Arts & Events

Around & About Music & Theater: International Operas at SF World Music Festival--including Free Shows

By Ken Bullock
Thursday November 08, 2012 - 02:11:00 PM

The San Francisco World Music Festival is celebrating its 13th year, and this weekend at the SF JCC there will be an extraordinary run of opera, or operatic forms, from around the world, including early Italian opera (Monteverdi) and Chinese opera, just to name two of the more familiar forms. 

On Friday, there will be a Korean P'ansori performance, often called Korean opera, one of the great and unique musical theater (and poetic storytelling) forms in the world, very much in miniature: the performance consists solely of a drummer backing a performer who chants, sings, dances, acts out the tale--and only five of these epics have survived in performance from the 18th century--using just a fan and a handkerchief as props--one of the five surviving stories, 'Shimcheonga,' "Shimcheong [a young girl] offering herself in sacrifice to the Dragon King of the Sea" (but a happy end is promised!), will be played in highlights ... featured with a Tibetan opera, 'Nangsa,' in Lhammo form, influenced by Chinese opera & Indian theater and dating back 1500 years. 

Saturday will feature a famous Azeri opera, 'Layla Majnun,' from Azerbaijan, the 12th century story of a beautiful girl and her lover, who retreats to the wilderness in madness, celebrated by great poets all over the Middle East and Central Asia, This version's from the 16th century Azeri poet Fizuli, composed by Uzeyir Hajibeyor, premiering in Baku in 1908, in traditional mugham style, with European instruments and staging. With 'Layla Majnun' will be the Beijing opera, 'The Yang Family Generals,' a fantastic piece about female generals and their adventures in this theatrical form that deeply influenced modern geniuses of European theater like Brecht and Meyerhold.  

On Sunday, a South Indian piece with Carnatic music, 'Nauka Charitram,' "a boat ride reverie downriver" with Lord Krishna and his maidens, by Tyagaraja, 18th century composer ... And Monteverdi's great 'L'Orfeo,' at the origins of the European operatic tradition.  

Each night features excerpts from the operas, traditional music, an integrated global orchestra and the Festival Youth Orchestra, Sunday night--FREE for seniors and children under 12--will have a full orchestra flourish for the end of the Festival. 

(In addition, this Thursday night, a FREE showing of the documentary 'Intangible Asset No. 82,' an Australian drummer's search for an elusive Korean shaman-musician, with the two P'ansori perfromers in attendance.) 

Thursday (film only) through Saturday at 8, Sunday at 7, Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3400 California Street (at Presidio), $17-$30 (Festival passes: $54-$89), (415) 292-1233;