ARThound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

The 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival—ganz frisch German language film, starts Thursday, January 29 at the Castro

It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer.  Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century.  His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery.  Arne Birkenstock’s “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him taking about the painting that blew it all up.  This fascinating Lola award winning documentary screens Sunday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m., at the Castro Theater at the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, (Jan 29-Feb 3) which showcases over twenty of the newest and best German language films at the Castro and other select Bay Area venues.  Image: Arne Birkenstock

It’s ironic that 58-year-old German Wolfgang Beltracchi looks like Alfred Durer. Beltracchi masterminded one of the most lucrative art scams in postwar European history. For decades, this self-taught painter, and self-proclaimed hippie, passed off his own paintings as newly-discovered masterpieces by Max Ernst, André Derain, Max Pechstein, Georges Braque, and other Expressionists and Surrealists from the early 20th century. His wife, Helene Beltracchi, along with two accomplices, created convincing backstories and sold the paintings for six and seven figures through auction houses in Germany and France, including Sotheby’s and Christie’s. One fake Max Ernst hung for months in a retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2004, Steve Martin purchased a fake Heinrich Campendonk for $860,000 through a Parisian gallery. Arne Birkenstock’s “Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery” (“Beltracchi: Die Kunst der Falschung,” 2014), features the larger than life Beltracchi sharing his secrets; those he duped sharing their dismay; and those who caught him talking about the painting that blew it all up. This fascinating Lola award winning documentary screens Sunday, Feb. 1, at 11 a.m., at the Castro Theater at the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, (Jan 29-Feb 3) which showcases over twenty of the newest and best German language films at the Castro and other select Bay Area venues. Image: Arne Birkenstock

One film festival stands above most for consistently awesome programming—the annual Berlin & Beyond Film Festival, which features the best new films by German, Austrian and Swiss directors and the crème of the crop of international collaborations from directors working beyond these borders.  The focus is German language cinema but it’s the exceptional storytelling, intense drama and highly cinematic nature of the films, and the complete abandonment of Hollywood special effects, that make this festival a stand-out.  The 19th Berlin & Beyond kicks off Thursday evening, January 29th, with a dazzling roster of tributes and special guests onstage and screenings of 20 feature length films and 4 shorts, including a healthy number of premieres.  Festival director Sophoan Sorn, at the helm for his fifth year now, has collaborated with Festival president Sabine Erlenwein to select films that showcase this year’s theme “In Search of Truth”—cinematic journeys that connect us with life-affirming and thought-provoking stories on life, love, loss and memory.

It all begins Thursday evening at San Francisco’s historic Castro Theatre with a tribute to the legendary Bavarian actress Hannelore Elsner, Germany’s Catherine Deneuve, who has delighted film, television and theater audiences for the past 50 years.  I was introduced to her in 1994, when I was in Köln, and became addicted to the popular tv detective series, Die Kommissarin (The Inspector), where she played the brash and bruised by life Inspector, Lea Sommer, becoming the first female to play the role of a police inspector on German television.   Berlin & Beyond 19 will present Elsner with a Lifetime Achievement Award for Acting, celebrating her extraordinary career.  A special tribute program will lead the Opening Night screening of her latest film To Life! (Auf Das Leben, 2014).  Following the screening, the festival kicks off with an Opening Night Party at Tank18, one of the City’s finest wine bars.  The festival closes at the Castro venue on Sunday with Doris Dörrie’s The Whole Shebang (Alles Inklusive, 2014), with both Elsner and Dörrie in attendance.

German director Uwe Janson’s feature “To Life” (“Auf Das Leben,” 2014) has its US premiere Thursday evening when it opens the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. German actress Hannelore Elsner will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsner stars as a Jewish cabaret singer, down on her luck, in an unlikely love story with Max Riemelt, who plays Jonas, a 29-year-old on the run who arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. The film is an adaptation of Stephen Glantz’s “If Stones Could Cry.” Hannelore Elsner closes the festival too, with Doris Dörrie’s “The Whole Shebang” (“Alles Inklusive” 2014), an offbeat modern comedic romance set in Spain where Elsner plays an aging free-spirit recouping from hip surgery who decides to return to the Spanish beach where she spent the Summer of Love, 1967. Image courtesy: Berlin & Beyond

German director Uwe Janson’s feature “To Life” (“Auf Das Leben,” 2014) has its US premiere Thursday evening when it opens the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival. German actress Hannelore Elsner will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Elsner stars as a Jewish cabaret singer, down on her luck, in an unlikely love story with Max Riemelt, who plays Jonas, a 29-year-old on the run who arrives in Berlin just in time to save Ruth’s life. The film is an adaptation of Stephen Glantz’s “If Stones Could Cry.” Hannelore Elsner closes the festival too, with Doris Dörrie’s “The Whole Shebang” (“Alles Inklusive” 2014), an offbeat modern comedic romance set in Spain where Elsner plays an aging free-spirit recouping from hip surgery who decides to return to the Spanish beach where she spent the Summer of Love, 1967. Image courtesy: Berlin & Beyond

“I Am the Keeper” (“Der Goalie Bin Ig”), the winner of four 2014 Swiss Film Awards, including Best Film, screens 4 PM Saturday, at the Castro, with director Sabine Boss in attendance.  Set in the late 1980’s, hedonist Ernst (Marcus Signer, 2014 Swiss Film Award Best Actor), whom everyone calls “Goalie,” returns to his small hometown of Schummertal after a year in prison. He wants a new start, this time without drugs. He looks for a job and falls in love with Regula (Sonja Riesen), a waitress who has a stabilizing impact.  But just as this strong-willed and somewhat naïve man seems to have gotten on the right track, his past catches up with him and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this small town closes in to suffocate him.  A dark comedy, rich in nuances, the film is an adaptation of Pedro Lenz’s award-winning 2010 novel of the same name. The film is spoken in Bernese German, the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighboring regions.

“I Am the Keeper” (“Der Goalie Bin Ig”), the winner of four 2014 Swiss Film Awards, including Best Film, screens 4 PM Saturday, at the Castro, with director Sabine Boss in attendance. Set in the late 1980’s, hedonist Ernst (Marcus Signer, 2014 Swiss Film Award Best Actor), whom everyone calls “Goalie,” returns to his small hometown of Schummertal after a year in prison. He wants a new start, this time without drugs. He looks for a job and falls in love with Regula (Sonja Riesen), a waitress who has a stabilizing impact. But just as this strong-willed and somewhat naïve man seems to have gotten on the right track, his past catches up with him and the claustrophobic atmosphere of this small town closes in to suffocate him. A dark comedy, rich in nuances, the film is an adaptation of Pedro Lenz’s award-winning 2010 novel of the same name. The film is spoken in Bernese German, the dialect of High Alemannic German spoken in the Swiss plateau (Mittelland) part of the canton of Bern and in some neighboring regions.

This year, German actor Ronald Zehrfeld will be honored with the first-ever Berlin & Beyond Film Festival Spotlight Award in Acting and three of his latest films will be screened—Inbetween Worlds (Zwischen Welten, 2014), The Kings Surrender (Wir Waren Könige, 2014) and Phoenix (2014).  The Spotlight Award will be presented on Friday, January 30, at the Northern California Premiere of Inbetween Worlds, at the Castro.

Berlin & Beyond continues to bring rare gems to its audiences, including the first-ever international screening of Marcus H. Rosenmüller’s Best Chance (Beste Chance, 2014), and the North American premiere of the four-time Swiss Film Award winner, I Am The Keeper (Der Goalie Bin Ig, 2014) with director Sabine Boss in attendance.   Also lighting up the screen are highly-anticipated works from the festival circuit: Austrian auteur Jessica Hausner’s Cannes selection Amour Fou (2014); Swiss filmmaker Peter Luisi’s Locarno Audience Award winner, Unlikely Heroes (Schweizer Helden, 2014); Oscar-winner Caroline Link’s return to Africa with the father-and-son journey film, Exit Marrakech (2014) as the festival Centerpiece. Samuel Schneider, who plays 17 year-old-Ben will be in attendance.

In addition to the main Castro Theater venue, there are additional screenings on Feb 1-2 at the Goethe-Institut SF (530 Bush Street), Feb 2 at the Aquarius Theater, Palo Alto, and Feb 3 at the California Theatre, Berkeley.

For more information and tickets, browse the festival’s official website and stay tuned to ARThound for additional coverage.

In German filmmaker Caroline Link’s finely crafted “Exit Marrakech” 17-year-old Ben (Samuel Schneider) travels to Marrakech during the summer holidays in order to spend time with his divorced father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), a celebrated director who is staging his latest play there. Ben, who has the suite of attitude issues accompanying his age, is fed-up with his father and strikes out on his own with two members of Heinrich’s local crew only to connect with a young prostitute, Karima (Hafsia Herzi), in a seedy nightclub.  He accompanies her to her remote village in the Atlas Mountains where her conservative family does not take a liking to him.  While Ben is out exploring, Heinrich grows increasingly worried and comes looking for him.  What ensues is a father son road-trip, as much an emotional journey as a captivating declaration of love to the smells, music, colors and moods of Morocco.

In German filmmaker Caroline Link’s finely crafted “Exit Marrakech” 17-year-old Ben (Samuel Schneider) travels to Marrakech during the summer holidays in order to spend time with his divorced father Heinrich (Ulrich Tukur), a celebrated director who is staging his latest play there. Ben, who has the suite of attitude issues accompanying his age, is fed-up with his father and strikes out on his own with two members of Heinrich’s local crew only to connect with a young prostitute, Karima (Hafsia Herzi), in a seedy nightclub. He accompanies her to her remote village in the Atlas Mountains where her conservative family does not take a liking to him. While Ben is out exploring, Heinrich grows increasingly worried and comes looking for him. What ensues is a father son road-trip, as much an emotional journey as a captivating declaration of love to the smells, music, colors and moods of Morocco.

The Line-up for the 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival:

CASTRO THEATRE

Thursday, January 29, 2015

6:30 pm Opening Night Film: TO LIFE!

8:30 OPENING PARTY @ Tank18

9:15 pm STEREO

Friday, January 30, 2015

10:00 am RUN BOY RUN

1:30 pm MACONDO

4:00 pm MY SISTERS

6:30 pm INBETWEEN WORLDS

9:15 pm THE KINGS SURRENDER

Saturday, January 31, 2015

11:00 am ALPHABET

1:00 pm THIS LOVELY SHITTY LIFE

4:00 pm I AM THE KEEPER

7:00 pm EXIT MARRAKECH

10:00 pm DARK VALLEY

Sunday, February 1, 2015

11:00 am BELTRACCHI – THE ART OF FORGERY

1:00 pm UNLIKELY HEROES

3:30 pm AMOUR FOU

6:00 pm BEST CHANCE

8:30 pm THE WHOLE SHEBANG

GOETHE-INSTITUT AUDITORIUM, San Francisco

Sunday, February 1, 2015

1:00 pm MISSION SPUTNIK

3:00 pm MIND TRIPS Shorts 2015

5:30 pm VULVA 3.0

Monday, February 2, 2015

6:00 pm CONCRETE LOVE – THE BÖHM FAMILY

8:00 pm MY SISTERS

CALIFORNIA THEATRE, Berkeley 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

5:00 pm BELTRACCHI – THE ART OF FORGERY

7:00 pm BEST CHANCE

9:15 pm INBETWEEN WORLDS

Details: The 19th Berlin & Beyond Film Festival runs Thursday, Jan 29-Sunday, Feb 1 at the Castro Theatre, 429 Castro Street (near Market), San Francisco; Sunday; Sunday, Feb 1-2 at the Goethe-Institut, 530 Bush Street, San Francisco; Monday, Feb 2 at Aquarius Theatre, 430 Emerson St., Palo Alto and Tuesday, Feb. 3 at the (Landmark) California Theatre, 2113 Kittredge St., between Oxford and Shattuck, Berkley.

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January 29, 2015 Posted by | Art, Film | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Stoppard’s “Indian Ink” at San Francisco’s ACT—a multi-layered love story—through February 8, 2015

Free-spirited English poet Flora Crewe (Brenda Meaney), left, arrives in Jummapur, India, in the 1930s as her younger sister, Eleanor Swan (Roberta Maxwell), reflects on letters from her 50 years later in England in “Indian Ink,” Tom Stoppard's epic romance that weaves decades, continents, and cultures.  The play’s ending has recently been reworked by Stoppard and director Carey Perloff. Photo: Kevin Berne.

Free-spirited English poet Flora Crewe (Brenda Meaney), left, arrives in Jummapur, India, in the 1930s as her younger sister, Eleanor Swan (Roberta Maxwell), reflects on letters from her 50 years later in England in “Indian Ink,” Tom Stoppard’s epic romance that weaves decades, continents, and cultures. The play’s ending has recently been reworked by Stoppard and director Carey Perloff. Photo: Kevin Berne.

Tom Stoppard’s Indian Ink had its U.S. premiere at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in 1999 and is back at ACT through February 8, with director Carey Perloff again at the helm.  Having been introduced to Stoppard through ACT’s finely-honed Arcadia in 2013, I couldn’t wait to see Indian Ink (1995), which also shares Stoppard’s penchant for twisting time periods, in this case the 1930’s and 1980’s—and examining important ideas with dialogue that is witty, sexy and deeply entertaining.  On the chopping block were British colonialism and art, specifically mogul painting.  The play also features another great passion of mine: British women writers who traveled the globe and had fabulous adventures.  Here, we have the fictional free-spirit and poet Flora Crewe (the delightful Brenda Meaney) who has ties to the Bloomsbury group and is in India in 1930 lecturing at the local Theosophical Society about literary life in London while trying to keep her terminal illness under wraps.

“Indian Ink” is structured around Flora’s letters from India to her younger sister, Eleanor, a political magazine editor in London.  Flora’s exciting past in 1930’s Jummapur (now Jamalpur in Bangladesh) is enacted with the Indian painter Nirad Das and the action then switches to 1980’s London, where Eleanor, now the widowed Mrs. Swan and in her 70’s, is going over their correspondence at the request of a Eldon Pike, an American scholar who is keen to write Flora’s biography.  Eleanor is also visited by Anish Das, the grown son of the painter.  All are intent to unravel the mystery of Flora’s time in India and the nature of her relationship with Nirad Das and there are three paintings which provide clues.  An evening with Stoppard is always jammed packed and Indian Ink rewards the viewer with a multi-layered love story.

Nirad Das (Firdous Bamji) paints a portrait of English poet Flora Crewe in 1930s India in Stoppard’s “Indian Ink.”   Das also played the role last fall in New York when the play ran with its newly revised ending at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s Laura Pels Theatre.  In addition to their mutual attraction, Stoppard uses the relationship between Das and Flora Crewe to explore issues of culture clash.  Photo by Kevin Berne.

Nirad Das (Firdous Bamji) sketches English poet Flora Crewe at one of her public lectures in 1930s India and she then agrees to let him paint her privately in Tom Stoppard’s “Indian Ink.” Bamji also played the role last fall in New York when the play ran with its newly revised ending at the Roundabout Theatre Company. Bamji has also played the role of Anish Das (Nirad’s son) in other productions of the play. In addition to their deep mutual attraction, Stoppard uses the relationship between Das and Flora Crewe to explore issues of culture clash. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Stoppard, who was knighted in 1997 and is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest living playwrights, has collaborated with Perloff to rework the play’s ending.   This revised version had its first run in Manhattan last fall at the Roundabout Theatre Company, where Perloff co-produced it.  Wednesday’s opening in San Francisco revealed a highly-polished and very enjoyable performance, steeped in art, history and cross-cultural connections.  So much has been packed into this play, however, that it dances elegantly on the surface, enticing us with the brilliant alchemy that is Stoppard’s calling card but never taking the plunge into those murky intellectual depths that will produce it.   This is not “Arcadia,” a peak theatrical experience that stays with you for your lifetime, which isn’t to say that “Indian Ink” isn’t stirring or thought-provoking.

Stoppard uses character dialogue in a brilliant back and forth, almost debate, style to explore what he wants to know about and in this case it’s the mutability of the past, the concept of rasa played out between a poet and painter in fascinating conversation about their passions and, on a larger level, the morality of empire.  Perloff’s wonderful staging, excellent acting, Neil Patel’s elegantly textured sandstone wall which is a backdrop to his fine sets, Candice Donnelly’s spot on period costumes and Dan Moses Schreier’s evocative musical backdrop of tabla and violin all work in synchrony to bring out the very best in this play.

Brenda Meaney (who reminds me of Keira Knightley at her best) delivers a wonderfully complex Flora Crewe, a bold and intellectually, as well as sexually, adventurous young woman who is intent on living her life to the fullest in India while keeping it a secret that she is dying.  She is particularly delightful where she is flirting it up with Englishman David Durance (Philip Mills), one of many romantic dalliances, and blurts out one of the play’s funniest and most memorable lines—“Wangle the Daimler!”—urging Durance to secure the Residency’s fancy car and escort her to a dance.  Funny double entendre lines like this are Stoppard’s forte.

Anish Das (Pej Vahdat) and Eleanor Swan (Roberta Maxwell) reflect upon the legacy of a portrait from 1930s India, painted by Anish’s father, Nirad Das in “Indian Ink,” Tom Stoppard's epic romance which had its US premiere at ACT 15 years ago.  Stoppard, who lived in India as a child, uses conversation between Das and Mrs. Swan and their different interpretations of history to explore issues of Empire without taking sides about whether the British occupation was good or bad for India.  Photo: Kevin Berne.

Anish Das (Pej Vahdat) and Eleanor Swan (Roberta Maxwell) reflect upon the legacy of a portrait from 1930s India, painted by Anish’s father, Nirad Das in “Indian Ink,” Tom Stoppard’s epic romance which had its US premiere at ACT 15 years ago. Stoppard, who lived in India as a child, uses conversation between Das and Mrs. Swan and their different interpretations of history to explore issues of Empire without taking sides about whether the British occupation was good or bad for India. Photo: Kevin Berne.

The play’s title “Indian Ink” actually refers to a poem that Flora is writing while sitting for Nirad Das (the wondrous Firdous Bamji) and it is their meandering dialogue during those sittings that illustrates one of the play’s most interesting themes—rasa—an aesthetic concept and the central theory of Indian art appreciation that was developed by Hindu sages and artists in the third century CE that describes an artwork’s overall essence as well as the heightened state of delight that arises from the relationships among creator, audience and artwork.

When he first meets Flora, Nirad Das puts out an edgy vibe.  He seems a bit uncomfortable in his own skin and seems compelled to impress Flora with his bookish knowledge of England and British culture.  Flora really wants him to just be himself and to paint her from “his own point of view.”  Her idea of real Indian art is images of women with “breasts like melons, and baby-bearing hips.”  As Nirad explains rasa to Flora, his graceful spirit shines through and you can almost feel her heating up when he explains the elements of shringara, the rasa of erotic love—”a lover and his beloved one, the moon, the scent of sandalwood, and being in an empty house.” When he presents her with a nude portrait he has created of her in the style of a Rajput miniature, Flora is deeply moved and acknowledges that he has completed something in his own tradition rather than in the European style—“This one is for yourself… I’m pleased. It has rasa.

Meanwhile, in 1980’s London, through the conversations of Eleanor Swan (the elegant Roberta Maxwell) and Anish Das (Pej Vahdat) Stoppard conveys vital lessons about the reinterpretation of history, avoiding sides about whether being part of Empire was a positive or negative for India.  Mrs. Swan refers to the events of 1857 as “the Mutiny,” while Anish refers to it as “our first war of Independence.”  Mrs. Swan claims “We made you into a proper country” and Anish points out that long before the British came to India they had a culture that was older and more splendid than that imposed on them.

When the bothersome American academic Eldon Pike (Anthony Fusco) comes calling at Eleanor’s door to dig up material for his biography, we see her prickly side emerge as she  delivers another great Stoppardism, “Biography is the worst possible excuse for getting people wrong.”

Even as it verges on three hours, the play’s beautifully intercut narratives between sisters, lovers, father and son and academic and his subject, are captivating and reveal the myriad of ways in which the past is mutable and can be interpreted by bystanders or direct participants.  I can’t wait for another Stoppard production.

Director Carey Perloff on the re-worked ending: “I feel happy about where it (the ending) is.  It makes an enormous difference in actually finishing the relationship between Flora and Das, which is so complicated.  I also think time has caught up with this play in a good way.  Today, the notion of cross-cultural love affairs, and the complexity with which colonized peoples inevitably end up taking on the characteristics of their colonizers, are things we actually know about. … In the 15 years since it was done, the relationship between Flora and Das has become much more interesting and complex, because these ideas are more in the world than they were.

Stoppard is Czech!—Sir Tom Stoppard, now 77, was born Tomáš Straüssler in Zlín, Czechoslovakia (now Czech Republic) in 1937.  His family left just as the Nazi’s invaded and went briefly to Singapore.  His father was killed in the war.  Tomáš and his mother arrived in India as refugees when he was four years old and lived there from 1942 to 1946.  Tomáš learned English while attending a school in Darjeeling run by American Methodists.  While in India, his mother met Kenneth Stoppard, a major in the British Army, who brought the family back to his home in Derbyshire, England, married the mother and Tomáš became Tom Stoppard.  Stoppard’s career spans 50 years.  His works include Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1966), Arcadia (1993), The Coast of Utopia (2002), Rock-n-Roll (2006) and Shakespeare in Love (1998).  He has received one Academy Award and four Tony Awards.  It has been nearly a decade since a new work of his has appeared on stage. “The Hard Problem” (2014) is now having its world premiere at London’s National Theatre and will be broadcast to thousands of people in cinemas across the world as part of the popular NT live series in April, 2015.  Stoppard has also just become engaged to heiress Sabrina Guinness, of the famed brewery dynasty, also catapulting him in the headlines.

Run-time: 3 hours with a 15 minute intermission

Creative team: by Tom Stoppard; Directed by Carey Perloff,  Neil Patel (set designer), Candice Donnelly (costume designer), Robert Wierzel (lighting designer), Dan Moses Schreier (sound designer)

Cast: Josie Alvarez, Firdous Bamji, Joel Bernard, Vandit Bhatt, Danielle Frimer, Anthony Fusco, Dan Hiatt, Roberta Maxwell, Brenda Meany, Philip Mils, Ajay Naidu, Mike Ryan, Glenn Scott, Pej Vahdat, and Rajeev Varma

Details:  Indian Ink runs through February 8, 2015 at 2013 at American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco.  Performances are 8 p.m. most Tuesdays-Fridays; 2 and 8 p.m. most Wednesdays and Saturdays; and 2 p.m. most Sundays. Tickets: $20 to $120, phone 415.749.2228, or visit www.act-sf.org.

January 26, 2015 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Review: Cinnabar Theater rings in 2015 with the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies”—through January 18, 2015

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, (L to R) Melissa Weaver, Valentina Osinski, and Michael Van Why star in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.”  The reckless, romantic, jaded and traditional sides of Piaf’s personality are sung by four different performers. Constantly beside Piaf is her half-sister and life-ling partner, Simone Bertraut (Missy Weaver).  The audience experiences Piaf’s songs in new English translations and in their original French as spellbinding solos, duets and harmonies. Nostalgic, gorgeously lit, black and white photo projections of Piaf and Paris serve as a backdrop to the action on stage. Photo by Eric Chazankin

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, (L to R) Melissa Weaver, Valentina Osinski, and Michael Van Why star in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” The reckless, romantic, jaded and traditional sides of Piaf’s personality are sung by four different performers. Constantly beside Piaf is her half-sister and life-ling partner, Simone Bertraut (Missy Weaver). The audience experiences Piaf’s songs in new English translations and in their original French as spellbinding solos, duets and harmonies. Nostalgic, gorgeously lit, black and white photo projections of Piaf and Paris serve as a backdrop to the action on stage. Photo by Eric Chazankin

The music, singing and scenes from Cinnabar Theater’s brassy new commission, “Édith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies,” are so ingenious that it’s easy to imagine them invigorating Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris (2011) or Olivier Dahan’s “La Vie en Rose” (2007) or even the outrageously countercultural “Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975).  Conceived and written by Valentina Osinski and Michael Van Why, this new musical had its world premiere on Saturday and is a gem will linger in your memory long after the last chanteuse sings.

“Beneath Paris Skies” brings together five wonderful performers and a talented five-piece band to take you on an enthralling trip to mid-century France through the eyes of Édith Piaf and her half-sister and life-long partner, Simone “Mômone” Berteaut.  No joy ride, this is a fractured fairy tale that delves into the tempestuous “Little Sparrow’s” epically messy life.  It  presents her famed song repertoire with new lyric  translations in English by Lauren Lundgren and in the original French.  Fractured is a key theme of the production as the reckless, romantic, jaded and traditional sides of Piaf’s complex personality are sung by four different performers.   Mezzo soprano Valentina Osinski, soprano Julia Hathaway, tenor Michael Van Why, and tenor Kevin Singer appear throughout the performance, each mining their juicy bits of Piaf for all they’re worth.  Aside from playing parts of Piaf, the performers take on other roles too, such as those of Piaf’s many lovers.  Suffice it to say, there’s a bed on stage and it’s frequently got more than two people in it.  It’s complicated and quickly-paced but a lifetime has cleverly been packed into two hours… and it works.   We’re given resonating personality slices and a chance to experience Piaf’s songs in dramatically different voices as spellbinding solos, duets and harmonies.

The chemistry between the singers is the glue that binds it all together.  As the small ensemble shifts through various roles and costume changes–Pat Fitzgerald has dressed the singers in Piaf’s signature black–sparks fly and we can feel their pain, their joy and the palpable crush of the green monster, jealousy.  It is pure pleasure to behold soprano Valentina Osinski in action.  She sings with a smoldering intensity and her Piaf is tantalizing, pitiful, despicable and enviable.  Osinski was honored last year with a San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award.  It’s a real treat to see her in Cinnabar’s intimate space, where you can almost feel the rustle of her movements.  As Simone Berteaut, lovely Melissa Weaver delivers an equally beguiling performance.  We see a master of facial expression at work as she anguishes over loosing years basking in the shadow of her famous but dysfunctional half-sister.

 

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, soprano Julia Hathaway (foreground) is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.”  In the second part of the musical, Hathaway sings Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en Rose,” whose lyrics, newly translated for Cinnabar by Lauren Lundgren, tell of love blissfully reclaimed. Hathaway  appeared in  “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and sang Frasquita in “Carmen” (2014) and Musetta in “La Bohème” (2009)).  In the background is Melisa Weaver who plays Simone Bertaut, Piaf’s half-sister, and is also the stage director for the musical.  Weaver is the artistic director of First Look Sonoma and has had a hand in the production of several original operas.  Photo by Eric Chazankin

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, soprano Julia Hathaway (foreground) is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” In the second part of the musical, Hathaway sings Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en Rose,” whose lyrics, newly translated for Cinnabar by Lauren Lundgren, tell of love blissfully reclaimed. Hathaway appeared in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and sang Frasquita in “Carmen” (2014) and Musetta in “La Bohème” (2009). In the background is Melisa Weaver who plays Simone Bertaut, Piaf’s half-sister, and is also the stage director for the musical. Weaver is the artistic director of First Look Sonoma and has had a hand in the production of several original operas. Photo by Eric Chazankin

These are the same artists and creative team who crafted and appeared in Cinnabar’s sensational tribute Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” that rang in 2014.  As far as winning creative partnerships go, Cinnabar has a great thing going by drawing on local talents who are also multitalented—conception and stage adaptation was done by Valentina Osinski (also sings Edith Piaf), Michael Van Why (also sings Piaf and various lovers) and Lauren Lundgren (also did lyric translations), with stage direction by Melissa Weaver (also plays Piaf’s half-sister) and music direction by Al Haas (also plays guitar) and Robert Lunceford (also plays accordion).  Other musicians include Daniel Gianola-Norris (horn),  Jan Martinelli (bass), and John Shebalin (drums).

Adding to the splendor are nostalgic black and white photo projections of Piaf and period Paris, designed by Wayne Hovey, that serve as a backdrop to the action on stage.  And the intimate 99 seat theater itself has been transformed into a cozy French cabaret with small tables set-up between most of the seats so that you can get to know each other and properly enjoy your drinks along with the show.

Lauren Lundgren on translating Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose” into singable English for Cinnabar: 

Throughout her life, Édith professed absolute faith in love.  She thought of it as a remedy for pretty much everything, even though, or maybe because, it’s so easy to lose, so often painful, and so damnably hard to find.  When “La Vie en Rose” came out, she was thirty and had had countless one-night stands, a fair amount of affairs, but had not yet met the love of her life.  Was she wistful, ardent, anxious, ecstatic, naïve, or cynically commercial?  With the help of outside research, I decided that she was all about fairy tale love, pure romance, without any dishes to wash or beds to make, with a definite patina of lust.  Her songs are drenched in longing, and they are also dipped in a bit shit, pardon my French.  That is what guided the translation.

“It became a quandary…how much to sanitize her vs. how much to reveal her.  …There are times when it’s a sin to deviate one iota from the meaning of a phrase and other times when its a sin not to.  And now I find myself having to inoculate you against the French that demanded a translation you’ have to pardon.  Who knows.  You may welcome a smattering of course language. … After an enormous struggle with the problem, I concluded that one can’t second guess an audience and I might as well come as close to the original as possible. (Extracted from Lundgren’s remarks entitled “Pardon My French” at Cinnabar’s Cinelounge on Saturday, January 4, 2015)

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, tenor Kevin Singer is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Edith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” Singer co-stars with three others as the legendary Edith Paif.  He also appeared in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and in “Of Mice and Men” (2014).  Photo by Eric Chazankin

At Cinnabar Theater in Petaluma, tenor Kevin Singer is one of five performers starring in the world premiere of “Édith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies.” Singer co-stars with three others as the legendary Édith Paif. He also appeared in “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” (2014) and in “Of Mice and Men” (2014). Photo by Eric Chazankin

Details: There are 7 remaining performances of “Édith Piaf: Beneath Paris Skies” but several of these are sold out.  Limited tickets are still available for Friday, Jan 16 (8 PM); Sat, Jan 17 (2 PM and 8 PM) and Sunday, Jan 18 (2 PM).  Cinnabar Theater is located at 3333 Petaluma Blvd. North (at Skillman Lane), Petaluma, CA, 94952.  Buy tickets online here.  For more information, visit cinnabartheater.org.

January 6, 2015 Posted by | Theatre | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Say “Cheese” and then pounce! Tickets are on sale now for California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015, in Petaluma

Local farm tours are the highlight of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015.  Jim and Donna Pacheco’s Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company, on Chileno Valley Road, is a tour participant.  Achadinha carries on a family tradition that began in the 1950’s when Jim’s Portuguese parents founded their dairy farm near Bodega Bay.  Achadinha struck gold with its delectable and award-winning “Capricious” aged goat cheese.  Their "California Crazy Curd," fresh cow and goat's milk curds, are trending big time.   Image: courtesy Achadinha Cheese Company

Local farm tours are the highlight of the 9th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival, March 20-22, 2015. Jim and Donna Pacheco’s Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company, on Chileno Valley Road, is a tour participant. Achadinha carries on a family tradition that began in the 1950’s when Jim’s Portuguese parents founded their dairy farm near Bodega Bay. Achadinha struck gold with its delectable and award-winning “Capricious” aged goat cheese. Their “California Crazy Curd,” fresh cow and goat’s milk curds, are trending big time. Image: courtesy Achadinha Cheese Company

California’s Artisan Cheese Festival, is back for its ninth year, March 20-22, 2015, at the Sheraton Sonoma County in Petaluma.  Tickets just went on sale. If you are interested in a farm tour, where you get to meet innovative local cheesemakers and “ooh and ahh” their baby goats and watch them create awesome cheeses in bucolic abodes, buy your tickets now as these tours sell out within a few hours of being listed.  These intimate tours give visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer, the individual farm’s unique community and how an animal’s diet and the local terroir influence the taste of the cheese.  Six tours kick off this year’s festival on Friday morning and they all include an upscale lunch.  Back in town, at the Sheraton Sonoma County, the festival proper begins on Friday evening and kicks off with a new event in the famed grand tasting tent, the“Cheesemonger’s Duel – The Best Bite” reception, which promises to pit 24 cheesemongers in competition to create the best cheesy bite.   The long weekend of cheese brings together leading artisan cheesemakers, authors, chefs, dozens of specialty food, beer, wine and spirit producers for cheese seminars, pairings, hands-on cheese-making classes and cheese-focused demonstrations.  And did I mention samples galore?  Participants sample new, limited-production, and rare artisan cheeses (paired with gourmet delights) and learn all about the art and science of making and pairing cheese.  Also new this year is an additional off-site seminar at the new Cowgirl Creamery location in Petaluma.  The festival has non-profit status and its proceeds support California farmers and cheesemakers in their ongoing effort to advance sustainability. Tickets are available online at www.artisancheesefestival.com.

“California’s Artisan Cheese Festival has become a beloved yearly tradition for local foodies and cheese lovers,” said Festival Executive Director Judy Groverman Walker. “Over the course of the last nine years the Festival’s offerings have gotten better and better. From farm tours where guests can interact with the animals and hands-on cheese-making classes, to educational seminars led by world-class cheese experts, there truly is something for everyone.”

Friday, March 20, 2015:

morning—Behind-the-Scenes Farm Tours & Lunch:

One of the most popular and coveted of events, these intimate Farm Tours are held at various local farms and creameries, giving visitors a glimpse into the important role of the farmer and where cheese gets its start.  A gourmet lunch, each with a special emphasis, is included and transportation will be provided to and from the Sheraton Hotel by Pure Luxury Transportation.  **Pack your boots and ice chest! Tours are rain or shine; no refunds will be given.

These are still available—

Situated on the pastoral Giacomini Family Dairy, just north of Point Reyes Station, is the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, a participant in the festival's farm tours.   When the early morning fog rolls in from the Pacific, it lightly salts their sleeping pasture.  This lush certified-Organic grass accounts for the majority of their cows' diet and the wonderful flavor of their award winning cheeses such as Toma, Bay Blue, Point Reyes Blue and their hand-pulled mozzarella.  This year, farm tour participants can have lunch at The Fork, the dairy's gorgeous educational and entertainment center.   Photo:  Point Reyes Farmstead Company

Situated on the pastoral Giacomini Family Dairy, just north of Point Reyes Station, is the Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company, a participant in the festival’s farm tours. When the early morning fog rolls in from the Pacific, it lightly salts their sleeping pasture. This lush certified-Organic grass accounts for the majority of their cows’ diet and the wonderful flavor of their award winning cheeses such as Toma, Bay Blue, Point Reyes Blue and their hand-pulled mozzarella. This year, farm tour participants can have lunch at The Fork, the dairy’s gorgeous educational and entertainment center. Photo: Point Reyes Farmstead Company

Farm Tour A – Marin County Milk Magic Nicasio Valley Cheese Company; Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Co. and lunch at The Fork with guest chef; Heidrun Meadery; Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese Don’t miss this special cheese lover’s culinary expedition winding through the beautiful rolling hills of Petaluma, western Marin County and Pt. Reyes. Your day starts with a tour and tasting at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and LaFranchi Ranch, the 1,150 acre organically certified dairy farm continuously operated for 90 years, now run by the third generation of the LaFranchi Family. Experience the exquisite, award winning soft ripened cheeses that have put the LaFranchis on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. Next it’s back on the bus for the short drive to Point Reyes Station where we will meet the Giacomini Family of Pt. Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company. You will tour their dairy farm and learn how they made the transition from contract dairy to award winning farmstead cheese producer.  Lunch at The Fork, the Farmstead’s state-of-the-art event space, begins with a cheese tasting of the Pt. Reyes award winning cheeses followed with a multi-course cheese focused lunch prepared by a celebrity guest chef. During the lunch, your hosts will provide commentary on the pairings and field questions about cheesemaking and product development. As you head back to the Sheraton, enjoy a final stop at Heidrun Meadery where they produce naturally sparkling varietal meads (yes, made from honey) using the traditional French Méthode Champenoise. Their trademark Champagne-style mead is light, dry, delicate and refreshing, and will be paired with cheeses from Fiscalini Farmstead Cheese out of Modesto. This tour will undoubtedly be a special day for any cheese lover! $135.00 per person.

Exquisite soft ripened cheeses have put the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s bounty on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses.  The LaFranchi Ranch, run by the third generation of LaFranchis, is a participant in this year’s farm tours and their 1,150 acre dairy farm has operated continuously for 90 years.  All Nicasio Valley Cheese Company cheeses are made from 100% organic farmstead cow’s milk—Foggy Morning, Formagella, Loma Alta, Nicasio Reserve, Nicasio Square and San Geronimo.  These detectible cheeses will be available for sampling throughout the 9th annual  California Artisan Cheese Festival. Image courtesy: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

Exquisite soft ripened cheeses have put the Nicasio Valley Cheese Company’s bounty on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. The LaFranchi Ranch, run by the third generation of LaFranchis, is a participant in this year’s farm tours and their 1,150 acre dairy farm has operated continuously for 90 years. All Nicasio Valley Cheese Company cheeses are made from 100% organic farmstead cow’s milk—Foggy Morning, Formagella, Loma Alta, Nicasio Reserve, Nicasio Square and San Geronimo. These detectible cheeses will be available for sampling throughout the 9th annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Image courtesy: Nicasio Valley Cheese Company

Farm Tour D – Family Farms, World Class Dairies and Magnificent Cheese! McClelland’s Dairy; Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese; Petaluma TAPS Restaurant; and Nicasio Valley Cheese Company Start your day at McClelland Dairy where you will tour the family dairy and learn all about the history and day-to-day operations of this state of the art farm. Visit the nursery; pet the baby calves; watch the cows being milked in the parlor. You’ll even have a chance to milk one of the beloved McClelland cows by hand! The tour finishes with a tasting of McClellands’ award winning European Style Organic Butter made in small batch, tumble churned artisan style. Then it is off to the Two Rock Valley Goat Cheese Company where you will meet Dairyman Don DeBernardi and his wife Bonnie, along with the newborn “kids” at their family run dairy and farmstead creamery. You’ll taste their award winning aged goat tommes that are typical of Don’s ancestral region in Switzerland. To quench your thirst and ease your appetite, we are off to Petaluma TAPS where you will meet owner Eric LaFranchi, (yes, part of the LaFranchi Ranch family). Eric will guide you through a tasting of local brews and a three course cheese-inspired lunch. Next on your itinerary is a tour and tasting at Nicasio Valley Cheese Company and LaFranchi Ranch, the 1,150 acre organically certified dairy farm continuously operated for 90 years, now run by the third generation of the LaFranchi Family. Experience the exquisite, award winning soft ripened cheeses that have put the LaFranchis on the “must taste” list of California artisan cheeses. $135.00 per person.

Farm Tour E– European Heritage Shines in California’s Artisan Dairy Products Valley Ford Cheese Co.; Achadinha Cheese Company; Scoggins Wines at the former Denman Creamery; Bruno’s on Fourth; and McClelland’s Dairy First stop on today’s itinerary is the Valley Ford Cheese Company, a 640 acre Jersey dairy farm continuously milking since 1918. Overlooking the unique waters and wetlands of the Estero Americano in Valley Ford, its lush, rolling pastures have been home to five generations of the Bianchi/Grossi families, practicing sustainable agriculture just as their ancestors did in the Ticino district on the Swiss-Italian border. Meet the Bianchi Family and taste their award-winning farmstead Italian style cheeses. Then you are off to meet the Pacheco Family whose Portuguese roots show in the rich complex flavors of their cheese. Visit Jim and Donna Pacheco’s ranch and family run Achadinha Cheese Company and visit their herd of dairy goats. The “girls”, as the goats are called, are able to graze pasture all year long on 290 acres. Coincidentally, their diet is supplemented with alfalfa and brewer’s grain from the local breweries which gives their cheeses their distinct flavor. Your lunch stop is Scoggins Winery in Penngrove at the historic Denman Creamery. Meet winemaker PW Scoggins who will take you on a tour of the Creamery turned winery, then sample some of his Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wine as you enjoy a three course cheese-inspired lunch specially prepared for you by Chef Rick of Bruno’s on Fourth. Your bus then rolls on to McClelland’s Dairy where you’ll tour their state- of- the art dairy, learn about the history and the day to day operations on the family farm. Visit the nursery, where you can pet the baby calves; watch the cows being milked in the parlor; you’ll even have a chance to milk one of the much loved McClelland cows by hand! The tour finishes with a tasting of McClellands’ award winning European Style Organic Butter made in small batch, tumble churned artisan style.  A perfect finish to a perfectly delicious day!  $135.00 per person

Farm Tour F – Petaluma Perfect Pastures Barinaga Ranch; Marin French Cheese Company; McEvoy Ranch; and Petaluma Creamery This culinary adventure proves that perfection exists in our own “back pasture”! Your experience begins at Barinaga Ranch where owner and cheesemaker Marcia Barinaga is continuing the ancient shepherding and cheesemaking traditions of her Basque family and ancestors in Euskadi, the Basque region of Spain. Meet her small flock of dairy sheep and lambs who graze year-round on nearly 100 acres of hilly, organically managed pastures. Next stop, the award-winning Marin French Cheese Company – celebrating its 150 year anniversary. Meet the cheesemakers as you take a walk through the recently renovated creamery learning about the cheesemaking process and changes that have occurred over the last 150 years. Complete your visit with a tasting of their landmark cheeses. Next is a rare treat – a visit to McEvoy Ranch. Take a short tour and learn how Nan McEvoy’s vision and her spirit of adventure took her from Chairwoman of the Board of The San Francisco Chronicle to a sprawling 550 acre ranch in Petaluma producing artisan olive oil and olive oil based products and wine. Enjoy a delicious box lunch as you relax and take in the beauty of McEvoy Ranch. Your final stop is the historic Petaluma Creamery. Started in 1913, since its founding the “Creamery” has been an integral part of the farming tradition in Sonoma County. Dairyman and creamery owner Larry Peter makes certified organic Spring Hill Jersey Cheese, specialty cheeses, butter and ice cream.  $85.00 per person.

Friday evening – 6 to 9 pm –Cheeeemongers’ Duel — The Best Bite

Warm up your taste buds for the weekend’s events as you meet rock star cheesemongers in a light hearted competition. More than two dozen cheesemongers will take center stage as they are provided with a block of cheese from one of our local artisan cheesemakers and asked to create The Best Bite!  Audience participation is a must! Chef Ryan Scott will join us as a judge and emcee. Artisan wines, beers and cider will also be available for sampling.  ($50 per person, Sheraton Sonoma County)

She’s back!  James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, has become a mainstay of California’s Artisan Cheese Festival.  Last year, she wowed her seminar attendees with grilled cheese.  This year, she’s giving a Saturday morning seminar on pairing cheese and chocolate, with plenty of opportunities to taste.  Werlin will present duos she claims are “transcendent” such as (Portland Oregon-based) DePaula Confections’ Belgian Milk Chocolate w/ toasted organic sunflower seeds and Sartori BellaVitano Gold, from Wisconsin, a cheese that Werlin says “tastes almost sweet but its salt and crunch perfectly match those same qualities in the chocolate.  Image: Laura Werlin

She’s back! James Beard award-winning author and educator, Laura Werlin, has become a mainstay of California’s Artisan Cheese Festival. Last year, she wowed her seminar attendees with grilled cheese. This year, she’s giving a Saturday morning seminar on pairing cheese and chocolate, with plenty of opportunities to taste. Werlin will present duos she claims are “transcendent” such as (Portland Oregon-based) DePaula Confections’ Belgian Milk Chocolate w/ toasted organic sunflower seeds and Sartori BellaVitano Gold, from Wisconsin, a cheese that Werlin says “tastes almost sweet but its salt and crunch perfectly match those same qualities in the chocolate. Image: Laura Werlin

 

Saturday, March 21, 2015:

morning and afternoon—Seminars, Cooking and Pairing Demonstrations

The 2015 event presents a whopping 13 seminars from which to choose, giving guests the hand-on opportunity to learn from industry experts as they discover new cheeses, learn how to make cheese, how to cook with different cheeses, and experience diverse wine, cider and beer pairings and much, much more. Confirmed instructors include Amina Harris,  Director of Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute of Wine and Food Science, UC Davis; Lynne Devereux, Director of Marketing and Public Relations of Laura Chenel’s Chevre and Marin French Cheese Company; Stephanie Skinner, Co-owner and publisher of Culture: The Word on Cheese; Thalassa (Lassa) Skinner, Co-owner and Independent Sales Manager, Culture: The Word on Cheese; Soyoung Scanlan, Owner and Cheesemaker at Andante Dairy; Laura Werlin, author and educator; Louella Hill, aka The Milk Maid, educator; Sacha Laurin, Assistant Cheesemaker at Winters Cheese Company; Peggy Smith and Sue Conley, co-founders of Cowgirl Creamery;  Janet Fletcher, author and educator; Stephanie Soleil, educator.  The seminars include a catered lunch. During the lunch break and after the afternoon seminars authors will be available for book signings. (Tickets $65-95, Sheraton Sonoma County, Seminars 9:30 -11:30 a.m. and 1:30 – 3:30 p.m., with lunch provided at 12 – 1 p.m.)

Couples of all ages, from all over the country, are repeat attenders at California’s Artisan Cheese Festival.  A mutual love of cheese can be a great bonding experience.  Photo: Geneva Anderson

Couples of all ages, from all over the country, are repeat attenders at California’s Artisan Cheese Festival. A mutual love of cheese can be a great bonding experience. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Well-crafted seminars with leading experts are the backbone of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival.  Last year’s seminar on local terroir with Master Cicerone Rich Higgins and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, Michael Landis was sold-out.  Participants tried delectable artisan beer and cheese pairings that illustrated keys concepts of terroir and learned how to talk about terroir. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Well-crafted seminars with leading experts are the backbone of the annual California Artisan Cheese Festival. Last year’s seminar on local terroir with Master Cicerone Rich Higgins and American Cheese Society Certified Cheese Professional, Michael Landis was sold-out. Participants tried delectable artisan beer and cheese pairings that illustrated keys concepts of terroir and learned how to talk about terroir. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Saturday evening: Chefs vs Chefs — The Best Bite:

This popular roaming feast showcases top local Bay Area chefs using artisan cheeses in a variety of dishes from sweet to savory. More than 20 top restaurants, caterers, wineries and breweries will vie for your affection, and your vote, at this lighthearted competition of all things cheese. From soufflés to sandwiches, guests can expect to experience artisan cheese in ways they’ve never had before at this gastronomic showdown. (Tickets $75, Sheraton Sonoma County, 6-9 p.m.)

Sunday, March 22, 2015:

morning—Sunday Bubbles and Brunch with Surprise Celebrity Chef: 

Early risers get an amazing brunch, some light hearted entertainment and advance entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace. Enjoy a Sunday brunch celebrating cheese at every course while being entertained with a live cooking demonstration. Tickets include brunch, sparkling wine and coveted early entry into the Artisan Cheese Tasting & Marketplace at 11:00 am before it opens to the public at 12:00 noon.  (9:30 to 11 a.m.; tickets $115, Sheraton Sonoma County)

afternoon—Artisan Cheese Tasting and Marketplace (Grand Tasting Tent, Sheraton Sonoma County)  

Gather under the big top for an afternoon like no other!   Meet 90 artisan producers and experience the best of local cheese, wine, beer, ciders and other specialty foods. Discover the next wave of interesting cheese accompaniments, cheesemaking products and books. Pick up new recipes, tips and tricks at chef demos scheduled throughout the day.  There will be an opportunity to purchase your favorite cheeses and artisan products.  Ticket includes admission, access to chef demos and book signings, the coveted Artisan Cheese Festival insulated cheese tote bag and a festival wine glass. ($45 per person, $20 for 12 and under.)

Sunday’s Tasting Tent at the California Artisan Cheese Festival always features the newest cheese accompaniments.  Snap them up and be the first to serve or gift them.  Last year’s hot item—the blood orange, apple and pear dried fruit crisps offered by Simple & Crisp.  These gorgeous little rounds—paper thin, perfectly crisp and not too sweet—are the perfect partner for cheese and are as versatile as the day is long.   Photo: Geneva Anderson

Sunday’s Tasting Tent at the California Artisan Cheese Festival always features the newest cheese accompaniments. Snap them up and be the first to serve or gift them. Last year’s hot item—the blood orange, apple and pear dried fruit crisps offered by Simple & Crisp. These gorgeous little rounds—paper thin, perfectly crisp and not too sweet—are the perfect partner for cheese and are as versatile as the day is long. Photo: Geneva Anderson

Those interested can also follow updates by “liking” the Artisan Cheese Festival on Facebook and following the event on Twitter. All events are priced separately and the Sheraton Sonoma County – Petaluma is offering special discounted rates on rooms for festival-goers

 

January 5, 2015 Posted by | Food | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Closing soon and well worth the drive—“Roads of Arabia,” exquisite and new archaeological discoveries from Saudi Arabia, at the Asian Art Museum through January 18, 2015

A child’s gold funerary mask, 1st century CE., from a royal tomb discovered in the summer of 1998, outside the city of Thaj, in northeastern Arabia.  It belonged to a young girl, about 6 years  old, who had been buried in  royal manner; her body was covered with gold, rubies, and pearls. The funerary objects buried with her, all datable to the first century CE, were decorated with Hellenistic motifs, which must have been imported.  This magnificent mask is one of 200 precious artifacts in “Roads of Arabia,” at the Asian Art Museum through January 18, 2015. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2061.

A child’s gold funerary mask, 1st century CE., from a royal tomb discovered in the summer of 1998, outside the city of Thaj, in northeastern Arabia shows the influence of Greek culture on Northeastern Arabia. It belonged to a young girl, about 6 years old, who had been buried in royal manner; her body was covered with gold, rubies, and pearls and she was laid out on a Greek bed. The funerary objects buried with her—jewelry and adornments, all datable to the first century CE, were decorated with Hellenistic motifs indicating that not only trade but certain customs too traveled to Thaj from Greece, evidence of what an important cultural crossroads the Arabian Peninsula was during the first millennium. This mask is one of over 200 precious artifacts in “Roads of Arabia,” at the Asian Art Museum through January 18, 2015. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2061.

 

Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” closes Sunday, January 18, at the Asian Art Museum (AAM).  Present day Saudi Arabia is a distant land shrouded in mystery to most Westerners. Likewise, the history of ancient Arabia prior to the rise of Islam in the seventh century CE, is something we’ve heard virtually nothing about because there has been such scant evidence on which to construct a reliable narrative.  Recent archaeological discoveries from the Saudi Kingdom’s glorious past, combined with a desire on the part of the Saudis to share their cultural heritage with the world, has led to this stunning exhibition. Arabia marks new territory for the Asian but there’s a profound connection to Asia.  The Arabian Peninsula, with its unforgiving deserts, lush forests and exotic oases, is revealed as a once thriving cultural crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa, vital in early human cultural development and bearing witness to the complex interactions of all those who travelled through.

Ranging in date from pre-historic to the present, the 200-plus artifacts in Roads of Arabia hail from remote sites all across present-day Saudi Arabia and include colossal figurative sculptures and funerary stele, dazzling gold jewelry, intricate metalwork, and elegant calligraphies in over a half dozen languages.   Most of these exquisite artifacts were found along the ancient incense roads that originated in southern Arabia and were caravan routes for the transport of precious frankincense and myrrh—the oil of its day—throughout Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, and the Mediterranean world.  The advent of Islam in the seventh century CE gave rise to the development of pilgrimage roads that crossed through Arabia to Mecca.  The exhibition also addresses the formation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 

Anthropomorphic stele, 4000–3000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Kaafa site, El-Maakir city. At the entrance to Roads of Arabia, at the Asian Art Museum, three anthropomorphic sandstone steles (vertical slabs of stone used for commemorative purposes), greet visitors.  Dating to some six thousand years ago, they appear quite modern, simple and abstract but exert a very mystical, almost hypnotic, pull on the viewer.  The three figures on display are part of a group of several dozen steles, all with distinct clothing and appearance, found in an area that extends from present-day southern Jordan to Yemen.  Scholars propose that they were probably associated with religious or burial practices. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 998.

Anthropomorphic stele, 4000–3000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Qaryat al-Kaafa site, El-Maakir city.
At the entrance to “Roads of Arabia,” three anthropomorphic sandstone steles (vertical slabs of stone used for commemorative purposes), greet visitors, evidence of early human settlements that have been identified across the Arabian Peninsula. Dating to some six thousand years ago, they appear quite modern, simple and abstract but exert a very mystical, almost hypnotic, pull on the viewer. The three figures on display are part of a group of several dozen steles, all with distinct clothing and appearance, found in an area that extends from present-day southern Jordan to Yemen. Scholars propose that they were probably associated with religious or burial practices. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 998.

Fine markings around the muzzle and shoulder of this fragment of a stone horse suggest an early bridle. Some archaeologists have dated it to approximately 7000 BCE and have proposed that the domestication of the horse may have occurred far earlier than the commonly accepted 3500 BCE in Central Asia.  More research is needed, however, to determine the precise date of this intriguing find, which is 1 of over 200 rare objects in “Roads of Arabia.”  Part of a horse, possibly 7000 BCE. Saudi Arabia; Al-Magar site, Neolithic period (approx. 8000–3000 BCE). Stone.  Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 3172.

In 2010, a camel herder digging for water on his ancestral grazing lands in southwest Saudi Arabia unearthed a menagerie of stone animals in the sands. The largest, and the most significant, of more than 300 artifacts found so far at al-Magar is a sculpture fragment whose head, muzzle, nostrils, arched neck, shoulder, withers and overall proportions suggest a horse, though it may be an ass, an onager or a hybrid. Eighty-six centimeters (34″) long, 18 centimeters (7″) thick and weighing more than 135 kilograms (300 lbs.), it has fine markings around the muzzle and a ridge down the shoulder that suggest an early halter or bridle. Based on tools also unearthed at the site, some archaeologists have dated this fragment to approximately 7000 BCE, making it roughly 9,000 years old, and have proposed that the people at al-Magar (present day Saudi Arabia) may have been domesticating horses up to 2,000 years before anyone else in the world, challenging the commonly accepted data of 3500 BCE in Central Asia. More research is needed, however, to determine the precise date of this intriguing find. This is just one of over 200 rare objects in “Roads of Arabia.” Courtesy National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 3172.

The AAM is the exhibition’s last stop on its two-year tour.  Having debuted at the Louvre in 2010 to rave reviews, it started its U.S. tour at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in 2012.  This is the latest in a run of increasingly exhilarating world class exhibitions that AAM director Jay Xu, who came on board in 2008, has brought to the Asian.  Just as the stunning 2008 exhibition “Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul” brought a selective and previously unseen group of 20th century archaeological finds from an Afghanistan enmeshed in Taliban rule, “Roads of Arabia” sheds light on an equally exotic land that most of us will never visit.  And, aside from the visual draw of the artifacts themselves, you’ll come away from “Roads” with a sense of the interconnectedness of the ancient world.

As the demand for incense declined around the first century, and maritime routes across the red Sea competed with land routes, previously vital incense roads were slowly replaced by pilgrimage roads converging on Mecca, Islam’s spiritual center.  From the rise of Islam in the 7th century, pilgrimage trails led from major cities—Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad—to Mecca. This large incense burner (1649), with its delicate inlaid floral motif, was commissioned by the mother of the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40), one of the most powerful royal women of the Ottoman dynasty.  Iron, gold, and silver, 14 cm H x 38 cm W. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2999.

As the demand for incense declined around the first century, and maritime routes across the red Sea competed with land routes, previously vital incense roads were slowly replaced by pilgrimage roads converging on Mecca, Islam’s spiritual center. From the rise of Islam in the 7th century, pilgrimage trails led from major cities—Damascus, Cairo, Baghdad—to Mecca. This large incense burner (1649), with its delicate inlaid floral motif, was commissioned by the mother of the Ottoman Sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40), one of the most powerful royal women of the Ottoman dynasty. Iron, gold, and silver, 14 cm H x 38 cm W. Courtesy: National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2999.

 

The massive wooden gilded silver door of the Ka’ba, over 11 feet tall and nearly 6 feet wide, is one of the largest artifacts on display in “Roads of Arabia.”  The door was created by the Ottomans nearly 400 years ago and donated to Mecca by sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40).  A tenth-century poet relates that the door at that time was “covered with inscriptions, circles and arabesques in gilded silver.”  It bears evidence of centuries of pilgrims touching its surface. Image: courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 1355/1–2.

The massive wooden gilded silver door of the Ka’ba, over 11 feet tall and nearly 6 feet wide, is one of the largest artifacts on display in “Roads of Arabia.” Created by the Ottomans nearly 400 years ago and donated to Mecca by sultan Murad IV (reigned 1623-40) as a sign of devotion, the door stood at the entrance to the interior of the Ka’ba, Islam’s holiest sanctuary, until about 1947, when the door was replaced by a new one. With the birth of Islam in the 7th century, vital pilgrimage routes passed through Arabia that connected diverse peoples making the annual hajj or journey to Mecca from major cities such as Damascus and Baghdad. A tenth-century poet relates that the door at that time was “covered with inscriptions, circles and arabesques in gilded silver.” It bears evidence of centuries of pilgrims touching its surface. Courtesy of National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 1355/1–2.

Curator talk, Friday January 16th:  “Roads of Arabia: Archaeology and History of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”—Join exhibition curator Dany Chan for an insightful talk about recent and remarkable archaeological discoveries along the Arabian Peninsula.  “Monumental” is how I would describe much of the exhibition, Roads of Arabia, with its colossal stone sculptures to the massive gilded doors of the Ka’ba, putting the small things at risk of being missed,” says Chan.  “I also want to draw your attention to the pint-sized artworks that, though small, testify to the Arabian Peninsula’s role as a cultural crossroads over the thousands of years that this exhibition covers. Friday, January 16 at 12 PM at the Commonwealth Club: 595 Market Street, San Francisco.  The Commonwealth Club is offering Asian Art Museum members a special rate of $8 per ticket (regularly $20).   To purchase tickets, select “General Admission: Nonmember” and be sure to enter promo code specialchan to redeem your member discount.

 

Necklace with cameo face pendant (1st century CE), Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site, Saudi Arabia. Gold, pearls, turquoise, and ruby.  Image: courtesy National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2059.

Necklace with cameo face pendant (1st century CE), Thaj city, Tell al-Zayer site, Saudi Arabia. Gold, pearls, turquoise, and ruby. Image: courtesy National Museum of Saudi Arabia, Riyadh, 2059.

Details:  “Roads of Arabia” closes January 18, 2015.  The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street at Civic Center Plaza in San Francisco.  Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Thursday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.  NO surcharge for “Roads of Arabia,” Admission:  $15 adults; $10 seniors over 65, students and youth 13-17; Thursday nights $5.  For more information, visit http://www.asianart.org

January 2, 2015 Posted by | Art | , , , , , | Leave a comment