ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

In Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna,” it’s the women who astound—through January 12, 2014, under the Grand Chapiteau, AT&T Park, through January 12, 2014

“Amaluna’s” most evocative performance comes from the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) who  builds a 45 pound Calder-like mobile from thirteen huge palm leaf ribs that are held in balance by the weight of a feather.  Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

“Amaluna’s” most evocative performance comes from the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) who builds a 45 pound Calder-like mobile from thirteen huge palm leaf ribs that are held in balance by the weight of a feather. Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

Dazzling, daring, elegant— Cirque du Soleil’s newest touring show, Amaluna, is a celebration of female power that invites the audience to a mysterious island governed by muscle-toned Goddesses and guided by the cycles of the moon.  Amaluna opened last Friday under the Grand Chapiteau at San Francisco’s AT&T Park where it runs through January 12 and then moves on to San Jose on January 22.  If you’re looking for some excitement to stave off the daylight savings/winter time blues, Amaluna is well worth crossing the bridge for.  It features an enthralling combination of art and agility-testing acrobatics that involve legs and arms and whole bodies being supported in unnatural positions by nothing more than a long rung of twisted rope, a thin bar or a fellow human as a pedestal—all beautifully lit and staged.

The poetic title expresses it all, a fusion of the words for “mother” and “moon.”  And while it’s heavy on the XX chromosome, Amaluna is at its core a love story about all forms of love— between family, lovers and friends.

Loosely based on “The Tempest,” Wagner’s “Ring Cycle,” and ancient Greek mythology, Amaluna is directed by Diane Paulus, the talk of the town.  She’s a leading Broadway producer and the artistic director of Harvard University’s American Repertory Theatre, who recently netted a Tony Award for her Broadway revival of “Pippin” and whose Porgy and Bess, which opened at SHN’s Golden Gate Theatre a few days ago, is getting rave reviews.

Amaluna transforms Shakespeare’s wizard Prospero into Shamanic Queen Prospera (Julie McInnes) whose daughter, Miranda, on the brink of womanhood, is her utmost priority.  For kicks though, satin-clad Prospera plays her midnight blue Cello like a rocker from Heart.  You’d never believe that energetic McInnes, a 14-year Cirque veteran, is 52 and played in the orchestra pit in O and Ka, as she owns this stage.

Having been brought up on a remote island where female Goddesses and Amazons use their powers freely, daughter Miranda (contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova) dreams big dreams.  Early in the show, she slowly twists and balances herself impossibly on one arm on a pole on a platform atop a hot tub sized glass water bowl, wearing a bikini that miraculously manages to stay put as she moves through a series of poses that will leave yoga practitioners transfixed.  The tub, alight in green and blue, is just one of Scott Peck’s visually hypnotic sets in this dream-like performance.

Contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova is Miranda is Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna.”  After taking a playful swim in a glorious onstage glass waterbowl, she emerges dripping wet in a bikini to balance along the edge of the bowl and bends herself like pretzel into all sorts of shapes.  Talk about abs!   Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

Contortionist Iuliia Mykhailova is Miranda is Cirque du Soleil’s “Amaluna.” After taking a playful swim in a glorious onstage glass water bowl, she emerges dripping wet in a bikini to balance along the edge of the bowl and bends herself like pretzel into all sorts of shapes. Talk about abs! Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

When Prospera conjures a fierce sea storm that summons men to their island so that her daughter can come of age, Miranda is smitten with buff Romeo (Evgeny Kurkin).  Romeo sports his strength in an astounding Chinese pole climbing act where he supports himself horizontally in mid-air, making it look effortless, and then releases his grip sliding head down towards the floor only to brake himself inches before impending crash by gripping his legs and stopping cold as if someone had flipped a huge off switch.

But Cali (Victor Kee), after Caliban in The Tempest—Miranda’s friend and confidant before Romeo appeared—is determined to prevent Romeo from winning her.  Half-lizard, half human, Cali sports a huge and creepy alligator tail, dreamed up by costume wizard Mérédith Caron who intentionally labored to give each of her elaborate costumes an emotional resonance as well.  As Cali slithers, preens and twists this phallic tail in every which direction, even juggling balls off of it; we are thoroughly repulsed.

Alas, the path to true love is not an easy one and the couple faces many obstacles along the way which characters, like a trio of dazzling aerial Valkyrie warriors, help subdue.  Cirque performances are known for being more about performance art and less about story.  This is also true of Amaluna, which is being billed as more story-oriented but the actual story arc is pretty hard to follow amidst the spectacle of bodies in motion, gorgeous sets and bold music.  No worries!  It’s all so engrossing that it encourages your mind to create its own internal stories while watching.

The show-stopper was a quiet and meditative moment when Prospera brings Romeo and Miranda to witness the Balance Goddess (Lara Jacobs) ritualistically create a world in equilibrium.  Accompanied by nothing but the sound of her own breath and the beating hearts of the audience, she builds a huge Calder-like mobile from thirteen palm leaf ribs that are all held in balance by the weight of a feather.  Jacobs’ movements are slow, deliberate and almost meditative as she concentrates all her attention on creating this breathtaking 45 pound sculpture before our eyes.  The audience was so enthralled, you could have heard a pin drop…but that’s what great art does, its touches our soul and takes our breath away.  As she removes the smallest piece, everything disintegrates and the young couple’s trials begin.

In “Amaluna’s” daring Teeterboard act, young men launch themselves high into the air, twisting and turning in a playful high-speed attempt to escape from their prison. They pull off several seemingly impossible feats, like landing in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms.  Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

In “Amaluna’s” daring Teeterboard act, young men launch themselves high into the air, twisting and turning in a playful high-speed attempt to escape from their prison. They pull off several seemingly impossible feats, like landing in a handstand on another performer’s upturned palms. Costume credit: Mérédith Caron; Photo: Laurence Labat, Cirque de Soleil

Not all of the show is so enthralling.  I could have done without the clowns, especially a ridiculous scene where two clowns fall in love and deliver clown babies on stage which then roll all over the place, even off the stage. Ouch!  Overall though, Amaluna delivers two and a half hours of pure escapism.  Once inside the big top, one’s world changes immediately as the outside world and its worries fade.  The energetic and uplifting vibe starts in the bustling lobby where you are offered peacock feathers and all sorts of treats (which you pay for, except on opening night).  I was delighted with “Tempest,” a delicious special limited edition ice cream flavor developed by Humphry Slocombe and Cirque—crème fraîche-blueberry swirl—which will also be available in-store at Humphry Slocombe (2790 Harrison Street, San Francisco) beginning November 13, 2013 (while supplies last).  The huge main tent has comfortable seating that affords a great view from almost everywhere.  Of course, the sheer physicality of the performance is best enjoyed from as close as possible but no matter where you are, you’ll be dazzled.

Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, one intermission

Details: Through January 12, 2014 under the Cirque du Soleil Big Top, AT&T Park, San Francisco; January 22-March 2, 2014 under the Big Top at the Taylor Street Bridge, San Jose.  Tickets: $45-$270. Info: 800-450-1480, www.cirquedusoleil.com

Advertisements

November 22, 2013 Posted by | Dance, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Two kings of Americana—Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt—perform Monday, November 18, at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall…sold out

Lyle Lovett (L) and John Hiatt (R) perform Monday, November 18, at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall.  Not just for classical music, Weill Hall, with its stellar acoustics, has already hosted Herbie Hancock, Silk Road Ensemble, John Batiste and Stay Human, and Mariza.   Photo: Green Music Center

Lyle Lovett (L) and John Hiatt (R) perform Monday, November 18, at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall. Not just for classical music, Weill Hall, with its stellar acoustics, has already hosted Herbie Hancock, Silk Road Ensemble, John Batiste and Stay Human, and Mariza. Photo: Green Music Center

He grew up in Texas, studied journalism and German at Texas A&M, was married briefly to Julia Roberts, loves the sport of reining and is known for his wild locks and wily sense of humor.  Over the span of his 30 years as a singer-songwriter, Lyle Lovett has recorded 14 albums, released 22 singles and won four Grammy Awards.  While he’s best known for his contribution to country music, Lovett is also at home with blues, jazz, swing, folk, and rock and is admired for his authenticity and audience engaging performances. Bonnie Raitt, with whom he made his first big tour, following her bus in his pickup, said that when he looks her in the eye, “her knees buckle.” Singer and songwriter, John Hiatt, a native of Indianapolis, is also no stranger to country influences and his music also mixes in folk, blues and rock.  Hiatt has released 19 studio albums and has had 11 Grammy nominations.  His songs have been recorded by countless musicians from Bob Dylan to Bonnie Raitt, and Iggy Pop to Keith Urban.

An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt, at Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, on Monday, November 18, 2013, brings their nationwide tour to our doorstep, showcasing these two remarkably gifted singer-songwriters who have performed together periodically over the past 15 years.

Weill Hall….More than Classical— Green Music Center’s Weill Hall, which opened in September 2012, is one of the world’s most acoustically superb concert venues.  The hall’s variable acoustics, engineered by Larry Kirkegaard, are achieved through the use of motorized fabric banners on the east and west walls. By adjusting these banners, the hall can be fine-tuned for the specific genre of music being performed—from a single vocalist to a full orchestra setting.  This season, performances have ranged from the electric jazz of Herbie Hancock to the soulful fado of Mariza to the eastern influenced riffs of the Silk Road Ensemble.   Weill Hall lobby opens one hour prior to performances and has well-stocked refreshment bar and the concert hall opens 30 minutes prior to performances.  Prelude Restaurant is open before the concert and after the performance.

Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt – Natural Forces

“Have A Little Faith in Me”… John Hiatt straight through his heart

Lyle Lovett with John Hiatt “Nobody Knows Me”

The performance will last roughly 2 hours.

Details: An Acoustic Evening with Lyle Lovett & John Hiatt is 8:00 p.m., Monday, November 18, 2013, at Weill Hall, Green Music Center.  GMC/Weill Hall is located on the Sonoma State University campus, 1801 East Cotati Blvd., Rohnert Park.  Parking:  Parking is included in the ticket price.  Park only in the Green Music Center lots (directly in front of the concert hall, or you may be ticketed.

Tickets:  The concert is sold-out.  A small number of tickets are expected to be available on Monday throughout the day on a first come first serve basis due to patrons donating or exchanging tickets.   Tickets may also be available right before the concert.  Ticket purchases for this concert are best made by phone through the Sonoma State University Box Office at 866.955.6040 or in person at the GMC Box Office, adjacent to the courtyard of Weill Hall, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and one hour before all performances.

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Green Music Center | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Benvenuto Novembre! New Italian Cinema starts Wednesday, November 13, with a line-up of 14 new films and a spotlight on Neapolitan cinema, through Sunday, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre

Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” (La grande bellezza, Italy/France 2013) is the Closing Night film at New Italian Cinema, November 13 – 17, 2013.  Sorrentino, one of Italy’s most influential film director’s, will attend.  Set in Rome, the film has been described as a Technicolor “La Dolce Vita” for the Berlusconi era, allegorically asking what has happened in Italy?  Image: San Francisco Film Society

Paolo Sorrentino’s “The Great Beauty” (La grande bellezza, Italy/France 2013) is the Closing Night film at New Italian Cinema, November 13 – 17, 2013. Sorrentino, one of Italy’s most influential film director’s, will attend. Set in Rome, the film has been described as a Technicolor “La Dolce Vita” for the Berlusconi era, allegorically asking what has happened in Italy? Image: San Francisco Film Society

Celebrating its 17th year, New Italian Cinema (NIC) is the much-loved annual festival of newly-released Italian films which comes to San Francisco every November.  NIC opens tomorrow, November 13, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre with Garibaldi’s Lovers, the latest film from Silvio Soldini (Days and Clouds, 2007), and will feature a Closing Night tribute to Paolo Sorrentino (This Must Be the Place, 2011) that includes a screening of his new film The Great Beauty.   NIC 2013 will screen a total of 14 new films, including a three-film spotlight of recent Neapolitan cinema and eight terrific features by up-and-coming directors entered in the City of Florence Award competition.  Decided by audience ballot, this annual award is announced at Closing Night on Sunday, November 17.  There is also a fabulous Closing Night Party at 1300 On Fillmore, known for Chef David Lawrence’s inspired soul food and its smooth jazz.  The program eases into weekend by offering two films on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday evenings starting and four films on both Saturday and Sunday.

NIC provides the opportunity not only to see these films before they are widely available (and some will always be difficult to find outside Italy) but also to experience them presented by directors, actors, producers and other involved parties, and to participate in lively Q&A’s about the films. Attending this year: Silvio Soldini, director, Garibaldi’s Lovers (Opening Night film); Paolo Sorrentino, director, The Great Beauty (Closing Night film); Stefano Mordini, director, Steel; and actor Luigi Maria Burruano who appears in The Ideal City.   Thematically, this year’s NIC delves into issues of economic instability, cultural and familial conflict and metropolitan living.

NIC is organized by the San Francisco Film Society, in collaboration with New Italian Cinema Events (nicefestival.org) and Italian Cultural Institute, San Francisco, under the auspices of the Consulate General of Italy. NIC is one of more than 200 participating events taking place in more than 50 American cities this year in recognition of 2013 The Year of Italian Culture in the United States.

The charming venue, Clay Theatre, situated on the busting Fillmore Street, was built in 1910 and is one of the oldest theatres in San Francisco (refurbished with comfortable new seats).

ARThound recommends:

Thursday 6:45 pm: There Will Come a Day (Un giorno devi andare) (Georgio Diritti, Italy/France 2013)

Having suffered the double whammy of losing her baby and then being abandoned by her husband for her inability to have children, soulful Augusta (Jasmine Trinca) flees Italy for the Brazilian Amazon to restore some meaning to her life.  There, hoping to do aid work, she joins up with Franca, a hard-line Catholic whose conversion tactics clash with her own spiritual values.  As the two women float down the river in a houseboat ministering to indigenous peoples, Augusta grows increasingly frustrated and leaves.  She ultimately ends up in the favelas in the port city of Manaus doing work that seems authentic and right for her.  Depicting Augusta’s journey with compassion and complexity and an often astonishing visual magnificence, director Giorgio Diritti’s second feature film is a work of great beauty about finding one’s place in this world, something all of us grapple with.  Diritti (The Man Who Will Come, SFIFF 2010) also address important issues like the surge in World Evangelism, the displacement of poor Brazilians (in preparation for the World Cup and Olympics), the Amazon’s fragile ecology, and the widening disparity between rich and poor.  Augusta’s story is delicately interwoven with that of her mother and new adoptive sister whose set-backs and own emotional wounding make for a compelling story of suffering, growth, and spiritual healing.  Features aerial shots of the grandeur of the Amazon.  110 minutes.

 

Sunday 6:00 pm Closing Night Film: The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France 2013)

(Sunday 6:00 pm Closing Night Film) The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza, Paolo Sorrentino, Italy/France 2013)  In Italian, “grande bellezza,” like “grande tristezza,” can relate to love, sex, art, or death.  In Paolo Sorrentino’s swooning epic, it refers to Rome, and Sorrentino evokes the eternal city with exacting panache, melancholy, and knowing.  It’s also been hailed as a very timely reflection on the excesses and stagnation of Italy in the era of prime minister Berlusconi.  The film premiered at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it was a contender for the Palme d’Or and has been selected as the Italian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards.  It reunites Sorrentino with his favorite leading man, Toni Servillo, Italy’s leading stage and screen actor, who has starred in three of his previous films— films One Man Up (2001), The Consequences of Love (2004), and Il Divo (2008).  Servillo plays aging Roman playboy Jep Gambardella, a man who wrote one promising novel in his youth and, since then, has lived on its fumes.  A cultivated gentleman by day; at night, Jep chases away death and introspection by hosting wild parties to the stylish elite at night.  Following his 65th birthday and a shocking news about a long lost love, Jep looks beyond his shallow and amusing world to find a timeless Roman landscape of absurd, exquisite beauty—a classic in the high Italian style of Fellini’s La Dolce Vita and Antonioni’s La Notte.  (142 mins.)

New Italian Cinema 2013 line up:

WEDNESDAY/NOVEMBER 13
6:15pm Opening Night Film: Garibaldi’s Lovers (Silvio Soldini, 2012) filmmaker attending*
9:00pm Napoli 24 (Multiple Directors, 2010) Neapolitan Retrospective*

THURSDAY/NOVEMBER 14
6:30pm Balancing Act (Ivano De Matteo, 2012)
6:45pm There Will Come a Day (Georgio Diritti, 2013)

FRIDAY/NOVEMBER 15
6:30pm Steel (Stefano Mordini, 2012)  filmmaker attending*
9:00pm Cosimo and Nicole (Francesco Amato, 2013)

SATURDAY/NOVEMBER 16
12:15pm We Believed (Mario Martone, 2010)  Neapolitan Retrospective*
4:15pm Ali Blue Eyes (Claudio Giovannesi, 2012)
6:30pm Out of the Blue (Edorado Leo, 2013)
9:00pm The Interval (Leonardo di Costanzo, 2012)

SUNDAY/NOVEMBER 17
1:00pm Gorbaciof (Stefano Incerti, 2010)  Neapolitan Retrospective*
3:00pm The Ideal City (Luigi Lo Cascio, 2012)  Luigi Maria Burruano, actor, attending*
6:00pm Closing Night Film: The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013) filmmaker attending*
9:15pm Closing Night Reception at 1300 on Fillmore
9:30pm One Man Up (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

Details: New Italian Cinema is November 13-17, 2013 at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco. (Please click here for a map of the location.) Film tickets $12 for SFFS members, $14 general, $13 seniors, students and persons with disabilities, $10 children (12 and under); Closing Night film and party tickets $20 for SFFS members, $25 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $110 for SFFS members, $130 general.  Purchase tickets online here.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: “Pianist of Willesden Lane”—a daughter strikes a deep chord in her mother’s musical story of survival, at Berkeley Repertory Theatre through January 5, 2014

In “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” acclaimed pianist and storyteller Mona Golabek performs some of the world’s most beloved piano music while chronicling her mother’s escape from the Holocaust. At Berkeley Repertory Theatre through January 5, 2014.  Photo courtesy of mellopix.com

In “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” acclaimed pianist and storyteller Mona Golabek performs some of the world’s most beloved piano music while chronicling her mother’s escape from the Holocaust. At Berkeley Repertory Theatre through January 5, 2014. Photo courtesy of mellopix.com

In The Pianist of Willesden Lane, piano virtuoso and author Mona Golabek channels the very spirit of her mother, Austrian pianist Lisa Jura, in the musical telling of Jura’s Holocaust survival story.  This heart piercing solo show of music and words, which opened last Wednesday (Oct 30) at Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is a deeply moving triumph.

Produced and adapted by Hershey Felder, who just a few months ago brought and performed the solo show, George Gershwin Alone, to Berkeley Rep’s Thrust Stage, The Pianist of Willesden Lane is based on the acclaimed best-selling book, The Children of Willesden Lane (Grand Central Publishing, 2002) by Mona Golabek & Lee Cohn.  The story is one of separation, sacrifice, and the power of music and family to elevate the spirit in the darkest of times.  Golabek performs some of the world’s most beloved piano music in this searing tribute to her remarkable mother.

Golabek’s mother, Lisa Jura, was just 14 in March 1938 when German troops entered Vienna and interrupted her life in this cultural capital where Jews congregated.  The changes were confusing and unpleasant—Lisa, a piano prodigy, could no longer take piano lessons from her beloved teacher who was discouraged from interaction with Jews.  Her dream of a debut at the fabled Musikverein concert hall was shattered.  The situation escalated on Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass, November 9-10, 1938), when her father—a tailor—suffered a humiliating brush with death that led to the decision to flee Austria.

The family was only able to secure a single ticket on the highly-demanded Kindertransport train which rescued children threatened by the Nazis and took them to England.  It was decided that Lisa, the middle child, should go, as she stood the best chance of thriving as a classical pianist.

Bolstering Lisa throughout the ordeal were the last words her mother spoke to her—“Hold onto your music.  It will be your best friend in life.” These words were uttered at the Vienna train station in November 1938 as Lisa joined hundreds of crying children in saying their good-byes forever to their parents.  Many times, in those darkest of days, when disappointments, fear or pain were about to overwhelm her, Lisa recalled these words.

Jura was one of 10,000 refugee children brought to England before World War II as part of the Kindertransport mission.  As soft-spoken Golabek recounts her mother’s story, we are riveted. Imagine Lisa’s anxiety when the relative, who was supposed to meet her at the station in London and care for her, was unable to fulfill his promise to her family and she was abandoned.  Like many refugee children aged 14 and above, she became a domestic worker and was expected to earn her keep.  She was sent to a large country estate to work.  When she was unable to play the piano there, which she was told was for show purposes only; she left abruptly and travelled alone to London where she settled in at the titular Willesden Lane home for children. It was there that she slowly began to flourish—the piano as her anchor— and began life anew in London with the sad realization that she might never see any of her family members again.

In “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” award-winning pianist Mona Golabek plays the piano under a projected image of her parents, Lisa and Michel Golabek.  Photo courtesy of mellopix.com

In “The Pianist of Willesden Lane,” award-winning pianist Mona Golabek plays the piano under a projected image of her parents, Lisa and Michel Golabek. Photo courtesy of mellopix.com

Mainly seated at the Steinway piano, Golabek uses slight shifts in her posture at the keyboard and in phrasing to help tell the story of young Lisa’s gradual transformation into a young virtuoso.  She plays interludes from Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Bach, Gershwin, Strachey, Rachmaninoff and Grieg without sheet music and also commits considerable spoken passages in the 90 minute performance to memory.  Her calm delivery is achingly authentic.

From the performance’s earliest moments, we learn that Lisa dreams of making her own concert debut with Grieg’s “Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 16,” an exceedingly difficult and challenging piece that requires maturity, stamina and technique. The Norwegian composer was just 24 when he wrote this brilliant concerto in three movements, the only concerto he ever completed. Hershey Felder fleshes out the great storytelling moments in Lisa’s journey and loosely hangs them around the Grieg concerto and Golabek plays portions of all three movements.  The audience was clearly stirred at the very exciting moment of Lisa’s scholarship audition at the London Academy of Music where she performed from stirring Bach, Beethoven, Scriabin piano classics flawlessly.  But at the end of the evening, when Golabek played from the Grieg Third Movement, with its adventurous rhythms, tears flowed freely.

Well-executed décor and video projections greatly enhance the performance.  A gorgeous array of huge gold gilt picture frames surround the Steinway on the Thrust stage.  These antique frames serve as video portals for Felder’s well-curated of selection of personal and archival news photos, newsreel footage, and famous artworks.  Set in the glow of the midnight blue stage, with Jura’s punctuated playing, it’s a sight to behold.  Particularly riveting are portraits of family members, glorious shots of old Vienna, and the devastation of the London Blitzkrieg which destroyed Lisa’s place of asylum in London, the home for young refugees at 243 Willesden Lane.

The impact of this inspiring performance comes in waves…. What strength it must take for Golabek to channel her mother on a daily basis, knowing full well that she is here and only able to do what she does because of her grandparents’ sacrifice that allowed for her mother to pursue her dream.

Based on the book The Children of Willesden Lane (Grand Central Publishing, 2002) by Mona Golabek and Lee Cohen.  Starring Mona Golabek as Lisa Jura

Creative team: Trevor Hay and Hershey Felder (scenic designers), Jaclyn Maduff (costume designer), Christopher Rynne (lighting designer), Erik Carstensen (sound designer), Andrew Wilder and Greg Sowizdrzal (projection designers).

Run-time is 90 minutes, with no intermission.

Post-play discussions: Thursday 11/14, Tuesday 11/19, and Friday 12/6 following the performance and after all weekend matinees

Repartee: FREE docent talks @ 7:00 PM on Tuesday and Thursdays and free discussions after all weekend matinees

Details: Pianist of Willesden Lane, has been extended through January 5, 2014 at Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s Thrust Theatre, 2015 Addison Street @ Shattuck, Berkeley, CA 94704. Performances are Tues-Sun with matinees on Sat, Sun and some Thurs.  Tickets: $29 to $89.  Discounts:  Half-price tickets available for anyone under 30 years of age; $10 discount for students and seniors one hour before curtain.

Parking:  Paid parking is readily available at over 5 parking garages as close as one block from the theatre. The Allston Way Garage, 2061 Allston Way, between Milvia and Shattuck, offers $3 parking Tuesday–Friday after 6 PM or all day on Saturday or Sunday when your garage-issued parking ticket is accompanied by a free voucher ticket that is available in the theatre lobby.  These new tickets accommodate the newly automated parking garage’s ticket machines and are available in a pile located where the ink stamp used to be.

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music, Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Saturday, November 9, is Open House at San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera is reaching out to families to build future audiences.  SFO hosts its second Community Open House on Saturday, November 9 and on November 24 and 30th, SFO will host “The Barber of Seville for Families,” a special two-hour long family-friendly production of Rossini’s hilarious opera.  Photo by Marie-Noelle Robert/Theatre du Chatelet.

San Francisco Opera is reaching out to families to build future audiences. SFO hosts its second Community Open House on Saturday, November 9, and on November 24 and 30th, SFO will host “The Barber of Seville for Families,” a special two-hour long family-friendly production of Rossini’s hilarious opera. Photo by Marie-Noelle Robert/Theatre du Chatelet.

San Francisco Opera (SFO) will host its second Community Open House at the War Memorial Opera House this Saturday, November 9, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Free to the public, this special community event is structured for individuals and families who have a curiosity about opera and are interested in learning more about the world of opera, including production and artistic elements.  Children are welcome.

*  Musical presentations at 11:20 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. will feature music from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville conducted by Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi and vocal selections featuring Adler Fellows Laura Krumm and Joo Won Kang.

* Musical presentation at 12:10 p.m. will feature the San Francisco Opera Chorus, led by Chorus Director Ian Robertson

*  Activities include sing alongs with the Adler Fellows (10:30 & 11:20 a.m.), stage combat workshops (10:40 & 11:20 a.m. and 12:50 & 1:40 p.m.),  costume demonstrations (12:50 & 1:40 p.m.) and an opportunity to meet General Director David Gockley (1:40 p.m.)

*  Other activities in the opera house lobbies will include arts and crafts projects, a table exploring San Francisco Opera’s archives, a costume photo booth, opera videos on demand and wig and makeup demonstrations.

*  Attendees can enter to win tickets to SFO’s “The Barber of Seville” (11.13.2013 – 12.1.2013) or “The Barber of Seville for Families” (11.24.2013 and 11.30.2013).

Details: War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.  One of the last Beaux-Arts structures built in the United States, the Opera House seats 3,146, with 200 standing room places.  Every performance features supertitles (English translations) projected above the stage, visible from every seat.

For more information on San Francisco Opera and their upcoming performances, visit http://sfopera.com/Home.aspx

Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently a delay on Highway 101 South due to ongoing road expansion work.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up, especially when the San Francisco Symphony is performing on the same day.  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)

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at San Francisco Opera through November 15, 2013

American baritone Greer Grimsley is the Dutchman and American soprano Lise Lindstrom has her San Francisco Opera debut as Senta in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at SFO through November 15, 2013.  The production underwent a dramatic scenic overhaul with the last minute firing of its director/set designer and features bold video projections of turbulent waves, leaping flames and a myriad of abstract images.  Photo: Cory Weaver, SFO

American baritone Greer Grimsley is the Dutchman and American soprano Lise Lindstrom has her San Francisco Opera debut as Senta in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at SFO through November 15, 2013. The production underwent a dramatic scenic overhaul with the last minute firing of its director/set designer and features bold video projections of turbulent waves, leaping flames and a myriad of abstract images. Photo: Cory Weaver, SFO

In Richard Wagner’s early opera “Der Fliegende Holländer” (“The Flying Dutchman”), a ship’s captain is satanically cursed to roam the seas for centuries and is allotted just one chance every seven years to dock and come ashore and find redemption through the love of a woman.  San Francisco Opera’s (SFO) production, intended to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Wagner’s birth, features lyrical music and beautiful singing but the over-abundance of video projections in constant churning motion detract from the music’s splendor.  Aside from this, last Sunday’s matinee performance featuring American bass baritone Greer Grimsley as the Dutchman and American soprano Lise Lindstrom as in her SF Opera debut as Senta, with Patrick Summers conducting and Ian Robertson at the helm of the chorus, was highly enjoyable.Behind the scenes, the waves had been quite choppy at SFO before the Dutchman opened. Petrika Ionesco, the original director and set designer of this co-production with Belgium’s Opéra Royal de Wallonie, was sacked by SFO General Director David Gockley just one week before the SFO premiere, with Glockley citing artistic differences.  A written statement from Gockley in our press kit mentions eliminating 40% of Ionesco’s scenic pieces, simplifying the staging, cutting down the use of supernumeraries, and providing more clarity.  Assistant Director Elkhanah Pulitzer stepped in and did the best she could.  Production designer S. Katy Tucker worked rapidly to refine and expand the video projections.

The production starts out quite promising.  While the orchestra’s lush Overture poetically conjures the turbulence of the tossing sea, captivating projections of surging waves fill the screens. In another early scene, Senta, who will become the focus of the Dutchman’s salvation, is by the sea with a toy boat and a lovely impressionist mood is evoked with. This scene foretells her sacrifice.  But very soon, it becomes too much. Coming from all sides of the stage; the projections are bold, immense, colorful, dizzying and far from simple.  Except maybe the color coding—red waves signified the Dutchman and his deathly realm while gray ones the bleak real world.  In Act I, we witness these projections whipping a violent storm and clouds while Daland (Kristinn Sigmundsson) stands in front of the chorus of roughly 25 sailors who are singing and swaying from left to right while the Steersman above them grips the ship’s wheel —I chose to close my eyes and just listen!  How far we’ve come though.  We used to complain about how static the sets were.  Now, with so much technical infrastructure at our disposal, it’s easy to get carried away.

The Dutchman, Wagner’s second opera, is full of lush passages and its dramatic music anticipates his future works. His leitmotifs are all introduced in the overture and it’s fun to listen for them as the performance progresses. Patrick Summers drew excellent playing from his orchestra throughout but, on Sunday, there were some occasional balance problems where singers were overpowered by orchestral sound.

Greer Grimsley is the Dutchman and Lise Lindstrom is Senta in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at San Francisco Opera through November 15, 2013.  This year marks the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.  Photo: Cory Weaver, SFO

Greer Grimsley is the Dutchman and Lise Lindstrom is Senta in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at San Francisco Opera through November 15, 2013. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth. Photo: Cory Weaver, SFO

Strapping Wagnerian Greer Grimsley sang the title role with passion.  He made his mesmerizing entrance in a tight black t-shirt with his long hair slicked back and sported a huge dangling pendant and provided most of the energy in the performance.  From his Act I duet with Daland/Sigmundsson, “Wie? Hör’ ich recht?” (where the treasure/daughter exchange is made), to his duets with Senta/Lindstrom, his voice reflected anguish, tenderness, power and clarity.  At intermission, I met a couple who had travelled from Seattle just to hear him sing again.  Originally from Hamburg, they remarked that his German pronunciation was impeccable.

Kristinn Sigmundsson’s strong bass as Daland is the first voice we hear.  Bold, deep and gravelly, it projected the maturity and evil-edged nature of his character—a father who is supposed to be protecting his daughter but instead sells her off to a stranger for a trunk of treasures.  Tenor and Adler Fellow, AJ Glueckert, as his Steersman, had a lovely lyrical tenor.  We’ll get a chance to hear more of Glueckert on November 27, when the current crop of Adler Fellows perform their always spectacular “The Future is Now” concert of opera’s greatest hits.

Tenor Ian Storey sung passionately as Erik, a lone hunter amongst a community of sailors, who is devoted to Senta and who tries to woo her at every turn.  Storey made his SFO debut in the Company’s 2011 Ring cycle as Siegfried in Götterdämmerung.  On Sunday, not only was his singing impeccable, he came across as a young man sincerely in love.

Ian Storey is Eric, the huntsman, who is jilted by Senta in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at SFO through November 15, 2013.   Photo: Cory Weaver, SFO

Ian Storey is Eric, the huntsman, who is jilted by Senta in Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman,” at SFO through November 15, 2013. Photo: Cory Weaver, SFO

Lise Lindstrom’s SFO debut as idealistic Senta, was strong in the singing and so-so in the acting.  On Sunday, she sang Senta’s ballad with vibrancy and her voice exhibited a lovely range.  As a young woman who is psychologically obsessed with an idealized love, and experiencing inner turmoil, she was wanting though.  As the opera’s lynchpin, her character has to channel those conflicting core emotions that drive the drama to her final sacrifice.  In this regard, she was flat as was her dramatic jump off the cliff into the icy waters, which was more of a hop.

Saturday, November 9, is Open House at SFO—SFO will host its second Community Open House at the War Memorial Opera House this Saturday, November 9, from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  Free to the public, this special community event is structured for individuals and families who are interested in learning more about the world of opera, including production and artistic elements.  Children are welcome.

The 2013 Open House will feature onstage musical demonstrations including highlights from Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” with the SFO Orchestra conducted by Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi and vocal selections (sung in English) featuring Adler Fellows Laura Krumm and Joo Won Kang.  The SFO Chorus, led by Chorus Director Ian Robertson, is also featured in an onstage musical demonstration.

Other activities include sing-alongs with the SFO Chorus and Adler Fellows; stage combat workshops; costume, wig and makeup demonstrations; a costume photo booth; an opportunity to meet SFO General Director David Gockley; and hands-on family activities throughout the opera house.  Costumes will also be on display.  Attendees can enter to win tickets to SFO’s “The Barber of Seville” (11.13.2013 – 12.1.2013) or “The Barber of Seville for Families” (11.24.2013 and 11.30.2013).

Details:  There are three remaining performances of The Flying Dutchman—Thursday 11/7 at 7:30 PM*; Tuesday 11/12 at 7:30 PM* and Friday 11.15 at 8 PM (* OperaVision performance: HD video projection screens in the balcony).  Tickets range from $30 (Balcony) to $385 (Box) and may be purchased at www.sfopera.com , at the San Francisco Opera Box Office, or by phone at (415) 864-3330.  War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.  One of the last Beaux-Arts structures built in the United States, the Opera House seats 3,146, with 200 standing room places.  Every performance features supertitles (English translations) projected above the stage, visible from every seat.

 For more information on San Francisco Opera and their upcoming performances, including Falstaff, visit http://sfopera.com/Home.aspx

Free Pre-Opera Talks:  55 minutes prior to curtain time, music educators give 25-minute overviews of the opera.  These informative talks are free to ticketholders and take place in the Orchestra section with open seating.

Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently a 15 to 30 minute delay on Highway 101 South due to ongoing road expansion work.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up, especially when the San Francisco Symphony is performing on the same day.  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)

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

French Cinema Now starts Thursday— 10 of the best new French-language films in a four-day series at San Francisco’s historic Clay Theatre

Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a revenge drama and dark commentary on late capitalism, shot in Paris, with cinematography by Agnès Godard.  Vincent London plays a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and rescue his family. Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Denueve) plays Lisbon’s married lover who has trapped herself in a disturbing marriage for the sake of her child.  Screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark's Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a revenge drama and dark commentary on late capitalism, shot in Paris, with cinematography by Agnès Godard. Vincent London plays a sea captain gone AWOL to avenge his brother-in-law’s suicide and rescue his family. Chiara Mastroianni (daughter of Marcello Mastroianni and Catherine Denueve) plays Lisbon’s married lover who has trapped herself in a disturbing marriage for the sake of her child. Screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

The sixth annual French Cinema Now (FCN) series begins Thursday, November 7, at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre and offers four glorious days dedicated to significant new works of francophone cinema from France, Belgium, Quebec and anywhere else the sweet sound of the French language is heard. This year, FCN screens 10 films and includes an opening night post-screening soiree with French-inspired bites and wine at 1300 On Fillmore, known for Chef David Lawrence’s inspired soul food and its smooth jazz. The program eases into weekend by offering two films on both Thursday and Friday evenings and five films on both Saturday and Sunday, with some repeats on the weekend.

The four-day festival is organized by the San Francisco Film Society, in association with the French American Cultural Society, the Consulate General of France in San Francisco.  The selections were handled by Rachel Rosen, SFS, Director of Programming, whose choices for this series and the larger annual SFIFF (San Francisco International Film Festival) reflect keen intuition for mixing the unusual and the flavor of the moment with the timelessness of great storytelling and cinematography.  Several of these French films had their premieres
at Cannes and are being shown for the first (and only) time in the Bay Area.  The charming venue, the mighty Clay Theatre, situated on the busting Fillmore Street, was built in 1910 and is one of the oldest theatres in San Francisco (refurbished with comfortable new seats).

From the established talents of such notable filmmakers as Claire Denis, Nicolas Philibert and Valeria Bruni Tedeschi to new, emerging talent like Sébastien Betbeder, Katell Quillévéré and Axelle Ropert, French Cinema Now 2013 has something for cinephiles of all tastes.  Romantic triangles, unusual familial conflicts and examinations of sexuality—subjects French filmmakers are known for handling with particular skill—feature prominently, and Europe’s biggest stars such as Louis Garrel (A Castle in Italy), Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni (Bastards) appear with the region’s up-and-coming actors like Sara Forestier (Suzanne) and Vincent Macaigne (2 Autumns, 3 Winters).

OPENING NIGHT: THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 7   

7:00 pm 2 Autumns, 3 Winters Sébastien Betbeder (2 automnes 3 hivers, France 2013)      Sébastien Betbeder, whose debut Nights with Theodore was the winner of the FIPRESCI prize at this spring’s SFIFF, returns with this offbeat story of thirty-somethings navigating whatever crisis comes between quarter- and mid-life. Arman and Benjamin are friends from art school. Arman first meets Amélie when he bumps into her, literally, while jogging. His casual attempts to meet her again fail until one night when dramatic circumstances reunite them, intertwining the lives of all three. Playfully told, despite the serious nature of some of its events, 2 Autumns, 3 Winters applies indie charm to the vagaries of life. Written by Sébastien Betbeder. Cinematography by Sylvain Verdet. With Vincent Macaigne, Maud Wyler, Bastien Bouillon. 93 min. In French with subtitles. Film Movement. 

A scene from Sébastien Betbeder's “2 Autumns, 3 Winters” which screens Thursday and opens French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark's Clay Theatre in San Francisco.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

A scene from Sébastien Betbeder’s “2 Autumns, 3 Winters” which screens Thursday and opens French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

9:15 pm Opening Night reception A post-screening soiree sponsored by TV5 Monde with French-inspired bites and sponsored wine at 1300 On Fillmore (1300 Fillmore at Eddy).

9:15 pm A Castle in Italy
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi (Un château en Italie, France 2013)
In her third film, director, actress and writer Valeria Bruni Tedeschi continues to mine her own experience to portray the lives and crises of the bourgeoisie. Here she plays Louise, an actress tiring of her profession and longing for motherhood. When she runs into younger actor Nathan (VBT’s former real-life beau Louis Garrel) on a film set, he pursues her relentlessly, but he’s not particularly interested in fathering a child. As she has done in her prior work, Bruni Tedeschi presents the problems of the rich and famous without apology but with refreshing nuance and humor, and surrounds herself with a formidable cast. Written by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Agnès de Sacy, Noémie Lvovsky. Cinematography by Jeanne Lapoirie. With Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, Louis Garrel, Filippo Timi. 104 min. In French and Italian with subtitles. Films Distribution.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi's “A Castle in Italy” is packed with raw emotion as it delves into the lives of the bourgeois.  The brother (Ludovic) is struggling with imminent death and the sister (Louise) is 43 and aching to have a child.   The family is selling off the castle, a tie to the deceased father.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi’s “A Castle in Italy” is packed with raw emotion as it delves into the lives of the bourgeois. The brother (Ludovic) is struggling with imminent death and the sister (Louise) is 43 and aching to have a child. The family is selling off the castle, a tie to the deceased father. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

FRIDAY NOVEMBER 8

7:00 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna
Anna Novion (Rendez-vous à Kiruna, France 2012)
Ernest is working on a major architectural project at his firm when he receives an unwanted call from Sweden. His biological son whom he has never met has died in a boating accident and, with the mother away, Ernest must come to Lapland and identify the body. Although he protests that he has no emotional connection to the dead youth, he ends up on a long drive north during which he picks up Magnus, a young Swedish man on his way to visit his grandfather. Director Anna Novion’s interest in Bergman and her own Swedish heritage add a quiet flair to this story of unavoidable emotional ties. Written by Olivier Massart, Anna Novion. Cinematography by Pierre Novion. With Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Anastasios Soulis. 97 min. In French, Swedish and English with subtitles. Pyramide International.

A scene from Anna Novion's “Rendezvous in Kiruna,” playing at French Cinema Now, November 7 - 10 at Landmark's Clay Theatre.  Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

In Anna Novion’s quiet drama, “Rendezvous in Kiruna,” a man receives an unwanted call from Sweden informing him that his biological son, whom he has never met, has died in an accident and he must identify the body. Screens at French Cinema Now on Friday and Sunday. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.


9:30 pm Michael Kohlhaas
Arnaud des Pallières (France/Germany 2013)
Arnaud des Pallières’ austere and visually splendid medieval-era drama tells the story of Michael Kohlhaas (Mads Mikkelsen), a horse trader who is one day forced by a ruthless Baron to give over two of his prize steeds. When the nobleman’s subsequent mistreatment of the horses is revealed, Kohlhaas demands justice. But when a nobility-favoring court rules against him, and the Baron and his henchmen commit other hideous acts, Kohlhaas turns to the sword and crossbow for his revenge. Though the themes and moral conflicts will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans, the remarkable style recalls Bresson’s Lancelot du Lac. Written by Christelle Berthevas, Arnaud des Pallières. Cinematography by Adrien Debackere, Jeanne Lapoirie. With Mads Mikkelsen, Delphine Chuillot, Bruno Ganz, Denis Lavant. 122 min. In French and German with subtitles. Music Box Films.  

In Arnaud des Pallieres' “Michael Kohlhaas,” a 16th century horse merchant (Mads Mikkelsen) is mistreated by those in power and seeks revenge and justice.  Screens Friday, Nov 8, at French Cinema Now at Landmark's Clay Theatre. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

In Arnaud des Pallieres’ “Michael Kohlhaas,” a 16th century horse merchant (Mads Mikkelsen) is mistreated by those in power and seeks revenge and justice. Screens Friday, Nov 8, at French Cinema Now at Landmark’s Clay Theatre. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

SATURDAY NOVEMBER 9

2:30 pm A Castle in Italy    (see Thursday, 11/7)

4:45 pm Miss and the Doctors   Axelle Ropert (Tirez la langue, mademoiselle, France 2013, 102 min)

7:00 pm Suzanne   Katell Quillévéré (France 2013, 91min)

9:30 pm Stranger by the Lake   Alain Guiraudie (L’inconnu du lac, France 2013, 97 min)

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 10

1:15 pm House of Radio
Nicolas Philibert (La maison de la radio, France/Japan 2013, 99 min)
Master documentarian Nicolas Philibert’s latest takes a delightful and surprisingly humorous look at public radio, French style. Inside an unusual round building in Paris is Radio France, comprised of several premiere stations. Luckily for us, these bustling offices are full of great characters both known (Umberto Eco in for an on-air interview) and unknown (a news manager who gleefully sorts through grisly news briefs, the director of a radio drama, a telephone operator who screens for a call-in show). Mixed in with the quiz shows, live musical performances and sports reporting, they form the fabric of a beautifully observed and pleasurable view of a public institution and beloved medium. Cinematography by Katell Djian. 99 min. In French with subtitles. Kino Lorber.


3:30 pm Rendezvous in Kiruna   (see Friday, 11/8)
6:00 pm Vic+Flo Saw a Bear  
Denis Côté (Vic+Flo ont vu un ours, Canada 2013, 95 min)
8:30 pm Bastards
Claire Denis (Les salauds, France 2013)
Claire Denis’ “Bastards” is a dark and elliptical revenge drama shot in Paris with cinematography by Agnès Godard.  It screens Sunday at French Cinema Now, November 7 – 10, 2013, at Landmark’s Clay Theatre in San Francisco. Photo: courtesy San Francisco Film Society.

Claire Denis’ troubled and troubling new film, highlighted by Agnès Godard’s masterful cinematography and Stuart Staples’ (of Tindersticks) evocative score, begins with rain and death and rarely lets up from there. For reasons at first mysterious, a sea captain named Marco Silvestri (Vincent Lindon) arrives in Paris and rents an empty apartment. Living directly downstairs are business tycoon Edouard Laporte (Denis regular Michel Subor) and his mistress Raphaëlle (Chiara Mastroianni), whose lives will intersect with Marco’s in dark and devastating ways. Denis’ latest is an angry and upsetting film, detailing a world where money and the power it wields can have poisonous and far-reaching effects. Written by Jean-Pol Fargeau, Claire Denis. Cinematography by Agnès Godard. With Vincent Lindon, Chiara Mastroianni, Julie Bataille, Michel Subor, Lola Créton. 100 min. In French with subtitles. IFC Sundance Selects.

 

For full program information and scheduling for Saturday and Sunday, click here.

Details: French Cinema Now is November 7-10, 2013 at San Francisco’s Landmark Clay Theatre, 2261 Fillmore Street, San Francisco.  Film tickets $12 for SFFS members, $14 general, $13 seniors, students and persons with disabilities, $10 children (12 and under); Opening Night film and party tickets $20 for SFFS members, $25 general; Fall Season CineVoucher 10-Packs $110 for SFFS members, $130 general.  Purchase tickets online here.

November 5, 2013 Posted by | Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Moby Dick” fans line-up for Jake Heggie and Patrick Summers after Sunday’s “Flying Dutchman” at San Francisco Opera

Carol Upshaw of Walnut Creek was first in line to get her "Moby Dick" autographed  by Jake Heggie and Parick Summers at War Memorial Opera House yesterday.  "Jake's a friend and a great singer."

Carol Upshaw of Walnut Creek was first in line to get her “Moby Dick” autographed by Jake Heggie and Parick Summers at War Memorial Opera House yesterday. “Jake’s a great singer.”

It was an oceanic Sunday at War Memorial Opera House.  Immediately following the matinee of Richard Wagner’s “The Flying Dutchman” at San Francisco Opera—the story of a cursed ship’s captain, which featured immense video projections of a raging sea—many members of the audience lined up outside the main lobby to meet composer Jake Heggie and Maestro Patrick Summers, who were signing San Francisco Opera’s new Moby-Dick DVD.  Heggie was in high spirits, chatting up fans, and so was Summers, having just conducted a mesmerizing Dutchman—which clocked in at 2 hours and 50 minutes, short for Wagner.

Recorded in October 2012 in San Francisco, Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s universally praised Moby-Dick is an adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel set for the lyric stage. The opera earned rave reviews at SFO in 2012 and features tenor Jay Hunter Morris in the role of Captain Ahab, Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, Morgan Smith as Starbuck, Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg and Talise Trevigne as Pip.  Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.  The SFO presentation reunited Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer with the original creative team of director Leonard Foglia, set designer Robert Brill, costume designer Jane Greenwood, video projection designer Elaine J. McCarthy and choreographer Keturah StickannMoby-Dick was co-commissioned by SFO in partnership with the Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, Calgary Opera and the State Opera of South Australia.  The opera premiered to accolades at the Dallas Opera’s Winspear Opera House in April 2010 and then moved to San Diego before opening at SFO in 2012.

Six Recordings Planned: On October 29th, SFO also released a DVD-Blu-Ray of the Company’s production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia featuring Renée Fleming (DVD (RRP $24.99) and Blu-ray Ray (RRP $39.99)).  Recorded live in high-definition at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, the DVD/Blu-ray recordings feature special bonus material including interviews with cast members, program notes, plot synopses and production photographs.  Moby-Dick and Lucrezia Borgia represent the first of six operas to be released by San Francisco Opera in this new collaboration with EuroArts, with an additional four operas expected to be announced in 2014.

Moby Dick and Lucrezia Borgia are now available for purchase directly from SFO’s Opera Shop, and they can be also mailed to you.  Click here for more information about purchasing from SFO.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

November 4, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Moby Dick” DVD-signing after Sunday’s San Francisco Opera matinee

San Francisco Opera has just released a new “Moby Dick” DVD.  Composer Jake Heggie’s and librettist Gene Scheer’s opera earned rave reviews at SFO in 2012 after opening to accolades in Dallas and San Diego. (From L to R) Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab and Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg.  Photo by Cory Weaver.

San Francisco Opera has just released a new “Moby Dick” DVD. Composer Jake Heggie’s and librettist Gene Scheer’s opera earned rave reviews at SFO in 2012 after opening to accolades in Dallas and San Diego. (From L to R) Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, Jay Hunter Morris as Captain Ahab and Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg. Photo by Cory Weaver.

After Sunday’s matinee of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman at San Francisco Opera, composer Jake Heggie and Maestro Patrick Summers will be signing copies of the new Moby-Dick DVD, released October 29, 2013.  No tickets required – just come on in to War Memorial Opera House on 301 Van Ness Avenue directly across from City Hall at approximately 5 PM.  The new DVD (RRP $24.99) and Blu-ray Ray (RRP $39.99) editions are being distributed worldwide by Naxos and will be soon be available from major retailers.  They are now available for purchase directly from SFO’s Opera Shop, and they can be also mailed to you.  Click here for more information about purchasing from SFO.

Recorded in October 2012, Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer’s universally praised Moby-Dick, an adaptation of Herman Melville’s classic novel set for the lyric stage, features tenor Jay Hunter Morris in the role of Captain Ahab, Stephen Costello as Greenhorn, Morgan Smith as Starbuck, Jonathan Lemalu as Queequeg and Talise Trevigne as Pip.  Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. The San Francisco Opera presentation reunited composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer with the original creative team of director Leonard Foglia, set designer Robert Brill, costume designer Jane Greenwood, video projection designer Elaine J. McCarthy and choreographer Keturah Stickann.  Moby-Dick was co-commissioned by San Francisco Opera in partnership with the Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, Calgary Opera and the State Opera of South Australia, and premiered at the Dallas Opera’s Winspear Opera House in April 2010.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Green Music Center welcomes Zarin Mehta as its new Executive Co-director

Zarin Mehta, the former president and executive director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, is the new co-executive director of Green Music Center.  He officially starts work on November 1, 2013.  Mehta will focus on artistic planning and management of GMC alongside Sonoma State University CFO Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, who also serves as co-executive director of GMC.  Mehta is pictured standing in the Joan & Sanford I. Weill Hall.  Photo: Kristen Loken

Zarin Mehta, the former president and executive director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, is the new co-executive director of Green Music Center. He officially starts work on November 1, 2013. Mehta will focus on artistic planning and management of GMC alongside Sonoma State University CFO Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, who also serves as co-executive director of GMC. Mehta is pictured standing in the Joan & Sanford I. Weill Hall. Photo: Kristen Loken

It’s been somewhat of a whirlwind at Weill Hall—this Tuesday’s Silk Road Ensemble performance, which people are raving about, was the tenth concert in the Green Music Center’s (GMC) 2013-14 Mastercard Performance Series which is delivering a very strong and diverse line-up.  Just eight months ago, with great fanfare, GMC welcomed French diplomat Emmanuel Morlet as its first Artistic Director.  That relationship didn’t jell and Mortlett exited during the summer without having had much of an impact—the second season’s programming was locked in before his arrival.  Yesterday afternoon, GMC made public the appointment of Zarin Mehta as its new co-executive director.  Mehta, who turned 75 on Monday, recently concluded his 12-year tenure as president and executive director of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra.  At GMC, he will focus on artistic planning and management alongside Sonoma State University (SSU) Chief Financial Officer Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, who also serves as co-executive director of GMC.

Mehta, the younger brother of famed conductor Zubin Mehta, currently resides in Chicago with his wife, Carmen, and will be splitting his time between Chicago and Sonoma County.  Mehta will be paid an annual salary of $300,000.  Two hundred and fifty thousand dollars of that will be underwritten by Sandy and Joan Weill, and SSU will make up the remaining $50,000 until GMC is able to raise the funds to cover the cost, an issue their GMC advisory board met about Wednesday and assigned a very high priority.

“With the leadership of Zarin Mehta, and his world-class expertise and experience, the GMC is set to become the centerpiece of Sonoma cultural life and a major draw to the region, without doubt, from near and far,” said Furukawa-Schlereth.  “I’m looking tremendously forward to working with Zarin to put the GMC on the international musical map and welcoming him to the Sonoma County community.”

“It was during Lang Lang’s recent visit to Sonoma to perform at Weill Hall last month when he asked me whether Zarin had been approached by the GMC,” said Sandy Weill.  “Upon hearing that he had not, Lang Lang reached out to his mentor Zarin…and they talked about the unique opportunity at the GMC.  Joan and I could not be more excited…The hard work has just begun but attracting the caliber of somebody like Zarin gives us every confidence that we can achieve greatness.”

In 2011, Weill and his wife, Joan, donated $12 million to finish GMC’s concert hall which had been 15 years in the planning but stalled due to lack of funds.  After the donation, Weill became GMC’s chairman; the 1400 seat concert hall was named the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall and a grand vision emerged.  GMC’s spectacular first season offered 22 concerts in the MasterCard Performance Series with luminaries as Lang Lang, Alison Krauss, Yo Yo Ma, and Joyce DiDonato.  Some 60 other musical events, including regular performances of the San Francisco Symphony and the Santa Rosa Symphony that were not part of the series, were also realized.

Mehta’s artistic influence will ease itself in gradually over the next year.  Under the helm of artistic consultant Robert Cole, GMC’s second season is well underway and its 2014-15 season programming is nearly complete.  It was Cole, who retired recently from a very successful run with Cal Performances, who locked in soprano Renée Fleming as GMC’s second season’s opener and the renowned Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, which will perform on March 11, 2014.  GMC programming is tweaked on a regular basis and, at any point, Mehta can bring in additional programming.  GMC reports there is room for change.

Calling on seasoned musical friendships and his broad international experience, Mehta will ultimately set the artistic vision for GMC and its year-round MasterCard Performance Series in Weill Hall, including presentations of important orchestras, ensembles and artists from a wide spectrum of classical music, jazz, world music and other forms.  Each season will also continue to feature regular performances by the San Francisco Symphony and the Santa Rosa Symphony

Mehta will also cultivate GMC programming as two exciting new performance venues are completed – the 250 seat Schroeder Hall, featuring a Brombaugh tracker organ, slated to open in 2014, and the MasterCard Performing Arts Pavilion, an open-air space, expected to open in 2015.  He will build and further develop public and young people’s educational programs and partnerships, including ongoing work with The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall in New York.  In all of these endeavors, he will work closely with Furukawa-Schlereth.

Mehta’s first official day on the job is Friday, November 1, 2013.  “The vision that was begun by Sonoma State University’s President, Dr. Ruben Armiñana, with Donald and Maureen Green, and brought to fruition by Sandy Weill and the Board, with Larry Schlereth’s quiet hard work, is exemplary in the American musical landscape,” said Zarin Mehta.  “To create a new, world-class center for music, performance, and education, in the heart of the magnificent Sonoma County Wine Country – one of the most beautiful settings imaginable – requires determination, dedication, and most of all, a true love of music…My wife, Carmen, and I, look forward to becoming part of the San Francisco Bay Area community and developing GMC into an international musical destination.”

As for Mehta’s hefty salary, Furukawa-Schlereth reported Wednesday that the GMC advisory board met on Wednesday and plans to fundraise to support Mehta’s position, so that the center will not be a drain on the university’s budget.  For an indefinite period though, Sonoma State will pay $50,000 of Mehta’s $300,000 annual salary.

Jessia Anderson, Associate Director of Communications GMC, confirmed that Mehta is currently looking for a home near GMC and he will be splitting his time between here and Chicago.  His wife of 47 years, Carmen, is a vocal instructor in Chicago and the couple has roots there so they will not be giving up their home there.

Mehta comes with considerable arts management experience. Mehta started out as an accountant in Montreal and served as managing director of the Montreal Symphony (1981-1990), CEO of the Ravinia Festival (1990-2000), and began his New York Philharmonic position in 2000 as executive director, becoming president four years later.  Around 2003, when Sandy Weill was chairman of Carnegie Hall, he and Mehta (along with Philharmonic board chair Paul B. Guenther) were involved with negotiating the merger of  Carnegie Hall with the Philharmonic, but the deal collapsed in 2003.   Daniel Wakin of The New York Times reported September, 27, 2010, in an article about Mehta’s retirement, that Mehta’s accomplishments during his tenure at New York Philharmonic include maintaining labor peace; a record of exotic touring, including a singular visit to North Korea; and helping bring Credit Suisse aboard as global sponsor.

If you’re looking to catch a glimpse of Mehta at Weill Hall, he will not be attending Saturday’s Mariza concert.  He will be back in Chicago.  The question of when his famed brother, Zubin, will make his Weill Hall debut is open.  As for a car, Zarin will have to scramble as brother Zubin nabbed the vanity CA plate “M8A” long ago for the commute from Brentwood to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra.

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Classical Music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment