Joe Goode Travels Light

It must be an interesting experience for the dancers in the Joe Goode Company to go from performing in the narrow, dark confines of the Ann Hamilton Tower in Sonoma (where I last experienced a site specific work, fall within, by the company earlier this summer) to the airy, open spaces of The Historic Mint building in San Francisco. Everything in fall within was tightly wound and internalized. There wasn't much room for the dancers to move, so kinetic economy was the mainstay of the piece.Economy plays a major role in this new work. Not only … [Read more...]

Sufjan Stevens in Pacific Heights

Alec Duffy has taken a lot of flack for his unconventional approach to sharing a piece of music. Duffy (pictured), a Brooklyn-based theatre director, won the 2007 Sufjan Stevens Christmas song-swap contest -- a song-writing competition wherein Stevens pledged to send a copy of an unreleased single to the composer who sent in the best original song. Around 600 people entered the competition. Duffy's song, "It's Christmas Every Day," won.Instead of uploading Stevens' song, "The Lonely Man of Winter," on the Web, Duffy, together with his friend … [Read more...]

Bawdy Banchieri

I hadn't heard of the Italian Renaissance composer Adriano Banchieri (1567 -- 1634) until the directors of the early music ensemble with which I perform decided to mount one of the Italian Renaissance composer's pioneering madrigal comedies, Festino nella sera del giovedì grasso ("Entertainment for the eve of Carnival Thursday") this summer. A madrigal comedy is a collection of madrigals strung together to present a comical story.And the Festino is pretty nuts. In one of the movements, we all make different animal noises. I'm not talking … [Read more...]

Strange Scenic Appendages At Santa Fe

The Santa Fe Opera Festival does things so right. In one respect though, my few days of opera-going at the Festival last week were marred by the sudden and unexpected intrusion of extreme wrongness in the shape of misguided scenery.In Chas Rader-Shieber's production of Don Giovanni starring Lucas Meachem, blood red paint boldly turned what would otherwise have been idyllic, old-fashioned provincial village scenery into something artfully demonic. But the effect was ruined in the final scene when scenic designer David Zinn decided to introduce … [Read more...]

To Natalie Dessay’s Detractors

A delightfully warm discussion at the dinner table before one of the operas at the Santa Fe Opera Festival a couple of nights ago about the French soprano Natalie Dessay prompts this blog post. A couple of eminent music writers (whom I admire a great deal and very much enjoyed meeting in the flesh at the Festival) consider Dessay to have a less than stellar voice and her acting to be gimmicky and repetitive.To my new friends -- and to anyone else who thinks Dessay is anything less than one of the best performers to have graced the opera stage … [Read more...]

Distant Worlds

Surprises at San Francisco Symphony's Distant Worlds: Music From Final Fantasy concert of music from the famous video game written by the Japanese composer Nobuo Uematsu:1. The audience was full of game geeks, most of them under 35 and many of them Asian.2. The composer processed through the hall flanked by two aides at the start of the concert before taking his seat with a bow to rapturous applause from his fans.3. Thousands of people -- maybe hundreds of thousands worldwide -- are obsessed with Uematsu's score for Final Fantasy. As soon as … [Read more...]

Electra Three Ways

Stanford Summer Theater (SST) is addressing issues of tragic memory with a triptych of Ancient Greek takes on the Electra story. Guest blogger Aisha Wells, Student Producer of SST, shares her thoughts about some of themes in this year's Festival...Maurice "Rush" Rehm, Stanford Drama and Classics professor and Artistic Director of Stanford Summer Theater (SST), has recently purchased a new cell phone--a small, convenient flip-phone complete with a built-in camera and that polished luster that characterizes most new technology. "$29.99," Rehm … [Read more...]

The Devil Takes West Oakland

The Ghost Town Gallery isn't in a particularly lovely part of Oakland. The streets are rife with swirling trash, windows are boarded up and there are prostitution and drug warnings posted on almost every corner.It is, however, the perfect neighborhood in which to stage a theatrical adaptation of The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov's great 1930s satirical novel in which the Devil runs rampage around a destitute and corrupt city.Four Larks Theatre Company, a scrappy and exceedingly talented young troupe with one cloven hoof in the Bay Area … [Read more...]

Smule at the Symphony

When I first heard about the The San Francisco Symphony's online Social Networking project, I wasn't all that excited. I thought that it wouldn't attract that many people as classical music concert goers tend to be of an older generation and I imagined it would turn out to be a bit like a sparsely attended Facebook.The Symphony is proving me wrong though. The Social Network turns out to be a fascinating place to meet people with all kinds of weird and wonderful musical interests. And I'm pretty impressed with the ways in which the organization … [Read more...]

Tony Phony

I am trying to wrap my head around the news that as of next season, theatre journalists will no longer be part of the Tony Award voting process. As a story in yesterday's New York Times explained:"In a significant change to voting procedures for the Tony Awards, the Tony Management Committee announced Tuesday evening that about 100 theater critics and journalists -- about one-eighth of all Tony voters -- will no longer be eligible to vote in the competition for Broadway's most prestigious honor...An official close to the committee, who was not … [Read more...]

Overheard At The Gym

At the gym the other day, the instructor of a fitness class put a pop song on the stereo to which we were about to do some kind of painful chest routine with the dumbells."This track is weird. I think it's European," said the instructor as she brandished her weights."How do you know?" Someone asked. "Well, I'm only guessing," said the instructor. "Because it's got five beats to the bar." … [Read more...]

Short And Tweet

In advance of a class I'm teaching over the next couple of weeks about engaging with and responding to live performance through writing for California Shakespeare Theater's Summer School program, I'm trying out Twitter as a conduit for channeling thoughts about a performance.It's not easy.For what it's worth, here's my take, in 140 characters including spaces or less, of the production which my students are going to be writing full reviews about this week (and posting them on the CalShakes' blog):"Stephen Turner and Diana LaMar's lovebirds … [Read more...]