May 27-July 2: San Francisco's brief summer opera season opens with what one critic called "theatrical dynamite," Calixto Bieito's staging of Bizet's Carmen as a tale of masculine oppression set in post-Franco Spain. Then Verdi takes us back to 16th century Spain in his Don Carlo, set during the inquisition, in which a king and his son vie for the same woman. Then Janáček's Jenůfa returns, after too many seasons of neglect. The great Karita Mattila plays the step-mother with Malin Byström in the title role. Details for Carmen are here; for Don Carlo here; and for Jenůfa here. And if you're daunted by opera prices, register for the July 2 San Francisco Opera at AT&T Park, where you can watch a free live simulcast with about 20 thousand fellow music lovers. Details here.
June 2-16: The film festival that provides “a manageable amount of the truth” is back. The 15th annual SF Documentary Festival showcases 52 films. Opening night is It Ain’t Pretty, about Northern California’s female big wave surfers. There's also a pair of films on the politics of abortion; Ear Buds: The Podcasting Documentary (self-explanatory); Between the Beats, about the rave scene in San Francisco; and Tear the Roof Off: the Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic, and more. Details on showings at the Vogue, Roxie, and Great Star theaters are here.
June 2: The Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLORK) neatly blends Stanford’s push for the arts with its reputation as a place for tech wizards. Founded by Assistant Professor Ge Wang, the ensemble plays original and wonderfully weird music that seem designed to induce ecstatic trance states. Stanford is now the oldest of 70 laptop orchestras around the country. Check out the KQED story by reporter April Dembosky from last year. And details for SLORK's season ending concert are here.
California Shakespeare Theater's new leader is in town. Artistic Director Eric Ting takes over the company known for both its fresh productions of the classics and its world premieres. And Ting, a new play specialist who's come to the East Bay from The Longwharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, says he plans to keep up the innovation begun by his predecessor Jon Moscone. “This idea of looking at these old stories as though they were new again. Looking at these old plays as if they were new plays was just a kind of remarkable opportunity.” Later this season Ting will direct a version of Shakespeare's Othello steeped in the politics of Islamophobia. The season has just opened with Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing as adapted by playwright Kenneth Lin and director Jackson Gay, and some gender reversals with Bay Area actors James Carpenter playing Beatrix and Stacy Ross playing Benedick. Details here.
June 2-3: Comedian Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric seems to be going all sincere on us here, with an album of throwback folk-rock about nice things, pleasant things -- stuff like how cool it is to live in Glendale. Heidecker says he always liked to sing, and played in indie bands while living in Philadelphia. But take heart, the songs have a surreal or satiric edge as well, with titles like “Good Looking Babies” and “I Saw Nicolas Cage,” And check out the hilarious video above for “Work from Home.” Details for his show at the Independent are here. And he's at Harlow's in Sacramento June 3 , details here.