by Roberto Friedman
A special press event last week supplied details of the San Francisco Symphony's 2014-15 Season, which celebrates the 20th anniversary of the artistic partnership between Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the Symphony he leads. Out There was in the house in Zellerbach Rehearsal Hall as maestro MTT, SFS cellist Margaret Tait representing the musicians, SFS President Sakurako Fisher, Executive Director Brent Assink, Director of Artistic Planning John Mangum, and composer Samuel Adams announced the orchestra's 2014-15 season of concerts and events commemorating 20 years of MTT & the SFS.
There are a lot of intriguing offerings coming up next season, including a multimedia Missa Solemnis and a concert staging of Fidelio with opera luminaries Nina Stemme and Brandon Jovanovich, both part of a promising Beethoven Festival; a new version of John Cage's Renga; and a performance of Liszt's seldom-staged powerhouse Hexameron for Six Pianos and Orchestra. The season calendar also promises gems by contemporary American composers including John Adams, his son Sam Adams, no relation John Luther Adams, and wunderkind Mason Bates. The popular SFS film series continues, bringing The Wizard of Oz and The Godfather, accompanied by orchestra, to Davies Hall.
But the masterpieces of the classical repertoire are still the bread-and-butter of SFS programming, and rightly so. MTT likened these master symphonies to America's national parks, which are a joy to return to no matter how many times you visit them. "We know the map to the park (the score)," we're paraphrasing MTT here, "but being on the trail is very different from looking at the map. It's a different experience every time."
The Symphony pulled out all the stops for this season announcement, even putting its prized trophies on display, in a case of Grammys and Emmys. The institution is feeling especially celebratory, as MTT's 70th birthday also comes up next season, a milestone that will be honored with a January gala. Drapes hung in the rehearsal hall glowed a resplendent, royal blue, MTT's favorite color. Study the hue of his shirt in the press photo, and show up in the color on your next visit to the symphony hall for brownie points.
The art exhibition Public Intimacy – Art and Other Ordinary Acts in South Africa, a co-presentation of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (YBCA) and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) at YBCA through June 29, presents the work of 25 artists and artist collectives who will change your preconceived notions of that nation. Many of the subjects of these photographs and artworks are ordinary people in ordinary circumstances, and they include a fair representation of gay people. Case in point: Sabelo Mlangeni's photograph of two gay men in intimate posture relaxing in a public park. It immediately went to the top of OT's list of favorite contemporary portraiture.
There's lots more to see in this big group show, including work by apartheid-era photographers such as Ian Berry, Ernest Cole and David Goldblatt; issues of Chronic from the pan-African publishing collective Chimurenga; documentation of performance art by Athi-Patra Ruga; props and video from Handspring Puppet Company's Or You Could Kiss Me, about elderly male partners; and animation from William Kentridge, one of the master artists of our time. Set aside a good chunk of time to go through the show, as it's large and will reward close attention. More info at www.ybca.org.
The Wind Rises.
Photo: Courtesy Touchstone Pictures
One of the most profound art experiences of the year so far for OT has been a screening of Japanese animation master Hayao Miyazaki's latest movie, The Wind Rises, at Landmark's Embarcadero Center Cinema. It's based on the biography of the Japanese WWII-era aviation engineer Jiro Horikoshi, who designed what would become the Zero fighter plane. It seems odd to celebrate the design genius behind martial terror, but it's clear from Miyazaki's hagiographic creation that Horikoshi was interested in the beauty, the metaphysics, and the art of aviation design, not so much in its horrific application.
The film contains masterful depictions of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which razed Tokyo, and other historical events. But at its heart it's a romance and a romantic meditation on human flight. It takes its title from a poem by French poet Paul Valery: "The wind is rising./We must try to live." Landmark is offering screenings in both subtitled and dubbed versions; the latter, which we saw, includes voicings by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, John Krasinki, Emily Blunt, Stanley Tucci, Martin Short and Mandy Patinkin. The caliber of the names attached to it gives a clue to the prestige of the project, which Miyazaki claims will be his last. Not to be missed.