Many musicians and music lovers remember Leonard Bernstein’s Young People’s Concerts, talks and brilliant Norton Lectures at Harvard University.
Today, the mantle of the chief musician-philosopher-lecturer-entertainer is worn by the San Francisco Symphony’s Michael Tilson Thomas. In addition to scintillating introductions from the stage and extensive work with young people, Thomas’ forum for speaking about music is the 6-year-old, always-growing “Keeping Score” project. Read More
Music is not always honored at the ballet, but it should be. San Francisco Ballet’s Program 7 does exceptionally well with music, offering Stravinsky’s 1947 classic “Petrouchka,” in the story ballet of the same name by Michel Fokine; Schoenberg’s 1899 ultra-romantic “Transfigured Night,” in Renato Zanella’s “Underskin”; and Michael Torke’s 1989 dynamic “Ash,” in the world premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s “Number Nine.”The ballet orchestra has a field day with these great pieces, performing with élan under the knowing direction of Emil deCou. Read More
In the San Francisco Ballet’s Program 6, two new and adventurous pieces bracket a simple, excellent and satisfying work.Company artistic director Helgi Tomasson frequently choreographs in the manner of “a step per note” — not a good thing — but in case of his 2004 “7 for Eight,” revived this season, it really works for the best.Tomasson created seven scenes for eight dancers, set to keyboard music by Bach. At the Saturday matinee, Michael McGraw played the solo in the keyboard excerpts, Martin West conducted the orchestra in good form. Read More
The Silk Road is the network of trade routes crisscrossing Eurasia from China to the Mediterranean going back 3,000 years in history and first brought to public consciousness in the West in the 13th century by Marco Polo. It inspired the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma, born in Paris to Chinese parents, to create the Silk Road Ensemble. The group of artists from 20 countries who cultivate and celebrate ethnic music has a mission “to maintain the integrity of art rooted in authentic traditions while nourishing global connections.” Read More
Paul Taylor Dance Co. executive director John Tomlinson claims credit for The City’s gorgeous weather after a stormy March. “It’s always like this when we are in town,” Tomlinson says.As someone who has attended every Paul Taylor tour here through the years, I can verify the claim that the sun always shines when this company is in residence. Read More
“Balenciaga and Spain” at the de Young Museum is bringing up decades of history and reminiscences in the worlds of fashion and art.“When I started to draw fashion in London,” says Academy of Art University fashion director Gladys Perint Palmer, “the editor of British Vogue told me, ‘My dear, all you need is one good Balenciaga coat.’ My first job was a cover for Vogue for which I was paid 20 pounds. Not enough, even then, for even a Balenciaga button.” Read More
Another world-class musician — among an amazing run of young superstar virtuosos from China — is coming to The City. Yundi, the winner of the Chopin International Piano Competition in 2000 at age 18, appears with the San Francisco Symphony today in a program led by conductor laureate Herbert Blomstedt, the orchestra’s music director from 1985-95.Yundi (born Yundi Li, but now following the single-named star vogue) is called the “Prince of Piano” in his country, where he is placed along with Yuja Wang and Lang Lang at the top of the hit parade. Read More
This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival, unspooling April 21 through May 5, upholds a 53-year-long tradition of “being different.”Not much of Hollywood or commercial entertainment is evident in the torrent of 188 films from 48 countries, with a few exceptions. Read More
What makes Cristobal Balenciaga unique among designers? Gladys Perint Palmer, the executive director of fashion for the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, has a simple answer: “Any 50-year-old Balenciaga coat or ball gown could be worn today — and judging by designers who copy the great master, many of us are wearing knockoffs.” Read More
Coppélia is a mechanical doll, without a heart, but around her, San Francisco Ballet’s production of “Coppélia” sparkles with live and lively dancers, miles of heart — and muscles not to be believed.In Sunday’s Program 5 matinee, Vanessa Zahorian danced the lead role of Swanilda with charm, grace and what must be called superhuman strength.Each of the three acts of this spectacular piece is a different ballet, and Zahorian, partnered well by Taras Domitro, danced three roles, each the equivalent of a complete work. Read More
There is no other sound like it in opera: a guillotine comes down with a thud, silencing voice after voice, until the last one is stilled. A long horrifying silence is followed by a beautiful melody denoting the rise of souls to heaven.
The scene is the uniquely dramatic finale of Francois Poulenc’s 1953 “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” one of the last century’s greatest, yet rarely performed, operas, which opens March 31 in a presentation by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Opera Theater. Read More
This week, the de Young Museum offers a hotbed of flowers, afternoon teas, perfumed elegance and lectures by noted floral designers in a unique intersection of physical and living art. Read More
Opening Thursday and running through March 20, the 29th annual San Francisco International Asian American International Film Festival is screening some 100 feature films and documentaries from China, Vietnam, South Korea, India, Thailand and other countries. It also includes local films from or about Asian Americans in places ranging from the Mongolian desert to The City. Read More
Each of the current San Francisco Ballet programs can be described with a single word. Program 3: variety. Program 4; consistency. Both are excellent, revealing more strengths than weaknesses. Both, featuring unusually long pieces, are challenging. Program 3 ranges from Yuri Possokhov’s energetic neoclassical choreography for Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony,” to one of artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s most dramatic and affecting works, “Nanna’s Lied,” to William Forsythe’s intricate, bold “Artifact Suite.” Read More
What does a water buffalo look like at night? It’s a shadowy presence on the screen, difficult to follow, but viewers do.
This opening scene of “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” is typical of much of the film’s complex, quirky story. At the same time, the tale is anchored in the very real Thai countryside.
Recipient of the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or, “Uncle Boonmee” is another iconoclastic, puzzling work from Thailand’s most famous director, Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Read More