April 20-April 29: The San Francisco Symphony is touring the East Coast as I write this, but they're back in residence at Davies Hall next week for two weeks of concerts with Pablo Heras Casada at the podium. He's a rising star who's proven wonderfully skilled at conducting both contemporary and early music composers. The program starting April 20 emphasizes the old: Heinrich Bieber's rarely performed Battalia á 9 and Haydn’s Piano Concerto in D with Ingrid Fliter on keyboards. The following week, Casada leads the orchestra in a world premiere of Auditorium, a new piece from Bay Area favorite Mason Bates, and the surprisingly cheerful Shostakovitch Symphony #9.
April 15-May 28: A small gallery with some big names attached opens tonight. San Francisco's Fraenkel Gallery is pretty much a photography only gallery. But owner Jeffrey Fraenkel is opening an experimental venue, FraenkelLab on Market Street, a few steps from Zuni's Restaurant. "The lab will be like dating an artist," Fraenkel told me. "We can experiment with younger artists, with artists not tied to photography." Fraenkel has hired film-director and part-time San Franciscan John Waters as the mad scientist in charge of FraenkelLab's first exhibit. His opening show is Home Improvement, featuring work by Martin Creed, Moyra Davey, Paul Gabrielli, Lily van der Stokker, George Stoll and others. Expect baby strollers, a lightswitch, plastic shopping bags, and other artifacts of "quotidien life."
Continuing through May 8: April is both the sweetest and cruelest month for theater lovers. It’s William Shakespeare’s 452nd birthday this month, April 23 marks the 400th anniversary of the Bard's death. But we are here to praise Shakespeare not to bury him (to twist a line from Julius Caesar). Most excitingly, the Shotgun Players open their season with a pick-your-own-role Hamlet, in which the actors find out which role they’re playing by drawing a card out of Yorick's skull as the show begins. They’ve all learned every part, all 4000 lines. With Mark Jackson directing, it won't look like any other Shakespeare you've seen. Details here.
April 16: The Marin Shakespeare Company will present a free reading of all the sonnets of Shakespeare Saturday in San Rafael. Details here.
April 20: Asaf Avidan is kind of a musical impressionist. Hear him sing, and you might think it's Billie Holliday. Or wait, is that Bob Dylan? Which is a weird combination. But somehow Avidan, an Israeli singer songwriter, makes it work. Avidan apparently didn’t pick up a guitar and begin composing until a long term relationship ended, so it figures he shines on songs about pain and heartbreak. Details on his show at Bimbo's 365 Club are here.
April 21-May 5: The San Francisco Film Festival is back, with a salute to one of the great studios, Aardman Films, makers of claymation comedies like the Wallace and Gromit series, a new film based on a Philip Roth story by Focus Features CEO James Schamus, and the newest film by Werner Herzog. It's just the tip of the iceberg, but a good example of the heady mix the festival cooks up every year. Other highlights: Whit Stillman shows his newest feature, Love and Friendship, an adaptation of a Jane Austen novella, featuring actress Kate Beckinsale, and a conversation with director Tom McCarthy, who made the Academy Award winning Spotlight, and a screening of McCarthy’s film The Station Agent, which introduced the world to Peter Dinklage of Game of Thrones. Details here.
April 19: Haelos (HAY-lows) is the British trio of Lotti Bernardou, Arthur Delaney, and Dom Goldsmith, who bring a kind of grand, mournful tone to the dance floor music known as trip-hop. They’re coming to San Francisco fresh from Coachella, and playing at Brick and Mortar for just $15. Grab a ticket; it's probably the last time they’ll play a room that small. Details here.