Local News Matters Arts & Entertainment newsletter
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The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.
Puccini impersonator: To many an opera lover, there is no such thing as too much Puccini. If you’re in that category, you’ll want to tune in at 5 p.m. Sunday to Opera San Jose’s event, livestreamed from Italy, where a theatrical impresario known for his nonstop channeling of multiple musical personas takes on the composer as his newest alter ego and presents four renowned opera stars singing “his” music. Co-presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, “Hershey Felder, Puccini” tells the story of a young, Puccini-besotted musician who gets to meet the master (a.k.a. Felder) himself. As the tale unfolds, the vocal splendor flows from the four singers: baritone Nathan Gunn, soprano Gianna Corbisiero, tenor Charles Castronovo and soprano Ekaterina Siurina. The production, featuring arias from “Turandot,” “La Boheme,” “Tosca” and more, will be filmed in Florence and from within the very home in Lucca where Puccini lived and then be made available to view on demand for the following week. Tickets, $55 per household, are available at both operasj.org and TheatreWorks.org.
I want my MTT: For those of you who have been missing Michael Tilson Thomas since he stepped down from the San Francisco Symphony podium, the Library of Congress is giving you a free opportunity to hear him introduce some players from his other ensemble, the New World Symphony, an organization he co-founded in 1987 to help train and promote the careers of young musicians.
Filmed at the state-of-the-art New World Center in Miami Beach, Florida, the program hosted by the Library of Congress’ Virtual Concert series, will begin at 5 p.m. Friday and be streamed on both the Library’s YouTube and Facebook pages. On the program are “be still and know,” a trio for horn, violin and piano by award-winning composer Carlos Simon; Wuorinen’s Trio for Horn, Violin and Piano; and Bartok’s Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Access to the program after its first broadcast will remain indefinitely. Find more information at www.loc.gov.
A little bit of everything: Bay Area musician Taj Mahal started out as a traditional blues revivalist (that is, after he dropped his first loves — farming and veterinary science) but has gone on to explore a staggering array of mostly Black-rooted genres: traditional African music, Caribbean, reggae, gospel, R&B, rock, Zydeco and more. He’s also ventured into Latin, Indian and Pacific Islands music and was part of a project that created an Americana take on the music of classical composer Antonin Dvorak. Heck, he even has several children’s albums to his credit. So Mahal could play just about anything on Saturday, when he performs the first of three livestreaming March concerts, and it wouldn’t be a complete surprise. However, the fact that he’ll be accompanied by his Phantom Blues Band and guest Crescent City funkster Jon Cleary suggests he’ll touch at least a little on traditional New Orleans R&B. On March 20, he’ll host a “Rising Roots Showcase” featuring some of his favorite young artists. And on March 27, he’ll perform with the terrific Oakland blues/R&B musician Fantastic Negrito. All shows will stream at 6 p.m. at the UC Theatre in Berkeley’s website, www.theuctheatre.org, and will be available on demand for 48 hours after the music stops. Access costs $25 for an individual ticket, $32 for a group ticket and $60 for all three performances.
New works, new voices: Smuin Ballet’s “Choreography Showcase” season, which is streaming several shows through Sunday, displays a stunning commitment to highlighting homegrown talent. Among the season’s three programs (titled “Opal,” “Topaz” and “Sapphire”) are 15 world-premiere works created by 11 choreographers, all of whom happen to be Smuin dancers. Each new work was recently filmed at the company’s Smuin Center for Dance, and collectively, the premieres touch on a wide variety of classic and contemporary ballet. The programs also include several Smuin favorites performed and filmed in recent years, representing such established dancemakers as Ben Needham-Wood, Nicole Haskins and Rex Wheeler. Each program will include a Zoom Q&A with the dancers and choreographers involved, as well as company artistic director Celia Fushille. Single tickets are $25 each, $60 gets you access to all performances. See the schedule and buy tickets at www.smuinballet.org.
‘Fantastic’ fundraiser: Town Hall Theatre in Lafayette isn’t messing around with this year’s streaming fundraising campaign. There’ll be no warbling showtunes to a solo piano player while viewers download a make-it-at-home martini recipe for this troupe. Instead, Town Hall is serving up a 10-episode adaptation of Mike Bockoven’s terrifying thriller of a novel “FantasticLand.” It’s about a group of Florida theme-park employees trapped after a hurricane, whose “Lord of the Flies”-like escapades are revealed after their rescue.
Episodes 1 and 2 drop on Thursday and subsequent chapters will post through April 7 (all episodes will be available on demand for several weeks). The company will also host a Zoom chat every Monday on its Facebook page, featuring interviews and behind-the-scenes details of the production. The novel was adapted by Bay Area playwright M.E. Ianiro and performed by a cast of more than 20 actors directed by Alysia Homminga. The show, by the way, features some grisly images and is not suitable for very young viewers. You can access the production for $25. Go to www.townhalltheatre.com.