Sights and Sounds of San Francisco

If you were visiting me last month in San Francisco, I would have snatched tickets to an opera or symphony performance for us. As a city of nearly 900,000+/- techies, San Francico is graced with the highest quality music that can be managed by a small but loyal and enthusiastic following.

Many of the household names in opera today were trained in the local Merola or Adler Fellowship Programs here, including New York Metopera regulars Joyce diDonato, Susan Graham, Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Deborah Voigt, and Delora Zajick; also Thomas Hampton, Brian Jagde, Quinn Kelsey, Ryan MacPherson, Lucas Meachem, Stuart Skelton, and the list goes on. Attending the concerts with current artists in training is an excellent way to familiarize oneself with fresh new talent.

 One of this year’s Adler Program presentations, the residency version of the Merola,  featured mezzo Ashley Dixon, soprano Patricia Westley, baritone Chris Purcell, and tenor  Zhengyi Bai. It’s great to see more Asians pursuing careers in opera. China and Korea seem to be particularly strong in gaining international recognition. I always look out for these talents and enjoy hearing their voices. Similarly, young composers and musicians from diverse backgrounds are flocking to the fields of music and opera in greater numbers, so neither opera nor classical music training are by any means static and uninspiring.

You can also catch superstars like Pianist Yuja Wang or Violinist Ray Chen performing annually at the SF Symphony, and a host of many other star performers. French Pianist Helene Grimaud was here for an afternoon performance at the San Francisco Symphony.  Tickets are relatively inexpensive and all seats have excellent acoustical sound quality at Davies Symphony Hall. International stars often sold out months in advance for higher prices in savvy European cities can be reasonably procured here.  I snagged a rock-bottom ticket priced at only $17 for Helene Grimaud at an afternoon performance.

For local charm, you can enjoy Chinese music performed by local high school and elementary school students once a year. Led by Sherlyn Chew, Chinese opera instructor at Laney College, she directed a score of Bay Area public school students in a joint end-of-the year performance of Chinese music for friends and family.

 In solidarity with the Notre Dame Cathedral, the San Francisco Symphony and local opera star Federica van Stade performed at Grace Cathedral.  As sister city to Paris, San Francisco and its French Community turned out to express its sympathy for the fire, as well as object to the attacks in Pittsburgh, PA and in the San Diego area.

The small but informative early Rubens exhibition at the San Francisco Legion of Honor gave me and my fellow German language partner an opportunity to discuss and discover the wonders of the Belgian artist together auf Deutsch. We challenged ourselves with the artist’s life and work while practicing our German vocabulary.

 

The annual Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) Festival held in May this year to coincide with the Asian Pacific Islander Month in San Francisco featured “Chinatown Rising”, a documentary by a Chinatown Presbyterian minister. He worked with his son to produce a film that showed the development of the Chinese community in the late 60’s and early 70’s. With his help and many local activists, Chinatown learned how to speak out about its housing crisis and poverty in Chinatown.

The second major film showing, was the now classic “Joy Luck Club”. After 25 years, the actors gathered together to celebrate their involvement in Amy Tan’s story about four women growing up in San Francisco and their mothers from China. Lisa Lu, now 90, was one of the featured actresses and a diva from traditional Chinese opera. She also played the grandmother in “Crazy Rich Asians”.

 

And a plug for Mister Jiu’s: an exquisitely prepared succulent pink trout stashed inside lotus leaves and baked in salt. The dish was perfectly paired with sides of parsleyed vinegar and trout roe. We satiated the rest of our greedy appetites with wild mushroom bao, first of the season apricot salad, crispy deep-fried shrimp, and stir-fried asparagus with black olives and smoked tofu for a leisurely two-hour meal. It was a monumental undertaking for two of us! We gladly indulged our brains and our stomaches bite by bite to the scrumptious end.

Don’t miss my upcoming, real-time travels to Germany, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Portugal and Austria in two weeks!

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