Arts & Eventz

Theater Review: 'Way Out West'--Adaptation of 'The Inspector General' Set in Early California

Ken Bullock
Friday April 14, 2017 - 05:36:00 PM

"And what's wrong with a little palm oil?"

The shrewd, self-styled cynics of an end-of-the-road frontier town have caught wind of a government official traveling incognito from the capital, sure to report all kinds of their civic chicanery and official laxity to the powers on high after he sneaks into their burg--or gouges the locals, promising to overlook their many peccadilloes ... And so they brace themselves for the onslaught, planning a big, overly-friendly welcome--and a lot of exaggerated bribery--as a counterattack ...

The Ross Valley Players are presenting Joel Eis' original play--or should we say, original adaptation, 'Way Out West,' which was developed under their auspices, onstage at the Barn, a kind of double-barreled tour de force, certainly something with a couple of twists--an adaptation of Nicolai Gogol's great satiric farce, 'The Inspector General,' reset in newly Americanized San Francisco on the eve of the Gold Rush, its wildly humorous dialogue become American tall tale banter. -more-

Takács Quartet’s Beethoven Cycle Closes with a Rousing Finish

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday April 14, 2017 - 08:14:00 AM

On April 8-9, the Takács Quartet brought to a rousing close its cycle of the complete Beethoven string quartets. Begun last October, this Beethoven cycle comprised six concerts, all in the excellent acoustic space of UC Berkeley’s Hertz Hall. How lucky we are to have the opportunity to hear a world-class string quartet perform all sixteen of Beethoven’s String Quartets plus Die Grosse Fugue. This latter work, catalogued as Op. 133, was performed by the Takács Quartet on Sunday, April 9, as it was intended by Beethoven as the final movement of the Op. 130 String Quartet. However, at the urging of a publisher the composer saw fit to write a less demanding, more accessible finale for the Op. 130 Quartet. Yet what more fitting ending could one imagine for a cycle of the complete Beethoven String Quartets than the Grosse Fugue played as the finale of Op. 130? -more-

The Danish National Symphony Orchestra with Deborah Voigt

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday April 14, 2017 - 09:47:00 AM

On April 2-3, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra gave two concerts at Davies Hall under the direction of their new Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi. The Sunday evening concert I attended offered Danish composer Carl Nielsen’s Helios Overture, Richard Wagner’s Wesendonk Lieder with soprano Deborah Voigt as soloist, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3 in E-flat Major, Eroica. Opening the program was Nielsen’s Helios Overture, an ode to Helios, the Greek god of the sun, who wheeled his four-horsed chariot across the sky each day from east to west. Nielsen wrote this 12-minute work while spending six months in Greece in 1903. As the Helios Overture begins, muted throbbing is heard in the basses, barely emerging out of silence. Then four horns are heard, interwoven in dissonance, as they announce the sunrise. The music then spans an arc as the sun itself spans an arc from east to west. At midday, when the sun is brightest, the four horns sound again, this time in powerful unison. An energetic theme is developed which culminates in a fugue. Then the sun gradually descends its arc until it sinks silently into the sea. Nielsen wrote a letter to his three children back in Denmark describing the inspiration he drew from a particularly beautiful sunset at the port of the island of Aegina. By coincidence, I too experienced an incredibly beautiful sunset as I looked out to sea from the port of Aegina, as the setting sun backlit the jagged mountainous peaks of the islands of Moni and Angistri and the rugged coastline of the Peloponnesos. What Carl Nielsen put into music, I put into a chapter in a novel. -more-