On The Horizon

Summer's on the doorstep so I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight a few Bay Area performing arts events that I'm excited about:San Francisco International Arts Festival: Despite having its budget slashed by the City of San Francisco a few months ago, this year's SF Arts Festival still has some treats in store. The international lineup includes Sasha Waltz & Guests (Germany), the Akhe Group (Russia), Ranferi Aguilar & Los Hacedores de Lluvia (The Rain Makers, Guatemala) Cho-In Theatre (South Korea), Smita Nagdev (India) and that … [Read more...]

Why We Sing

I've been "collecting" films about choral singing lately. As I was watching Lawrence Dillon and Eric Jansen's moving 2006 documentary about the gay and lesbian choral movement, Why We Sing! I realized that many of the films made about choral singing -- whether non-fiction or fiction -- have one thing in common: They're as much about community activism as they are about music.Take Why We Sing! for instance. The movie focuses on the GALA Choruses' (Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses) 7th International Choral Festival in Montreal, Canada … [Read more...]

The Critic As Artist?

I recently applied for a grant to help support my activities as a performing arts blogger from a Bay Area-based organization that funds theatre artists and companies. Before I applied for the grant, I asked the the grant's leaders if I would be eligible to apply. They told me that as a theatre critic, I would indeed be eligible to apply under the "artist" category, which I thought was very forward-thinking of them. "Yes, you are eligible...You would want to define yourself in terms of being a "theatre artist" (personally, I feel theatre … [Read more...]

On Making Bad Puns On The Radio

Why are classical music radio shows often so turgidly presented? They generally fall into two camps.The first is very serious, with the host showing-off how much knowledge of obscure record labels and arcane musicological esoterica he or she knows, as in "A. Schmendrick's Salutation to Wodin in D-Flat minor composed in 1965 employs Fermat's Last Theorem in bars 368 to 392, which brings to the fore the composer's deep-seated childhood mistrust of paleontologists."The second is very vapid, with the host putting on a creamy, shampoo-ad-style voice … [Read more...]

How To Prevent Heads From Being Buried In Programs

Stephanie Blythe forbid audiences to follow along with the words for the song cycle she performed last night at San Francisco's Herbst Theatre alongside members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The American mezzo-soprano asked he event's producer, San Francisco Performances, to refrain from printing out the text from Alan Louis Smith's Vignettes: Covered Wagon Woman in the program notes. She wanted to see our faces, we were told by San Francisco Performances' director, Ruth Felt, at the start of the program. Concert goers were … [Read more...]

Other People’s Opinion Syndrome

Other People's Opinion Syndrome (OPOS for short) is a common complaint among arts lovers. OPOS is the problem of letting yourself be swayed or influenced by what people are saying about a particular work of art before you go and experience it for yourself. Inevitably, our impressions of a film or piece of theatre, music, dance or exhibition can't help but be affected by the expectations that we've built up in our minds based on other people's reactions to the work of art. If we hear an artwork is absolutely unmissable, we often end up feeling … [Read more...]

Chagall’s Theatre

The natural centerpiece of a new exhibition entitled Chagall and the Artists of the Russian Jewish Theater, 1919-1949, which opens at San Francisco Contemporary Jewish Museum tomorrow, is the room devoted to a series of murals that the famous artist created in 1920 for the Moscow State Yiddish Theatre (GOSET).I've seen some of these canvases before, but never have I been able to experience so many of them grouped together in a single space. The effect is startling. Colors dance from one painting to the next; characters -- some of them based on … [Read more...]

The Best Solo Theatre Artist You Ought To Have Heard Of

There aren't many theatre artists / companies whose work I simply have to see or curse myself if I'm out of town and am therefore forced to miss. The late great theatre company Theatre de la Jeune Lune is -- or rather was -- one of these. The British stage director Neil Bartlett is another. The solo theatre artist / standup comedian Will Franken is a third.Many people probably share my views on Jeune Lune and Bartlett -- Perhaps not household names, they are well known within the performing arts field. Franken, however, is in a different … [Read more...]

Crouching Spider, Imminent Departure

The two-and-a-half-ton bronze spider that has greeted tourists and locals as they stroll along San Francisco's picturesque waterfront for the past 17 months is about to scuttle away.The sculpture, Crouching Spider, by the iconic French artist Louise Bourgeois, has been on loan to the city since November 2007 and has enjoyed pride of place at the Embarcadero's Entry Plaza at Pier 14.The sculpture was originally cast in 2003 from the artist's famous Spider series and was made specifically for display in San Francisco. Initially lent for eight … [Read more...]

YouTube Symphony: My Two Cents

Everyone's talking about the YouTube Symphony project, which reached its culmination two evenings ago in a concert at Carnegie Hall led by Michael Tilson Thomas.Reviews have been mixed. For example, the New York Times was mostly positive and the Washington Post, mostly negative. The blogosphere has been buzzing with comments about the event. Greg Sandow's detailed post at ArtsJournal yesterday voiced his disappointment with the razzle-dazzle of the event (the celebrities, the video projections, the TV coverage, the … [Read more...]

Memorial Meanings

Memorials are unusual structures. In a post-modern world of fractured meanings, these structures still attempt (and largely succeed) to present a clear, unified and highly-subjective view on world events. Some memorials, though, defy straightforward interpretation.One example is the massive holocaust memorial in Berlin -- "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe" -- which has been the cause of much controversy over the past decade for failing to acknowledge the non-Jewish victims of the Nazis and, as part of Germany's "Holocaust industry", … [Read more...]

The Contemporary Dance World’s “Friends”

The German choreographer Sasha Waltz's evening-length dance piece, Travelogue 1 - Twenty to Eight depicts the daily lives of five roommates. With its comic view of the relationships between a group of young urbanites and pressing sense of immediacy, the piece brings the American television series Friends to mind.Created in 1993, the work not only preempted Friends by a year, but it's a great deal more captivating than the iconic TV show in my opinion.I caught the piece at Berlin's trendy, new riverside arts space, RadialSystem V last week in … [Read more...]