ARThound in New York: A Dresden goldsmith and court jeweler works his magic and catalogues it in small booklets—“Gold, Jasper and Carnelian” at The Frick Collection through August 19, 2012
I can’t resist the allure of miniature boxes or precious stones, so much so that I spent my stopover in New York (en route to the Olympics) visiting the Frick Collection. It currently has an eye-stopping exhibition of gemstone snuffboxes, buttons, bonbonnières (candy boxes) and an astonishing oval table, all so masterfully inlaid with stones they appear to be painted. The artist is the famed-in-his-day German goldsmith and mineralogist, Johann Christian Neuber (1736-1808), court jeweler to Friedrich Augustus III, elector of Saxony and curator of the “Grünes Gewölbe” (Green Vault), the magnificent royal treasure collection of Augustus the Strong, the founder of the Meissen Porcelain Factory.
“Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court,” which runs through August 19, 2012, in the Frick Collection’s Oval Room, is the first exhibition ever devoted to Neuber’s work. The show includes 43 of Neuber’s intricately worked wonders and the prized Breteuil table (1736-1808), one of the masterpieces of 18th century furniture, which has been in the baron’s family for over 250 years and has never before crossed the Atlantic.
Neuber rarely revisited a composition and, for over thirty years, he created small gold boxes and luxury objects that were inlaid with semiprecious stones fashioned into landscapes, floral designs, complex geometric patterns, often incorporating Meissen porcelain plaques, cameos and miniatures. His objects perfectly reflect the eighteenth-century European interest in luxury and items and the natural sciences. The show, laid out in several vitrines allowing for 360 degree viewing, gives an excellent overview of his work from his early boxes with intricate naturalistic scenes in mosaics to his later boxes which evolved into a more classical style. It also includes several quartz specimens from the American Museum of Natural History to illustrate to raw materials Neuber used. The exhibition was jointly organized by the Grünes Gewölbe (Green Vault) museum in Dresden (where it was seen earlier this year), the Frick, and Galerie J. Kugel in Paris (its third and final destination). Charlotte Vignon, associate curator of decorative arts, along with Ian Wardropper, the museum’s director oversaw The Frick’s presentation.
The small oval Breteuil table, in pristine condition, is a veritable collage of color— its mosaic top consists of one-hundred-and-twenty-eight gemstones and incorporates five Meissen porcelain plaques of mythological scenes symbolizing peace, circles of imitation pearls (created from rock crystal and silver dust), and decorative swags and wreaths of bas-relief gemstones. The legs are embellished with a combination of petrified wood, amethyst, cabochon carnelian and diamond-cut rock crystal, gilt and more imitation pearls. The table was presented in 1781 by Friedrich Augustus III to Louis Auguste de Breteuil, Baron de Breteuil (1730–1807), a French diplomat, as recognition for the role he had played in the negotiation of the Treaty of Teschen, which officially ended the War of Bavarian Succession. The detail in the table is breathtaking.
Neuber had a penchant for informing his royal patrons of exactly what they were looking at when beholding his masterpieces. He created charming small booklets with painstakingly accurate identification lists of the gemstones he used, their placements, and where he sourced them. Just examining the table and pouring over his manuscript (which is enlarged for viewing ease) can fill a chunk of time.
The exhibition presents twelve steinkabinetts (stone cabinet snuffboxes) which are his most characteristic works. Depicting both the beauty of nature and the scientific spirit of the Enlightenment, these intricately crafted boxes brought Neuber a great deal of recognition. In 1775, Friedrich Augustus III awarded him the concession of a mine near Schlottwitz, south of Dresden, a region famous for the diversity and superior quality of its rocks, giving him a permanent source for fine materials.
Two of his Steinkabinetts on display are made of gold and Saxon gemstones and have numbers delicately engraved on their gold rims that correspond with entries in accompanying booklets that describe the featured stones. Much beloved by Friedrich Augustus III, Neuber’s snuffboxes were often created to be used as diplomatic gifts. Easily recognizable by their portrait of the Elector of Saxony on the lid, such royal presents are today quite rare.
Neuber was also skilled at self promotion: In 1786, he placed the following advertisement in the Journal des Luxus und der Moden of Leipzig, an influential monthly magazine that reported trends in German cultural life: “An older invention of this clever artist, still largely unknown, is a kind of snuffbox made of gold and all kinds of precious stones from Saxony, known as Steinkabinettabatiere [stone cabinet snuffbox]. The stones are numbered and none appears twice, while a small booklet that accompanies the box provides their scientific names. Thus, luxury, taste, and science are brought together in this fashionable object of jewelry, which makes it desirable for every wealthy collector.”
More about The Frick Collection: The Frick Collection showcases the fortune in artworks amassed by American industrial magnate, financier, and art patron Henry Frick Clay in the 19th century in a stunning neoclassical mansion at Fifth Avenue and 70 Streets. In 1910, Frick purchased the property, which equaled an entire city block, and told his friends that he was building a home to “make Carnegie’s place look like a miner’s shack.” Architect Thomas Carrere of Carrere and Hastings (who also built the New York Public Library’s headquarters, midtown), designed and built the mansion. The collection includes the best of the best of European painting, spanning the Renaissance to the turn of the last century—two of its three Vermeer grace the front area and portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds line the dining room walls, while Turner and Constable grace the library. The five Piero della Francescas will stop you cold. It also includes major works of sculpture, including one of the finest groups of small bronzes in the world, superb 18th century French furniture, and porcelains, Limoges enamels, Oriental rugs, and other artworks of remarkable quality, including a stunning collection of Meissen Porcelain from the Arnhold Collection. Visit the Virtual Tour to see what is on display in the galleries. If a work of art is on display the entry says “Currently on View.”
Opening at the Frick this Fall: MANTEGNA TO MATISSE: MASTER DRAWINGS FROM
THE COURTAULD GALLERY (October 2, 2012, through January 27, 2013)
In keeping with its tradition of exhibiting masterworks from collections outside of New York, the Frick will present fifty-eight drawings this fall from The Courtauld Gallery, London. This exhibition marks the first time that so many of the principal drawings from The Courtauld’s prized collection have been made available for loan. The prized sheets represent a survey of the extraordinary draftsmanship of Italian, Dutch, Flemish, German, Spanish, British, and French artists active during the late Middle Ages through the early twentieth century. Among the artists in the Frick’s exhibition will be Andrea Mantegna, Leonardo da Vinci, Albrecht Dürer, Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, Jusepe de Ribera, Rembrandt, Jean-Antoine Watteau, Charles-Joseph Natoire, Thomas Gainsborough, Francisco Goya y Lucientes, J.M.W. Turner, Théodore Géricault, Edgar Degas, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh, Georges Seurat, Henri Matisse, and Pablo Picasso.
Details: Gold, Jasper, and Carnelian: Johann Christian Neuber at the Saxon Court runs through August 19, 2012. The Frick Collection is located at 1 East 70th Street (between Madison and Fifth Avenues), New York, NY 10021. The Collection is open 6 days a week: Tuesday-Saturday: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays: 11 to 5. Admission is $18 adults; $15 seniors and $10 students and includes acoustiguide audio tour. On Sundays, pay what you wish, 11a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information visit http://www.frick.org/information/index.htm.
The Frick Museum also has a book and gift shop that is well-stocked with upscale novelties, art books and scholarly materials.
Highly recommended: an 11 minute film produced and directed by award-winning filmmaker Christopher Noey, shown in the Music Room every 20 minutes, beginning at 10:20 a.m., with final showing at 5 p.m. Narrated by members of the Frick’s senior staff, it tells the amazing story of Mr. Frick, his home, and his art collection.
Aurora Theatre Company’s “Salomania” deftly explores Maud Allan’s sensationalized 1918 libel trial with many modern day parallels, extended through July 29, 2012
My introduction to the acclaimed Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley came last Wednesday when I attended Salomania by playwright and director Mark Jackson. The play had its world premiere on June 15, 2012 and has been so popular that its run was extended through Sunday, July 29, 2012. Aurora has been on my radar for some time. I’ve admired the bold artwork on their posters and postcards. Having interviewed two graphic artists this year—Paul Davis and Michael Schawb—who specialize in posters, I’ve come to appreciate the complexity of communicating a visual message that causes people to take note. Aurora does that. Its Salomania poster, created by Daniel Olmstead, features a graceful dancer in silhouette against an exploding blue field that is dominated by a squadron of black fighter planes—imparting feelings of lightness about to be overshadowed by ominous doom. That fits the play to a T.
Salomania explores the scandalous libel suit that the celebrated dancer Maud Allan filed against arch conservative British MP, Noel Pemberton-Billing in 1918, during the bleaker days of WWI. Pemberton-Billing’s newspaper, “TheVigilante,” had run a highly-sensationalist article, “The Cult of the Clitoris,” accusing her of being a lesbian, sadist, and German sympathizer. His evidence? She had played the title role in a private production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, which was banned in England at the time. Allan, a San Francisco native, was a dancer who took Europe by storm in the early 1900’s with her version of the “Dance of the Seven Veils,” which she called “The Vision of Salomé.” She became notoriously known as “The Salomé Dancer.” The article was bate, meant to goad Allan into filing a libel suit so that Billing and his American cohort, Harold Spencer, could whip up the populace by disclosing the contents of a spurious “Black Book” that claimed that 47,000 leading British citizens were perverts and were being blackmailed into aiding Germany and thereby prolonging the war. While soldiers continued to fight and die in the mud of France, people back home read the latest on the salacious events of the trial. “How could I resist making a play about that?” said Mark Jackson.
Like most good stories, it came to Jackson unexpectedly. In the course of researching Aurora’s acclaimed 2006 production of Oscar Wilde’s Salome, he came across the transcripts of the libel trial and found an eager supporter in Aurora’s Artistic Director, Tom Ross, with whom he had previously worked. Ross commissioned the play.
Salomania is challenging, engrossing, sobering and, at times, delightful. It’s as much about the past as it about today too. The story resonates with issues that have proved timeless—lack of good judgment in the face of blatant media manipulation, freedom of expression, homophobia, and intolerance.
Madeline H.D. Brown sublimely embodies Maud Allan, at times she appears to dance on air as she wafts across the stage exuding sensuality, strength, intelligence and rolling with the emotional punches she is dealt. Costume designer Callie Floor is to be commended for creating stunning replicas of Allan’s original daring and diaphanous costumes and the remarkable period costumes that the other characters wear. Mark Anderson Phillips brings the homophobic Pemberton-Billing to life, while Kevin Clarke humorously portrays the effeminate Judge Darling and the aged and frail Oscar Wilde.
The most memorable scenes are two intimate vignettes in which the characters divulge their dreams and dashed hopes and emotionally involve us in their inner world. Marilee Talkington shines as a nameless girl in bar, recently widowed, who is sharing an evening and a pint with a soldier, played by Alex Moggridge. (Talkington also doubles as Maud Allan’s friend and lover, Margot Asquith.) And towards the play’s end, I couldn’t get enough of Kevin Clarke as an aged Oscar Wilde in conversation with the defeated Maud Adams.
There’s enough rich material here for several plays: the courtroom and combat scenes are acted with flair and poignancy and the behind-the-scenes discussions at the newspaper fascinating, but they all remain largely on the surface. This would be countered if we came away with the feeling that we had a grip on the real Maud Allan. As it stands, we just don’t know enough about her inner world to get a solid handle on who she really was deep inside. This is critical given Allan’s lawsuit sought to address her tarnished public image and who and what she wasn’t. If Jackson can deliver more Maud, he’ll have a play with real lasting power.
Run-time: Two hours and thirty-five minutes
Cast: Madeline H.D. Brown is Maud Adams; Mark Anderson Phillips is Noel Pemberton-Billing, Alex Moggridge is Ellis William Hume-Williams; Liam Vincent is Lord Alfred Douglas; Anthony Nemirovsky is The Honorable Justice Wills; Marilee Talkington is Margot Asquith; and Kevin Clarke is Oscar Wilde.
Production Team: Written and Directed by Mark Jackson; Choreography by Chris Black; Scenery by Nina Ball; Costumes by Callie Floor; Lighting by Heather Basarab; Sound by Matt Stines; Props by Mia Baxter.
WRITER AND DIRECTOR MARK JACKSON BEHIND THE SCENES OF “SALOMANIA” AT AURORA THEATRE COMPANY
Details: For mature audiences only. Salomania runs through Sunday July 29, 2012 with performances on Sunday, July 22, 2012 at 2 PM and 7 PM; Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 8 PM; Saturday, July 28, 2012 at 8PM; and Sunday, July 29, 2012 at 2 PM. The Aurora Theatre Company is located at 2081 Addison Street, Berkeley. There are several parking garages near the theatre. Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way, accessible via Center Street, has $3 parking with a validated theatre ticket. (Stamp is in the theatre lobby.) Tickets: $30-$48.
For more information, or to purchase tickets: www.auroratheatre.org or phone (510) 843-4822.
Review: SF Playhouse’s small production of “My Fair Lady” feels like a GIANT success—I could have danced all night!—through September 29, 2012
The SF Playhouse closes its 9th season with My Fair Lady, like you never seen it before! Artistic Director Bill English has taken this classic Broadway musical by Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe based on Pygmalion and worked his magic once again—reinventing it as a sexy new production that feels perfect for SF Playhouse’s intimate stage. By stripping the show to its core, and casting much younger actors as Higgins and Pickering, as well as a street tough Eliza, the power, brilliance and humor of Shaw’s original pour forth with palpable romantic heat. Performed by an amazing cast of 11with two pianos, this small production, which opened Saturday, is a giant hit. It’s wonderfully executed score of well-loved favorites— “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly,” “Little Bit of Luck,” “The Rain in Spain,” “I Could Have Danced All Night,” “Get Me to the Church on Time” and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face”—will have you singing all the way home.
The talented Johnny Moreno, who resembles Robert Downey Jr., is most definitely not Rex Harrison—he’s young, sexy, passionate, and brings his own brand of complexity to phonetics specialist Henry Higgins. From the very start, he’s a show–off. He can’t wait to impress Colonel Pickering (Richard Frederick) with his keen ability to tell where people are from by the sound of their voice and he can mimic them admirably too. When he says he can turn a flower girl into a duchess, we can’t help but be intrigued. The palpable chemistry between Moreno and Monique Hafen (Eliza) adds sizzle to the production. By the second act, Higgins has shown us a little too much of his control tactics, treating poor Eliza like his little minion and from there on, the bundle of contradictions that Moreno brings to the self absorbed Higgins are captivating and feel absolutely authentic. He knows he’s a jerk but he’s sitting pretty in the power seat until he is thrown a kilter by the unexpected emotions Eliza’s stirred.
Catch the loverly Monique Hafen now—as Eliza Doolittle, she’s edgy, vulnerable, sensual and extraordinary as the feisty poor girl/street urchin with a heart of gold. This role suits her to a T, and Bill English has made sure her marvelous voice and dancing ability are showcased cleverly. By the time the final act rolls around, we’re solidly in Eliza’s camp.
The experience is enhanced by the intimacy of the playhouse itself— it seats 100 with a few beams here and there— and has a very small stage on which miraculous things almost always occur. For My Fair Lady, pianists Greg Mason and David Dobrusky, not visible to the audience, sit at opposite ends of the theatre and sweep you away in lush melodic rhapsody. On October 13, 2012, SF Playhouse will open its 10th season in a new larger theatre (225) seats at 225 Post Street. I hope they can re-create the special magic of all the treasured productions they launched from this space.
Run time: Two hours and 45 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
Adapted from George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion written in 1912 and Gabriel Pascal’s motion picture Pygmalion from 1938. Book and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner and music by Frederick Loewe.
Production Team: Directed by Bill English. Set Design by Nina Ball. Musical Direction by Greg Mason. Choreography by Kimberly Richards. Pianists Greg Mason and David Dobrusky.
Cast: Monique Hafen (Eliza Doolittle), Johnny Moreno (Henry Higgins), Richard Frederick (Colonel Pickering), Charles Dean (Alfred P. Doolittle), Karen Hirst (Mrs. Higgins/Mrs. Pearce), Justin Gillman (Freddy Eynsford-Hill) and an ensemble of Luke Chapman, Mandy Khoshnevisan, Kenneth McPherson, Randy Nazarian, and Corinne Proctor.
ARThound likes what Bill English, SF Playhouse’s Artistic Director, has to say about George Bernard Shaw: “Shaw, like (Henry) Higgins, was a revolutionary, determined to change the social inequities of his time. When Pygmalion opened, it terrified the wealthy ruling class. The differences in speech were how they kept the poor in their place. The idea that changing the way someone pronounced the word ‘rain’ could alter their social station was subversive and revolutionary. As Higgins puts it, he was passionately determined to lessen the ‘gulf separating class from class, and soul from soul’ by changing the way people speak.” (quoted from the program)
Thirsty Thursdays: The SF Playhouse now offers exclusive events in conjunction with its shows. Thirsty Thursday is August 9, 2012. Join young professionals and socialize pre-show
while enjoying $1 beer, soda and pizza, great music, and a specially-discounted ticket.
Details: My Fair Lady runs through September 29, 2012. Shows are Tues/Wed/Thurs. 7 p.m., Friday & Saturday 8 p.m., plus Saturdays 3 p.m. SF Playhouse is located at 533 Sutter Street (two blocks from Union Square, between Powell & Mason Streets) in San Francisco. Tickets are $30 to $70. For more information or to purchase tickets, go to www.sfplayhouse.org. or phone the box office at 415-677-9596. Parking is $1/hour after 6 p.m. through the end of July at the Sutter/Stockton Garage, which is two blocks from the theatre.
San Francisco’s Jewish Film Festival starts Thursday, July 19, with a broad line-up and a weekend of programming in Marin
The 32nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival opens Thursday evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with the world premiere of Roberta Grossman’s Hava Nagila (the Movie), a riveting history of “Hava Nagila,” the foot-tapping song that started with a wordless prayer and may be one of the world’s best known pieces of music. Afterwards, the festivities continue with an Opening Night Bash at the Swedish American Hall hosted by some of the Bay Area’s best purveyors of food and drink.
The festival, a tradition enjoyed by film aficionados far and wide, runs July 19 to August 6, 2012, and includes 63 films from 17 countries, including a wide spectrum of stimulating discussions, international guests and wonderful parties. There are seven Bay Area venues, one of which is the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael. Programming there includes 13 films and begins on the last weekend of the festival—Friday, August 4 through Sunday, August 6, 2012. Stay tuned to ARThound for detailed coverage of the Marin segment. For general festival programming and to purchase tickets, visit www.sfjff.org.
The 32nd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: July 19 to August 6, 2012. Venues: Castro Theatre and Jewish Community Center in San Francisco; Roda Theatre at Berkeley Repertory Theatre in Berkeley; CinéArts in Palo Alto; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael; Art Murmur and the Piedmont Theatre in Oakland. (415) 621-0523. www.sfjff.org.
The Merola Opera Program presents Dominick Argento’s rarely performed opera,“Postcard from Morocco,” this Thursday and Saturday, at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason
The Merola Opera Program is presenting Dominick Argento’s rarely performed and strangely surrealistic opera in one act, “Postcard from Morocco,” this Thursday and Saturday at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. The cast of seven Merolini features Canadian soprano Aviva Fortunata, tenor AJ Glueckert, baritone Joseph Lattanzi, Canadian soprano Suzanne Ridgen (also a Merola 2011 participant), bass-baritone Matthew Scollin, Canadian mezzo-soprano Carolyn Sproule and tenor Andrew Stenson. Merola alumnus Mark Morash will conduct the production and renowned stage director Peter Kazaras will direct.
Argento’s Postcard from Morocco is based on A Child’s Garden of Verse by Robert Louis Stevenson and is dreamlike and surreal and unfolds a bit like a mystery. Not only does it lack a conventional story, there are no “postcards” and it’s not really about Morocco. The opera had its world premiere on October 14, 1971, at the Cedar Village Theater, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The libretto is by John Donahue. The performance is a nice tribute to Argento, who turned 85 this year and is one of the country’s most successful and respected opera composers. It is also a wonderful opera for showcasing the vocal talents of the cast as there are many arias, some even in fictional foreign languages.
The plot focuses on a group of seven strangers who find themselves in a waiting room of a train station on their way to some exotic destination, around 1914. As the opera begins, the passengers are trying to pass the time by learning a little about each others’ lives. From there, the production proceeds with telling the different characters’ stories simultaneously as well as exploring a rich dream world. The passengers ask Mr. Owen, a man with a paint box what he does; before answering they are distracted by a puppet show. As time passes, the passengers become increasingly suspicious of one another, focusing on their differences rather than commonalities and guarding their baggage, refusing to reveal its contents. One of the ladies has a cake box in which she says she keeps her lover. Mr. Owen talks about a magical ship he impagined when he was younger. They are so focused on their suspicions that they are almost unaware of the puppet master—the Man with a Coronet Case—who appears to live in the train station, who is trying to seduce them into becoming his marionettes. The passengers rebel against the Man and cause him to lose control over the other characters, except for the Lady with the Hat Box whom he eerily controls at the close of the opera. The opera has been called existentialist and likened to the plays Samuel Beckett. It has also been compared to Virgil’s Thomson and Gertrude Stein’s Four Saints in Three Acts in that it has no truly discirnable plot and, at the end of the opera, there can be many explanations for what actually transpired because it is so rich in ideas. Aural shifts and new tunings prepare the audience for different worlds in this modern opera.
“The opera is really about bullying,” says Director Peter Kazaras. “As the story unfolds, we see characters who are jealous and insecure, bullying someone who is steadfast in pursuit of his dream. Although he is beaten at first, he [the Man with a Paint Box] eventually ‘triumphs’ by virtue of having the most gloriously beautiful and lyrical music in the score. The opera asks us to examine how much we can ever really hope to know about other people’s hopes and aspirations.”
Postcard is an eclectic mix of forms. There is a selection from Wagner’s Souvenirs de Bayreuth and the opera incorporates cabaret, and operetta. The orchestra is small; a piano, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, violin, viola, bass, a small percussion section, and
Casting for the July 19 and 21 Postcard from Morocco is as follows:
Lady with a Cake Box Aviva Fortunata
Man with a Paint Box AJ Glueckert
Man with a Shoe Sample Kit Joseph Lattanzi
Lady with a Hand Mirror Suzanne Rigden
Man with a Cornet Case (also a Puppet Maker) Matthew Scollin
Lady with a Hat Box (also a Foreign Singer) Carolyn Sproule
Man with Old Luggage Andrew Stenson
(For complete bios on each 2012 artist, click here.)
More about the Merola Opera Program: Each summer, San Francisco becomes a place where dreams come true for the young artists in the Merola Opera Program. Out of hundreds of young hopefuls who audition, approximately 23 singers, five apprentice coaches and one apprentice stage director are chosen to participate in the Program. Merola is dedicated to seeking out the finest young opera talent and helping them develop into professional artists of the highest caliber. The Merola Opera Program offers training in: musical style and interpretation; role preparation; movement and acting; accompaniment and conducting; languages and diction; and breath work.
Remaining Merola Programming for Summer 2012:
Thursday, July 19, 8 PM
Postcard from Morocco at Cowell Theater
Saturday, July 21, 2:00 PM
Postcard from Morocco at Cowell Theater
Thursday, July 26, 6:30 PM
Pre-class Talk with Steven Blier [Platinum Circle Level members & above]
Thursday, July 26, 7:00-9:00 PM
Steven Blier Master Class [Gold Circle Level members & above]
Thursday, August 2, 8:00 PM
La finta giardiniera at Cowell Theater
Saturday, August 4, 2:00 PM
La finta giardiniera at Cowell Theater
Tuesday, August 7, 7:00-9:00 PM
Martin Katz Master Class [Supporter members & above]
Tuesday, August 7, 9 PM
Sponsor Reception [2012 Sponsors $1,700 & above]
Saturday, August 18, 7:30 PM
Merola Grand Finale
Saturday, August 18, 10:00 PM
Merola Grand Finale Reception
Details: Postcard from Morocco will be performed on Thursday, July 19 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, July 21, 2012 at 2 p.m. at Cowell Theatre at Fort Mason Center, San Francisco. Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission. Tickets are $60, $40 and $25 students. Purchase tickets through the San Francisco Opera Box Office: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102, Monday: 10 AM – 5 PM; Tuesday through Friday: 10 AM – 6 PM; (415) 864-3330. Click Here to Purchase Online
Postcards from Morocco is graciously underwritten, in part, by the Bernard Osher Foundation and the Frances K. and Charles D. Field Foundation. Mark Morash is generously sponsored by Miss Ursula Grunfeld and Miss Vivienne E. Miller. Peter Kazaras is generously sponsored by Mike & Rusty Rolland
2012 Merola Artists: Hadleigh Adams (bass-baritone) Elizabeth Baldwin (soprano), Joshua Baum (tenor), Gordon Bintner (bass-baritone), Casey Candebat (tenor), Seth Mease Carico (bass-baritone), Jennifer Cherest (soprano), Aviva Fortunata (soprano), Francesnco Fraboni (apprentice coach), AJ Glueckert (tenor), Artem Grishaev (apprentice coach), Erin Johnson (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Kroes (bass), Elena Lacheva (apprentice coach), Joseph Lattanzi (tenor), Yi Li (tenor), Sarah Mesko (mezzo soprano), Kevin Miller (apprentice coach), Jacqueline Piccolino (soprano), Suzanne Rigden (soprano),Rose Sawvel (soprano), Matthew Scollin (bass baritone), Caroline Sproule (mezzo soprano), Andrew Stenson (tenor), Chuanyue Wang (tenor), Melina Whittington (soprano), Jennifer Williams (apprentice stage director), Sun Ha Yoon (apprentice coach). (For complete bios on each 2012 artist, click here.)
Frank Hurley’s silent masterpiece “South,” from 1919, an unforgettable journey with Ernest Shackleton on his famed Antarctic expedition, screens Saturday at San Francisco’s Silent Film Festival
Journeys, real and metaphorical, are what fuel our human soul. And there’s nothing like film to poetically transport us to times and places we’d never have thought of going. With his 1919 silent film masterpiece South, Australian photographer Frank Hurley risked his life many times over to bring British explorer Ernest Shackleton’s famed Antarctic expedition in the Endurance to life, capturing the very heart of human imagination and documenting one of the greatest survival stories of all time. He also created a suite of iconic images, moving and still, which set a new standard for documentary photography. Now restored by BFI, with the original tints and toning, South screens Saturday, July 14, 2012, at 5 p.m at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre as part of the 17th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF). Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano, Paul McGann will introduce the film and read Shackleton’s letters to Horne’s elegiac score.
Were it not for Frank Hurley’s remarkable images, and his persistence against all odds, the story may have never reached the widespread audience that it did, nor have captured our imaginations as it has. The self-taught Frank Hurley had an instinctive sense of the power of photography and went on pioneering voyages all over the world—from the Antarctic to Papua New Guinea to Israel and he served as official photographer with Australian forces during both world wars. He made two remarkable and grueling journeys to Antarctica, first with Douglas Mawson’s 1911 expedition and then with the great polar explorer Ernest Shackleton in the Endurance at the very outbreak of World War I. After the race to the South Pole had been won by Roald Amundson and Robert Falcon Scott in 1912, Shackleton fixed his sites higher—he would attempt the first transcontinental crossing of Antarctica. His third polar expedition–the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17, for which Hurley was the official photographer, would be an attempt to walk across the frozen continent and its polar region with a crew of 27 men. Filmed in what might be the most adverse climatic conditions imaginable, Hurley managed to go beyond documenting the failed journey to creating images of great artistry, depicting the ship’s crew struggling for life on giant ice flows at the literal ends of the earth.
The remarkable thing about South is that, with its glorious cinematography, it imparts an amazing sense of the chaos, raw beauty and flow of nature— something to ponder as global warming takes its toll on our beleaguered planet. It also captures that great era of late 19th and early 20thcentury colonial exploration for territory—the great risks and exhilarating highs involved in signing on for a pioneering expedition.
Hurley’s magnificently composed shots never crease to amaze. The luminous, shimmering effects of the light on enormous ice masses that had turned the sea into a kaleidoscope of endlessly fascinating shapes captures both the romance and ominous danger of the journey. Poignant shots of the ship alone, against an immensity of sea and sky, give the viewer a vivid experience of confronting pure oblivion. And, while hanging from the ship’s mast, or trekking some distance to capture the Endurance gripped in the crushing ice that would force the crew to abandon it, Hurley manages to achieve proper exposure of sea, boat and sky—daunting!
The crushed Endurance sinking, reduced to a mass of tangled ropes and spars, is an iconic moment that Hurley carefully rendered. Using the line of dogs in the foreground to add scale and to anchor the composition, we wonder how Hurley did kept his composure under the most extreme pressure. Even after the ship sank, Hurley continued to photograph, instinctively sensing the real drama was just getting started. And after weeks on the utterly barren Elephant Island when the men must have had some of their darkest days, Hurley kept busy, filming wildlife shots of various seals and sea creatures, some of which are now endangered or extinct. Hurley’s shots of the Yelcho coming into view on the horizon, as members of the joyous Elephant Island crew build a smoky fire to signal her, tell it all.
So thorough was Hurley’s commitment to recording the journey, that just a few months after his rescue, he returned to South Georgia Island to make additional photos and film footage, attempting to capture the part of the expedition that he had missed while trapped on Elephant Island.
South is well worth the trek into San Francisco to the glorious Castro Theatre.
Details: SFSFFruns Thursday, July 12, 2012 through Sunday, July 15, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $14 to $20; $180 to $215 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org.
The annual festival, the largest in the country, is held every July at the Castro Theatre and is sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the artistic, cultural and historic value of silent film.
Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking in the only available parking. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.
San Francisco’s 17th Annual Silent Film Festival: celebrating the silent era with 16 rare gems, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre—opens this Thursday, July 12, 2012
The 17th San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF) begins Thursday, July 12, 2012 and runs through Sunday, July 15, 2012, presenting 16 masterpieces from the silent era , all at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre. With special guest speakers and live music, every performance is unqiue.
The festival opens Thursday evening with William A. Wellman’s Wings (1927)(141 min) which was meticulously restored for Paramount Pictures’ 100th anniversary, giving silent fans the chance to see the first Oscar winner (for best picture) in all its glory. Featuring groundbreaking aerial dogfights and epic battle sequences, Wings is both a cinematic spectacle and a compelling story of love and sacrifice that effectively dramatizes the bitter price of war. The historic piece of cinema stars Clara Bow, Charles “Buddy” Rogers and Richard Arlen, and also features Gary Cooper in one of his first feature film roles. Live musical accompaniment is by Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra with Foley effects by Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt. After the film, the festival kicks off with its fabulous opening night party at the McRoskey Mattress Company, which is a short walk from the theatre. Friday, Saturday and Sunday each offer a full day with 5-6 film events, all to live music and the chance to hear experts on film history and restoration talk about specific issues related to each film.
While all the films are special, in addition to it Opening Night Film, Wings, the festival is showcasing two additional films:
Pandora’s Box (Die Büchse der Pandora)(Germany, 1929, approximately 143 minutes) Directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst Cast: Louise Brooks, Fritz Kortner, Franz Lederer, Carl Götz
Adapted from German playwright Frank Wedekind’s Lulu plays, Pandora’s Box is the pinnacle of German expressionism and one of the great films of all time. Director Pabst cast the luminous Louise Brooks as the amoral Lulu, a young woman who bewitches everyone who comes within her sphere—men and women alike—with her uninhibited persona and sexuality. David Thomson wrote, “When she played Lulu in Pandora’s Box, Louise Brooks created more than a character: she set the precedent for cinematic femmes fatales forever.” Stunning restoration produced by San Francisco-based Angela Holm and David Ferguson. (Accompanied by the Matti Bye Ensemble. Introduced by David Ferguson, Angela Holm, Vincent Pirozzi) Centerpiece Film: Screens Saturday, July 14, 2012, 7 p.m.
The Cameraman (USA, 1928, approximately 76 minutes) Directed by Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton. Cast: Buster Keaton, Marceline Day, Harold Goodwin. The genius of Buster Keaton, cinema’s great clown, is on full display in this wonderful comedy about the business of movie making. The film follows Keaton, a sidewalk tintype portrait photographer, as he tries to break into the newsreels to woo the girl of his dreams, Sally (Marceline Day) who works for the MGM newsreels. Keaton famously did his own stunts and The Cameraman is a showcase for his physical virtuosity as well as an enchantingly goofy love story. The Cameraman is the best film Keaton made after signing away his independence to MGM in 1928, a business decision he said was the worst of his life that put a damper on his unique creativity. (Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra. Introduced by Frank Buxton and Leonard Maltin) Closing Film: Screens Sunday, July 12, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
The annual festival, the largest in the country, is held every July at the Castro Theatre and is sponsored by the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), a nonprofit dedicated to promoting the artistic, cultural and historic value of silent film.
Stay tuned to ARThound for a review of self-taught Australian photographer Frank Hurley’s South (1919), a masterpiece Hurley filmed as a member of Ernest Shackleton’s famed Antarctic expedition in the Endurance, at the outbreak of World War I. Hurley’s dramatic shots, filmed at great personal risk, stand as hallmarks of documentary photography. Now restored by BFI, with the original tints and toning. South screens Saturday, July 14, 2012, at 5 p.m. Accompanied by Stephen Horne on the grand piano, with Paul McGann introducing the film and reading Shackleton’s letters to Horne’s elegiac score.
Details: SFSFFruns Thursday, July 12, 2012 through Sunday, July 15, 2012 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (between Market and 18th Streets), San Francisco. Tickets: $14 to $20; $180 to $215 for passes. Click here to purchase all tickets and passes. Information: (415) 777-4908 or www.silentfilm.org
Parking Alert: If you plan on coming by car, street parking is the only parking available. Plan to arrive 45 minutes early to leave sufficient time for parking and walking to/from the theatre.
Jun Kaneko’s Delightful “Magic Flute”–a digital turning point–at San Francisco Opera through July 8, 2012
San Francisco Opera’s Summer Season closes its opera performances with its magical and revolutionary new production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute featuring 3,000 tempura and chalk paintings by legendary ceramic artist and painter, Jun Kaneko. Good bye traditional sets! We’re entering a brand new era–the entire stage contains projection panels and is in constant motion and the effect is utterly impressive. Kaneko’s fabulous costumes add to the experience. This time, the music takes a back seat to the visual.
The Magic Flute is at War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Performances are at 8 p.m. on June 16, June 19, June 29 and July 6; 7:30 p.m. June 21 and 27; 2 p.m. June 24 and July 8, 2012. Tickets are $21 to $288 Information: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com