ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

Dark, Thrilling Opera—San Francisco Symphony’s “Peter Grimes” runs Thursday, Friday, Sunday at Davies Symphony Hall

 

Michael Tilson Thomas leads over 200 members of the SF Symphony, the SFS Chorus in three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s  opera, “Peter Grimes,” which features engrossing panoramic floor-to-ceiling video projections by cinematographer/filmmaker Adam Larsen, directed by James Darrah.  Heldentenor Stuart Skelton sings the title role.  With this opera, Britten reinvented the possibilities of musical language—sea breeze, gull in flight, tempest and glittering dawn.  This is SFS’ first performance of the complete “Peter Grimes.” Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads over 200 members of the SF Symphony, the SFS Chorus in three semi-staged performances of Benjamin Britten’s opera, “Peter Grimes,” which features engrossing panoramic floor-to-ceiling video projections by cinematographer/filmmaker Adam Larsen, directed by James Darrah. Heldentenor Stuart Skelton sings the title role. With this opera, Britten reinvented the possibilities of musical language—sea breeze, gull in flight, tempest and glittering dawn. This is SFS’ first performance of the complete “Peter Grimes.” Photo: courtesy SF Symphony.

Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) conclude the 2013-24 season and their celebration of the centenary of British composer Benjamin Britten with three semi-staged performances of his thrilling opera “Peter Grimes” (Thursday, Friday, Sunday) and a special concert, Four Sea Interludes (Saturday), accompanied by a video installation by Tal Rosner which is paired with excerpts from Britten’s exotic The Prince of The Pagoda Suite.

I’ve never heard Britten’s music performed live and I am very visually oriented, so I am looking forward to the enlivening projections which will add meaning of their own.  I first heard the name Benjamin Britten in a Keynesian macroeconomic theory course at Cal.  John Maynard Keynes, the influential British economist, thinker, and member of the Bloomsbury Group, was very keen on culture.  In the early 1940’s, he proposed (and chaired) an “Arts Council” that established the initial foundation for a system of permanent State patronage of the arts.  As you may recall, the premise behind Keynesian theory was that increased government spending (and lower taxes) would stimulate demand and pull an economy out of a Depression.  The Arts Council initially gave over half its money (grants of public funds) to music, especially classical music and opera.  Benjamin Brittan’s now famous opera, “Peter Grimes,” was first funded through a generous grant given to the Sadler’s Wells theatre to support its emergence as a national opera house charged with embodying the British national character and producing operas that were more accessible than prewar grand opera had been.

“Peter Grimes” had its premiere in June 1945, between VE Day and VJ Day, and the audience’s enthusiastic approval was taken for a political demonstration, so the curtain was brought down early.  The opera, which is based on a poem by George Crabbe, captured something new musically while depicting the epic psychic struggle of a man against his own destructive potential and the bitter sting of alienation, themes that became very familiar in Britain in the years to come.  How appropriate that Britten, who wrote for the people, and was somewhat under the radar before WWII, shot into the limelight with this story of a fisherman at odds with society.  The opera went on to immense success and Britten, as a result, became quite wealthy. The issues (from a macro theory perspective) were that Britten was part of the creation of a new state-funded system of arts patronage and he went on to invest his considerable personal earnings outside the country.  In researching Britten, this vivid memory surfaced.  Of course, SFS promises a revolutionary production of “Grimes,” dazzlingly staged—a grim but rapturous experience.

Sneak Peek of Peter Grimes with the SF Symphony

New Ground for SFS—Video projections, now commonplace in fully staged opera, are also trending in symphony halls across the country. The term “semi-staged” is not synonymous for “projection-based,” however, and “Peter Grimes” marks SFS’ first foray into an opera performance that combines video projections with minimal set staging.  Los Angeles-based director, artist and costume designer, James Darrah and New York-based artist, projection designer and filmmaker, Adam Larsen promise dramatic staging like a “big curved sail with scenes that capture the setting of an old-world fishing village and volatility of the sea.” The video will be projected onto a panoramic floor-to-ceiling scrim that encompasses the stage which has been extended and floated over a few rows of center seats to allow for extra performance space and proximity to viewers.

Darrah and Larsen collaborated in SFS’ January 2013 production of Henrik Ibsen’s “Peer Gynt,” creating vivid projections that evoked the vast Norwegian landscape and served to counterbalance the smaller stage which accommodated the orchestra and singing cast, one of whom was a dancer. The relative placement of the orchestra, singers and set props vis-à-vis the projection screens are just one issue involved in the production.  New York Times music critic Zachary Woolfe gives a very readable accounting of the state of semi-staged opera in “Giving a Semi-Hearty Cheer for Semi-Staged Opera,” NYT, June 13, 2014.  Attending a flurry of recent performances across the country led him to ponder where the drama is located in an operatic performance and what kind of production brings it out most effectively.  He asks, “Does paring a work down to the bare score make it more potent, or do theatrical trappings enrich the experience?” On numerous occasions, MTT has enthusiastically affirmed his commitment to using new technology to enliven performances. It all makes sense provided he can maintain his sensitivity to the music-making as people begin to factor in the look as well as the sound of a performance.

Timelapse video of the installation of immersive sets and panoramic video screens for Peter Grimes at Davies Symphony Hall

Performance Details:  Peter Grimes: A Multimedia Semi-staged Event is Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 8 PM; Friday, June 27 at 8 PM; and Sunday, June 29 at 2 PM with  a pre-performance talk by Peter Grunberg one hour before each performance.  Purchase tickets online here or phone SFS Box Office at 415.864-6000.

Britten: Four Sea Interludes with Video by Tal Rosner is Sat, June 28, 2014 at 8 PM with pre-performance talk by Laura Stanfield Prichard at 7 PM.  Purchase tickets online here or phone SFS Box Office at 415.864-6000.

Getting to Davies:  Davies Symphony Hall is located at 201 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, in San Francisco’s Civic Center, just across the street from City Hall.  The main entrance is on the south side of Grove Street between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street.  Driving to San Francisco and Parking: Be sure to allow ample time when driving into San Francisco on the weekend and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge—there is frequently congestion from Sausalito through the toll-plaza.  Arrive early at your parking garage of choice because those also fill up on weekends.  Recommended Garages:  Two garages are very close to Davies— the Performing Arts Garage (1/2 block)(Grove Street between Franklin and Gough Streets) and Civic Center Garage (roughly 2 blocks) (McAllister Street between Polk and Larkin Streets) (both have flat $15 pay cash as you enter policy on performance nights)

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June 24, 2014 Posted by | Art, Opera | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Luscious Lavender—Matanzas Creek Winery’s 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender is Saturday, June 28th

Matanzas Creek Winery hosts its 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender this Saturday, June 28th, from noon to 4 PM.  The special afternoon celebrates the vineyard’s exclusive wines and its rustic lavender gardens and benefits the Ceres Community Project.  Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery

Matanzas Creek Winery hosts its 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender this Saturday, June 28th, from noon to 4 PM. The special afternoon celebrates the vineyard’s exclusive wines and its rustic lavender gardens and benefits the Ceres Community Project. Photo: courtesy Matanzas Creek Winery

Tucked in the hillside of beautiful, hidden Bennett Valley, the Matanzas Creek Winery and vineyard is also home to 3 acres of lavender gardens planted in 1991.  To celebrate the beauty of this remarkable rustic estate and the special knack that its caretakers and designers have for coaxing beauty from its fertile soil, the winery hosts its 18th Annual Days of Wine & Lavender this Saturday, June 28th, from noon to 4 PM.  The wonderful afternoon celebrates Matanzas Creek’s special wines, including its newest releases of crisp, aromatic Sauvignon Blanc and its exclusive, hedonistic, Journey label.  Guests stroll the expansive property, taking in the vibrant bust of purple and heady fragrance of lavender fields in full bloom while eating and drinking to their heart’s content. Live music keeps the tempo celebratory.

New This Year:  The festival will offer three sensory seminars with winemaker Marcia Monahan-Torres and Matanzas Creek wine experts: Sauvignon Blanc and Seafood Pairings; Merlot and Mushrooms Exploration; Exclusive Tasting of our Journey wines.

There will also be special food and wine pairing stations throughout the event, a tour of the Lavender Barn showcasing how its luscious lavender products are made, photo booths, exceptional views and much more.

Good Deeds: The event benefits the Ceres Community Project, a non-profit that involves local teens as gardeners or chefs.  Ceres aims to bring 88,000 nutrient-rich meals to those with serious illnesses or to those in need in Sonoma and Marin counties this year.  For more information about Ceres and its wonderful classes, visit http://www.ceresproject.org/.

Details:  Saturday June 28th, noon to 4 p.m. Tickets: $95 General Public and $75 Wine Club members.  Advance ticket purchase is essential as the festival sells out in advance each year.  To purchase tickets, click here. Matanzas Creek Winery is located at 6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa, CA  95404   For more information, phone: 800 590-6464

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Food | , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Saturday—For ART’S SAKE a benefit for Petaluma Arts Center at rustic Beaumont Farms

ForArt'sSake

Live music of Sonoma Driftwood, dancing, art and artists at work, petanque, pickle ball, horseshoes, line dancing lessons and a superb silent auction are among the fun activities planned at upcoming event, FOR ART’S SAKE, a benefit for Petaluma Arts Center, Saturday, June 28th, 2014 from 12 to 4.

The rustic Beaumont Farms (5580 Red Hill Road, Petaluma) will open its gates for an exclusive afternoon of art,music and games, or, if you prefer, to sit back and relax in a chair by the pond, watch the clouds float over olive trees and Petaluma hills beyond and listen to ranch residents – horses, donkeys, chickens and alpaca. Sumptuous barbeque, wine and other beverages will be available for purchase. Lunch served by Rasta Dwight’s Barbeque.

Silent auction items include A Week at the Arts Community of Bisbee, AZ; Riding Lessons; Reserve Tasting Room VIP Barrel Tasting and Light Bites for 10-14 at Roche Winery; Dinner and Jazz at the Bailey’s; A Sunset Segway Tour of Schollenberger Park; A Weekend in Tahoe; A Week at the Arts Community of Bisbee, AZ; Riding Lessons; Classes at PAC; 4 Rounds of Golf at Sonoma and Napa’s best courses; and so much more.

FOR ART’S SAKE sponsors and supporters include, Denis & Bridget Twomey of Beaumont Farms, McNear’s Restaurant & the Mystic Theatre, Kari Ontko Design, Teresa Barrett, Janet & Dan McBeen, Crown Trophy, Out West Garage and Riley Street Art Supply.

Tickets, $30 per person, are available from Petaluma Arts Center (online purchase) or at the Center, 230 Lakeville St., call 707-762-5600. Guests are asked to leave their dogs at home and to be respectful of the benefit and not bring food and drinks to the premises.

 

June 24, 2014 Posted by | Art | , , | Leave a comment