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: Forsooth, yon fans of outdoor thespian entertainment! The Summer Shakespeare season is upon us. We call it that even though, 1) it starts in spring and rolls straight through the fall, and, 2) there’s more going on than just Shakespeare’s works. What we’re talking about is that beloved time of the year in which more than a dozen companies kick off outdoor theater seasons featuring productions on stages and amphitheaters in such lovely locales as parks, wineries, even on top of a mountain. One of those companies is Silicon Valley Shakespeare, which has launched its season with Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” a comedy that has it all: love (of the shared and unrequited variety), pranks, mistaken identities, a shipwreck and, of course, all that glorious dialogue. This particular adaptation will be produced as a Telemundo-style TV melodrama. Performances of “Twelfth Night” are at 7 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays through June 25 at Willow Street Bramhall Park, 1320 Willow St., San Jose. On Thursday, the youth dance troupe Grupo Folklorico Los Laureles of San José will give a pre-show performance. Saturday’s performance will be offered with American Sign Language interpretation. The company this year also presents “King Lear” July 28-Sept. 1 and “Shakespeare in Love” (which Shakespeare did NOT write) Aug. 4-Sept. 3. All shows are free. For more information, go to www.svshakespeare.org.
A divine ‘Temptation’: Singer Paula West is so strongly affiliated with the Bay Area we tend to kid ourselves that folks in the rest of the world haven’t discovered her. But they have. Of course they have; someone as talented as West is going to make fans all over. The New Yorker profiled her last year and JazzTimes has crowned her the “finest jazz-cabaret singer around.” But this weekend, she’s ours. The singer with the golden voice and otherworldly interpretive skills is performing two shows around these parts. They both celebrate the 25th anniversary of West’s debut album “Temptation,” a delicious collection featuring West’s patented collection of jazz, pop and showbiz standards, ranging from the title track to “You Came a Long Way from St. Louis” to “Peel Me a Grape” and “If I Only Had a Brain” (yes, from “The Wizard of Oz”). Don’t expect the original versions of these songs; West and her crack backing band are reportedly readying new interpretations. Performances are 8 p.m. Friday at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, part of the 40th annual San Francisco Jazz Festival ($35-$85; www.sfjazz.org) and 4:30 p.m. Sunday at Bach Dancing and Dynamite Society in Half Moon Bay ($55, $10 to live-stream; bachddsoc.org).
Gray matters: The Bay Area is blessed with a goodly number of divine monologists, and one of the best of the bunch is the humorous and insightful storyteller Josh Kornbluth. He’s been plying his trade for more than three decades, with such autobiographical shows as “Red Diaper Baby,” “Haiku Tunnel” and “Love and Taxes” (the latter two of which have each been turned into movies), as well as “Ben Franklin: Unplugged,” which was a slam-dunk because the guy kind of looks like Ben Franklin. Now Kornbluth is at The Marsh Berkeley, performing his new work “Citizen Brain.” The show came about after Kornbluth was persuaded by the Global Brain Health Institute to immerse himself in a study of brain disease and whether the hopelessly and helplessly divided state of the U.S. political system could be cured by something known as the brain’s “empathy circuit.” Where did all this study take Kornbluth? You’ll have to go see his show to find out. You might not come away ready to think kind thoughts about Marjorie Taylor Greene or anything, but you’ll almost assuredly giggle your way through the performance. Shows at the venue, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley, are 5 p.m. Saturdays through July 29. Tickets are $25-$100; go to www.themarsh.org.
A dream realized: San Francisco Opera, for its benchmark 100th season, has rolled out its first ever Spanish language opera, a co-commissioned production of Bay Area composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s “El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego,” which was given its world premiere by San Diego Opera last fall. Starring two former Adler Fellows, Argentine mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack as the celebrated artist Frida Kahlo and Mexican baritone Alfredo Daza as her husband, the muralist Diego Rivera, the opera takes place on the Mexican Day of the Dead. A repentant Rivera, cognizant of the pain his philandering has caused, wishes his dead wife to return so he can see her again. A reluctant Kahlo finally does reappear, wishing to see her own paintings again. The libretto is by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz; the conductor is Roberto Kalb, who brought the opera to life in San Diego (as did Daza in the Rivera role). Translated as “The Last Dream of Frida and Diego,” the opera opened Tuesday of this week and repeats at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. June 25 and 7:30 p.m. June 30. The current reviews are still to come, but in San Diego, it was hailed as “a richly scored, lyrically detailed and visually stunning work that intimately examines the tumultuous lives of Mexico’s most iconic artistic couple.” A $27.50 livestream will be available at 10 a.m. after the June 22 performance and accessible for 48 hours. In-person tickets, $26-$464, are at sfopera.com and (415) 864-3330.
It’s Igor, Igor everywhere: You already may have heard he is about the hottest thing going in the world of classical piano right now. Russian-born German artist and liberal activist Igor Levit already was a phenomenon in Europe before his spur-of-the-pandemic moment prompted him to livestream free concerts from his Berlin apartment some 50 times in 2020, which promptly turned him into the proverbial household word. Now the San Francisco Symphony has him booked as artist-in-residence from Thursday through June 27, which gives fans eight different occasions to hear him perform – six orchestral concerts, a chamber concert and a solo recital, all in Davies Hall. It begins with this weekend’s all-Beethoven orchestral series conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen featuring both the “Emperor Concerto,” the No. 5; and the “Eroica Symphony,” the No. 3, both among the most famous of the composer’s many works. Performance times are 2 p.m. Thursday and 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The following weekend, it’s the gargantuan piano concerto by Ferruccio Busoni, a 75-minute undertaking that also requires the massed forces of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; those performance times are 7:30 p.m. June 22 and 24 and 2 p.m. June 25. At 2 p.m. Sunday, nine Symphony string players join Levit for a chamber concert that features music by Frank Bridge, Mark O’Connor and Dmitri Shostakovich. The pianist concludes his residency with a 7:30 p.m. solo recital on June 27, playing works by Brahms, Wagner, Liszt and Fred Hersch. Tickets, $20-$200, are available at (415) 864-6000 and sfsymphony.org.