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.

Freebie of the week: One of the Bay Area’s nicer traditions returns each year around this time: municipal-organized concerts in parks and public spaces through spring, summer and fall. Performances are usually free (or inexpensive); the music is fun, lively and often of exceptional caliber; and audiences get to experience everything in a nice setting, maybe with a glass of wine or beer or a picnic. It’s why many folks believe music can anchor events that foster a sense of community. One of our favorite music series returns this Thursday to Concord’s Todos Santos Plaza at Willow Pass Road and Grant Street. (There is free parking nearby). The Music & Market series takes place at 6:30 p.m. each Thursday through September and each performance is free. The series’ name reflects that the concert is going on at the same time as a fun and sizable farmer’s market at the site. It’s a lively scene and a perfect post-work adventure. Thursday’s opener is a hometown hero – the Concord Blue Devils, one of the finest drum and bugle corps in the country. In all, the series features a nice mix of jazz, party pop/rock, world music, blues, Cajun and more. Some performers are top-notch musicians who have been playing Music & Market and other Bay Area community concerts for years, including acclaimed Cajun and Zydeco fiddler/violinist Tom Rigney and his band Flambeau (June 15), Prince tribute band Purple Ones (July 13), the all-woman Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella (Aug. 31) and The Sun Kings (Sept. 14), one of the best Beatles tribute outfits going. A full schedule and more information are at

Nicole Tung and Michael Barrett appear in David Henry Hwang’s comedy of language errors, “Chinglish.” (Photo courtesy Jessica Palopoli/San Francisco Playhouse)

Mangled meanings: They were the darlings of social media some years back: those public signs in China that included awkward English translations (“Beware of Missing Foot,” “Slip and Fall Carefully!”). Their fascination has faded with time (and perhaps with the realization that they were only funny to Americans who expect every other country to speak English), but one lasting remnant of value is David Henry Hwang’s play “Chinglish,” which is enjoying a successful and well-received run at San Francisco Playhouse. The play centers on an American businessman who heads to China hoping to secure lucrative contacts for his family sign company. Of course, the prospective clients he meets don’t always understand him very well, and what unspools is an insightful and comedic clash of idioms, expectations and motivations. But don’t take our translation, go see for yourself. SF Playhouse’s production, directed by the talented Jeffrey Lo, runs through June 10 at 450 Post St.; performances are 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $15-$100; go to

Singer-songwriter-guitarist Steve Lacy headlines one of three Re:SET concerts at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheatre this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Steve Lacy)

‘Re:SET’ your concert experience: Heading to Stanford University this weekend is an intriguing approach to the traditional concert format, albeit one that still promises to deliver first-rate pop and rock. Titled Re:SET, the format calls for each headlining act to select a different cast of supporting musicians for each show, so that the itinerary is never repeated over the course of the tour. Re:SET is bringing three shows to Stanford’s lovely Frost Amphitheatre. The series kicks off Friday with the terrific and adventuresome Brooklyn band LCD Soundsystem, led by James Murphy, with curated openers including British DJ Jamie XX, British rockers Idles, and American rapper Big Freedia, and more. Saturday welcomes the singer-songwriter-guitarist Steve Lacy and his guests, Brit singer-songwriter James Blake, American singer Toro y Moi, and American singer-songwriter Foushee, among others. Sunday brings Boygenius, the indie rock supergroup including Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus, and their guests, singer-songwriter Clairo, American musician and producer Dijon, and the guitarist Bertees Strange, among others. Each concert begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are not cheap, $99.50-$275, but these shows should each deliver a ton of great music. Tickets and more information are at 

Soprano Camilla Nylund sings the title role in San Francisco Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’ “Die Frau ohne Schatten,” while tenor David Butt Philip is her husband, the Emperor. (Photo courtesy Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

Light goes right through her: San Francisco Opera embarks upon its summer season this weekend, beginning with a production of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” that opens Saturday night at War Memorial. But far less well-traversed ground follows on Sunday afternoon with the rarely performed Richard Strauss vehicle “Die Frau ohne Schatten,” perhaps the most massively cast of his operas, requiring orchestral forces of more than 100 musicians and a list of singers longer than your arm. That German translates to “The Woman Without a Shadow,” and it’s a whacked-out doozy of a fairy tale story. It revolves around an Empress, the shadowless one of the title and the daughter of the master of the spirit world, who must beg, borrow, steal or otherwise acquire said shadow from a mortal woman (which will allow her to get pregnant, go figure) in order to prevent her father from turning her husband, the Emperor, into stone. Finnish soprano Camilla Nylund leads an international cast in the title role, with British tenor David Butt Philip singing as the Emperor, and the incomparable Swedish soprano Nina Stemme as the Dyer’s Wife, the intended victim of the shadow-grabbing enterprise. Former San Francisco Opera music director Sir Donald Runnicles takes the podium to lead the first “Die Frau” of his career, and the eye-popping sets were designed by the celebrated artist David Hockney. Performance time is 2 p.m. Sunday, with repeats June 10, June 20, June 23 and June 28, and a livestream available for the June 20 performance for $27.50. Find in-person tickets, $26-$464, and more information at or call (415) 864-3330. 

Bay Area actress Leontyne Mbele-Mbong narrates composer Carlos Simon’s “Portrait of a Queen” on Berkeley Symphony’s season-closing program. (Photo courtesy Sorcha Augustine)

Girl power: The theme is the strength, courage and resiliency of women as conductor Joseph Young and the Berkeley Symphony close out the season at 4 p.m. Sunday in Zellerbach Hall with a program called “Enduring Stories.” Bay Area actress Leontyne Mbele-Mbong will be on hand to narrate, portraying four archetypal black females for composer Carlos Simon’s “Portrait of a Queen,” transforming from the proud African of the title to a plantation slave, then a woman enduring the strictures of the Jim Crow South and finally a strong, church-going matriarch of the modern era. The program will open with the world premiere of Chinese-born composer Xi Wang’s “Lotus Prayer” and conclude with Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.” Tickets, $15-$90, are available at and at (510) 841-2800.  

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