WEDDING IN INDIA: A ROUSING NEW MUSICAL

WEDDING IN INDIA: A ROUSING NEW MUSICAL

Mira Nair’s highly entertaining play/musical “Monsoon Wedding” at the Berkeley Rep is spot on, based on two weddings attended in New Delhi. “Monsoon Wedding” is based on her award winning movie of the same name. For Nair, the theater is her real métier—her first love, what  she knows best. She had studied theater at Harvard as an undergraduate and went on to act in several renowned avant guard troupes. This play is a splendid and extravagant display of the preparation…

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‘DON GIOVANNI,’ DEFTLY SUNG AND ACTED BY NEWCOMERS

‘DON GIOVANNI,’ DEFTLY SUNG AND ACTED BY NEWCOMERS

Despite all the unfamiliar names and unknowns in the cast, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” is getting sparkling performances at the S.F. Opera, among the most inspiring encountered in our regular SFO visits since 1960. The greatest difference with earlier times is in the acting and stage direction. Circa 1949 rehearsing the title role here, Met star Ezio Pinza called to the stage director, “Canto cui?” (Do I sing here?). Whereupon he planted his feet firmly and launched into his aria. We…

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THE RIGHT ‘RITE’ WITH THE RIGHT MAESTRA

THE RIGHT ‘RITE’ WITH THE RIGHT MAESTRA

To hear the right Rite with the right conductor (Susanna Mälkki) would’ve been the right move over the weekend. Music that was despised a century ago is now embraced. One of the world’s foremost women conductors currently, doing arguably the most revolutionary work of all time: a formidable combination. So it wasn’t the original ballet this time, merely the sound of the huge orchestra, which may be ultimately superior. Or are we all anxious to watch in detail the Sacrifice…

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HARBISON MORE AT HOME IN CHURCH THAN OPERA

HARBISON MORE AT HOME IN CHURCH THAN OPERA

BERKELEY—In a choral program of psalms, a varied and engaging world premiere by the neoclassical composer John Harbison, 78, took center stage in the current round of concerts by the male chorus Chanticleer. Harbison is fascinating, an East Coast composer who has written in all the genres with eagerness and inventiveness. What has always struck me is the emotion of the individual with the Almighty in his sacred works, as here, is much more effective than the emotion between humans…

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OAKLAND BALLET: PHOENIX RISING OUT OF THE ASHES

OAKLAND BALLET: PHOENIX RISING OUT OF THE ASHES

OAKLAND, CA—-Graham Lustig can pull rabbits out of the hat, or make silk purses from a pig’s ear, or merely make vibrant ballet evenings out of nearly nothing. Just call him somewhere between hyper-wizard and miracle worker. The case in point is his economically trimmed version of “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” mounted for the plucky, long-struggling Oakland Ballet performing in a spartan community-college theater before an audience of about 100. If that. Despite the troupe’s very limited resources and just 19…

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MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OPERA GOING FROM MISCHIEF TO MAYHEM

MULTI-DIMENSIONAL OPERA GOING FROM MISCHIEF TO MAYHEM

I guess I could accept a full-grown male baritone playing a child as long as the opera is full of surreal concepts, and/or fantastic, other-worldly Cocteau-esque settings. But this production of “Les Enfants Terribles” (The Holy Terrors) proved instead to be down-to-earth, lost in every-day realism and crime-blotter chaff. In the end, it failed Cocteau. Jean Cocteau had written the 1929 book, now converted into a 1996 Philip Glass chamber opera with narration, film and dance—performance dimensions going beyond Cocteau’s…

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A REFRESHING RUSH OF CHOREOGRAPHY

A REFRESHING RUSH OF CHOREOGRAPHY

The season finale for the local ballet troupe now called simply SMUIN is a knock-out show, featuring imaginative choreography from both East and West. Our hippie era was exuberantly revived in Trey McIntyre’s elaborately staged large-budget world premiere, “Be Here Now,” marking the 50th anniversary of the Bay Area’s Summer of Love, that one-time exuberance of beads-pot-fringes nirvana. The viable companion piece is Amy Seiwert’s “Broken Open”—-a local choreography competing distinctively on a national level. The stellar New Yorker McIntyre…

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MULTICULTURALIST HARRISON HONORED AT CENTENNIAL

MULTICULTURALIST HARRISON HONORED AT CENTENNIAL

Of all the Lou Harrison centennial tributes, the Other Minds Festival produced one to beat the band. In addition to the sheer variety of works & instruments offered, Other Minds also created palpable environment of good vibrations. This was attributable too to a large crowd resonating with affection and admiration for the inventive and congenial composer who had spent his final half century in the region spanning sites from Santa Cruz to Oakland. The May 20 all-Harrison concert at Mission…

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NADJA’S FAREWELL

NADJA’S FAREWELL

For a grand finale, the New Century Chamber Orchestra served up a savory mix of post-millennium musical canapes. Call it Nadja’s antipasto. Leaving after nine hyperactive years as leader, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg dished up a night of excerpts from NCCO premieres logged during her tenure. And what could be more appropriate? Within its rather short seasons, the NCCO serves the Bay Area a rich menu of new works. And all indications are that whoever is appointed to succeed her as…

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WHY THE MANIA OVER THIS NEW-CONCEPT MUSICAL ‘HAMILTON?’

WHY THE MANIA OVER THIS NEW-CONCEPT MUSICAL ‘HAMILTON?’

Night After night, audiences are swept away by the sheer electricity of “Hamilton.” This new genre of tightly choreographed music-drama puts earlier musical in the shade, its nonstop inventiveness  enkindling the Orpheum Theater despite this historical account about long-dead Founding Fathers sprawling over nearly three hours, as long as most operas. Emerging recently after the show, patrons from ages 11 to elevated were jubilant and up-lifted, even though the heroic, head-strong title character has suffered a Hamlet-like demise in a…

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