Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Barbary Coast and Beyond

San Francisco's fervent fetishization of the city's historical past, which is barely more than 150 years old, has always seemed strange. Maybe it is in reaction to the ahistorical attitude of the rest of California and the Western United States, which are mostly a collection of suburbs, freeways and shopping centers.

As part of the San Francisco Symphony's centenary year, the organization presented a concert this weekend called Barbary Coast and Beyond: Music from the Gold Rush to the Panama-Pacific Exposition, which turned out to be a mixture of musical concert, historical lecture, and slide show in an attempt to evoke another time.

The show was well written by J.D. McClatchy, well staged by James Robinson, and well narrated by Beach Blanket Babylon diva Val Diamond. Guest artists included Vadim Gluzman playing Wieniawski, Bull and Kreisler along with soprano Laura Claycomb above singing a Delibes' ditty, Les Filles de Cadix, an aria from Bellini's La Sonnambula, and Caro nome from Rigoletto. Though she didn't sound as perfect as last time I heard her at the San Francisco Opera singing Zerbinetta in Ariadne auf Naxos, she was still great to see.

Pianist Anton Nel above played Gottschalk, while Caroline McCaskey below played Offenbach on the musical saw.

From the evidence, Old San Francisco was a place with more money than sense, which would go bonkers for any world famous virtuoso or infamous female stage performer. Las Vegas would probably be the most contemporary equivalent. The evening made me realize that I had absolutely no nostalgic longing for that time over the present. Even though there are way too many people here now, we also have penicillin and better music.

1 comment:

Nancy Ewart said...

Amen to the idea that there is no time like the present - penicillin, antibiotics, cleaner water...you name it. There's a line in the recent Woody Allen movie about dentists without anesthesia. Still, I wouldn't mind being a time traveler as long as I was immune to all the bugs and could get out quickly if need be.