KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.
Sept. 16-18: The Monterey Jazz Festival turns 59, the longest continuously-running jazz fest in the world, and the organizers are keeping it as fresh as ever. Along with such exalted names as Wayne Shorter, Gregory Porter, Joshua Redman and Cecile McLorin Salvant they've booked mulit-instrumentalist Jacob Collier, a 21-year-old whiz kid and protege of Quincy Jones, who is blowing minds in the world of jazz and pop with his four-and-a-half octave range, looping skills and great songwriting. Christian McBride also hosts and directs a well-deserved tribute to Jones. And Berkeley singer and flutist Elena Pinderhughes makes her debut as well. Details for this giant of a festival are here.
Sept 30 - Oct. 2: We’re featuring just one dance performance here — but it's choice. Cal Performances is the West Coast headquarters for Mark Morris and his dancers, and we are so lucky. This year, Morris has brought a world premiere to open the Cal Performances season, the evening-length dance piece Layla and Majnun. It's based on a story of forbidden love by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi and will be performed by the Morris company dancers, the Silk Road Ensemble (also Cal Performances regulars) and Azerbaijani mugham vocalists Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova. Details here.
Sept. 10 - Sept. 29: Dream of the Red Chamber is probably the biggest deal of the fall classical music calendar. This San Francisco Opera world premiere (a co-production with The Hong Kong Arts Festival) is based on the classic 18th century Chinese novel about art, poetry, and a doomed love affair. The all-star creative team includes composer and co-librettist Bright Sheng, co-librettist and playwright David Henry Hwang, director Stan Lai and production designer Tim Yip. Hwang insisted that all the leads be Asian or Asian-American, so there's no yellowface in this production, and the subtitles for the English language libretto are in both English and Chinese. What I heard and saw at a dress rehearsal Wednesday night was truly gorgeous. Details are here.
Sept. 29: Philip Glass is almost 80 years old, a few months younger than his minimalist contemporary Steve Reich, but his fingers are still nimble enough, we hope. Glass will join four other pianists including the Bay Area’s brilliant Sarah Cahill in a performance of all 20 of Glass' piano études to open the Bing Concert Hall season at Stanford University. Details here.
Sept. 23 - Nov. 7: I have a very long list of must-see plays for this fall, but none are more topical than this new adaptation of the 1935 Sinclair Lewis novel It Can't Happen Here. Written as Hitler and Mussolini were on the rise in Europe, Lewis wrote a sprawling novel about what would happen if the US elected a populist president who promised tax cuts, a guaranteed income, and to kick out immigrants (Jews and Italians were among the targets), and make America great again. Berkeley Rep's Artistic Director Tony Taccone and Bennett Cohen have written this new theatrical version about what happens when Windrip becomes a fascist dictator. Details here.
Oct. 2 - 30: Hedwig and the Angry Inch is almost as topical in its musical treatment of the genderqueer East German glam rocker Hedwig and her husband Yitzhak, their rock band and Hedwig's botched sex change operation. Bay Area bred stars Darren Criss (Glee) stars as Hedwig and Lena Hall as Yitzhak. Criss looks great in lipstick and glitter eye makeup. Details of the tour coming to the Golden Gate theater are here.
Oct. 19 – Nov. 13: American Conservatory Theater’s Carey Perloff is often at her best directing plays by the brilliant Tom Stoppard (Arcadia, Shakespeare in Love), who seems to like staging world premieres in San Francisco. Perloff directs The Hard Problem, Stoppard's first new play in 10 years, about sex, science, supercomputing and the the nature of the soul. Details here.
Sept. 29 - Oct. 2: We live in an age of music festival abundance, yet only one manages to be so inclusive and free. Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is Warren Hellman's great gift to the Bay Area. This year, Dave Alvin offers a tribute to the late Merle Haggard, who died in April, and you can also catch Mavis Staples, John Hammond, San Pablo's Los Cenzontles, Emmylou Harris (of course), Berkeley’s Laurie Lewis, South Bay bluesman Aki Kumar, Buddy Miller, even Cyndi Lauper. Details here.
Oct. 15 & 16: The Treasure Island Music Festival is celebrating 10 years in the middle of San Francisco Bay, and it's the last for the festival at this location. So savor the sunsets. While you're there, enjoy Oakland's Kamaiyah, who may be the hottest rapper in the Bay Area, along with the dreamy Icelandic pop of Sigur Ros, James Blake, Purity Ring, Glass Animals, and Ice Cube. And take public transit to Treasure Island and Hardly Strictly; driving there will kill your spirit. Details here.