Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 8 / 22 February 2018

Cultural season
keeps us hopping

Out There

Solo performance artist Laurie Anderson came to Berkeley. (Photo: Lucie Jansch)
Print this Page
Send to a Friend
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on MySpace!

Last week brought a rapid succession of big nights out at cultural institutions for arts-lover Out There. First, last Tuesday night, we attended Cal Performances' presentation of Dirtday! by renaissance artist Laurie Anderson at Zellerbach Hall. We'd have to say Anderson has been our guru ever since we saw her two-night magnum opus United States I-IV at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1983. Her latest piece did not disappoint.

In her early work, Anderson integrated music, stories and large multi-media effects. In Dirtday!, she has distilled her stage business down to keyboards with filters and gizmos, electric viola, lighting, stage fog, votive candles and a small screen. For the first half of the concert, the screen displayed only vibrant light in changing colors, and we thought she was making a sly statement about how attached we have become to glowing rectangular screens, how we'd rather stare into a screen in our palms than at the world around us. But later she used this screen to show home videos of her dear departed rat terrier Lolabelle, whom she had trained to play keyboards. As Lolabelle plunked away at the console, Anderson noted that it was the same equipment that she herself uses in her performances, so the segment turned out to be not only hilarious but self-parodic.

Much of the new piece involved Anderson's piquant brand of story-telling in her sonorous voice, sometimes vocoder-modulated to a deeper, male-sounding "voice of authority." She reflected on the male peacock tail and its place in evolution, dictates of the Vatican, the rise of tent cities in America, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and other weighty topics, but not without generous doses of her trademark humor and insight. The show's title comes from her observation that Earth is "so formal" a name for our planet. Why not call it "Dirt?" That's more organic, funkier. Instead of observing Earth Day, we could all be celebrating Dirtday!

Music director Michael Tilson Thomas led the San Francisco Symphony. (Photo: Courtesy SFS)

The very next night we were delighted to be invited to the San Francisco Symphony's 101st opening gala in Davies Symphony Hall. SFS press relations always offers us gracious hospitality in the Green Room (we mean an open bar), where we caught up with colleagues and marked the new season (thanks, Louisa, Amelia, et al.) by dressing up and feeling fine. Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas , ever the showman, was in fine fettered form, leading the Symphony and yummy special guest violinist Joshua Bell in a concert program that included selections from Berlioz 's Romeo et Juliette, Chausson 's Poeme, Saint-Saens ' Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, and Ravel's Bolero. Find the sterling music critic Philip Campbell's review in this issue. This year's gala honored outgoing SFS President John Goldman and Marcia Goldman . With the concert behind us, we headed for the after-party in the Gala Tent, and live music by 12-piece band Mixx Company and special guest DJ Louie . An additional outdoor, carnival-themed party transpired on closed-off Grove Street, so festive, so fine. Benefit the SFS education and community programs, this street party did.

Meanwhile all of Civic Center had been taken over for a big party for Dreamforce, made up of conventioneers. This made us wonder, When did we as a city decide to give over our public squares and facilities to private parties? Reminds us of every year when all of Yerba Buena Gardens is roped off for the Oracle convention and parties. I don't remember any city official ever putting this up to a vote.

We're in a soapbox mood because the next night, we attended ACT 's production of Larry Kramer 's pulsating polemic of a play The Normal Heart, and left with our own abnormal heart full of righteous anger and cathartic release. Find the excellent theatre critic Richard Dodds ' review in this issue. We only note that the play's opening montage of images includes a front page from an early issue of the B.A.R. That's what we call verisimilitude – erm, although the play takes place in NYC.

That same evening at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, Grammy Award-winning trio Lady Antebellum headlined a benefit concert for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, opened by Emmy award-winning comedian Dana Carvey. Out There attended the concert's exclusive after-party, at which MC Hammer played DJ, in the rotunda and light courts of City Hall. OT and pluperfect Plus One Pepi partied until the wee hours. We did not shout out, "Don't hurt em, Hammer!"


Great performances

The Bay Area Rainbow Symphony (BARS) invites all orchestral players to audition for their fall concert to be held on Sat., Nov. 10, under the baton of guest conductor Christian Baldini. The program will consist of music by Copland, de Falla, Bruch , and the Beethoven Fifth Symphony. Rehearsals are on Wednesday nights. For audition information, visit, e-mail, or call (415) 57-VIOLA.

The Met: Live in HD series begins its seventh season on Oct. 13 with the live transmission of Donizetti's comedy L'Elisir d'Amore to 1,900 theaters in 60 countries around the world. L'Elisir d'Amore stars Anna Netrebko, Matthew Polenzani, and Mariusz Kwiecien in a new production by Bartlett Sher . The series continues with Verdi 's Otello (Oct. 27), starring Johan Botha and Renee Fleming , conducted by Semyon Bychkov ; the Met premiere of Thomas Ades ' The Tempest (Nov. 10), conducted by the composer, directed by Robert Lepage, and starring Simon Keenlyside; Mozart 's La Clemenza di Tito (Dec. 1), with Elena Garanca, Giuseppe Filianoti , and Barbara Frittoli; a new production of Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (Dec. 8), directed by David Alden, conducted by Met Principal Conductor Fabio Luisi, and starring Sondra Radvanovsky, Marcelo Alvarez, Dmitri Hvorostovsky , and Stephanie Blythe ; Verdi's Aida (Dec. 15), starring debuting soprano Liudmyla Monastyrska, Olga Borodina, and Roberto Alagna ; Berlioz's Les Troyens (January 5), conducted by Luisi and starring Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, and Marcello Giordani; the Met premiere of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda (Jan. 19), directed by David McVicar and starring Joyce DiDonato in the title role; a new production of Verdi's Rigoletto (Feb. 16), starring Zeljko Lucic, Diana Damrau, and Piotr Beczala, directed by Michael Mayer in his Met debut, conducted by Michele Mariotti; a new production of Wagner 's Parsifal (March 2), starring Jonas Kaufmann, Katarina Dalayman , Peter Mattei, and Rene Pape, directed by Francois Girard and conducted by Daniele Gatti ; Zandonai's rarely heard Francesca da Rimini (March 16), with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Giordani; and a new production of Handel's Giulio Cesare (April 27), directed by McVicar and starring David Daniels as Caesar and Natalie Dessay as Cleopatra. For information on locations and tickets, visit


Follow The Bay Area Reporter
facebook logo
facebook logo
Newsletter logo
Newsletter logo
ISSUU logo