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.
Popcorn, with arias: Want to attend a live production from the New York Metropolitan Opera? You can do it, virtually, from your chosen movie seat in theaters all over the Bay Area this Saturday, as the nation’s preeminent opera company livestreams its current production of Donizetti’s tragic masterpiece “Lucia di Lammermoor,” starring the fabulous soprano Nadine Sierra, a Merola and Adler Fellow alum at San Francisco Opera who has already appeared many a time on our own stage here at War Memorial Opera House. Sierra, who also took the leading role here in 2015, stars as the doomed Lucia (famed throughout operadom for her blood-soaked “mad” scene) opposite tenor Javier Camarena as her heartthrob Edgardo and baritone Artur Rucínski as her ruffian of a brother Enrico. This production, a new staging updated from Scotland to a Rust Belt American town by Australian film and theater director Simon Stone, also features the celebrated bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Raimondo and will be conducted by Ricardo Frizza. The curtains rise in Bay Area movie houses at 9:55 a.m., and there will be rebroadcasts at 6:30 p.m. May 25 in most locations, with some theaters, such as the Century 16 Downtown Pleasant Hill, also offering another encore presentation earlier the same day at 1 p.m. Tickets are $27, $25 for seniors; you can find your nearest theater and access to reserved seats at https://www.metopera.org/season/in-cinemas/theater-finder/.
Stars in the making: Opera San Jose has 11 strong competitors lined up for a great sing-off of sorts on Saturday afternoon — the finals of the Irene Dalis Vocal Competition, which bears the name of the late, great mezzo-soprano who founded the company and steered it for many years. Following the livestreamed-for-free semifinals that took place the previous Wednesday afternoon that produced a public-selected “audience favorite,” the 3 p.m. finals in the California Theatre in downtown San Jose will see all of the singers vying for a $5,000 first prize, a $3,000 second prize and a $1,500 third. The remaining singers will each get a $500 “encouragement” award. There is ample talent on the four-member judging panel as well, as it includes the Bay Area’s own beloved Frederica von Stade, an internationally acclaimed mezzo herself. For the first time in the event’s history, the Opera San Jose Orchestra will accompany the singers. They are: mezzo-soprano Veena Akama-Makia from Little Rock, Arkansas; bass-baritone Ben Brady from Denver, Colorado; soprano Susan Burgess from Atlanta, Georgia; baritone Andres Cascante from San Jose, Costa Rica; mezzo-soprano Shanley Horvitz from Voorhees, New Jersey; soprano Emily Michiko Jensen from San Diego; soprano Anastasia Malliaras from Los Angeles; baritone Samson McCrady from Tucson, Arizona; soprano Nina Mutalifu from Ürümqi, China; baritone Sejin Park from Seoul, South Korea; and tenor Kyle van Schoonhoven from Lockport, New York. Tickets for the finals are $50-$200 for Opera San Jose subscribers, $75-$225 for the public, available at https://www.operasj.org/ or (408) 437-4450.
ODC takes it on the road: ODC/Dance must be doing something right. The popular San Francisco-based modern dance troupe is marking its 50th year, which is a notable achievement for any arts organization. But following two years that knocked all of the arts community for a loop, ODC has returned to live shows this year seemingly less interested in reviewing old memories than in creating new ones. Take this weekend, for example. The company and its talented dancers are heading out to Alameda Point to present a new site-specific work titled “Island City Waterways: Uprooted,” in collaboration with Alameda’s Rhythmix Cultural Works. The work, conceived and directed by Rhythmix founder and artistic director Janet Koike, touches on the area’s most famous history as a the onetime home of the Alameda Naval Air Station (1940-1997) as well as its darker chapter — as a “civil control station” for Japanese Americans on their way to internment camps. Part of that story is told by letters written by the parents of ODC choreographer and teacher Kimi Okada, who were among the more than 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned in the United States during World War II. Performances are 10 and 11:45 a.m. and 1:30 and 3:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Alameda Point’s West Mall Square. Admission is free, but registration is required; go to https://www.islandcitywaterways.org/.
Music with meaning: Jewlia Eisenberg grew up in Brooklyn but made her mark in the arts world after she relocated to the East Bay and became ensconced in a underground music scene flourishing with artists who had much to say about politics, intellectual and sexual freedom and history. She was a multitalented composer, vocalist, activist, educator, lay cantor and more who was probably best known as leader of the East Bay band Charming Hostess, which she described as a “Nerdy-Sexy-Commie-Girly” outfit whose music blended klezmer, punk, Eastern European folk, funk and body rhythm. The Hostess’ music served as a lively and unique foundation for its ruminations on sex, gender roles, history, religion, Marxist ideology and other provocative matters. Such was Eisenberg’s creative energy that she kept working even after being diagnosed with a rare immune disorder. In the final year or so of her life, Eisenberg fought against the ravages of her disease to work on her final project, an album dedicated to famed Italian writers and anti-fascist icons Natalia and Leone Ginzburg. Eisenberg died in March 2021 before the album was done, but two Charming Hostess members, Max Baloian and Marika Hughes, completed it. “The Ginzburg Geography” will be released on Friday on the Hostess’ longtime label, Tzadik Records (https://www.tzadik.com/). At 7 p.m. Friday, members of the band as well as AnMarie Rodgers, Eisenberg’s partner, will host a CD release/listening party at Chochmat HaLev, 2215 Prince St., Berkeley. Admission is $18 (which includes a copy of the CD). Go to https://www.eventbrite.com/ and search for “Jewlia Eisenberg” to get tickets and more information.
Toy story: “La Boutique fantasque,” created in the early 20th century, is one of those stories that seems to lend itself to quintessential ballet. Inside a toy store, dolls spring magically to life, and of course, a couple of them fall in love. The dance was created by Leonide Massine based on a libretto by Andre Derain, who was best known as an artist and architect of the aggressively colorful Fauvist movement of the early 1900s. Inspired by Fauvism and the art of Toulouse-Lautrec, “La Boutique fantasque” was a dazzling production set to the music of Rossini. Now, San Jose’s New Ballet is reviving the dance, based on a complete reinvention of the work by company director and principal choreographer Dalia Rawson, in collaboration with animator and video artist Atlquetzalli (Ketzi) Rivera. Despite the changes, dance fans can expect another fanciful, colorful production, with the same Rossini score, when the company performs “La Boutique fantasque” Sunday at the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose. The main performance is at 2 p.m., paired with a revival of the company’s take on “Paquita.” At 11 a.m., the company will perform a shorter version of the work intended for families with young children. Tickets are $19-$100. Go to https://newballet.com/.