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Spoiled for choice in the Bay Area this week

Never short of the best in cultural fare, the Bay Area offers a whole host of treats this week.

Ronald Guttman as Rudolf Bauer
Ronald Guttman as Rudolf BauerPhoto: Jessica Palipoli

The world premiere production of Lauren Gunderson’s Bauer at the San Francisco Playhouse is scooping rave reviews from the critics. Commissioned by Playhouse Directors, Bill English (to whom I owe an apology for getting his name wrong last week) and Susi Damilano, it portrays Gunderson's ‘freshly imagined’ and highly emotional confrontation between Rudolf Bauer - one of the most highly regarded artists of the 20th century - his wife Louise, and Hilla Rebay, his former lover and a curator at the Guggenheim Museum.

Starring Ronald Guttman, Stacy Ross and Susi Damilano, Bauer is a ‘must see’ - it's absolutely riveting. It runs at the San Francisco Playhouse until April 19. For further information and tickets, contact the box office on 415-677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org.

Running concurrently with this production is a restrospective of the work of Rudolf Bauer at the Weinstein Gallery in San Francisco.

This week, the annual Cal Performances residency of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presents a selection of new works by two of today’s foremost choreographers, together with some of the world-famous works from the Company’s repertoire.

Led by Artistic Director, Robert Battle, the Ailey company presents eight works, over three different programs, including two Bay Area premieres - LIFT, the Company’s first commission from Aszure Barton, which is set to a percussive score by saxophonist Curtis Macdonald, and Four Corners, choreographed by Ronald K Brown, in which West African and modern dance influences are set to Carl Hancock Rux’s Lamentations.

Also included are Alvin Ailey’s gospel classic Revelations, three works which he created to the music of Duke Ellington, and Minus 16 by Ohad Naharin of Israel’s Batsheva Dance Company.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater appears at Zellerbach Hall until April 6. Tickets are available through the Ticket Office at Zellerbach Hall, at (510) 642-9988, at http://www.calperformances.org, and at the door.

San Francisco Ballet opens two programs this week. The first is a West Coast premiere entitled Shostakovich Trilogy - three individual works choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, American Ballet Theatre Artist in Residence. This trilogy - a co-production with ABT - is a personal tribute to one of Russia’s greatest composers, and also Ratmanksy’s homage to his own Russian heritage.

The three works - complementing each other, yet decidedly different - are set to Shostakovich’s Symphony No 9, his Chamber Symphony, and his Concerto No 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings. Essentially classical - in true Ratmanksy style - the ballets convey the emotions of love and joy, of grief and despair, with an undercurrent of fear, reflective of the composer’s difficult relationship with the Russian government of the day. The scenic design - in which the red of Stalinist Russia predominates - is by George Tsypin, director of the memorable opening ceremony for the recent Sochi Olympics.

Shostakovich Trilogy opens at the War Memorial Opera House on April 2, running to April 13. For performance dates, tickets and further information, visit the San Francisco Ballet website.

Alternating with Shostakovich Trilogy is a Triple Bill of three diverse works. Helgi Tomasson’s Caprice has its World Premiere, Maelstrom was created by Mark Morris for San Francisco Ballet in 1994, and the Company’s acclaimed production of Yuri Possokhov’s The Rite of Spring was premiered during the 2013 season.

As its name suggests, Caprice is a joyful ballet, set to music from Saint-Saëns’ Second Sympony, with the introduction of an additional adagio section, taken from his popular Symphony No 3, the 'Organ'.

Maelstrom was Mark Morris’ first creation for San Francisco Ballet. Set to Beethoven’s ‘Ghost’ Piano Trio, Morris’s maelstrom is perceived to be more about tension than an actual tempest, according to BalletMaster Betsy Erickson. She describes the second movement as “mysterious”, and the third as “joyous and dancey and fun” [with] “swirls and beautiful partnering and wonderful imagery”.

Yuri Possokhov’s The Rite of Spring draws its inspiration from his native Russia, not only in terms of the movements, but also from the birch trees which dominate the setting. Possokhov, the Company’s Choreographer in Residence, created his version of the ballet that shocked the world to mark its100th anniversary last year. Stravinsky’s score - considered equally outrageous at the time - is based on Russian folk melodies, and is regarded as his re-creation of the sound of Russian folk instruments.

This Triple Bill opens at the War Memorial Opera House on April 4, alternating with Shostakovich Trilogy, until April 15. Visit the San Francisco Ballet website for further information, for performance dates and to buy tickets.

Following the success of last year’s Poetry Festival, SFJAZZ presents the 2014 follow-up this week. Curated by Ishmael Reed, this improvisation between words and music features 38 Bay Area poets as they explore eight different cultures - Irish-American, Italian-American, Latino-American, Asian-American, Native-American, Jewish-American, LGBTQ and African-American.

The SFJAZZ Poetry Festival takes place in the Joe Henderson Lab from April 3 to 6. For more details, visit www.sfjazz.org.

Having returned from its recent European tour, the San Francisco Symphony is back at Davies Symphony Hall this week, under the direction of Conductor Laureate, Herbert Blomstedt, performing music by Schubert and Carl Nielsen.

Maestro Blomstedt was Music Director of the Symphony from 1985 to 1995, and is credited with raising both the orchestra’s standards and its international stature. He also led the Symphony on a series of successful international tours, and recorded the complete cycles of both the Nielsen and Sibelius symphonies.

This week, the Symphony plays Schubert’s Symphony No 9 - the Great - which was the last symphony completed by the composer, and Carl Nielsen’s Clarinet Concerto, in which the soloist is SFS principal clarinet, Carey Bell.

For more details, and information on tickets, please visit the San Francisco Symphony website.

Live from the Met, the regular Saturday morning opera broadcast from Classical KDFC, features Puccini’s eternally popular La Bohème this week - a performance which will also be screened live in HD in cinemas around the world.

The most performed opera in the history of the Metropolitan Opera, La Bohème stars Italian tenor Vittorio Grigolo as Rodolfo - making his Live in HD debut - and Romanian soprano Anita Hartig as Mimi, in her Met debut. In Franco Zefirelli’s magnificent production, Susanna Phillips sings the role of Musetta, with Massimo Cavalletti as Marcello. The Live in HD production will be hosted by Joyce DiDonato.

With a cast of hundreds, a magical onstage snow scene, and a detailed reconstruction of the Latin Quarter in Paris, this broadcast brings to 15 million the number of viewers for the Live in HD series, which now reaches 66 countries worldwide.

To find cinemas in the US which will be screening La Bohème, follow this link. International cinema transmissions can be found on this link.

The broadcast on Classical KDFC starts at 10.00 am on Saturday, April 5, and tuning frequencies in the Bay Area can be checked by visiting the KDFC website. The transmission will also be streamed live on this site.

On Sunday, the Santa Rosa Symphony presents Beethoven Lives Upstairs - the third in its popular Sonoma Paradiso Family concert series - and “One of the most wondrous examples of children’s entertainment ever!" according to Billboard Magazine.

In a collaboration with Classical Kids Live!, the Orchestra - under conductor Richard Loheyde - presents a lively exchange between a young boy, Christoph, and his uncle, about the ‘madman’ who has moved into the apartment upstairs. It isn’t until Christoph attends the famous first performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony that he comes to understand the genius of the composer, the torment he suffered due to his deafness, and the beauty of his music.

The Santa Rosa Symphony’s production of Beethoven Lives Upstairs is on at the Weill Hall, Green Music Center, on Sunday April 6 at 3.00 pm. For more information and tickets, visit the Santa Rosa Symphony website.

Taking a look at the beginning of next week, a quick mention of an appearance - for one night only - by Katia and Marielle Labèque at Davies Symphony Hall.

These sensational pianists have appeared with many of the world’s leading conductors, and performed at some of the most important international festivals. Apart from classical music, the Labèque Sisters have a repertoire which includes jazz, ragtime, flamenco, baroque - on period instruments - and even pop and experimental rock.

In the concert on Monday, April 7, Katia and Marielle Labèque perform an all-American program, featuring music by Gershwin, Philip Glass, and excerpts from Bernstein’s West Side Story. For more detail, and information on tickets, please visit the San Francisco Symphony website .

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