Arts & Events

New: ANDREA CHÉNIER: A 1st Rate Cast in a 3rd Rate Opera

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Saturday September 10, 2016 - 10:59:00 AM

Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier premiered at Milan’s Teatro alla Scala on March 28, 1896 and enjoyed a smashing popular success. Ever since, however, Andrea Chénier has received far more critical barbs than accolades. Giordano’s music has been skewered as “a score of the third class – music of shreds and patches, bombastic and crude, fueled by hot air.” I would have to agree with this evaluation. Nonetheless, Andrea Chénier does contain a few lovely musical numbers, and these were splendidly sung by San Francisco Opera’s Opening Night cast. All told, this Andre Chénier offered a first rate cast in a third rate opera. -more-

Around & About Theater: Theater Explorations Classes

Ken Bullock
Friday September 09, 2016 - 01:31:00 PM

Marion Fay's excellent, highly participatory Theater Explorations classes for theatergoers & theater lovers is about to start for the Fall. Two sections: Mondays & Thursdays, both 1-3 p. m., starting this coming week--Monday the 12th, Thursday the 15th--at Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda (just south of Solano, the end of the shopping district & the tunnel). -more-

San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Night Gala

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday September 09, 2016 - 02:06:00 PM

Opening Night Galas are not my thing. I find something cloyingly self-congratulatory about these events, a trait that was markedly evident on Wednesday, September 7, in Michael Tilson Thomas’s opening remarks in which he shamelessly fished for applause from the opening night audience, which predictably gave him what he so gracelessly asked for. Then MTT led the orchestra in The Star-Spangled Banner.” Do we really need to hear this patriotic pap before every single sports event and opening night musical event, as if we needed to wrap ourselves in the American flag in order to give ourselves a veneer of self-righteousness? I found myself longing for a Colin Kapernick to refuse to stand for the National Anthem in protest against all that is wrong and needing reform in our nation.

As for the Opening Night musical program, the first half was wonderful. The second half was dreadful, but we’ll deal with that later. To open the concert, MTT conducted Gioachino Rossini’s overture to Guillaume Tell/William Tell. This, of course, is a well-worn chestnut, familiar to everyone from commercials using this overture’s famous last section. However, few people are familiar with this overture’s soft, solemn opening music for five solo cellos, accompanied very discreetly by the basses and contrabasses. Nor are they familiar with the pastoral music that follows, with a poignant melody played on English horn while a flute solo soars ravishingly above. In this music, Principal Horn player Robert Ward and Principal Flutist Tim Day performed admirably. Following the last dying note of the English horn, trumpets enter with a fanfare that precedes the well-known final section’s impetuous and all-too rhythmically repetitive theme. Despite the rather vulgar insistence of the bass drum, this final section brings the William Tell Overture to a resounding and ultimately satisfying climax. -more-

Press Release: Women Speak: Four Architects on Design and Urbanism

Tuesday September 06, 2016 - 10:24:00 AM

In a world facing global warming and worsening problems of urban transportation and affordable housing, are architects still relevant? The Berkeley City Club Conservancy is presenting an exciting lecture series featuring Bay Area design leaders whose work promotes sustainability, historic revitalization and urban planning. All are women in a field still dominated by men. All are leaders in their field. All have exciting and insightful stories to tell about how architects respond to today’s environmental and social challenges -more-