A song of Bernadette (Peters, of course)

Jul 16

A song of Bernadette (Peters, of course)

Buckle up, Broadway Babies. It's time to revel in all things Bernadette. The loveable diva Bernadette Peters, she of the curls, the va-va-voom figure and the knockout voice, will return to the concert stage in Davies Hall to perform with the San Francisco Symphony on Tuesday, July 23 (for ticket info, click here). This is a re-scheduled concert after the pesky musicians' strike scrapped Peters' previous plans to dazzle us with her latest concert.

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SF Symphony soars through magnificent West Side Story

Jun 28

SF Symphony soars through magnificent <i>West Side Story</i>

It's hard to imagine but it's true: the music is so glorious you barely even miss the dancing. The San Francisco Symphony concludes its season with the first concert presentation of the full score for West Side Story, and it's simply mind blowing. For the original 1957 production, composer Leonard Bernstein apparently made concessions in the orchestrations based on what was available to him at the Winter Garden Theatre. Then, when the chance came along to re-orchestrate for the movie in 1961, orchestrators Sid Ramin and Irwin Kostal (under Bernstein's supervision) went big but perhaps too big. According to Symphony program notes, Bernstein then worried that the work had become "overblown and unsubtle."

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A new arts season, a free SF Symphony concert

Sep 17

A new arts season, a free SF Symphony concert

Ah, the excitement of a new season. We may not have the dramatic foliage color changes here in San Francisco. We may not have the crisp fall air slowly pushing out the hot, dry summer air (it's pretty much cold and foggy with intermittent sun here all the time). But we do have an exciting fall arts season, and it's under way.

The season started a little earlier this year with Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Aurora Theatre Company opening shows in the last week of August (the excellent Chinglish and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity respectively), then there was a wee break.

But this week, the new season starts with a vengeance. The acclaimed revival of The Normal Heart opens at American Conservatory Theater, Sharr White's Broadway-bound The Other Place opens at the Magic Theatre and, because man and woman cannot live by theater alone, the San Francisco Symphony begins its 101st season with one of the highlights of the social set meets great art parties of the year: the opening gala.

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SF Symphony scales Bluebeard’s Castle

Jun 20

SF Symphony scales <i>Bluebeard’s Castle</i>

There are seven locked rooms in Duke Bluebeard's castle, and Nick Hillel knows what's in each one. From blood to torture to tears, the contents of the room were originally devised in French folklore and then formalized by the writer Béla Balázs for his friend, the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók, for the short opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle. But it was up to Hillel, who helms a London-based digital media company called Yeast Culture, to bring those mysterious chambers into the 21st century.

Hillel is the director of an acclaimed new production of Duke Bluebeard, which had its premiere last October with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen. After a tour through Europe, the production comes to Davies Hall for three performances by the San Francisco Symphony.

As conceived by Hillel, who has worked with artists as diverse as the Beastie Boys and Cirque du Soleil, the symphony hall is transformed by a stage-engulfing set that is 24 feet high onto which he projects all sorts of wild video projections. And hovering over the orchestra itself is what Hillel calls "the sails," a sculptural origami-like structure that also provides projections surfaces as it unfolds over the course of the hour-long opera.

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On the radio: Streisand and Streep

Jun 09

On the radio: Streisand and Streep

I recently had the pleasure of sitting in the studio with Chloe Veltman, host of the KALW radio show "Voicebox." Our topic of the evening was singing actresses. More specifically, we discussed the staggering talents of Barbra Streisand and Meryl Streep, both of whom apply their prodigious acting skills to some marvelous song performances. Of course Streisand is as well known as a singer as she is an actress, but Streep is full of wonderful surprises as a singer.

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Bernadette Peters’ music man: Marvin Laird

Jun 23

Behind every great diva there’s a hard-working, often brilliant musical director. For Bernadette Peters, that man is Marvin Laird. The two first worked together in 1961. He was the assistant conductor and she was a Hollywood Blonde in a national touring production of Gypsy. “Bernadette was clearly the one on stage with talent,” Laird says on the...

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