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It’s not a Roman ruin, because the Romans never conquered San Francisco (at least not that we know of). But the Palace of Fine Arts is a fascinating relic in its own right, a classical-inspired palace designed by Bernard Maybeck as a temporary structure for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and preserved and restored ever since because it’s so elegant. Now We Players is bringing a taste of ancient Rome to the Palace with the premiere of its latest new work, “Roman Women.” The Bay Area theater company specializes in site-integrated adaptations of, and new work inspired by, classic stories such as Shakespeare, Homer and “Beowulf” that are largely performed in parks, historic sites and other outdoor locations.
Concerts by the American Bach Soloists often feature big Baroque masterworks – Bach’s “St, John Passion,” which music director Jeffrey Thomas conducts every year as part of the ensemble’s summer festival, or Handel’s “Messiah,” which the group presents during the holidays, This month, Thomas will lead his players in a more intimate program, one that features all four of Bach’s Orchestra Suites for the first time on a single American Bach Soloists program, Infused with high spirits and courtly dance rhythms – bourées, gigues, gavottes and menuets – these works (BWV 1066-1069) are evolution of pointe shoes scored for contrasting forces and distinguished by exuberant melodies and brilliant sonorities, And, of course, the Third Orchestral Suite features one of the most beloved episodes in all of Bach’s music, the “Air for the G String.”..
Taken together, they offer an excellent showcase for Thomas and his top-notch early music players. Soloists for these performances include Debra Nagy (oboe), Dominic Teresi (bassoon), Sandra Miller (flute) and John Thiessen (trumpet.). American Bach will record the program for release in Fall 2018. But hearing it live is sure to be something special. In connection with these concerts, Nagy will give a free master class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Nagy is one of North America’s leading Baroque oboists – in addition to American Bach, she also performs with Apollo’s Fire and the Boston Early Music Festival and is the founder of Les Délices. Her master class is on May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. All of the Conservatory’s master classes are free and open to the public; check www.sfcm.edu for more information.
Details: “Bach’s Orchestral Suites,” American Bach Soloists, 8 p.m, May 11, St, Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Belvedere; 8 p.m, May 12, First Congregational Church, Berkeley; 4 p.m, May 13, St, Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco; $25-$89, $10 students 25 and under with valid ID; 800-595-4849; www.americanbach.org, BACH GOES BIG IN SANTA CLARA: The Santa Clara Chorale is presenting a large-scale special event this weekend in the beautiful Mission Santa Clara, Saturday’s performance of Bach’s “St, John Passion” brings an impressive roster of artists together for one of the composer’s most powerful and enduring works, Scot Hanna-Weir conducts the San Jose Chamber Orchestra and singers from the combined choruses of Santa Clara University – more than evolution of pointe shoes 150 voices in all – and the vocal soloists include soprano Jennifer Paulino, countertenor Dan Cromeenes and bass Patrick Walders, The role of the Evangelist will be sung by tenor Dann Coakwell, Details: 7:30 p.m, May 12, Mission Santa Clara; $22-$37, $5-$10 students with ID; 408-883-4722; www.scc.org..
MOTHER’S DAY MUSIC: Janet Popesco Archibald is one of our musical heroes. As oboist and principal English horn player for the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, she is currently deep in rehearsals for the Opera’s upcoming performances of Wagner’s complete “Ring” cycles at the War Memorial Opera House. But Archibald always seems to make time to make music for important causes – her Lowell Trio recently released its second CD to benefit the John Muir Land Trust – and each May, she and her fellow musicians perform a special Mother’s Day concert in Martinez. This Sunday, she brings the Lowell Ensemble, which includes Leslie Chin (flute) and Karen Hutchinson (piano), to Armando’s with a program that includes works by Bernstein, Poulenc and Piazzolla. Maybe Bach, too. Details: 4 p.m. May 13, Armando’s, Martinez; $15; 925-228-6985; www.armandosmartinez.com.
AND STILL MORE BACH: Bach also figures prominently in Sunday’s concert by the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, The Bay Area-based early music ensemble Voices of Music joins Symphony chorus director Ragnar Bohlin in Bach’s “Magnificat.” The program also includes Bach’s motet, “Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,” and the chorale “Jesu Bleibet Meine Freude.” Arvo Pärt’s “Te Deum” completes the lineup, Bohlin, by the way, recently conducted Pärt’s “Te Deum” at the California Symphony, and evolution of pointe shoes the results were stunningly beautiful, so this program should be one to remember, Details: 7:30 p.m, May 13, Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $25-$69; 415-864-6000; www.sfsymphony.org..
We are constantly bombarded by hashtags in our pursuit of a better world — #EverydaySexism, #BlackLivesMatter, #MeToo, #lgbtq, #QuitFacebook. As we’re searching for solutions to deeply embedded problems, the arts can offer both insight and inspiration. Following its inaugural season last fall, the Transform Festival opens on May 9 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It attempts to answer this banner question — where is our public imagination? By forging links with artists whose work is driven by current issues, curator Marc Bamuthi Joseph hopes to address such issues as racial and sexual discrimination, technology, economic and political inequality and environmental degradation. If that sounds intense, it is. But remember the arts can renew us spiritually and offer glimmers of hope for the future.
Transform opens with Poor People’s TV Room, a work being performed May 9 and 10 weaving together movement, song, text, and visual imagery, Creators Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born use two chapters in Nigerian history — the Women’s War of 1929, an uprising against British colonialism, and the Boko Haram kidnappings — as a starting point to show the strength and resilience of the country’s women, “The inspiration started for me,” says Okpokwasili, “not with the missing schoolgirls, but with the hashtag phenomenon, I was excited that the entire world had an awareness of these missing girls and then put pressure on the Nigerian government to do something about it, and then a former vice president of the African World Bank, who happens to be a woman, was speaking to a group of mothers evolution of pointe shoes to rally them, to get them up in arms, We need to disrupt the idea we have of African women being victims of malicious and corrupt governments, international corporations, or colonialism, Actually they have legacies of advocating for themselves, of collective action.”..