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NEW YEAR’S EVE MASQUERADE BALL – Violinist Nicola Benedetti with the San Francisco Symphony

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Come to Davies Symphony Hall, the most glamorous place in town, to welcome the New Year. The doors open at 8:00 pm and the entertainment begins in the lobby with the always effervescent dance band, The Martini Brothers. The concert begins at 9:00. Michael Francis conducts the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra beginning with the Overture to The Gypsy Baron by Johann Strauss Jr., followed by waltzes, polkas, and dances from Arnold, Strauss, Jr., Britten, Shostakovich, and Brahms. Guest violinist Nicola Benedetti will be featured in Fritz Kreisler’s popular composition, Liebeslied. And the always colorful period dancers, Dance Through Time, will take it away with Strauss’ Blue Danube Waltz. After the concert enjoy complimentary desserts and sparkling champagne from La Marca Prosecco. Dance to “Tainted Love” on the First Tier, or to the Peter Mintun Orchestra on the stage of Davies Symphony hall. The revelry really heats up at midnight, when the New Year is on the brink, and anything is possible. The Symphony supplies the masks, you create the memories!

Click here to order tickets on-line: New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball

Also new this season is an elegant pre-concert dinner in the grand lobby of the War Memorial Opera House. For more information on special dinner packages, call Patron Services at (415) 864-6000.

fritz-kreisler-and-johann-strauss-jr
FRITZ KREISLER and JOHANN STRAUSS Jr.

MEET THE ARTISTS

michael-francis-photo-chris-christodoulou
MICHAEL FRANCIS

Now considered to be one of the brightest young conducting talents of this time, Michael Francis was first recognized as such in 2006 when, in an emergency and while on tour, he stepped out of the bass section of the London Symphony Orchestra – where he had resided for three years – and into a rehearsal of Shostakovich Symphony No. 4. The future for his conducting talent was cemented by three successive emergencies: in 2007, with 12 hours notice to replace Valery Gergiev for the BBC’s Gubaidulina Festival at the Barbican; one month later and on two hours notice to replace John Adams in a performance of his own works with the LSO at the Philharmonie Luxembourg; and in January 2009, when he was asked to replace André Previn. The request to have two distinct programs ready in six days for four concerts in three cities, beginning on January 7th, with Anne-Sophie Mutter and Stuttgart Radio Symphony came in on New Year’s Eve. The programs included Gubaidulina, Violin Concerto In Tempus Praesens; Previn, Double Concerto for Violin and Double Bass with Roman Patkoló; and Hindemith, Mathis der Maler. As a result of his success and the great critical praise which followed, the SRSO immediately engaged Michael to conduct concerts in June 2009 and March 2010. In April 2010 Michael joined forces with Anne-Sophie Mutter, conducting a series of concerts in Tokyo and Taiwan, and in November 2010 he will make his debut with the New York Philharmonic for the world premiere of Wolfgang Rihm’s newest piece for violin and orchestra, Lichtes Spiel, with Anne-Sophie Mutter.

nicola-benedetti
NICOLA BENEDETTI

Winner of the Classical BRIT Award for Young British Classic Performer in 2008, Nicola has previously released five CDs with Universal/Deutsche Grammophon, the most recent featuring Tchaikovsky and Bruch concerti with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and Jakub Hrusa. Nicola’s debut album included Szymanowski, Saint-Saëns, Massenet and Brahms with the London Symphony Orchestra, followed by a second release featuring works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert and Macmillan with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Nicola’s third album was comprised of newly commissioned works by Tavener and Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the fourth featured works by Sarasate, Fauré, Rachmaninov, Pärt and Ravel. Nicola plays the Earl Spencer Stradivarius (c. 1712), courtesy of Jonathan Moulds.

dance-through-time
DANCE THROUGH TIME

Although Dance Masters through the centuries left us records of the dances from their times, very few people today have the knowledge and training to decipher these dance notations. Through years of researching original sources and deciphering multiple languages, Dance Through Time has created original musical performances that give audiences the unique opportunity to see the dances, the costumes and the traditions of western cultures from the past 500 years. The Company performs year-round in concerts, special events, master classes, lecture-demonstrations and residencies. Dance Through Time has received international recognition for its loving attention to authenticity, stringent artistic standards, and critically-acclaimed performances. Arts in Education programs, video archives and modern notation preserves the Company’s work for future generations. Dance Through Time’s recent milestones include its 12th national tour and a recent performance in San Francisco’s Gay Pride Parade.

martini-brothers
THE MARTINI BROTHERS

Bob Dalpe, co-founder of The Martini Brothers, band leader, vocalist and arranger. Bob began his Bay Area singing career in the early 90s and gained popularity with rave reviews for his outstanding interpretations of jazz standards. Bob’s repertoire consists of the classic songs written by song-writing giants including Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Rogers and Hart, and Lerner and Loewe, as well as some of Bob’s own original tunes. And if you’re a Sinatra fan, you’ll see why much of Bob’s claim to fame is from the incredible likeness of his voice to that of the great Sinatra.

Mr. Rick, co-founder, band leader, guitarist, singer and event producer. He brings a special background to the Martini Brothers Band. His guitar playing style is one of the rich acoustic and rhythmic-bluesy sound, reminiscent of Freddy Green of the Count Basie Orchestra and straight ahead swingin blues. He is also known for his role in Mr. Rick’s Martini Club event productions, (a kind of “floating” 30s – 40s style cocktail/dance/supper club), of San Francisco and Oakland. Also, considered and expert on all things Art Deco, he is the proprietor of two shops in the Bay Area (ArtDecoCollection.com).

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CD, JAKE SCHEPPS – An Evening in the Village: The Music of Béla Bartók

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

It’s a marvelous thing when aspiration meets inspiration and a musician takes a striking leap, not only moving his art forward but raising the bar for those around him. Colorado-based banjoist-arranger Jake Schepps has taken just such a leap with his recently released album, An Evening in the Village: The Music of Béla Bartók, via Schepps’ own Fine Mighty Records imprint. Devoted to arrangements of folk-influenced music by the great Hungarian composer and pioneering ethnomusicologist Béla Bartók (1881-1945), An Evening in the Village helps broaden the horizons of the stringband, proving that the scintillating mix of banjo, fiddle, mandolin, guitar and double-bass need not be limited to Americana tradition.

an-evening-in-the-village
An Evening in the Village

Listen to: Melody (Hungarian Sketches)

An Evening in the Village sees Schepps and his virtuoso cohorts re-envision Bartók’s modernist takes on old Eastern European melodies as if the collective were an Appalachian band jamming after hours in a Transylvanian town hall, the moods ranging from the gorgeously bittersweet title track and haunting full-moon “Melody” to the whirling, off-kilter hooks of “Ruthenian Kolomeika” and “Cousin Sally Brown,” an old-time Anglo-American fiddle tune given an East- meets-West spin. The album was recorded in Nashville and Colorado, co-produced by Juno Award-winning banjoist Jayme Stone along with Schepps and mandolin ace Matt Flinner; the players include members of Schepps’ band the Expedition Quartet and other top players on the new acoustic scene. The sophisticated arrangements and spirited performances capture the essence of the music – its mystery, humor and crooked, folk-art beauty.
Click here to purchase on-line: An Evening in the Village

“I think Bartók’s music sounds like some of the best acoustic music I have ever heard: stunning writing, highly creative harmonic surprises, bold arrangements, twists and turns,” Schepps says. “We tried to keep as much of that intent as we could, then be ourselves on top of it all. There’s a certain rhythmic drive to Bartók’s music, and a lot of his classical interpreters smooth that out with rubato and espressivo. But as a player of often groove-based American folk music, I felt an affinity for that sort of rhythmic drive and wanted to inject a little of that back into the music.”

Listen to: Ruthenian Kolomeika ( # 35: 44 Violin Duos)

Although he was trained in the grand Central European tradition, Bartók was deeply inspired by the folk music of Eastern Europe, using the melodies and dance rhythms to seed his harmonically advanced compositions – particularly in such sets as Hungarian Sketches, Romanian Folk Dances, Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm, Mikrokosmos and 44 Duos for two violins – all of which Schepps drew upon for tracks on An Evening in the Village. Taking a stand for the value of folk music, the composer once wrote, “If [the musician] allows himself to surrender to the impressions of living folk music, and he can mirror the effect of these impressions in his work, then…he has recorded a piece of life.”

Schepps steeped himself in the scores and recordings of Bartók’s compositions and his transcriptions of Eastern European folk musicians, as well as biographies and the composer’s letters. “I hadn’t realized what a scientist Bartók was – he was doing field research, and developed an elaborate coding system for notating ornamentation, melody styles and scales,” Schepps explains. “He was a city boy traveling around the countryside in 1906, carrying a gramophone and trying to persuade rural Hungarians and Romanians to sing into it – it was probably a lot of work just to do that and not come across like a man sent from the future. But he stuck it out, collecting more than 8,000 folk tunes; the Bartók archives are a national treasure in Hungary, so he’s a hero beyond being the composer of all those great orchestral works and string quartets.”

bela-bartok-and-jake-schepps
BELA BARTÓK and JAKE SCHEPPS

MEET THE ARTISTS
Schepps gathered extraordinary players for An Evening in the Village. Co-producer and mandolinist Matt Flinner’s 1998 Compass album The View from Here is considered a watershed for the new acoustic music scene. Cellist Ben Sollee is a Sparrow Quartet member alongside Béla Fleck and Abigail Washburn, while bassist Greg Garrison is a former Punch Brother. Then there is the core band, consisting of Schepps’ comrades in the Expedition Quartet: A classically trained violinist at the University of Colorado, Ryan Drickey moved into folk music and won the RockyGrass Fiddle Contest in 2007; he has also received a Fulbright scholarship to study Scandinavian folk music in Sweden. Drickey is “a wide-open musician, bringing this beautifully expressive touch to old-time and Irish music, jazz, tango, whatever he plays,” Schepps says. Grant Gordy is “an astounding guitarist who has explored a lot of different music,” the banjoist says, “but he virtually grew up on a diet of the David Grisman Quintet, so his home is that crossroads of chamber-y, bluegrass-y, jazz-influenced music.” Bassist Ian Hutchison “graduated from the University of Denver with a jazz performance degree,” Schepps explains, “and he plays jazz-standard gigs constantly. He came to folk music late, but he comes with a sharp, open ear. He also plays in the Grant Gordy Quartet, so those two have a deep musical connection.”

Listen to: Cousin Sally Brown

The more Schepps listened to Bartók’s own works, “the more I learned about how he would take a simple folk tune and transform it into something more elaborate and rich,” the banjoist says. “He would take a four-bar vocal melody and extend that for one or two minutes, and the stuff he put in there was harmonically incredible – and that was Bartók’s voice. He often has this dissonant, acerbic harmonic vocabulary, and those harmonies sound wonderfully surprising underneath those folk melodies. Musicians gravitate toward Bartók’s music, and I think that comes across on the album. Ideas flew around in rehearsal – switching off parts, rewriting ideas about where to solo. It was like a jazz session, working off charts but with a lot of creativity.”

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Continue Reading

“XANADU THE MUSICAL” – Now at the New Conservatory Theatre Center

New Conservatory Theatre Center presents Xanadu The Musical by Douglas Carter Beane, Jeff Lynne, and John Farrar now through January 15th. Based on the 1980 cult classic film, Xanadu is the story of a beautiful Greek Muse named “Clio” who descends from Mount Olympus to inspire “Sonny”, a struggling artist. It is in this moment that Sonny discovers his ultimate goal in life: to create a space where art, culture, and athleticism can collide; a space where people can be free among music and euphoric art. Like, Roller Disco! But when Clio, disguised as “Kira”, an Australian roller girl, falls into forbidden love with the mortal Sonny, her jealous sisters take advantage of the situation and Clio risks eternal banishment to the underworld. This musical spoof of the 1980 film is an odyssey through 80’s nostalgia packed with tongue-in-cheek banter, laughable villains, roller-skating divas, and comical spectacles.

jesus-martinez-jr-sonny-and-chloe-condon-kira
Jesus Martinez Jr. (Sonny) and Chloe Condon (Kira)
Production photos by Lois Tema Photography

Douglas Carter Beane (Book) – Beanes’ Broadway play The Little Dog Laughed received a Tony nomination for “Best New Play” and took the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation Media Award (GLAAD) for “Best Play”. His other works include Music From A Sparkling Planet, The Country Club, and As Bees In Honey Drown for which he won an Outer Critics Circle and John Gassner Award.  He wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation of his play, Advice From A Caterpillar, and To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar, produced by Steven Spielberg. His stage adaptation of the film The Bandwagon is slated to open on Broadway later this season.

Jeff Lynne (Music and Lyrics) formed the Electric Light Orchestra (E.L.O.) in the 1970’s. The group gradually developed from cult favorites into one of the 70s’ leading recording acts, scoring international success with several platinum-selling albums including A New World Record and Out Of The Blue. Lynne received praise for his production work with George Harrison (Cloud Nine), Randy Newman (Land Of Dreams) and Roy Orbison (Mystery Girl). He has contributed to much of Tom Petty’s recent output and worked with Brian Wilson on the ex-Beach Boys’ first long-awaited solo album. In recent years, Lynne has produced the Beatles lost tapes, notably “Free as a Bird” and “Real Love”, and co-produced Paul McCartney’s “Flaming Pie” in 1997.

John Farrar (Music and Lyrics) is a music producer, songwriter, music arranger, singer and guitarist best known for his work with Olivia Newton-John with whom he wrote and produced many hit songs including “Physical”. Their biggest success came in 1977 with the film version of the musical Grease. Farrar wrote and submitted two original songs, “Hopelessly Devoted To You” and “You’re The One That I Want.” The songs were incorporated into the film, both tracks becoming major international hits of 1978.

jaimelee-roberts-calliope-joe-wicht-danny-nikki-arias-melpomene
Jaimelee Roberts (Calliope), Joe Wicht (Danny), Nikki Arias (Melpomene)

Stephanie Temple (Director and Choreographer) is a graduate of the University of Southern California School of Theatre. She has worked with New Conservatory Theatre Center, 42nd Street Moon, Sierra Repertory Theatre, and the Pacific Coast Performing Arts. In 2008 Temple won the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for her choreography in Zanna, Don’t!, and made her New York City directorial debut with Leanne Borghesi’s Divalicious at the Metropolitan Room.

G. Scott Lacy (Musical Director) has worked with New Conservatory Theatre Center on Boys Will Be Boys, Divalicious, Mormon American Princess, and Zanna, Don’t! (Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Nomination). Dames At Sea, also featuring Leanne Borghesi, garnered him a Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award. Mr. Lacy has been the musical director for such companies as the La Jolla Playhouse, Lamb’s Players Theatre, Musical Theatre Guild of Los Angeles, Malashock Dance Company, San Diego Opera, Diversionary Theatre, Diablo Theatre Company, and Contra Costa Civic Theatre.

Xanadu features Nikki Arias (Melpomene), Angel Burgess (Erato), Chloe Condon (Kira), Molly Kruse (Euterpe), Nathan Marken (Thalia), Jesus Martinez Jr (Sonny), Jaimelee Roberts (Calliope), Alex Rodriguez (Terpsicore), and Joe Wicht (Danny). Scenic designs are by Kuo-Hao Lo, costumes by Jeff Hamby, lighting by Christian Mejia, and musical tracks produced by Taylor Peckham.

The production skates until January 15th, Wednesday through Saturday at 8:00 pm and Sunday matinees at 2:00 pm. All performances take place at The New Conservatory Theatre Center (Decker Theatre), located at 25 Van Ness Avenue near Market Street in San Francisco.
Click here to purchase tickets on-line: XANADU

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JAN WAHL – Joins “The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes” – Live At The Victoria Theatre, 12/23

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Four of San Francisco’s most luminous Drag Queens have taken over the Victoria Theatre for the best in Holiday hilarity – The Golden Girls: The Christmas Episodes – final performances happening this Thursday and Friday, December 22nd and 23rd. Joining the cast Thursday night – in a special one-night-only appearance – is popular TV & Radio personality, and dazzling femme fatale, Jan Wahl. The Original Cast should have been so lucky! Taking on the roles of the iconic TV characters are Heklina as “Dorothy”, Cookie Dough as “Sophia”, Matthew Martin as “Blanche” and Pollo Del Mar as “Rose”. Also featured in the cast are Mike Finn and Laurie Bushman.

jan-wahl
JAN WAHL

Dedicated fans of The Golden Girls will thrill to the show’s two classic Christmas episodes. “Isn’t It Romantic” involves a yuletide visit from Dorothy’s lesbian friend, Jean, who winds up falling for Rose. In “Sister Of The Bride”, Blanche’s gay brother, Clayton, stays with the girls for Christmas Holiday and surprises Blanche with the news that he plans to marry his boyfriend, Doug.

The Golden Girls started performances in 2005 in the front parlor of a Victorian Mansion in the Western Addition. The shows became increasingly popular and grew to month-long runs in both June and December. The Girls then moved to sold out-runs at Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory and then on to CounterPULSE. Join the fun this week at San Francisco’s historic Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th Street (between Mission & Capp). Matthew Martin has directed the show; set designs by Nathan Rapport, lighting by Joe D’Emilio, and costumes by Van Hedwall.
Click here to order tickets on-line: THE GOLDEN GIRLS

MEET THE CAST

HEKLINA (Dorothy) gained fame as Trannyshack’s erstwhile MC, keeping a tight rein on the chaos with her unflappable humor and sparkling wit. She is a premier hostess and DJ for hire around San Francisco, and has graced the Folsom Street Fair, Castro Street Fair, Gay Pride Main Stage, Castro Theater, and Halloween Main Stage. Heklina has also hosted charitable fundraisers for PAWS, Project Open Hand, AIDS Housing Alliance, Haight Ashbury Free Medical Clinic, Bay Positives, Lyric, the AIDS Emergency Fund, the UCSF Positive Health Project, Community United Against Violence, and Marriage Equality. She has been seen on the E! Entertainment Network, NBC’s Trauma, The Cho Show, VH1, Playing it Straight, Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, BBC Television’s Around the World in 80 Raves, the Scissor Sister’s Filthy Gorgeous video, and as a guest on the Jerry Springer and Ricki Lake shows. She was voted Community Grand Marshal of the 2004 San Francisco GLBTQ Pride Parade, and was the subject of two documentaries in Frameline 2005. In 2009 she won the Pride Creativity Award for outstanding artistic contribution to the LGBT Community.

MATTHEW MARTIN (Blanche), a native San Franciscan, has been conjuring Bette Davis for many years in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and London stage productions including Awe About Eve, Hush Up, Sweet Charlotte, Whatever Happened to B.B. Jane?, and The Star. He recently completed the film parody Baby Jane?, starring as “Baby Jane Hudson”, which premiered in SF’s Frameline Film Festival and was also recently featured in the documentary Queer Icon: The Cult of Bette Davis. An actor, singer, dancer, director, choreographer and man of many faces and voices, Matthew created Joan Crawford in a stage parody of her last film, Trog, and is praised for his impressions of Katharine Hepburn, Judy Garland, Ann Miller, Jane Russell, Susan Hayward, Peggy Lee, Eartha Kitt, Mitzi Gaynor and other goddesses of the Silver Screen. He most recently appeared at the Rrazz Room with his solo show All Singing, All Dancing, All Dead. As “Blanche Devereaux”, he has had the pleasure of working with his good friends in The Golden Girls since 2007.

the-golden-girls
THE GOLDEN GIRLS: Heklina, Cookie Dough, Pollo Del Mar, Matthew Martin

POLLO DEL MAR (Rose) is indispensable in San Francisco’s LGBT community, and has acquired the sobriquet “The Queen of San Francisco Media”. An award-winning San Francisco drag performer, personality, emcee, magazine cover girl, activist and celebrity journalist, she has shared the stage with such gay icons as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Cyndi Lauper. This is her fifth year portraying the world’s favorite bubble-head from St. Olaf, “Rose Nylund”. You can find Pollo weekly at The Cafe, where she hosts The Castro’s popular weekend drag show, The GlamaZONE with Pollo Del Mar.

COOKIE DOUGH (Sophia) is an over-the-top personality whose wild antics on stage and screen have made her an overnight sensation 20 years in the making! In the Spring of 2002, the ambitious entertainer launched the cabaret show, “Cookie…After Dark”, which continues at Martuni’s Lounge in San Francisco. “The Monster Show with Cookie Dough & DJ MC2” followed in 2004 and played Harvey’s Bar & Restaurant nearly five years. The show is currently at the Edge Bar on Thursdays and has become the City’s longest running Drag show. In 2010, Cookie was elected “Grand Duchess of San Francisco”. Given the continued success of The Golden Girls, Cookie Dough oughta be rolling herself out as “Sophia” for many more seasons to come.

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Continue Reading

Strange de Jim’s Top 10 Late-Night Jokes

10. David Letterman: Do you people have to be somewhere?

9. Craig Ferguson: In the movies the chipmunks always break into song. So when I see a chipmunk in real life I wonder if it can sing. Just like when I see a gerbil I wonder if it knows Richard Gere.

8. Jay Leno: The candidates all have their position on the Federal Reserve. Ron Paul is anti-Fed. Mitt Romney is pro-Fed. And Newt Gingrich is over-Fed.

7. David Letterman: The Golden Globes is fixed. It’s a bunch of crap. And I can say that with confidence because we’ve never been nominated. But they say the Golden Globes predict the Oscars. And in a sense they do, because they’re long and boring

6. Jay Leno: A woman in Florida received a transplant of a kidney from a complete stranger after she posted an ad on Craigslist. It’s nice you can use Craigslist for more than just transvestite prostitutes. [Looking at the band] Right, guys?

5. David Letterman: It was so cute. Today I saw all the Sidewalk Santas lined up for their random drug test.

4. David Letterman: The war in Iraq is finally over. It lasted 9 years. That’s 46 Kardashian marriages.

3. Craig Ferguson: “The Artist” got six Golden Globe nominations. It’s a silent movie, where people’s mouths move but nothing comes out. It’s like Rick Perry in the debates.

2. Jay Leno: Last night Rick Perry compared himself to Tim Tebow. The difference? Tim Tebow actually has a prayer.

1. David Letterman: Macy’s is open 24 hours a day now. Nothing puts you in the Christmas spirit like a night-shift Santa.

http://www.strangebillions.com/zingdec11/

Continue Reading

‘TWAS THE NIGHT – Celebrate Christmas with the San Francisco Symphony

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Beginning Thursday night, December 22nd through Saturday afternoon, Christmas Eve, San Francisco Symphony presents ‘Twas the Night. Ragnar Bohlin conducts members of the San Francisco Symphony Brass and Chorus in a festival of Christmas carols and songs. They will be joined by guest singers soprano Lisa Vroman, tenor David Burnham, and instrumentalists Robert Huw Morgan, Joan Cifarelli, Jieyin Wu, and Stan Muncy. The program will feature amazing arrangements of traditional favorites including Little Drummer Boy, Do You Hear What I Hear, O Holy Night. Following a special treatment of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas the music continues with cozy-up renditions of Baby It’s Cold Outside, Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, and concluding with an audience sing-along.
Click here to order tickets now: ‘Twas the Night

MEET THE ARTISTS

david-burnham-tenor
DAVID BURNHAM, Tenor

David Burnham appeared in the Broadway productions of Wicked and The Light In The Piazza. He lent his talent to the Actor’s Fund production of On The 20th Century at The New Amsterdam Theatre and performed his solo concert at New York nightclubs Birdland and Metropolitan Room. David first gained critical acclaim when he was chosen to replace Donny Osmond in the national tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. At Boston’s North Shore Music Theatre he created the role of “Tom” in the musical Tom Jones and “Billy” in Letters from ‘Nam, a role which he reprised at The Kennedy Center and Seattle’s Village Theatre. In Chicago he originated the role of “Charlie” in Peggy Sue Got Married, after touring the country as “Peter” in the national tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. David is very proud to announce the release of his second solo CD, “One Day”.

lisa-vroman-soprano
LISA VROMAN, Soprano

With a repertoire that ranges from Stravinsky to Weill to Broadway, soprano Lisa Vroman is an internationally recognized solo concert artist. She made her debut at The Hollywood Bowl in Disney’s 75th celebration, singing and dancing with legendary Dick Van Dyke. She guest starred with tenor Mario Frangoulis in his NYC debut concert at City Center; and has performed many times at the New York Festival of Song, including a tribute to Broadway director Harold Prince. She has sung in concert with conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, composer Stephen Schwartz, Organist David Higgs, and the Empire Brass Quintet. Her solo CD Broadway Classic features Metropolitan Opera Mezzo-Soprano Stephanie Blythe and 47 Bay Area musicians. Lisa had the honor of singing at the Profiles in Courage Award in Boston at the JFK Library. She has also sung on separate occasions for Queen Elizabeth, former President Bill Clinton, and former Vice President Al Gore.

Robert Huw Morgan serves as Organist at Stanford University. He also serves as Lecturer in Organ and Choral Studies and Director of the Stanford University Singers. A native of Wales, he received his BA and MA from the University of Cambridge where he was organ scholar at St. John’s College. As a conductor, he has led performances of several operas including Falstaff, Hansel & Gretel and Die Fledermaus, along with choral works including Bach’s St. John’s Passion, the Mozart Requiem and Mass in C Minor, and the Vespers of both Rachmaninoff and Monteverdi.

Joan Cifarelli performs throughout the Bay Area as a classical and jazz pianist. She has worked with a variety of performers including Joan Baez at Teatro Zinzanni’s, Rita Moreno at the Razz Room, and recently with Bernadette Peters, Jessye Norman and Lisa Vroman with San Francisco Symphony. She is active in musical theatre and works with Diablo Theatre Company, Contra Costa Musical Theatre and the Vagabond Players. She is on faculty at Los Medanos College in Pittsburg where she teaches classical and jazz piano.

Jieyin Wu, harpist, performs as a soloist and with ensemble groups. She has given solo recitals and chamber music performances in Shanghai, Beijing, Tel Aviv and San Francisco Bay Area. Jieyin performs with San Francisco Symphony, San Jose Symphony, and Oakland Symphony. Jieyin won the concerto competition at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music in 2003, performed a concert with the orchestra as featured soloist, and in 2004 was appointed principal harpist of the Napa Symphony. This year, she joined the Stanford New Music Ensemble on a concert tour to Beijing and Shanghai for the Modern Music Festival.

Stan Muncy is a percussionist and jazz vibe player who freelances in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a regular extra with San Francisco Symphony, a member of the Santa Rosa Symphony and other regional orchestras, and was also percussionist/assistant timpanist with the Honolulu Symphony. Stan Muncy and Park St. Trio recently released their debut album, Goodnight Daylight. His recording credits extend to the NAXOS classical label and to film scores recorded at Warner Brothers Studios, Capitol Records, and Firehouse Studios. He plays regularly with the Chicago-based sextet “eighth blackbird” and with “Eco Ensemble”, a new music ensemble-in-residence at UC Berkeley.

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DEANNA DURBIN – The Leading Lady of NOIR CITY XMAS, Wednesday at The Castro Theatre
CD Review – A STEINWAY CHRISTMAS ALBUM ★★★★
MELODY MOORE – Opera Star to Appear with San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in Holiday Concerts
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http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=166587
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PISSARRO’S PEOPLE – Stunning exhibit now at the Legion of Honor, through 1/22
THE PRESIDIO’S HIDDEN PAST – SF’s Oldest Building Reveals Original Adobe Walls
MAHARAJA – The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts, at the Asian Art Museum
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“XERXES” – A Royally Entertaining Production at SF Opera

BEVAN DUFTY – A Conversation with The City’s Most Effective Candidate for Mayor
“REAL STEEL” – Reels of money-making crap starring Hugh Jackman
DAVID LOMELI – Performs at Día de los Muertos Community Concert with SF Symphony, Saturday, 11/5
“XERXES” – At San Francisco Opera
RICHARD SERRA DRAWING – At the SF Museum of Modern Art through January 16th
CD Release: “Feels Like Home”, The Celtic Tenors ★★★★
DON GIOVANNI – It’s smart and new at San Francisco Opera
“HOUDINI: Art and Magic” – At the Contemporary Jewish Museum
LEANNE BORGHESI – SF Bay Area Star on the Rise
“REAL STEEL” – Reels of money-making crap starring Hugh Jackman
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CAMERON CARPENTER – International Superstar Organist plays “Phantom of the Opera” at Davies Symphony Hall, Friday, October 30th
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“ONCE IN A LIFETIME” – A Charming Comedy at A.C.T.
“LUCREZIA BORGIA” – A Hard Act To Swallow at San Francisco Opera
THE “DOUBLE PLATINUM” GOES TO: The California Academy of Sciences!
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100th BIRTHDAY – San Francisco Symphony throws free concert bash in Civic Center Plaza, September 8th
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“HE WHO GETS SLAPPED” – A conversation with composer and pianist Matti Bye
ABEL GANCE’S “NAPOLEON” – San Francisco Silent Film Festival to present complete restoration by Kevin Brownlow in 2012
“BILLY ELLIOT” – A high flying hit at the Orpheum
HEIDI MELTON – An Interview with “Sieglinde” in San Francisco Opera’s DIE WALKÜRE
MARY GIBBONEY – An Interview with the star of “ABSOLUTELY SAN FRANCISCO”
“DAS RHEINGOLD” – The slippery steps to Valhalla
SONDHEIM’S “ASSASSINS” – Ray of Light Theatre is right-on target
“TALES OF THE CITY” – Totally Sensational, Totally San Francisco
TIIT HELIMETS – An Interview with “Prince Edvard” of SF Ballet’s THE LITTLE MERMAID
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MELODY MOORE – Soprano shines in SF Ballet’s “Nanna’s Lied”
MARNIE BRECKENRIDGE – An Interview with “La Princesse” of Philip Glass’ Orphée
EDITORIAL – A confession about ballerina Lorena Feijóo
GISELLE – And the Legend of the Wilis
A Conversation with Elza van den Heever
CLUB FOOT ORCHESTRA – A Conversation with Richard Marriot
WEST SIDE STORY – Most of it, anyway
PLÁCIDO DOMINGO – An Interview with the Tenor turned Baritone for “Cyrano”
Dr. ELISA STEPHENS – A Visit with the President of the Academy of Art University
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SABINA ALLEMANN – Former SF Ballet Ballerina Returns In A.C.T.’s “The Tosca Project”
AMANDA McBROOM – A conversation on her recording of songs by Jacques Brel
CAMERON CARPENTER – An interview with Grammy-nominated organist
HANDEL’S “ORLANDO” – An Interview with Conductor Nicholas McGagen
PIANIST MISHA DICHTER – A Conversation
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DAVID PERRY – On the “Dos and Don’ts of Social Media”
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CAMERON CARPENTER – An Interview with Seán Martinfield
AT LAST! – ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY – An Interview with Seán Martinfield
A Conversation with Ruben Martin Cintas, Principal Dancer with SF Ballet
THIS GUN FOR HIRE, 1942 – Looking at “Now you see it, now you don’t” sung by Veronica Lake
“My Silver Dollar Man” – from MARKED WOMAN (starring Bette Davis, 1937)
“Would You Like A Souvenir?” – Sean Martinfield and Janet Roitz explore a song from Film Noir classic NORA PRENTISS (1947)

Continue Reading

STEPHEN De STAEBLER – Ceramics and bronzes, coming to the de Young

“Matter + Spirit: The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler”
January 14th — April 22nd

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Approximately 55 ceramic and bronze works spanning the career of sculptor Stephen De Staebler (1933–2011) will be installed in the American art galleries at the de Young Museum from January 14th to April 22nd. Matter + Spirit: The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler and its accompanying monograph commemorate the life and work of the renowned Bay Area artist, who died earlier this year in his Berkeley home.

For more than 50 years, De Staebler created figurative sculptures from clay—a medium that derives from the primordial earth. Drawing inspiration from childhood experiences with nature, a transformative adolescent encounter with human mortality, and adult studies in the history of art and religion, he explored and extended a tradition of human representation that includes the religious monuments of ancient Egypt, the Renaissance humanism of Michelangelo’s finished and unfinished figures, and the modern existentialism embodied in the works of Alberto Giacometti.

thorax-figure-2008
Thorax Figure, 2008. Pigmented stoneware, porcelain, and earthenware, with surface oxides, fire brick, and stone, 68 x 17 x 16 in.
Photo, Scott McCue

De Staebler’s diverse artistic ancestors were linked by their engagement with universal aspects of the human condition, including struggle, suffering, and the search for meaning. The validity of this engagement was seriously challenged during World War II, when the human body—and even humanity itself—seemed to be threatened with extinction. Maturing as an artist in the decades following the War, De Staebler thus confronted the challenge of whether art—and the human figure—retained any relevance in a world that had been forever altered by the Holocaust and by Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Compounding the problem, belief in the existence of a higher spiritual power was also called into question by these cataclysmic events.

In the ensuing decades, De Staebler devoted his sculptural practice in clay and bronze to resurrecting the human figure as the most natural vessel for humanity and spirituality. His figures embody modern existential experience, in which the solitary individual feels physically, psychically, or spiritually fragmented and alienated from the contemporary world. These sculptures offer equivocal rather than definitive statements regarding the human condition. They focus instead on the transitional or metamorphic states that lie between nature and culture, life and death, integration and disintegration, and matter and spirit.

De Staebler’s sculptures are individual acts of faith—and doubt—shaped by a spiritual seeker and questioning skeptic who is working to reconcile his intellect and experience with his emotions and beliefs. As he observed, the human figure, “is obviously the most loaded of all forms because we live in one. The figure obsesses not just artists, but human beings. It’s our prison. It’s what gives us life and also gives us death.”

stephen-de-staebler1
Stephen De Staebler

Born in Saint Louis, Missouri, in 1933, Stephen De Staebler studied religion at Princeton University and fine art at U. C. Berkeley. An important contributor to the evolution of the California Clay and Bay Area Figurative movements, and a key figure who helped to sustain the relevance of figurative sculpture in the post-World War II period, De Staebler was an influential teacher at San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Art Institute. His work resides in numerous museum collections, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Museum of Fine arts, Boston; the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

The Catalogue – Available January 18th

Matter + Spirit: Stephen De Staeble is a timely tribute to a pioneering artist and his enduring work. Produced in collaboration with the artist and drawing upon the extensive archives of his estate, this authoritative volume is published on the occasion of the exhibition at the de Young Museum. Lavishly illustrated with artworks and archival materials, many of them never before published, it traces De Staebler’s prolific oeuvre from his early anthropomorphic landscape sculptures, through his well-known standing figure columns and bronze angels, to late assemblage pieces created from fragments of earlier works in the artist’s “boneyard.” Offering an unprecedented glimpse into the sculptor’s studio and working process, this catalogue is replete with new scholarship and fascinating discoveries. Illuminating the significance of De Staebler’s practice as never before, a comprehensive essay by exhibition curator Timothy Anglin Burgard provides in-depth analysis of the artist’s entire career, highlighting persistent themes within major sculptures. Poet and scholar Rick Newby sketches a biographical portrait of the sculptor, documenting how De Staebler’s life was remarkably reflected in his art. Art historian Dore Ashton offers a moving tribute to the artist she met in the 1970s and with whom she remained a lifelong friend.

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THE NUTCRACKER – Confection Perfection at San Francisco Ballet

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Ballet’s THE NUTCRACKER is spectacular. Choreographed by Helgi Tomasson and presented first in 2004, the ballet’s setting in San Francisco at the time of the 1915 World’s Fair continues to provide that unusual touch of magic and sense of wonder which distinguishes this realization of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s most popular ballet. Though the darker side of the original storyline is suppressed in favor of a more up-lifting attitude and charm, the special effects of scenic designer Michael Yeargan and lighting designer James F. Ingalls seduce the viewer into a dazzling world that waits just one step beyond and into the outer limits.

waltz-of-the-snowflakes
WALTZ OF THE SNOWFLAKES
All production photos by Erik Tomasson

The brilliant costume designs by Martin Pakledinaz are in true “Once upon a time” storybook tradition, reflecting the elegance of the City’s Edwardian period, the best in toy store novelty for the warring mice and Nutcracker Prince, and regal opulence for the King and Queen of the Snow, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and Clara’s golden transformation in the Grand Pas de Deux. The Company is fortunate in having Martin West as its Music Director. Acknowledged as one of the best conductors of ballet in the world, Mr. West brings freshness and zeal to the traditions of the score and is absolutely on the mark with the dynamics of the principle dancers.

frances-chung-e28093-as-_the-sugar-plum-fairy_
FRANCES CHUNG – as “The Sugar Plum Fairy”

The Opening Night cast included Nicole Finken as “Clara” and Gennadi Nedvigin as her Nutcracker Prince. Following his stunning performance as “Franz” in last season’s Coppelia, Mr. Nedvigin continually proves his versatility as a romantic leading man. Again paired with the wondrous Maria Kotchekova, the couple were a sensational match in the climactic Grand Pas de Deux. The mischief and acrobatic delights of the “Dancing Dolls” was provided by Garen Scribner, Clara Blanco, and Daniel Baker. Newlyweds Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian were featured as the “King and Queen of the Snow”, and sweet and lovely Frances Chung was the perfect “Sugar Plum Fairy”. Elana Altman and her muscular partners Quinn Wharton and Anthony Spaulding were a hot and spicy blend in The Arabian Dance (aka, the “Coffee Dance”). Lonnie Weeks was amazingly aggressive in the “Chinese Dance”, followed by the totally charming members of the best Dragon in town. Pascal Molat again brought the biggest roar from the crowd with his gravity-defying leaps in The Russian Dance.

arabian-dance
ARABIAN DANCE – Quinn Wharton, Elana Altman, Anthony Spaulding

pascal-molat-and-lonnie-weeks
PASCAL MOLAT and LONNIE WEEKS

The Nutcracker continues through December 27th. Click here for ticket information: THE NUTCRACKER

This Christmas, send a child to the ballet. Created in 1992, San Francisco Ballet’s Children’s Enchantment Fund provides under-served children and families the opportunity to see San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker free of charge – and you can help. For many, the Children’s Enchantment Fund (CHEF) offers both a first trip to the War Memorial Opera House and a rare opportunity to see a live dance performance. Through San Francisco Ballet’s partnership with Community Access Ticket Services, which identifies families served by over 100 social service agencies throughout the Bay Area, the Children’s Enchantment Fund has so far enabled over 27,000 under-served children and their families to attend San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker at no cost. This has been made possible by the generosity of individual ballet trustees and patrons. Click here to help send a child to the ballet this holiday season Children’s Enchantment Fund.

grand-pas-de-deux
GRAND PAS DE DEUX – Maria Kochetkova and Gennadi Nedvigin

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Continue Reading

DEANNA DURBIN – The Femme Fatale of NOIR CITY XMAS, Wednesday Night at The Castro Theatre

An Interview with the Leading Lady’s most loyal fan, Dale Kuntz

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Deanna Durbin was once the highest paid actress in Hollywood. Her films saved Universal Studios from bankruptcy. She was sophisticated, completely lovely, and everybody’s sweetheart. According to the receipts, she was even bigger than Shirley Temple – who likewise saved Fox Studios from bankruptcy. Deanna Durbin had a warm and inviting soprano voice that was beautifully trained, loaded with plenty of personal charm, and easy on the ears of most movie goers, radio audiences, and record collectors. She sparkled in her Classical repertoire, and had new scores written for her by legendary operetta composers Robert Stolz and Jerome Kern. In the 1944 film noir, Christmas Holiday – screening Wednesday evening at the Castro Theatre, December 14th – Deanna’s lilting soprano proves to be very seductive in Irving Berlin’s enduring standard, “Always”. And for the clever ballad written for her by Broadway composer Frank Loesser – “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year” – Deanna perplexed her fans as a convincing, young and jaded prostitute. Also on the bill – hosted by the “Czar of Noir”, Eddie Muller – is her 1945 (comedy) noir, Lady On A Train, directed by Charles David whom she married in 1950. With his promise to let her live the “life of nobody”, the couple left Hollywood behind, moved into a chateau located in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France, and remained there until Charles’ death in 1999. Today, Deanna lives in Paris and celebrated her 90th birthday on December 4th.

Click here for more information on Eddie Muller, the Film Noir Foundation, and to order tickets on-line: NOIR CITY XMAS

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LADY ON A TRAIN, 1945 – With a box of bon-bons, Deanne passes the time reading “The Case of the Headless Bride”

Film historian and collector Dale Kuntz is a long-established and much-loved figure in Milwaukee’s cinematic circles. I met him over 40 years ago in Hollywood at an elaborate convention celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Jeanette MacDonald International Fan Club. Her fans poured in from all over the world for the week-long event. Along with special screenings of her films at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, the “clan clave” had its share of partying and exchanging of memorabilia on Miss MacDonald, much of that material including her screen partner in eight musical films, baritone Nelson Eddy. Along the way, Dale and I discovered our mutual passion for M.G.M.’s “Queen of the Lot”, Norma Shearer. We’ve been carrying-on ever since. Where we didn’t quite connect was with Universal Studios young superstar of the late ’30s and ’40s, Deanna Durbin. Not that I didn’t know about her, but Dale had the advantage of being a boy when her films were first released and has been her #1 Champion ever since. I was familiar with a few of Deanna’s recordings (and registered a few opinions about her vocals, especially in relationship to Jeanette singing the same material), but had never seen any of her films. None of them had appeared on TV. There was no way to “grow up” with her as generations have with such annual broadcasts as The Sound of Music and The Wizard of Oz. How did this happen? After all, in 1938 she and Mickey Rooney shared a Special Academy Award “for bringing to the screen the spirit and personification of youth.” Though many of her films were eventually released on VHS and a number are available in (sometimes iffy) DVD format – nothing can compare to a full-fledged double bill of Deanna Durbin at the majestic Castro Theatre. And under the control of the dashing Eddie Muller, the evening promises to be one of those rare and sublime “Only in San Francisco” type experiences. It was the perfect opportunity to talk to Dale about his life-long relationship to this almost-forgotten but legendary star.

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DEANNA DURBIN and EDDIE MULLER

Sean: It’s hard to believe that throughout the many years of our relationship I have not had the opportunities to see Deanna Durbin’s films and then jump on the bandwagon beside you.

Dale: You may be the only one I haven’t been able to convert. One of the interesting things is that – being one of the most popular stars of the 1930s – she is one that most people don’t remember and one of the few that is still alive. December 4th, Deanna Durbin turns 90. She made her first film in 1936 and retired in 1948.

Sean: Have you ever tried to contact her?

Dale: I have. I was working on a book, The Films of Deanna Durbin, and she was not happy about that at all. I told her it would not be a biography, but the typical “Films of” variety. I promised I would send her the manuscript before it was published. But I couldn’t get it published! At that time, Citadel Press did not want to bother with her. They thought she wasn’t that well known anymore and it would not be a good seller. I went to University of Wisconsin Press – they wouldn’t handle it. They all thought there was no market for Deanna Durbin. That’s interesting because there is still a Deanna Durbin fan club in England.

Sean: What about today? Would resurrecting your book project be more feasible?

Dale: No. The “Films of” books are a thing of the past. All they want are scandalous biographies. If it’s about Marilyn Monroe, then you can write anything. Every year there’s something published about her. But even with James Dean and Elvis Presley, there’s hardly anything new on them.

Sean: Where I generally see the latest and best quality publications on film history is in the upstairs lobby of the Castro Theatre during the annual Silent Film Festival. There is always an amazing group of books directly related to the scheduled films and to the era of Classic Hollywood. So, why not for Deanna Durbin? Given her list of credits and success, why is she so easily dismissed?

Dale: Part of the problem is that her films were seldom shown on television. In 1941, she signed a new contract with Universal. She became the highest paid woman in Hollywood. According to the contract, she was to get a percentage of all her films, including any future showings in any media. That means – when the films were sold to television – they had to give Deanna a percentage of that. I think Universal was very lax to release her films because they weren’t going to make that much money on them. They had to pay her first.

Sean: That explains it then. I was a little boy when all the M.G.M. Classics began appearing on local television. I immediately latched onto our two favorites-in-common, Norma Shearer and Jeanette MacDonald. Since then, there has never been a year when their films were not available on TV, and especially now through Turner Movie Classics. I don’t remember seeing anything with Deanna Durbin.

Dale: When Universal merged with International Pictures, Deanna was the highest paid woman at Universal. When William Goetz took over, he was advised to try to break the Durbin contract as soon as he could. Her films weren’t making the money they had earlier and the studio was tied to this enormous contract. That’s why in 1948, when her Universal contract expired, she waited for two years to see if someone would pick up her option. Nobody did. She decided she’d had enough of Hollywood and moved to France with her husband, Charles David. I’m often surprised that Joe Pasternak did not get her at M.G.M. Once he got there, he always wanted her there. His dream was to make a picture with her and Jeanette MacDonald. His idea was for them to do Two Sisters from Boston.

Sean: This is the same project released in 1946 that starred Kathryn Grayson and June Allyson?

Dale: Yes, it would have been a really charming movie for Deanna and Jeanette.

Sean: And considerably different.

Dale: Right. I don’t know if Deanna didn’t want to do it or Universal wouldn’t let her out of her contract, but it fell through. Then he wanted her so badly for The Student Prince. He did everything to get her to come back. And it wasn’t her weight problem! People thought she’d gained a little weight. But Deanna could lose weight faster than any star in Hollywood.

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DEANNA DURBIN – The Amazing Mrs. Holliday, 1943

Sean: But then there are all those stories around the M.G.M. lot about how they lost that weight.

Dale: Yes, but there was never any of that about Deanna. She said she didn’t want to come back because she didn’t like all the hoopla in Hollywood. She loved making the films, all the singing, but hated all the publicity and all the fashion things. There are so many fashion layouts with Deanna as she is growing up. “Deanna Durbin uses Lux Flakes!” I have an ad from Gimbel’s here in Milwaukee advertising the kind of chenille bath robes worn by Deanna in Three Smart Girls Grow Up. All that kind of publicity – it just wasn’t her, she said.

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Lux Toilet Soap and the Deanna Durbin Model Home
“Youthful beauty needs gentle, protecting care.”

Dale: Deanna was fifteen in 1936 when she and Judy Garland signed a six month option with M.G.M. They put them together in Every Sunday. At the time their options came up, Louis B. Mayer was in England and told the powers-that-be at M.G.M. to “get rid of the fat one”. They mistakenly let Deanna go. Universal snapped her up immediately. They put her in Three Smart Girls because she had been appearing on The Eddie Cantor Radio Show. The daily rushes were so fantastic that they added more songs for her and built-up her part. The movie was a tremendous success. When Mayer returned and found out that Judy was still at the studio and that Deanna was gone – he got very-very upset. That’s one of the reasons Mayer was never overly fond of Judy Garland. Deanna single-handedly saved Universal Studios from bankruptcy. To this day, Deanna Durbin is the only actress in motion picture history to have ten hits in a row. The first ten were both artistic and financial successes. All of that money rolling into Universal certainly bothered Louis B. Mayer.

Sean: Given the steady popularity of The Wizard of Oz over the years, it’s understandable that most people are surprised to learn of Louis B. Mayer’s not-so-enthusiastic feelings about Judy Garland.

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DEANNA DURBIN and JUDY GARLAND, 1936

Dale: I think it’s become a minor point. Judy certainly became a major star for M.G.M. and brought in a lot of money. The biggest problem was that Louis B. Mayer treated his stars like family and Judy was always causing trouble. He didn’t have those problems with the others. Even Mickey Rooney was not a problem! Mickey was there, he knew what to do, and a lot of times covered-up for Judy. She cost M.G.M. a lot more money with production costs going way overboard. That more than anything is what put him against her.

Sean: What is your first experience seeing Deanna Durbin? Did you have that same sense of connection with her that we’ve had with Jeanette MacDonald and Norma Shearer?

Dale: My first recollection of her is the 1940 film Spring Parade. It’s a very charming film. I was only eight years old, but I just fell in love with her. It still is my favorite film with her. And with my Austrian background – because it’s a tale set in Old Vienna, with Strauss waltzes, and the Emperor Franz Joseph – of course I’m going to like it! In my family, we were raised on Strauss Waltzes and whipped cream.

Sean: Were promotional products available from Spring Parade? Were her songs released in a set of 78 rpm recordings?

Dale: At the time – I don’t remember if we had a phonograph or not – I wasn’t buying records. Her recordings were available right from the start, of course. There were two sets of paper dolls and two sets of coloring books. I got both of those because, as a kid, one of my favorite pastimes was coloring.

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DEANNA DURBIN – “Pictures to Paint”

Sean: Do you still have them?

Dale: I don’t have my originals, but I do have the coloring books and both sets of paper dolls. I also have her 78s, the “Deanna Durbin Souvenir Albums”. Almost all of her films featured just four songs. There were two complete soundtrack albums, Can’t Help Singing and Something In The Wind. The one from Can’t Help Singing is really neat because it has one 12″ record and two 10″ records. I know that there are soundtrack recordings of songs that were not included in her movies. One of them is “Close As Pages In A Book” from Up In Central Park which was cut from the film.

Sean: But that was the best song in the Broadway production!

Dale: And the most popular! Deanna’s last two films weren’t exactly bombs, but they didn’t make much money. Universal made For the Love of Mary, but held it up because they were going to do a big thing with Up In Central Park. It was going to be done in Technicolor and directed by Fred Astaire, but then they pulled the budget on it. When it was released, it got the worst reviews of any of Deanna’s films. So, they cut and edited it, put it out in circulation, and quickly released For the Love of Mary to cash-in on whatever they could. It was the last of her films to be released, but made before Up In Central Park.

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CHRISTMAS HOLIDAY, 1944
“Love was her crime! Love was her punishment!”

Dale: I think the most interesting thing about Christmas Holiday is how it came about. M.G.M. was doing Dragon Seed, a big production with Katharine Hepburn, Gene Kelly was to play her husband. But when they saw him in the Oriental make-up, everybody attending the rushes were laughing like mad because it was so ridiculous. So, they approached Universal to get Turhan Bey – who is Turkish and Viennese – but could play an Oriental. In order to get him, M.G.M. loaned Gene Kelly over to Universal. I think they were already planning Christmas Holiday for Deanna, but once they got Gene Kelly, the production went ahead. The reviews were bad, the box office receipts were bad. Universal had planned another drama for her with Charles Boyer. But they canceled that and instead went to work putting Deanna in her only Technicolor film, Can’t Help Singing, with a big score by Jerome Kern and filmed out in Utah.

Sean: I’m certain that the vast majority of people coming to the Castro Theater for this special double bill will be seeing her for the first time. Some may have an overall acquaintance with Deanna as I do, including her early films and recordings as a lighthearted juvenile – but probably not as the girl grown up. For most of the viewers, it will be about meeting Deanna Durbin for the first time, as a sexually attractive adult woman. In that respect, do you think the film might have a greater impact today?

Dale: I think Christmas Holiday may still cause people to be taken aback by Gene Kelly, not by Deanna Durbin so much. It’s his Singin’ In the Rain image versus his role as a psychopathic killer. That musical scene plays all the time – even at my local grocery store! Every time they spray the produce, they play his recording of “Singin’ In The Rain”.

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GENE KELLY and DEANNA DURBIN – Christmas Holiday, 1944

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DEANNA DURBIN and FRANCHOT TONE
His Butler’s Sister, 1943

Dale: Universal was very careful in letting her grow up, giving her roles that were sophisticated for an older girl and then as a young woman. The Amazing Mrs. Holliday is really her first grown-up role. The studio had a tendency for her to have older leading men such as Franchot Tone. She made three movies with him. Her fan base was full of fathers and mature men. Her fan mail was loaded with men who said she was the “ideal girl”. But she did play opposite young leading men. Robert Stack made his film debut opposite her in First Love. The film’s original title was Cinderella, 1939, and that’s exactly what it is – a “Cinderella” story. Robert Stack gives Deanna her first screen kiss. That kiss made every newspaper in the country, sometimes pushing World War II off to the side.

Sean: What is it about her that keeps you so interested after all these years? What fires the passion and makes you hold out for a resurgence or new discovery of her?

Dale: Number one, it’s said that she had the best voice Hollywood ever discovered. As much as I love Jeanette MacDonald, Deanna Durbin has a better voice.

Sean: Well, Jeanette was much older at the time. M.G.M. kept pushing her into these sort-of ingenue roles and – as much as we are charmed by her beauty and her gorgeous voice – we can’t ignore the fact that she was in her middle thirties and not her twenties like Deanna Durbin. Also, Jeanette’s voice and manner leans more to the Classical side, which pushes the envelope for some folks.

Dale: The only way I can describe it, is to say that Deanna’s voice was a little warmer than Jeanette’s. In First Love, they translated “Un bel di” (Madama Butterfly) into English for Deanna – the first time that had ever happened. In His Butler’s Sister, she sings the tenor aria, “Nessun Dorma” (Turandot), also translated into English.

Sean: How did she do? In what context does she sing this?

Dale: It’s really very good. She’s the guest singer at a ball. So many of her movies ended with a big party.

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Click on the photo to watch Deanna sing “Nessun Dorma”

Dale: In For The Love Of Mary, which takes place in Washington, she sing’s “Figaro’s Aria” from The Barber of Seville. Universal spent so much money on her films. They say that One Hundred Men And A Girl with Leopold Stokowski and his orchestra – Deanna sings Mozart’s “Alleluia” – is the movie that brought more Classical music to the American public than anything since.

Sean: What can we look forward to in Christmas Holiday and Lady On A Train that is going to hook the audience? I believe I’m safe in saying that the vast majority of people who will be attending don’t know Deanna Durbin and will be seeing her for the first time. What are some of those key points that are going to make us clamor to see another of her films at the Castro Theater?

Dale: In Christmas Holiday she’s playing a prostitute and she just doesn’t seem to care anymore. She sings, “Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year”, which was written for her. Notice when she sings it, that it’s almost a dirge. But for the commercial recording she made, you would say, “This is the real Deanna Durbin.” Then, later on in the film, there’s a flashback where she sings “Always” to Gene Kelly. That’s where you get her true voice and the way she could handle a song. I think that contrast shows how hard she was working to make the character believable. Once again, her character is so likable – you really relate to her and feel sorry for her. You know she doesn’t believe her husband is a murderer because he’s so good to her. Gale Sondergaard plays his mother. When things come to a head, the mother turns on her and you feel compelled to come to her defense. Lady On A Train is a such a fun movie and she sparkles throughout the whole thing. Part of the plot is that she goes to this nightclub and, of course, there’s a singer. Deanna arrives in a really fabulous outfit – big hat, her hair is pulled back into two buns, and she’s carrying a big muff. Very smart. The singer gets locked-up and Deanna has to go on – and, yes, she fits perfectly into her dress. When she comes out, she has an entirely different hair-do. She spends the entire night at the club and in each of her following songs she wears a different dress and has a different hair-do.

Sean: That’s what’s known as “Star Treatment”. What do you most treasure in your Deanna Durbin collection? What would be the last thing you’d want to part with? You realize, of course, you can take it with you! I’m taking my two-page letter from Norma Shearer with me to the tomb.

Dale: That’s an interesting question. It would probably be my personal autographs from her.

Sean: How did you acquire those?

Dale: When I was planning the book, I wrote her quite frequently.

Sean: I think you should resurrect your manuscript – now that there’s another buzz in the air. I know that “Noir City Xmas” is going to be very successful, for lots of reasons. But for you and I, it’s about – “Deanna Durbin Plays the Castro Theatre!” I’m sure that must be very refreshing to you.

Dale: It is! I haven’t seen Christmas Holiday on the big screen since it came out. It was never re-issued because it was not a big hit.

Sean: Is there any film that you wish she would have done?

Dale: Certainly The Student Prince – I wish she would have come back to do that. Also, in 1943, when Universal decided to re-make The Phantom of the Opera, it was to star Deanna Durbin, Boris Karloff, and Alan Jones.

Sean: That would have been the most phenomenal cast. See? Now you’re really breaking my heart.

Dale: At the time, with all the planning, the studio re-furbished and re-painted the opera set from the original Lon Chaney film because it was to be shot in Technicolor. At the last minute, Claude Rains replaced Boris Karloff because he was busy doing something else. Nelson Eddy had left M.G.M. – he walked out after The Chocolate Soldier – so Universal offered him the role of “Anatole”. Then Deanna Durbin refused to do “Christine” because she didn’t want to be compared to Jeanette MacDonald. She didn’t want to do a “Deanna Durbin & Nelson Eddy” – which I can understand. It was a smart move on her part. But the film was a tremendous success. Right after that, Universal made The Climax which was a sort-of prequel to Phantom. Susannah Foster was the soprano in both films.

Sean: But you and I both can imagine Phantom of the Opera with Alan Jones in place of Nelson Eddy and Deanna Durbin instead of Susannah Foster.

Dale: Oh, yes, much more so!

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ALLAN JONES and DEANNA DURBIN

Sean: Do you think the film would have been a greater success had Universal stayed with their original casting rather than how it wound up?

Dale: The film was a success, but it could have been Universal’s biggest success up to that time. The critics said, “Too much opera, not enough horror.” And it was only the third color film that Universal had produced. They didn’t even have a color logo at that point!

Sean: If Deanna had played “Christine” with Boris Karloff and Allan Jones, that production of Phantom of the Opera would have become a perennial TV Classic and – by now – everybody would have grown up with her.

Dale: Deanna always said she loved making movies. But also said she was not the “Little Miss Fix-It” who was up on the screen.

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“HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” – Dale Kuntz, Nicki, and Deanna Durbin

ABOUT DALE KUNTZ

Dale is known as “Wisconsin’s Leading Film Historian”. Since 1966, he has been the President of FOOFS – the Followers of Old Films – a group that started out as a “Remember Jeanette MacDonald” party. He is also President of Milwaukee Film Classics which screens films bi-monthly at the Charles Allis Art Museum. Dale has taught film history at Cardinal Stritch University as a part of its continuing Adult Education and was a Staff Writer for WOKY Radio’s quarterly magazine, The Best of Times. As a freelance writer, he has been published in Exclusively Yours, Milwaukee Magazine, national film magazines and newspapers. He collaborated on the very successful book, The Films of Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy. For twenty years he co-ordinated the Classic Film Series at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and for eight years was Film Curator at the Milwaukee Art Museum. For four years he hosted “Dialing For Dollars” on local Channel 12 where he also had his own segment, “Movies Golden Moments” (or “M.G.M”). He wrote and produced his own 10-minute segment, “Take Two”, on the syndicated program, “Hollywood, Then and Now” and for several years did the commentary on WOKY’s annual Academy Award Show. Dale also co-ordinated the popular summer program, “Cinema For Seniors”, at the Marcus Center.

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On Scene Bill Wilson Deaths in the Family

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

I’ve come across some letters from my Grandmother’s cousin, William Otis LaVake to his aunt regarding the death of his brother, Charles, of typhoid fever in 1895.

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William Otis LaVake, his brother, Charles J. LaVake and his sister Abbie taken in 1884. At the time they lived in Idaho.

On September 4, 1895 he wrote from Toledo, Iowa.
Dear Aunt Maria,
Have had a terrible misfortune come upon us. Charley died of typhoid fever at 7:47 PM September 2, aged 16 yrs. 7 mos. Funeral was at Montour the next day. Everybody was Charlie’s friend. Flowers by the bushel were at the Congregational Church. I had them all buried with my poor brother. Mother is a broken hearted. I will try to get her to go home with her sister who lives at Highview, Hamilton County and who was with us during the latter part of the illness. I was with him and nursed him about half the time. He seemed to like to have me handle him better than anyone else. Spoke to me three times by and name the last day. “Ma” was the last word he uttered. I am all broken up. I will write more in detail when I fully recuperate from the terrible ordeal through which I have just passed.
Love to you all, reserve the major portion for yourself.
Your Nephew,
Wm. O. LaVake

williamcharlesabbielavake_0002res
William LaVake and his sister Abbie on horseback as Charles and their Mother look on.

He kept that promise with this letter dated October 3, 1895 also from Toledo, Iowa.

This is the fifth day I have sat up and now just getting so I walk across the floor with a very uncertain tread. I have been eating egg and milk toast for a week and am improving very fast. I fell off till I was below 100, hardly any flesh upon my body at all, in fact I thought I ought to secure good employment in some “dime museum.”
This morning I will try and write you an intelligent letter, if that is possible for me to do at any time, although you will see my handwriting is not very good, my arm is not strong enough to use the free arm movement with which I always write when I am in health.

fjvdelaneyeddmcculloughwilliamolavakeres
In a photo taken around 1892, William LaVake (on right), stands outside his uncle’s Millinery Shop on Broadway in New York City.

Now to go back a ways. During the latter part of August I took a trip up to Reinbeck in the county north of this one, drove up, and spent a few days with some classmates and when I returned I found Charlie sick with typhoid fever and delirious at times. I hardly slept or took my clothes off the balance of the time he was sick which was about a week He seemed to like to have me nurse him. Even though there were two or three others in the room, his eyes would follow me when he was semi-delirious. The last day the spoke to me by name three times and talked to me several times. I was the last one spoke to directly. “Ma” was the last word he uttered; it was a dying attempt to pronounce her name which he seemed unable to pronounce when he was calling me by name earlier in the day. We had a doctor from Traer twice in consultation. The morning of the last day he said there was a fighting chance, the others of the family were too discouraged. I says, “Doctor if there is a fighting chance I’ll take it. And fight for it.” And though half dead with a terrible headache and from loss of sleep I hardly left his bedside. He regained perfect consciousness shortly after the doctor left and I says to him, “Charlie the doctor says you have only a fighting chance, but I say you and I’ll take it wont we?” and he says yes, “and we’ll get well, Charlie.” and he answered me back “you bet we will”. The temperature run from 104 to 105 and a half and just before he died to 109, so you see he was literally burned up by the fever.

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Charles J. LaVake, who died of typhoid fever on September 2, 1895.

We had the doctor we had always had, a homoeopathist., but I’ll never have any but an allopathist in typhoid fever again. The former are too afraid of ice cold baths and the use of ice water on the head. I had a great portion of the funeral arrangements to look after. After the funeral was over I began to feel awful queer but I thought I would sleep it off but the next day I felt worse so after disinfecting all the bedclothes used on Charlie’s bed and after scratching off letters to those whom I cared the most about. I went downtown with Mother. I had an awful lot of business to look after which I intended to go and see my homoepathic doctor but several of my most intimate friends importuned me not to go to Doctor Morford but to go to Doctor Thompson an allopath. I argued with them for some time as I had confidence in Doctor Morford but finally gave in and went to him (Thompson) and he examined may have very carefully and says, “My boy your temperature is now hundred three and from your symptoms my judgment is that you have the fever now upon you” and so I had and a very violent attack too. I went home and at the supper table and told them that Dr. Thompson was coming out to examine the whole family and then told them that I was coming down with the fever. Mother’s sister tried to pooh-pooh the idea—-after a good deal of this I got tired of it, and says, “Oh, well now look here, I never was a hypochondriac but if I have typhoid fever in my system it has got to run its course and I’m going to bed tonight to stay there until I see what this amounts to. If I got the fever why I’ve got it and if I aint got it, while I’ll soon find out and that’s all there is to it. So now that’s settled.” Well I had one of the worst cases, that Dr T has had and he has had this year nearly 40 cases and he has saved every one.

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William Otis LaVake in a photo taken 1895 the year he graduated from law school.

I had a violent headache such as leads to delirium. Doc had my head shaved, had a hot water bag filled with ice water under my head all the while the fever lasted, and a cloth saturated with the same on my forehead. So the fever was kept up out the head and of course there could be no delirium. He had a boss combination of tartaric- acid and various other ingredients to reduce temperature and the combination does not oppress the heart in the least as a great many of the fever reducing remedies are apt to do. Doc had no idea of the fever leaving me before the end of the fourth week but it dropped right off short a couple of days before the third week was up. We learn some things very dearly. I now know that if I had got doctor Morford, I would now be dead as a doornail because I would have been delirious and the fever would have burnt me up. Doc says to me after I began to get better, yours was the worst case I had, but that no case has responded perfectly to my medicines as yours. In fact Will it was impossible for you to have done better than you did do it. Mother is about brokenhearted Charlie was sixteen years and seven months and was 6 ft. tall and of low vitality on account of overgrowth. But we all realize that had we known of Doctor Thompson then Charlie in all probability would be alive today and none realize it plainer than mother and that’s what makes it harder for her. Father had barely more than the symptoms and got out soon and has been outdoors for a week. While I won’t get outdoors till about next Monday and Tuesday I do so hope that Cousin Cash will entirely recover. I am considerably worried about him. I had a letter from Gertie while I was sick written from JGJ Bros. Surely you tire of all the details of my sickness. I’m going to be very cautious about getting out.
Love to all,
Folks send love,
Your nephew,
Will Lavake

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LaVake Family photo taken some time after 1898 because the photos in the background are of two deceased family members Charles and William.

The next letter in the file folder was from William in December of 1895 writing to his Aunt Maria about his decision to practice law in Dubuque, Iowa. He wrote her of the new office he and his law partner had leased. On March 16, 1898 while working in that office William Otis LaVake was shot four times by the disgruntled son of a former client. It was believed he died instantly.

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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CD Review – A STEINWAY CHRISTMAS ALBUM ★★★★

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Hands down! Pianist Jeffrey Biegel has the finest Christmas recording of 2012. A Steinway Christmas Album is a glamorous collection of traditional classics and standards, along with beautiful arrangements of more recent entries into the Winter canon of musical favorites. Its 21 tracks were recorded in the Concert Hall of the Performing Arts Center at Purchase College, State University of New York. Biegel plays on the Steinway Model D, with multiple Grammy Award winner Steve Epstein as producer and engineer. The album is Concert Hall worthy, a classy addition to any round of Holiday gatherings, and a warm and friendly companion to cozy up with in the bleak midwinter.
Click here to order on-line: A Steinway Christmas Album

jeffrey-biegel
JEFFREY BIEGEL

There are selections to accompany every mood and every illusive spirit the Season has to offer, beginning with Sleigh Ride (arranged by Andrew Gentile). Taking the reins on this popular musical illustration from Leroy Anderson, by the final whinnies of the jingle horse – a shimmering flurry of notes in the upper register of the keyboard – Jeffrey Biegel fascinates the imagination through an E-Ride of dazzling technique. Biegel demonstrates his versatility through a wide variety of musical styles and lush arrangements. The international favorites include Svyatki’s Fêtes de Noël, three selections from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and “December” from The Seasons, and the haunting waltz, Yolka, by Vladimir Rebikov. Donald Sosin’s arrangement of Hark The Herald Angels Sing “in the style of Beethoven”, is likewise rich with mood and story. Sosin, a most welcome accompanist at San Francisco’s annual Silent Film Festival, has taken this usually over-boisterous carol with too many verses and extracted a complete scenario sweetened with tender opportunities. Again, Biegel’s rendition is dramatically nuanced and heartfelt.

The album is highlighted by Jeffrey Biegel’s own arrangements – including Ann Hampton Callaway’s Christmas Lullaby, David Foster’s Grown-up Christmas List, and Mel Torme’s evergreen Christmas Song. Also featured is Gregory Sullivan Isaacs’ piano solo, Quiet Night, written for Jeffrey Biegel. Frank Luther’s Christmas Is A Comin’ (and the geese are gettin’ fat) will have you coming back for more and more.

Watch Jeffrey Biegel perform Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”:

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MELODY MOORE – Opera Star to Appear with San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus in Holiday Concerts

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

“Think big, think stunning, think sensational,” says Artistic Director, Dr. Tim Seelig, who commences his first full season after taking the reins of the world-famous Chorus at the start of the year. “We’re going to deliver a truly breathtaking holiday extravaganza that’s fun, familiar and fabulous in the one place we can truly do that – the Masonic Auditorium – the scene of so many great and triumphant SFGMC concerts.” Seelig has a corker of a concert in store on December 8th, featuring a chorus that has blossomed and doubled in size since his arrival. Seelig continues: “Imagine: two hundred and seventy-five singers, gorgeous melodies, a forty-five-piece wind symphony, bells galore and a world-famous opera diva!”
Click here to order tickets on-line: SFGMC

timothy-seelig
TIMOTHY SEELIG

Joining the chorus at the Masonic as special guests will be San Francisco Opera’s favorite soprano, Melody Moore, the Contra Costa Wind Symphony and Velocity Bells, – a fast-moving bell-ringing ensemble. Melody is looking forward to her debut with the Chorus and says, “I think I may leave the mistletoe at home, but this will definitely be a musical love fest full of goodwill to all men and women!”

In fact, Melody Moore is so taken with her new family that she has agreed to join the Chorus on stage again, on Christmas Eve, for the heart-warming traditional trio of concerts at the Castro Theatre at 5 p.m., 7 p.m., and 9 p.m. “For decades, Home For The Holidays has brought untold joy to the thousands who have flocked to the Castro Theatre to celebrate the season together as part of the Chorus’ extended family,” says Donna Sachet who will be adding her own glitter and tinsel to the occasion. The Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco will also be joining the revels for the 5 p.m. performance.

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MELODY MOORE, Soprano

“For less than the price of a movie, you can celebrate the season in spectacular style,” exclaims Chorus executive director, Teddy Witherington, adding: “It’s time to celebrate and connect with your chorus. For those who witnessed the triumphs earlier this year – we have more! For those who didn’t – come check us out. Now is the time.”

The San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus’ effusive Holiday concerts are the stuff of legend in San Francisco, but behind the music and magic there is a heartwarming message of hope. On December 15th, following the December 8th concert at the Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, the Chorus takes it’s message of hope and the healing power of song to residents at Coming Home Hospice, Maitri Hospice, the Peter Claver Community, as well as patients at Davies Medical Center and San Francisco General Hospital.

“Away from the spotlight of the stage, the Chorus builds community, bringing hope and harmony to those unable to get to our performances,” says Chorus Executive Director, Teddy Witherington, adding: “It’s time to affirm the courage and commitment of those who rise to the challenge of the AIDS pandemic and honor them through music.”

In that spirit, the Chorus is making a special holiday gift of complimentary tickets for it’s December 8th Joyous, Jolly, Jingles concert extravaganza at the Masonic Auditorium to volunteers and clients at Maitri Hospice, Shanti, the National AIDS Memorial Grove, Project Open Hand and AIDS/LifeCycle. This humble offering salutes those who continue to provide services and comfort for those living with HIV/AIDS and also memorializes those lost to the pandemic including the those in the Chorus’ “Fifth Section” – those claimed too soon, most through AIDS-related causes. Chorus Artistic Director, Tim Seelig adds that, “We have a very special moment in the December 8th concert program planned. We’re hoping it will be one of those moments that those in attendance will always remember.”

Reaching beyond San Francisco, the chorus also returns for the tenth successive year to Santa Rosa on December 3rd and Santa Cruz on December 17th, spreading the joy around the Bay Area and raising an estimated $30,000 for charities in those communities. The annual “out of town” series of holiday concerts has raised approximately $350,000 for vital community services since 2001.

“Our commitment to creating harmony extends across the footlights and beyond the boundaries of our City and County. That spirit lives in our performances and we invite you to experience it, however and wherever you can,” concludes Witherington.

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Continue Reading

CHITA RIVERA – Narrates “Peter and the Wolf” with the San Francisco Symphony

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Broadway legend Chita Rivera, best known for her starring performances in West Side Story, Bye Bye Birdie and Kiss of the Spider Woman, among other musical theater classics, is the special guest Narrator for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra’s three performances of Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf on Saturday, December 10th, at 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm in Davies Symphony Hall; and Sunday, December 11th, at 3:00 pm at the Flint Center in Cupertino.
Click here to order tickets on-line: SF Symphony

chita-rivera
CHITA RIVERA, Narrator – Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf
Illustration, Walt Disney Productions

An accomplished and versatile actress/singer/dancer, Rivera has won two Tony Awards as Best Leading Actress in a Musical and received seven additional Tony nominations. Her electric performance as “Anita” in the Broadway premiere of West Side Story (1957) brought her stardom, which she repeated in London. Rivera’s career is highlighted by starring roles in Bye Bye Birdie, The Rink (Tony Award winner), Chicago, Jerry’s Girls, Kiss of the Spider Woman (Tony Award-winner), and the original Broadway casts of Guys and Dolls, Can-Can, Seventh Heaven and Mr. Wonderful. On tour, she has starred in Born Yesterday, The Rose Tattoo, Call Me Madam, Threepenny Opera, Sweet Charity, Kiss Me Kate, Zorba, and Can-Can with The Rockettes. In recent years, Rivera starred in the Broadway and touring productions of The Dancer’s Life, a dazzling new musical celebrating her spectacular career, written by Terence McNally and directed by Graciela Daniele. She recreated her starring role in The Visit, the new Kander/Ebb/McNally musical at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, VA (originally done at the Goodman Theatre, Chicago in 2001). She also starred in the revival of the Broadway musical Nine with Antonio Banderas.

donato-cabrera-conductor-e28093-prokofieve28099s-peter-and-the-wolf
DONATO CABRERA, Conductor – Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf
Illustration, Walt Disney Productions

San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra Wattis Foundation Music Director Donato Cabrera leads the Youth Orchestra in these performances of the classic family favorite, part of San Francisco Symphony’s 2011 holiday concert season and the Youth Orchestra’s 31st season. The Program will also include:

Tchaikovsky – “Russian Dance” from The Nutcracker
Prokofiev – Music from Romeo and Juliet
Liadov – The Music Box, Opus 32
Dvořák – Slavonic Dance No. 2 in E minor, Opus 72
Falla – “Final Dance” from The Three-Cornered Hat
Johann Strauss, Sr. – Radetzky March
Traditional Carol Sing-Along: Jingle Bells; Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer; We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Highlights of the SFS 2011 holiday concert line-up at Davies Symphony Hall also include new The Best Time of Year classical Christmas concerts performed by the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus; the Duke Ellington Orchestra’s swinging holiday hits and standards; three performances of Handel’s Messiah with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus; and the elegant New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball.
Click here to order tickets on-line: SF Symphony

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http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=166128

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“A CHRISTMAS CAROL” – Now at the American Conservatory Theater

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

A favorite Bay Area holiday tradition, A.C.T.’s acclaimed production of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, is playing through December 24th at the American Conservatory Theater. Adapted by Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh and directed by A.C.T. resident artist Domenique Lozano, A Christmas Carol celebrates its 35th anniversary on the A.C.T. stage and has introduced generations of Bay Area residents to the magic of live theater. The most recent version of the annual production—premiered in 2004—has garnered much critical acclaim. VIP seating is available for all performances, and VIP ticket holders enjoy the best seats in the house, a special Carol gift, and delicious treats during intermission. This year’s production has set an advance sale record, and several performances have already sold out. Early ticket purchases are recommended.

Click here to order tickets on-line: A Christmas Carol

ben-kahre-and-james-carpenter
BEN KAHRE and JAMES CARPENTER
The Ghost of Christmas Past awakens Ebeneezer Scrooge
Production photos by Kevin Berne

“We’re hearing from parents and grandparents that the Carol experience is more important to their families now than ever. This story has particular resonance at this particular moment when issues of greed and generosity must be part of the discourse about our humanity and civility,” says A.C.T. Artistic Director Carey Perloff. “We’re thrilled to continue to present this production, featuring a multigenerational cast including our very own M.F.A. Program and Young Conservatory actors, and to keep it affordable for everyone who wants to make this a part of their family holiday traditions.”

Now in its 35th year at A.C.T., A Christmas Carol is a cornerstone of the A.C.T. repertory and has become a holiday tradition for families from all around the Bay Area. Performed nearly 1,000 times to date to a collective audience of more than 800,000, A Christmas Carol has employed nearly 1,000 actors and 600 backstage staff members. “I adore this play,” says director Lozano. “It’s a thrill to work on this story, which is about community, with a community of artists for whom it is tailor-made.”

omoze-idehenre-and-james-carpenter
OMOZÉ IDEHENRE and JAMES CARPENTER
The Ghost of Christmas Present encourages the miserly  Scrooge

Originated in 2004, this version of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Paul Walsh and Carey Perloff, stays true to the heart of Dickens’ timeless story of redemption and brings a playful sensibility to his rich language. Each of the four ghosts that haunt the miser Ebenezer Scrooge and lead him to his transformation is theatrically staged: a children’s favorite, Scrooge’s former business partner, Jacob Marley (Jack Willis), clad in chains, climbs out of Scrooge’s bed; the Ghost of Christmas Present (A.C.T. core acting company member Omozé Idehenre) is a Bacchic spirit of fecundity and abundance, robed in striated green velvet; the Ghost of Christmas Past (member of the A.C.T. M.F.A. Program class of 2012 Ben Kahre, in his A.C.T. mainstage debut) is inspired by a candle, “lit from within, emanating radiance, descending on a swing,” says Perloff; and the Ghost of Christmas Future is a giant black ghost puppet that takes over the entire stage of the American Conservatory Theater. Dickens’s lovely descriptions of the abundance of Christmas bounty are staged as “The Waltz of the Opulent Fruit,” with six young actors taking on the roles of French plums, Turkish figs, and Spanish onions, to the delight of audiences. Perloff adds: “Dickens believed that triggering the imagination is the key to triggering change in a person’s heart. Scrooge’s remarkable transformation is brought about by three ghosts. Ghosts! Dickens realized that if Scrooge’s imagination could be stimulated, it would be possible for him to wake up on Christmas morning an entirely new man. What an incredible endorsement of the power of art.”

the-cratchit-family-toasts-mr-scrooge
The Cratchit Family toasts Mr. Scrooge

A holiday event for audiences of all ages, A.C.T.’s A Christmas Carol features a multigenerational cast of performers led by James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge. Joining Carpenter are Jack Willis as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s nightmarish late-night visitor; A.C.T. core acting company member Manoel Felciano as Bob Cratchit; and Delia MacDougall as his wife, Anne Cratchit. Acclaimed Bay Area actors Jarion Monroe and Sharon Lockwood return as the ever-festive Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, along with A.C.T. core acting company member Omozé Idehenre, who takes on the role of the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present for the first time. The adult cast also includes Cindy Goldfield, A.C.T. core acting company member Annie Purcell in her A.C.T. debut, Howard Swain, and Liam Vincent.

This beautiful production features sets by Tony Award–winning designer John Arnone (The Who’s Tommy and The Full Monty on Broadway) and period costumes by Beaver Bauer of Teatro ZinZanni. With original songs and score by composer Karl Lundeberg and choreography by Val Caniparoli of San Francisco Ballet, A Christmas Carol also features lighting design by Nancy Schertler, sound design by Jake Rodriguez, and musical direction by Robert Rutt.

_god-bless-us-e28093-everyone_
“God bless us – everyone!”

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http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=166128

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Continue Reading

CD REVIEW – “Sancho Pança”, Opera Lafayette, ★★★

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Sancho Pança dans son isle, new on the Naxos label, is a fine offering by Opera Lafayette, Ryan Brown conducting. The vocal ensemble – most taking on multiple roles – enjoys the advantage of having performed the work the previous year. The characters are well defined and Brown’s sense of comedy is faithful to the opera’s rank and style – “an opéra bouffon in one act”. With this recording, Composer François-André Danican Philidor may have never had it so good. But back in 1762, when the opera first appeared, box office receipts weren’t a big deal to the composer who was a bigger winner in the biggest Master-type chess tournaments around. Sometimes wearing a blindfold. By contrast, Sancho Pança is a light-hearted romp for the composer-side of Philidor – a day trip into musical comedy. Opera Lafayette provides a fine cast for this mid-18th Century take on an odd chapter from Cervantes’ Don Quichotte. Recommended for die-hard collectors.

ryan-brown-karim-sulayman-elizabeth-calleo
RYAN BROWN. Photo, Opera Lafayette
KARIM SULAYMAN and ELIZABETH CALLEO. Photo, Louis Forget

THE ENSEMBLE:
Darren Perry, Baritone – Sancho Pança
Elizabeth Calleo, Soprano – Thérèse (his wife) / Une Gouvernante
Karim Sulayman, Tenor – Lope Tocho / Le Fermier / Un Barbier
Meghan McCall, Soprano – Juliette / La Bergère / Une Paysanne
Tony Boutté, Tenor – Le Docteur / Don Crispinos / Le Tailleur
Eric Christopher Black, Baritone – Torillos / Le Procureur
Andrew Sauvageau, Baritone – Un Paysan

Click on the photo to order on-line
sancho-panca
SANCHO PANÇA

Ryan Brown is the founder, conductor, and artistic director of Opera Lafayette. Through his work with Opera Lafayette, Mr. Brown has become a leading figure in the revival of 18th-century opera. His vivid explorations of the French repertoire in particular have earned him an international reputation, receiving the highest praise from critics in the United States and abroad. These performances have highlighted the various traditions of the tragédie lyrique, the opéra-ballet, the opéra-comique, the pastorale, and the dramma-giocoso genres. Mr. Brown’s discography for Naxos includes masterpieces by well-known 18th-century composers as well as discoveries of their contemporaries (Gluck’s Orphée et Euridice and Sacchini’s Œdipe à Colone, Rameau Operatic Arias, and Rebel and Francœur’s Zélindor, roi des Sylphes), works which exemplify traditions in the 17th century (Lully’s Armide), and those which point the way toward the music of the 19th century (Monsigny’s Le Déserteur). Mr. Brown was raised in a musical family in California, and performed extensively as a violinist and chamber musician in New York and on tour before turning his attentions to conducting. In 2012 he will make his debut with the Seattle Symphony and will take Opera Lafayette to the Opéra Royal in Versailles.

OPERA LAFAYETTE is an American period-instrument ensemble that specializes in the French repertoire, rediscovers masterpieces, and creates a recorded legacy of its work. Founded in 1995 in Washington, DC, by Conductor and Artistic Director Ryan Brown, Opera Lafayette has earned critical acclaim and a loyal following for its performances and recordings with international singers renowned for their interpretations of baroque and classical operas. Opera Lafayette’s season includes performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, and at the Rose Theater, Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. In addition to Sancho Pança, the company’s discography on the Naxos label has expanded to six releases including Gluck’s Orphée et Euridice (2005), Sacchini’s Œdipe à Colone (2006), Rameau Operatic Arias (2007), Lully’s Armide (2008), Rebel and Francœur’s Zélindor, roi des Sylphes (2009), Monsigny’s Le Déserteur (2010). Grétry’s Le Magnifique will follow in 2012.

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AMANDA McBROOM – A conversation on her recording of songs by Jacques Brel
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AT LAST! – ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY – An Interview with Seán Martinfield
A Conversation with Ruben Martin Cintas, Principal Dancer with SF Ballet
THIS GUN FOR HIRE, 1942 – Looking at “Now you see it, now you don’t” sung by Veronica Lake
“My Silver Dollar Man” – from MARKED WOMAN (starring Bette Davis, 1937)
“Would You Like A Souvenir?” – Sean Martinfield and Janet Roitz explore a song from Film Noir classic NORA PRENTISS (1947)

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On Scene with Bill Wilson Rebuilding Italy 1945-46

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

During World War 2 my uncle served as a conscientious objector. He had several assignments here in the United States, but when a cousin became an ambulance driver in Europe with the American Field Service my uncle decided that was something he wanted to do. He eventually got an assignment overseas. He was among the first to liberate the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. That experience forced him to reevaluate his beliefs on a fundamental level. So when the opportunity presented itself for him to go back to Italy and help the reconstruction effort he jumped at the chance.

The following is taken from a chapter of an unpublished memoir my uncle wrote in 1996 some fifty years after the events. The quotes are from letters he wrote home. The photos were in an old shoe box I discovered while going through some file cabinets.

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US navy Blimp over Toulon, France November 1945
Photo by Conrad Wilson

In November of 1945, I was sent back to Italy, where I joined a small group of AFSC (American Friends Service Committee) volunteers working together with the British Friends Ambulance Unit in the Abruzzi region in the southeastern part of the country. I traveled over on a small merchant vessel called the SS Imbodensee, an American ship which was carrying a small number of passengers. The trip was a very different from my earlier crossings. The ship had a grumbling crew and an evil- tempered captain who seemed to resent the few passengers aboard.

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Heading toward landing at Genoa, Italy
Photo by Conrad Wilson

We entered the Mediterranean through the Strait of Gibraltar and headed northeast past the Balearic Islands, to Toulon near Marseillles, where we pulled into the harbor but did not go ashore. Finally we landed at Genoa which was where Columbus came from, originally.

From Genoa I traveled by land that along the coast through the Italian Riviera which had not fared as badly as southern Italy in the war. On my way to Rome I stopped in Florence to spend an afternoon the Peterichs , who seemed truly delighted to see me. I promised to try my best to return for Christmas, then continued across Italy to the Adriatic coast where at a place called Ortona Al Mar – Ortona by the Sea- I was stationed with an international group of volunteers.

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Ruins at Ortona.
It took me a long time to realize there are three groups of people in this photo. The child in the center. the group of people on the left are evident, but you have to look closely to notice the young and old people standing on the pile of rumble at the right of the photo.
Photo by Conrad Wilson

The focus of our project was the Aventino Valley, a remote mountainous area which opened into the Adriatic at Ortona. Two years earlier, in November of 1943, a group of mountain villages in this area had been intentionally leveled by three retreating German army to prevent the Allied forces from finding winter quarters. The villagers were not taken prisoner, but taken out of the village by the Nazis who then destroyed everything with land mines and dynamite.

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What the Nazis left of the Cupola of San Tommaso in Ortona. The words. SANTVS DOMINVS DEVS are Latin for Holy Lord God
Photo by Conrad Wilson

Thousands of these villagers had fled to refugee camps elsewhere in Italy. Now they were returning. I remember seeing women, many of them barefoot, carrying huge burdens on their heads- one woman who stands out in my memory was carrying a sewing machine in this fashion. There were also villagers who had remained, and had been living in great hardship among the demolished buildings.

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Church at Ortona in ruins.
Photo by Conrad Wilson

With a war over people were eager to rebuild their homes according to centuries-old methods, with the walls of stone and traditional fluted-tile roofs. The factories that made the tiles and other building materials were located in Ortona, but they’ve had no fuel to run their furnaces and kilns. The people in the ruined mountain villages didn’t have much, but they did have access to timber that which could be used as fuel to get the factories back into production. And the AFSC devised a barter system, in which the people in the mountain towns agreed to cut the wood and load the logs onto our trucks in exchange for roofing tiles, bricks, cement and other materials they needed to rebuild their homes. I was to be one of the group of AFSC drivers providing transportation for this enterprise.

The truck I drove was a ten wheeler, a Studebaker, one of a fleet of half-ton truck the Quakers had acquire from the British army after the war.

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Twisting mountain roads
Photo by Conrad Wilson

Each day I would out from the coast with a load of building matrerials and travel up the Aventino Valley to the farthest village – Palena I think it called. The valley was only 50 are 60 miles long, but the mountain roads were tortuous – steep twisting corkscrews that you sometimes had to back up to get around. The workdays were very long. We awoke early in the morning, had breakfast at six and left by the seven for the day’s work. “By the time we get back to Ortona it is dark and we are tired. Often we do not return until eight pm or later”

It was early December when I arrived. The city of Ortona had been heavily damaged, but there were enough buildings standing that our group as able to find shelter for the winter months, though our main work was in those destroyed villages back in the Aventino Valley.

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Street scene.
Photo by Conrad Wilson

“We are living in Ortona for the winter. Snow has begun today in the mountains, but here by the sea there are still some flowers in bloom and oranges on the trees. It is rather damp and cold, however, and I am glad that I bought some good, warm clothes. We are living there with a unit of International Volunteer Service for Peace which is doing similar work. They are mostly English. The unit consists of four women and six men. They are leaving in January, so that will leave just our unit in the area. The IVSP had a group here when I arrived., students from the University of Rome who came out for ten days of volunteer work. We had t great fun in the evening singing and talking and playing games. I was sorry to see them leave.

Meanwhile, the United Nations was getting its own reconstruction work under way. I hadn’t been on the job too long when some people from a U.N. relief agency called UNRRA – the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency – visited Ortona to observe the experiment the American Friends Service Committee and the British Friends Ambulance had started. When they saw how well it was working, they offered to take the project over and extend it to other regions of the country.

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People of the town of Ortona.
Photo by Conrad Wilson

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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SF Opera Center Announces the 2012 Adler Fellows

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald announced today the ten recipients of the 2012 Adler Fellowship. The prestigious resident artist training program has nurtured the development of more than 140 young artists since its inception.

The eight singers selected as 2012 Adler Fellows are sopranos Nadine Sierra (Fort Lauderdale, Florida), Marina Boudart Harris (Whittier, CA); mezzo-sopranos Laura Krumm (Iowa City, Iowa) and Renée Rapier (Marion, Iowa); tenor Brian Jadge (Piermont, New York); baritones Ao Li (Shandong, China) and Joo Won Kang (Seoul, South Korea); and bass-baritone Ryan Kuster (Jacksonville, Illinois). Sierra, Jagde, Li and Kuster are scheduled to return as Adler Fellows. Outgoing 2011 Adler Fellows are sopranos Susannah Biller, Leah Crocetto and Sara Gartland; mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani; countertenor Ryan Belongie; tenor Daniel Montenegro; and coach and accompanist Tamara Sanikidze.

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THE ADLER FELLOWS

The two pianists selected for Apprentice Coach Fellowships are Robert Mollicone (East Greenwich, Rhode Island) and returning Adler Fellow David Hanlon (Arlington, Virginia). The Adler Fellow Apprentice Coaches work closely with Mark Morash, Director of Musical Studies of the Opera Center, and John Churchwell, Head of Music Staff at San Francisco Opera. The Coaches participate in the musical activities of both San Francisco Opera and the Opera Center, and are involved in all aspects of the Adler Fellows’ training by acting as pianists for classes, playing for other master coaches as well as preparing the Adler Fellows for concerts and main-stage roles.

“As always, I am very pleased to announce our new 2012 class of Adler Fellows,” said San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald. “It is inspiring to work with such talented young artists. Helping them develop their burgeoning musical careers is truly a rewarding experience.”

The Adler Fellowship Program is a performance-oriented residency offering advanced young artists intensive individual training, coaching, professional seminars and a wide range of performance opportunities throughout their fellowship. Adler Fellows also gain valuable professional experience by performing roles of increasing importance in San Francisco Opera’s main-stage season. The Adler Fellows are selected from the young artists who have participated in the Merola Opera Program.

In addition to performances on the main stage of the War Memorial Opera House, Adler Fellows enjoy a variety of performance opportunities throughout their fellowship. The 2012 Adlers will perform a co-production of the chamber opera Love/Hate by composer Jack Perla with Oberlin Dance Collective (ODC) in San Francisco on April 12, 14 and 15. Selected Adler Fellows will also be featured in the Schwabacher Debut Recital Series (at Temple Emanu-El’s Martin Meyer Sanctuary in San Francisco), which was created to spotlight artists who have participated in the programs of the San Francisco Opera Center.

The Adler Fellows’ season culminates with a special year-end concert featuring the singers in an evening of opera scenes and arias with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. This year’s concert, The Future Is Now: Adler Fellows Gala Concert, showcasing the acclaimed 2011 Adler Fellows in concert with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, takes place on Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. at Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

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CALIFORNIA DREAMING – Now at the Contemporary Jewish Museum

Jewish Life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the Present

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

From Levi’s blue jeans to the Sutro Baths, Gump’s to Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, the story of the Bay Area’s Jewish community is the story of the region itself. The first exhibition of its kind, California Dreaming explores Jewish life in the Bay Area from the Gold Rush to the present and demonstrates how it is informed by the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit of the many Jews who came out West in the booming decades that began with the Gold Rush.

The exhibition features a documentary video offering an array of contemporary stories of Jewish migration to the Bay Area created by award-winning independent filmmaker Pam Rorke Levy, as well as a commissioned series of photographs by local artist and cultural historian Rachel Schreiber that reveals the untold stories of the Jewish community from past to present. The exhibition is a dynamic narrative of events brought to life through hundreds of photographs, documents, ephemera, audio, and video that illuminates the development of the Bay Area Jewish community and illustrates how it has taken on its independent, inventive, and aspirational character over time. Visitors are invited to add their stories and submit photographs to an ever-evolving community photo wall that can be browsed online through the Museum’s website or in the gallery.
Click here for more information: lickr.com/groups/californiadreaming/

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Seder at Emanu-el Sisterhood house, 1917
Photo, Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at The Bancroft Library

“We are thrilled to be examining the community in this way for the first time,” says Museum Director Connie Wolf. “Contemporary Jewish life in the Bay Area is unique, but why? What made it what it is today? No one has ever explored that question. Our search has revealed fascinating stories of pioneering spirit, invention, reinvention, assimilation, generosity, and activism. These give us a wonderful starting point. We look forward to the many stories that the community will add to this evolving exhibition over its yearlong life. Together we will truly come to understand the history of who we are.”

A Character Study of Jewish Life in the Bay Area

At the heart of California Dreaming is a richly visual narrative that reveals that despite its stunning diversity and significant historical changes, the Bay Area Jewish community has taken on a character all its own due to several major factors: a willingness to navigate the complex balance of invention/re-invention of institutions and rituals to continuously reflect the ever-changing community; a can-do Western spirit that gave Jews the confidence to create their own destiny and become part of the fabric of the city of San Francisco from the very beginning; a lack of physical, social, and economic ghettoization, resulting in an acceptance of Jews as a confident group of citizens among their neighbors that did not always exist in other American cities; and a yearning for greater justice for all of humankind, inspired by their California experience, and reflecting a sense of optimism that a newer and fairer society could be built.

The narrative asks visitors to consider how the past and present is linked. “We’re presenting this history in a new way, through a series of questions to engage visitors in thinking about their own role in creating and sustaining community,” says Wolf. “This will be a graphic, fun, interactive history with a strong contemporary voice. It’s an invitation to examine the past from new and personal perspectives.”

Five important areas of consideration are explored through the stories of notable figures, important institutions, and community milestones, and are illustrated with a lively mix of hundreds of historical photographs, audio recordings, video, articles, maps, original objects, and more.

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ARYAE COOPERSMITH
House of Love and Prayer, San Francisco, 1971.
Photo, Moshe Yitzchak Kussoy

The first section of the exhibition, “What does it mean to be first?,” explores the reasons for Jewish immigration to San Francisco during the Gold Rush, the creation of a functioning community almost overnight, and subsequent forays into new religious, cultural, and economic territory. In this section the exhibition looks in depth at the founding of San Francisco’s two first synagogues —Congregation Emanu-El and Sherith Israel in 1850 — along with 160 years of religious reinvention, including the minting of the first Jewish woman rabbi in Rachel “Ray” Frank known as “The Girl Rabbi of the Golden West,” and the explosion of alternative Jewish practices associated with The House of Love and Prayer in the 1960s, the Aquarian Minyan in the 1970s, and the more recent combination of tradition and innovation in the hipster-orthodox Mission Minyan. The idea of “first” also applies to the Bay Area’s innovations in Jewish educational organizations—including in recent years the creation of G-dcast.com, an animated Torah commentary, and Kevah, which seeds Jewish study groups in people’s homes — as well as the country’s first Jewish Film Festival; the influential Jewish Music Festival; and the Judah L. Magnes Museum and Contemporary Jewish Museum. Together these advancements demonstrate that Bay Area Jews have remained true to the pioneering spirit of their ancestors.

The second area, “If I am only for myself, what am I?” (a quote from the Talmud), explores the Bay Area Jewish community’s longstanding commitment to civil rights, equality, and philanthropy. Here the exhibition looks at the community’s creation of charities to care for the needy, including Mt. Zion Hospital and the Hebrew and Eureka benevolent societies, and an early promise from the first generation of Jewish leaders to make an impact on the health of the larger community, including Jewish mayor Adolph Sutro’s creation of the Sutro Baths. In recent generations the Jewish community became an important part of the numerous movements including free speech, civil, women’s, and gay and lesbian rights. This generosity of spirit manifested itself in the community’s embrace of refugees from Europe after World War II, as well as the “refuseniks” who fled the Soviet Union starting in 1979.

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EMILE PISSIS. Sherith Israel West Window.
Moses Presenting the Ten Commandments to the Children of Israel at Yosemite,1905.
Photo, Larry Rosenberg

Section three, “Does a Jew who is a leader become a Jewish leader?,” looks at Jewish ideas about community-building and intellectual and professional success, entrepreneurship, and how they manifested themselves in civic, political, and business life — from the founding of the first companies in San Francisco to the growth of Silicon Valley. What is the connection, for instance, between the drive of immigrant Levi Strauss to create a new kind of company, and his family’s commitment over eight generations to continuously support Jewish and civic life in the Bay Area? How did Selina Solomons’ Jewish upbringing influence her to open the Votes for Women Club in downtown San Francisco, which helped bring the vote to California women? And what prompted the Irish-Jewish immigrant Albert Bender to support Chinese and Japanese artists, creating a local market for Asian art and a public acknowledgment of a still marginal community?

Next, “Is there a there there?” explores how the Jewish community maintained its coherence without a traditional neighborhood structure, and its unprecedented integration into the larger culture. Despite the vibrancy of the Fillmore neighborhood in the first few decades of the twentieth century, which echoed the concentration of Jewish shops and synagogues in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the story of Bay Area Jewish life today is one of integrity in the midst of Christmas parties, continuing suburban sprawl, and a low percentage of synagogue affiliation.

Finally, “What is a promised land?” looks at the metaphor of San Francisco as a new Eden. In this section, the focus is on the Jewish community’s relationship with the land, from David Lubin’s Biblically-inspired International Institute of Agriculture and the socialist community of Petaluma chicken farmers, to new organizations like Wilderness Torah and Urban Adamah. Zionism, an important political and religious movement, is also examined from the perspective of one of history’s most secure and settled Jewish communities.

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SF Jewish family picnicking in the Redwoods
Photo, The Sophie and Theodore Lilienthal Papers

Two significant elements have been commissioned for the exhibition to add further dimension to the story of Jewish life in the Bay Area. Award-winning independent filmmaker Pam Rorke Levy looks at the diversity and make up of the community today, offering an engaging portrait of several modern day migrants and descendants of migrants, through interviews, family photos and more. New York transplant Rabbi H. David Teitelbaum, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Jacob in Redwood City, discusses the differences between Jews on the coasts as he reminisces about marching with Martin Luther King, Jr. and serving as a rabbi for troops stationed at the Presidio. Rabbi Moshe Trager, a moyel recently moved from Philadelphia, discusses his thoughts on San Francisco’s current circumcision debate. And local historian and author Frances Dinkelspiel, descended from Gold Rush pioneers, discusses alternative Judaism. These stories and more will be viewable in a small theater within the exhibition.

Bay Area artist and historian Rachel Schreiber was commissioned by the Museum to create a new work in conversation with the various stories told in the exhibition. The result is “Site Reading,” which builds on Schreiber’s longstanding commitment to labor history and activism. In this project, Schreiber retells the stories of individuals whose lives exist on the periphery of history, pairing each narrative with a contemporary photograph marking the location where the story occurred. Schreiber offers these interventions as a way to celebrate the accomplishments of those who have shaped the Bay Area as a place of progressive attitudes and social change. A photo of a Petaluma farm leads to a story about Jewish chicken farmers in Sonoma County. A photo of Manzinar prompts the story of the Jewish woman who chose to stay with her husband, a Japanese man, and their son, when they were interned there during World War II.

Engaging the Community in Telling the Story

California Dreaming offers visitors several opportunities to interact and contribute their stories to the exhibition. The first is an ongoing community-wide photo call, which invites the Bay Area community to submit photographs that illustrate what it means to be Jewish in the Bay Area, in all its diversity and complexity. All photos submitted will be on display in the gallery as well as online through the Museum’s website and dedicated flickr page. Visitors are invited to participate by uploading their images to: flickr.com/groups/californiadreaming.

Whether at home or in the gallery, visitors to California Dreaming can share their own stories through the Museum’s e-postcard project, “Greetings from California!” Offering an array of templates based on popular original card designs from the Gold Rush to the present, visitors can write their story on the back and send the card out as an e-postcard to friends and family.

“There is such a rich history of Jewish innovators, philanthropists, and civic leaders in the Bay Area,” says Jeffrey Farber, Chief Executive Officer of the Koret Foundation. “Koret is very proud to be a part of this story and pleased to be a leading supporter of this exhibition.”

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RABBI MAYER HIRSCH – with barrels of Sacramental Kosher wine during prohibition.
Photo, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at The Bancroft Library

“The California dream has attracted a diversity of people over the ages that span all ethnic, religious and national identities. The dream is also as varied and multidimensional as the people it has attracted,” says Matthew K. Berler, President, Chief Executive Officer & Portfolio Manager of Osterweis Capital Management. “Osterweis Capital Management is pleased to support this exhibition for its celebration of the visions and aspirations that have created the California that we live in today. The pioneering Jews of the 19th and 20th centuries were motivated by the opportunity to both improve their own circumstances as well as to create a more just and open society. These twin aspirations have affected broader life in the Bay Area and helped to build the foundation for Bay Area civic life as we know it today.”

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BERNINI’S MEDUSA – Now at the Legion of Honor through February 12th
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THOMAS JANE – An interview with the star of HBO’s “Hung” and 3D Thriller “Dark Country”
THE TEMPERAMENTALS – A Must-See at New Conservatory Theatre Center
MICHAEL CORBETT – SF historian to speak at The Presidio, “The Creation of the Port and the Development of the City
CIRQUE DU SOLEIL – Best Show In Town, Now Through December 18th at AT&T Park
CARMEN – Closing the season at San Francisco Opera
PISSARRO’S PEOPLE – Stunning exhibit now at the Legion of Honor, through 1/22
THE PRESIDIO’S HIDDEN PAST – SF’s Oldest Building Reveals Original Adobe Walls
MAHARAJA – The Splendor of India’s Royal Courts, at the Asian Art Museum
KYLE KETELSEN and JANE ARCHIBALD – Featured Soloists in SF Symphony’s Presentation of the Brahms Requiem
XERXES – A Royally Entertaining Production at SF Opera
BEVAN DUFTY – A Conversation with The City’s Most Effective Candidate for Mayor
“REAL STEEL” – Reels of money-making crap starring Hugh Jackman
DAVID LOMELI – Performs at Día de los Muertos Community Concert with SF Symphony, Saturday, 11/5
“XERXES” – At San Francisco Opera
RICHARD SERRA DRAWING – At the SF Museum of Modern Art through January 16th
CD Release: “Feels Like Home”, The Celtic Tenors ★★★★
DON GIOVANNI – It’s smart and new at San Francisco Opera
“HOUDINI: Art and Magic” – At the Contemporary Jewish Museum
LEANNE BORGHESI – SF Bay Area Star on the Rise
“REAL STEEL” – Reels of money-making crap starring Hugh Jackman
LUCAS MEACHEM – Former Adler Fellow to sing “Don Giovanni” at San Francisco Opera
CAMERON CARPENTER – International Superstar Organist plays “Phantom of the Opera” at Davies Symphony Hall, Friday, October 30th
“THE MILL & THE CROSS” – Film director Lech Majewski brings 16th Century masterpiece to life
“ONCE IN A LIFETIME” – A Charming Comedy at A.C.T.
“LUCREZIA BORGIA” – A Hard Act To Swallow at San Francisco Opera
THE “DOUBLE PLATINUM” GOES TO: The California Academy of Sciences!
EDDIE MULLER and “Fear Over Frisco” – An Interview with the Czar of Noir
LEAH CROCETTO – An Interview with “Liu” in SF Opera’s TURANDOT
CD Release – Jacques Loussier Trio – “Schumann: Kinderszenen”
HENRY PHIPPS – A Conversation with Featured Boy Soprano in SF Opera’s “Heart of a Soldier”
HBO Premieres “The Strange History of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – Midnight, 9/20
“HEART OF A SOLDIER” – A Rapturous World Premiere At San Francisco Opera
MEET MAESTRO NICOLA LUISOTTI – San Francisco Opera opens 2011/12 season with Puccini’s “Turandot”
“The Glory of Love” – A Salute to Jacqueline Fontaine
“MOZART’S SISTER” – Third string cinema
SHN Presents – STOMP and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Musical
“HEART OF A SOLDIER” – SFOpera Presents World Premiere September 10th
THE MOURNERS: Tomb Sculptures from the Court of Burgundy
MEROLA OPERA’S GRAND FINALE – Meet Daniel Curran and Mark Diamond
100th BIRTHDAY – San Francisco Symphony throws free concert bash in Civic Center Plaza, September 8th
“CASABLANCA” – The SF Symphony accompanies screening tonight, 7/22
“HE WHO GETS SLAPPED” – A conversation with composer and pianist Matti Bye
ABEL GANCE’S “NAPOLEON” – San Francisco Silent Film Festival to present complete restoration by Kevin Brownlow in 2012
“BILLY ELLIOT” – A high flying hit at the Orpheum
HEIDI MELTON – An Interview with “Sieglinde” in San Francisco Opera’s DIE WALKÜRE
MARY GIBBONEY – An Interview with the star of “ABSOLUTELY SAN FRANCISCO”
“DAS RHEINGOLD” – The slippery steps to Valhalla
SONDHEIM’S “ASSASSINS” – Ray of Light Theatre is right-on target
“TALES OF THE CITY” – Totally Sensational, Totally San Francisco
TIIT HELIMETS – An Interview with “Prince Edvard” of SF Ballet’s THE LITTLE MERMAID
NEW CENTURY CHAMBER ORCHESTRA – Presents “Mastery of Schubert”, Featuring Soprano Melody Moore, 3/24–27
ZHENG CAO – A Conversation with A Miracle Artist
MELODY MOORE – Soprano shines in SF Ballet’s “Nanna’s Lied”
MARNIE BRECKENRIDGE – An Interview with “La Princesse” of Philip Glass’ Orphée
EDITORIAL – A confession about ballerina Lorena Feijóo
GISELLE – And the Legend of the Wilis
A Conversation with Elza van den Heever
CLUB FOOT ORCHESTRA – A Conversation with Richard Marriot
WEST SIDE STORY – Most of it, anyway
PLÁCIDO DOMINGO – An Interview with the Tenor turned Baritone for “Cyrano”
Dr. ELISA STEPHENS – A Visit with the President of the Academy of Art University
CUBAN BALLET – An Interview with Octavio Roca
A Look At “Giselle” with Ballerina Lorena Feijóo
SABINA ALLEMANN – Former SF Ballet Ballerina Returns In A.C.T.’s “The Tosca Project”
AMANDA McBROOM – A conversation on her recording of songs by Jacques Brel
CAMERON CARPENTER – An interview with Grammy-nominated organist
HANDEL’S “ORLANDO” – An Interview with Conductor Nicholas McGagen
PIANIST MISHA DICHTER – A Conversation
ZUILL BAILEY – A Conversation
DAVID PERRY – On the “Dos and Don’ts of Social Media”
NATHAN GUNN – Sings Schubert’s Die Schöne Müllerin
CAMINOS FLAMENCOS – A Conversation with Yaelisa
JANE MONHEIT – An Interview
DIANE BAKER – Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK
CAMERON CARPENTER – An Interview with Seán Martinfield
AT LAST! – ANN HAMPTON CALLAWAY – An Interview with Seán Martinfield
A Conversation with Ruben Martin Cintas, Principal Dancer with SF Ballet
THIS GUN FOR HIRE, 1942 – Looking at “Now you see it, now you don’t” sung by Veronica Lake
“My Silver Dollar Man” – from MARKED WOMAN (starring Bette Davis, 1937)
“Would You Like A Souvenir?” – Sean Martinfield and Janet Roitz explore a song from Film Noir classic NORA PRENTISS (1947)

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BERNINI’S MEDUSA – Now at the Legion of Honor through February 12th

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

The Musei Capitolini in Rome are lending San Francisco one of their greatest treasures, the Baroque masterpiece The Medusa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of history’s finest sculptors and a leading figure in 17th-century Italian art and architecture. This loan is part of The Dream of Rome, a project initiated by the mayor of Rome to exhibit timeless masterpieces in the United States from 2011 through 2013. The Medusa represents the inaugural object loaned as part of a joint venture signed recently between the Musei Capitolini and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco designed to share exhibitions, collections, curatorial and conservation knowledge and to collaborate on educational programs. The loan of Medusa is the first time that the sculpture has ever traveled to the United States and is only the third time it has left Rome in nearly 400 years.

medusa
MEDUSA. Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Recent conservation efforts have restored the Medusa to its full glory and revealed previously hidden polish and patina. Believed to date from between 1638 and 1648, this extraordinary work takes its subject from classical mythology, as cited in Ovid’s Metamorphoses. It shows the beautiful Medusa, one of the Gorgon sisters, caught in the terrible process of transformation into a monster. Her hair is turning into writhing snakes, which, according to Ovid, was a punishment from Minerva for having had an affair with Neptune, god of the sea. The punishment also made Medusa an instrument of death by turning anyone who looked upon her to stone. Famously, Perseus overcame Medusa’s curse by looking at her reflection in a shield to behead her.

Bernini’s depiction does not describe this incident but rather the agony of Medusa’s initial dramatic transformation. Her face is contorted with pain and anxiety and her mouth is open as if crying out.

What is remarkable about Bernini’s interpretation of this ancient mythological creature is that it conveys passion, emotion and the humanity of the moment, rather than the monstrous and horrific aspects of Medusa treated by artists and sculptors hitherto. Created during a bleak period when the artist was out of favor at the papal court, the figure is thought to represent for Bernini the power of sculpture and the value of the sculptor.

The Medusa is displayed in the Legion of Honor’s Baroque gallery where it can be seen in context with the Museums’ great collections of paintings and sculpture from the era of Bernini.

gian-lorenzo-bernini-self-portrait
SELF PORTRAIT, Gian Lorenzo Bernini. c. 1635
Oil on canvas, 24.4 in. x 18.1 in.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598–1680) was a virtuosic genius of the Roman Baroque in the 17th century. Not only the greatest sculptor of the age, he was also an internationally renowned architect, painter, playwright and theatrical designer. Living and working mainly in Rome until his death, he was the leader of that city’s artistic scene for more than 50 years, far outshining his contemporaries as the major exponent of the Italian Baroque. Serving six popes, he left a permanent mark on the city of Rome with his designs for the colonnade and interior of Saint Peter’s Basilica and with his famous public fountains. His ability to synthesize sculpture, architecture and painting into a conceptual entity was recognized by scholar Irving Lavin as a “unity of the visual arts.”

Born the son of a Tuscan sculptor in Naples in 1598, Bernini was a child prodigy and learned sculpting skills from his father, who worked for the great families in Rome starting in 1605. Even in his first works, the artist attempted to represent subjects and moods never before attempted, such as portraying the human soul.

the-musei-capitolini-rome
THE MUSEI CAPITOLINI

The Musei Capitolini (Capitoline Museums) are a complex of buildings located on the Capitoline Hill, one of the traditional Seven Hills of Rome. In antiquity the hill was the religious and political heart of the city, the site of many temples, including the massive Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, which overlooked the Forum. During the Middle Ages, the ancient buildings fell into disrepair. Rising from their ruins were new municipal structures: the Palace of the Senators, which was built largely in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and which turned away from the Forum, toward Papal Rome and the Old Saint Peter’s Basilica; and the Palace of the Conservators (magistrates), constructed in the 15th century beside the Palace of the Senators.

A donation made in 1471 marked the beginning of a new function for the buildings on the Capitoline Hill, reflecting a rising interest in the artistic legacy of Roman antiquity. In that year Pope Sixtus IV transferred to the Capitoline four ancient bronze sculptures from the Lateran Palace, then the principal papal residence. In 1537 Pope Paul III commissioned Michelangelo to relocate another sculpture from the Lateran to the plaza in front of the Palace of the Senators: the monumental bronze equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, which had escaped destruction during the Middle Ages only because it was then believed to represent Constantine, the first Christian emperor.

Michelangelo was also charged with reorganizing the area, known as the Piazza del Campidoglio. For the Palaces of the Senators and Conservators he designed new facades, which were completed after his death in 1564. To balance the Palace of the Conservators, he conceived a matching building, the New Palace, which was finished in 1667. Together, these buildings constitute the Musei Capitolini. The last element of Michelangelo’s masterpiece of urban planning, the Piazza, was not completed until 1940 under Mussolini. Despite the centuries of construction, most of Michelangelo’s plans for the site were implemented.

In the 16th century the Capitoline collections increased dramatically through the acquisition of newly excavated works and donations such as the ancient works of art given by Pope Pius V with the intention of “purging the Vatican of pagan idols.” The Palace of the Conservators became so crowded with sculpture that the magistrates found it difficult to carry out their official duties. In the late 17th century, many of the works were transferred to the recently completed New Palace. Since then, the Musei Capitolini have continued to expand their holdings, bringing together one of the world’s great collections of Roman antiquities.

The Medusa projected onto the The Legion of Honor
the-medusa-projected-onto-the-the-legion-of-honor
Located at Lincoln Park, 34th Avenue and Clement Street
Open Tuesday — Sunday, 9:30 am–5:15 pm; closed Mondays
Click here for more information: LEGION OF HONOR

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On Scene with Bill Wilson Life and Death in the Age of Aids

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

The 30th anniversary of the first report of what would become known as AIDS has made me pause to reflect and re-live, in my mind some of the events that I experienced at the beginning of the crisis. I’ve only been present at the moment of death on two occasions and both involved people who died from complications associated with AIDS.

John Warren was the most direct and honest person I ever known. Once, when I was picking up his prescriptions at the drugstore, the person filling the order yelled from behind the counter, “You should be glad you have insurance this package alone is over $300.” I couldn’t believe he had just told half the store I had over $300 in drugs in my possession. When I was telling John about this he interrupted with a question, “Did you tell the manager?” When I answered no he said, “Then why are you telling me? The manager could do something about it, I can’t.”

That razor focus helped John in many of the difficult decisions he was faced while I knew him. He was transitioning from an independent creative person to a person dependent on others. John was able to move forward and never second guess himself traits that made him his best advocate right up to the end.

One Friday afternoon John informed me that he had a doctor’s appointment to see about a treatment for his CMV retinitis. He called me from the doctor’s office saying that it was taking longer than they expected. He called a second time saying that they had decided that he was going to be hospitalized overnight so they could install a catheter in his chest. When I went to visit him the following Monday afternoon he had a catheter in his chest used for the administration of the drug, DHPG. I expressed my amazement at how fast he was able to make his decisions. He said that there had really been no decision to make because the drug would not restore the sight he had already lost, but only slow or halt further deterioration. He didn’t intend to go blind, so there was no choice but to get the drug as soon as possible.

He was very willing to fight to keep his sight because he was a very creative and wonderfully gifted artist. I have a painting he did of an orchid that every time I pass it I have to remind myself that it doesn’t need water, even though it seems to be growing right out of the frame, it is so real looking.

When John was admitted to the hospice they wanted to stop his treatment with DHPG for his Cytomegalovirus (CMV) retinitis. At first the social worker told him hat it was against policy because they didn’t allow “curative” therapies under the hospice philosophy. John explained, “I don’t have much sight left, but I am not willing to sacrifice what sight I have because of your rules. I don’t want to go blind because of your rules. Either you change your rules or make an exception in my case.” When the next person came and tried to talk him out of the treatment that person explained that the hospice personnel weren’t trained to give IV drug treatments. John told them that, before he had agreed to come to the hospice, he had talked with his visiting nurse and she had told him she would come to the hospice to administer the drug, if necessary. By this time they were high enough up the chain of command that when the next person arrived to tell him that they weren’t going to allow the treatment to continue, he said, “It is not a question of if I get the treatment, it is only a question of where. The visiting nurse has said she would come and administer the drug. The only thing that you have to decide is will she give it to me here in the comfort and safety of this room, or will I have to wheel myself across the street so that she isn’t on hospice property?” The treatments continued up until the day before he died.

I got call from John’s mother at 6:30am on a Saturday morning in January of 1989. She said that the doctors had just told her that if she wanted someone with her when John died she should call them now because they didn’t expect John to live much longer. I got dressed and arrived at the hospice around 7. I sat on one side of the bed and his mother sat on the other. John would exhale and we would listen to hear if he took another breath. Then just as you began to think that was it, he would draw in another breath. There really wasn’t much to say. John had been a fighter, but it was clear that he wasn’t long for this world. After two hours John’s mother said to me, “This could take forever.”

In my mind, as clear as could be, I heard John say, “See I can’t even die soon enough for my mother.” I asked if she wanted me to bring anything to her from vending machine down the hall. I wasn’t gone for more than a few minutes but when I came back the nurse was straddling John with her head on his chest. She looked up at me and said, “We think he may have taken is last breath.” He had.

John’s mother gave me a list of people that she wanted me to call to notify them of John’s death. His lawyer informed me that he didn’t make “hospice calls” and told me to tell John’s mother that they would meet later at John’s apartment. John’s sister, Anna, eventually arrived around noon. I gave her some time with her mother in private and then John’s mother told me that Anna wanted to see me. As I entered the room she asked, “John looks bad. Did he look this bad before he died?”

It took me a moment or two to realize she expected an answer from me. I looked at the bed where John was lying with the sheet tucked under his chin so only his head showed. I looked at the watch on my wrist. I did a quick math calculation in my head and finally said, “He died three hours ago. He didn’t look this bad twenty minutes ago.”

The first memorial service I attended for a person who died of Aids was for Dirk Difenbach in June 1983. I know he was the sixth person to die of Aids because that it what the headline on his obituary said. After the service Reverend Larry Uhrig and David Brown, Dirk’s partner, stood at the back of the church and shook hands with people as they left. Because I really had no idea what to say to someone who had lost his partner I held back and tried desperately to think of something to say. I ended up being the last person in line. As I took David’s hand in mine I said I would do everything I could to make sure that this didn’t happen to others. As I was talking David leaned closer to me and I instinctively put my hand on his shoulder the same shoulder, I would be holding six years later as he took his last breath.

There was an interval of five years before I went to work for him as a chore aide. On one of my early visits to David he told me a long story of how he had assisted a friend to end his life. I realized about half way through the story that he was telling me this with an ulterior motive. He wanted to know my reaction, so he could judge whether I would be the one to do the same for him. That was the thing about AIDS it sort of blurred ethical boundaries. It was about pain and suffering and doing what little you could to minimize both. So there was no doubt in my mind that the answer to his question was that I would be willing to help him, but I was never given the chance.

David had watched so many of his friends die that he knew what was in store for him. As a medical professional himself, he understood better than most what was happening. He was a practicing dentist until he was fired for having Aids. The obituary for Dirk Difenbach in the Washington Post used both David’s name and the address where they lived. It didn’t take long for the company that owned the practice where he was employed to call him and tell him not to come to work. In a long and detailed letter written in legalese they explained the consequences of his not going quietly. They told him they would call in the loan he had on his dental equipment and he would be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars. Like the police at Stonewall on June 1969, they didn’t understand that they were dealing with a person who knew the only shame was in the way he was being treated. The company’s fear of publicity led to an out of court settlement that led to the founding of the Aids Education Fund of the Whitman –Walker Clinic.

David was adopted. I have no doubt that his parents loved him and supported him just as if he was their biological son. I only mention it because I think it explains why his mother was so defensive and unable to listen to what David wanted in terms of his end of life. He wanted to die at home. He wanted to be surrounded by loved ones. He did not want to be hooked up to tubes, wires or machines. Some of those wishes were honored, but not all.

When David was in the hospital to have his medication adjusted, he told me that he had called his parents and invited them to come for one last visit. He said that he planned on them staying for two weeks and then they would go back to Colorado. Unfortunately, when his mother arrived she was so upset by the way he looked that she vowed she would not be going home because the end was near. David had instructed us when he died to remove his journal from his bedside and give it to the person who had urged him to write about his feelings, because he didn’t want his mother to read it. We didn’t act quickly enough, because on the first night his mother noticed it on the bookshelf by David’s bed and said, “Oh this is something I have to read.” She took it and put it in her suitcase.

As the visit stretched into a month, things became more stressful for everyone involved. David’s father was running out of his heart medication and was having trouble filling his prescription. On the day that David died I arrived at his apartment around 9:30 am. He sent me to the store to get some items. When I came back his mother was in near hysterics. David had fallen in the kitchen on his way from the bathroom to his bed in the living room. His mother had been unable to lift him and his father wasn’t any help because of his heart condition. David managed to get back in bed but his mother was being insistent that he go to the hospital. She was on the phone talking with his doctor. I was trying to think of how to bring up that David didn’t want to go to the hospital, when she practically screamed into the phone, “I don’t care what he wants. I am his Mother and I want him to go to the hospital. I’ve already called the ambulance. They are going to be here at 1. I expect to see you at the hospital.”

The ambulance attendants were David’s worst nightmare incarnate. It just seemed that they were there to reinforce every reason David didn’t want to go to the hospital. They parked the ambulance at the entrance most distant from David’s apartment. When I pointed out that the service entrance was just two doors from David’s apartment they said that there was no place to turn around, so they would have had to either back in or back out and they didn’t want to do that. When I pointed out that the Connecticut Avenue entrance was only four doors from David’s apartment, they told me they couldn’t block traffic on such a busy thoroughfare. They didn’t bring a stretcher, just this saucer type thing that David had to sit in as they carried him down the hallway. As we started down the hallway with me carrying the oxygen tank I was upset. By the time we had gotten about half way down the first of two long hallways, one of the attendant said to the other, “He is a lot heavier than I thought, I think I’m going to drop him.” I was livid.

I drove David’s parents to the emergency room and let them off while I went to park the car. After spending time in the waiting room the social worker came out and told me that David’s parents had told him to tell me that they would take a taxi back home when they were finished so I didn’t have to wait. I told the social worker to tell them I wasn’t going anywhere. I would wait for them so that they didn’t have to take a taxi home. About five minutes later David parents came out told me that I should come with them and wait next to David. I didn’t now at the time why I was allowed to go back to where they had taken David, but I found out later. We stood around the stretcher used to bring David in, because they thought that he was so near death they didn’t want to move him. So we waited and watched. His mother was crying and David was not aware of much if anything. We again just listened to the breathing. Finally the nurse decided that we had to move him to a bed. She got the attendant to actually help her lift him and put him on the bed, but she asked me to help as she had to change the sheets. It involved rolling David on his side and me holding him while he tucked the sheet under him. He was facing me as I supported his shoulder with my hand. I don’t know how to explain this except to say it was obvious to me that he had taken his last breath. There was only a flimsy privacy curtain separating us from the rest of the room, so I very calmly and quietly said to the nurse, “I think he just took his last breath.”

Her reply to me was, “I want you to now come on this side and we’ll roll him over towards you.” That was not the response I expected and I was taken aback so I said a little louder, “What difference is it going to make? He isn’t breathing!”

The shock on her face couldn’t have been more obvious. It was as if I had slapped her across the face. She started rushing around the bed and yelled, “Get your parents in here!”

That of course was not the time to correct her, but it did answer the question of why I was allowed in the emergency room and not left in the waiting room.

On our way back to David’s apartment his mother did ask me if I thought David was aware that they were with him at the end. I knew what she was asking, because obviously she had heard me tell the nurse that he had taken his last breath. However the way she asked the question, there was no doubt in my mind that David was aware, so I could honestly answer that I thought he knew that she was there with him.

David had been right about trying to spare his mother the pain of reading his journal. She wrote to me several times that after reading the journal she had lost sleep agonizing over how David had suffered.

At David’s memorial service I found out from the social worker that the reason the nurse panicked was that she was new to the emergency room and David’s was the first death that she had happened on her watch. We both were experiencing life and death in the age of Aids.

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

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BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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A Conversation with Artist Elaine Badgley Arnoux — “The People of San Francisco, Lives of Accomplishment”

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

Walking into Elaine’s studio near the Embarcadero I was immediately at home amidst a flurry of shapes and colors, fanciful sculptures, containers of every sort, paintings, brushes, baskets, and books – including one of her own, a catalogue of portraits, The People of San Francisco. I was anxious to talk to her about the inspiration that pulls a portrait into being. My interest in portrait art begins with the glamour images of 1930s Hollywood, particularly the sharp black and white and carefully posed creations of photographer George Hurrell and the brightly hued sometimes garish illustrations of Earl Christy that appeared on covers of popular fan magazines. This focus on a particular era of Film and the careers and bios of a very select group of major players has been a lifelong pursuit. And whenever I come across a favorite portrait, I take an instant leap into something like rapture. There’s also a place in my heart which covets that long-ago intimacy between the artist and subject. Hurrell worked with Garbo. Imagine. What sparked the finished portrait?

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ELAINE BADGLEY ARNOUX. Photo, S.M.

Over the past thirty years, while in pursuit of this body of work, The People of San Francisco; Lives of Accomplishment – artist Elaine Badgley Arnoux has enjoyed 190 such brief encounters. (Actually, it’s more. She admits a couple of them came back twice.) The assembled Cast members are a mosaic of peoples who reflect the face of The City. Some of Elaine’s portraits hold my attention longer than others – probably because of my knowledge of the person in the frame – while others, such as the watercolor of Alvin Endlin, because it’s one of a small number of profiles in the collection. More importantly, Alvin Endlin is one of the founders of Bud’s Ice Cream. I’ve seen a lot of bowls of that stuff. Alvin loved his slogan, “The finest ingredients and too much of them.” My kind of guy. He is sooo San Francisco. And that is the spark behind her work. At the Thursday night reception, Mayor Ed Lee spoke to Elaine’s sense of authenticity. He described the working principle as “listening to the streets”. Her good friend and proponent Wilkes Bashford said of the collection, “It tells worlds about what San Francisco and the Bay Area is about. And one lady captured all that. This is a life’s work. I have followed her work on this project. It is Dedication. It is Love.”

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ELOUISE WESTBROOK. Pastel, watercolor. 1985
ALVIN EDLIN. Watercolor. Pastel. 1985

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BELVA DAVIS. Mixed media. 2006
CHARLES McCABE. Watercolor, pastel, charcoal. 1980

I was at Elaine’s studio when she received the call that a shipment of her latest publication had arrived. It was a rare moment packed with a double-shot of joy and relief. The books would now be available at the special reception arranged in her honor and scheduled for the following Thursday night at the Old Mint. The People of San Francisco, 2; Lives of Accomplishment is Elaine’s most recent catalogue of portraits, 87 in total, depicting some of The City’s most noteworthy and colorful residents. At this same time, the framed originals – along with some sixty more featured in her first volume – were already on display throughout the magnificent rooms at the Old Mint. Something had gone haywire and I was late to the game. It turns out – the exhibit would be closed by the following week.

Through a series of bizarre mishaps, Elaine’s show had suffered from a complete lack of media attention. That’s not the way the Art World is supposed to operate, nor any other wing of the Entertainment Industry. Press previews, “meet and greets” with the artist, strategic parties for organization members and benefactors, etc., usually happen at the outset of an exhibit – not afterwards, in the twilight, with empty packing crates ready to be filled. It wasn’t until Thursday’s reception that I was able to see the exhibit, The Faces of San Francisco, a retrospective of Elaine’s portraiture from the past thirty years. It proved to be stunning. And as I strolled past the images with other invited guests, there was a buzz circulating around the lofty and luxurious rooms that Elaine’s collection was looking like a hand-in-glove fit for the Old Mint itself. Following the tour, we would hear from Jim Lazarus (President of the San Francisco Historical Society) and noted clothier Wilkes Bashford that efforts were underway to secure Elaine’s portraits into the permanent archives of the Old Mint. All it requires is funding. The word is officially out – they are looking to be touched by an Angel. Do you know any?

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GABRIEL NARDI. Graphite, watercolor, pastel. 1984
IRINA R. BELOTELKIN. Watercolor, pastel. 1984

During our interview, Elaine and I chattered like old friends. Elaine is 85 and seems to have energy to spare. I wanted to know what keeps her going.

Elaine: My Brother, Max Kozloff, says, “Elaine, there are two parts of you – the light and the shadow.” He said, “I prefer the shadow.” So, the folks are my light. But each one of them is done in a very different way. Because I never know until somebody walks through the door how I am going to portray them. I think it’s the spontaneity I’m able to get. Plus – and everybody knows this – we talk while I’m working on them. Often times, intently. I think I’m able to grasp a more human element of the person by being able to do that.

Sean: That is a gift.

Elaine: It is a gift. Most painters want that person to be absolutely still. But, to me, that’s not the way to do it.

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MONROE GREENE. Gonache, ink. 2009
ANNA DONNELLY. Mixed media. 2008

Sean: You have a fascinating group of San Franciscans in this collection. How did all this happen?

Elaine: It couldn’t have been more fortunate. I had just returned from France. I lived in a tiny village for three years. I couldn’t speak the language and I was desperately lonely. So, I designed a way to meet the people by having an exhibition of them. I did 65 people of the village, none of them had ever experienced being drawn. It was a stunning experience for me. When I came back, I showed the work here. I was asked, “Why don’t you do the people of San Francisco?” So, because I’d had this experience, I could embark on this. I transported myself into another world. At the onset, Caroline Drewes – who was a brilliant writer at the Examiner for years – had a friend, very much of a society person, Patty Costello. She did wonderful things for people. Patty saw my work and decided she wanted to be my angel. Along with Florette Pomeroy, they were the ones who taught me how to find people. They sponsored this whole exhibition of 100 people of San Francisco for me. This was in 1985. I knew I had to get a balance of folks – like the shoe man, Monroe, right up the street. These women had much more experience and expertise in meeting the politicians and the socialites.

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CAROLINE DREWES. Graphite. 1981
PATTY COSTELLO. Watercolor, pastel. 1983

Elaine: They had determined that we should call the exhibition, 100 People of San Francisco. They were able to get people to come and sit for me. It was really quite a miracle and it kept me very busy. I had also started a school at the same time. I’ve been on my own as working artist since 1973. Through one miracle after another, I’ve been able to do this.

Sean: Who did you start with for this big event?

Elaine: Charles McCabe. I was so green, I was shaking. I knew what I had to do – and did it in a very strong way. Pretty soon I was doing Cecil Williams. Then he told Willie Brown, who was not yet mayor, that he had to come and sit for me. He came in a very docile fashion and sat for me. I did Dianne Feinstein right after Mayor Moscone had been shot. She gave me fifteen minutes of her time. I was really in the thick of it, worked very hard for the next five years and got my one hundred people. It was shown at the old California Historical Society on Jackson Street. It was a monumental occasion – big parties, limousines, lots of coverage. Patty had to then stop helping me because of her energy and money. So, there was never a first catalogue. The people from that show carried on over into the next series that I did, which was shown at City Hall in 2001 right after 9/11. My spirit was gone out of me, just like with everyone else. I didn’t see how there could even be an exhibition. But this catalogue came out at that time. My friend, Grants for the Arts Director Kari Schulman, got some money for me – and that was a miracle. The show was there for two months. Then I had a very large exhibition at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts – of my shopping carts. They were made into covered wagons and were circled on the terrace. I did portraits of the men who pushed the carts, twenty five of them, and wrote their stories on the seats.

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CHARLES FRACCHIA. Pastel, watercolor. 2006
CECILIA CHIANG. Colored pencil, watercolor. 2011

Elaine: In 2009, I met Charles Fracchia – the man who kept the Mint together for about ten years when it was just a fragile entity. I was given a show that lasted about two months. Carl Nolte from the Chronicle wrote a wonderful article about it and people poured in everyday. The next miracle was funding for the new edition of my catalog which included new people – like ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan and Helgi Tomasson. He came over twice to pose for me.

Sean: Any faces from City Hall?

Elaine: I have included seven mayors.

Sean: So, Mr. Newsom sat for you as well?

Elaine: Well, he sort of sat. He walked around and talked. But I did glean something. It’s a beautiful portrait, with the inside of City Hall. I have George Christopher, Dianne Feinstein, Frank Jordan, Art Agnos, Willie Brown, and Ed Lee.

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WILLIE BROWN. Graphite, charcoal, watercolor. 1984
DIANNE FEINSTEIN. Oil on canvas. 1983

Sean: Do you have a favorite anecdote about one of them in particular? During your initial exchange and then the actual creation of the portrait, what influenced the end result?

Elaine: Willie Brown was not yet mayor. He came to my studio, by himself, without an entourage, and hardly said a thing. I loved doing him. It was interesting because the next time I saw him, he was the MC at a big event at City Hall. He said, “Yes, she did me and I should have stayed longer because I would’ve had the other side of me painted as well.” For Willie’s portrait, I wanted to get the grandeur of his presence and have the image be as long as possible. He wasn’t the frolicking person that he is now. So, the shock of “Early Willie” and “Willie the Mayor” was amusing to me.

Sean: Who else stands out in your memory?

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CHARLOTTE MAILLIARD SHULTZ.
Elaine Badgley Arnoux, The People of San Francisco, Lives of Accomplishment.
Photo, S.M.

Elaine: Let’s look at Charlotte Schulz. I love what she does for the City. The picture is a double image. The first, the background, was done in 1983. I did two of her. I went to her house and did a drawing. Then she came out in this Grecian dress. I drew a kind-of silhouette and then did her younger face from the previous time. Charlotte didn’t really like the first one because she thought the Grecian dress made her look too fat. She was as skinny as a rail. So, for the exhibition at City Hall, I said to myself – “I’ll do another Charlotte. I’ll put the present Charlotte on top of the other Charlotte.” Well, obviously, she didn’t like that either. She’s always gracious and she comes to each event. A portrait is seldom liked by the sitter – unless they commission you. Then you work with the person and it’s not just me being myself. I’m not a crazy artist, I don’t have to have my way. But I’m going to stand for the principle of what I do. With her and especially with other women, they want to be seen as how they are seen now. But I say, “Fifty years from now or a hundred years from now, people will be looking at this and thinking about you and what you did.” So, that is what happens with portraiture in your own time. I know this. It’s a gift. I can draw you sitting there and you would come alive. The only thing I take credit for in doing all these people is honing my craft. I did my first portrait at 13. It looked just like that little boy and I’ve been carrying on until — here I am.

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EDWIN M. LEE. Watercolor, pastel. 2011
WILKES BASHFORD. Graphite. 1985

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CECIL WILLIAMS. Watercolor, chalk. 1984
ROSA AGUILAR VISALLI. Mixed media. 2009

Sean: If you were to do another series, who would be first on the list?

Elaine: I will not do anymore of the City. I know that. I have to be able to breathe. That is, I have to be able to do a painting, a drawing, or a sculpture with time – time on my side. I know that I’m going to be doing Alice Waters after she comes back from China with Cecilia Chang.

Sean: So, it’s not over.

Elaine: No! But it’s going to be different. I still have the facility at 85 to draw a line as I could when I was a young woman. But that can’t go on forever! And I’m realistic. I would like to abstract my subjects a little bit more.

Sean: Well, the impetus of that will certainly keep you alive.

Elaine: Oh, yes! It’s like poetry, you know? But the pressure of knowing I have to create the likeness is something I really don’t want to have to deal with that much anymore. I don’t want to pinned down to as much reality as I have been.

Sean: You have to be open to what is coming. Here’s this new voice that’s coming to you – for however long it lasts – and already you can conceive of what it is that you want to do and the people who will be your subjects. They will benefit from you.

Elaine: I can keep painting until I die.

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BARBARA BOXER. Gouache, watercolor. 2001
LAWRENCE HALPRIN. Watercolor. 2006

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On Scene Bill Wilson Presidential Aids Politics

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

When the disease that would become known as Aids was first noted in a CDC report in June 0f 1981, few could have predicted the dramatic impact the disease would have on a generation of political activism. The idea that a group of people would fight being labeled “victims” and would demand new ways of accessing experimental drugs was new to the political scene.

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A Keith Haring designed ACTUP Poster from collection of Bill Wilson

Meeting in Denver in 1983 at the Second National Aids Forum, a group of people with Aids wrote what would be known as the Denver Principles. They proclaimed “We condemn attempts to label us as “victims,” a term which implies defeat, and we are only occasionally “patients,” a term which implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are “People With AIDS.”

I still inwardly cringe a bit every time I hear Ronald Reagan referred to as the great communicator. It took him far to long to use the word Aids in public. I attended the AmFAR dinner on May 31, 1987, which was one of the first times he had spoken on Aids.

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President and Mrs Reagan with Elizabeth Taylor checking the script at the May 31, 1987 AmFAR dinner. Photo: Reagan Library

This is the joke that he started with, “A man had just been elected chairman of his community’s annual charity drive. And he went over all the records, and he noticed something about one individual in town, a very wealthy man. And so, he paid a call on him, introduced himself as to what he was doing, and he said, ‘Our records show that you have never contributed anything to our charity.’

And the man said, ‘Well, do your records show that I also have a brother who, as the result of a disabling accident, is permanently disabled and cannot provide for himself? Do your records show that I have an invalid mother and a widowed sister with several small children and no father to support them?’

And the chairman, a little abashed and embarrassed, said, ‘Well, no, our records don’t show that.’

The man said, ‘Well, I don’t give anything to them. Why should I give something to you?’”

Perhaps the callousness of that joke was exactly what he meant to say. The day after the speech activists were arrested in front of the White House. Among them was Larry Kramer one of the founders of Aids Coalition To Unleash Power (ACT UP).

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Larry Kramer (in blue shirt left side) is arrested in front of the White House. Photo by Bill Wilson

Hope is a funny thing because sometimes it remains when there is no shred of reason for it. I really thought that the problem was one of education. If people only knew how urgent the crisis was they would do something. I underestimated the cultural warriors like Patrick Buchanan and Gary Bauer, who were ready to make me the issue. They had full reign under Reagan. To understand you only have to read the Aids chapter in C. Everett Koop’s book, KOOP:The Memoirs of America’s Family Doctor. Explaining how he hoped President Reagan might speak out against Aids as part of the Just Say No campaign against drug use, Dr Koop writes, “The “Just Say No” program was launched with much fanfare, but not a word about AIDS. One of my White House contacts told me after that Reagan had come to the staff meeting the next morning sold on my idea, but his advisors were simply not interested in the President’s doing anything about AIDS. All they cared about were the political gains they could make from having Reagan act against drugs. Aids was a grim and controversial subject, so they were not going to allow the President to get involved in it.”

Things didn’t really get any better under the first Bush presidency. When President Bush complained that ACT-UP seemed to have an “excess” of free speech I made a poster that stated, “I don’t have an excess of free speech, it’s just I speak for so many who can no longer speak for themselves.”

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A protest sign states the statistics. Photo by Bill Wilson

President and Mrs. Bush did make a visit to Aids patients at the National Institutes of Health, but the visit got no press because there was no public notice before the visit happened. Mrs. Bush also helped the Whitman-Walker Clinic dedicate the Bill Austin Day Treatment and Care Center in 1991.

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Whitman-Walker Clinic President Jim Graham welcomes First Lady Barbara Bush to the dedication of the Bill Austin Day Treatment and Care Center. Photo by Bill Wilson

While campaigning for the Presidency Bill Clinton told a predominately gay fundraiser in Los Angeles, “I have a vision for America and you are part of it.” Finally I thought there was someone who was listening. I was among the people who marched in the 1993 Presidential inauguration parade while carrying panels from the NAMES Project Aids Memorial Quilt.

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The NAMES Project Aids Memorial Quilt contingent reaches the reviewing stand during the 1993 inauguration of Bill Clinton. Collection of Bill Wilson

However with the imposition of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” we quickly learned that our freedom was subject to compromise. President and Mrs. Clinton did become the first incumbent President to visit a display of the NAMES Project Quilt when it was unfolded on the Mall in 1996.

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First Lady Hillary Clinton, NAMES Project founder, Cleve Jones and President Clinton October 11, 1996.

Under the second Bush administration the focus on Aids took on a more international view with the Presidents Emergency Plan For Aids Relief (PEPFAR), a commitment of $15 billion over five years (2003–2008) from United States President George W. Bush to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic. The program initially aimed to provide antiretroviral treatment (ART) to 2 million HIV-infected people in resource-limited settings, to prevent 7 million new infections, and to support care for 10 million people (the “2–7–10 goals”) by 2010. PEPFAR increased the number of Africans receiving ART from 50,000 at the start of the initiative in 2004 to at least 1.2 million in early 2008.

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President George W. Bush signs H.R. 1298, the United States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003, at the State Department in Washington, D.C., Tuesday, May 27, 2003. White House Photo by Eric Draper

Under President Obama the Office of National Aids Policy convened a series of regional discussions on a strategy for Aids prevention and care to come up with a national strategy for combating Aids and caring for those who have it.

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President Obama discusses Aids policy with Jeff Crowley, Director of National office on Aids Policy. White House Photo

So from the beginning thirty years ago, when we fought to get attention to a disease no one wanted to mention and were alone in that fight, we’ve come to a point where Aids to perceived as a manageable disease. There is a whole new generation that needs to learn and understand what it was like.

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

bill-wilson-1-175
BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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CAREY PERLOFF – A.C.T.’s Artistic Director receives prestigious award

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.) is excited to announce that Artistic Director Carey Perloff has won this year’s Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation Theatre Visions Fund Award for the upcoming world premiere of her play Higher. The award of $50,000, one of the largest awards for playwriting in the country, includes $25,000 to support next February’s world premiere production, $10,000 for the playwright, and $15,000 for A.C.T. to commission two new plays over the next year. Perloff said: “It’s an incredible honor to have Higher chosen from among many wonderful plays for the Theatre Visions Award. This generous grant not only helps support this world premiere, but also provides funds for future commissions at A.C.T. So it is really the gift that keeps on giving, and I am extremely grateful to the Laurie Foundation for its support.”

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CAREY PERLOFF. Photo, Kevin Berne

Higher is the fourth full-length play written by Perloff, who is best known as a director and champion of other playwrights, including Tom Stoppard, Harold Pinter, José Rivera, and Philip Kan Gotanda. She has been developing Higher with A.C.T. Associate Artistic Director Mark Rucker for two years, beginning with a workshop at New York Stage and Film, followed by workshops at the Asolo Repertory Theatre in Florida and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco last fall. The play premieres as part of A.C.T.’s 2011–12 season in February under Rucker’s direction.

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MARK RUCKER. Photo, Kevin Berne

Entwined in a passionate love affair, two American architects find themselves locked in a high-stakes competition to design a memorial in Israel. As they roam from the sleek rooms of plush New York apartments to the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the two architects are stretched to the limits of their creativity—and sanity. Memory, desire, and design fuel this thrilling new work, featuring A.C.T. core acting company member René Augesen alongside two A.C.T. Master of Fine Arts Program students. Higher receives its world premiere February 1–19, 2012, at the The Theater at Children’s Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum Theater, 221 Fourth Street, San Francisco).
Click here to order tickets on-line: HIGHER

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“THE ARTIST” – Silents, please! – A masterpiece in B&W, starring Jean Dujardin

sean-martinfield-18-august-2011
Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

It’s 1927 – popular silent film romantic leading man George Valentin is attending the world premiere of his new film, “A Russian Affair”. That’s him, right there at curbside, checking out the latest in shiny Packard convertibles, and cavorting for the fans. The marquee of the La Reina Theatre shimmers with his name in bold letters, while that of his leading lady, “Constance Gray” – presumably the “Russian” on the soon-to-be receiving end of Mr. Valentin’s irresistible charms – gets a smaller-sized mention, down over there in the corner somewhere. Nobody notices. Because it’s all about the dashing Mr. George Valentin. It’s all been All About George for quite some time now. His smile, his swashbuckling charm, the perfect hair, his very in-vogue pencil-thin moustache, his golf game, the great car – complete with an aristocratic chauffeur! George Valentin has got “IT”. And like Douglas Fairbanks, the guy just can’t stop dancing and clowning around – especially when the reporters are trying to capture a few quotes. About anything! But, no matter – let him do his thing – he’s just so damn charming.

the-artist
THE ARTIST

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JEAN DUJARDIN (“George”) and BÉRÉNICE BEJO (“Peppy”)

In fact, right now, right in front of the theatre, George has stolen the heart of another pretty young thing. Peppy Miller. One of those “flappers” – with the bobbed hair, cloche hat, beauty mark, short skirts, rouged knees, the works. All she wanted was to catch a glimpse of him, maybe get an autograph, or something. A screen test? Whatever, to everybody else one quick step away from the red carpet, it sure looked like love at first sight. That George! What a guy.

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JOHN GOODMAN (“Al Zimmer”)

As for the execs at Kinograph Studios – they’re inhaling that oh-so-familiar sweet smell of success frOM their No. 1 Box Office Draw. George Valentin. Hero to men, fantasy lover to women everywhere. That is, until the Execs get word from New York about the jolting success of their rivals’ (the Warner Brothers) new film – a “Talkie” – starring Al Jolson, “The Jazz Singer”. A film with sound? They said it wouldn’t catch on! But there’s Jolson – all talking, all dancing, all singing – like you’ve never heard anyone sing before. What other reels do the Warners have ready to roll? George Valentin and his supposed to be intriguing mummer “Russian Affair” are suddenly yesterday’s sour borscht.

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JEAN DUJARDIN (“George Valentin”)

THE ARTIST, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius, is a masterpiece. The hallmarks and tropes from the great era of Silent Screen have been gloriously resuscitated into a captivating comedy drama guaranteed to melt the heart. The film requires no explanations, no footnotes, no apologies. The original score follows time-honored musical traditions of Silent Film – always unfolding the psychological underpinnings, coloring the physical antics and perilous plights, and bathing in love those long lingering close-ups.

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JAMES CROMWELL (“Clifton”) – BÉRÉNICE BEJO (“Peppy”)

The Artist looks and feels like Oscar nominations all around. Jean Dujardin has already taken the Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Actor. Supporting nominations may be a toss-up between James Cromwell as “Clifton”, George’s totally loyal chauffeur, and John Goodman as studio executive, “Al Zimmer”. Watch for a true and sparkling cameo appearance by Malcolm McDowell as “The Butler”.

jean-dujardin-_george-valentin_-and-missi-pyle-_constance-gray_
JEAN DUJARDIN (“George Valentin”) and MISSI PYLE (“Constance Gray”)

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On Scene With Bill Wilson Conquering Fear: My Response to Aids

By Bill Wilson
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson © 2011

I know the exact moment when confronted with the fear of contracting Aids I decided that I would not let that fear deter me from doing what was right. The occasion was a memorial service for James McCann at Metropolitan Community Church of the District of Columbia. I ended up by chance sitting next to Randy Brown who was sitting next to Jack Mitchell. Both were members of a support group that Jim McCann had also attended at the Whitman-Walker Clinic. I couldn’t imagine how difficult it must have been for them to attend a memorial service for someone who had the same illness they did. I had brought a handkerchief with me because I knew I was going to need one, I always cry. At one point near the beginning of the service I noticed out of the corner of my eye that there were tears just streaming down Randy’s face. My impulse was to reach into my pocket to get my handkerchief to give to Randy. As I started to pull it out of my pocket I paused as I realized tears were bodily fluids and you could get Aids from bodily fluids, but did they mean tears? Almost as quickly as that thought came, I realized that I couldn’t refuse to respond to someone in need because of my fear of Aids. So I handed Randy my handkerchief and he used it to wipe away his tears before handing it back to me. The irony was about two weeks later there was a front page story in The Washington Post that was headlined “Aids Virus Isolated in Tears.” By then it was too late to worry about it and I took on a more fatalistic approach. The damage of not being able to help someone in need was in my mind was greater than the risk of contracting Aids. I had made a conscious decision not to let fear be my dominate response to Aids.

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My friend Randy Brown.

I know that others made a different decision even those within the health care profession. It resulted in the way I was treated by one phlebotomist at National Institutes of Health (NIH). I was part of a vaccine study and because they wanted to be sure I was HIV negative I had to have my blood tested once a week for about a month before getting the vaccine and then once every other week for several months more to see if the vaccine had produced the hoped for reaction.. I had become very familiar with the phlebotomy department on the first floor. On this particular day when my number was called the phlebotomist indicated I should sit next to this person she had been talking to. All the time she was sticking me and filling the necessary vials with my blood she continued her conservation with him. I was more upset by what she was saying than by the fact she was totally ignoring me. She told him that she didn’t like the rubber gloves they used in this department so she went and “stole” (her word not mine) gloves from the third floor operating room because they didn’t irritate her hands as much. After she was finished she gave me a piece of gauze to press against the wound on my arm where she had inserted the needle to draw the blood. After a few minutes she put a bandage on my arm and told me that I could go. When I lifted my arm to get my coat from the coat rack I noticed that the bandage was red from my blood. I turned back to her and said, “I’m still bleeding, I think you need to do something.” She stood there for what seemed an eternity but in reality was probably about 10 seconds. I realized, remembering what she had been telling the person seated next to me, that she had already taken her gloves off and she didn’t want to touch anything with my blood on it. I could have been there for any reason as far as she knew.

So I said, “I’ll do it, just tell me what to do to make the bleeding stop.” She handed me another piece of gauze and then bought a discard bucket over for me to put the bloody bandage in. I sat and applied pressure to my arm. This time I waited long enough to make sure it had clotted enough before I left. It made me mad that she has just stood there doing nothing while I was bleeding.

As I waited for my turn on the next visit two weeks later I hoped that I would not get the same person. But of course even though there were six or more people working I could have gotten, I got the same person. As she indicated where she wanted me to sit I said to her, “You probably don’t remember me but the last time I was here you were so busy talking to the person next to me that you sent me away before I had stopped bleeding.” She said, “I can’t be everyone’s best friend. They don’t give us time for that.” I shot back, “I don’t want you to be my best friend, I just want you to do your job.”

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Author kneeling next to panel he made for John Paul Warren

You would think that people in the medical profession might be immune to fear, but you would be wrong. When my friend John Warren was in the hospital to get his medication increased, his doctor suggested that he might use the exercise bike in the physical therapy room. The first time he went there he was told that he needed a doctor’s prescription to use the physical therapy room, so his doctor wrote a prescription. Then he was told that they didn’t have enough therapists to watch wile he was using the exercise bike. Then they told him that they didn’t want him to use the therapy room because his CMV was contagious. The doctor explained that 90% of the people have CMV in their blood, so there was no way people where going to get it from John being in the room. He suggested that the next time they denied John the use of the exercise bike that John just ask that the reason and the names of the people denying him be put in writing for his lawyer. The next day he made that request and within twenty minutes the head of the physical therapy department was in his room explaining that they never had a person well enough to use the equipment unsupervised. I asked John if he thought that was true. He said it didn’t matter because he was getting to use the equipment. He did use the equipment and it really made a difference in his strength.

I don’t write this with any sort of superiority. I was familiar with the damage fear can do because for so long it was what kept me in the closet. The only thing I “chose” about my sexual orientation was to not live in fear. It was all happening at the same time because I didn’t come out to my parents until 1983.

See Related On Scene with Bill Wilson Archive

bill-wilson-1-175
BILL WILSON
Sentinel Photojournalist
Bill Wilson is a San Francisco-based veteran photojournalist. Bill embraced photojournalism at the age of eight. In recent years, his photos capture historic record of the San Francisco LGBT community in the Bay Area Reporter (BAR), The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The San Francisco Examiner, SFist, SFAppeal. Bill has contributed to the Sentinel for the past seven years. Email Bill Wilson at wfwilson@sbcglobal.net.

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