A Strange Marketing Campaign

The marketing of classical music artists and their projects has gone from staid to sexy to sensationalist over the last decade or so. But Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli may have taken things a little too far with the packaging of her soon-to-be-released album Sacrificium. Dedicated to exploring the work of the great Italian castrati of the 17th and 18th centuries, the album features Bartoli's interpretations of music by the likes of Nicola Porpora, Antonio Caldara, Francesco Araia and Carl Heinrich Graun as well as bonus tracks by … [Read more...]

The Ideal Folk Club?

Last night, the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse -- the longest-running, full-time venue for folk and traditional music west of the Mississippi River -- opened the doors to its new 18,000 square foot venue on Addison Street in downtown Berkeley with a sparkling concert of Celtic string and vocal music helmed by Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser and Californian cellist Nathalie Haas.I don't want to dwell on the concert itself in this blog post. I've written about Fraser and Haas before. I consider these musicians to be among the most sublime … [Read more...]

Public Faces Private Places

Actor Barry Rutter in his Satyr costume chatting with writer and director Tony Harrison during rehearsals for The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus at the Stadium at Delphi in 1988. Actor Tom Courtenay looking dreamily into the camera on location in author Alan Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner in 1962. Composer Benjamin Britten listening intently to a rehearsal for a concert in Blythburgh Church at the Aldeburgh Festival in 1961. Rocker Marianne Faithfull posing tiredly in a 1978 studio portrait. Painter David Hockney putting the … [Read more...]

East Bay Envy

San Francisco eat your heart out. The East Bay seems to have all the most enticing live performance spots these days. The West Bay appears dull in comparison. Here's a rundown of some of Oakland and Berkeley's most enticing places to check out live performance:The Freight & Salvage: The Bay Area's premiere folk club is newly reopening at a central location on Addison Street in Berkeley this week. Berkeley Repertory Theatre: All eyes are on the Rep this season thanks to Tony Taccone's high-profile programming which includes the world … [Read more...]

Not All Site Specific Theatre Is Created Equal

A friend of mine, J, who's a site specific theatre aficionado, provided some interesting insights into his favorite subject over the weekend which I would like to share.According to J, site specific theatre isn't about staging a production of an existing play in a non-traditional venue. For example, by his standards, Urban Opera's version of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas that I caught on Sunday evening does not qualify as site-specific theatre even though the director made clever use of the non-traditional space -- an outdoor plaza in front of an … [Read more...]

Opera Al Fresco

As I headed over to San Francisco's industrial Mission Bay neighborhood to experience Urban Opera's outdoor production of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas yesterday evening with a couple of friends, I was a little worried. Lacking the necessary acoustics and stage set up, opera generally plays badly al fresco. Plus, there was a strong wind blowing in from the Bay and the temperature was dropping fast. I was particularly concerned about how standing on a blustering promontory in a toga would affect the singers' vocal chords and general health.I need … [Read more...]

Vaudeville Drag

A few days ago, The New York Times published an article about the demise of the Vaudeville-style sideshow. "Fire-breathing bizarros are so hard to find these days," the article began. That may be the case in New York, but in San Francisco, fire-breathing bizarros -- bizarros of all stripes in fact -- are two a penny.I was reminded of this fact last night as I experienced The Shadow Circus Vaudeville Theatre's performance at The Climate Theater alongside some visiting relations from England: my aunt, her husband and my 16-year-old cousin.The … [Read more...]

Hunger Artist

San Francisco streets seem to be full of people standing on their heads and hands these days. It must be the recession. Most of them are young African-American men in their 20s and 30s. They do complicated endurance-testing upside down contortions on street corners downtown seemingly for hours, sometimes with props and always with a change jar in front of them. I cannot imagine a more demanding way to pay your rent.I watched this one guy for a while yesterday. It was a chilly afternoon with blustering wind. He was dressed in black shorts and a … [Read more...]

Chiara e Oscura

At the Great American Music Hall last night, my friend Brian and I heard two female vocalists. One didn't do it for me. I was bored silly by her voice, even though her songs were tuneful enough. It was breathy and bland. If it were edible, it would be French toast made with Wonderbread soaked in maple-flavored syrup.The other, contrastingly, completely held my attention. It wasn't the greatest instrument I'd ever heard. But there was depth and charisma to it. Every now and again it did unexpected things, like fluttering, butterfly-like, in the … [Read more...]

Primal Scream

Listening to Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq perform live is like being shut up in a cage with a bunch of wild animals. On Saturday evening at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco, this beautiful, strapping singer, who is best known outside of her native Nunavut Canada for her collaborations with Bjork, made concert-going in the traditional sense of the term feel like an absurdly staid affair.As Tagaq stood on stage in a tight, green sateen dress and heels flanked by a couple of low-key-looking musician dudes, the very … [Read more...]

In His Element

It's always a treat to see an actor having fun on stage. The fun factor can often ebb and flow during a long run of a play. But if it's a short run and the role is prime, the person charged with playing it tends to find it easier to let rip.Such was the case on Friday night, when I caught the amazing Bay Area performer, Geoff Hoyle, essaying the role of Alfred P. Doolittle in the Lamplighters production of My Fair Lady. It's been a long time since I've seen an actor enjoying himself so much on stage. His enthusiasm was infectious. And because … [Read more...]