Wednesday, October 31, 2012

SFO: Lohengrin

SF Opera, 10.28.2012 Intermission at performance Lohengrin at SF Opera.I was glad to hear the fine cast of SF Opera's Lohengrin on Sunday afternoon. Tenor Brandon Jovanovich's voice was ringing, heroic, & had a baritonal heft. He sounded strapping throughout. He sang his opening thanks to the swan in a soft, near-falsetto that was appropriately otherwordly. As Elsa, soprano Camilla Nylund conveyed both grit & defenselessness. Her singing had strength & a slight tension. She & Mr. Jovanovich were a tall, attractive couple.

Soprano Petra Lang was a terrific Ortrud, singing & acting with fierce concentration. Her voice was strong & chesty, & her Ortrud was angry, disdainful & dangerous. Bass-baritone Gerd Grochowski's singing is intelligent & pleasingly crisp. He played an unsettling, even fanatical, Telramund. He recevies a very bloody death. As the Herald, baritone Brian Mulligan sounded solid & youthful. Bass Kristinn Sigmundsson communicated age & authority as the King. The orchestra played assertively under conductor Nicola Luisotti, & the music flowed in grand, sweeping gestures. Climactic scenes with the chorus were big & brawny. The brasses were warm, & it was fun to hear them play from various locations in the house.

SF Opera, 10.28.2012 Standing room at performance of Lohengrin at SF Opera.Director Daniel Slater relocates the opera to a Soviet-style military state. The chorus are dressed as 2 opposing factions, encouraging us to view the story as a politcal parable. Most of the action takes place in the lobby of a ransacked library. The opening of act 2 finds Telramund & Ortrud huddled with homeless people outside a decaying state building. The audience murmured when the curtain came up on act 3 to reveal Lohengrin & Elsa in a bridal chamber that resembled a cross between a shoebox, a cheap motel room, & the bedroom at the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I attended the performance in the upstairs standing room, where OperaVision was useful to see action occuring at the set's back wall, which is not visible from the balcony.

§ Lohengrin
Richard Wagner

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Nicola Luisotti
Director: Daniel Slater

King's Herald: Brian Mulligan
Heinrich Der Vogler: Kristinn Sigmundsson
Friedrich Von Telramund: Gerd Grochowski
Ortrud: Petra Lang
Elsa Von Brabant: Camilla Nylund
Lohengrin: Brandon Jovanovich
Nobles of Brabant: Nathaniel Peake, Robert Watson, Joo Won Kang, Ryan Kuster

Sun 10/28/12 1:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

Sunday, October 28, 2012

World Series 2012

World Series 2012, 10.28.2012 World Series game broadcast at Civic Center Plaza.After attending this afternoon's performance at the SF Opera, I walked over to Civic Center Plaza where a large crowd was watching a big-screen broadcast of what turned out to be final game of the 2012 World Series. I'm not a sports fan, but even I could enjoy the happy atmosphere. It did take me a while to figure out why people were carrying brooms, though.

World Series 2012, 10.28.2012 Panda watching Worlds Series broadcast in Civic Center Plaza.As I write this at home, the Giants have officially won the World Series, firecrackers are going off in the middle of the street, horns are honking, people are screaming, & the Marina is slightly more raucous than usual.

Moby Dick

SF Opera, 10.26.2012 Intermission at performance of Moby Dick at SF Opera. City Hall lit up in Giants orange.Friday night I saw Jake Heggie's operatic version of Moby Dick at SF Opera. It centers on a handful of characters from the novel, presented in short, intimate scenes. The music is pretty & concise & contains a lot of hummable motifs. It seems to be in a mix of styles, from verismo to Philip Glass to contemporary Broadway. Scenes are mostly monologues & duets, so the opera feels chamber-sized. It begins & ends in near silence. The whale is depicted with a tame, Latin-sounding dance rhythm.

The action occurs entirely on the Pequod, clearly represented on stage by rigging, masts & sails, as well as projections of 3D images. The singers are often high above the stage, climbing ladders or perched on footholds ascending the set's sloping back wall. The depiction of sailors in row boats as seen from above was especially convincing. I was disappointed not to see the whale, though.

Most of the principals were from the original Dallas Opera production, & the cast were all dramatically convincing. Tenor Jay Hunter Morris had a believable peg leg as Ahab. He has a gritty yet bright sound & sang athletically & consistently. His Ahab was frightening, outwardly competent as a captain but inwardly deranged. I liked tenor Stephen Costello's beautifully lyrical singing as Ishmael, who is called Greenhorn in the opera. Baritone Morgan Smith was similarly strong & lyrical as Starbuck. Both singers had nice pianissimo moments.

As Queequeg, bass Jonathan Lemalu sang with a thick yet focused voice. Soprano Talise Trevigne was bright & clear as the cabin boy Pip. She sang with ease even while suspended in midair from a wire. Baritone Robert Orth was characterful in the comic role of 2nd mate Stubb. Baritone Joo Won Kang, singing from the pit as an off-stage captain, effortlessly filled the house with his full sound. Conductor Patrick Summers led the orchestra tidily, & I enjoyed hearing gentle solos from the flute, clarinet, violin & trumpet.

SF Opera, 10.26.2012 Jake Heggie & Kip Cranna, pre-performance talk at Moby Dick at SF Opera.Mr. Heggie, along with SF Opera's Kip Cranna, gave the pre-performance talk. Mr. Heggie endearingly shared the story of the opera's creation, highlighting the contributions of his collaborators. We learned that, apart from one false start, Ahab's monologue in act 1 was the 1st scene he composed. Mr. Heggie also took a curtain call at the end of the performance, wearing a Giants hat with a furry orange top. I started the evening in downstairs standing room, but just as the lights went down was given a ticket for a seat.

§ Moby Dick
Music by Jake Heggie & libretto by Gene Scheer

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Patrick Summers
Director: Leonard Foglia

Queequeg: Jonathan Lemalu
Greenhorn (Ishmael): Stephen Costello
Flask: Matthew O’Neill
Starbuck: Morgan Smith
Stubb: Robert Orth
Pip: Talise Trevigne
Captain Ahab: Jay Hunter Morris
Tashtego: Carmichael Blankenship
Daggoo: Bradley Kynard
Nantucket Sailor: Chester Pidduck
Spanish Sailor: Anders Froehlich
Capitain Gardiner: Joo Won Kang

Fri 10/26/12 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

Friday, October 26, 2012

Picturing Alice

Mark Burstein, 10.25.2012 Mark Burstein signing books at SFPL.On Thursday evening at the San Francisco Public Library, Mark Burstein, President of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, gave a slide lecture surveying the various illustrators of Alice in Wonderland. I only think of the John Tenniel pictures when I think of Alice, but Mr. Burstein claimed that Alice in Wonderland is the most illustrated novel. He himself has a collection of over 230 Alice books illustrated by different artists. I had no idea that Mervyn Peake, Beatrix Potter & even Salvador Dali created pictures for the books. We learned that Lewis Carroll's own drawings of Alice were based on Annie Miller, who modelled for the Pre-Raphaelites. Mr. Burstein reminded us that Alice is supposed to be 7 years old, though almost no one shows her that age. Also, her dress should be yellow, not blue.

Mr. Burstein spoke for 45 minutes, pausing occasionally to update us on the Giants' scores. He amusingly referred to Tim Burton's Alice movie as "noisome." When someone asked Mr. Burstein about his favorite non-Tenniel illustrations, he answered that he is about to introduce his 7-year-old daughter to the books & that he will start her with the Tenniel.

§ Picturing Alice
Mark Burstein, President of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America
Thu, 10/25/2012, 6:30p
Latino/Hispanic Meeting Room A & B
Main Library

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Cat Rides Muni

I see dogs on Muni several times a week, but this is the 1st time I've ever seen an uncaged cat. This cat rode the 47-Van Ness this afternoon. He was on a leash & sat there without moving during. Impressive, but there's something not quite right about a cat on a leash.

Laura Krumm & Ao Li at the Rex

Ao Li, 10.24.2012 Baritone Ao Li at Salon at the Rex.San Francisco Performances opened their intimate Salons at the Rex series with a recital by Adler Fellows Laura Krumm & Ao Li. Mr. Li's big voice burst out for a rousing "Fin ch'han dal vino" from Don Giovanni at the start of the program. He clearly enjoyed being in character & gave us a hearty laugh at the aria's end. He & Ms. Krumm then alternated in song & opera selections for the next hour. Mr. Li put a lot of power into everything. His voice for the Erlkönig in the Schubert song was amusingly smarmy. He was obviously happy presenting 2 songs in Chinese: a jolly love song from Kazakstan & then a rhetorical, patriotic-sounding song.

Laura Krumm & Robert Mollicone, 10.24.2012 Mezzo Laura Krumm & pianist Robert Mollicone at Salon at the Rex.Ms. Krumm's voice is clean, unfussy & easy to listen to, & she also got very involved dramatically. She was appropriately silly in 3 Rossini songs, for which she described her character as a "Venetian soccer mom."  She was very sympathetic to the mood of internal anguish in 3 songs by Jake Heggie about sculptor Camille Claudel. Pianist Robert Mollicone was busy, playing up a storm for Erlkönig & Mr. Li's Rachmaninoff aria & providing dreamy, impressionistic accompaniment for the Heggie songs. The recital ended with the duet "La ci darem la mana" from Don Giovanni, playfully sung & acted.

The audience of about 70 applauded enthusiastically for each number, & some gave the artists a standing ovation. In a Q&A, we learned that Mr. Li was drawn to opera at the age of 15 after seeing an opera singer on TV & that Ms. Krumm covered Joyce DiDonato in SF Opera's recent I Capuleti e i Montecchi.

§ Salon at the Rex
Laura Krumm, mezzo-soprano
Ao Li, baritone
Robert Mollicone, piano

"Fin ch'han dal vino" from Don Giovanni — W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Mr. Li

La Regata Veneziana — Gioachino Rossini (1792-1886)
    Anzoleta avanti la regata
    Anzoleta co passa la regata
    Anzoleta dopo la regata
Ms. Krumm

Die Forelle — Franz Schubert (1797 -1828)
Mr. Li

"Connais tu le pays?" from Mignon — Ambroise Thomas (1811-1896)
Ms. Krumm

Chinese Folk Songs
    Arm in Arm (Kazak folk song)
    The Descendants of Dragon
Mr. Li

Camille Claudel: Into the Fire — Jake Heggie (b.1961)
    La petite Chatelaine
Ms. Krumm

"Kak, nézno priklonyás' ko mne" from Aleko — Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943)
Mr. Li

"La ci darem la mana" from Don Giovanni — W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
Ms. Krumm & Mr. Li

Wednesday, October 24, 2012  6:30pm
Hotel Rex

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Rachmaninoff at Noontime Concerts

Noontime Concerts, 10.23.2012 Noontime Concert at Old St. Mary's.I expected to hear the Shostakovich Viola Sonata at this noontime concert at Old St. Mary's, but there was an error on their calendar, & I instead heard a program of Rachmaninoff for the cello. Cellist Krisanthy Desby introduced the pieces: the short Lied, a love song by the teenaged Rachmaninoff, & the cello sonata, his last chamber work. Ms. Desby's playing was smooth & low-key. Pianist Hélène Wickett was a steady & musical accompanist. She had a brief wrestling match with the page-turner during the 1st movement. I enjoyed hearing the sonata's song-like Andante.

Krisanthy Desby, cello
Hélène Wickett, piano

Sergey Rachmaninoff: Lied
Sergey Rachmaninoff: Sonata in G minor for Cello & Piano, Op. 19

Tuesday, October 23 12:30 p.m.
Old St. Mary's

Monday, October 22, 2012

András Schiff Plays Bach II

Andrs Schiff at Davies Hall, 10.21.2012 Davies Hall set for Andrs Schiff recital.Sunday afternoon I heard pianist András Schiff play all of Book II of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier to a nearly full house at Davies Hall. The seriously disciplined Mr. Schiff performed from memory in 2 halves lasting more than an hour each. His focus was completely unbroken the whole time. He never even took his hands off the keyboard between pieces. Every note was distinct, & he used no pedal. His tempos were even & often deliberative, with no rubato or pulsing. When he played the repeated eighth notes on the same pitch in the theme of the Fugue in G minor, each note had the same emphasis. The Prelude in D minor was rollicking. The Fugue in E flat minor had the feel of a concluding statement, even though we were far from the end. Mr. Schiff added bright ornaments to the repeats of the Prelude in F minor. The Fugue in G major went breathtakingly fast yet without sounding unsteady. The mood of the Prelude in A minor shifted effortlessly from light to heavy.

Davies Hall at Intermisison, 10.21.2012 Davies Hall at intermission of Andrs Schiff recital.The audience was impressively quiet throughout, apart from a collective coughing fit just before the Prelude in B-flat major. Mr. Schiff received a standing ovation & performed the Prelude & Fugue in C major from Book I as an encore. He probably could have kept playing for another dozen keys at least.

§ András Schiff Plays Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
András Schiff, piano
Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II BWV 870 - 893

Bach: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C major BWV 846 from Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I

Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 2:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Saturday, October 20, 2012

SFO: The Capulets & The Montagues

San Francisco Opera, 10.19.2012 View of City Hall in orange lights on the outdoor balcony of the San Francisco Opera.I was at SF Opera on Friday night to catch the last performance of Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi & to hear the 2 principals that everyone has been raving about. Mezzo Joyce DiDonato & soprano Nicole Cabell both gave terrific singing & acting performances. Ms. DiDonato made her part very interesting, singing with expressive intensity & a wide dynamic range. Her brief, dying note was uncanny. Ms. Cabell's voice is sultry, luscious, & full, & her low notes matched DiDonato's well. The production presents Giulietta as a crazed woman, & Ms. Cabell sang fervently yet securely, even while standing in a sink or walking along a ledge. The love duet in act I, scene 2 received prolonged applause.

Tenor Saimir Pirgu reliably hit his high notes with the strength & clarity of a trumpet. I enjoyed baritone Ao Li as a permanently anguished Lorenzo. The character has the best intentions but fails to achieve anything. Conductor Riccardo Frizza led a punctilious & controlled performance. I liked the various long-lined solos from the clarinet, French horn & cello.

I was distracted by the Eurotrash production, which was austere, static, & did not tell the story well. The abstract sets represented featureless, enclosed spaces & required long pauses with the curtain down between scenes, even though the stage did not look that different when the curtain went up again. A bleachers-like staircase, descending to below the lip of the stage, is the main element in 2 scenes. Men uniformly wore grey frock coats, gigantic cravats, & top hats. The only colors were on the mute female guests in the wedding scene, who wore bright, garish dresses & had flowers stuffed in their mouths. Romeo & Tebaldo each wore one sleeve-length glove, Michael Jackson-style, during their confrontation in act II, scene 2.

Many plot points simply went by unacknowledged. Giuletta remains facing a wall instead of reuniting with Romeo in act I, scene 2. At the end of the opera the pair remain standing even though they have died according to the plot. At times Romeo & Giulietta sang into the walls, which was like displaying a painting behind a smudged pane of glass.

I attended the performance in upstairs standing room. There was plenty of space on both sides of me up until the house lights went down, when the rail suddenly became packed. Before the house lights came down for act II, there was spontaneous applause & laughter, but I did not see the cause.

§ I Capuleti e i Montecchi
Music by Vincenzo Bellini
Libretto by Felice Romani

San Francisco Opera
Conductor: Riccardo Frizza
Director: Vincent Boussard
Set Designer: Vincent Lemaire
Costume Designer: Christian Lacroix

Tebaldo: Saimir Pirgu
Capellio: Eric Owens
Lorenzo: Ao Li
Romeo: Joyce Didonato
Giulietta: Nicole Cabell

Fri 10/19/12 8:00pm
War Memorial Opera House

Up-coming: Opera Parallèle

Ainadamar (Photographer: Steve Di Bartolomeo)

Ensemble Parallèle, the small yet ambitious local opera company, has renamed itself to Opera Parallèle & announced its new season, featuring Golijov's Ainadamar, Bernstein's Trouble in Tahiti, Barber's A Hand of Bridge, & a commissioned work by Dante De Silva about the composer Gesualdo.

§ Opera Parallèle Season at a Glance
  • Friday Nights at the de Young
    An Evening of Contemporary Opera Arias
    Music by Bernstein, Harbison, Britten, Floyd, Golijov, Ravel and Weill
    The de Young Museum
    October 26, 2012,  6:30-7:15 pm and 7:30-8:15 pm
  • Hands-on Opera Program
    The Araboolies of Liberty Street
    Drew School
    November 2 & 3, 2012 at 7 pm
  • Sneak preview of Ainadamar
    Sol Joseph Recital Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
    January 30, 2013 at 6pm
  • Ainadamar; Osvaldo Golijov
    Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
    February 15 & 16, 2013 at 8p
    February 17, 2013 at 2p
  • Sneak Preview of Trouble in Tahiti and A Hand of Bridge
    Sol Joseph Recital Hall, San Francisco Conservatory of Music
    April 11, 2013 at 6pm
  • Trouble in Tahiti; Leonard Bernstein  (Garth Sunderland re-orchestration)
    A Hand of Bridge; Samuel Barber

    April 26 & 27, 2013 at 8pm
    April 28, 2013 at 2pm
  • Prince of Madness; Dante De Silva
    Workshop reading
    San Francisco Conservatory of Music
    June 7, 2013 at 7pm

Dew Tour

Walking through Civic Center Plaza on Friday at lunch time, I saw the huge set-up for the Dew Tour.

Events hadn't officially started, but BMXers were practising their stunts on a course that allows them to get airborne at least 3 times.

Fences were just coming down around the skateboard course, which was relatively flat & seemed to be about obstacles rather than half pipes. Like the cyclists, the boarders were exclusively skinny young men.

There's a stage & a corporate village of warehouse-sized structures. Plenty of Civic Center's street people mingled with the spectators. SFMike has more. The event is free.

§ The Dew Tour
October 18 - 21, 2012
Civic Center Plaza, San Francisco

§ Freestyle Events
October 21, 2012
Harrison Street, between Fremont and Spear

Monday, October 15, 2012

Ben Kreith at CNMAT

CNMAT, 10.13.2012 Ben Kreith, violin, performing at the Center for New Music and Audio Technologies in Berkeley.Saturday night I heard violinist Ben Kreith play a solo program of new music. There were 6 works of differing moods, & the performance lasted about an hour. Mr. Kreith's playing was sincere & purposeful. Filipina para violín a la memoria de Felipa Martín by Javier Arias Bal had a deliberative mood & contained a lot of double stops & straight tones. Fun in the Sun by Laurie San Martin is a short piece with fast notes, abrupt chords, & a suddenly calm coda. Bluescape by David del Puerto had a recurring 2-chord motif that indeed sounded bluesy & melancholy. The brief Berceuse by Anton Vishio felt thoughtful & restful.

The 10-minute My New Address by Scodanibbio is ferociously virtuosic, like an extended Paganini Caprice. The violinist has many high, glassy passages. The performance left Mr. Kreith winded. Composer Daniel Cullen controlled the electronic portion of his Stream, a 20 minute series of tiny musical events, coming from the violinist & from speakers in front & behind the audience. The piece was quiet. Afterward, Mr. Cullen showed me the iPad app he used to control the sound samples. Randomness is built into the patterns, so no 2 performances have the same sequence of sounds.

The Center for New Music & Audio Technologies is a converted house with Gothic windows a couple of blocks from the UC Berkeley campus. The concert took place in what was probably the front room. There was a small but appreciate audience of about a dozen, most of whom seemed to be academics. Composers Laurie San Martin & Anton Vishio were present & took bows with Mr. Kreith. A wine & cheese reception followed in the same room as the concert.

§ Benjamin Kreith, solo violin

Filipina para violín a la memoria de Felipa Martín (2009)
Javier Arias Bal

Fun in the Sun (2009)
Laurie San Martin

Bluescape (2007)
David del Puerto

Berceuse (2000)
Anton Vishio

My New Address (1988)
Stefano Scodanibbio (1988)

Stream (2011/12)
Daniel Cullen

Saturday, October 13, 2012, 8 PM

APE 2012

APE 2012, 10.14.2012 Criag Elliott live painting demonstration at APE 2012.This weekend I attended APE, the hip self-publishing expo. It's gotten so large that I soon realized I would not be able to see everything. APE is known for its zines & independent comics, & there's tons of illustration & graphic arts. Zombies were especially popular imagery this year. I also saw figurines & stuffed dolls for sale, & some tables resembled toy stores.

It's always fun to chat with the creators, most of whom are young & overwhelmingly eager. It was good to get the latest issue of Trackrabbit from Geoff Vasile, who personalized my copy with extra dinosaurs. I'm glad I encountered Andy Warner again, who had a lot of crisp-looking stories to choose from. I was totally skeptical when the writers of Jack & Voytek told me about the real-life Jack Churchill, who fought in World War II with a longbow & broadsword, but their story checks out. Ruji C. created a Linux distribution for her webcomic character, which she sold on fancy USB thumb drives. The expo layout has lots of aisles but no clear path for circulating through the hall, so some exhibitors complained that they were not getting enough foot traffic.

For his spotlight presentation, illustrator Eric Drooker played the harmonica to accompany a slideshow of his work. He had a banjo slung around his neck, but he did not play it. He showed us rejected & nearly rejected New Yorker covers, described his collaboration with Allen Ginbserg, & channeled the progressive poltics of the 1930s. During the Queer Cartoonists Panel, Tony Breed explained that he added penguins to the cover of his latest collection because "penguins can desexualize anything." I took the expo's free shuttle to the Powell St. BART station on Saturday. The ride was comfortable, but the downtown traffic made it take almost as long as walking.

APE 2012, 10.14.2012 Zen booth at APE.Amid the bustle was an unmanned booth containing low benches & small piles of whimsical zines. A sign read, "Please come in and have a look around. If something speaks to you, please take it with you as a token of your time here."

§ APE 2012
Alternative Press Expo
Saturday, October 13, 11am - 7pm
Sunday, October 14, 11am - 6pm
Concourse Exhibition Center, San Francisco

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

András Schiff Plays Bach

Andrs Schiff at Davies Hall, 10.07.2012 Waiting for Andrs Schiff at Davies Hall.Sunday afternoon I heard all of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I performed by intellectual rigorous pianist András Schiff. The recital was in 2 stretches of about 50 minutes each, with no breaks between pieces. Mr. Schiff confidently played the entire program from memory. Tempos were moderate & very even, & each voice was perfectly clear. Mr. Schiff played with a lot of non-legato, keeping his hands close to the keyboard & his right foot glued to the floor. He was conscientious about holding down notes for their exact durations, except for the final chords of each half of the program, which he held for a sense of finality & to keep the audience from clapping immediately. He threw in occasional discrete ornaments & improvised triplets on the final chords of the Prelude No. 6 in D minor. He gave many of the pieces a searching feeling. His playing of the Fugue No. 10 in E minor stood out for its compact & abrupt character.

Andrs Schiff  at Davies Hall, 10.07.2012 Will call line for Andrs Schiff at Davies Hall.The recital was well-attended. 15 minutes before start time the will call line extended out along the sidewalk. The audience was very quiet, apart from a couple of coughers. 2 people in my row followed along with scores. Mr. Schiff received a standing ovation & gave us a quickstepping version of the 1st Prelude & Fugue from Book II as an apt encore.

This is the 1st in a cycle of 4 Bach keyboard recitals. Mr. Schiff plays the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II on October 21st & the French & English Suites next year. He also conducts the SF Symphony & lectures this week.

§ András Schiff Plays Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
András Schiff, piano
Bach: Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, BWV 846-869

Bach: Prelude & Fugue No. 1 in C major, BWV 870 from Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II

San Francisco Symphony
Great Performers Series
Sun, Oct 7, 2012 at 2:00pm
Davies Symphony Hall

Sunday, October 07, 2012

America's Cup World Series 2012

Immediately following Saturday's Fleet Week airshow, it was a ridiculously short walk to the St. Francisco Yacht Club for the America's Cup races. Large crowds lined the shore. Best viewing was from the end of the jetty, which was the finish line & where boats passed within yards of the spectators.

America's Cup 2012, 10.06.2012 Spectators at America's Cup 2012.I saw 2 fleet races involving all 11 teams. Oracle Team Spithall enlivened the event by capsizing spectacularly at the 1st turn-around, but they redeemed themselves by coming in 2nd in the following race. I have no idea how this sport actually works, so the color commentary being broadcast to the crowd was helpful. It was also pretty funny. When the boats piled up at one end of the course, one of the commentators said, "It's like Lombard Street on a Saturday night!"

The America's Cup Village, containing a big screen, concessions, gift shop, & hospitality lounge, was squeezed onto the Little Marina Green at the end of Baker Street. Plenty of security guards kept the crowds moving & out of the areas for people who paid to be here.

§ America's Cup World Series 2012
San Francisco, USA: Oct 02 - Oct 07

San Francisco Fleet Week 2012

Fleet Week 2012, 10.06.2012 Stunt bi-plan performing at Fleet Week 2012.Clear blue skies made for ideal Fleet Week weather on Saturday, & the Marina Green was as crowded as I've ever seen it for the air show. I watched stunt pilot Sean Tucker do dizzying numbers of loops & corkscrews. He can flip & even hover his custom-built plane. His whoops & hollers from the cockpit were broadcast to the crowd. The Blue Angels show seemed more streamlined than usual, with less of a gap between maneuvers. It began with 5 planes in a V-formation, instead of the usual 6.

Fleet Week SF 2012, 10.06.2012 Military pin on sale at Fleet Week SF 2012.The Marina Green was well-furnished with kids' activities, food, & souvenir vendors. Apparently the Vietnam War is highly collectible.

One end of the Green was a parking lot for Brobdingnagian military vehicles, which were as exciting for parents as for their kids. It's currently overcast in the Marina this morning, but I'm assuming the clouds will burn off by this afternoon.

§ San Francisco Fleet Week 2012
October 4 - 8, 2012

PBO: Purcell’s Dioclesian

Philharmonia Baroque, 10.05.2012 Intermission at Philharmonia Baroque performance of Purcell's Dioclesian at Herbst Theatre.Friday night I heard Philharmonia Baroque perform Purcell's music for Dioclesian, an assortment of short instrumental & vocal pieces written for a 17th century theater spectacle. The pieces have no dramatic line by themselves, but the music is pleasant & courtly, even the drinking songs. Conductor Nicholas McGegan gave everything a gently bobbing motion. The performance had a cozy feel.

There were 25 singers on stage, including 7 soloists who also joined in the choruses. The orchestra was at floor level, in front of the stage, as if in a pit. Lutenist David Tayler played theorbo & a small guitar & sat on stage, probably for audibility. He disconcertingly balanced the theorbo precariously on his lap when playing the guitar. The orchestra's playing was neat & sprightly, though the trumpeters, who also sat on stage, struggled with their instruments. Harpsichord player Hanneke van Proosdij doubled on recorder.

The soloists were a fairly even group. Countertenor Clifton Massey has a light, easy sound. His part had a peculiar range which seemed centered right at the break in his voice. At the end of his act V song we heard a clatter, as if some dropped a bunch of silverware on the floor. I like tenor Brian Thorsett's high, pretty, yet solid, tone. He sang "What shall I do to show how much I love her?" with a heaving ardor, & Maestro McGegan made sure we could hear his quiet low note at the end of "Since from my dear Astrea's sight." Tenor Jonathan Smucker has a light, smooth sound, & the audience giggled at his duet "Oh, the sweet delights of love!" with Mr. Thorsett in which the 2 tenors were playfully competitive. It was easy to pick out John Bischoff's round & crisp bass voice. Soprano Helene Zindarsian made the dotted rhythms in her act III aria sound barbed, & she struck comic poses during her act V duet.

Philharmonia Baroque, 10.05.2012 LGBT reception following Philharmonia Baroque performance of Purcell's Dioclesian at Herbst Theatre.The house was nearly sold out, & the audience was silent & attentive. Following the performance there was a wine, cheese & dessert reception downstairs for LGBT patrons. Many of the musicians attended, including Maestro McGegan, who stood on a couch & jovially encouraged us to "quaff some wine." He also introduced Michael Costa, PBO's new Executive Director. My concert companion & I were unconvincing as a gay couple, but we had an enjoyable time chatting with other classical music enthusiasts.

§ PURCELL: The Prophetess; or, The History of Dioclesian (Z. 627)

Philharmonia Baroque
Nicholas McGegan, conductor

Clifton Massey, countertenor
Helene Zindarsian, soprano
Jean-Paul Jones, countertenor
Jonathan Smucker, tenor
Brian Thorsett, tenor
Jeffrey Fields, baritone
John Bischoff, bass-baritone
Philharmonia Chorale, Bruce Lamott, director

Fri, Oct 5, 2012, 8:00 pm
The Herbst Theatre
San Francisco

Friday, October 05, 2012

This Ain't California

Berlin & Beyond Closing Night, 10.04.2012 Closing night at Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. Marten Persiel and Ronald Vietz on the red carpet. This Ain't California.There was a large turn-out for closing night of the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, featuring This Ain't California. The film started half an hour late, after a delay & then introductions from Festival President Sabine Erlenwein & Festival Director Sophoan Sorn, who asked the audience to applaud for each of the sponsors & individuals they thanked this evening. We also learned the winners of the festival's audience poll: The documentary The Substance & the feature film Combat Girls (Kriegerin).

This Ain't California is a happy remembrance of the skateboard scene in East Germany in the 1980s. It looks like a documentary & cuts rapidly between shaky home movies, photos, animations & archival video. It's told from the viewpoint of a pod of skateboarders who were part of the street scene in the Alexanderplatz in East Berlin. For them this is simply the fun, carefree time of their youth. The fragmentary narrative circles around the character of Denis ("Panik"), leader of the pack & a classic troubled kid. In an unexplored twist, he ends up as a soldier of the Bundeswehr & dies in Afghanistan in 2011.

Director Marten Persiel and Producer Ronald Vietz were present. The audience sang happy birthday to Mr. Persiel as a cake with lit candles was brought to him on stage after the screening. During the Q&A, someone recommended a place in San Francisco for Mr. Vietz to skateboard. Mr. Persiel & Mr. Veitz complimented the audience for laughing at all the right times during the film.

§ This Ain't California
Germany (2012), 90 min. (digital projection)
Director: Marten Persiel

Berlin & Beyond Film Festival 2012
Thursday, October 4 at 7:30 pm
Castro Theatre

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Summer Window

At a late evening screening at the Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, I saw Summer Window (Fenster zum Sommer), a plot-driven romantic drama written & directed by Hendrik Handloegten. The movie begins as our heroine enjoys an idyllic holiday in Finland with her lover. Without explanation, she wakes to find herself 6 months in the past, back in the time before she met her lover & before a tragic accident befell her best friend. It might be the worst case of déjà vu ever, but as the fatal day approaches she tries determinedly to make sure that some things happen & others don't. Though I did not like the apparent inevitability of fate, the ending is satisfying. I enjoyed the film's occasional lapses into Finnish & the character of Otto, a little boy of premature independence.

The screening was introduced by festival director Sabine Erlenwein. She noted that 4 of the film's actors also appear in other films in the festival & then reassured us that Germany has more than 4 actors. She also told us that the movie is based on a novel of the same name but has a completely different ending than the book.

Germany, Finland (2011), 96 min. (35mm film projection)
Director: Hendrik Handloegten 

Wednesday, October 3, 9:00 pm
Castro Theatre

Out of Character at the Asian Art Museum

Michael Knight, Jerry Yang, Xu Bing, Ted Lipman, Jay Xu, Joseph Chang
On Wednesday the Asian Art Museum held a media preview for its exhibit of Chinese calligraphy, opening this Friday, October 5th. The exhibit contains 40 works largely culled from the personal collection of entrepreneur Jerry Yang. Mr. Yang attended & spoke about learning calligraphy as a child in Taiwan. Museum Director Jay Xu described Mr. Yang as a "top collector" of Chinese calligraphy. Curator Michael Knight led a walk-through of the galleries.

Thousand-Character Classic, Wen Peng
Calligraphy in China is an art by and for the elite, so the show contains a lot of explanatory material about calligraphy & its social context, including translations of the texts & iPads used as interactive kiosks. I liked seeing the handscroll "Pieces on a Houseboat" containing contributions from 13 different calligraphers, each in his own style. Long cases allow scrolls to be entirely unrolled. One room features an impressive curved wall on which all 85 pages of a large album can be viewed at once. There's a hanging scroll that is taller than the gallery & amusingly crawls onto the ceiling.

The Character of Characters (2012), Xu Bing
Contemporary artist Xu Bing contributed a cartoony projected animation depicting the influence of calligraphy on Chinese culture. The show also includes works by American abstract artists Brice Marden, Franz Kline, & Mark Tobey.

Following the gallery tour, media representatives sat for a bento box luncheon, during which Mr. Xu & various museum curators talked about up-coming exhibits, such as a colorful batik show at the end of the year. 2013 highlights include the First Emperor's Terracotta Warriors, for which advance reservations are recommended. To coincide with the 2013 America's Cup, the museum will exhibit Japanese art from Larry Ellison's private collection. An exhibit about yoga is planned for 2014.

At the end of the event, attendees took with them 3D printed chocolates in the shape of terracotta warriors.

§ Out of Character
Decoding Chinese Calligraphy
Asian Art Museum
Oct 5, 2012 - Jan 13, 2013

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Cypress String Quartet at Composers, Inc.

O1C, 10.02.2012 Audience member with illuminated magnifying glass at Cypress String Quartet performance at Old First Church.In a very warm Old First Church on Tuesday night, I heard the Cypress String Quartet perform works by 3 contemporary American composers. Frank La Rocca, Artistic Director of Composers, Inc., introduced the program & informed us of the Kickstarter campaign for an up-coming performance featuring the entire brass section of the San Francisco Opera.

All 3 pieces had a somber mood. Cellist Jennifer Kloetzel introduced String Quartet No. 5 by George Tsontakis & explained that it was dedicated to the deceased George Rochberg & is in 2 movements that may be performed in any order. Both movements are similarly solemn. A ubiquitous trilling motif underlies the piece, & short themes pass between the instruments in a fugue-like manner. Both movements end when the music suddenly dissipates. The Cypress Quartet plays with a nice, mellow sheen, & 1st violin Cecily Ward sounds particularly smooth. The slightly brighter playing of 2nd violin Tom Stone complements hers pleasingly.

Mr. Stone spoke before Lento Assai by Kevin Puts, a single movement piece inspired by the slow movement of Beethoven's Quartet Op. 135. The quartet's members listen to each other really well, & the chordal opening section was perfectly soft and even. The piece gradually builds to an agitated climax then winds back down to the opening chords & fades to silence.

After intermission the quartet premiered Elena Reuhr's String Quartet No. 6. The composer was present & offered remembrances of George Rochberg & Todd Donovan, the Cypress Quartet's executive director & her piece's dedicatee. The quartet is in 4 roughly traditional movements & features long melodic lines for all the players, especially in the urgent 2nd movement. The final movement made me think of an effervescing drink. I enjoyed Ms. Kloetzel's wonderfully plump cello sound & pizzicatos. I was not used to seeing Ethan Filner, Cypress's reliable violist, with such long hair. The concert had a sparse audience of around 50, who were very quiet. I successfully pointed out music lecturer Robert Greenberg to Cedric, but I must need new glasses.

§ Old First Church Concerts
Composers, Inc.
Cypress String Quartet

George Tsontakis: String Quartet No. 5 (In Memoriam: George Rochberg)
Kevin Puts: Lento Assai
Elena Reuhr: String Quartet No. 6 (World Premiere)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 At 8:00pm