An opera star in the neighborhood

Tenor David Cangelosi, a guest artist with SF Opera, on Sacramento Street.

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

International opera singer David Cangelosi has been subletting an apartment in the neighborhood since April, when he began rehearsals with San Francisco Opera for Richard Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle: four operas over three evenings and one afternoon each week for three weeks. Cangelosi, a tenor, sings in the first opera, Das Rheingold, which opens on June 12, and the third, Siegfried, opening on June 15, and will perform on the two following Tuesday and Friday nights.

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Sheba’s keeping jazz alive

Sisters Israel and Netsanet Alemayehu own Sheba Piano Lounge.

By ANTHONY TORRES

Years ago, when I first came to San Francisco, a friend took me to see live jazz at Rasselas, located at that time on the corner of Divisadero and California. That night, Robert Stewart played some incredibly hard R&B-inflected jazz that was incendiary.

In 1999, Rasselas moved to 1534 Fillmore Street, creating a new music venue out of an old fish market, with a second bar, stage and dance floor in a very large back room.

That was eight years before the massive Yoshi’s complex opened two blocks south on Fillmore to great fanfare. While Yoshi’s for a few years attracted the biggest and best nationally and internationally renowned players, Rasselas stayed true to its mission of showcasing some of the best R&B, soul and jazz musicians the Bay Area had to offer — and that was, and is, a lot.

Adding to the mix was the intimate and elegant Sheba Piano Lounge, which opened at 1419 Fillmore Street in 2006.

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The dancer is a designer

Photograph of Susan Roemer and her costumes by Leslie Irwin for Smuin Ballet

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Susan Roemer’s second act began before she completed act one. A dancer for nine years with Smuin Ballet, she started designing and sewing costumes for dancers, collaborating with choreographers within and outside the group, even before she retired from the company in 2016.

This month her work is on view in two world premiere ballets: Val Caniparoli’s “If I Were a Sushi Roll,” in Smuin’s season finale program at the Yerba Buena Center from April 20 to 29; and David Dawson’s “Anima Animus,” in S.F. Ballet’s Unbound B program at the War Memorial Opera House from April 21 to May 4.

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Icon of the ‘Mo

Frank Jackson played and sang in the Fillmore for seven decades.

ONE OF THE enduring musical careers of Fillmore’s jazz era ended on February 5 when pianist and vocalist Frank Jackson died at age 92 of complications of the flu.

He was playing almost until the very end. His last gig was on January 25 at Pier 23, with Al Obidinski on bass and Vince Lateano on drums. Jackson started sneezing on the way home, and within a few days had a cold that kept getting worse. On February 4, he was admitted to the V.A. Hospital in Palo Alto and diagnosed with the flu. He died the next day.

“He was so full of life, wonderful memories and compassion for all,” said his wife and No. 1 fan Kathy Jackson in announcing his death. “His talent and repertoire were unparalleled.”

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‘Don’t you think I owe her?’

Photograph of Nancy and David Conte at the Carlisle by Frank Wing

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

“MOM!” the pianist says with some concern as he launches into their favorite song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and a photographer begins to click away. “You can’t cry on camera.”

Though not usually with a photographer in tow, composer David Conte often drops by the Carlisle, the retirement community at 1450 Post, to visit his mother, Carlisle resident Nancy Conte. He often plays her favorite classics or show tunes before or after he goes to work at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he is a professor of composition and head of the composition department. Other Carlisle residents are treated to regular impromptu mini-concerts.

Performing and composing are nothing new for David Conte. At 7, he and a friend wrote songs and gave concerts in their suburban Cleveland neighborhood. Music education in the public schools was at its zenith, and his father played the trumpet. By 8, he had started piano lessons, and by the time he reached 13, he knew music would be his life. At 19, he moved to Paris for three years, where he became one of the last pupils of world-renowned teacher Nadia Boulanger.

Conte, the eldest of his mother’s three children, has composed more than 100 published works, including six operas and works for orchestra, chamber groups and chorus. His work has drawn critical praise, and aspiring composers arrive at the conservatory to study with him.

But to Nancy Conte — herself a former choral conductor and an encyclopedia of musical texts and tunes — he’s still the son she started driving to piano lessons back in Ohio when he was 8 years old. “It was a lot of schlepping around for a lot of years,” she says. Her son smiles as he launches into a Schubert sonata and says: “Don’t you think I owe her?”

On a Theme of Helgi

Photograph of S.F. Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson by Erik Tomasson

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Just before Helgi Tomasson moved to San Francisco — and to the neighborhood — to become artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, he wound up a stellar first act as an acclaimed principal dancer with George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet.

In his 33 years here, Tomasson has turned a regional troupe into one of the most admired ballet companies in the world. The company’s 85th season showcases Tomasson’s skill in planning wonderfully varied evenings of story ballets and three-act programs of modern and neoclassical choreography — such as his own “On a Theme of Paganini,” beginning February 15.

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The long wait at the Fillmore Heritage Center

Opening night in November 2017 of the Fillmore Heritage Center, now empty for three years.

Opening night in November 2007 at the Fillmore Heritage Center, now empty for three years.

UPDATE: The wait will go on. City Hall has punted, announcing on November 3 that no decision will be made yet on what to do with the Fillmore Heritage Center. All five bids for the complex were rejected, and the process will start all over again.

JUST IN TIME, 1300 TAKES A TIME OUT

THEIR DECISION could have been made anytime since July 1, 2014, when Yoshi’s pulled out next door. But the owners of 1300 on Fillmore restaurant hung on, committed to the resurgence they helped spark.

They even doubled down and opened a barbecue joint across the street.

Finally on October 19 came the word: 1300 would close. Final call was on October 25, a closing party that former mayor Willie Brown called “a classic — more like the dance palace of the Fillmore of yesteryear.”

Owners Monetta White and David Lawrence insisted they are just taking a break — a “hiatus,” White called it — from trying to keep an upscale restaurant open on a lonely corner. Business has gotten slower and slower during the three years since Yoshi’s jazz club and restaurant called it quits, and city leaders have dragged out a decision about what to do with the space.

“Something had to be done,” White said. “We hope to revamp, revise and relaunch in 2018.”

David Lawrence and Monetta White greet diners at 1300 on Fillmore soon after it opened.

David Lawrence and Monetta White greet diners at 1300 on Fillmore soon after it opened.

In the meantime, Black Bark BBQ will continue and they will rent out 1300 and its Fillmore heritage lounge for pop-ups and private events.

“It’s a short-term decision for a long-term stay — hopefully,” White said.

Like nearly everyone else associated with the Fillmore Heritage Center — which houses 1300, the massive Yoshi’s restaurant and showroom, an art gallery, a screening room and a public parking garage — White expressed frustration with the city’s delay in finding a buyer for the complex. The project defaulted to the city when the developer went bust.

“Why is it taking them so long to deal with this building?” lamented White. “Who is in charge over there? They told me to hold for one year… it’s been three!”

Willie Brown spoke for many fans of 1300: “Thanks for the memories. Bring it back soon.”

Kabuki, mon amour

The theater in its heyday as the Sundance Kabuki.

The theater in its heyday as the Sundance Kabuki, when it was Robert Redford’s place.

FILM | DAVID THOMSON

People call it “the Kabuki” still, as if clutching at something and hoping it will stay there. It is, or has been, our neighborhood movie theater, with a front onto Post Street, a parking garage, an alleged restaurant — and a certain dejected character.

I’m being as generous as possible because I want it to remain. But I have my doubts now, and I understand if people still think of it as Sundance, Robert Redford’s place, Carmike, AMC or the longtime home of the film festival.

Over the years, there were rumors: Were the Coen Brothers really thinking of taking it over? No, those guys were too shrewd for that. Our Kabuki feels like a place people are waiting to unload.

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Tombonistically speaking, in the key of Bernstein

Photograph of Nick Platoff by Terrance McCarthy

Photograph of Nick Platoff by Terrence McCarthy

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Nick Platoff moved here a year ago to join the San Francisco Symphony’s acclaimed brass section, in which he is associate principal trombonist. Only 25, he helps kick off the fall arts season this month, performing in the symphony’s opening night gala on September 14, followed from September 22 to 24 by “Celebrating Bernstein,” four pieces by Leonard Bernstein to honor the centennial of the master conductor and composer’s birth.

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‘Do you want to come to the show?’

Mark Fantino and Richard Butler at Chouquet’s on Fillmore.

Mark Fantino and Richard Butler of The Psychedelic Furs at Chouquet’s.

FIRST PERSON | MARK FANTINO

It’s Tuesday, and I’m halfway through working a typical lunch at Chouquet’s, at Fillmore and Washington, when in he walks. Immediately I ask: “Are you Richard Butler?”

Turns out, I know him well. He’s the lead vocalist of The Psychedelic Furs, one of my favorite rock bands. A benefit of being a record collector who scrutinizes every detail and reads all the liner notes and lyrics on all the records that shaped my life is that I have names memorized, as if they are all old friends who’ve seen me through thick and thin. I’m remembering the adage that we should know the names of the people who changed the world, or at least made it a better place.

So there is something profound about welcoming him by name instead of: “Hey, aren’t you that guy from The Psychedelic Furs?”

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