ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Review: giddy, rude & ridiculous “Spamalot” is at 6th Street Playhouse through September 22, 2013

Spamalot 2It’s summer and if you’re in the mood for silly…the trotting coconuts, the killer rabbit and the knights who say “Ni” are all back in 6th Street Playhouse’s irreverent Spamalot which plays in its GK Hardt Theatre through September 22,2013.

The 2005 Tony Award-winning musical comedy by Python super-star Eric Idle, with musical score by Idle and composer John Du Prez, is a loving rip-off of the 1975 classic film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Through a medley of song, slapstick, pun, and abandonment of political correctness, Spamalot tells the tale of King Arthur’s quest for the Holy Grail and his knights’ entanglement in a Broadway production.  Along the way, it cleverly and unabashedly exploits all the cannons of musical theater while poking itself for being a musical.

In the capable hands of Craig Miller, 6th Street’s Artistic Director, the mash-up more or less succeeds. Miller, who brought us The Great American Trailer Park Musical (2012) and The Marvelous Wonderettes (2012) and who just picked up an astounding six awards in the 2013 SFBATCC (San Francisco/Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle), once again combines strong local talent with an excellent production team.

I saw the show last Saturday evening (8/24), opening weekend.  It delivered some good laughs and some catchy tunes, against the backdrop of great sets and unexpected projections, all adding up to an appealing musical.  I can only imagine that the comedy component will get stronger over time as the actors work together more and find that relaxed sweet spot where they can really deliver up the hysterically funny and shameless gags we associate with Python brilliance.

Arthur and company’s musical journey begins in Finland, with the “Fisch Schlapping Song,” grown men being silly and whacking each other with huge fish.  The narrator soon gets the story back on track, back to a dense forest and the time of the plague, where it’s time to cart-away the bodies.  From there, it’s a romp through history as Arthur and his motley crew proceed to Camelot and become Knights of the Round Table. Their zany escapades include battling French Can-Can Girls, warring with a French fort and hurling a huge wooden Trojan rabbit as a weapon, and trying to outwit a vicious biting bunny who protects the Holy Grail.  The characters also take on the assignment of performing a Broadway musical.  One of the funniest moments comes when Robin belt outs a lament to Arthur that their production will never make it to Broadway “if it doesn’t have any Jews!”

M.P. fans will recognize familiar tunes as “Finland,” “Knights of the Round Table” and “Always Look on the Brightside of Life,” a classic from Life of Brian.  Idle and Du Prez co-created catchy tunes like “I Am Not Dead Yet” and “The Song that Goes Like This”  and many of these are reminiscent of Lloyd Webber, Rogers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim, however the silly lyrics are all Idle’s.  “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” is one of the most memorable songs and, of course, is a credo that we should all live by.

“Spamalot” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse through September 22, 2013 is a medley of song, slapstick and silly fun that lovingly recounts the exploits of King Arthur and features a large cast of mainly local performers.  The original 2005 Broadway show received 3 Tony Awards and was seen by over two million people.  Photo: Eric Chazankin.

“Spamalot” at Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse through September 22, 2013 is a medley of song, slapstick and silly fun that lovingly recounts the exploits of King Arthur and features a large cast of mainly local performers. The original 2005 Broadway show received 3 Tony Awards and was seen by over two million people. Photo: Eric Chazankin.

Barry Martin’s King Arthur is the heart of Spamalot.  The Napa-based actor, director and co-founder of Lucky Penny Productions has natural comedic timing, a fantastic and robust singing voice, and he delivers an alternately noble and kind of daffy King Arthur whose generosity of spirit rings through all the antics surrounding him.

Arthur’s coconut-clapping page/sidekick and imaginary steed, Patsy, is played to the hilt by Erik Weiss, also a delight to behold. He’s quite young, just starting his senior year at Montgomery High School, but has a natural affinity for comedy, evident as he trots and schleps around stage beside Arthur.

Taylor Bartolucci Deguilio’s Lady of the Lake, is a spoof of all leading ladies and Broadway conventions.  Beaming Deguilio was quite sultry in an array of beautifully colorful form-fitting costumes by Pamela Johnson, but her singing voice, while energetic, was not in its usually radiant top form.  Natalie Herman (Not Dead Fred/Prince Herbert/Ensemble) had small roles but the combination of a marvelous voice and that magical “it” factor, made it her night.  After she sang just a few lines of “I am not dead yet” in Act I, I was fixed on her all night long and she got more delightful as the show progressed.

As Sir Robin, Trevor Hoffman pulled off some great dancing and singing. His Act II song “You Won’t Succeed on Broadway,” was one of the highlights of the evening—hysterically bemoaning the lack of Jewish entertainers in Arthur’s motley crew.

There’s not a bad seat in the GJ Hardt Theatre and the stage pops with Theo Bridant’s gorgeous lighting and Jess Driekson’s scenic design.  Alise Girard’s choreography is polished and delivers, among many feats, a chorus line of dancing divas and knights and other sundry characters.  Hats off to musical directors, Jason Sherbody and assistant David Brown for their tight coordination of 22 songs.  Backing up the singing and zany action on stage is the talented eight member orchestra that keeps the rich music flowing all evening long.  Jason Sherbody (Conductor/keyboards), Steve Parker (Reed 1), Brendan Buss (Reed 2), Toom Woodville (Trumphet), Marc Rudlin (Trombone), Lisa Doyle (violin), Ab Menon (guitar/banjo), Joel Renteria (bass), Ricardo Lomeli (drums).

Overall, ARThound goes with a line from the knights who no longer say Ni! …. ekki-ekki-ekki-pitang-zoom-boing!

Up next at 6th Street Playouse:  One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Oct 25-Nov 10, 2013) Based on Ken Kesey’s novel and made famous by the 1975 movie starring Jack Nicholson, Dale Wasserman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is the story of a charming rogue who chooses to serve a short sentence in an airy mental institution rather than in prison. He realizes this was a mistake as soon as he clashes with Nurse Ratched who controls the psych ward and is a formidable opponent of his notions of nonconformity.   He quickly wins over his fellow “loonies” and accomplishes what the medical profession has been unable to do for twelve years; he makes a presumed deaf and dumb Indian talk, leads others out of introversion, stages a revolt so that the entire ward can watch the World Series on television, and arranges a rollicking midnight party with liquor and chippies.  The famous show down between nurse and patient is one of the riveting evenings of theatre. Stage Direction by Lennie Dean

Details: Spamalot ends September 22, 2013 at 6th Street Playhouse’s GK Hardt Theatre, 52 West 6th Street, Santa Rosa, CA.  Performances: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays 2 p.m. Tickets: $15 to $35.  For more information: www.6thstreetplayhouse.com or phone 707.523.4185.

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August 30, 2013 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ao Li, of Adler and Merola fame, walks away with first prize at Plácido Domingo’s Operalia in Verona

Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li just won the top prize at Operalia 2013 competition.  Here, he is performing a Rossini aria at the Marin Opera Guild's Champagne Gala in 2011.  Photo: Susan Malott

Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li just won the top prize at Operalia 2013 competition. Here, he performs a Rossini aria at the Marin Opera Guild’s Champagne Gala in 2011. Photo: Susan Malott

On to greatness!…Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li, a third-year Adler Fellow and graduate of the 2010 Merola Opera Program, just won First Prize and $30,000 in Plácido Domingo’s international singing competition, Operalia, which concluded Sunday in Verona’s spectacular Arena di Verona.  This year’s competition included 12 finalists from around the globe. Called the “Olympic games for opera singers” by Domingo, the grueling competition includes successive elimination rounds—of competitors singing arias of their choice and those given them by the prestigious jury of comprised, for the most part of, international Opera house’s General and/or Casting directors. Participating or even winning a prize in this competition is only the beginning of every singer’s relationship with Plácido Domingo and the jurors who will invite them to perform in upcoming productions being scheduled in their opera houses and theatres.

All these talented young singers walked away with a cash prize but Ao Li, 25, walked away with the top award—“Male First Award”—which he shared with Russian soprano Aida Garifullina—“Female First Award.”  Li sang Sergey Rachmaninov’s “Ves tabor spit” from Aleko (Aleko’s Cavatina).

Ao Li has sung a number of roles to rave reviews with San Francisco Opera including Lorenzo (Capuleti e i Montecchi) and Sciarrone (Tosca) and Ben Weatherstaff (The Secret Garden)—all 2012-13 season.  He made his debut with the Company in 2011 as Ascanio Petrucci (Lucreia Borgia).  Teatro ZinZanni fans will never forget his late-night Cabaret Lunatique performance (2011) with Shanghai Pearl, the sultry strip-tease artist.  He is also a frequent recitalist in China where he was a past recipient of the Youth of China award and the bronze award in the Ministry of Culture’s Eighth National Vocal Competition.

How lucky we are to have two important Bay Area programs—the Adler Fellowship Program (Adler Fellows) and Merola Opera Program—nurturing and creating the vocal stars of the future.  Operalia moves to a different city each year and next year, it is in Los Angeles. The annual competition was founded by Domingo in 1993 and has helped to launch the careers of several renowned singers, including Rolando Villazón and Joyce DiDonato.

Ao Li’s glorious performance at Operalia 2013 of Rachmaninov’s “Ves tabor spit” from Aleko

Here is the future of opera…the names to remember:

  • CulturArte Award: $10,000 to 26-year-old Belarus tenor Vladimir Dmitruk
  • Don Plácido Domingo Sr. Award for Zarzuela: $10,000 to 27-year-old American tenor Benjamin      Bliss
  • Pepita Embil Domingo Zarzuela Award: $10,000 to 29-year-old South Korean soprano Hae      Ji Chang
  • Birgit Nilsson Remembrance Award (for German Wagner/Strauss Rep): $15,000 each to 31-year-old English contralto Claudia Huckle and 27-year-old American soprano Tracy Cox
  • Male and Female Third Award: $10,000 each to 30-year-old American soprano Kathryn Lewek and 29-year-old American tenor Zach Borichevsky
  • Male and Female Second Award: $20,000 each to 29-year-old French soprano Julie Fuchs and 28-year-old Italian baritone Simone Piazzola.
  • Male and Female First Award: $30,000 each to 25-year-old Russian soprano Aida Garifullina and 25-year-old Chinese bass-baritone Ao Li
  • Audience Award: Rolex watches to 30-year-old American soprano Kathryn Lewek and 28-year-old Italian baritone Simone Piazzola

Plácido Domingo in Berkeley September 7, 2013:  The world-renowned tenor, Plácido Domingo’s makes a local appearance at the historic Greek Theatre with the Berkeley Symphony, in a program of operatic favorites from Verdi and Wagner and American classics from Rogers, Loewe, and Bernstein, and Spanish popular songs.  September 7, 2013, at 8 p.m.  The event is sponsored Another Planet Entertainment, Cal Performances’ partner for the Greek Theatre. Click here for information and tickets.

ARThound’s previous coverage of Ao LiSan Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows Perform Opera Favorites for last Sunday’s Marin Guild Gala (August 9, 2011);  No Commute! SF Opera’s Adler Fellows are performing classical favorites this Friday, October 12, at SRJC’s Petaluma Campus (October 10, 2012); Stealthy Soprano Nicole Cabell climbs a sink and balances on a wall in her debut at SF Opera’s “Capulets and Montagues,” through October 19, 2012 (October 11, 2012)

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last minute shuffle for SF Opera’s new Steven King opera, “Dolores Claiborne”—Dolora Zajick withdraws, Patricia Racette steps up

American mezzo Dolora Zajick was slated to sing the title role in Tobias Picker’s new opera “Dolores Claiborne” which has its world premiere at San Francisco Opera on September 18, 2013.  Photo: Cory Weaver

American mezzo Dolora Zajick was slated to sing the title role in Tobias Picker’s new opera “Dolores Claiborne” which has its world premiere at San Francisco Opera on September 18, 2013. Photo: Cory Weaver

Late night Monday, San Francisco Opera (SFO) announced that mezzo Dolora Zajick, cast in the title role of Tobias Picker’s new opera Dolores Claiborne, slated to have its world premiere on September 18, 2013 at War Memorial Opera House, had withdrawn from the production due to her ongoing knee problems and the vocal demands of the role.

“The opera proved to be more challenging physically and vocally than I had anticipated and, exacerbated by my knee problems, I feel it is best to withdraw at this point rather than try to push forward. I sincerely wish the cast, the incredible production team and Tobias good luck with the remaining rehearsals and the opening. I will miss being part of it.

American soprano Patricia Racette, who is currently in San Francisco preparing for her dual roles as Marguerite and Elena in Arrigo Boito’s Mephistopheles, will now assume the Dolores Claiborne assignment for the first four performances—September 18, 22, 25 and 28. Ms. Racette will continue to sing all eight of the regularly scheduled Mephistopheles performances.  Fresh from those SFO performances, the energetic soprano will then perform “Diva on Detour” a cabaret program of Gershwin, Sondheim and Porter at San Francisco’s JCCSF on October 4.

The final two Claiborne performances, on October 1 and 4, will be sung by Catherine Cook, who is role cover, in rehearsals since Aug. 9, and having sung the role in last year’s workshop performances.

The sixth commissioned work by SFO General Director David Gockley, Dolores Claiborne is the first Stephen King novel adapted for the lyric stage. The libretto is by J.D. McClatchy and the opera tells the story of a feisty Maine housewife who kills her husband after learning that he molested their daughter.  The role was memorably played by Katy Bates in the 1995 movie.

David Gockley commented, “We were aware earlier this summer that there was a problem when Dolora cancelled her engagement at the Orange Festival and had hoped her pain and mobility issues would be less problematic here. We’ve been working on how to adjust the Dolores Claiborne staging and production in order to find a middle ground, but it ultimately proved to be too physically demanding. This decision for Dolora to withdraw from the project was mutually agreed upon and she regrets having to bow out at this late date.”

Patricia Racette has just agreed to take over the title role in “Dolores Claiborne.”  She will now sing three roles in two operas this September at San Francisco Opera.  Photo: Cory Weaver

Patricia Racette has just agreed to take over the title role in “Dolores Claiborne.” She will now sing three roles in two operas this September at San Francisco Opera. Photo: Cory Weaver

Gockley also expressed his gratitude to Racette for stepping in at this late date in the rehearsal period and agreeing to take on this very demanding role, especially while she is also performing in Mephistopheles.  Racette is familiar with Tobias Picker’s works having performed in two of his earlier operas Emmeline and An American Tragedy.

The Dolores Claiborne cast includes soprano Elizabeth Futral as Vera Donovan, Susannah Biller as Selena St. George, Wayne Tigges as Joe St. George, Greg Fedderly as Detective Thibodeau and Joel Sorensen as Mr. Pease. In his Company debut, conductor George Manahan leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this two-act opera sung in English.

Details:  Tickets for Dolores Claiborne range from $23 to $385 and may be purchased at www.sfopera.com , at the San Francisco Opera Box Office, or by phone at (415) 864-3330. Performances—Sept. 18 (7:30 p.m.), Sept. 22 (2 p.m.), Sept. 25 (7:30 p.m.), Sept. 28 (8 p.m.), Oct. 1 (8 p.m.) and Oct. 4 (8 p.m.). Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance for $10 each, cash only. Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Dolores Claiborne and San Francisco Opera’s 2013-14 Season visit www.sfopera.com.

Free Pre-Opera Talks:  Music Educator John Churchill converses with Dolores Claiborne’s Composer Tobias Picker and Librettist J.D. McClatchy before the Sept. 18 performance, and one-on-one with Picker before the performances Sept. 22 through Oct. 4. These 25-minute overviews of the opera are free to ticketholders and take place in the Orchestra section 55 minutes prior to curtain.

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Let the Party Begin! San Francisco Symphony’s Open Night Gala is Tuesday September 3, 2013 with Broadway Superstar Audra McDonald as guest soloist

American soprano and Broadway and television star Audra McDonald is the guest soloist at San Francisco Symphony’s 2013 Opening Night Gala on September 3, 2013.  McDonald, who hails from Fresno, is a 5-time Tony Award and 2-time Grammy winner. Photo: Autumn de Wilde

American soprano and Broadway and television star Audra McDonald is the guest soloist at San Francisco Symphony’s 2013 Opening Night Gala on September 3, 2013. McDonald, who hails from Fresno, is a 5-time Tony Award and 2-time Grammy winner. Photo: Autumn de Wilde

The San Francisco Symphony (SFS) opens its 102nd season with its always stellar, always glamorous Opening Night Gala at Davies Symphony Hall on Tuesday, September 3, 2013.   This year, Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS Orchestra will host guest soloist Audra McDonald for the evening’s concert of gems from the classic American songbook including hits from My Fair Lady and West Side Story.  If you’ve never heard McDonald’s luminous soprano or experienced the way she energetically embraces an audience, you’re in for a treat.  And glittering Davies on a party night is a spectacle to behold.  The evening kicks off long before the concert—there’s a 5PM cocktail reception, followed at 6PM by four simultaneous dinners: the Patrons’ Dinner inside of Louise M. Davies Tent Pavilion (sold-out); the Wattis Room Dinner (accommodates 70); the Symphony Supper inside of the Grand Rotunda-City Hall (accommodates 300); and the Symphonix Dinner inside of City Hall’s North Light Court (accommodates 200).  All of the dinner packages include preferred seating for the performance. Guests who don’t opt for those packages will have their choice of 1st Tier seating for $295 or 2nd Tier for $160 and will have access to complimentary wine reception in the stunning hall before the concert, and a hopping after-party (~ 10PM) in the Tent Pavilion and on Grove Street, with live music, dancing, food, and an open bar (all included in the ticket price).  One of San Francisco’s most  important social events, the gala’s proceeds benefit the Orchestra’s artistic, community, and education programs, which provide music education to more than 75,000 Bay Area school children each year.

2013 OPENING NIGHT GALA CONCERT PROGRAM:

Michael Tilson Thomas conductor
Audra McDonald soprano
San Francisco Symphony

Antheil Jazz Symphony
Bernstein/Comden & Green “A Little Bit in Love” from Wonderful Town
Bernstein/Sondheim “Somewhere” from West Side Story
Bernstein/Comden & Green “A Hundred Easy Ways to Lose a Man” from Wonderful Town
Bernstein/Lerner “My House” from Peter Pan and “Take Care of This House” from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Medley)
Kander/Ebb “First You Dream” from Steel Pier
Edwards “He Plays the Violin” from 1776
Styne/Merrill “The Music that Makes Me Dance” from Funny Girl
Styne/Comden & Green “Make Someone Happy” from Do Re Mi
Loewe/Lerner “I Could Have Danced All Night” from My Fair Lady
Gershwin An American in Paris

Singer and actress Audra McDonald (now 42) became a three-time Tony Award winner by the age of 28 for her performances in Carousel, Master Class, and Ragtime, placing her alongside Shirley Booth, Gwen Verdon and Zero Mostel by accomplishing this feat within five years. She won her fourth in 2004 for her role in A Raisin in the Sun, a role she reprised for a 2008 television adaptation, earning her a second Emmy Award nomination. On June 10, 2012, McDonald scored her fifth Tony Award win for her portrayal of Bess in Broadway’s The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess tying a record held by Angela Lansbury and Julie Harris for most Tony Awards won by an actor.  She also maintains her ties to classical repertoire with an active concert and recording career, performing song cycles and operas as well as concerts throughout the U.S.

McDonald first appeared with the SFS at the 1998 Opening Gala, performing songs by George Gershwin.  A few weeks later, she joined the SFS on tour to open Carnegie Hall’s season with a special Gershwin 100th Birthday Celebration. The performance with the SFS marked her Carnegie Hall debut, and was both broadcast as a PBS Great Performances special and recorded for RCA Red Label.

McDonald’s recent television appearances include four seasons as fertility specialist Naomi Bennett on the ABC series “Private Practice.”  Her film roles include Cradle Will Rock, Object of My Affection, It Runs in the Family, Best Thief in the World, and Seven Servants.

McDonald’s first solo album in seven years, Go Back Home, was released May 21, 2013 and includes songs by John Kander and Fred Ebb, Stephen Sondheim, Adam Gwon and other composers.

SFS FALL CONCERTS. The San Francisco Symphony’s fall concert season includes MTT and the Orchestra in Mahler’s Symphony No. 9 (Sept 18, 19, 20, 21) and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 in January during the Beethoven-Bates Festival.  Composer Thomas Adès will perform with members of the Orchestra on October 3, 2013 during the Mendelssohn-Adès Festival, in a new chamber music program featuring two of his own compositions.  A Halloween week of Alfred Hitchcock films includes the first-ever screenings with live orchestra of the film Vertigo (November 1), and Psycho (October 30). In November, R&B balladeer Natalie Cole sings with SFS.  There are a number of holiday concerts and chamber music programs as well.  In March, the stupendous French soprano, Natalie Dessay, will appear in recital.

SFS at Weill Hall:  MTT conducts Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall on Thursday, September 12, 2013.  Stay-tuned to ARThound for subsequent coverage of SFS at Weill Hall.  Due to the popularity of performances conducted by MTT, this concert, the only appearance of MTT at Weill Hall this season, is expected to sell-out, so advance ticket purchase is highly-recommended.  In addition to special guest pianist Yefim Bronfman playing Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto, one of his signature offerings, the concert also features the West Coast premiere of “Lineage” by young Canadian composer Zosha Di Castri.  The work was commissioned as part of the SFS New Voices partnership with the New World Symphony and Boosey & Hawkes. Tickets need to be purchased through SFS.

Details: The SFS 2013 Opening Gala is Tuesday, September 3, 2013.  Dinner packages can be purchased from the SFS Volunteer Council at (415) 503-5500.  All dinner reservations should be made by Saturday, August 31, 2013.  Concert tickets are $160 and $295 and include a complimentary pre-concert wine reception, as well as access to the after-party in the Tent Pavilion and on Grove Street. These tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 415-864-6000 or in person at the SFS box office located on Grove Street at Franklin Street.

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 and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge.  This is the first operational day of the Bay Bridge and there may still be heavy traffic.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up gala week.  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)

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Symphony | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Smooth trumpeter Chis Botti closes Green Music Center’s Summer Season this Sunday afternoon, September 25, 2013—plenty of ticket options still remain

Chris Botti wraps the Green Music Center’s summer programming this Sunday, August 24, with an afternoon concert at Weill Hall and lawn.  Smooth as silk, Botti—who originally hails from Oregon—imbibes the style of the jazz’s great trumpeters like Davis, Louis Armstrong and Dizzy Gillespie and pop sophisticates Peter Gabriel and Sting.  His haunting, minor-key playing evokes some of the introspection of Miles Davis whose playing was so inspirational for Botti that he sites it as the reason why he chose to play the trumpet.  Botti’s melodies, many of which are his own, are also incredibly romantic.  I like to think of them as a portal to a dream world where time is suspended.  Since the release of “When I Fall in Love,” his 2004 critically acclaimed CD, the trumpeter has become the world’s largest-selling jazz instrumentalist (3 million plus albums) with PBS specials, Grammy Awards, gold and platinum records and A-list collaborators that have included Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon and best pal Sting (the two even share similar blond-tipped spiky coifs).  His latest Grammy-winning album, “Impressions” (Columbia Records, 2012) features even more noted collaborators: Vince Gill, Herbie Hancock, Andrea Bocelli and David Foster, to name a few.   An afternoon at GMC in the summer is simply the best gig in Northern California: the combination of the music and the setting can’t be beat.  It looks the weather will cooperate Sunday for a peak lawn experience too—with temps projected in the high 70’s, the outdoor ambience should be maximal for those trying the lawn table or lawn seating.

Botti is joined by:

Billy Kilson, drums

Geoffrey Keezer, piano

Andy Ezrin, keyboards

Leonardo Amuedo, guitar

Richie Goods, bass

Sy Smith, vocal

Caroline Campbell, violin

Chris Botti performs My Funny Valentine

Chris Botti performs When I Fall in Love

Details:  Chris Botti is Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 4 PM at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.

Ticket Availability:  As of Friday (August 23, 2013) there were approximately 100 Table Seats available at $45 and ample lawn places available at $25.  There are scattered tickets inside Weill Hall and additional seats may open up ($55 to $100) due to ticket returns: check with the Box Office in person 30 minutes prior to Sunday’s concert.  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.edu, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The Box Office is located in the interior of the Sonoma State University campus – ticket windows adjacent to the Green Music Center are only open prior to performances.

Dining:  Concessions at the Green Music Center are offered all year in the Person Lobby and during the summer on the south end of Weill Lawn. Offering everything from small bites to full meals, the concession offerings can help complete your Green Music Center experience. Guests are also From the south, take U.S. Highway 101 north to the Rohnert Park Expressway exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Rohnert Park Expressway. Drive 2.2 miles to the Sonoma State University entrance on your right.

From the north, take U.S. Highway 101 south to the Rohnert Park Expressway exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Rohnert Park Expressway. Drive 2.2 miles to the Sonoma State University entrance on your right.

August 23, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goat Rodeo Sessions, at Green Music Center this Friday, September 23, 2013 —the concert everyone’s buzzing about….plenty of ticket options still remain

The Goat Rodeo Sessions with special guest vocalist Aoife O'Donovan perform at Green Music Center this Friday. (L to R) bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin master Chris Thile, cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma, and bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan join together create a unique, genre-breaking sound that’s part composed, part improvised and uniquely American. The music is so difficult to pull off, the group likens it to a Goat Rodeo – an aviation term for a situation in which 100 things need to go right to avoid disaster.  Photo: Jeremy Cowart

The Goat Rodeo Sessions with special guest vocalist Aoife O’Donovan perform at Green Music Center this Friday. (L to R) bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolin master Chris Thile, cello virtuoso Yo-Yo Ma, and bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan join together create a unique, genre-breaking sound that’s part composed, part improvised and uniquely American. The music is so difficult to pull off, the group likens it to a Goat Rodeo – an aviation term for a situation in which 100 things need to go right to avoid disaster. Photo: Jeremy Cowart

The Goat Rodeo Sessions, joined by singer Aoife O’Donovan, wraps its first tour with just three West Coast performances including Friday night at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.  It wasn’t too long ago that we had to trek down in traffic to Berkeley’s Greek Theatre for big name concerts.  All that’s behind us now—nestled right here we’ve got the acoustically stellar Weill Hall with its back doors that open out to expansive terraced patios and lawn seating, giving audiences a wonderful way to connect with performers on stage while enjoying the magic of late summer in the wine country.

If you were lucky enough to get tickets to Yo-Yo Ma’s January 26 concert at Weill Hall with Kathryn Stott on piano—a program of cello masterpieces that brought us to tears and introduced us Ma’s extraordinary humbling humanity—chances are you were first to snap up tickets coveted inside-the-hall seats for Friday’s performance.  In a 2005 article for Smithsonian magazine, Bay Area music critic Josh Kosman summed it up “If Yo-Yo Ma didn’t exist, no novelist in the world would have dared invent him. The combination of virtues—musical, intellectual, personal—is simply too implausible.”   At the press conference for the summer season we learned that our new hall and enthusiasm had impressed Ma too and that he was excited to come back with the innovative ensemble The Goat Rodeo Sessions and show us another side of his musical expression.  He’ll be sharing the stage with bluegrass fiddler Stuart Duncan, bassist Edgar Meyer, and mandolin master Chris Thile—each Grammy winners and virtuosos in their own right and with Aoife O’Donovan, lead singer for Crooked Still string band and the folk-noir trio Sometymes Why.

Call it what you will—bluegrass, chambergrass or just plain good grass for string quartet, The Goat Rodeo Sessions combines a variety musical styles and traditions while leaving plenty of room for improvisation.  Immensely popularized by their Grammy Award-winning 2011 album for Sony Masterworks, the ensemble has reunited outside the studio just once for a January 2012 concert at Boston’s House of Blues that was simulcast to theaters around the country and later released as a DVD.

What’s a “goat rodeo,” you might wonder?   The term is from the world of aviation where so many things go wrong that a right move needs to made for it all not to end in disaster.  The group feels kinship with that concept and the name has suits highly their improvisational approach to music and life.

I’ve been to several of GMC’s summer performances, with seats inside and outside the hall, and they’ve all been spectacular in their own right.   Truth be told, it can get chilly when the fog rolls in, but there’s an exciting crowd vibe that emerges when you’re outdoors. I’m trying a table seat for this concert.   There’s something about Ma’s personality and his profound ability to from a connection with his audience that came through in his January performance that touched me—I can’t wait to see him as part of this group and to experience the give and take vibe that this type of intense collaboration requires.   With over 15 songs on the program, with plenty of opportunity for improvisation from all four of the players, it’s bound to be a goat rodeo to beat all.

Members of the Goat Rodeo Sessions—cellist Yo-Yo Ma, bassist Edgar Meyer, mandolinist Chris Thile, and fiddler Stuart Duncan— performing “Attaboy,” from the Goat Rodeo Sessions Live.  

The Goat Rodeo Sessions performs at Google New York in 2011 (Presented by Google on YouTube)

Details:  Goat Rodeo Sessions is Friday, August 23, 2013, at 7:30 PM at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall and Lawn.

Ticket Availability:  As of Tuesday (August 20, 2013) there were approximately 100 Table Seats available at $45 and 2,000 lawn places available at $25.  Tickets inside Weill Hall sold out almost immediately when they were listed.  There may inside seating available ($55 to $100) due to ticket returns: check with the Box Office in person 30 minutes prior to Friday’s concert.  Ticket purchases can be made online at www.gmc.edu, or over the phone with the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The Box Office is located in the interior of the Sonoma State University campus – ticket windows adjacent to the Green Music Center are only open prior to performances.

Dining:  It is too late to order from the selection of special Whole Foods dinners.  Concessions at the Green Music Center are offered all year in the Person Lobby and during the summer on the south end of Weill Lawn. Offering everything from small bites to full meals, the concession offerings can help complete your Green Music Center experience. Guests are also welcome to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages (unopened, must be sealed) into the venue but no alcohol.  All alcohol must be purchased on-site.

Directions: Green Music Center is located on the campus of Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California, at the intersection of Rohnert Park Expressway and Petaluma Hill Road.

From the south, take U.S. Highway 101 north to the Rohnert Park Expressway exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn right onto Rohnert Park Expressway. Drive 2.2 miles to the Sonoma State University entrance on your right.

From the north, take U.S. Highway 101 south to the Rohnert Park Expressway exit. At the end of the exit ramp, turn left onto Rohnert Park Expressway. Drive 2.2 miles to the Sonoma State University entrance on your right.

August 20, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Magnificent morsels…that add up to a feast—Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 24, 2013

If you blink, you’ll miss tiny SPEAKEASY, a new bistro-style tapas restaurant located in Helen Putnam Plaza, which is new to Taste of Petaluma.  Once you try Chef Patrick Tafoya’s simple but perfectly satisfying dishes, like his heirloom melon soup topped with basil crema and crisp prosciutto crumbles, you’ll be in for more.  But do make a reservation—SPEAKEASY can accommodate just 12 indoor diners at a time but it is open for dinner from 5 PM til 2 AM seven days a week. Photo: Geneva Anderson

If you blink, you’ll miss tiny SPEAKEASY, a new bistro-style tapas restaurant located in Helen Putnam Plaza, which is new to Taste of Petaluma. Once you try Chef Patrick Tafoya’s simple but perfectly satisfying dishes, like his heirloom tomato gazpacho shooter garnished with a grilled marinated tiger prawn or his heirloom melon soup topped with basil crema and crisp prosciutto crumbles, you’ll be in for more. But do make a reservation—SPEAKEASY can accommodate just 12 indoor diners at a time but it is open for dinner from 5 PM til 2 AM seven days a week. Photo: Geneva Anderson

The 8th annual Taste of Petaluma is this Saturday, August 24, and it’s all about eating your way—bite by bite—across Petaluma and connecting with its small-city charm and rich sense of community.  Taste is a benefit for Cinnabar Theater’s youth repertory programs and, this year, the event has over 50 Petaluma restaurants and food, wine and beverage purveyors participating and is expected to draw people from all over the Bay Area.  Enjoy everything from “A” (Artisan Angus Beef gluten free meatballs with Arrabbiata Tomato Sauce at Wild Goat Bistro in the historic Petaluma Mill) to “V” (Vegetable Tikka Kabobs at Everest Indian Restaurant in River Plaza) and along the way stop to take in the live musical entertainment from 17 Bay Area solo and group performers offering just as promising a musical menu (full performance schedule here).

“Everyone wins with Taste,” explained the event’s founder Laura Sunday who estimates that 1,000 people will turn out. “This is the only tasting event I know of where people actually get to go into a restaurant and check out the environment and sample so generously.  Most of these things are held in tents and operate like food fairs.  Our restaurants do this year after year because they enjoy giving back to Petaluma and to Cinnabar Theater and it’s the best advertising around.”

Stay-tuned to ARThound for more on Taste of Petaluma.

More About Cinnabar Theater:  Cinnabar Theater, located in the 1908 Cinnabar Schoolhouse on Petaluma Blvd and Skillman Lane, is a 501(c)(3) California non-profit.  It opens its 41st season with Craig Wright’s The Pavilion, a tender story of two former lovers who encounter each other at a high-school reunion. Against the backdrop of old tunes Peter and Kari dance around big questions. Is happily ever after still possible… or is that just in fairy tales?  A terrific cast takes the stage for this enthralling and lyrical play about the mysteries of forgiveness.  Runs: Sept 6-22, 2013; tickets $25.

Cinnabar’s Young Repertory Theater opens its season the musical Annie, based on the Little Orphan Annie comic strip created by Harold Gray.  This charming adaptation of Thomas Meehan’s beloved children’s book Annie, with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin is the perfect family-friendly musical.

Ciabatta Muffaletta Sandwich with made in-house Spicy Coppa, Fennel Salami & Olive Tapenade.  Sugo Trattoria’s owners and chefs, Peter and Annette White, are passionate about handcrafting their gourmet offerings.  From Peter’s cured meats to their whole grain mustards and hand-formed pastas, everything is artfully presented.  Sugo is located at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, in Town Center.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Ciabatta Muffaletta Sandwich with made in-house Spicy Coppa, Fennel Salami & Olive Tapenade. Sugo Trattoria’s owners and chefs, Peter and Annette White, are passionate about handcrafting their gourmet offerings. From Peter’s cured meats to their whole grain mustards and hand-formed pastas, everything is artfully presented. Sugo is located at 5 Petaluma Blvd. South, in Town Center. Photo: Geneva Anderson

With equal measures of pluck and positivity, little orphan ANNIE charms everyone’s hearts, despite a next-to-nothing start in 1930s New York City. She is determined to find her parents, who abandoned her years ago on the doorstep of a New York City Orphanage run by the cruel, embittered Miss Hannigan. With the help of the other girls in the Orphanage, ANNIE escapes to the wondrous and magical world of NYC.  In adventure after fun-filled adventure, ANNIE foils Miss Hannigan’s evil machinations and befriends President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. She finds a new home and family in billionaire Oliver Warbucks, his personal secretary Grace Farrell, and a lovable mutt named Sandy.  Runs:  November 29-December 15, 2013.  Tickets: $15 ages 22 and over; $10 ages 21 and under.

Details:  Taste of Petaluma is Saturday, August 24, 2013 from 11:30 AM to 4 PM.  Advance tickets are discounted at $35 through Friday, August 23, the day before the event.  Tickets are $40 at the event.   Ticket packages consist of 10 tasting tickets, good for 1 taste each. Additional tickers can be purchased for $4 each on the day of the event.  Buy advance tickets from Cinnabar Theater between 10-2 weekdays (707) 763-8920, online here (with fee), or in person at the following venues—
Gallery One – 209 Western Ave., Petaluma
Velvet Ice Collections – 140 2nd Street, Theater Square,
Blush Collections – 117 Kentucky Street

Advance tickets can be picked up at WILL CALL at Helen Putnam Plaza (129 Petaluma Blvd. North) after 10:30 AM on the day of the event.

The first 1,000 guest to purchase tickets will receive a free Taste of Petaluma tote bag.  All participants receive a plastic wine glass.

Laura Sunday, Taste of Petaluma’s organizer, enjoys a luscious heirloom melon cocktail outdoors at Social Club.  GM Damion Wallace runs a notoriously well-stocked bar and scours the local farmer's markets for the freshest ingredients with a breadth of rich colors and tastes for his extraordinary cocktail concoctions.  Social club will sample its Applewood Smoked Pork Shoulder and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil and Mint.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Laura Sunday, Taste of Petaluma’s organizer, enjoys a luscious heirloom melon cocktail outdoors at Social Club. GM Damion Wallace runs a notoriously well-stocked bar and scours the local farmer’s markets for the freshest ingredients with a breadth of rich colors and tastes for his extraordinary cocktail concoctions. Social club will sample its Applewood Smoked Pork Shoulder and Heirloom Tomato Salad with Basil and Mint. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Forget-Me-Not-Cakes, owned by Petaluma baker and cake artist Sally Ann Mcgrath, creates uniquely delicious cakes that are all made from scratch with the finest ingredients. Sisters Elizabeth (L) and Mary-Frances Miller will serve a selection of cupcakes at Blush at 133 Kentucky Street.  Surprisingly, these treats look rich but they are not too sweet or heavy.  Each packs a special mouthwatering surprise—the interior is filled with dollop of scrumptious creamy homemade fruit conserve, caramel or dark chocolate.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Forget-Me-Not Cakes, owned by Petaluma baker and cake artist Sally Ann Mcgrath, creates uniquely delicious cakes that are all made from scratch with the finest ingredients. Elizabeth (L) and Mary-Frances Miller (R) (sisters and co-workers) will serve a selection of cupcakes at Blush at 133 Kentucky Street. Surprisingly, these treats look rich but they are not too sweet or heavy. Each packs a special mouthwatering surprise—the interior is filled with dollop of scrumptious creamy homemade fruit conserve, caramel or dark chocolate. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Forget-Me-Not-Cakes will offer a gorgeous edible palette of cupcakes at Taste of Petaluma. Left: Blackberry cupcake—the cake is a special vanilla buttermilk recipe passed down through baker Sally Ann Mcgrath’s family. The filling is a homemade blackberry conserve. The topping is a light vanilla buttercream and blackberry conserve frosting.  Right:  Tropical chocolate cupcake—dark chocolate cake with passion-fruit curd filling and coconut buttercream frosting.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Forget-Me-Not Cakes will offer a gorgeous edible palette of cupcakes at Taste of Petaluma. Left: Blackberry cupcake—the cake is a special vanilla buttermilk recipe passed down through baker Sally Ann Mcgrath’s family. The filling is a homemade blackberry conserve. The topping is a light vanilla buttercream and blackberry conserve frosting. Right: Tropical chocolate cupcake—dark chocolate cake with passion-fruit curd filling and coconut buttercream frosting. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Top and center in perfect sync—Petaluma baker Sally Ann McGrath uses a special tool to hull out a portion of each cupcake’s center after it’s been baked and then pipes in a small bite of homemade filling.  A gorgeous fresh raspberry conserve (fresh fruit and raw sugar reduction) combines perfectly with her delectable whipped raspberry buttercream frosting.  McGrath is one of a handful of gourmet bakers and purveyors who do not have a storefront presence in Petaluma, so this is your chance to see and sample her artful cakes. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Top and center in perfect sync—Petaluma baker Sally Ann McGrath uses a special tool to hull out a portion of each cupcake’s center after it’s been baked and then pipes in a small bite of homemade filling. A gorgeous fresh raspberry conserve (fresh fruit and raw sugar reduction) combines perfectly with her delectable whipped raspberry buttercream frosting. McGrath is one of a handful of gourmet bakers and purveyors who do not have a storefront presence in Petaluma, so this is your chance to see and sample her artful cakes. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Pie Powered Petaluma Couple—Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino.  Petaluma Pie Company keeps them hopping but Lina Hoshino is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films have screened at festivals all over the world.  Her latest doc, “Living Along the Fenceline”  (Best Documentary Feature at Female Eye Festival 2013) focuses on women grassroots activists living in communities that have been adversely impacted by military bases they host.  Photo:  Geneva Anderson

Pie Powered Petaluma Couple—Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino. Petaluma Pie Company keeps them hopping but Lina Hoshino is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker whose films have screened at festivals all over the world. Her latest doc, “Living Along the Fenceline” (Best Documentary Feature at Female Eye Festival 2013) focuses on women grassroots activists living in communities that have been adversely impacted by military bases they host. Photo: Geneva Anderson

In just two years, pie enthusiasts, Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino have turned Petaluma Pie Company into a Petaluma icon.  Noted for their sweet and savory pies made from the freshest local ingredients and their commitment to supporting the community, Petaluma Pie will serve juicy slow cooked Pastured Pork paired with Rhubarb and Chutney enclosed in their outta-this-world buttery Pie Crust and a taste of Cold Beer. Photo: Geneva Anderson

In just two years, pie enthusiasts, Angelo Sacerdote and Lina Hoshino have turned Petaluma Pie Company into a Petaluma icon. Noted for their sweet and savory pies made from the freshest local ingredients and their commitment to supporting the community, Petaluma Pie will serve juicy slow cooked Pastured Pork paired with Rhubarb and Chutney enclosed in their outta-this-world buttery Pie Crust and a taste of Cold Beer. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Tim Bush, Corkscrew Wine Bar’s manager, grabbed the bar faucet for support when he calculated the number of chocolate truffles and pulled pork sliders that hundreds of guests will sample this Saturday’s Taste.  Bush pinch-hits with all sorts of duties for the elegant new establishment, including organizing and participating in Junk Parlor, a music exclusive featuring Gypsy jazz improv on Corkscrew’s Tuesday music nights.  (100 Petaluma Blvd. North near Western Ave) Photo: Geneva Anderson

Tim Bush, Corkscrew Wine Bar’s manager, grabbed the bar faucet for support when he calculated the number of chocolate truffles and pulled pork sliders that hundreds of guests will sample this Saturday’s Taste. Bush pinch-hits with all sorts of duties for the elegant new establishment, including organizing and participating in Junk Parlor, a music exclusive featuring Gypsy jazz improv on Corkscrew’s Tuesday music nights. (100 Petaluma Blvd. North near Western Ave) Photo: Geneva Anderson

Gopal Gauchan, owner/chef at Everest Indian Restaurant, 56 East Washington in “River Plaza,” will be serving his delectible kabobs.  Choose the Chicken Tikka Kabob - Chicken Breast, Red Onion, Broccoli, Sweet Pepper or the Vegetable Tikka Kabob - Red Onion, Scallion, Brussel Sprout, Carrot, Sweet Pepper. Gopal's menu offers a fusion of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan foods.  Photo:  Geneva Anderson

Gopal Gauchan, owner/chef at Everest Indian Restaurant, 56 East Washington in “River Plaza,” will be serving his delectible kabobs. Choose the Chicken Tikka Kabob – Chicken Breast, Red Onion, Broccoli, Sweet Pepper or the Vegetable Tikka Kabob – Red Onion, Scallion, Brussel Sprout, Carrot, Sweet Pepper. Gopal’s menu offers a fusion of Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan foods. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Chef/owner Andy Ma of Andy’s Kitchen & Sushi Bar, at 212 Western Avenue, is a new to Taste of Petaluma and will serve his signature Samurai Roll (Crab, Avocado, Unagi; deep fried; topped with spicy mayo and unagi sauce) and (not pictured) Mini Corn Sticks w/ Thai Sweet Chili Dip. Don’t miss his walls, which are always packed with interesting local art.  Photo:  Geneva Anderson

Chef/owner Andy Ma of Andy’s Kitchen & Sushi Bar, at 212 Western Avenue, is a new to Taste of Petaluma and will serve his signature Samurai Roll (Crab, Avocado, Unagi; deep fried; topped with spicy mayo and unagi sauce) and (not pictured) Mini Corn Sticks w/ Thai Sweet Chili Dip. Don’t miss his walls, which are always packed with interesting local art. Photo: Geneva Anderson

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Food, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two chances to meet and hear Chinese artist and filmmaker Yang Fudong this week at BAM/PFA in Berkeley

Yang Fudong, born 1971, who lives and works in Shanghai, is one of the China’s leading contemporary artists and independent filmmakers.  The first mid-career survey of his works is at Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) August 21-December 8, 2013 and he is co-curating a film series at Pacific Film Archive (PFA). Image: BAM/PFA

Yang Fudong, born 1971, who lives and works in Shanghai, is one of the China’s leading contemporary artists and independent filmmakers. The first mid-career survey of his works is at Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) August 21-December 8, 2013 and he is co-curating a film series at Pacific Film Archive (PFA). Image: BAM/PFA

Yang Fudong, a leading figure in China’s contemporary art and independent film worlds for the past decade, will be in conversation twice this week in Berkeley—6 PM Tuesday (Aug 20) at Berkeley Art Museum (BAM) and 7 PM Thursday (Aug 22) at Pacific Film Archive (PFA).

Yang is the focus of Yang Fudong: Estranged Paradise, Works 1993–2013, the first midcareer survey of his work, which opens Wednesday at BAM, and of PFA’s film series, Yang Fudong’s Cinematic Influences (August 22-October 6, 2013).   The Tuesday evening conversation with  BAM/PFA Adjunct Senior Curator and art historian Philippe Pirotte (also  director of Kunsthalle Bern)  is free and so is BAM entrance.  The exhibition, fresh from its debut at Kunsthalle Zürich, fills four galleries, and can be viewed from 5 to 9 PM and the conversation will begin at 6 PM.  This is expected to be a more substantive conversation about Yang’s work and background than Thursday’s conversation, also with Pirotte, which will take place after PFA’s 7 PM screening of Estranged Paradise 1997-2002 (Mosheng tiantang, 2002, 74 min), Yang’s first film, a beautifully-shot reflection on life in China, circa 1997.

Yang’s work explores the ideals, anxieties, and contradictions of the generation born during and after the Cultural Revolution.  These individuals are now struggling to find their place in a rapidly transitioning China.  While Yang draws much of his subject matter from the consumerist contexts of contemporary urban China, many of his images recall the literati paintings of the seventeenth century.  The exhibition presents film, installation and photography from the late 1990s until today, highlighting his cinematic works and their engagement with Film Noir aesthetics

Yang was born in Beijing in 1971 and first trained in painting at the China Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou before switching to photography and filmmaking. In 1998, he moved to Shanghai where, like many artists of his generation, he taught himself both photography and film.  He became widely-known in China when his photograph The First Intellectual was removed by the Cultural Inspection Bureau from the controversial 2000 exhibition of experimental art designed to coincide with the first international exhibition of the Shanghai Biennial.  This photograph explored the tensions between the traditional role of the intellectual and China’s urban transformation, an idea that he has continued to explore in subsequent artworks.

Yang Fudong: Mrs. Huang at M Last Night, 2006; black-and-white C-print; 47¼ × 70⅞ in.; courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris/New York, and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

Yang Fudong: Mrs. Huang at M Last Night, 2006; black-and-white C-print; 47¼ × 70⅞ in.; courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris/New York, and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai.

Yang captured the attention of the Western art world in 2002, when he premiered his film An Estranged Paradise (1997–2002) at Documenta XI.  Beginning with a meditation on the composition of space in Chinese painting, the film traces the spiritual instability of Zhuzi, a young intellectual in the legendary city of Hangzhou. The film reflects the artist’s fascination with international cinema, referencing such works as Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Àbout de souffle (1960), as well as Shanghai films from the 1920s and 1930s, a place and time in which China was strongly influenced by the West.   “Yang’s films have an atemporal and dreamlike quality, marked by long and suspended sequences, divided narratives, and multiple relationships and storylines,” writes PFA’s Jason Sanders, Film Note Writer.  In Yang’s more recent installations, he reflects on the process of filmmaking itself, creating spatially open-ended multichannel films that he likens to traditional Chinese hand scrolls.

BAM’s presentation of Yang’s work includes twenty years of photographs and video installations in four galleries and a continuous loop of Yang’s single-channel films daily at midday in the Museum Theater.  In addition, Gazing into Nature, an exhibition of twelfth- to fifteenth-century Chinese artworks from BAM’s collection, highlights the influence of traditional painting on Yang’s work.

Yang’s contemporaries, young people between the ages of twenty and forty, who have spent most of their lives in a society in transformation, are the protagonists in his works.  In an ARTforum (Sept 2003) interview, Yang discussed his five-part film The Seven Intellectuals (completed in 2007) and described a dissonance that applies to this new generation that we can all relate to—

One wants to accomplish big things, but in the end it doesn’t happen. Every educated Chinese person is very ambitious, and obviously there are obstacles-obstacles coming either from “out there,” meaning society or history, or from “inside,” from within oneself.  In this work you could see that “the first intellectual” has been wounded. He has blood running down his face and wants to respond, but he doesn’t know at whom he should throw his brick; he doesn’t know if the problem stems from himself or society. Ideals and the way they distinguish people, but also the way that they can unite people and encourage them to form bands, partnerships, brotherhoods-this was something I wanted to investigate in more depth, taking my time to do so. When I eventually completed “An Estranged Paradise,” I started defining this new, vast project, which will unfold as five different films.  Because I feel that this topic is extremely important to an understanding of China, both past and present, I wanted to articulate several temporalities together: one that is really ancient, the stories of “The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove”; another set during the `50s and `60s, when there was a profound questioning of the status and role of intellectuals (and so the films will have a clear `50s, `60s kind of New Cinema flavor); and, ultimately, one dealing with the concerns and ideals of today.

Yang Fudong: An Estranged Paradise (mo sheng tian tang), 1997-2002 (digital still); 35mm digital film transferred to DVD; black and white, sound; 76 min; courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris/New York, and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai

Yang Fudong: An Estranged Paradise (mo sheng tian tang), 1997-2002 (digital still); 35mm digital film transferred to DVD; black and white, sound; 76 min; courtesy of the artist, Marian Goodman Gallery, Paris/New York, and ShanghART Gallery, Shanghai

BAM/PFA’s film series Yang Fudong’s Cinematic Influences (August 22-October 6, 2013), co-curated by the artist, features two of his own films and films that have influenced him.

Thursday, August 22, 2013
7:00 PM An Estranged Paradise
Yang Fudong (China, 2002). Yang Fudong and Philippe Pirotte in conversation. Yang Fudong’s first film is a poignant psychological drama shot in lustrous black and white. (74 mins)

Thursday, September 5, 2013
7:00 PM  Sacrificed Youth
Zhang Nuanxin (China, 1985). (Qingchunji). A young Beijing woman is “sent down” to live among the Dai minority of Yunnan Province during the Cultural Revolution in this key work from one of China’s few Fifth Generation female filmmakers. With Yang Fudong’s 2011 short, The Nightman Cometh. (90 mins)

Saturday, September 7, 2013
6:30 PM. Yellow Earth
Chen Kaige (China, 1984). (Huang Tudi). Sound, landscape, and political history are transformed into blistering poetry in the film that launched China’s Fifth Generation and introduced two major voices to world cinema, director Chen Kaige and cinematographer Zhang Yimou. (89 mins)

Saturday, September 14, 2013
6:30 PM Spring in a Small Town
Fei Mu (China, 1948). (Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun). Imported Print! With a visual panache often compared to Ophuls, Antonioni, and Welles, Fei Mu’s 1948 gem possesses a melancholy beauty all its own. Voted the Best Chinese Film of All Time in a poll of Chinese critics. (85 mins)

Sunday, September 29, 2013
5:30 PM Street Angel
Yuan Muzhi (China, 1937). (Malu Tianshi). Arguably the finest example of Shanghai’s Golden Age, Street Angel is an intoxicating blend of Chinese leftist populism, Hollywood pizzazz, song numbers, French poetic-realist doom, comedic slapstick, and city symphony. (94 mins)

Sunday, October 6, 2013
5:30 PM Suzhou River
Lou Ye (China, 2000). (Suzhou He). In this atmospheric noir thriller, which doubles as a city symphony to Shanghai’s eternal mysteries, a videographer searches for work, and for a lost love. (83 mins)

Philippe Pirotte on Yang Fudong at BAM/PFA

Details:  Berkley Art Museum (BAM) has gallery entrances at 2626 Bancroft Way and 2621 Durant Avenue (both between College and Telegraph Avenues) in Berkeley.  Hours: Wed-Sun 11 AM to 5 PM.  General Admission: $10.  Yang and Pirotte in conversation is free and so is BAM entrance.   Special exhibition viewing is Tuesday, August 20, 5 to 9 PM; conversation starts at 6 PM.

Pacific Film Archive Theatre (PFA) is located at 2575 Bancroft Way, (between College and Telegraph Avenues) in Berkeley.  The PFA box office theatre opens one hour before the showtime of the day.  Advance tickets for Yang Fudong’s Cinematic Influences (August 22-October 6, 2013)—both the series and individual screenings—are available online here.  General Admission tickets are $9.50 and are available for online purchase up to two hours before the first program of the day.  There is a $1 fee for online purchases.  Pick-up advance purchase tickets at the Will Call at the PFA Box Office before the show.  Arrive early to select a good seat.

Parking:   TELEGRAPH / CHANNING GARAGE with entrances on Durant and Channing just below Telegraph.  BAM/PFA Offers Parking Validation.  With validation, parking is half-price for up to 5 hours. 

August 19, 2013 Posted by | Berkeley Art Museum | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A chance to hear the future of opera—delightful, affordable, favorite excerpts from well-known operas—the Merola Grand Finale concert is this Saturday, August 17, 2013

The 2013 Merola Opera Program Fellows on the steps of War Memorial Opera House.  The fellows conclude their intensive summer training program with the Grand Finale Concert on August 17, 2013.  Photo:  Kristen Loken

The 2013 Merola Opera Program Fellows on the steps of War Memorial Opera House. The fellows conclude their intensive summer training program with the Grand Finale Concert on August 17, 2013. Photo: Kristen Loken

Every summer, the Merola Opera Program concludes with its delightful Grand Finale concert, featuring the current year’s Merola fellows singing excerpts from major operas on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House, the home of the San Francisco Opera (SFO).   This summer’s concert is Saturday, August 17, at 7:30 PM.   All 23 of the 2013 Merolini will sing and the entire production will be staged by George Cederquist, the 2013 Merola Apprentice Stage Director.  John DeMain, Director of the Madison Symphony and Artistic Director of the Madison Opera, will conduct the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Merolini in a program featuring beloved classics by Barber, Bernstein, Britten, Gounod, Handel, Korngold, Massenet, Monteverdi, Offenbach, Purcell, Rossini and Wagner sung in Italian, French, German, and English.  If you, or someone accompanying you, are somewhat new to opera, the 17 selections are a perfect introduction to opera—they are all classics, the excerpts are short and varied and feature gorgeous orchestral music and were chosen by the singers to showcase their unique vocal talents.   And, it goes without saying; the concert is both a launchpad and an opportunity to meet the next generation of opera luminaries, in the formative phases of their careers.  These young Merola singers will go to sing major roles in the world’s leading opera houses.

“The Merola Grand Finale is, for all of us Merolini, one of the highlights of the summer.  It’s our chance to show how much we’ve grown and how much potential we have,” said 2013 Merola Apprentice Stage Director George Cederquist. “My goal is to create a staged concert that is celebratory, beautiful and fluid. This is not the time for highly conceptual work. My aim is to help my singer-colleagues sound great, act great and look great, and I intend to do just that.”  Cederquist, was one of only 10 Americans to receive the 2011-2012 German Chancellor Fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the first Stage Director ever to win this prestigious award. Next season, he will be Resident Artist Stage Director at Pittsburgh Opera under the mentorship of General Director Christopher Hahn.

The songs to be performed (but not in the order of performance) and the singers are as follows:

Lohengrin (Wagner)
“Mein lieber Schwann”
Lohengrin: Issachah Savage (tenor)

Lohengrin (Wagner)
“Ortrud! Wo bist du?”
Elsa: Aviva Fortunata (soprano)
Ortrud: Daryl Freedman (mezzo-soprano)

Billy Budd (Britten)
“Claggart, John Claggart, beware!”
Captain Vere: Robert Watson (tenor)
Billy Budd: Alex DeSocio (baritone)
John Claggart: Thomas Richards (bass-baritone)

Manon (Massenet)
“Restons ici … Voyons, Manon … J’ai marqueé l’heure de depart”
Manon: Maria Valdes (soprano)
Des Grieux: Pene Pati (tenor)

Vanessa (Barber)
“Is it still snowing? … Must the winter come so soon? … Do not utter a word”
Erika: Rihab Chaieb (mezzo-soprano)
Vanessa: Linda Barnett (soprano)

Il ritorno d’Ulisse (Monteverdi)
“Dormo ancora?”
Ulisse: Joseph Lattanzi (baritone)

La Cenerentola (Rossini)
“Ma dunque io sono un ex? … Un segreto d’importanza”
Dandini: Efraín Solis (baritone)
Magnifico: John Arnold (bass-baritone)

Ariodante (Handel)
“Vanne pronto, Odoardo … Voli colla sua tromba”
Il Ré: Rhys Lloyd Talbot (bass-baritone)

Luisa Miller (Verdi)
“Il padre tuo … Tu punisicmi, o signore … A brani, a brani, o perfido”
Luisa: Jacqueline Piccolino (soprano)
Wurm: David Weigel (bass-baritone)

Sapho (Gounod)
“Où suis-je? … O ma lyre immortelle”
Sapho: Zanda Švēde (mezzo-soprano)

Die Freischütz (Weber)
“Nein, länger trag’ ich nicht die Qualen … Durch die Wälder, durch die Auen”
Max: Casey Finnigan (tenor)

Ascanio in Alba (Mozart)
“Dal tuo gentil sembiante”
Fauno: Alisa Jordheim (soprano)

La belle Hélène (Offenbach)
“C’est le ciel qui m’envoie”
Hélène: Kate Allen (mezzo-soprano)
Paris: Matthew Newlin (tenor)

Die tote Stadt (Korngold)
“Mein Sehnen, mein Wähnen”
Fritz: Chris Carr (baritone)

Dido and Aeneas (Purcell)
“Thy hand Belinda … When I am laid in earth”
Dido: Katie Hannigan (mezzo-soprano)

Candide (Bernstein)
“Make our garden grow”
Candide: Pene Pati (tenor)
Cunegonde: Maria Valdes (soprano)
Old Lady: Kate Allen (mezzo-soprano)
Governor: Casey Finnigan (tenor)
Maximillian: Rhys Talbot (bass-baritone)
Pangloss: David Weigel (bass-baritone)
Chorus: tutti Merolini

More about Merola:  Guided by Sheri Greenawald, San Francisco Opera Center Director and internationally acclaimed soprano, the Merola Opera Program is an independent nonprofit organization which operates in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera.  Founded in 1957 and named for San Francisco Opera’s urbane and forward-thinking founder, Gaetano Merola, the Program is recognized as one of the most prestigious operatic training programs in the world. The Merola Opera Program typically receives more than 800 applications for approximately 30 positions. Throughout the summer, the Merola artists participate in master classes and private coachings with opera luminaries and give several public performances.  Participants—who include singers, apprentice coaches and an apprentice stage director—also receive training in operatic repertory, foreign languages, diction, acting and stage movement.  The Merola Opera Program fully underwrites each participant’s travel, housing, coaching and educational expenses, as well as all production costs associated with the summer schedule and a weekly stipend for each participant. Program alumni include Joyce di Donato, Sylvia McNair, Patricia Racette, Ruth Ann Swenson, Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt, Anna Netrebko,Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Brian Asawa, Jess Thomas, Thomas Hampson, Rolando Villazón, and Patrick Summers.

Details:  The Merola Grand Finale is Saturday, August 17, at 7:30 p.m. at War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco (across from City Hall).  One of the last Beaux-Arts structures built in the United States, the Opera House seats 3,146, with 200 standing room places. Tickets:  $25 to $45. Purchase online here (all Merola events are listed under “Other Productions”) or in person at the San Francisco Opera Box Office in the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Tickets may also be ordered by calling 415-864-3330.   There is a special student ticket rate of $15, but these tickets can only be purchased in person at the Box Office with proper identification. There will also be a reception beginning at 10 p.m. downstairs in the Opera House Café. Each ticket for the reception is an additional $50.

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 a 20 to 30 minute back-up on Highway 101 South from Petaluma through Novato due to wine country traffic and road work related to highway expansion. Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends. Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to War Memorial Opera House— 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)

August 15, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival brings its top 15 films to Marin’s Smith Rafael Film Center—Saturday, August 10 through Monday, August 12, 2013

Brigitte Hobmeier, Hans-Jochen Wagner, and Christian Friedel form a romantic triangle in Franziska Schlotterer’s wartime drama, “Closed Season,”  which screens at the 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.  Sumptuous cinematography captures passion, desire and jealousy waiting to explode as one man (a German peasant farmer) asks another (a cultivated young Jew he is hiding) to sleep with his wife and help her conceive a child.  Foto: Farbfilm

Brigitte Hobmeier, Hans-Jochen Wagner, and Christian Friedel form a romantic triangle in Franziska Schlotterer’s wartime drama, “Closed Season,” which screens Monday, August 12th, at the 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. Sumptuous cinematography captures passion, desire and jealousy waiting to explode as one man (a German peasant farmer) asks another (a cultivated young Jew he is hiding) to sleep with his wife and help her conceive a child. Foto: Farbfilm

The 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival (SFJFF) wraps 20 days of programming this weekend in San Rafael at the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, screening 15 of the festival’s top films over three days.  Five films will screen on Saturday, starting at noon; six films (four full length and two shorts)  will screen on Sunday, starting at noon and five films (four feature and 1 short) will screen on Monday, starting at 4:30 PM.  The festival, which opened on July 25, 2013 and runs across seven Bay Area venues, is enjoyed by film aficionados far and wide for its great cinema and its expansive and refreshing view of contemporary Jewish culture.   This year’s theme is “LIFE THROUGH A JEW(ISH) LENS” and the festival has offered 74 films from 26 countries, with a wide spectrum of stimulating discussions, international guests, awards, and wonderful parties. The Marin segment takes place in one of the Bay Area’s most sophisticated theatres, the Smith Rafael Film Center, and is a no-brainer for those living South of the Golden.  For full festival programming, visit www.sfjff.org.

ARThound’s top picks:

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

Dancing in Jaffa  How do you get Jewish and Palestinian children to put aside their differences and actually work together?  Ballroom dancing!  World champion ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine, was born in Jaffa in 1944, when it was still part of Palestine, and he returns there after 30 years to teach grade-school children ballroom dance in a society ridden with racial animosity.   Dulaine’s Dancing Classrooms program, immortalized in the 2006 fictional film Take the Lead, with Antonio Bandaeras as Dulaine, teaches poise, grace, respect, social awareness, and tolerance —all highly important life skills— through dance.  Director Hilla Medalia captures Dulaine as he introduces his Dancing Classrooms program to three ethnically mixed Jaffa-based schools and selects the most focused dancers to prepare for a citywide competition, pairing Jews with Palestinians and forcing the kids and their families to confront their beliefs and prejudices head-on.  In the dancing itself, we witness real progress and in the dance of life, great strides.  Suave Dulaine navigates all the tantrums and drama that unfolds and then dishes out some of his own, which is pure joy.  West Coast Premiere.  Screens noon (12 PM) Sat, August 10, 2013.  (Dir: Hilla Medalia, Israel, 2013)

SUNDAY, AUGUST 11

First Cousin Once Removed (2 PM, runs 78 min) Award-winning filmmaker, Alan Berliner, recipient of the festival’s Freedom of Expression Award (previous winners—Elliott Gould, Kirk Douglas) this year, is known for creating original, personal and highly inventive documentaries.  In this case he’s created a poignant end of life portrait of the gifted poet/translator Edwin Honig, his mother’s cousin, capturing his struggle with Alzheimer’s during the last five years of his life.  In life he soared— the Brown University professor was the recipient of the Guggenheim Fellowship, a revered translator of foreign poetry, and was knighted by both Spain and Portugal.  As a family man, he had his failings.  Berliner’s goal in this disquieting film is not to be sentimental or overtly tragic, rather to show what the loss of memory has done to this life and the lives of those around Honig.  Memory is the glue that binds our identity together.  While Honig occasionally responds with a breakthrough—some comments that borders on the profound, some beautiful lines of poetry—the once knowing glint in his eye has been replaced by a dull blank stare and he can’t track thoughts or remember much of anything. Edwin Honig has basically exited.  If you saw Michael Haneke’s Amour (2012), or Phyllida Lloyd’s bio-pic The Iron Lady (2012) with Meryle Streep depicting Thatcher as a frail old woman blighted by Alzheimer’s, or Richard Hare’s biopic Iris (2001) about novelist-philosopher Iris Murdoch and her experiences with Alzheimer’s, this film is in that vein but is smattered with real archival footage of a man of literary stature.   It goes without saying that it is also a profound wake-up call to all of us who are aging.  (Dir: Alan Berliner, U.S., 78 min)  Screens 2 PM, Sunday, August 11, 2013. 

Devastating, engaging and philosophical, Alan Berliner’s documentary “First Cousin Once Removed” explores his cousin’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease during the last five years of his life.

Devastating, engaging and philosophical, Alan Berliner’s documentary “First Cousin Once Removed” explores his cousin’s struggle with Alzheimer’s Disease during the last five years of his life.

MONDAY, AUGUST 12

The Art of Spiegelman with 21 min short Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists (70 min total) Art Spiegelman is the talented artist behind Maus, the 1991 graphic novel about the Holocaust as filtered through a contentious father-son relationship. The work, in the form of comics, attracted unprecedented critical attention including an exhibition at New York’s MoMA and a special Pulitzer Prize in 1992 and really helped bring underground comics to mainstream attention.   This intimate documentary portrait of Spiegelman, who is not as decipherable as his work, follows him at work and at home where he interacts with his daughter and his French wife, Francoise Mouly, art editor of The New Yorker. (Dir: Clara Kuperberg, Joëlle Oosterlinck, France, 2010, 44 min)  

The film finds its perfect companion in Rachel Loube’s 21 minute documentary, Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists, which takes viewers behind-the-scenes and into The New Yorker magazine’s submission process for its cartoons.  Loube studied sociology at Brandeis University and what a brilliant cross-section she delivers—like the characters and situations they so skillfully depict and put captions to; these talented creators have their own issues too, which become apparent as they confront a continual cycle of acceptance and rejection. (Dir: Rachel Loube, U.S., 2012)   Screens 4:40 PM, Monday August 12, 2013

Closed Season (Ende der Schonzeit)   On a secluded farm in the Black Forest during WWII, a German couple Fritz (Hans-Jochen Wagner) and Emma (Brigitte Hobmeier) take a huge risk and allow a young Jew named Albert (Christian Friedel) to hide out and work on their farm despite their own anti-Semitism and Nazi patrolmen within their own community.  The psychological drama intensifies as the impotent farmer Frtiz (Hans-Jochen Wagner) asks the cultured Albert to help his wife Emma (Brigitte Hobmeier), conceive a child.  Wrought with eroticism and unexpected plot twists, this spellbinder is bookended by poignant scenes set in 1970s Israel starring Rami Heuberger (Dear Mr. Waldman, JF2007). Official Selection Berlin Film Festival and Winner Best Actress and Best Ecumenical Jury Prize, Montreal World Film Festival. (Dir: Franziska Schlotterer, Germany, Israel, 2012) Screens 8:20 PM, Monday, August 12, 2013 and runs 104 min. 

Barbara Sukowa is mesmerizing as Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist, in Margarethe von Trotta’s “Hannah Arendt.”  The much talked about bio-pic had its Bay Area premiere to a sold-out audience at the 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and is currently screening at the Smith Rafael Film Center.

Barbara Sukowa is mesmerizing as Hannah Arendt, the German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist, in Margarethe von Trotta’s “Hannah Arendt.” The much talked about bio-pic had its Bay Area premiere to a sold-out audience at the 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and is currently screening at the Smith Rafael Film Center.

Hannah Arendt (runs 109 min) This trending bio-pic may be German director Margarethe von Trotta’s most engrossing drama. It sold out almost immediately when the festival hosted its Northern CA premiere at the Castro Theatre on July 28, 2013.  It’s a beautifully-conceived take on the life, career and loves of German-Jewish philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt that introduces us to her controversial role in history and to her as a woman.  Already a successful writer, The New Yorker magazine sent Arendt, then a teaching scholar, to Jerusalem in 1961 to witness and write about the trial of Adolph Eichmann, one of the architects of the Nazis’ genocidal “final solution.”  Transfixed and stirred, Arendt began to formulate her now famous concept, “the banality of evil,” that essentially excused Eichmann’s guilt and opened up a flood of controversy that changed her life forever. Using black-and-white footage from the actual Eichmann trials and weaving a narrative that spans three countries, this stunning film literally and quite effectively takes us back in time to talk through the events as she must have experienced them.  Arendt’s relationship with her mentor and lover, the philosopher Martin Heidegger, who sympathized with the Nazi’s, is an interesting but under-explored part of the film.   Sukowa is nothing short of brilliant as razor-sharp and implacable Arendt.  Of late, the times have been far and few between when we’ve seen a vital, confident, independent-thinking middle-aged female actor take on such responsibility in film–the burden of examining and explaining humanity’s unthinkable act—the Holocaust.  And questions naturally emerge about gender.  We are left to wonder if a male had done the same reportage and come to the same conclusion, would there have been such a backlash against him?  Would he have been accused of being so unfeeling?   We are also left to wonder if she ever softened her position after the articles and the book.  Among the leading characters are philosopher Martin Heidegger, New Yorker editor William Shawn, and author Mary McCarthy, a close friend and confidant (played by twice Oscar nominated Janet McTeer). (Dir: Margarethe von Trotta, Germany, 2012) (The film has already screened at SFJFF (accommodating a San Francisco audience) but is now playing at the Smith Rafael as part of their non-festival line-up.  It screens on Saturday and Sunday at 1:45 PM, 6:30 PM, 9 PM and on Monday at 6:30 PM and 9 PM.)

FULL SFJFF SAN RAFAEL SCHEDULE: 

SATURDAY, AUGUST 10

Dancing in Jaffa  West Coast Premiere.  (Noon) (Dir: Hilla Medalia, Israel, 2013) See review above.

American Commune  (2 PM, runs 90 min) (dir: Nadine Mundo, Rena Mundo Croshere, U.S., 2013) This portrait of an unusual community and its legacy focuses on the Farm, led by hippie holy man Stephen Gaskin and his wife Ina May, godmother of the modern midwifery movement. Directors: Nadine Mundo, Rena Mundo Croshere. 90 min.

Arab Labor: Season 4  (4:05 PM, runs 80 min) (Dir Shai Capon, Israel, 2013) They’re back! The Alian family returns, in an all-new season of the hilarious hit series Arab Labor. Writer/creator Sayed Kashua (SFJFF Freedom of Expression Award 2010) puts issues front and center in all their intricacy, finding humor in the most unlikely places. 80 min.

The Trials of Muhammad Ali (6 PM, runs 92min)  Muhammad Ali is not Jewish, but certain films, when placed in a Jewish context, inspire truly Jewish conversation. In the early 1960s, Ali threw off what he called his “slave name,” Cassius Clay, joined the ranks of the Nation of Islam and refused to serve in the Vietnam War. Director: Bill Siegel. 92 min.

Rue Mandar (8:10 PM, runs 95 min) (Dir. Idit Cebula, France, 2012) This charmingly poignant French film, set in a predominantly Sephardic Jewish community, reminds us that the messy, sometimes humorous and often bittersweet business of death can lead to new beginnings. With Emmanuelle Devos.

SUNDAY, AUGUST 11

The Last White Knight with 5 min short The Basketball Game  (noon, runs 90 min total) (Paul Saltzman, Canada, 2012) West Coast Premiere (Dir Hal Snider. Canada, 2012)  Filmmaker Paul Saltzman returns to Greenwood, Mississippi, where as a Civil Rights activist he was beaten in 1965, and initiates a remarkable meeting with the man who attacked him, who is also the son of the man who murdered Medgar Evers. (With Morgan Freeman, Harry Belafonte.)   In The Basketball Game, a wonderfully vivid 5 minute animation, director Hart Snider revisits his first time at Jewish summer camp where a cultural mixer with a group of Gentiles raised with anti-Semitic attitudes turns into a basketball game of epic proportions. A poignant tale of tolerance mixed with humor in the face of stereotypes

First Cousin Once Removed  (2 PM, runs 78 min) (Dir: Alan Berliner, U.S., 78 min)  See review above.

Life According to Sam  (3:55 PM, runs 93 min)  (Dir: Andrea Nix Fine, Sean Fine, U.S., 2013)  Academy Award winning directors Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine have created an emotionally uplifting chronicle of determination and optimism in the face of terrible odds, with this portrait of Sam Berns, a 13-year-old with progeria, an extremely rare age-accelerating disease. 93 min.

The Strange Case of Wilhelm Reich (6 PM, runs 111 min) (Dir: Antonin Swoboda, Austria, 2012) Klaus Maria Brandauer stars as the controversial Jewish psychoanalyst and experimental scientist Wilhelm Reich in his later years in Cold War America. Austrian filmmaker Antonin Svoboda probes the life of a visionary who could never have imagined the power his ideas would continue to have. 111 min

We Are Not Alone  (8:15 PM, runs 90 min) (Dir: Lior Har-Lev, Israel, 2011)  What would you do if the world was ending in a week, and the most fascinating person to ever come into your life does so at that moment? Eddy (Ohad Knoller) must choose between his dream of living another life or taking a chance on someone in this one.

MONDAY, AUGUST 12

The Art of Spiegelman  (4:30 PM) with 21 min short Every Tuesday: A Portrait of the New Yorker Cartoonists (70 min total) See review above.

The Zigzag Kid  (6:10 PM, runs 95 min) (Dir: Vincent Bal, Belgium, Netherlands, 2012)
Featuring Isabella Rossellini, director Vincent Bal’s fast-paced, superbly written feature, based on the popular novel by David Grossman, is a delightful mixture of genres: detective story and coming-of-age tale, with a dose of romance.

Closed Season (Ende der Schonzeit) (8:20 PM, runs 104 min) (Dir: Franziska Schlotterer, Germany, Israel, 2012)  See review above.

The 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival at Smith-Rafael Film Center: Saturday, August 10 through Monday August 12, 2013.  The Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center is located at 1118 Fourth Street, San Rafael.  Tickets: no need for pre-purchase, there are ample tickets for all screenings.  There will be a festival box office at the theatre which opens one hour before the first scheduled screening of the day—11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday and 3:30 PM on Monday.  Tickets are $12 general public; $10 Jewish Film Forum (JFF) members and $11 seniors (65+) and students with ID.  10-FLIX vouchers for 10 screenings are $100 General Public and $90 JFF members.  Tickets for all festival screenings at the Smith Rafael Film Center can be purchased with cash or credit card.  Pre-purchase online w/ service charge at www.sfjff.org.

The 33rd San Francisco Jewish Film Festival —July 25 to August 12, 2013 in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Piedmont, Palo Alto and San Rafael. Venues: Castro Theatre, Jewish Community Center (JCCSF), Rayko Photo Center in San Francisco; Landmark’s California Theatre in Berkeley; CinéArts in Palo Alto; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael; Oakland Art Murmur’s New Parkway TheatreGrand Lake Theatre, and Landmark’s Piedmont Theatre in Oakland. Tickets and complete programming information: www.sfjff.org or (415) 621-0523

August 8, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment