Monday, August 31, 2015

Scott Greene's Beautiful Dystopia at Catharine Clark Gallery

The Catharine Clarke Gallery near Potrero Hill hosted a closing reception on Saturday afternoon for Scott Greene's show, Deep State.

The 57-year-old artist above was a local boy who studied at the SF Arts Institute and Oakland's California College of Arts and Crafts before moving with his artist wife to New Mexico a couple of decades ago.

The sheer quality of the classical style painting is breathtaking...

...while the dystopian subject matter of a world falling apart, object by object, is paradoxically disturbing.

Jesus and other classical figures occasionally appear as characters, and in one case it is Mitt Romney on horseback complete with Groucho Marx nose and moustache riding through the ruins.

If I had any money, I would have bought a painting immediately from Ms. Clarke above, who was hosting a roundtable discussion about "scale" in different mediums.

Outside the gallery on Utah between 15th and 16th street, the scene looked like a Richard Diebenkorn or Wayne Thiebaud painting with the addition of street people camping on the hilly, sun-drenched sidewalk.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

2015 Pakistan Independence Day Mela in Civic Center

San Francisco's Civic Center hosts various ethnic cultural celebrations over the course of the year, including the Pakistan Independence Day Mela (gathering) which was held last Sunday afternon.

The food is great...

...and there is usually a riot of color.

Booths are set up around the perimeter selling the "greatest rice in the world"...

...and beautiful clothing, while Pakistani pop music is played live onstage.

My favorite sight this year was a pair of tiny boys trying to hold a huge Pakistani flag upright in the Civic Center winds with varying success.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Mr. Robot Finale Postponed

If you sat down to watch the 10th episode and season finale of Mr. Robot on Wednesday being broadcast at 10PM on the USA Network, this was the message that greeted you. And if you have not been watching Mr. Robot, you should be. It is a brilliantly written and produced summer TV series about a computer hacker trying to bring down Evil Corp. Since the entire show is filtered through the unreliable, subjective viewpoint of a sensitive, mentally ill genius, everyone in the show actually refers to the worldwide conglomerate as Evil Corp, with its parody of Enron's logo as the ubiquitous banner.

It's the first piece of visual narrative that succesfully taps into the Edward Snowden/Chelsea Manning/Anonymous/Arab Spring Social Media moment we are living in presently with all its accompanying paranoia. The young Egyptian actor Rami Malek plays the hero, Elliott, so sensitively that even at his most insane all you want to do is give him a hug and a sandwich, as Tom & Lorenzo once stated. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The 2015 Merola Grand Finale

An annual ritual, the Merola Opera training program for young professionals completed its summer-long session with a concert on the San Francisco Opera stage of various arias and scenes with all the participants wearing fancy dress. This year's crop of singers were not as deep as some previous editions, but there were a few obvious standouts. (All photos in this post by Kristen Loken.)

Alex DeSocio as Starbuck and Michael Papincak as Captain Ahab performed a scene from Jake Heggie's Moby Dick, an opera that strikes me as Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd Lite, without any of the genius. Papincak was much more comfortable in the role and on the big stage than he had been earlier this summer at the Schwabacher Concert, and DeSocio reinforced the good impression he made in Don Pasquale.

It was during this scene that the stark set for this fall's upcoming Sweeney Todd was graced with a new prop, a birdcage with a white candle inside, as part of some obscure concept by director Ma Zhou, who overall did an efficient, fairly seamless job of putting together what is essentially an operatic variety show with one damned thing after another.

The birdcage started becoming ridiculous after a while as various singers started draping themselves around it during their scenas. Toni-Marie Palmertree got away with it, though, because she did a sensational job singing an obscure Verdi opera from Il Corsaro.

Earlier this summer, the New Zealand tenor Alasdair Kent played a mute in The Medium, small character roles in Gianni Schicchi and Don Pasquale, was mute again for a scene from La Sonnambula early in the Grand Finale, a character tenor in Barber of Seville later on, and finally got to sing an aria straight, so to speak, Horch! Die Lerche sing im Hain, from Nicolai's operetta version of The Merry Wives of Windsor. It's a pleasure to report that Alasdair actually has a very sweet tenor voice.

The two stars of the summer for me were mezzo-soprano Raehann Bryce-Davies and baritone Kuhun Yoon above, so it was thrilling to have them thrown together for a duet from Cavalleria Rusticana. I don't even like the opera but wanted the scene to go on forever.