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Great international line-up for the Bay Area this week

Irina Shachneva (second left) and The Slavyanka Chorus
Irina Shachneva (second left) and The Slavyanka Chorus
Joe Schell

There’s no such thing as a quiet August in the Bay Area performance calendar, as this week’s productions prove.

The International Russian Choral Music Festival opened in San Francisco last evening. Running until August 10, the festival features singers from the Bay Area, and from across North America and Russia, presenting for the first time on the West Coast music of the Russian choral tradition.

Russian conductor and music scholar Irina Schachneva, leader of the festival and the new music director of the 35-year-old San Francisco choral ensemble, Slavyanka, leads a group of performers which includes Russian opera singers Andrey Nemzer and Mikhail Svetlov, Slavyanka Chorus, Kitka, Kostroma, Slavyanka Women Singers, Yale Russian Chorus Alumni, and choirs from Holy Virgin Cathedral and Church of All Russian Saints. The four-concert program includes not only traditional Russian folk and religious music, but also contemporary works which have never before been performed outside Russia.

For more information and tickets, visit http://russianmusicfest.us/

International guitar sensation, Miloš Karadaglič, wraps up Stanford Live’s summer series at Bing Concert Hall on August 6 with a solo recital which includes works by Bach, Granados and Falla. Described by the Sunday Times as “the hottest guitarist in the world”, Montenegro-born Miloš (as he’s known) was named Gramophone’s 2011 Young Artist of the Year, and has been making a global name for himself with his recordings and performances.

Tickets are available at the Bing Concert Hall Ticket Office, by phone at 650-724-2464 (BING) or online at http://live.stanford.edu - where more information can be found.

SFJAZZ has variety on its mind this week - and four nights of open dance floors where you can strut your stuff to Cajun-fueled Creole dance music, a celebration of the Swing Era and a combination of West African rhythms, ancient Jewish Yemeni melodies, mambo and funk.

CJ Chenier & The Red Hot Louisiana Band bring to San Francisco the best of the Bayou with their spicy offering of Creole dance numbers on August 7. Taking over from his father, Clifton, Chenier has become a leading figure in Zydeco - French-Creole music from southwest Louisiana which combines blues, rhythm and blues, and music from the Ivory Coast.

The following evening, the Queen of Classic Jazz and Blues, Lavay Smith, & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers revive memories of New York’s Savoy Ballroom with their selection of Swing Era dance numbers. They’ll be joined by a half-dozen additional horn players and a troupe of professional Lindy Hop dancers, so join SFJAZZ for a unique event - with an open dance floor!

Ravid Kahalani, Yemeni-born Israeli singer, leads a group of brass, string and percussion players on August 10 in a performance which merges West African rhythms and ancient Jewish Yemeni melodies with mambo and funk. It’ll be an international affair, with members of the group hailing from the US, Israel, Finland and Uruguay, forming an ensemble which has appeared in Paste magazine’s list of 10 International Acts to Watch, and recently performed at the prestigious world music festival, globalFEST.

For more information on all performances, visit www.sfjazz.org.

Bill English and Susi Damilano of The San Francisco Playhouse present the world premiere of Rhett Rossi’s From Red to Black, opening at A C T Costume Shop this week. The final production of the fifth season in the Sandbox Series of new plays, it’s a Playhouse commission, directed by Susi Damilano.

The action centres around the investigation of the death of a man on a New York subway track. The detectives have a suspect, but did he push the victim, and if so, was it the result of provocation? The more involved the investigation becomes, the harder it is to get to the truth.

Preview performances take place on August 7 and 8, and the play runs until August 30. More information on the production and tickets is available from The San Francisco Playhouse box office at 415-677-9596, or www.sfplayhouse.org.

Ben Vereen will be Steppin’ Out at Jack London State Historic Park on August 9, as this week’s featured performer in the Transcendence Artist Series. This multi-talented and highly acclaimed actor, singer and dancer has been delighting audiences around the world with his one-man show, which combines tributes to both Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.

The evening begins with a pre-show picnic on the great lawn of the park, and before the performance there’ll be a sneak preview of The Music of the Night - the next show in Transcendence Theatre’s Broadway Under The Stars series which continues next week.

For full details of the show and picnic, and to buy tickets, visit www.TTCsonoma.org or call (877) 424-1414.