Performing arts abound this fall in San Francisco

The spotlight shines on San Francisco Opera’s world premiere of “Heart of a Soldier” and, of course, San Francisco Symphony’s huge centennial season.


The renowned 12-member a cappella ensemble opens its 2011-12 Bay Area season with performances of a program called “Love Story” in San Francisco, Santa Clara, Sacramento and Walnut Creek. Songs include the world premiere of Stephen Paulus’ “The Lotus Lovers,” to text based on Chinese poems by Tzu Yeh, a new arrangement of Freddy Mercury’s “Somebody to Love,” and works by Richard Strauss, Duruflé, Daniel-Lesur, Whitacre, Tavener, Arlen and Ellington. [8 p.m. Sept. 16 and Sept. 21, $10-$44, Conservatory of Music, 50 Oak St., S.F., (415) 392-4400,]

New Century Chamber Orchestra

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg’s New Century Chamber Orchestra opens its 20th season by welcoming a famous old friend, Stuart Canin, as the soloist in Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto. Through the years, Canin has served as concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, Berkeley Symphony and Los Angeles Opera and was founding music director of the conductorless New Century. The interesting, varied program includes Bartok’s “Music for Strings, Percussion and Celeste” and Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin’s “Carmen Suite,” a chamber-music interpretation of Bizet’s opera. [8 p.m. Sept. 24, $29-$59, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 392-4400,]

Cambodia’s Khmer Arts Ensemble

Exquisite music, movements and costumes from the 1,300-year-old Khmer civilization, centered around Angkor Wat, will be on view in a Cambodian national arts ensemble production called “The Lives of Giants” coming to Berkeley in a Cal Performances presentation. Company founder/manager Sophiline Cheam Shapiro pairs contemporary and experimental choreography with the ancient story of a vengeful giant’s adventures and comeuppance in the heavens. This show is eminently suitable for children ages 8 to 100. [3 p.m. Oct. 2, $20-$52, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Telegraph Avenue and Bancroft Way, Berkeley, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley]

Simon Keenlyside

British baritone Simon Keenlyside — currently singing major roles in the Royal Opera House, including the title role of Verdi’s “Macbeth” — returns to The City, where he has sung with the San Francisco Opera (Pelléas in 1998) and at recitals for San Francisco Performances. He appears again with S.F. Performances singing songs by Mahler, Richard Strauss, Debussy, Duparc and Butterworth accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau. [8 p.m. Oct. 27, $38-$68, Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 392-2545,]

Oakland East Bay Symphony

Michael Morgan’s ever-adventurous Oakland East Bay Symphony opens the season with a bouquet of American works, including Duke Ellington’s 1945 “New World A-Comin’,” which gives its name to the concert; Gershwin’s 1928 “An American in Paris,” Bernstein’s 1965 Symphony No. 2 (“The Age of Anxiety”), and — with a nod to South America — Argentinean Alberto Ginastera’s 1941 ballet suite “Estancia.” Sara Davis Buechner is the soloist in the Bernstein “piano symphony.” [8 p.m. Nov. 4, $20-$40. Paramount Theatre, 2025 Broadway, Oakland, (510) 444-0801,]

Takács Quartet

The Bay Area is lucky to have frequent visits from this great quartet started by four Franz Liszt Academy students in 1975 in Budapest and now one of the great globe-trotting ensembles. The current quartet includes Geraldine Walther, beloved former principal violist for the San Francisco Symphony. Three Cal Performances programs feature jewels of chamber music, from Dvorák and Haydn on Nov. 6 to Janácek and Britten on Dec. 4 and Feb. 19. Splitting the perfect twins of Janácek’s first and second string quartets between the latter two programs can be remedied by visiting YouTube. [3 p.m. Nov. 6. $60. [Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, Bancroft Way near College Avenue, Berkeley, (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley]

Random Dance

Acclaimed choreographer Wayne McGregor’s troupe appears in the San Francisco premiere of “Entity,” described as “an hourlong breathtaking trip through a staggering blend of bodies, lights, technology and film” with a soundscape created by Coldplay, Massive Attack collaborator Jon Hopkins and award-winning composer Joby Talbot. [8 p.m. Nov. 11-12, $35-$50, Novellus Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F., (415) 392-2545,]

S.F. Symphony

“Fanfare for a New Century,” the centennial season gala opening, features Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra joined by violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Lang Lang. [8 p.m. Sept. 7, $165-$295, Davies Sympony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 864-6000,]

S.F. Opera

The world premiere of “Heart of a Soldier” features baritone Thomas Hampson in a story based on the life of 9/11 hero Rick Rescorla. [Sept. 10-30, $26-$330, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F., (415) 864-3330,]

Siegfried Live in HD

New York’s Metropolitan Opera continues its “Live in HD” telecasts in movie theaters with a transmission of the premiere of “Siegfried,” the third opera in Wagner’s “Ring” cycle. Robert Lepage’s innovative production includes 3D technology in the staging itself. James Levine conducts, tenor Gary Lehman appears in the title role and Merola Program alumna Deborah Voigt sings Brunnhilde. [9 a.m. Nov. 5, $25, numerous Bay Area theaters,]

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