Not just film, CAAMFest, has super-sized into an Asian American cultural extravaganza—it starts Wednesday, March 13, and runs for 10 days in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland
CAAMFest is 32 this year and no longer just about great film. The 10 day festival, which takes place between March 13th and 23th , in San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland, has long showcased the best and newest in Asian American film. It got restless when it turned 30 though: it changed its name from SFIAFF (San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival ) to the shorter CAAMFest , named after its sponsor, CAAM , San Francisco’s Center for Asian American Media. Under the guidance of Festival Director Masashi Niwano, now in his fourth year at the helm, it also responded to changing times by tweaking its programming. And growing. And growing. It now bills itself as the nation’s “largest showcase for new Asian and Asian American film.”
Music and Food: In addition to its 121 films and videos, and stellar presentations and tributes, CAAMFest 2014 includes cutting edge musicians and the fusion of great food and film line-up. Korean and Vietnamese hip hop and rock music, and leading female performers are the focus of the two “Directions in Sound” evenings. On March 22, 23-year-old rapper, singer and songwriter, Suboi (Hàng Lâm Trang Anh), tagged Vietnam’s Queen of Hiphop, will have her U.S. debut at 111 Minna Gallery.
Culinary artists like superstar Chef Martin Yan (of PBS and M.Y. China) and award-winning Chocolatier Windy Lieu of Sôcôla Chocolates are the focus of CAAMfeast,” a high-end tasting party/fundraiser, while three fabulous food films celebrate storytelling around Asian food.
Promising to engage all the senses is “Super Awesome Launch,” an evening at the Oakland Museum of California that includes a sneak preview of its upcoming spring exhibition SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot, all about the groundbreaking punk-oriented zine Giant Robot founded by Eric Nakamura). The evening also includes high energy bands from Taiwan, a caravan of food trucks, and a screening of Patrick Epino and Stephen Dypiangco’s Awesome Asian Bad Guys (2013) starring Tamlyn Tomita and Dante Basco. Easy to see why they call it “Super Awesome Launch.”
Big Nights of Film—
Opening Night: The festival kicks off this Wednesday, March 13 with the US premiere of Vietnamese American director Ham Tran’s (Journey from the Fall, 2006) romantic comedy, How to Fight in Six Inch Heels, at the historic Castro Theater. The film was Vietnam’s top box office draw for 2013 and features San Jose native Kathy Uyen as a New York fashion designer who infiltrates Saigon’s high-fashion world to test her fiancé’s fidelity. After the premiere, CAAMFest heads over to the Asian Art Museum for its Opening Night Gala, which features food from local chefs and restaurants, a special presentation by fashion stylists Retrofit Republic, dancing to beats spun by local DJ’s and the Asian’s amazing new exhibition, Yoga: The Art of Transformation.
How To Fight In Six Inch Heels (Âm Mưu Giày Gót Nhọn)
Select Special Presentations: Each year, CAAMFest highlights the works of significant media makers and their contributions to modern cinema. In Conversation with Grace Lee: Award-winning documentary filmmaker Grace Lee will be in conversation at the Castro Theatre on Saturday, March 16, discussing her new documentary, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs (2013), profiling the extraordinary life of activist and feminist Grace Lee Boggs which screens right after the conversation. Lee’s narrative feature comedy, American Zombie (2006), screens on Friday, March 14.
American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs
Tribute: Run Run Shaw: CAAMFest offers a three film tribute to the legendary movie mogul Sir Run Run Shaw, who over the course of nine decades fostered some of the greatest filmmaking talent in Hong Kong, and produced some American classics such as Blade Runner (1982). The films—The Kingdom and the Beauty; King Boxer (The Five Fingers of Death); and my personal favorite, Come Drink With Me, will all screen at the Chinatown’s Great Star Theater on March 15th.. The Great Star, refurbished in 2010, hosts both Chinese-language film and Chinese opera.
Closing Night: The Closing Night Gala, Sunday, March 23, marks the festival’s expansion to downtown Oakland’s arts district. The evening starts off at the New Parkway Theater with a screening of Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Marissa Aroy’s documentary, Delano Manongs (2013). A prescient chronicle of the life of Filipino activist Larry Itliong (1913-77), who organized the 1965 Delano Grape Strike and helped launch the United Farm Workers, the documentary explores the vital contribution of Filipinos to the American Farm labor movement. Following this screening, the Gala moves one block to Vessel Gallery for a closing party that takes place amongst the art exhibition “Periphery: New Works by Cyrus Tilton and Paintings by Tim Rice.”
Stay-tuned to ARThound for detailed film picks, which will include:
Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo (2013) Winner of the Caméra d”Or at Cannes this May, a mesmerizing portrait of a middle class Indonesian family in crisis that sprang out of the director’s childhood in the Singapore and his nurturing relationship with his Filipina nanny who worked as a domestic helper for his family for 8 years from 1988 to 1997. (Screens March 15 at 6:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive and March 17 at 6 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas.)
Director Yuya Ishii’s The Great Passage (2013), Japan’s 2013 Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film about a shy, eccentric young man, who joins the Dictionary Editorial Department of a big Tokyo publishing house to help compile a new dictionary, “The Great Passage” and over the course of years is transformed. (Screens: March 15 at 2:30 PM at Sundance Kabuki Cinemas and March 16 at 3:30 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)
Tenzi Tsetan Choklay’s feature documentary, Bringing Tibet Home (2013). Following the death of his father, a Tibetan refugee, Rigdol embarks on a remarkable journey to bring 20,000 kilos of native Tibetan soil from Nepal to India. The smuggled soil is laid out on a platform in Dharamsala, the Himalayan hill town where the Dali Lama and many Tibetan refugees are based. For many, this is a reunion; for some, this the first time that they set foot on their native soil; and for a few, this is probably the last time that they ever see anything of their lost nation. (Screens: March 14 at 5 PM at New People Cinemas and March 19 at 7 PM at Pacific Film Archive.)
When/Where: CAAMfest 2014 runs March 13-23, 2014 at 8 screening venues in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Oakland and as well as select museums, galleries, bars and music halls.
Tickets: This popular festival sells outs, so advance ticket purchase is highly recommended for most films and events. Regular screenings are $12 with $1 to $2 discounts for students, seniors, disabled and current CAAM members. Special screenings, programs and social events are more. Festival 6-pack passes are also available for $60 (6 screenings for price of 5). All access passes are $450 for CAAM members and $500 for general. Click here for ticket purchases online. Tickets may also be purchased in person and various venue box offices open one hour before the first festival screening of the day.
Stars in the Making…San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows perform “Dramatic Voices, Charming Soubrettes,” at SRJC’s Newman Auditorium this Sunday, March 9
Lively, eloquent, and intensely determined, this year’s twelve Adler Fellows are literally the most talented young opera singers in the country and many will go on to become opera legends. This Sunday, at 4PM, five Adlers will perform an intimate program of beloved opera arias, classical and cabaret songs at Santa Rosa Junior College’s Newman Auditorium as part of the college’s Chamber Series. Performers are sopranos Maria Valdes and Erin Johnson; mezzo soprano Zanda Švēde, baritone Eugene Brancoveanu (former Adler 2005-6) and pianist Noah Lindquist. (Full program listed at end of article.) Normally, seeing the Adlers perform entails a lot more work—crossing the bridge and parking—but SRJC has brought these young singers right to our doorstep.
In February, I had the pleasure of seeing two Adlers who will perform Sunday— Maria Valdes and Eugene Brancoveanu. They were involved in a rare performance of Gaetano Donizetti’s one act comedic opera, “Rita,” with dynamo Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and her New Century Chamber Orchestra (NCCO). The venue was San Rafael’s intimate Oscher Marin Jewish Community Center where the audience sits at candlelit tables drinking wine and snacking while the performance unfolds just a few feet from them. Soprano Maria Valdes was fabulous in the title role of Rita, a tyrannical and abusive wife who is tormented by two husbands. She sang like an angel, juggling conversation, song, drama and comedy. We had ample opportunity to experience her tremendous vocal reserve along with her ability to calibrate it to the setting, sustaining high notes without ever coming off as shrill or too forceful…a true star in the making. The production was impressively staged and directed by former Adler, Eugene Brancoveanu, who also tweaked the script, adding spoken dialogue in English. His modern set was minimal and included an ironing board and some clever space saving props. Brancoveanu, born in Romania, has an unforgettable baritone and has sung at the Met, La Scala, San Francisco and Berkeley Operas as well for Opera Parallèle. I heard him sing Sam last April in Opera Parallèle’s wonderful production of Leonard Bernstein’s ”Trouble in Tahiti, a role which tested his range and acting ability. He was on top of every note, emotionally searing and impossible to take your eyes off…what stage presence Oh, he’s also been mentioned several times in the blog Barihunks, enough said. You’re in for a treat on Sunday.
It’s rewarding to see young artists perform early in their careers and to track them as they move on to the world’s leadings opera houses and concert halls. Renowned sopranos and former Adlers, Deborah Voight (1986) Leah Crocetto (2009), are shining examples. Both are coming soon to Green Music Center’s Weill Hall—Crocetto is in recital on March 9 and Voight on April 10 (Click here for details).
More About the Adler Fellow Program: The Adler Fellows all go through a grueling national competition to enter the ranks of the Merola Opera Program, a prestigious summer resident artist training program in San Francisco sponsored by San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Opera Center. A select few perform so well that they are invited to continue their training in the elite two-year Adler Fellow residency program. Named for the late great San Francisco Opera General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, the Adler Fellowship Program is the Princeton of performance-oriented residencies, offering exceptional young artists intensive individual training, coaching, professional seminars and a wide range of performance opportunities throughout their fellowship. Adler fellows frequently appear in SFO productions.
2014 Adler Fellows are sopranos Erin Johnson, (Washington, New Jersey), Jacqueline Piccolino (Chicago, Illinois), and Maria Valdes (Atlanta, Georgia); mezzo-soprano Zanda Švēde (Valmiera, Latvia); tenors A.J. Glueckert (Portland, Oregon), Pene Pati (Mangere, Auckland, New Zealand), and Chuanyue Wang (Hei Long Jiang, China); baritones Hadleigh Adams (Palmerston, New Zealand), and Efraín Solís (Santa Ana, California); bass-baritone Philippe Sly (Ottawa, Ontario). Johnson, Piccolino, Glueckert, Wang, Adams, and Sly are returning as Adler Fellows. The two pianists selected for Apprentice coach Fellowships are Noah Lindquist (Brooklyn, New York) and returning Adler, Sun Ha Yoon (Seoul, South Korea).
Other Upcoming Adler Fellow Performances: Select Adler Fellows will perform Schwabacher Debut Recitals on March 30 at 2:30 PM and April 27 at 5:30 PM. Individual tickets are $25. Youth tickets are $15 for students with a valid ID or youth, 16 years old or younger, who is accompanied by an adult. Order tickets online or call the SF Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330. The season culminates with a special year-end concert featuring the singers in an evening of opera scenes and arias with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. This year’s concert, The Future Is Now: Adler Fellows Gala Concert, showcasing the acclaimed 2014 Adler Fellows, takes place in November, 2104, at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.
SRJC Chamber Concert Series Details: An acclaimed annual series of six concerts featuring a musicians performing in an intimate environment, exactly how chamber music is intended to be heard. After this Sunday’s Adler Fellows performance, there is one remaining concert in the 2013-14 series, Afiara String Quartet on Friday, April 25, at 7:30 PM at Newman Auditorium, Emeritus Hall, Santa Rosa Junior College. Tickets are $25 adult/$15 youth. Parking is included for all performances. Individual tickets are $25. Youth tickets are $15 for students with a valid ID or youth, 16 years old or younger, who is accompanied by an adult. Order tickets by Phone: (415) 392-4400. City Box Office Hours—M-F: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM or Sat: 12 noon to 4:00 PM. Order on the Web at www.cityboxoffice.com . Parking is included in the price of the performance.
Details: “Dramatic Voices, Charming Soubrettes” is Sunday, March 9, 4 PM, at Newman Auditorium, Emeritus Hall, Santa Rosa Junior College, 1501 Mendocino Ave, Santa Rosa. Individual tickets are $25. Youth tickets are $15 for students with a valid ID or youth, 16 years old or younger, who is accompanied by an adult. Order tickets by Phone: (415) 392-4400. City Box Office Hours—M-F: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM or Sat: 12 noon to 4:00 PM. Order on the Web at www.cityboxoffice.com . Parking is included in the price of the performance.
PROGRAM: “Dramatic Voices, Charming Soubrettes” SRJC Chamber Series
Songs of Travel – Vaughan Williams
The Vagabond Mr. Brancoveanu
The Roadside Fire Youth and Love
The Infinite Shining Heavens
Cinq mélodies “de Venise” – Fauré
Mandoline Miss Švēde
En sourdine Green
À Clymène C’est l’extase
from Floresta do Amazonas – Villa-Lobos
Canção de amor Miss Valdes
Cair da tarde Melodia sentimental
from Cabaret Songs – Bolcom
Toothbrush time Miss Johnson
At the last lousy moments of love Love in the 30′s
The Marriage of Figaro – Mozart
Crudel, perchè finora Miss Valdes, Mr. Brancoveanu
Rodelinda – Handel
Io t’abbraccio Miss Johnson, Miss Švēde
Manon – Massenet
Je suis encore tout étourdie Miss Valdes
Falstaff – Verdi
È sogno, o realtà? Mr. Brancoveanu
Le vespri siciliani – Verdi
Mercé dilette amiche Miss Johnson
Sapho – Gounod
O ma lyre immortelle Miss Švēde
The Merry Widow – Lehár
Vilja Miss Valdes, tutti
When I started ARThound four years ago, I said I’d be a hound for art, digging up stories and sniffing out the details. On Saturday, Jackson, my Rhodesian Ridgeback—the better half of ARThound— scooped me while we were out walking. Excitedly, he guided me to downtown Petaluma’s new boutique butcher, Thistle Meats, 160 Petaluma Blvd, marked by a life-sized white pig. It was love at first whiff. Forced to wait outside while Petalumans entered freely, Jackson uttered a tortured groan and locked busy co-owner Molly Best in a soulful stare. It worked! She stepped out to greet him personally with a dried grass fed liver treat that forever put her on his map. As we left, Jackson did the equivalent of a hound tweet….soon a fetching another ridgeback, Daisy, turned up with her owners and so did an enthusiastic yellow lab, Gunner. A droolfest for Molly Best!
I’d heard all about Thistle for months—proprietors Molly Best and Lisa Mickley Modica have been on the radar with the arts community due to Molly’s artsy background. A few years back, when I was covering Cornerstone Sonoma, I discovered her shearing a sheep in a promo clip for the short film, “The Shepherd & the Dollmaker,” about the collaboration between Sonoma’s artists and farmers. She’s also the grown daughter of local sculptor David Best (art cars and ephemeral temples). Recently, I was struck by Paige Green’s photograph of Molly and Lisa, accompanying Inside Scoop SF’s update on Thistle—two beaming, talented, and determined women honing a great idea.
Lisa Mickley Modica has a background in land conservation and small business and non-profit management. She was introduced to Best through mutual friends in the community and they both have children who are close in age. “I knew immediately that we would hit it off,” said Modica. “I really wanted to start something that was central to our community and to bridge that gap between downtown Petaluma and what we’re surrounded by, which is this beautiful agriculture, and our ability to experience it first-hand. Teaming up with Molly was a natural progression from that.” Thistle Meats, a whole animal butchery—with three butchers on staff—strives to celebrate Petaluma’s local bounty by offering really good locally raised meats from farms and ranchers that Molly and Lisa have selected for their quality. Thistle will also offer a charcuterie program with a range of unique pates, salumi, terrines and other cured meats as well as local produce and eggs and prepared foods. The process is incremental, taking time to do it right with an appreciation for traditional methods and flavors and banking on culinary-minded Petaluma following suit.
ARThound is on board—it’s high time that downtown Petaluma balance itself out…how many more upscale thrift and furniture stores do we need? The small shop has a great clean minimalist vibe to it…white tile walls, expansive glass cases showcasing fresh cuts of meat and poultry, and all the tools of the trade on display. There’s a gorgeous antique bronze bull head on the wall at the front of the shop…refinished by sculptor David Best who is also responsible for the gifting the pig outdoors, which had been in the family for some time. “The pig landed in our laps and we just love the character it adds,” said Modica.
Business was hopping when I popped in on Saturday afternoon. An attention grabber was the Atriaux, a gorgeous and traditional Old World delicacy, a 35-32-33 combo of pork, liver, and heart, wrapped in caul fat, a striated lacey fat membrane, resembling fancy stockings, that holds the intestinal lining together. Chef butcher John Richter, who was working the counter on Saturday, told me that he had started the day with a huge double-stacked platter and, by late afternoon, had just a few patties left. “It’s just amazing stuff,” he boasted. I bought a plump one (total cost $2.76) and went home and grilled it and served it with sautéed mushrooms and a wine reduction sauce, all over a bed of greens…yummm.
Knowing full well that both women had been working non-stop for weeks to get Thistle launched, I jokingly asked Modica if they both planned to work in the shop all the time. She let out a frenzied groan, “Let’s say we are still exploring how to do that in a healthy way.”
Details: Thistle Meats is located at 160 Petaluma Blvd, see the life-sized white pig. Hours: Monday –Saturday 10 to 7 and Sunday 11 to 4. Phone: 707 772-5442. Not much detail on their webpage yet but visit their Facebook page for the latest updates and specials https://www.facebook.com/thistlemeats
MTT conducts Mahler’s Symphony No. 3 with the San Francisco Symphony, mezzo Sasha Cooke, the SFS Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus
Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony in D Minor, the most expansive of his ten symphonies, is a cosmological tour de force. Full of magic and mystery, it’s the musical journey of Nature coming to life, at first through flowers and animals and then on up to man, the angels and the love of God. This Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) conducts the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) and mezzo soprano Sasha Cooke, the SFS Chorus, and the San Francisco Girls Chorus in this rarely performed epic—in six movements grouped into two parts—which clocks in at roughly 90 minutes, earning it the distinction of the longest symphony in the standard repertoire. It almost goes without saying that MTT has sealed his reputation on Mahler. In 2001, SFS and MTT launched the Mahler Project and recorded the balance of Mahler’s major works for voices, chorus and orchestra picking up four Grammys in the process. The Symphony No. 3 and Kindertotenlieder recording won the 2004 Grammy for Best Classical Album. Of course, nothing compares to the magic of a live MTT/SFS Mahler performance. Whether it’s your first or 50th time, each performance reflects a constantly evolving understanding of the composer’s genius and complexities.
At Monday’s press conference announcing the 2014-15 season, Tilson Thomas, could not recall how many times SFS has played the work during his 19 year tenure as Music Director (3 times—1997, 2002 and 2011) but he did speak about the joys of revisiting Mahler— “I think of these pieces, these big symphonies, like the Mahler, are like National Parks that we love and we come back to. We all know the map of the park. I have the complete map and others on stage have the intricate trail maps of one path or another. But no matter how much you look at the map of that, when you are actually on the trail, it’s a different thing every time—the nature and character of the piece will vary according to where you are in your life and what you’ve experienced and with whom you are on the trail. Sometimes, you’ll stop and smell the mimosas and other times, you’ll press ahead to get to the view of the glacier.”
Mahler wrote his Third Symphony between 1893 and 96, when he was in his mid-thirties. When the German composer and conductor Bruno Walter, visited Mahler at his composing hut in Steinbach am Attersee, Austria (some twenty miles east of Salzburg), he wrote in his memoirs that he looked up at the sheer cliffs of the colossal Höllengebirge and Mahler told him “No need to look up there any more—that’s all been used up and set to music by me.” This immense rockface inspired the introductory theme of the first movement—a grand unison chant for eight horns evoking the primitive forces of nature. A offstage horn, also figures prominently in the third movement. Heard floating in the distance, a melancholy haunting solo imitating an old posthorn or valveless coach horn creates one of Mahler’s soulfully nostalgic moments.
Grammy winner, mezzo Sasha Cooke, was radiant as Mary last summer in the world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at San Francisco Opera. In the summer of 2013, she performed Mahler’s Second Symphony with MTT and the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. Her expressive and rich voice should be a good match for the dark fourth movement, a Nietzsche text that is sung against heavy strings. By contrast, the fifth movement is light and will feature the voice of angels—women of the SFS Chorus in three part chorus, joined later by the San Francisco Girls Chorus who enter creating lovely bell like noises and join in the exhortation “Liebe nur Gott”(“Only love God”). The symphony ends with an adagio, softly walking the edge of the sound and silence.
Cellist Margaret Tait (Lyman & Carol Casey Second Century Chair) has been with SFS since 1974 and currently heads the SFS Players Committee. At Monday’s press conference, she said. “We in the orchestra have a deep pool of shared experience, of performing this repertoire on world stages. When we come to a piece again like the Mahler’s Third Symphony, we can enter the performance with a feeling of security, of asking ‘What can we bring to the work right now that is new and fresh?’ We rely on our deep knowledge of the piece and our understanding of it over years. This is the only time I’ve had a relationship with a music director that has lasted 20 years. The orchestra and MTT have been through a lot together and it’s been a wonderful journey for the orchestra. There’s a sense that what we do is deeply American and very adventuresome. ”
Details: “MTT Conducts Mahler’s Third Symphony” is Thursday (Feb 27) at 8PM; Saturday (March 1) at 8 PM and Sunday (March 2) at 2 PM at Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco. Tickets: $30 to $162; purchase online here, or, call (415) 864-6000. For more information, visit www.sfsymphony.org.
Getting to Davies: Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall. The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street. Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion around the toll-plaza. Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends. Recommended Garages: Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larken Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)
interview: ARThound talks with SFS Concertmaster, Alexander Barantschik, who plays a rare Mendelssohn Violin Concerto this Thursday at Weill Hall
On stage at Davies Hall, San Francisco Symphony (SFS) Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik seems to epitomize the intense and mysterious Russian. The virtuoso always looks quite serious as he juggles his orchestra leadership role with that of first violinist who plays “The David,” the illustrious 1742 Guarnerius del Gesú violin, famed for its rich dark sound. I’ve always wondered what makes Barantschik tick and about the particulars of his Russian musical upbringing. When I had the chance to interview him in conjunction with “Barantschik and Friends“—his upcoming performance at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall this Thursday (and on Wed, Fri, Sat and Sun at Davies as “Barantschik leads Mozart and Mendelssohn“)—I jumped. We chatted on the phone last Friday and he couldn’t have been warmer as he shared his amazing story.
Google Barantschik. You’ll learn that he’s nicknamed “Sasha” and that this former concertmaster of the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and London Symphony orchestras has served under Music Director MTT (Michael Tilson Thomas) for 14 years through acclaimed cycles of Mahler, Stravinsky, and Debussy, and that he has premiered important works by André Previn and Viktor Kissine. He’s played exquisite instruments throughout his career too. The fact that Barantschik’s first auditions in the West—for a seat and then for the concertmaster position at Germany’s Bamburg Symphony—were performed with a violin he bought in a department store as he was leaving Russia, is a little known detail I nudged out of him that makes his story all the more fascinating. As we were talking, I got the impression that he’s a bit private but that didn’t stop me from asking for “a bit more detail.”
On Thursday, Barantschik returns to Green Music Center to lead the Orchestra in an irresistible program he’s put together showcasing strings. Following a lovely early Mozart “Divertimento in F major for Strings,” Barantschik takes center stage to play Mendelssohn’s “D minor Violin Concerto,” one of the Romantic master’s finest creations and a delightful surprise for concertgoers who only know its more famous sibling, the E Minor. He’ll be playing “The David,” the 1742 Heifetz Guarnerius del Gesù violin owned for many years by his idol, Jascha Heifetz. The violin, valued at over $6 million, was bequeathed to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (FAMSF) in 1989 by Heifetz and offered as an extended loan to SFS in 2002, where it has been cared for and played by Barantschik. Barantschik insists that the dollar value on the instrument is “completely irrelevant” as it’s priceless and could “never be replaced.” Of course there are a few restrictions. This will be “The David’s” second appearance at Weill Hall—1 of 2 locations outside of San Francisco where he is allowed to take it, the other being the Mondavi Centerfor the Performing Arts at UC Davis. Aside from these two exceptions, the instrument never travels outside of Davies. Also on the program is Britten’s winsome “Simple Symphony,” a salute to the composer’s centenary and “Melodia-Libertango,” the sultry music of Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla, the king of nuevo tango, with guest performer Seth Asarnow on the bandoneon.
Where did you grow up in Russia and what was your first experience with the violin?
Alexander Barantschik: I was born in 1953 in St. Petersburg, Russia (then ‘Leningrad’), which was and still is the cultural capital of the country. My family wasn’t musical, no musicians except for a very distant relative, Yefrem Zimbalist, who lived in the States but I never met him because he’d emigrated at the beginning of the 20th century. It was pure coincidence that my mother tried to get me some lessons at the music school which was just across the road from our home. I could walk there by myself every day and my parents thought this would keep me busy and off the streets, which was just what happened. I was almost six when I was admitted. My first instrument was an accordion because there was no space for another violin student in the school. I don’t remember anything about that accordion but a violin spot opened up and the teacher thought I had a pretty good sense of rhythm and pitch and so I started playing the violin. After a few years, I made some progress. I can’t say I was completely dedicated to practicing or spent many hours at it but I loved music. It took quite a few years before I truly understood the importance of practice and of the violin itself. I was probably 12 or 13 when I started thinking this might be forever, this might be my life, and then I started practicing and then I started making real progress.
Historically, was there a “Russian style” of music playing and was that around when you were studying and is it still around today? Who were there big mentors that you looked up to, or, perhaps, wanted to topple?
Alexander Barantschik: When we think of a Russian school of violin, we should think about Leopold Auer, basically the first teacher who could claim that he was important for the whole process of teaching great players. His students, apart from Heifetz, were phenomenal violinists. He wasn’t Russian but a Hungarian Jew who came to Russia (in 1868) and his Russian wasn’t perfect but he was teaching his students in a unique way—they all had something special in common. That tradition of playing was very deeply appreciated after he left and went to live in New York for the last part of his life. I cannot say there is a Russian tradition of violin playing that exists right now. The world is smaller, faster, and within one week, you can be in three different continents, so things are not as personalized. There are great players of the past who are impossible to imitate…Jascha Heifetz, Yehudi Menuhin—great players who were absolutely unique.
How do you feel about David Oistrakh’s playing and did you ever happen to meet him?
Alexander Barantschik: I loved his playing and heard him play much more than any other violinist as he was in Russia and played regularly with the St. Petersburg Philharmonic. I was dreaming of becoming his student at the Moscow Conservatory and was able to audition with him when he was performing in St. Petersburg. I met with him in his hotel room and I played for him for about 20 minutes and he was extremely nice and accommodating and sympathetic. He listened and made some corrections and tried to see how I reacted to his comments. His last question after I had played was simple—’Do you think you really love violin?’—and he looked straight into my eyes as he asked me that. I think I said, ‘I dearly love violin.’ After a second, he said, ‘Ok… I will accept you into my class.’ I couldn’t have been happier than I was at that moment. As I was preparing to take other exams at the conservatory, I heard the tragic news that he been on tour to the Netherlands and had died in Amsterdam after his concert. I never became his student and that was the end of my training but I’m so glad I have this wonderful memory of playing for him.
What were the circumstances that brought you to the West?
Alexander Barantschik: By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I was a member of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra and toured regularly. I had visited Western Europe and Japan but I felt that, for my musical development, I needed to absorb different cultures and traditions and that the only way to achieve this was to emigrate from Russia, which I did at 26. My first country was Germany, where I was concertmaster with the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra. This was my first job and I spent three years there learning all about German traditions—Beethoven, Bückner, Haydn—and I broadened my view and I’m still learning from different traditions today.
How difficult was it to get out of Russia to Germany?
Alexander Barantschik: It was not easy and, let’s say, it was made difficult. I left Russia with one suitcase—no money, no job, no references and almost no violin. My violin was not a Guarneri but it was a nice little violin from Tirol, Austria, and at the last minute, I was not allowed to take it with me. I ended up going to a department store, to the music section and buying a simple violin that had been made in a furniture factory. It looked horrible and sounded accordingly. I played my first audition, for the section, on that. Afterwards, the committee came to me and said they were happy to offer me a job with the orchestra but that in one week they would have another audition for concertmaster and they asked me if I’d like to participate. I didn’t think about it and just said yes. They then asked me about my violin which was very bright red and said they’d never seen anything like it before. One week later, I returned for the concertmaster audition and played all the solos and concerti and I got that position. That was when they presented me with a very beautiful Guadagnini violin made in Cremona and the legend was that it has belonged to a famous German violinist Joseph Joachim who was a close friend of Brahms and who wrote cadenzas to almost every important classical violin concerto.
Do you still have that red violin?
Alexander Barantschik: No. I lent it to someone and this person never returned it and for that I am very sorry. I would love to frame it and hang it on the wall for my students at the conservatory to see what my beginnings were.
What did it feel like the first time you had Jascha Heifetz’s fiddle in your hands? How long has it taken you to become truly comfortable with the fact that this is now your violin?
Alexander Barantschik: Of course, the very first time I held it, I was speechless because the sound of Heifetz had been with me in my ear since I was a child…I’ve listened to his recordings all of my life. The violin is legendary, with a very special history of ownership and craftsmanship but it is not easy to play. Players need to find the way to produce the sound it’s capable of and that requires a special technique. It took me many months, perhaps a year, to meet its demands and to make it my friend so it started to like me as well.
Do you think that Guarneri has a unique voice? One of your SFS colleagues mentioned that he thought he heard a familiar voice from the Heifetz recordings when he heard you play it.
Alexander Barantschik: I never tried to imitate Heifetz’s sound. First of all that’s impossible as there was only one Heifetz and there will never be another. So it’s not my intention but it does have a unique dark-colored sound and maybe some low notes sound a little familiar for those who are familiar with his recordings.
You were MTT’s concertmaster in London Symphony Orchestra right? You obviously have a special rapport. What clicks? Do you and MTT ever share a vodka before or after a performance?
Alexander Barantschik: We met in London. I joined the London Symphony Orchestra in 1989, the same year he started as principal conductor. We met in the recording studio when the orchestra was recording Richard Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben,” which has a huge important violin solo. We had just one rehearsal and we didn’t have time to discuss things or work out the details—it was spontaneous—we both just trusted each other as musicians. After this very important and stressful recording session, we immediately became friends. I still have the cd and it’s one of the best I ever made. Our collaboration has continued for a little over 30 years now.
As for the vodka, usually, we are both pretty exhausted after a performance and we don’t have any vodka with us. Maybe, on a couple of occasions, when it was the end of the season, we shared a drink.
What’s the most stressful aspect of being the concertmaster?
Alexander Barantschik: It is a stressful job but maybe a better word is complex. The most stressful period was when I first started my career as a concertmaster and I had to basically learn the entire orchestral repertoire, an endless body of work. I’m still learning new pieces and relearning old pieces and forced to make important decisions. It’s not only about playing—it’s about preparing sheet music, working with guest conductors, auditioning musicians and all of that is very complex in this huge organization.
Historically, the SFS concertmaster has been the only musician not to have tenure. In the last SFS contract, you were given tenured status and all concertmasters, hereafter, were given the chance to be tenured. Was that important to you?
Alexander Barantschik: I think the most important aspect was the recognition of me being an integral part of the orchestra, not as being slightly different from the others.
Why did you select the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in D Minor and what sets it apart from his Concerto in E Minor, one of the five great violin concertos?
Alexander Barantschik: The D Minor that I will be playing is written for violin and strings whereas the E Minor is written for the whole orchestra with wind and brass. This program is dedicated to SFO strings and that was my main reason. It is also rarely played and, in fact, was completely ignored until Yehudi Menuhin found it in the 1970’s and edited the score and performed it for the first time in a couple of hundred years. So, this is not so popular but it was a master work when Mendelssohn wrote it as a 13 year old and it has all the qualities of the works he composed in his advanced age. You can hear from hear very first few bars that it is Mendelssohn—it is youthful, beautiful, dramatic and it speaks to my heart.
Any contemporary music for violin that you find intriguing?
Alexander Barantschik: Of course, it depends what we’re talking about…in terms of the 20th century, which is already the last century, I love Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and Shostakovich the most. If we are talking later, and more avant-garde, then there are very interesting pieces that have a new language. The only way to encourage young composers to write is to perform their works. Without performing, we’ll never know where music is going. On two occasions (2003 and 2012), I played the “Concerto No. 4 for Violin and Orchestra” (written in 1984 as a commission for the Berlin Festival) by the Russian composer Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). I was a little nervous about how the audience would react as it’s a very complicated piece, not easy listening, but he’s one of my favorite composers and this is one of my favorite concertos. The audience and the orchestra loved it in 2003 and when I played it nine or ten years later, it was the same story…successful. Now, I am learning and I hope to play a concerto by John Adams.
Where else aside from Russia, London and CA have you lived and which place do you consider “home”?
Alexander Barantschik: Without any doubt, home is where my family is— my wife Alena and son Benjamin—and we’ve been here since 2001, 13 years already. I am very happy to call CA, the Bay Area, specifically San Mateo, where I live, my home. After I left Russia, I lived in Germany for three years and then in Amsterdam for 22 years where, for 16 years, I combined my job as concertmaster with the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic with my concertmaster position at LSO. I then moved to California and started my job here at SFS.
Does your son have any interest in pursuing music?
Alexander Barantschik: He’s a high school junior now. He loves math, science, and computer science and he plays piano for his pleasure and loves classical music but he has no desire to pursue music professionally.
Russians have a marvelous and highly creative form of cursing. What’s your favorite Russian curse?
Alexander Barantschik: Honestly, I don’t curse so much. We do have a saying, ‘Ni puha ni pera,’ which is something like ‘break a leg,’ which is what you say to every musician or performer about to go on stage. The reply to that is always ‘K chortu,’ which is ‘Go to hell,’ a good omen for Russians.
How do you feel about performing at Weill Hall?
Alexander Barantschik: We are used to our hall, Davies, where we perform and rehearse every day and it’s challenging to leave that. Weill Hall is much smaller than Davies, has a completely different shape, and is very different acoustically from Davies. Since we don’t have any rehearsals at Weill Hall, or at the Mondavi Center, it’s always challenging to get the sound just right. We don’t have any experience just sitting in the hall and listening either. On stage, we are hearing things that are so different from what you’re hearing and we have to adjust immediately without even hardly having a chance to play. This time, we’ve got a small ensemble. I will come a bit early and check out the acoustics to make sure I remember what it’s like there.
Details: Alexander Barantschik and SFS perform “Barantschik and Friends” at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, Thursday, January 23, 2014 at 8 p.m. AND “Barantschik leads Mozart and Mendelssohn” at Davies Symphony Hall on Wed (Jan 22, 8 p.m.), Fri (Jan 24, 6:30 p.m.), Sat (Jan 25, 8 p.m.) and Sun (Jan 26, 2 p.m.). Tickets at Green Music Center are $20 to $156 (click here to purchase) and are $15 to $109 at Davies (click here to purchase.) For more information, call (415) 864-6000. For more information about San Francisco Symphony’s four concerts this season at Weill Hall, click here.
Dog Lovers! Tonight is your night…. Julian Roman Pölsler’s “The Wall” (“Die Wand”) screens at 8:45 at the Smith Rafael…part of a week of screenings of foreign Oscar nominees
I wouldn’t be ARThound if I didn’t do a special shout-out for Lynx, the amazing hound that co-stars in The Wall (Die Wand, 2012) which screens tonight (Wed) at 8:45 PM at the Smith Rafael (Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center) as part of their week of exceptional screenings of foreign Oscar nominations from around the world…. I can’t say it enough… consistently awesome programming!
The Wall (Die Wand): Austrian director Julian Roman Pölsler’s film is based on Marlen Haushofer’s 1962 dystopian hit novel of the same name (just re-printed in English). The film stars German actress Martina Gedeck from the brilliant 2006 Stassi thriller The Lives of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) and tells the story of a completely ordinary middle-aged woman (Gedeck) who is vacationing with friends in a remote mountain hunting lodge. Her friends go out to a pub and she stays back with the dog and when they don’t come back, she makes a very creepy discovery. She is imprisoned on the mountainside by an invisible wall, behind which there seems to be no life. She appears to be the sole remaining human on earth, along with the dog (a red hound that will steal your heart),a cow, a cat, and a kitten, with which she forms a tight-knit family.
The film rests entirely on Gedeck’s shoulders and she is riveting, delivering a very credible performance that will leave you shivering and running home to snuggle with your dog. The odd beauty of this film is that this last survivor scenario may be your own romanticized idea of heaven, or hell (Who hasn’t said “Fuck the world! I’m sick of people…give me just my dog!), but watching Gedeck use her time laboring hard, protecting her pack, and introspectively processing her present life, leads us to right into her moments of intensely felt angst, terror, joy and sorrow. (Screens Wednesday, January 15, 2014 at 8:45 PM, Smith Rafael)
I first reviewed The Wall when it screened at last year’s Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors—a noteworthy jewel in the huge array of festivals. This year, the 18th annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, kicks off this evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with Georg Maas’ Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012), Germany’s official entry, short-listed for the best foreign language Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards. Click here to read ARThound’s coverage of this year’s Berlin & Beyond.) Two Lives also screens tomorrow (Thursday) at 6:30 PM at the Smith Rafael and filmmaker Maas will be in attendance for what will be a riveting Q&A. So, in San Rafael, you’ve got the opportunity to see two great German-language films back-to-back as part of their foreign Oscar nominee programming and, in San Francisco, Berlin & Beyond offers 30 feature length German-language films and 7 shorts over the next week (including six North American premieres and two US premieres).
The 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—the best and newest in German Language Cinema, starts Wednesday, January 15, 2014, at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre
For film lovers in the Bay Area, the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival is an essential—it’s where one goes to see the very best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders. The focus is Germany and German language but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make this relatively small scale festival a stand-out in the myriad of festivals that are cropping up everywhere. The festival will mark its 18th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage and will screen 30 feature length films and 7 shorts, including six North American premieres and two US premieres. Festival director Sophoan Sorn, at the helm for his fourth year now, has collaborated with Festival President Sabine Erlenwein to select films that showcase this year’s theme “Courage in Motion”—delivering cinematic stories that embrace overcoming life’s myriad of obstacles. The festival kicks off Wednesday evening with Germany’s official entry into the 2014 Academy Awards, Two Lives (Zwei Leben, 2012) and an opening night party at Tank18, one of the City’s finest wine bars. It closes (at the Castro venue) with the North American premiere of Nana Nuel’s Silent Summer (Stiller Sommer, 2013), with Nuel and renowned actor Hans-Jochen Wagner in attendance. This year’s festival pays special tribute to legendary author, film producer, screenwriter and filmmaker, Peter Sehr, with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his work in acting. Mr. Sehr, who had a knack for the political period drama, passed in May 2013 from cancer, but his wife and creative partner, director Marie Noëlle, will be present at the festival to receive the posthumous award and will appear in person at the screening of their final film, festival centerpiece Ludwig II (2012), at the Castro Theatre on January 17th, at 5:30 PM. It all begins Wednesday, January 15, and runs Sunday, January 19, in San Francisco, at the historic Castro Theatre, with additional evening screenings on January 20-21 at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street).
The festival marks its 18th season with a dazzling roster of special guests onstage—Ali Saghri (producer, Breaking Horizons); Anne Thoma (director/writer, Miles & War); Aylin Tezel (director, Inhale (short film); actor, Breaking Horizons & BFF 2012 Opener Almanya); Christian Schwochow (director, West); Georg Maas (director/screenwriter, Two Lives, The Real World of Peter Gabriel); Hans-Jochen Wagner (actor, Silent Summer); Katja von Garnier (director, Windstorm); Marie Noëlle (director/screenwriter, Ludwig II); Nana Neul (director/screenwriter, Silent Summer); Udo Kramer (production designer, LOLA nominee for Measuring the World 3D); Marc Rothemund (director, The Girl with Nine Wigs; nominee, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 2006 for Sophie Scholl – The Final Days); Walter Steffen (director/writer, Munich in India); Xavier Koller (director, The Black Brothers; winner, Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, 1991 for Journey of Hope. For more information and tickets, browse the festival’s official website and stay tuned to ARThound for coverage.
The lineup for the 18th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival:
Wednesday, January 15
4:00 pm Sensational Seven – Short Films 2014
7:00 pm Opening Night Film: Two Lives
9:30 pm Opening Night Party at Tank18
Thursday, January 16
1:00 pm Windstorm
4:00 pm The Shine of Day
6:30 pm Hanna’s Journey
9:00 pm Gold
Friday, January 17
11:30 am Your Beauty Is Worth Nothing
3:00 pm Lullaby Ride
5:30 pm Centerpiece: Ludwig II
9:15 pm Shores of Hope
Saturday, January 18
11:15 am Sound of Heimat – Germany Sings
1:45 pm The Girl With Nine Wings
4:30 pm Miles & War
7:00 pm West
9:45 pm Late Show: Measuring the World (3D)
Sunday, January 19
11:30 am Munich In India
2:00 pm The Black Brothers
4:30 pm Breaking Horizons and Inhale
8:00 pm Castro Closing Night Film: Silent Summer
Monday, January 20
6:00 pm More Than Honey
8:30 pm Free Fall
Tuesday, January 21
6:00 pm Redemption Impossible
8:30 pm Shifting The Blame
Pounce! Tickets are now on sale for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 21-23, in Petaluma—the Farm Tours are almost sold out
California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its eighth year, March 21-23, 2014, at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma. Tickets just went on sale. If you are interested in a farm tour, where you get to meet local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats and watch them create their awesome cheeses, get your tickets now as the tours sell out immediately.
The popular festival brings together artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, brewers, wineries and enthusiastic guests for three days of cheese seminars, pairings, tastings, farm tours, hands-on cheese-making classes and cheese-focused demonstrations. Of course, eating is key! Guests sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses (paired with gourmet delights) and learn all about the art of making cheese. The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are now on sale and available through www.artisancheesefestival.com.
“The festival is a much-anticipated, cheese-lover’s paradise that allows guests to see every step of the farm-to-table process of cheesemaking,” said Festival Executive Director Judy Groverman Walker, a Sonoma County native and 4-H alum who also organizes the Luther Burbank Rose Parade. “From farm tours where people can interact with the animals and meet the cheesemakers to tastings, hands-on classes and culinary demos, there truly is something for everyone.”
The 2014 schedule includes the following events:
Friday, March 21:
morning—Farm Tours & Lunch:
Back by popular demand are five intimate farm tours where guests are guided on walking tours of various area farms to meet the cheesemakers, see how the cheeses are made and, of course, taste the fruits of their labor. The tours allow guests to observe every step of the cheesemaking process and interact with cows, sheep, water buffalo and goats in their natural environment. Each tour includes round-trip transportation from the Sheraton Sonoma County, cheese tastings and lunch. A three-course, sit-down lunch is included in Tours A and B at Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company’s The Fork with guest chef Louis Maldonado, executive chef at Spoonbar in Healdsburg and Top Chef Contestant; Tour D will stop for an adventurous farm-to-table lunch at Zazu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow in Sebastopol; and Tour E, an exploration of Petaluma-based cheese talent, will conclude with a beer and cheese-pairing lunch on the patio of Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. All other tours will include a delicious box lunch to be enjoyed on site. Cheese is available for purchase on the farm tours. (Tickets $75/$135, 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.)
These are still available—
Farm Tour D – Goats, Sheep & ZaZu, Oh MY! — Bleating Heart Cheese; Toluma Farms & Tomales Farmstead Creamery; ZaZu Kitchen & Farm; Bohemian Creamery
There is no better way to start the day than with a scenic drive through western Sonoma and northern Marin counties. Your first stop will be to visit Seana Doughty of Bleating Heart Cheese. In 2009 Seana bought ten pregnant ewes from a sheep dairy in Wisconsin and drove them to California as the start of her flock. Hear about Seana’s adventures as you tour her brand new creamery built to meet the ever increasing demand for her cheeses. Continuing through Tomales, Toluma Farms & Tomales Farmstead Cheese is next on the agenda where you’ll meet their beloved goats and sheep! We will visit the newly opened creamery and taste their amazing farmstead goat and mixed milk cheeses. Heading north to Sebastopol we make a lunch stop at the “new” ZaZu Kitchen & Farm at The Barlow. Owners/chefs Duskie Estes and John Stewart are “farm-to-table” specialists and long-time supporters of the California artisan cheese movement. This dynamic duo will serve up a cheese-centric lunch in their always delightful New American-Northern Italian style. The menu will be paired with some of California’s best wines and/or beers. For your final stop of the day we drive just one mile from Sebastopol to a hilltop overlooking the Laguna de Santa Rosa and Mayacama Mountains. Here you’ll meet Lisa Gottreich at the Bohemian Creamery and her herd of Alpine dairy goats. Find out why she decided to break out of her midlife mold and fill new ones with innovative and compelling curds. You’ll have the opportunity to taste a variety of Italian-style cheeses! You won’t want to miss this tour! $135.00 per person.
Farm Tour E – Petaluma Passionate and Perfect – Achadinha Cheese Company; Marin French Cheese Company; Weirauch Farm & Creamery; Lagunitas Brewing Company
This culinary adventure proves that perfection exists in our own “back pasture.” Your first stop on this delightful tour will be at Jim and Donna Pacheco’s ranch and family run Achadinha Cheese Company. We will taste their goat and mixed milk cheeses that have received extensive media attention. Next stop, the award winning Marin French Cheese Company to meet the cheese makers who will walk us through the cheese making process and give us a special presentation of their recently renovated creamery followed by a tasting of their landmark cheeses. Our last farmstead visit will be at the beautiful Weirauch Farm & Creamery. Joel and Carleen Weirauch have been slowly developing their flock of dairy sheep since 2004. Their recognized expertise in making artisan organic cow and farmstead sheep cheese is matched by their commitment to sustainable agriculture, expressed on every level of farming – rotational pasture management, green building, water re-use from the creamery for irrigation, and integrative solar. Lunch will be at the always fun, always delicious Lagunitas Brewing Company. Tour the brewery, taste some of their world renown beers and enjoy a wonderful cheese focused lunch, served on the patio and matched with those amazing, award winning Lagunitas microbrews! $135.00 per person
Friday evening—Meet the Cheesemakers Reception
Guests meet the cheesemakers in person at this evening reception and cheese tasting. More than 20 participating cheesemakers will offer samples of their products, along with artisan wineries and breweries at this informal walk-around reception to kick off the weekend. There is also a “Fantasy Cheese Table” featuring a spectacular cheese display for guests to sample as much as they like. (Tickets $35, Sheraton Sonoma County, 5 – 7 p.m.)
Saturday, March 22:
morning and afternoon—Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demonstrations
The 2014 event presents a variety of seminars from which to choose, giving guests the opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, cook with different cheeses, experience diverse wine, cider and beer pairings and much, much more. Confirmed instructors include Judy Creighton, an American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional (CCP); Janet Fletcher of the San Francisco Chronicle; author and cheese expert Laura Werlin; training and merchandising manager of Atlanta Foods International and American Cheese Society CCP Michael Landis; Mission Cheese owner Sarah Dvorak; Master Cicerone Rich Higgins; and the San Francisco Milk Maid, Louella Hill. The seminars include a catered lunch by Petaluma Market. During the lunch break and after the afternoon seminars authors will be available for book signings. (Tickets $65-95, Sheraton Sonoma County, Seminars 9:30 -11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., with lunch provided at 12 – 1 p.m.)
This looked great to me—
Seminar No. 3: Terroir de Sonoma: Exploring the Unique Flavors and Attitudes of Sonoma Beer and Cheese
Presenters: Rich Higgins, Master Cicerone, Brewmaster and Consultant a la Biere; Michael Landis, American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, Training & Merchandising Manager at Gourmet Foods International
Terroir is the French term for how a food or beverage expresses a sense of place. Often used in reference to wine, terroir can be expressed by craft beer as well. Sonoma County is rich in agriculture, micro climates, and character, and its breweries and dairies embrace Sonoma’s local flavors, ingredients, and attitudes. Join Master Cicerone Rich Higgins and Certified Cheese Professional Michael Landis as they delve into delicious beer and cheese pairings that illustrate the concept of terroir. Together you will taste and celebrate the flavors and uniqueness of Sonoma County. $65.00 per person.
Saturday evening—Grand Cheese Tasting and Best in Cheese Competition
In the ultimate culinary challenge, guests taste their way around this event, sampling dishes from 25 of the Bay Area’s best chefs and caterers, each incorporating their favorite locally made cheese into a dish for attendees. Guests cast their vote for their favorite “cheesiest” dish and the winner is announced on-site during this lighthearted and festive competition. Artisan wineries and breweries will be on hand to provide beverages to complement each dish. (Tickets $75, Sheraton Sonoma County, 6 – 9 p.m.)
Sunday, March 23:
morning—Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef
Join a surprise celebrity guest chef for Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course along with a live cooking demonstration. Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11 a.m. before it opens to the public at 12 p.m. (Tickets $115, Sheraton Sonoma County, 9:30 – 11 a.m.)
afternoon—Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace
The grand finale of the Festival, the Marketplace brings together more than 75 artisan cheesemakers, winemakers, brewers and chefs to sample and sell their products directly to attendees in this feast for the senses. Guests can discover the next wave of local, hand-crafted cheeses, boutique wines and artisan-brewed beers as well as interesting cheese products, books and recipes. Each ticket includes entry to the Marketplace, an insulated cheese tote bag and a signature wine glass. (Tickets $45 for adults; $20 for children 12 and under, Sheraton Sonoma County, 12 – 4 p.m.)
Complimentary Cooking Demonstrations
In between tasting and buying cheeses at the Marketplace, guests are invited to watch several cooking demonstrations conducted by local chefs and cheese experts. (Admission is free with a Marketplace ticket; Sheraton Sonoma County; demonstrations are at 1 – 2 p.m.; 2:15 – 3:15 p.m.; and 3:30 – 4:30 p.m.)
Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook and following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers.
More about California’s Artisan Cheese Festival: A 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, California’s Artisan Cheese Festival strives to increase cheese appreciation, educate consumers about artisan cheeses, support the cheesemaking community and its sustainability and celebrate the creations of California’s many farmers and cheesemakers. The festival began in March 2007 as the first-ever, weekend-long celebration and exploration of handcrafted cheeses, foods, wines and beers from California and beyond. In keeping with its dedication to the community, the Artisan Cheese Festival donates 10% of all ticket proceeds to Sonoma Land Trust, Marin Agricultural Land Trust, Petaluma Future Farmers of America, California Artisan Cheese Guild and Redwood Empire Food Bank. To date the Artisan Cheese Festival has contributed more than $55,000 to these non-profit organizations that work to support the artisan cheesemaking community and its infrastructure in California. For more information, visit http://www.artisancheesefestival.com.
“Storefront Church,” John Patrick Shanley’s new play, finishes his Church-State trilogy with a hard-edged look at the mortgage crisis, greed, and redemption—at San Francisco Playhouse through January 11, 2014
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley’s new play Storefront Church, at San Francisco Playhouse, transports the audience to a wintery Bronx, where a disenchanted and broke preacher has lost his faith while trying to start over in New York after his New Orleans church was washed away by Katrina. His Latina landlady, Jesse, has taken out a second mortgage trying to help him pay for the renovation of the storefront church. Her Jewish husband, Ethan, a retired tax accountant, pays a visit to an unsympathetic loan officer at the bank that is about to foreclose on her. Donaldo, the Bronx Borough president, who has known Jessie since his childhood tries to intervene and the bank’s CEO seizes the moment to enlist borough support for a new mall he hopes to finance. It sounds dismal but it all ends on a hopeful note— the preacher conquers his despair enough to deliver a sermon; the characters reconnect with their faith; Jesse gets to keep her property; the mall is given the green light with a percentage of the space allocated for community use.
In 2005, Shanley won a Pulitzer Prize in drama and a Tony Award for best play for “Doubt” in which a strict nun accuses a highly respected priest of being sexually inappropriate with one of the school students under her charge. “Doubt” was the first in Shanley’s trilogy of Church and State plays; the second play, “Defiance,” from 2006, explored racism and the disunity it caused aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina as the Vietnam War was winding down. “Storefront Church” is an exploration of contemporary society’s lack of faith and of the plight of the individual striving to survive in a world dominated by corporate greed.
While “Storefront Church” is less powerful than the other two plays in the triad, it is a moving portrait of our troubling times, when one’s convictions and sense of self are under constant siege and achieving and maintaining financial security is a game few succeed at. In order to cover overarching themes, Shanley sacrifices character development resulting in some confusion about back stories and relationships. Director Joy Carlin has assembled a talented cast— popular Bay Area actors Derek Fischer (CEO of the bank), Rod Gnapp (bank loan officer), Carl Lumbly (Pastor Chester), Gabriel Marin (Borough President), Ray Reinheart (Ethan, Jesse’s husband), and Gloria Weinstock (Jesse). As usual, San Francisco Playhouse’s staging is impeccable.
Stay-tuned to San Francisco Playhouse…Director Bill English says their next play, Jez Butterworth’s “Jerusalem,” (January 21-March 8), is “probably the best play written in the 21st century so far.” I’ve come to trust Bill English…he serves us our moral peas and carrots in the most interesting dishes. He promises that the San Francisco Playhouse’s production will be the “first American” production of the play that earned raves at London’s Royal Court in 2009. It makes frequent allusions to Blake’s poem from which its title is derived.
Details: Storefront Church ends Saturday, January 11, 2014. San Francisco Playhouse is located at 450 Post Street (2nd Floor of Kensington Park Hotel, b/n Powell & Mason) Performances: Tuesday to Thursday 7pm, Friday and Saturday 8pm. Matinees: 3pm Saturdays; 2pm Sunday on 1.5.14 Tickets: $30-$100. For more information visit www.sfplayhouse.org or call the box office at (415) 677-9596.