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This week in the Bay Area - December 16 to 22

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The Bay Area continues to produce a wide variety of great entertainment for the holiday season. Here are just some of the productions on offer.

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San Francisco Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker continues this week at the War Memorial Opera House. Set during the time of the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition, Helgi Tomasson’s enchanting production is truly unique to San Francisco, with an exquisite Snowflake scene acknowledged to be one of the most impressive ever staged.

For details and tickets, visit www.sfballet.org

Dave Koz returns to Sonoma County tomorrow evening for his traditional Dave Koz & Friends Christmas Tour. With special guests Oleta Adams, Jonathan Butler and Keiko Matsui, this saxophonist extraordinaire - with eight Grammy nominations to his name - brings the spirit of Christmas to the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts with a selection of seasonal favorites.

For further information at tickets, please visit the Wells Fargo Center website

Moscow Ballet also makes a welcome return to the Wells Fargo Center - on December 18 and 19 - with its Great Russian Nutcracker. Described by Alastair Macauly, Chief Dance Critic of The New York Times, as “Expansive ... brimful with feeling ... elegantly generous”, this spectacular production features a cast of 40 Russian dancers and award-winning principals, together with larger than life puppets, hand-painted 3D-effect backdrops and exquisite costumes. It also offers an opportunity for 60 local children to participate in walk-on roles with a professional company which presents around100 performances in major American cities every November and December.

Visit the Wells Fargo Center website for more information and tickets.

There’s yet more ballet in the Bay Area, as Smuin Ballet brings its 2013 edition of XXmas: The Christmas Ballet to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from December 18 - 28. With world premieres by Amy Seiwert and Robert Dekkers, this ever-popular holiday attraction is a production of contrasts - the Classical White first half is followed by the brilliant red costumes of the Cool Christmas second half - a program which features ballet, tap, swing, and a range of dances drawn from holiday traditions around the world.

See more at www.smuinballet.org, where you’ll find information on tickets as well.

For an evening of jazzy festive joy, look no further than the City Church Little Big Band playing at the SF Jazz Center on Thursday, December 19. Bay Area musicians - saxophonist Kasey Knudsen, trumpeter Mike Olmos, bassist Marcus Shelby, trombonist Rob Ewing, drummer Jeff Marrs, pianist Adam Shulman and soulful singer Tiffany Austin - present “funky, finger-popping and stirring renditions” of carols and seasonal music, including the band’s own version of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, reminiscent of the sound of the early sounds of Duke Ellington.

Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers on December 20 is almost sold out, as is Cuban trumpeter Arturo Sandoval’s performance on December 21, but you can still buy tickets for the Windham Hill Winter Solstice Concert on December 22. The show features singer, pianist, fiddler and guitarist Barbara Higbie - described by writer Derk Richardson as “a jazz pianist who can write and sing like Laura Nyro and Carol King, a prize-winning folk fiddler who will interpret a John Coltrane tune through a French vocal or add her own lyrics to one of Django Reinhardt's last compositions.” Higbie put together this Winter Solstice ensemble with Grammy-nominated pianist Liz Story - whose original compositions draw on influences which range from Claude Debussy and Scott Joplin to Joni Mitchell - and renowned Celtic harpist Lisa Lynne.

For more detail on all these performances, visit www.sfjazz.org

The new Salon Series at San Francisco’s Hotel Rex will take you back to the art and literary salons of 1920s Bohemian Paris. These intimate, drop-in events feature book and poetry readings, art shows and cabaret music. There’s a regular Saturday evening performance entitled Magic at the Rex - featuring Sebastian Boswell III and Adam Sachs - and this week sees the start of Society Cabaret’s Holiday Show, featuring G Scott Lacy on the piano, with different guest performers at each show. In Sophisticated Ladies, on December 20, Molly Mahoney and Shannon Wolfe present Silk Stockings: An Olde Fashioned Christmas, and the special guest on December 21 is Barry Lloyd, with Christopher Nelson featured on December 22.

View the event schedule at https://www.facebook.com/HotelRex, call 415-433-4334 - or keep an eye on this column. The Hotel Rex is at 562 Sutter Street (between Mason & Powell near Union Square).

Ballet San Jose’s production of Karen Gabay’s The Nutcracker continues its run on December 20. With Symphony Silicon Valley, conducted by Ballet SJ Music Director, George Daugherty, the Company presents its delightful interpretation of the traditional Christmas ballet - with some stylish and original touches to provide an element of surprise. Heather Desaulniers of CriticalDance.com writes: "This full-length holiday extravaganza is a thoughtful and fresh interpretation of E T A Hoffmann’s story, complete with elegant dancing and striking originality ... a joy to watch."

Karen Gabay’s The Nutcracker for Ballet San Jose runs at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts until December 26. For details of performance dates and times, and for tickets, please visit the Ballet San Jose website

On December 20 and 21, The San Francisco Early Music Society presents A Venetian Christmas Mass. Under the direction of Warren Stewart, Magnificat and The Whole Noyse, perform a program of polychoral works by Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and the concertato music of Claudio Monteverdi.

Founded and directed by Warren Stewart, Magnificat was the first ensemble in the US to dedicate itself to 17th-century music from all parts of Europe, whilst The Whole Noyse - renowned for its mastery of 16th- and 17th-century historical brass - is celebrating its 26th year as one of the country’s leading early brass ensembles. The two ensembles will be joined by singers Clara Rottsolk, Jennifer Paulino, Andrew Rader, Clifton Massey, Dan Hutchings, Christopher LeCluyse, Hugh Davies, and Peter Becker.

For details of performances of A Venetian Christmas Mass, please visit the San Francisco Early Music Society website.

On Saturday morning, December 21, Classical KDFC continues with its series of broadcasts entitled Live from the Met, which this week features A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Benjamin Britten, in celebration of the composer’s centennial this year. With libretto by the composer and Peter Pears, after Shakespeare, Britten’s opera reflects all the dramatic qualities of Shakespeare’s romantic and bewitching comedy which have enchanted audiences for centuries. Conducted by James Conlon, this performance features soprano Kathleen Kim as Tytania, and counter tenor, Iestyn Davies, as Oberon.

The Metropolitan Opera’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be broadcast on KDFC on Saturday, December 21, at 10.00 am. For tuning frequencies, or to listen online, please go to www.kdfc.com.

Finally, this week, the Santa Rosa Symphony League presents the 33rd Annual Redwood Empire Sing-Along Messiah. Dan Earl conducts the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus, local soloists, and you, the audience.

Sing-Along Messiah takes place at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Synder Lane in Rohnert Park on Saturday, December 21 at 7:30 pm. For tickets, follow this link, or they can be purchased at the door. The advice, however, is not to wait until the night, since last year’s performance was sold out. Proceeds from the performance benefit the SRS Education programs.

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