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Weekend Roundup: BAN6, Opera Academy of California, David Wax Museum, The Verona Project...

July 11, 2011

A smattering of brief thoughts regarding a weekend's culture-vulturing in San Francisco before I head off to deepest, darkest Wyoming for a week for the Grand Tetons Music Festival...

1. BAN6 at YBCA:Yerba Buena Center for the Arts launched the sixth iteration of its triennial exhibition, Bay Area Now, (BAN6) with a party showcasing the work of 18 local artists and collectives working across an array of disciplines. The place was a clusterfuck. Thousands of interestingly-dressed people (most of them young) crammed into the YBCA galleries, hallways, reception areas and outdoor spaces to both check out the work on display and each other. It was exciting to see so many art lovers, though things felt a little squished in comparison to the Big Ideas parties I've been to in the past at YBCA which included the use of the Novellus Theatre as a welcome space to breathe and dance. The exhibition didn't make a huge impression on me. It was very zeitgeisty with its Makers Fair aesthetic. It seemed like every other piece involved quilting or wood-working. A kitsch aesthetic otherwise dominated, epitomized by the theatrically garish photographic portraits by Tammy Rae Carland. The only two groups of works that truly caught my attention were Sean McFarland's murky C-prints depicting shadowy woodland landscapes (I found myself disappearing into the shadows) and Weston Teruya's half-dismantled architectural models depicting urban landscapes in a state of disarray. The recent havoc wreaked on Japan in Teruya's "Time is Out of Joint" crystallized in the plasticky contours of those wrecked models.

2. Opera Academy of California Summer Program Recital at Old First Concerts: I went along to the recital of the inaugural season of this educational summer school for aspiring and on-their-way opera singers. The event was a bit stiff, there were too many Mozart arias and most of the participants were sopranos. But there was some sit-up-and-listen talent on display. I was particularly taken with mezzo-soprano Sophie Delphis' lively and lustrous take on the balsy page's aria from "Romeo and Juliette" by Charles Gounod, "Que fais-tu blanche tourterelle." In general, the mezzo's picked more interesting repertoire than the sopranos. One thing that I thought was strange was the way in which the recital was programmed: The singers all appeared in alphabetical order. I assume this must have been in the interests of impartiality. It's a "fair" way to arrange a schedule, I guess. But it pays no attention to the artistic arc of a performance. And as a result of this system, we had to endure Mozart arias or arias of a similar quality in immediate succession. Plus, one shouldn't be penalized and placed at the end of a program or at the start just because of the accident of the spelling of one's last name! The Academy has an impressive lineup of teachers and events. Masterclasses over the last three weeks have been given by the likes of Dolora Zajick and Sheri Greenawald and the participants (who are mostly undergrads and masters students from schools like the New England Conservatory, The San Francisco Conservatory and The Manhattan School of Music etc) get to appear in three fully-staged opera productions in the coming weeks. It's quite an intensive bootcamp that will hopefully gather traction in the coming years.

3. David Wax Museum at Amnesia: When I turned up at Amnesia, a bar in the Mission district of San Francisco, David Wax and Suze Slezak, the core members of The David Wax Museum, a joyous Americana-Mexicana band, were standing on the bar whipping the tightly-packed audience into a state of excitement with a rousing song on guitar and violin. When they jumped off the bar and returned to the stage, they sustained the level of glee with some jaunty tracks incorporating Slezak's percussive skills on the "jawbone." At one point they had us join in, at another, they came into the center of the audience and Slezak took the lead vocal on a quiet and slow, un-amplified love song that had us all craning ourselves inwards to listen. In short, the duo had us in thrall. They live on the East Coast and were only in town because some friends of theirs were getting married. The whole concert felt like a family affair in fact. I hope they come back again soon.

4. The Verona Project at California Shakespeare Theatre: I wrote a review about Amanda Dehnert's world premiere musical theatre adaptation of Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona" for The Bay Citizen. Image from the production featured above. You can read about what I thought about the show here or on the Bay Area website.

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