Thursday, November 25, 2021

a show and a concert

Wednesday was my first attempt to spend an entire day out since before the pandemic. I went up to the city for a matinee of a touring show of My Fair Lady on the same day as an evening SF Symphony concert, and I had both lunch and dinner out. I was surrounded by a lot of people, but I had my N95 mask, and I was more concerned about how my aging stamina would take it. A lot of caffeine kept me from nodding off, but it didn't mean I didn't get groggy during the shows.

My first thought was to follow an old practice, park in an outlying BART station's commuter lot when the restriction expired at 10 AM, and take that in. But, having overestimated traffic, I got there at 9.30, and rather than wait around I decided to drive in and settle in a parking garage near both venues. This had plenty of spaces, and avoided my having a long walk back to the BART station after the concert. SFS used to have a shuttle bus that dealt with that, but not any more; and the late walk is a bit much for me now.

My Fair Lady was a touring version of the same production I saw in New York 2.5 years ago, and as I was sitting in the lobby before the doors opened, I struck up conversations with two random nearby people who had also both seen it in New York. It was a good production both times, but the venue had problems. A crackling tinny amplification made the performers feel detached from the audience, and this was worse for a musical. The performance also felt hasty and the emotional effects consequently not delved into. The one exception was Liza (Shereen Ahmed) standing there looking increasingly dismayed as Higgins (Laird Mackintosh) and Pickering (Kevin Pariseau) sing "You Did It" - probably the finest bit of acting in the show.

There was enough time afterwards for me to venture downtown to Tadich's for dinner for the first time since before the pandemic (one of the waitstaff remembered me!), where the pan-fried petrale sole with steamed broccoli made for one of the most delicious meals I've ever had. I kept an eye on my watch and noted that while dinner took only 40 minutes, it was 2 hours total to get down there and back again, useful information for planning if I do this again when I'm only up for an evening.

SFS was much more packed than any of the previous concerts this season, but that may be because the offering was Beethoven's Ninth. Daniel Stewart, normally conductor of the youth orchestra (he's also music director in Santa Cruz, where I've seen him before), led an unaffected, even unshaded performance with enough vigor and dedication to make it shine. This was, as Stewart pointed out to the audience, the first choral concert at SFS since the pandemic. The singers (soloists as well as chorus were in the balcony, as is often done) were spaced out. The chorus but not the soloists wore masks coming in, but took them off to sing.

The Ninth was preceded by a 15-minute piece by Anna Clyne and then an intermission which lasted longer than her music did. Though titled Sound and Fury, it largely eschewed brass or percussion (2 horns, 2 trumpets, and a xylophone, that's it) and consequently sounded very light by Clyne's standards. Very restless and scurrying music, not much sonic resonance, but enough weight to not seem ridiculous before the Ninth.

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