The annual SF Opera summer season is always a treat -- the programmers get a little wild, and the risks, like last year's extraordinary Nixon in China, always pay off in adventurous spirit. (Ticket prices, starting at $22, aren't bad, either).
Honestly, I have no idea how they manage to squeeze all the creativity of three whole productions onstage in the space of one month, but that's opera for you. Kinda magic, kinda crazy, all pretty fascinating.
MUSIC If the triumphant theme to 1986-released video game The Legend of Zelda sends a knowing shiver down your spine; if you've ever spent hours obsessively clicking homemade remixes and covers of the soundtrack on Youtube (oh hey Deadmau5); there's finally a highbrow spot for you among the upper crust: "The Legend of Zelda™: Symphony of the Goddesses Tour" is making its exultant, geeked out way to Davies Symphony Hall this week.Read more »
"The best form of government ... is no government at all!" announced singer Meredith Monk in the second program of the SF Symphony's rollicking American Mavericks festival at Davies Hall on Sat., March 10, her trademark braided pigtails and Shuffling Elf gait in full effect. And while I could hear the pleated pants of several libertarians around me surely being wetted (and a few liberal feathers ruffling in the back), this was no mere Ron Paul back-pat, though it was delivered with all the empty bluster we've come to expect from the current campaign season.
We were in the midst of an astonishing presentation of John Cage's epic, random Song Books from 1970, after all -- revered experimental vocalist Joan La Barbara had delivered a beribboned gift of apples or cranberries to an arbitrary audience member, magnificent diva Jessye Norman (in a stunning Issey Miyake gown) had joined in a boisterous card game and typed a letter on a mic'd typewriter, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas had chopped up various fruits and veggies and Cuisinarted them into an orange-y beverage for the pianist. Cage, our 20th Century channeler of chance, would never allow such an inflexible utterance to stand unchallenged.
The SF Symphony's awesome-looking American Mavericks festival -- which will present a "wild side" of contemporary and modernist classical works not often heard on a Davies Hall scale (Meredith Monk! Jessye Norman singing John Cage!) -- kicks off next week with a host of edgy aural goodies.
And this Sun/4, in a kind of pre-fest wallop, Quebecoise organist Isabelle Demers will take advantage of the enormous Davies pipes to play a number of neat pieces, including one by SF's electronic-adventurous Mason Bates, entitled "Digital Loom," (hear a sample here). "Digital Loom," from 2009, embodies Bates' signature fusion of techno-ambient effects, often laptop generated, with symphonic elements to create something not quite Sci-Fi, not quite rave, not quite Stravinsky at his most cosmic-colorful, but all quite cool.
Perhaps you've seen the billboard on your daily Bay Bridge commute: simple white background, a hand with two fingers pressed together, and in bold type, the words GreatIntegration: A Chamber Hip-Hop Opera.
If you, like many commuters, are intrigued by the concept, allow me to shed some light. The two-act performance, which takes places this week, is a true blend of classical music and hip-hop; it's 90 minutes of continuous flow, MCs spinning a dark and moral tale of modern corruption over a live ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, drums, and bass. It's a production spearheaded by the duo behind Oakland's Gold Fetus Records – Christopher Nicholas and Joo Wan Kim, musicians who met in the dorms at Berklee College of Music, and Kim's Ensemble Mik Nawooj. For this particular piece, Nicholas is mostly behind the scenes in organizing mode, and Kim is the music director who wrote the lurid tale at the heart of Great Integration. Read more »
Feeling some half-priced symphony and live tango dancing? It's a mash-up of culture this Thursday, July 28 at Davies Symphony Hall. The San Francisco Symphony will performs Antonio Vivaldi’s classic Four Seasons along with a punchier, more colorful take on the four seasons by Astor Piazzolla, Estaciones Porteñas (also known as The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires), beginning at 8 p.m.
Ambient music is currently waging a sustained comeback (even the old '80s New Age label Windham Hill has been sending me emails lately!) But if you're looking for something that reaches for timelessness -- with a lot more philosophical underpinnings than Yanni has mock turtlenecks -- then the glowing symphonic sound sculpture that is Morton Feldman's "Rothko Chapel," coming to the SF Symphony Wed/23-Sat/26, is just what you're after.