A Renaissance artist, baritone Brian Stokes Mitchell is a star of Broadway (“Man of La Mancha”). He sings pop, opera and lieder; he just introduced a David Del Tredici song cycle with the National Symphony Orchestra, under Leonard Slatkin. He’s also a composer, arranger and actor (for seven seasons Dr. “Jackpot” Jackson on TV’s “Trapper John”), but, more importantly, Mitchell says, he is father of 3-year-old Ellington Tucker Kai Mitchell, who sings in the background during a telephone interview.
For a few year-end concerts with the San Francisco Symphony, he is the star attraction, promising “optimistic music for a new year, beautiful, romantic.” With James Gaffigan, the symphony’s newly-installed, 26-year-old associate conductor on the podium, the current edition of the traditional “Vienna Woods/New York Nights” concert will come to Davies Hall at 2 p.m. Saturday and 9 p.m. Sunday. The New Year’s Eve show, which has pre- and post-concert activities, includes dancing onstage to music by the Peter Mintun Orchestra.
As it behooves such events, the concerts begin with waltzes by Johann Strauss, and orchestral music in that vein. The second half belongs to Mitchell. But which one? The Renaissance artist admits that, appropriately enough, he is a man of many parts who uses various vocal sounds and styles. He calls it “this chameleon thing,” originating with many musical influences.
Mitchell has performed “Porgy and Bess” excerpts with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony in Carnegie Hall; Broadway tunes at Kennedy Center; jazz with John Williams in Disney Hall, and with the Boston Pops. Besides “Man of La Mancha” (for which he received a Tony nomination and a Helen Hayes Award), Mitchell has garnered awards and nominations in Broadway productions including “Kiss Me Kate.”
The Davies Hall program comes from those sources and from Stephen Sondheim, a favorite of his, and Mitchell’s recent album, which includes inventive crossovers such as “Another Hundred People Took the A-Train,” which melds a Sondheim song from “Company” and the Billy Strayhorn classic, which became Duke Ellington’s signature tune.