June 15, 2012

Top 10 For Summertime, When the Listening Is Easy

By Janos Gereben

Traditionally, fall seasons yield to summer festivals, and then comes the reverse when the leaves fall, but the Bay Area enjoys a virtually seamless mix of seasons and festivals.

While festivals are busting out all over, both the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony are still in session. The San Francisco Ballet is on vacation, but there are plenty of dance events around. Here are just 10 events between now and the end of August for your attention.


1. Joe Goode, 'Falling Apart'

Z Space presents the Joe Goode Performance Group in the world premiere of When We Fall Apart, dance theater exploring "the intricate and fragile relationship between house and body, and what defines a home."

Goode, winner of numerous awards for his innovative work combining dance and performance art, is collaborating with architect Cass Calder Smith, who is best known for his high-profile restaurant designs in San Francisco and New York. This is the first time Smith’s work is integrated in a live stage performance. The evening-length work is built for seven dancers, and features live, original music by Ben Juodvalkis of the band Battlehooch.

Through June 30, $25-$35, Z Space, 450 Florida St., S.F., (800) 838-3006, www.zspace.org

2. Attila the Hun

Nicola Luisotti conducts Verdi's <em>Attila</em>The legendary 5th century "Scourge of God" is the subject of this early Verdi operas, premiering in 1846, when the composer was 33 years old. Unlike the customary view of a ruthless barbarian, the opera presents Attila as a brave warrior, an intense anti-hero with emotional issues. San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts the work here this summer, having led this new, time-traveling production of Attila in La Scala Opera last year. Ferruccio Furlanetto sings the title role, the cast features local debuts by Lucrecia Garcia, Fabio Sartori, and Diego Torre; and the return of bass Samuel Ramey as Pope Leo I.

Through July 1. $21-$330. War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F. (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com

3. Festival of the Sun

Festival concert in Castello di Amorosa in NapaThe seventh annual Festival del Sole in Napa features music and dance along with the valley's famed wine and food. Concerts take place in Lincoln Theater (re-opened just for the festival), the picturesque Castello di Amorosa, and various vineyards.

Musical highlight include performances by Joshua Bell, Danielle de Niese, Susan Graham, Nathan Gunn, Lisa Delan, Angel Romero, Nina Kotova, Hélène Grimaud, Philharmonia Baroque, Russian National Orchestra, and dancers from Moscow's Bolshoi Ballet. The festival will also offer local premiere of "24-Hour Plays," a feat of "extreme theater," which involves writing, rehearsing and performing four plays in just 24 hours, interspersed with musical interludes from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

July 12-22, $35-$125, venues throughout Napa Valley, (707) 200-1314, www.festivaldelsole.org

4. Schwabacher Summer Concert

Honoring Merola Co-Founder and Benefactor James Schwabacher, this annual concert introduces the Merola Class of 2012 to the public in arias and ensembles. A highlight of the summer music season is the free reprise of the Herbst Theatre performance on a Saturday afternoon in Yerba Buena Gardens. Opera doesn't get more accessible than that.

Conducted by San Francisco Opera Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi, the concerts feature extended scenes from four operas: Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Boito’s Mefistofele, Bizet’s La jolie fille de Perth and Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress.

July 5, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre ($25-$40); July 7, 2 p.m., Yerba Buena Gardens (free); (415) 565-6427, www.merola.org

5. Summer Beethoven

Michael Francis conducts Summer and the SymphonyIn the San Francisco Symphony's summer series, conducted by Michael Francis, the concert on Bastille Day has an all-Beethoven program. Between the familiar works of the Egmont Overture and the ever-present Symphony No. 5, the evening features Beethoven's less frequently performed Piano Concerto No. 1. The soloist is Gilles Vonsattel, recipient of an Avery Fisher Career Grant.

First performed in 1798, by the 28-year-old Beethoven, the concerto opens with a beautiful Allegro in sonata form, followed by a slow Largo, and then comes the Rondo with a heavily syncopated theme that sounds curiously jazzlike.

July 14, 7:30 p.m., $15-72. Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org

6.Best of Baroque

ABS founder-director Jeffrey Thomas conducts the festivalEarly-music specialists American Bach Soloists will offer the third annual Festival & Academy, a 10-day immersion in the music and culture of the Baroque. Led by Founder-Director Jeffrey Thomas, the event includes lectures, master-classes, chamber concerts, and large-scale oratorios and Masses.

Major works to be performed in the Conservatory Concert Hall include Bach's majestic Mass in B Minor, Rameau's Pigmalion (a centuries-removed ancestor of My Fair Lady), and Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Admission to concerts by Academy participants, the next generation of early music virtuosi, are priced at $10.

July 12-22. $10-$50. S.F. Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F. 415-621-7900, www.americanbach.org

7. 'Fearless at 50'

The Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, America’s longest running festival dedicated to new music for orchestra, commemorates its 50th anniversary in an expanded three-week season, dubbed "Fearless at 50," this summer.

Led by Music Director Marin Alsop, the festival features six world premieres, three West Coast premieres, 14 composers in residence, a historic commission by Scottish composer James MacMillan, and a multimedia collaboration with NPR’s The Kitchen Sisters (Nikki Silva and Davia Nelson); Emmy-award winning composer Laura Karpman; emphasis on female composers; and world-renowned media design firm Obscura Digital.

July 28 through Aug. 12, $30-$50 (and numerous free events), Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, (831) 426-6966, www.cabrillomusic.org

Chris Uzelac as Koko and Charles Martin as Pooh-Bah in The Mikado

8. Mikado's Return

The Lamplighters will revive this summer the greatest of Gilbert & Sullivan musicals, The Mikado, about the melodic adventures of Lord High Executioner Koko, Lord High Everything Else Pooh-Bah, Mikado Jr. Nanki-Poo, and lovely Yum-Yum — all in a phantasmagorical Japan that strangely resembles the London of 1880s.

Sixty-year-old Lamplighters, called by this very publication's Robert Commanday "a San Francisco tradition, ranking somewhere between sourdough bread and cable cars," will tour the Bay Area with The Mikado during the month of August. Complete with a live orchestra, budget-defying gorgeous sets and costumes, the production will land in San Francisco for only four days.

August 16-19, $15-$59, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F., (415) 978-2787, www.tickets.ybca.org

9. ODC/Dance Summer Sampler

ODC's Daniel Santos Photo by Margo MoritzODC/Dance combines an indoor summer picnic — wine and hors d’oeuvres — with a selection of the company's dance pieces at ODC/Dance Summer Sampler fund-raiser.

This year's Sampler is a celebration of longtime ODC dancer Daniel Santos' last performance with the company before retiring. He will perform his acclaimed solo from Brenda Way’s Investigating Grace, and participate in pas de deux from Way’s Part of a Longer Story, and KT Nelson’s Cut-Out Guy.

Aug. 11, 4 and 7 p.m., $30-$40, ODC Theater, 3153 Seventeenth St., S.F., (415) 863-9834, www.odcdance.org

10. So Sang Stalin and Churchill

The world premiere production of this chamber opera from ScolaVox and First Look Sonoma about Churchill's first meeting with Stalin, features the roles sung by John Duykers and Scott Graff, respectively. Lisa Scola-Prosek’s Daughter of the Red Tzar uses the historic meeting as a point of departure to tell the story of Stalin's daughter Svetlana, who was 16 at that time.

Svetlana (Crystal Phillippi) defied her father, falling in love with an older man (Philip Skinner), and eventually defecting to the West. Known as Lana Peters, she died recently, having lived in obscurity in Wisconsin.

Aug. 24-Sept. 2, 8 p.m., $30, Thick House Theatre, 1695 18th St., S.F., (415) 246-4829, www.ThickHouse.org

See also a list of 400 (that's 400) free summer events on a website dedicated to, for real, San Francisco Summer Delights.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at janosg@gmail.com.

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