Monday, March 27, 2017

Bay Area Cabaret Brings Back Pizzarelli

Bay Area Cabaret continues to stage its Sundays at the Venetian Room at San Francisco’s legendary Fairmont Hotel, with world class acts and entertainment.

On March 26, it was a return of John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey “direct” from the Café Carlyle.

But that’s not quite right. Before arriving here, the married duo and their sidemen had played gigs at several other venues including Las Vegas and Santa Barbara.

No matter, as they return to NYC in late April to hold forth for a full week at the Café.

One wishes that they could manage to stay as long at our Venetian Room, where just a few decades ago major jazz and cabaret artists made the room their home several nights running, often with a dinner performance.

John had nothing but praise for the Venetian, though, comparing it favorably to the Carlyle and his other favorite SF nightclub, Feinstein’s at the Nikko.

The audience SRO audience seemed to enjoy the entire set last night, but was especially enthusiastic about “Love Is Here to Stay," George Gershwin’s powerful and sensitive tribute to his departed brother, Ira.

Monday, March 20, 2017

27th Annual California Mille Celebrates Historic Italian Race

Let’s face it, many of us rely on the ferry because we just hate to endure that traffic jams and road rage of commuting by car. Driving was once considered a rite of passage for young people (if not entirely a birthright for all Californians), but the glamor and romance of the open road is now a thing of the past…with one exception.

One of the premier vintage motoring events in the world – The California Mille – takes place April 24-27 on a tour of Northern California. Some 70 vintage vehicles that could have qualified for the Mille Miglia, Italy’s most-famous open-road race, will motor to San Francisco’s Nob Hill on April 23 for a free car show and preview of the 27th annual California Mille.
Ancient Alfa Romeos, pristine Porsches and magnificent Mercedes-Benz will take their places next to Jaguars, Ferraris, Bentleys and other classics on Mason Street, closed to traffic between Sacramento and California Streets.

The public is invited to see the cars and meet the drivers (from 15 states and two entries from Switzerland) between 11 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.

At 1:30 Sunday afternoon California Mille co-directors David and Howard Swig will greet the fans and introduce Italian Consul General Lorenzo Ortona. The Consul General will recall the history of the Mille Miglia that ran from 1927 to 1957, and thank San Franciscans and the California Mille for offering financial relief to victims of recent earthquakes in Italy.

On Monday, April 24, at 8:30 a.m. Consul General Ortona will wave the Italian flag outside the departure arch at Mason and California Streets, officially starting the four-day, one thousand mile tour (not a race) of northern California time capsule towns and little-known backroads.
The Mille will cross the Golden Gate Bridge and head north toward Highway 1 passing through colorful Marin County towns and villages. At Laguna Elementary School on Chileno Road, the entire student body (all 16 kids and principal Cindy Demchuk) will greet the Mille by waving paper Italian flags and shouting “Benvenuto” – or something similar. The first day of the drive will end in Healdsburg.
On Tuesday, April 25, the Mille will drive to Cloverdale, Lakeport, Boonville, Elk and north, logging 191 miles before spending the night in Little River.

The California Mille was founded in 1991 as an annual event. Originally recognized by the Mille Miglia organization in Brescia, it is held each Spring like the original Mille Miglia, starting on the last Sunday in April.
The California Mille got its start when John Lamm of Road & Track and Martin Swig went to the 1982 Mille Miglia in Brescia, Italy with Martin’s 1955 Alfa Romeo 1900 Zagato.
They were the only Americans there. John did an article about the event in Road & Track and Americans discovered the Mille Miglia. Martin proceeded to return each year in various Alfas. Then in 1990, the late Bob Sutherland started the Colorado Grand. Ivan Zaremba and Martin took a 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce. One night during that event, a group including Ivan, the late Gil Nickel, Lou Sellyei and Martin had dinner.
Gil suggested that they start a California event, warning that if they didn’t, someone else might, and they might not like their style. On returning to San Francisco, Martin’s first call was to long-time friend and fellow Alfa Romeo collector, the late Ken Shaff. Ken’s concepts concerning size and structure of the event have been a key element of our success. Ken always insisted on keeping it small – about 70 cars. In the early days, he did a lot of route selection, exploring endless backroads. Unfortunately, Ken passed away a few years ago and his shoes have never been filled.
The first California Mille, which was actually recognized by the Brescia group and sponsored by Alfa Romeo, was run in October 1991. About 50 cars participated. During the 1980’s, as Martin ran in the Italian Mille, he couldn’t help but compare it with an imaginary California event.
At first he didn’t know exactly where to start his event. But after a few years, he discovered that the Fairmont Hotel, on prime Nob Hill in San Francisco would like to host them.
Furthermore, they were willing to let them close the block in front of the hotel (and generously put up with extreme inconvenience in receiving guests). The Nob Hill residents welcomed them in spite of the noise and traffic disruption. By now, the California Mille has become a city institution.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

San Francisco Ballet Brings Back Balanchine's Classics

Program 4, “Must-See Balanchine” presented by the San Francisco Ballet this season has been warmly received by audiences and critics alike.
We especially enjoyed the Stravinsky Violin Concerto on the evening of March 8. We had seen this number in 1995 when it had its first premiere in the Opera House here, and it has simply gotten better.
Cordula Merks was the featured violinist, who gave an assured and fiery performance.
This was a Russian evening, with Tchaikovsky’s “Diamonds,” and Prokofiev’s “Prodigal Son,” also performed. We were expecting a Pointes of View lecture on Russia, but were pleasantly surprised by something quite different.
While George Balanchine is widely recognized for his many innovations, many may not realize how much he nurtured and celebrated African American dance, too.
Thomas F. DeFrantz, dance researcher and Chair of African and African American Studies at Duke University, was the guest lecturer that evening, and provided us with a stimulating overview of this dimension of Balanchine’s oeuvre.

He even included the little known fact that Josephine Baker shook a leg on the ballet stage for a brief time, greatly influencing the brilliant choreographer.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Source is a Chamber Masterpiece

 Critics are calling this “A 21st-century masterpiece."
"Ted Hearne’s harrowing oratorio about Chelsea Manning and her revelations to WikiLeaks blends rock propulsion, chamber-music intimacy and four eerie, Auto-Tuned voices to create an enigmatic space of reflection on horrors of recent history, aided by Mark Doten’s collage text and Daniel Fish and Jim Findlay’s ambiguous, claustrophobic staging.” (The New York Times)
“Its relevance is the poetic pondering of the universal implications of information and what it can do to us … The opera itself makes vivid the confusing yet crucial bigger picture of how we handle, and how free we are to handle, information—a subject our leaders do their best to avoid.” (Los Angeles Times)
“Hearne’s piece holds up as a complex mirror image of an information-saturated, mass-surveillance world, and remains staggering in its impact.” (The New Yorker)

SF Opera Lab presents composer Ted Hearne’s universally acclaimed digital-age oratorio The Source, drawn from the contents of Chelsea Manning’s WikiLeaks release and called "some of the most expressive socially engaged music in recent memory—from any genre” by Pitchfork. Previously performed in New York City and Los Angeles, the six performances of The Source on February 24–26 and March 1–3, 2017 at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater open Season Two of San Francisco Opera’s SF Opera Lab programming.
The work for four singers and an ensemble of seven musicians features a libretto by Mark Doten that sets Manning’s words and primary-source documents, including sections of the classified material known as the Iraq War Logs and the Afghan War Diary. At the heart of The Source is Manning, the US Army Private who infamously leaked hundreds of thousands of classified documents to WikiLeaks and whose 35-year prison sentence was commuted last week by President Barack Obama.
Doten’s libretto pulls from a litany of primary source textsincluding Twitter feeds, cable news interviews, personal chat transcripts and declassified military reports, all contemporary to the WikiLeaks scandal. Hearne brings this patchwork of text to life with his signature “maximalism” and collaging, "like an hour's collaboration between Witold Lutosławski, Philip Glass, Jonathan Larson, Thom Yorke and Erykah Badu, with driving rhythms reminiscent of a Broadway style of rock 'n' roll, filtered through a computer, put on a loop, then busted open with shades of avant-garde classical or a soulful groove...the work of a true twenty-first-century polyglot" (Opera News).
As Manning’s story continues to unfold, The Source's most powerful asset remains its abstraction. Produced by Beth Morrison Projects and directed by Daniel Fish, with production design by Jim Findlay and video design by Jim Findlay and Daniel Fish, The Source first premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in 2014 and received its West Coast premiere in Los Angeles in October 2016. A recording of the work was released on New Amsterdam Records to much acclaim, landing on the best of 2015 lists for both The New Yorker and The New York Times: “Hurling from propulsive small-ensemble chamber rock to eerie Auto-Tuned ruminations, Mr. Hearne’s oratorio about Chelsea Manning and WikiLeaks doesn’t aim to score easy political points. Instead it does what great art should: It pushes you to think and feel about the world in new ways … ‘The Source’ (with a brilliant collage libretto by Mark Doten) is remarkable and essential” (The New York Times).
SF Opera Lab will host a post-show Q&A with The Source singers, musicians and creative team members immediately following every performance.