the 1st movement of Harold in Italy, it looked like a violinist had to the leave the stage unexpectedly, though several more players left the stage later to form the off-stage string ensemble in the final movement.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

iPhone 4 Is Here

PhotobucketI've been by the Apple store on Chestnut Street twice today, & it looks like there have been 2 lines outside all day. I bow down to Apple's ability to generate this kind of consumer anticipation for every new product. There was a table on the sidewalk filled with coffee, pastries, candies, &, in the evening, pizza, but I did not see any of the people in line eating. Maybe it's for the store employees who have been cheerfully herding customers all day.

SFO: Walküre (round 2)

Tuesday evening I was happily back for a 2nd round of SF Opera's Die Walküre, this time in a seat in the grand tier. Again David Gockley appeared before the curtain to tell us that our Brünnhilde was suffering from a "nasty bronchial infection" but would go. Again I was rapt for the entire performance. Even the ritualistic Todesverkündigung, which I often find boring, felt suspenseful. Maestro Runnicles's conducting was taut & never overblown. Sometimes the orchestral sound was even delicate, & there was often a softness to the horns. There were lovely, floaty clarinet solos, & the flute section sounded sweet in the closing fire music.

This may be the most beautifully sung Walküre I'll ever hear. Mark Delevan does not have a booming voice, but his Verdian singing is warm & very welcome. He was dramatically moving in the way he articulated "das Ende!" in the Act II monologue. He's even more startling in Act III when he exclaims "Und das ich ihm Stücken schlug!" & falls to his knees. Nina Stemme elicited gasps from those around me when she unleashed her powerful Hojotohos. If she sings like this when she is ailing, I really want to know what she sounds like when she feels strong!

From the grand tier I could see elements of the staging that are not visible from the balcony, such as the giant moon at the end of Act I & the appearance of Fricka & Brünnhilde on the overpass in Act II. I was also better able to appreciate how much good acting everyone in the cast is doing. Here's a case where OperaVision truly enhances the experience from the balcony.

The audience was enthusiastic & very un-Wagnerian in applauding during the music, when Ms. Stemme made her entrance, when the Valkyries dropped down by parachute, & at the end of the Valkyries' ensemble. During the intermission the Opera Tattler showed off for us a framed & signed production still from Die Walküre, her prize for winning the facebook popular vote in the Ring Costume Contest. Also, an informant in the downstairs standing room reported seeing Maestro MTT, sporting distinctive blue eyewear.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

SFO: Walküre

Die Walküre
San Francisco Opera

Conductor: Donald Runnicles
Director: Francesca Zambello

Brünnhilde: Nina Stemme
Wotan: Mark Delavan
Sieglinde: Eva-Maria Westbroek
Siegmund: Christopher Ventris
Fricka: Janina Baechle
Hunding: Raymond Aceto
Ortlinde: Molly Fillmore
Schwertleite: Suzanne Hendrix
Waltraute: Daveda Karanas
Gerhilde: Wendy Bryn Harmer
Helmwige: Tamara Wapinsky
Siegrune: Maya Lahyani
Grimgerde: Pamela Dillard
Rossweise: Priti Gandhi

Sat Jun 19 2010 7pm

PhotobucketIn order to be in the opera house the same night as an out of town friend, I attended this performance of Die Walküre in standing room. After the house lights came down, David Gockley stepped on stage & announced that Nina Stemme was suffering from a viral infection but would go on anyway. I certainly could not tell that she was in any way indisposed. Though of small stature, she is a powerhouse. Her Brunnhilde is spunky & girlish, hopping onto Wotan for a piggy-back ride in her 1st scene. Her voice is unexpectedly large, with an even tone throughout her range. She gave a thoroughly lovable performance. The rest of the cast was equally fine. Christopher Ventris & Eva-Maria Westbroek as the lovers were well-matched & both sang with a lyricism that my opera companion aptly described as "Italianate". In fact, this was the most beautifully sung Walküre I have ever heard, & it reminded me that Wagner really did have the sound of Italian opera in his head when composing.

I liked Raymond Aceto's clean, focused singing & alpha male strutting as Hunding. Mark Delavan has a warm, light voice, & his Wotan is more vulnerable human than war God. Janina Baechle has a grounded mezzo sound, & her Fricka is an unyielding woman with a mission. The production has her onstage overseeing the death of Siegmund. The Valkyrie sisters projected enormous vocal energy, & the audience applauded their entrance by parachute.

Maestro Donald Runnicles was greeted with cheers each time he entered the pit, & the orchestra played gorgeously for him. There was both great precision & a wonderful ebb & flow. In the 3rd act there were incredible moments when all the strings swelled together. Walküre is already my favorite Ring opera, but this performance made me love it even more.

I only partially got the thread of this "American" Ring. Hunding, his house filled with hunting trophies, could be a militiaman or survivalist. Wotan works out of a 1930's corporate board room, while Siegmund & Sieglinde take refuge beneath a freeway. The Valkyries are Amelia Earhart clones. The production looks like it was designed under severe budgetary constraints, though the real flames surrounding Brunnhilde's rock are a spectacle.

When the lights came up for the 1st intermission, I was delighted to discover that The Opera Tattler had snuck into upstairs standing room in time for the closing minutes of Act I. She was not dressed as a character from the Ring, but she looking fetching nonetheless, clutching a bulky copy of Walküre's score.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Daniel Nicoletta at Electric Works

Electric Works Gallery
More Glitter — Less Bitter
Photographs by Daniel Nicoletta, 1975–Present
June 4 — July 10, 2010

Prompted by SFMike's account of the opening of Daniel Nicoletta's show at Electric Works, yesterday I went to see this show of photographs documenting gay life & politics in San Francisco. The images are equal parts photojournalism, politics & art. I think they make an impact because they so clearly reflect an insider's point of view. The show is thoughtfully arranged so that pictures of Harvey Milk & the Castro in the 1970's are juxtaposed with scenes of the filming of Gus Van Sant's Milk movie 30 years later. Especially neat is the photo of Harvey milk in circus clown drag, paired with a mirror-image re-creation of the pose by Sean Penn.

Many of the photos are in color, to impressive effect. I liked the blazing, saturated colors of Juanito More, October 8, 1996, showing the drag queen posing defiantly in her dressing room. There is also a very cool, very wide picture of the cast of Pearls Over Shanghai, in homage to Richard Avedon's group portrait of Warhol's Factory.

As at previous visit to this gallery, I was personally greeted by a fellow who introduced himself as Richard & whom I took to be the gallery owner. He was good enough to let me know that the gallery, in an effort to have something for everyone, offers a limited edition mini-print from each show for a reasonable $40.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Up-Coming: SF Silent Film Festival

I just received the schedule for the San Francisco Silent Festival at the Castro, July 15 - 18. This is one of my favorite events, & I try to catch at least a couple of programs. As usual, the festival has quite a range, from Laurel & Hardy shorts to a bizarre Swedish documentary about witchcraft. I have never seen a Harry Langdon film, so this will be a chance to check him out in The Strong Man. The alluring Louise Brooks appears in Diary of a Lost Girl, which I have seen before. If I go again, I might have to close my eyes during the deranged reform school calisthenics scene. They are also screening Fritz Lang's Metropolis in a new restoration that adds a whopping 25 minutes. Every time I see this movie, it gets longer. It's clearly a great film, but I hope they don't find any more of it.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ring Costume Contest

ErdaPrior to the Sunday matinee of Walküre, the San Francisco Opera held a Wagner Ring Cycle Costume Contest, which was open to all interested members of the public. 1st prize went to the politically correct "Eco-Friendly Feminist Siegfried", whose outfit lacked visual splendor but whose hilarious presentation to the judges displayed an impeccable comprehension of Ring mythology. In 2nd place was The Opera Tattler (pictured), as a Mucha-inspired Erda, in a green corset & gold shoes, festooned with live vegetation, & wrapped in a green gauze fabric. Most impressive was her headdress proudly sprouting fresh flowers. She has raised the bar considerably from the headgear she wore in standing room at the Met's Ring last year. Though coming in 2nd, she was the clear crowd favorite & was photographed continuously during & after the event. Her interpretation of Erda conjured up for me a very plausible Art Deco-style Ring. After the contest, The Opera Tattler did indeed attend the Walküre matinee dressed in her outfit. I feared for the person who was to sit behind her.

More of my Tattler photos here. Official contest photos are on facebook.

Other entrants included Fasolt & a captive Freia, a Brünnhilde with the biggest horns I've ever seen, a Valkyrie, & a doggie Wotan carrying his spear in his mouth. Journalist Jason Serinus, covering the event for SFCV, was also a contestant, looking like a cross between Mélisande & Minnie from Fanciulla. I was talking with him for several minutes before I realized I had already met him at the Cal Performances season announcement. It is rather difficult to recognize someone in drag whom you have only met once before.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

SFO: Faust

San Francisco Opera
Faust by Charles Gounod

Faust: Stefano Secco
Marguerite: Patricia Racette
Méphistophélès: John Relyea
Valentin: Brian Mulligan
Siebel: Daniela Mack
Marthe: Catherine Cook
Wagner: Austin Kness

Conductor: Maurizio Benini
Director: Jose Maria Condemi

Tue Jun 8 2010 7:30pm

The SF Opera's summer production of Gounod's Faust is safely conventional-looking. It has an early 19th century setting, & the stage design is simple & clear, each scene bordered by the same brick & stone arches. It all looks nice, if a bit prosaic. I was confused & distracted by the hooded monks who came & went during the church scene, so I felt like the direction was not quite right for this important scene.

At the beginning, tenor Stefano Secco's high notes sounded like they were coming out of a very small opening that then suddenly widened. This little peculiarity diminished as the evening progressed, though his high notes always seemed a bit disconnected from the rest of his voice. John Relyea gave an enjoyably hammy performance as the devil, his voice dark & masculine. I liked his operatic demonic laughter & his enthusiastic fake violin playing. Patricia Racette has a charismatic stage presence, but, with her wide vibrato & sometimes hard-edged sound, she does not project youthful innocence. I found this jarring in the garden scene, in which her voice did not not get around the jaunty contours of the Jewel Song easily. She was much more dramatically effective in later scenes, however.

My favorite performance was Brian Mulligan's Valentin. His farewell scene in the 1st Act was beautifully sung. His voice was seamless, had a fullness to it, & yet it always seemed like he had even more to give. He was just as thrilling in his final scene, full of both ardor & anger. It reminded me that these were also my favorite moments in a Faust I saw in Walnut Creek last year. Perhaps Valentin is the best role in the opera.

The orchestra sounded great, with fine solos from the clarinet & oboe. I could not help noticing the beautiful tone of the flute as well. Conductor Maurizio Benini maintained good orchestral balances & terraced dynamics, but I found his conducting a bit measured & lacking in climaxes. The audience was quite moderate in its response this evening. While they clapped as soon as Maestro Benini entered the pit, the applause ran out before he reached the podium. Many of the big scenes were met with complete silence as well.

Although I thought I was the Web's most low-profile blogger, I was recognized by someone in standing room & had to admit that Axel & myself do look somewhat alike. During the intermissions I was pleasantly diverted by accounts of the LA Opera Ring from The Opera Tattler & John Marcher.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Shameless Exclusivity

In his Financial Times review of summer productions at Grange Park & Garsington Opera, critic Andrew Clark appreciates the absurdity of "country house opera." He also ambivalently observes that "shameless exclusivity is key" to the "purist" experiences they offer. It looks like these festivals retreat explicitly back to opera's origin as an entertainment designed for aristocratic audiences. On the other hand, some of us might aspire to attend just to prove that they will in fact let just about anyone in.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Fanciulla Dress Rehearsal

San Francisco Opera
La Fanciulla del West
Giacomo Puccini

Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Lorenzo Mariani

Minnie: Deborah Voigt
Dick Johnson: Salvatore Licitra
Sheriff Jack Rance: Roberto Frontali
Nick: Steven Cole
Sonora: Timothy Mix
Ashby: Kevin Langan
Joe: Brian Jagde
Harry: David Lomelí
Trin: Matthew O’Neill
Handsome: Austin Kness
Sid: Kenneth Overton
Jake Wallace: Trevor Scheunemann
Happy: Igor Vieira
Larkens: Brian Leerhuber
Wowkle: Maya Lahyani
Billy Jackrabbit: Jeremy Milner
Pony Express Rider: Christopher Jackson
José Castro: Bojan Kneževiċ

Dress Rehearsal
4 June 2010 2pm

Whiz KidAnticipation was high for yesterday afternoon's dress rehearsal of La Fanciulla del West at the SF Opera. The house staff was ruffled by the audience's eagerness to get seats. An usher demanded to know how long I was going to save the 2 seats next to me, though I explained that someone else had dropped her jacket on them & left.

Fanciulla is not a strong opera, lacking arias & memorable scenes, but Maestro Luisotti made a good case for Puccini's orchestral writing at least. He got a stunning effect right from the start, with a big sound from the orchestra. His conducting emphasized the colorful writing & rolling climaxes. He rearranged the orchestra yet again, with double basses on the inside left while cellos were on the outside on the right. The brass were split, with the horns on the left & the trumpets & trombones on the right. There was a relatively large woodwind section in the center, all of which may have accounted for the fullness of the orchestral sound, which sometimes drowned out the singers.

The 3 principals were solid. Deborah Voigt sounded hale & hearty. Even though it seemed like she was not using much effort this afternoon, her high notes always came through, even above a big climax with orchestra & chorus in Act III. Salvatore Licitra has a smooth, almost silky voice, though he had a moment at the beginning of his duet with Minnie at the end of Act I when it sounded like he was about to balk at his 1st high note but then managed to squeeze it out. Roberto Frontali has a dark voice, & I liked his singing & acting in his Act II showdown with Minnie. Secondary roles are well-cast too. I could not help noticing Bojan Kneževiċ, Kevin Langan & Maya Lahyani, excellent in their small roles.

The production looked slapdash & even a bit unfinished. Scenically dominated by huge cliffs, it opens inexplicably with a bunch of rock climbers & ends with a wagon ride into the sunset being blocked by the sudden appearance of an Alfred Bierstadt painting. No doubt the most watched element of this staging will be Ms. Voigt's Act III entrance astride the horse Whiz Kid, a pretty Austrian Haflinger. Ms. Voigt caused applause at her mounted entrance, & she even dismounted unassisted. At the dress rehearsal the horse caused additional delight to the audience when we realized he had crapped onstage.

Friday, June 04, 2010

A Maestro for the Masses

The front page of the WSJ's Weekend Journal today features an article about crossover classical violinist & conductor André Rieu. While his concerts are wildly successful in many parts of the world, he still has the same problem as many other classical music organizations: He has "an older, largely female audience" which he would like to broaden. The article does not say how one goes about attracting a younger audience, but it does confirm my suspicion that this older, female audience IS the audience for classical music, so what you should do is just try to get more of them.

The article also comes with an amusing graphic of crossover musicians from "cheesiest" (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) to "classiest" (Yo-Yo Ma), in 12 half-steps, no less.

MTT's Miami Home

Michael Tilson-Thomas's 1925 Mediterranean home in Miami is featured on the real estate page of today's WSJ, though the house does not appear to be for sale. Features include a tower room, where the Maestro retreats to work & study scores, & a telephone that only makes out-going calls.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Potrero Branch Library

Potrero Branch LibrarySomeone recently tipped me off to the Potrero Branch Library & its spectacular panoramic view encompassing the Bay Bridge, downtown, Civic Center & even the tip of the Golden Gate Bridge & St. Ignatius. Reading chairs are conveniently located facing the picture window on the 2nd floor. This branch is small but very clean & child-friendly. It also seems to be free of the smelly, crazy homeless people that make a typical visit to the library feel like being on the set of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It must be very pleasant on an afternoon to borrow a book from this library & repair to the nearby Thinkers Cafe or Farley's to read.