Season to taste:
opera, design, electronics
by Roberto Friedman
Banners announcing the new symphony and opera seasons hang all around Civic Center these days, and perhaps taking his cue from the Tosca banner, the gentleman walking behind us on Grove Street began a vigorous and note-perfect whistling rendition of a famous aria, "E lucevan la stelle," from that opera. Ahoy, the new culture season has definitely arrived!
If Out There had any doubts about that, they were dispelled last Friday night at San Francisco Opera's 90th season opening-night gala. For us, the festive affair began in early evening, at the Bravo! Club's swanky cocktail reception in the War Memorial Veterans Building. Heavy appetizers and light wine are so much better than a full honking meal when you're facing a long night of operatic splendor. The classical harpist tinkling away in the corner of the Bravo fest lent an ethereal touch. The champagne got us high.
From there we scooted over to the opera house for opening night of the master composer Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto. Popped into the press room to offer our fond regards to our hosts there (thanks, Jon, Julia, Gelane !), then got our traditional season-opener man-hug from doorman extraordinaire Bill Repp, who was wearing a crown royale broach gifted him by B.A.R. society columnist Donna Sachet, another elegant opening-night attendee. Then it was on to the actual opera, which you'll find brilliantly reviewed by B.A.R. music critic Philip Campbell on the facing page. No need for us to gas on about it, except to say: pashernate love, vengeance, a nobleman's curse, untimely death – it's sooo consummately Italian!
The evening wrapped up with lovely dessert and libations in the Green Room over in the Veterans Building, on a Beaux Arts balcony overlooking City Hall, discussing fine points of vocalizations with a man who brandished a fat cigar. We're proud to say we closed down the jernt. Out There takes our cultural celebrations seriously – serious fun, that is. We're off to the races!
Over in the design galleries at SFMOMA, the new exhibition Field Conditions offers nearly 30 works in various media by contemporary artists and practicing architects, including Tauba Auerbach, Daniel Libeskind, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Sol LeWitt , and Lebbeus Woods . Organized by assistant curator of architecture and design Joseph Becker, the show is up and running through Jan. 6 of next year. The Architecture + Design Forum invited Out There to its opening events last week. Here are the museum's descriptions of three works that captured our imagination, with our translations.
"Daniel Libeskind's Micromegas (1978), made early in the celebrated architect's career and now in the SFMOMA collection, is a conceptual cornerstone of the exhibition, with its early and radical stance to the language of architecture." They're architectural drawings that spill over into the realm of fantasy.
"In Sol LeWitt's Wall Drawing #45 (1970), a significant instance of art as plan or system rather than object, the size of the artwork is determined by the dimensions of the wall." Elaborately plotted pencil drawings, done directly on the wall.
"Tauba Auerbach's 50/50 Floor (2008) suggests a rectangle cut out of an infinite expanse. Covering the gallery floor with a grid randomly composed of 50% black and 50% white, the piece creates a walk-in field, one of a limitless number of possible configurations." Totally arbitrary crossword-puzzle grid.
After a presentation in the galleries, a reception upstairs on the Rooftop Pavilion offered us a chance to party and prance with architects, artists, and design professionals. Blue Bottle Coffee Co. presented a tableful of pastries modeled after the Auerbach black-and-white tile piece. We had a squid-ink cracker with white bean whip, we kid you not.
Up on the roof, the San Francisco Electronic Music Festival presented a live performance of John Cage's Score Without Parts (40 Drawings by Thoreau: Twelve Haiku) conducted by Gino Robair with texts by Tom Djll. The musicians – playing flute, drum, electric guitar, saxophone sans reed – surrounded us and squawked away. Now normally, when attending a live performance of any kind, OT is careful to turn off our cell phone – our beloved $10 flip-phone! – or leave it home altogether. But considering Cage's famous propensity for incorporating chance and ambient noise into his music, we thought it appropriate to keep our phone on. By chance, no-one rang in.
We were going to see the new Julie Delpy movie, but at the last minute saw we were just in time for the screening of Cosmopolis, the David Cronenberg adaptation of Don DeLillo 's 2003 novel. Though more a DeLillo fan than a Cronenberg one, OT ducked in.
If America has a poet laureate of the dystopian new world, DeLillo is it. Here, in ways that seem prescient of the 2008 financial collapse, the Occupy movement, and a general, free-floating anxiety/dread, DeLillo has captured millennial Manhattan, the very belly of the late capitalist beast. Writers like DeLillo who are so attuned to the tempo of the moment always seem prophetic. His novel White Noise's "airborne toxic event" told us more about the nature of environmental crisis than any documentary on Chernobyl.
Anyway, if you've ever had a hankering to watch Robert Pattinson get a prostrate exam naked in a limousine, this is the movie for you.
Meanwhile, our friend the Soap Geek watches the soap opera Days of Our Lives, like, every day of his life. Last week gay character Will (Chandler Massey) told his supportive Grandma Marlena (Deidre Hall) about a guy he "screwed up with."
Marlena to Will: "Can you hear how self-critical you are? You're behaving as if this man were as handsome as a male model and had the social consciousness of Harvey Milk. Now go tell him how much you care about him." A Harvey Milk mention on Days, a soap first.
Richard Dodds' interview with gay man of letters and actions Larry Kramer as The Normal Heart begins performances at ACT. Kramer's cri de coeur "1,112 and Counting," first published in The New York Native in 1983, then more widely in the gay press, was the original rallying cry to confront the AIDS epidemic. Sample line: "If this article doesn't scare the shit out of you, we're in real trouble. If this article doesn't rouse you to anger, fury, rage, and action, gay men may have no future on this earth. Our continued existence depends on just how angry you can get." Still resonates today.