Phew. What A Week!

I’m barely pausing for breath after seven long but lustrous nights (well, six nights and one afternoon to be precise) of Bay Area culture. Here’s a quick round-up:

MONDAY JUNE 20 – Leading Ladies at The Castro Theatre: A lesbian ballroom dancing movie by first-time filmmakers and husband and wife team Erika and Daniel Beahm. A touching and hilarious feel-good movie experience. The script is slightly hokey, and some of the acting a bit ropey, but it’s a remarkably impressive effort by a couple of filmmakers who spend their lives working as academics and musicians. Screened as part of the Frameline film festival. A late screening. Got home at around midnight. It was fun strolling through The Castro on a warm night as the neighborhood ramped up for Pride week.

TUESDAY JUNE 21 – Das Rheingold at San Francisco Opera: As I mentioned in a blog post last week, Francesca Zambello’s take on the first of Wagner’s Ring Cycle operas for San Francisco Opera didn’t do it for me. Couldn’t get past the clunky mise-en-scene. Couldn’t see through the impermeable wall of dry-ice. Got home at around 11pm. Early.

WEDNESDAY JUNE 22 – Die Walkure at San Francisco Opera: Despite the dry-ice which led me to dub Zambello’s effort as “The CO2 Ring,” I found myself completely immersed in the music and performances. Nina Stemme in particular makes for a rocket-powered Brunnhilde and Brandon Jovanovich’s open-hearted Siegmund took my breath away. Got home at about 12.30am. Couldn’t sleep cos I was so wired.

THURSDAY JUNE 23 – Missa Solemnis at San Francisco Symphony: I reviewed Michael Tilson Thomas’ inaugural conducting of Beethoven’s choral masterwork for The Bay Citizen. Read my thoughts here. It was a seat-of-the-pants affair. Very exciting. But some of the tension was undesired owing to wayward soloists. A very early night — nothing else on the program so I was tucked up in bed with the program notes by 10.30pm.

FRIDAY JUNE 24 – Siegfried at San Francisco Opera: Jay Hunter Morris and Nina Stemme made for a magnetic couple in the third part of Francesca Ring. I appreciated the male lead’s gamine sensibility. Again, the singing, playing and acting was so strong that the staging didn’t distract me too much. Got home after midnight sometime but stayed up till very late talking it over with friends.

SATURDAY JUNE 25 – Titus Adronicus at California Shakespeare Company: Joel Sass’ slick and beautiful-looking interpretation of Shakespeare’s hammy gorefest took the play (which Kenneth Tynan impishly dubbed “the worst play Christopher Marlowe ever wrote”) to a new level. Fine, metered performances by James Carpenter in the title role and his fellow cast members gave the play a kind of dignity and Ancient Greek tragedy-infused gravitas which had eluded me up until now. Emily Greene’s austere-eloquent set design and Paloma Young’s streamlined, gorgeous costumes added to the overall wonder of the experience. The play was outdoors at the Bruns Amphitheatre near Orinda and lasted three hours. Got home after midnight once again.

SUNDAY JUNE 26 – Gotterdammerung at San Francisco Opera: Didn’t much feel like being indoors on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon for the final part of The Ring Cycle. But I was well rewarded for my effort. Ian Storey made for a more solid and less boyish Siegfried, but Nina Stemme continued to gather fire. Staggered out into the evening sun at a very reasonable 6.15pm (only 5 1/2 hours after arriving!) in a state of euphoria.

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