Back to classics: fall music preview

  • by Philip Campbell
  • Tuesday August 29, 2023
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San Francisco Opera will perform "Omar" <br>(photo: Cory Weaver)
San Francisco Opera will perform "Omar"
(photo: Cory Weaver)

We're back in business, back to school and it's time to plan your autumn concert-going. Single tickets and subscriptions are on sale now. So, grab a pumpkin spice latte and look at some tempting offerings of the new season.

San Francisco Opera

SFO is first out of the gate with a 101st season designed for diverse tastes. Get in the mood with the annual free "Opera in the Park" on Sunday, September 10 at 1:30pm, featuring artists from the fall season in Golden Gate Park Robin Williams Meadow.

"Il Trovatore" by Giuseppe Verdi September 12—October 1. David McVicar's bold production returns. Inspired by the art of Francisco Goya, his powerful vision of the saga of revenge and thwarted love includes some famous tunes, including the "Anvil Chorus." Angel Blue (SFO's "Porgy and Bess") and Arturo Chacón-Cruz star.

"The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs" September 22-October 7. SF Composer (and DJ) Mason Bates and Pulitzer-winning writer Mark Campbell bring their co-commissioned work back to where it all began. Bates fuses 'classical' music with the world of electronica with a deft blend of lyricism and innovation. And really, who could resist a singing Steve Wozniak? SFO favorite Sasha Cooke is Laurene Powell Jobs.

October 15-November 1 "Lohengrin" by Richard Wagner. New Zealand tenor Simon O'Neill tackles the daunting title role, the answer to a maiden's prayer. Former SFO Adler Fellow soprano Julie Adams is his damsel in distress Elsa.

"Omar" music by Rhiannon Giddens (and libretto) and Michael Abels. November 5—21, 2023. Another co-commissioned Bay Area premiere, "Omar" chronicles Islamic scholar Omar Ibn Said's journey from West Africa to enslavement in South Carolina. Imprisoned after an attempted escape he records his transcendent story in Arabic. As a founding member of The Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddons has impressively expanded a major career; winning a few Grammy's, a MacArthur Fellowship, and a Pulitzer Prize (for "Omar") along the way.

"The Elixir of Love" November 19-December 9: Donizetti's sunny, funny cavalcade of dazzling vocal pyrotechnics ends the fall season with jovial tenor Pene Pati (SFO Adler Fellow 2016-2017) in the lead with soprano Slávka Zámečníková, making her SFO debut as the object of his affection Adina. War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.

Alexander String Quartet at the Herbst Theatre (photo: Terry Lorant)  

SF Performances
San Francisco Performances opens its 44th season Friday, September 29 with a gala and concert celebrating the Alexander String Quartet's 35th Anniversary as SFP's Quartet-in-Residence. The organization offers many high caliber chamber concerts, but there are intimate vocal recitals as well.

Top of the list for fall is renowned British tenor Ian Bostridge's appearance with pianist Wenwen Du on Saturday, October 21, 7:30pm. They begin SFP's "Art of Song Series," which continues in January 2024, with an evening devoted to Schubert's deeply reflective song cycle "Wintereisse." Bostridge has even written an award-winning book on the piece, "Schubert's Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession." Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave.

The scenic upper concert hall of San Francisco Music Conservatory  

San Francisco Conservatory of Music
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) recently announced its fall concert series, which includes artist residencies, visiting guest artists, and faculty and student concerts. More than 90 percent of are free and open to the public.

Ian Bostridge's concert at SF Performances in October is in partnership with his residency and master class at SFCM Friday, October 20, 7:30 PM in the Barbro Osher Recital Hall, 200 Van Ness Avenue. If you want to binge on Bostridge and Schubert, here's your chance. 50 Oak St.

Violinist Pekka Kuusisto performs with the San Francisco Symphony Oct. 6 & 7. (photo: FelixBroede)  

San Francisco Symphony
The San Francisco Symphony's (SFS) Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen enters his fourth season with programming characteristic of his brand as an exceptional composer himself and enthusiastic collaborator with other groundbreaking musicians.

From the Opening Night Gala on September 22 and annual "All San Francisco Concert" on September 23, which honors local social service and neighborhood organizations, through weekly concerts in autumn, Davies Symphony Hall is home base for musical discovery and excitement.

In programs reflecting Esa-Pekka Salonen's vision, the SFS presents a season-long blend of four concerts described as "Signature Salonen." September 29 to October 1, the maestro presents first SFS performances of "Herald, Holler and Hallelujah!" by jazz giant Wynton Marsalis with "An Alpine Symphony" by Richard Strauss and Tchaikovsky's glorious Violin Concerto featuring guest artist Leonidas Kavakos.

October 6 & 7, "Interplay: Pekka Kuusisto" Salonen joins violinist Pekka Kuusisto for the world premiere of the SFS commissioned "Convergence" by composer Jesper Nordin. The concert includes "Naïve and Sentimental Music" by Bay Area/International superstar composer John Adams.

San Francisco Symphony concerts include violinist Lisa Batiashvili, cellist Gautier Capuçon, and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet together on Oct. 15 (photos: SF Symphony)  

October 15, violinist Lisa Batiashvili, cellist Gautier Capuçon, and pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet as they join forces in piano trios by Joseph Haydn, Maurice Ravel, and Felix Mendelssohn.

November 3-19, "California Festival: A Celebration of New Music" is a two-week, statewide festival featuring more than 50 organizations and ensembles presenting innovative music composed during the last five years.

Esa-Pekka Salonen conducts two Festival programs, including first SFS performances of his own "Kínēma," the world premiere of SFS commissioned "Drowned in Light" by Jens Ibsen, and first SFS performances of Gabriella Smith's "Breathing Forests." 201 Van Ness Ave.

Composer/pianist Monica Chew at Old First Concerts  

Old First Concerts
For over 50 years, Old First Concerts has presented diverse programs of classical, jazz and world music. The handsome historic space has excellent acoustics and the performers are high merit. Wide-ranging repertory includes works and performances by women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community.

Friday, September 22, Ensemble for These Times performs "Transformations." A concert about kinds of physical, biological, emotional, environmental, and musical transformations features Arnold Schoenberg's "Transfigured Night," arranged for piano trio, and works by Darian Donovan Thomas, Lisa Bielawa, inti figgis-vizueta, and Franz Schreker.

Sunday, October 15, Monica Chew performs "Best Friends." The Oakland composer and pianist presents a program of paired works that she enjoys hearing side-by-side. Joshua Uzoigwe, Ali Osman, Stacy Fahrion, Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, Dmitri Shostakovich, and Ulvi Cemal Erkin make highly agreeable companions. Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St.

New Century Chamber Orchestra  

New Century Chamber Orchestra
November 2-5, 2023, violinist Daniel Hope and mezzo-soprano Kelley O'Connor invite us to 'journey into the beyond' with a program called "Visitations." Described as music for communing with spirits the bill includes a chorus of eight voices in a candlelit setting.

Nineteen string players comprise NCCO's conductorless ensemble that makes musical decisions collaboratively, resulting in an enhanced level of communication. Daniel Hope, an international star in his own right, serves as Music Director and Concertmaster.

"Visitations" imaginatively features Paul Dukas's "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" and Argentinian composer Ariel Ramírez's beautiful Misa Criolla. Composer Nicolás Lell Benavides premieres a new work commissioned by NCCO for violin and strings "Doña Sebastiana" (Lady Death) of the American Southwest. Three of the four performances, in Berkeley, Tiburon and San Francisco, are part of the "California Festival: A Celebration of New Music." Concerts will be at various Bay Area venues.

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