Sounds Like Summer
We’re rounding up on June, aren’t we? That means a million and one Pride events, which we’ll get to in time. It also means the start of the summer San Francisco Opera season, more on which below. But for Out There, the month really kicks off on Sat., June 2, with San Francisco’s biggest biannual fundraising affair, the San Francisco Symphony’s 2012 Black & White Ball.
At Davies Symphony Hall, starting at 8 p.m., headliner Paul Simon will play with the San Francisco Symphony, as well as his own band. Throughout the War Memorial Performing Arts Complex, from 9 p.m. on, 10 bands on five stages include Grammy-winning band The Wallflowers co-headlining the outdoor party stage, with pop superstar Cyndi Lauper ; cybersoul songstress Janelle Monae; doo wop/R&B royalty The Drifters; DJ Masonic (aka composer Mason Bates), recently featured in SFS’ American Mavericks fest; retro jazz outfit The Brenna Whitaker Little Big Band; Neil Diamond-inspired dance band Super Diamond; 13-piece salsa ensemble Avance; funk troupe Scott Carter and New Breed; "80s and more" dance-party rock show Notorious ; and the Dr. Bobby Rodriguez Latin Jazz Group. We’re also promised a rollicking surprise at Midnight: we’ve heard that before.
Out There loves the B&W Ball almost as much as we love our good black suit. We’ve been to the open bar in the toniest cabana. The sound of Tony Bennett and k.d. lang harmonizing in their Davies duet is burned into our memory banks. And since we live between Jardiniere and the Boxing Room, the whole she-bang happens around us, in the immortal words of Current-TV star Gavin Newsom, whether we "like it or not."
The B&W Ball supports the Symphony’s music education programs, which provide inspirational connections to music and music-making to over 75,000 Bay Area children each year, a very worthy cause. Tickets are on sale for all B&W Ball experiences: Party Pass ($250); Paul Simon and the SFS Concert + Party Pass ($300-$375); Symphonix Bash ($400-$750); Supper Club ($450-$800); and Patrons’ Dinner ($1,250-$5,000). Tickets by phone, (415) 864-6000, or visit www.sfsymphony.org/ball.
Summer opera season is almost upon us. The three attractions on offer are the Bay Area premiere of Nixon in China by John Adams and Alice Goodman (opens June 8); the San Francisco Opera/Teatro alla Scala co-production of Verdi’s Attila led by Nicola Luisotti (opens June 12); and a new production of Mozart ’s The Magic Flute designed by Jun Kaneko (premieres June 13). SFO invited a small group of journalos including Out There to the opera house last week to talk about the latter two operas, lest they get lost in all the excitement about finally having Adams’ masterpiece Nixon here.
Maestro Luisotti, who had flown in direct from having directed Tosca at La Scala, imparted his considerable enthusiasm for Attila. Stage director (and leading Italian stage actor) Gabriele Lavia described his vision for the production, in remarks translated by Italian diction coach Alessandra Cattani. His Attila functions on three levels, he explained, as historical personage, mythical figure, and metaphor for the invasion of Austrians into Northern Italy. Set designer Alessandro Camera discussed how he made Lavia’s ideas concrete, and showed stage pictures of all three acts. The production looks dynamic, impressive, truly grand opera in an Italian way. OT was glad we had worn our Dolce Vita shades to the presser.
Then SFO general director David Gockley and director of production Greg Weber waxed enticingly about their new Magic Flute, an opera that has been famously designed by such artists as David Hockney , William Kentridge and the late Maurice Sendak . Gockley tasked Japanese-American painter and ceramic artist Jun Kaneko with devising a new Flute, and boy does it look a beaut. The opera will be fully staged accompanied by multiply projected animations in vibrant colors. These stage paintings function as "sets," while Jun’s equally colorful costumes take on sculptural forms. Based on the excerpts we saw, the visual experience should prove a knock-out. Gockley himself translated the libretto from German into English, as Mozart intended that the audience experience the piece in its own vernacular. This looks like a production for Flute neophyte and old friend alike.
As for Nixon in China, it’s been 20 years since the opera’s premiere, and 40 years since the groundbreaking diplomatic initiative it portrays. Time for San Francisco to finally see it in all its glory! Tickets to all three operas are available at (415) 864-3330 or www.SFOpera.com.
Also last week, no fewer than three major art fairs transpired in San Francisco at once: artMRKT San Francisco offered contemporary and modern art at the Concourse Exhibition Center; ArtPad was the self-described "fun fair" at the iconic Phoenix Hotel; and the SF Fine Art Fair, "the international show," took place at Fort Mason Center. A recent New Yorker article described how important these art fairs have become in the art market; galleries feel compelled to participate in them, despite their costs and logistics, because they are responsible for such a large part of their sales. It was interesting to stroll among the offerings at artMRKT’s VIP opening night; to see some truly great contemporary work as well as a certain amount of schlock; and to greet gallerists we know as old friends. By chance, the work we featured on last week’s Arts cover, "Lucca Luna" by photographer Tom Chambers, was on display and on offer from Modernbook Gallery at the fair. Lots of art, lots of heart, lots of collectors stimulating the economy.
Did we mention that we sat right behind preternaturally gorgeous Glee star Darren Criss at last week’s ACT opening? He was snogging with his equally attractive girlfriend, who brought a gift in Gump’s packaging for his parents, sitting right beside them. We were much too discreet to ask to see it unwrapped.
Finally, from the department of "Press releases we never read past the first line": "EpicMealTime is pleased to announce the launch of whiskeylube, the world’s first bourbon-flavored personal lubricant. You’re welcome." Unthank you.