A dozen picks from San Francisco Performances' 2011-12 Season

Ute Lemper

San Francisco Performances always brings really interesting performers to town, often in intimate settings. Their Salons at the Rex are generally not-to-be-missed gigs featuring up-and-coming performers and their recital series are rivaled only by Cal Performances. Their upcoming season features an exceptionally strong line-up and when you add theirs to what's going on with the Symphony's Centennial, a very strong schedule at Cal Performances this year, and a great SFJazz line-up for the fall, the 2011-2012 season is pretty daunting. And then there's the Opera to boot.

Nobody can see it all, though I know a couple of people (Brian, Axel) who come pretty close. To help you narrow it down (though I really do this for myself so I don't lose track of all of this), here's the last dozen picks from the major performing arts companies in the Bay Area (YBCA has too much going on all year to include just a dozen). I'll do one more of these posts highlighting other organizations whose schedules or offerings aren't as extensive (Shorenstein, SFO, SFB ACT, etc.). Undoubtedly I'll leave off something that turns out to be phenomenal or ignore a fantastic artist about whom I'm ignorant- that's the downside to living in an area with so much to see and do.
Here's the dozen from SF Performances, though this list could have easily been almost twice as long:
Stephanie Blythe in recital with Warren Jones-   October 13
Here's an opportunity to hear one of the world's leading mezzo-sopranos in recital, accompanied by Warren Jones in a program of American works.
Simon Keenlyside in recital with Malcolm Martineau-   October 27
The baritone will perform songs by Mahler, Strauss, Debussey, Duparc and Butterworth, accompanied by Malcom Martineau.
Marc-André Hamelin-  November 2
Hamelin's recent press on the East Coast has been nothing but raves and I've yet to see him perform. The program will feature his own Études along with sonatas by Berg and Liszt.
Alexander Melnikov-  November 12
Last year a Russian friend of mine asked if I've ever heard of Melnikov. When I replied "No," she said I must see him perform. Well, here he is making his local recital debut in the first of two appearances on SFP's schedule this year in an all-Shostakovitch program. 
Karita Mattila in recital with Martin Katz-  December 6
Mattila's first local recital will feature songs by Poulenc, Debussy, Aulis Sallinen, and Marx. I'll be amazed if this doesn't sell out. She'll be accompanied by Martin Katz.
Alexander String Quartet with Joyce DiDonato and Jake Heggie-  February 4
This program celebrates the 30th anniversary of the quartet with the world premiere of Jake Heggie's Camille Claudel, Into the Fire based on the life of the French sculptor and confidante of Rodin, to be sung by the marvelous Joyce DiDonato; Debussy's string quartet and songs by Fauré and Hahn are also on the program.
Ute Lemper and the Vogler Quartet-  March 31
Lemper may be the most alluring cabaret singer in the world. The program will feature songs by Schuloff, Eisler, Weill, Piaf, Brel, Satie and Piazolla, capturing music from across the spectrum of 1920s Europe. 
Vijay Iver Trio-  April 7
Iver's one of the hottest names in jazz right now, whose recent accolades include a Grammy nomination for his recent album and being named 2010 Musician of the Year by the Jazz Journalists Association. The pianist will be accompanied by Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums.
Arditti Quartet-  April 12
I've missed previous performances by this well-regarded quartet and the program for this appearance made me certain that this time I wouldn't, with works by Beethoven, Berg, Adés and Bartók. This is is a good year for hearing Adés in the Bay Area, with his works being performed by the San Francisco Symphony and he'll appear with the Calder Quartet this season in a Cal Performance show. It's about time.
Armitage Gone! Dance-  May 18, 19
Every year SF Performances brings great dance programs to the Bay Area so it's hard to decide which one(s) to choose for this list, but the idea of seeing a dance work based on String Theory is just too quirky to pass up.
Stephen Isserlis and Robert Levin-  May 19, 20
Isserlis and Levin will be performing two different all-Beethoven programs, both centered on the cello sonatas and featuring other, less frequently performed pieces alongside of them.
Isabelle Faust and Alexander Melnikov-  May 30
Even more Beethoven, which is never, ever a bad thing, especially in the hands of two highly regarded young artists. Melnikov returns on the piano to accompany Faust in four of the Violin Sonatas, including the Kreutzer
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