The annual return of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival to Golden Gate Park is the week's biggest event, epic in both the size of expected crowds and quality of musicians appearing on seven different stages, all for free. This year's line-up seems a slightly less impressive than usual, but that only means it's a little bit easier to choose who to check out. My advice is when in doubt, head to the Banjo Stage. High on the list of who to see are Valerie June, Mavis Staples, Jah Wobble, Roseanne Cash, Patty Griffin, Willie Watson, Jackson Browne, Cyndi Lauper, Kris Kristofferson, and T-Bone Burnett, who's scheduled to play opposite the traditional closing set by Emmylou Harris.
Music and Opera:
Pianist Yuja Wang joins the San Francisco Symphony for the first of two previews of what audiences in Asia will see and hear when she joins them on tour in November. In this concert she performs Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 1, and Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the 1919 version of Stravinsky's Firebird and Le Chant du rossignol, plus Bright Sheng's overture to The Dream of the Red Chamber (in the second preview, November 2 - 4, Yuja plays Chopin's second). Try to read Janet Malcolm's surprisingly revealing profile of the pianist in the September 5th issue of the New Yorker ahead of the concert. Wednesday - Saturday.
Don Pasquale certainly isn't one of Donizetti's best operas, but the comedy has its moments and San Francisco Opera's assembled a great team for the production opening this Wednesday night for 6 performances: conductor Giuseppe Finzi, director Laurence Pelly, and singers Heidi Stober, Lawrence Brownlee, Thomas Meacham, with Maurizio Muraro in the title role.
Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra kick off Cal Performances 2106-17 music season at Oakland's Paramount Theatre on Thursday night. During the day Marsalis and the orchestra's musicians will be involved in a number of workshops and other events on the UC Berkeley campus.
On the more raucous side, the Rebirth Brass Band is at Slim's the same night.
The trio of pianist Chris Brown, clarinetist John McCowen, and drummer Donald Robinson will likely find interesting spots where challenging improvisation, technical virtuosity, and fascinating musical ideas intersect at jazz's outer regions on Friday night in Berkeley at 2133 University Ave.. 8:00 pm, $10. Earlier that night Ben Goldberg performs at the Presidio Officer's Club at 6:00 pm. It would be worth trying to catch both.
The Friction Quartet, probably the most arresting string quartet to emerge from the Bay Area since Kronos, will celebrate their fifth anniversary with a pair of concerts Friday and Saturday at the Center for New Music with works by Philip Glass and a host other contemporary composers. including a number of premieres.
Dinosaur Jr.'s 3 nights at the Independent are sold out, but keep an eye on social media for a few extra tickets to be released at the last minute.
Michael Feinstein and Lorna Luft are at Feinstein's at the Nikko on Wednesday - Saturday in a tribute to Luft's mother, Judy Garland. It won't be cheap, but it should be great.
Leon Fleischer gives a master class at the SF Conservatory of Music on Thursday night (free).
OcTUBAfest takes place at the SF Conservatory on Sunday at 5:00, followed by an 8:00 pm recital by SF Symphony Principal Tubist Jeff Anderson (both are free admission).
Also on Sunday at 4:00 pm is Capella SF's Immortal Fire concert at the Mission Dolores Basilica featuring music by Bach, Britten Arvo Part, John Dove, and a world premiere by Mark Volkert. The group is led by San Francisco Symphony Choral Director Ragnar Bohlin.
The premiere of Seared, the latest play from Theresa Rebeck (Seminar, What We're Up Against, SMASH) starts previews on Tuesday at the San Francisco Playhouse. Margarett Perry directs Brian Dykstra, Rod Gnapp, Larry Powell, and Alex Sunderhaus. Opening night is Saturday, runs through
Naked Empire Bouffon Company returns to the Bay Area with their first full show in four years, which is actually two shows: Do What You Love and You Fucking Earned It, satirical takes on "America's greatest exports: success and happiness." Naked Empire's Nathaniel Justiniano has been working recently with We Players, but now he's back to his bouffon roots with partner Sabrina Wenske for these paired shows at PianoFight. Expect them to get seriously in your face, and for things to get uncomfortable along the way, with some piercing observations and gut-busting laughs from the the people who brought you the seriously great You Killed Hamlet. Thursday - Saturdays through October 15.
Tom Stoppard talks with ACT's Carey Perloff Monday night at 7:00 pm at the Geary Theater. The free event is at capacity, but given they're competing with the Clinton/Trump debate there may some extra seats available.
Heads Up: Cutting Ball Theatre's sampler of short, experimental theater works, Avant GardArama begins October 5 and runs through the 23rd. The seven plays on the schedule range from The Wasps, a post-apocalyptic theater piece to Whatever Self: Virginia Woolf & Virginia Woolf.
For more theater listings, see last week's post.
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass might be the week's biggest event, but the most promising is Cal Performances' presentation of the world premiere of Layla and Manjun, a collaboration between the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Silk Road Ensemble, with music by Uzeyir Hajibeyli and scenery and costumes by British painter Howard Hodgkin. The 60-minute work is based on a 7th-century Persian love story. Friday - Sunday. On Saturday afternoon Morris leads a three-hour symposium on the work at BAM/PFA.
Also of deep interest is the collaboration between Jess Curtis/Gravity and Claire Cunningham, who bring The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight to Counterpulse (in association with YBCA) for performances on Thursday - Saturday this week and next. Described as "a social sculpture and sensory journey for two performers and audience," Curtis and Cunningham, who is a disabled performer, along with Dr. Alva Noë, video artist Yoann Trellu, composer Matthias Herrmann, and dramaturge Luke Pell, look at perception from numerous perspectives, many of them deliberately challenging perceived norms of age, gender, biography, and ability.
The Balboa has a great double-feature on Tuesday of sci-fi remakes that are superior to their originals: Philip Kaufman's Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978, and shot in San Francisco) and David Cronenberg's The Fly (1986). Body Snatchers stars Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy, and Jeff Goldblum. The Fly also stars Goldblum, with Geena Davis. Be afraid. Be very afraid. On Thursday is Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut, a maligned film that history will eventually see rightfully as another classic by the director.
YBCA begins a series of lost films of Kathleen Collins, Thursday and Sunday.
Cine+Mas, the San Francisco Latino Film Festival moves out of the Alamo Drafthouse and into the Roxie and YBCA this week.
Two films starring Anna Magnani, Vittorio De Sica's Teresa Venerdi and Mario Mattoll's Full Speed screen at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive Saturday and Sunday.
The Castro has a double-feature of quintessential blonde bombshells, Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield, on Wednesday with Some Like It Hot and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? If you've never understood why Monroe remains the most iconic American woman of all time, just watch Some Like It Hot on a big screen. It also happens to be one of the funniest movies of all time.
Top photo: Claire Cunningham in “The Way You Look (At Me) Tonight, shot ”by Robbie Sweeny.
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See you next week.