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.
Arts from around the world: If you’re not aware yet of the Bay Area’s status as a magnet for global arts performers, check out the annual San Francisco International Arts Festival, which returns this week for another stunning roundup of dance, theater, performing arts and music presentations both live and streaming. While uncertainty over COVID precautions made it impossible for organizers to put together their usual three-week event (which strikes us as a logistical marvel even under perfect conditions), this year’s event still serves up a compelling array of recitals and performances Wednesday through Sunday — some 24 live performances and another dozen streaming productions — ranging in duration from 15 minutes to an hour. What’s your pleasure? Brazilian Capoeira? Check. A life-affirming blend of hip-hop and street dance? Yup. Traditional flamenco performed by a top San Francisco company? Of course. An otherworldly homage to birds performed by a master puppeteer? Oh, yeah. The best way to approach the grand assemblage is to head to the SFIAF’s website and check the schedule. Something is bound to grab your attention. Live events all take place at the Fort Mason complex in San Francisco, both on outdoor stages and indoors at the Young Performers Theatre. If you’re going to a live show, check the COVID safety requirements on its website. Most live single performances run $18-$25, online presentations run from a $5-$10 suggested donation to $10-$12. Festival passes run $36-$135. Go to www.sfiaf.org.
Ten years after: It has been a looong time since he last graced a stage here, so fans of opera superstar Jonas Kaufmann have good reason to rejoice. The renowned German tenor, celebrated for his starring roles in operas such as “Carmen,” “Otello” and “Don Carlos,” has a more intimate experience in mind as he returns to UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances lineup Sunday for his second appearance since his 2011 debut. And what a program he has lined up for his solo recital in Zellerbach Hall! Accompanied by his longtime pianist Helmut Deutsch, Kaufmann will perform nine lieder by Franz Liszt and follow them up with a flurry of songs from Schubert, Mozart, Brahms, Chopin, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Dvorak, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Hugo Wolf and Gustav Mahler. Many of them can be heard on the recording he and Deutsch released last fall on the Sony Classical label, “Selige Stunde.” The title song, by Alexander Zemlinsky, is also on the recital program. The music begins at 3 p.m. in Zellerbach, Bancroft Way and Dana Street in Berkeley. Tickets, $45-$175, are available at calperformances.org and at (510) 642-9988. Proof of vaccination is required for entry, and attendees must wear masks in the auditorium.
A unique collaboration: As part of the seventh iteration of its adventurous PIVOT Festival, this year themed “Ghost Stories,” San Francisco Performances brings tenor Nicholas Phan and the groundbreaking quartet Brooklyn Rider to the Herbst Theatre stage at 7:30 p.m. Thursday for an especially ambitious evening of music. Schubert’s seminal string quartet “Death and the Maiden” (the No. 14 in D minor) is on the program, as are Rebecca Clarke’s “Daybreak” and Thomas Campion’s “Never weather-beaten sail.” But the probable attention-grabber will be the West Coast premiere of Nico Muhly’s “Stranger,” a seven-movement piece for tenor and quartet that is a meditation on the immigrant experience from a variety of viewpoints. The piece is dedicated to Phan, who provided the vocals when he and Brooklyn Rider performed its world premiere in Philadelphia last year. Tickets for the performance, $45-$65, are at sfperformances.org and (415) 392-2545. Safety protocols observed include proof of vaccination and the wearing of masks.
Streaming Seiwert: As a member of Smuin Ballet and as the head of her own dance company, Imagery, Amy Seiwert has been an indelible figure in the Bay Area dance world for years. So it was wonderful in August to see her work brought to the live stage for the first time in nearly two years. That was when Imagery presented the latest installment of her “Sketch” series of recitals devoted to new works. “Sketch 11: Interrupted” presented the world premieres of pandemic-themed works by Seiwert and Imagery artistic fellow Ben Needham-Wood, a former dancer who has choreographed several popular works with Seiwert’s company as well as with Smuin. The “Interrupted” part of the title was not a reference to COVID’s cruel shutdown of nearly all live performance (at least not overtly) but to the fact that Seiwert and Needham-Wood would “interrupt” the performance of each other’s work by posing questions and feedback about the choreography, thus exploring the ideas that went into the dances and the nature of the choreographic process itself. If you didn’t get a chance to catch the one-weekend run of the “Sketch 11: Interrupted,” you are in luck; Amy Seiwert’s Imagery and ODC Theater have teamed up to present a streaming version of the production. The multi-camera presentation emerges, in the words of the presenters, as a “hybrid of dance film and traditional performance documentation, offering a cinematic experience of these original works.” The show will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and then be available on demand Saturday through Nov. 5. Access costs $25-$55; go to odc.dance or www.asimagery.org
A guitar-slinger returns: In the late ‘60s through the mid-’70s, Bill Kirchen and his band, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, emerged as a happening act around the Bay Area and beyond with its “outlaw” take on early rock, rockabilly and other American roots music genres. Kitchen’s flame-throwing guitar licks — he was dubbed the “Titan of the Telecaster” — drew raves from the likes of Willie Nelson, the Grateful Dead, the Allman Brothers and Waylon Jennings. After the band broke up in 1976, Kirchen embarked on a wide-ranging career as a band leader and guitar-gun for hire, dabbling in everything from swing (as front man for the Moonlighters) to honky-tonk to all manner of rock and country sounds. He was a longtime collaborator with rocker Nick Lowe and has played on several occasions (including the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival) with Lowe’s protege, Elvis Costello. His eclectic tastes and utter talent and versatility helped define the emergence of the Americana music genre in the later half of the 20th century. He is cited as an influence on such “twangcore” acts as Dave Alvin and Wilco. But we’re just scratching the surface of Kirchen’s exuberant mark on American roots music history. And the 73-year-old musician, singer and songwriter is still playing. On Saturday, Kirchen, now based in Austin, returns to the Bay Area to perform a reunion concert with members of the Lost Planet Airmen at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage music club. Showtime is 8 p.m., and tickets are $30-$34. A proof of vaccination is required for entry, and a mask is mandatory inside the joint. Go to thefreight.org.