Arts & Events

Around & About Music: The 28th Annual Mendocino Music Festival & Susan Waterfall's Festival-Within-A-Festival, the Bach Fest

Ken Bullock
Friday July 11, 2014 - 04:30:00 PM

This weekend, the Mendocino Music Festival starts up its 28th annual season, two weeks of music of all kinds, with afternoon and evening programs every day ... -more-

A Not-to-Be-Missed Film Retrospective: A Tribute to The Amazing Career of Don Murray

Gar Smith
Friday July 11, 2014 - 07:47:00 AM

"Don Murray." If a bell rings when you hear the name, you are probably (1) a die-hard fan of ancient, edgy, noirish cinema and (2) more than 50 years old.

I don't believe I ever actually caught any of Don Murray's performances but I always associated him—erroneously it turns out—with a string of serviceable B-movie productions. Au contraire, Roxie Theatre programmer Elliot Lavine points out. "Don Murray was as big a star in the late 50s as Paul Newman." He starred alongside the likes of James Cagney, Eva Mary Saint, Henry Fonda, Charles Laughton and James Earl Jones. Now, after two decades of oblivion, San Francisco's Roxie Theater has resurrected 14 of Murray's greatest films for a three-day run on July 11-13. As a bonus, Murray himself—still energized and whip-smart at the age of 84—is coming along for the party!

A "Very Special Weekend with Don Murray" will serve as a rich cinematic prequel to the scheduled November release of Unsung Hero, a new feature film on Murray and his extraordinary career. Directed by Don Malcolm, Unsung Hero, recounts how one of Hollywood's great careers wound up derailed by the politics of the day. "What happened to him is one of the truly baffling events in Hollywood history," says biopic director Malcolm. "It's a story that's just begging to be told." -more-

The 2nd Annual Matatu Film Festival
July 16-19, 2014

Review by Gar Smith
Friday July 11, 2014 - 02:02:00 PM

San Francisco no longer has a lock on international film festivals. Moviegoers, start your engines: it's time for the second roll-out of Oakland's Matatu Film Festival which is set to run from July 16 to 19 at The Flight Deck (1540 Broadway) and Impact Hub (2323 Broadway).

First order of business: what's a "matatu"? Well, matatus (it's a Swahili word) are popular and highly decorated minibuses that fill East Africa's busy streets with color and the blare of onboard music. The connection? As festival founder Michael Orange explains, both movies and matatus transport people to new (and sometimes surprising) destinations. "These different films spotlight a unique journey, regardless of age, geographical bounds, sexual preference, race, and socio-economic status."

Here's the line up: -more-

Merola Opera Presents André Previn’s A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE

Reviewed by James Roy MacBean
Friday July 11, 2014 - 01:49:00 PM

Composer André Previn’s opera A Streetcar Named Desire, based on the play by Tennessee Williams, received a scaled-down presentation on Thursday, July 10, as the opener of Merola Opera Program’s 2014 season. Previn’s Streetcar, which was commissioned by San Francisco Opera under former General Director Lotfi Mansouri, received its world premiere at the War Memorial Opera House in 1998 with a huge orchestra of 70 instrumentalists. Peter Grunberg, who serves as Michael Tilson Thomas’ personal music assistant and also as a musical coach at San Francisco Opera, thought Previn’s top-heavy orchestration of Streetcar was both unnecessary and a formidable obstacle to performances of this opera. So Grunberg, at the urging of conductor Mark Morash, undertook to reduce the orchestra from 70 to 40 players. It was this new, scaled-down version that was presented, under the baton of Mark Morash, at Everett Auditorium in the Mission.

I must confess that I have never understood the admiration many people profess to have for Tennessee Williams’ play A Streetcar Named Desire. It combines an over-the-top hysterical woman, Blanche Dubois, and a brutally violent man, Stanley Kowalski, in a farrago of lies, deceit and downright stupidity that culminates in a brutal rape. In creating an opera from this unwholesome hodgepodge, Composer André Previn was very faithful to the play’s text. And therein, as I see it, lies half the problem. Previn composed jazz-inflected ‘conversational’ music; but it is extremely difficult music for the vocalists to sing, for they are forever singing against rather than with the orchestra.

This being said, however, it was the singers who came out best in the opening night performance of Merola’s Streetcar. As Blanche Dubois, a role written for Renée Fleming, soprano Julie Adams was a vocal standout, hitting all the right notes, and offering an appropriately affected acting style that summed up the character of Blanche as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. In the role of Stanley Kowalski, baritone Thomas Gunther made the best of the few extended passages his character gets to sing; but he was dramatically believable as the brutal husband of Blanche’s sister, Stella. Adelaide Boedecker had some lovely moments as Stella, her soprano voice giving eloquent expression in a wordless vocalise to the sexual fulfillment she finds in her marriage with Stanley. Tenor Casey Candebat was outstanding as Mitch, the workmate of Stanley’s who falls naively in love with Blanche only to learn the truth about Blanche’s past when the suspicious Stanley ferrets out his sister-in-law’s dark secrets. The ensuing confrontation between a drunken Mitch and Blanche is the highlight of the opera, for when Mitch shouts that he has never really known her and now sees the reality, Blanche retorts, “Who wants the real? I want Magic.” -more-

Next Week at the Berkeley Arts Festival

Bonnie Hughes
Friday July 11, 2014 - 01:32:00 PM

Here are upcoming events in the Berkeley Arts Festival Space (2133 University, on the corner of Shattuck and University, next to University Hardware): -more-