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This week in the Bay Area - February 6 to 9

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We're halfway through this week already, but there’s still plenty of entertainment on offer in and around San Francisco.

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The San Francisco Symphony features conductor Lionel Bringuier and pianist Hélène Grimaud in a program of music by Brahms, Ravel and Dutilleux, it hosts the annual Chinese New Year Concert and Imperial Dinner on Saturday, and on Sunday presents an afternoon of chamber music - see http://www.examiner.com/article/a-busy-week-for-the-san-francisco-symphony.

At the San Francisco Playhouse, Jez Butterworth’s award-winning play Jerusalem continues to draw the crowds - see http://www.examiner.com/article/jerusalem-shakes-foundations-of-san-francisco-playhouse.

There’s a rare opportunity to see the “sublimely talented” pianist and singer, Henry Butler, at the SF Jazz Center this week. Described by All Music Guide as “arguably the greatest living proponent of the classic New Orleans piano tradition", Butler is a ten-time nominee for the Best Blues Instrumentalists Award, who includes jazz, Caribbean, classical, pop, blues and R&B in his repertoire. Having studied with Cannonball Adderley, George Duke and Alvin Batiste, Butler has recorded ten albums since his 1986 debut, Fivin’ Around, and despite having lost his home, piano, unpublished compositions and master tapes during the Hurricane Katrina disaster, he bounced back to participate in the New Orleans Social Club Project and appear in HBO’s hit series, Treme.

Henry Butler appears in the Joe Henderson Lab from February 6 to 8. Visit the SF Jazz Center website for more information.

Resident Artistic Director of the Jazz Center, master percussionist, John Santos, makes a return appearance this week with his working band and legendary Cuban vocalist, Ernesto Oviedo. Described as a master of the romantic bolero song style, Oviedo made his American debut at the SF Jazz Center last year. Also on the program are percussionist Orestes Vilató and guitarist José Roberto Hernandez.

The John Santos Sextet, with Ernest Oviedo, are in the Miner Auditorium at the SF Jazz Center on Saturday night, February 8. The program is now sold out, but it’s worth checking for returns on the day. More information is available on the SFJazz website.

The Salon Series of intimate ‘drop-in’ events continues at San Francisco’s Hotel Rex, with its regular Saturday performance, Magic at the Rex, in the Sutter Streetside Cocktail Lounge on February 8, featuring Sebastian Boswell III and Adam Sachs of the city’s Absolute Magic Shows.

This week’s Society Cabaret shows present comedienne Kira on Friday, February 7 - there are two shows, at 8.00 pm and 10.00 pm - and My Favorite Things: An Evening with G Scott Lacey on Saturday, February 8.

There’s also a new Friday evening show entitled Singers Songwriters, in which local Bay Area composers and singers perform original and popular music. This presentation -which is free, with no cover charge - takes place from 6.30 to 8.00 pm in the Library Bar, and this week’s performer is Mike Annuzzi.

Showtune Sundays at the Rex continues this weekend, where Broadway’s Best is sung by San Francisco’s Finest, with a line-up featuring Lua Hadar, Sheelagh Murphy, Benn Bacot, Lia Metz, Jesse Cortez and Tiffany Chantel Robinson.

For more information, visit the Society Cabaret website.

San Francisco Performances presents the Bay Area debut of Aszure Barton & Artists this weekend, with peformances of her celebrated work, Awáa. Barton has choreographed works for film and stage, and has collaborated with and created works for Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ekaterina Shipulina/Bolshoi Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, Houston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Martha Graham Dance Company, Nederlands Dans Theater, Sydney Dance Company, Ballet British Columbia, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Juilliard School, and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal (Resident Choreographer 2005-08), among many others.

Awáa is a meditation on a dream which Barton had of sitting in an underwater rocking chair, and incorporates video footage of an elaborate underwater shoot taken at Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada. The work combines live performance with video, and a propulsive original musical score for strings and percussion by Lev "Ljova" Zhurbin and Curtis Macdonald.

Aszure Barton’s Awáa is presented at the Lam Research Theater, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, in San Francisco, on February 7 and 8. For tickets, please call (415) 978-2787, and for more information, visit sfperformances.org.

Cal Performances presents the Venice Baroque Orchestra with countertenor Philippe Jaroussky on Friday evening, in a performance of A Legendary Battle: Farinelli & Porpora vs Carestini & Handel, a work which explores the period from 1733 to 1736, when Porpora and Handel each led opera companies in London and created new works featuring the castrato voice.

The Washington Post writes of the Venice Baroque Orchestra’s “percolating energy and lithe, silvery tone”, and - according to The New York Times - Jaroussky is admired for his “pure, boyishly radiant voice and admirable coloratura technique”. This is the orchestra’s first appearance at Cal Performances, and Jaroussky’s first appearance since his 2011 Berkeley debut.

The Venice Baroque Orchestra and Phillippe Jaroussky appear in First Congregational Church, Berkeley, on Friday, February 7, at 8:00 pm. The performance will be preceded by an academic discussion of the high male voice in music, to be held at 125 Morrison Hall, UC Berkeley, on the afternoon of Friday, February 7, at 4.30 pm. For more information please visit www.calperformances.org.

Antonin Dvořák’s lyric fairy-tale opera, Rusalka, comes to the Bay Area Live from the Met on Saturday morning, courtesy of Classical KDFC. The title role is sung by Renée Fleming - a role which she has sung more than any other artist in the history of the Met - and the cast includes Piotr Beczala as the handsome Prince with whom Rusalka falls in love, Dolora Zajick as Ježibaba, the swamp witch, Emily Magee as the Foreign Princess, Rusalka's rival, and John Relyea as her father, the Water Sprite. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin.

Rusalka - which received its premiere at the National Theatre in Prague on 31st March, 1901 - is a fusion of magic, Czech folklore and mythology, its score inspired by tunes and harmonies typical of the ancient folk melodies of the composer’s native land. The story, which tells of the tragic romance between a water sprite and a human prince, is drawn from several folktale sources including Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid, and is the composer’s most famous opera.

Not only is this performance being broadcast live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York, but the performance is also being screened worldwide in HD, hosted by Susan Graham, and it marks Renée Fleming’s first Live in HD performance of one of her signature roles.

For KDFC tuning frequencies in the Bay Area, please visit www.kdfc.com, where you’ll also be able to listen to the broadcast online.

For more information on the HD screening of Rusalka, please visit the Met Opera website.

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