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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Nurturing the evolution of jazz in S.F.

RandallKline

CULTURE BEAT | PAM FEINSILBER

It’s fitting that Randall Kline, founder and executive artistic director of SFJazz — the largest jazz-presenting organization on the West Coast — lives near Fillmore Street. In the 1940s and ’50s, when the neighborhood was teeming with clubs, bars and after-hours joints, it was revered by jazz musicians and fans. Now Kline, who has lived locally with his wife, Teresa Panteleo, for almost 20 years, presides over the acclaimed SFJazz Center he willed into being in the cultural mecca near City Hall.

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Jazzfest celebrates the Summer of Love

FJF2017

By JASON OLAINE

Summer of Love Revisited. That’s the theme of this year’s Fillmore Jazz Festival on July 1 and 2, in honor of the 50th anniversary of that impactful, inspired time in 1967 — its epicenter in San Francisco, with the Fillmore being ground zero.

Seminal albums were released by Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Who, Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and many more, while a number of important bands were being formed — including Santana, Fleetwood Mac, Sly and the Family Stone, NRBQ, Chicago and Credence Clearwater Revival.

The Human Be-In took place here with spoken word by Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary and music by Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

Perhaps this summer is the time to collectively take a page from our past — to embrace this unifying message of compassion and community, as important today as it was a half-century ago.  Just as the artists of that generation distilled a consciousness or portrayed optimism in the face of serious cultural and worldwide troubles, artists of today give us something to think about, to feel, so we can go back to our daily lives inspired to be a part of the ongoing struggle to live and love.

This year’s artists will honor the spirit of  ’67 by performing songs from that period, showing how jazz can embrace other musical genres, with uplifting results.

ENTERTAINMENT SCHEDULE

Jason Olaine is artistic director of the Fillmore Jazz Festival and director of programming for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

A view of the bay helped lure the maestro

Photograph of San Francisco opera music director Nicola Luisotti by Cory Weaver

Photograph of San Francisco Opera music director Nicola Luisotti by Cory Weaver

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Maestro — and neighborhood resident — Nicola Luisotti opens the San Francisco Opera’s summer season this month, conducting eight performances of Verdi’s heart-wrenching Rigoletto.

Italian to his core, Luisotti, who’s been music director of the opera company since 2009, is particularly renowned for conducting the works of his most famous musical countrymen. He will open the fall season conducting Puccini’s beloved Turandot in early September and Verdi’s romantic La Traviata later that month.

But if not for the charms of the neighborhood, he might not be in San Francisco at all.

You’ve worked in opera companies all over the world. What brought you to San Francisco?

I will never forget that important moment of my artistic life. I was in L.A. in 2005 conducting Pagliacci, by Leoncavallo. I’d been invited to conduct La Forza del Destino, by Giuseppe Verdi, in San Francisco, and I had to start the rehearsals. But I was so tired, I was close to canceling my engagement.

I decided to come here for two days; my wife, Rita, remained in L.A. When I entered the apartment S.F. Opera had arranged for me in Pacific Heights, the windows provided a spectacular view of the bay and Alcatraz — a view I couldn’t have had in any other neighborhood. I immediately called Rita and said: “You will love this city!”

And it was one of the best musical experiences in my life. The S.F. Opera orchestra and chorus were just amazing. Four years later, when I was asked to become music director, I was in paradise.

And back in Pacific Heights.

I fell in love with what the neighborhood first gave me — that view. Our apartment building in Pacific Heights was built in 1932, and I thought it was truly fate, since that was the year the Opera House opened. And Pacific Heights is so quiet, beautiful and elegant — just a perfect place for a musician to be inspired.

You began your career at age 10, playing the organ in your village church in Tuscany, learning to read music by watching the priest — and a year later you were conducting the church chorus. How did you become an opera conductor?

The first time I attended an opera, it was Madama Butterfly, when I was 12. But the first time I fell in love with an opera was La Bohème, when I was 21. When I saw it, I understood that one day, I could become an opera conductor. For sure, a bit of talent, a lot of work and some luck can contribute to achievement. Perhaps being Italian is why many theaters ask me to conduct Italian works, and so it can be said that I bring my Italian traditions to the music.

What exactly does an opera conductor do?

My colleagues in the orchestra pit and on stage each knows his or her own role intimately. But the conductor brings his knowledge of the entire opera, acting almost like a medium, channeling the composer through the score. When everything works, we have magic.

What do you enjoy on your time off?

Rita and I love to cook and we do not eat out very often, although we have been many times, either on our own or with visiting friends and family, to Pizzeria Delfina. We walk all over Pacific Heights and shop at Sur La Table on Union, the Apple store and Lucca Deli on Chestnut, and go to Whole Foods on California several times a week. We love the services of Deluxe Cleaners on Laguna, and Rita attends Pilates classes at the Dailey Method in Cow Hollow. We bike from home to Crissy Field and beyond and like to hike in the Marin Headlands.

Alas, you’ll be moving on after next season. What are your plans?

I have just been named director asociado at the Teatro Real in Madrid. I will also conduct a lot in New York at the Met, and in Paris, London, Munich, Rome, Turin and many other places around the world.

What you will miss?

I will simply miss everything about this fantastic, charming city that gave me so much. But I will come back here as a guest, and sooner than expected. Remember that all who have lived in this city have left their hearts in San Francisco!

A world premiere on Fillmore

Michael Conley: Strip mining "is a tragedy that diminishes us all."

Composer-conductor Michael Conley: Strip mining is “a tragedy that diminishes us all.”

“APPALACHIAN REQUIEM,” a new work for chorus and orchestra responding to the environmental consequences of strip mining in Appalachia, will have its world premiere on Sunday, May 7, at 3 p.m. It will be performed by the Calvary Presbyterian Church choir and orchestra at the church at 2515 Fillmore.

Composer Michael Conley is also the music director at Calvary. He assumed the position in 2015, succeeding Alden Gilchrist, who served the church for more than 60 years until his death in 2014.

“I went to college on the outskirts of Appalachia and my parents still live there,” says Conley. “It was important for me to give voice to the farmers and miners whose homes, lives, hopes, traditions and physical environments have been permanently erased,” Conley says. “It is a tragedy that diminishes us all.”

He says of his new composition: “The piece follows the normal order of a Latin requiem mass, but I draw its texts from Appalachian poets and inspiration from traditional Southern hymns, folk music and Native American chants.”

The concert, entitled “From These Mountains,” will also include performances of Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring” and “Southern Grace” by  Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Jennifer Higdon.

A pre-concert talk, “Of Mountains, Mines and Music: Appalachia in Crisis” will be presented on Saturday, May 6, at 3 p.m. at Calvary by Conley and Earthjustice attorney Marie Logan. The talk is free. The suggested donation for the concert is $20.

Finding a home with the S.F. Ballet

Photograph of Ellen Rose Hummel by Erik Tomasson

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

When Ellen Rose Hummel left Greenville, South Carolina, for San Francisco and a home in Pacific Heights in 2007, she couldn’t know that less than five years later, she would be selected to join the San Francisco Ballet. As a member of the corps de ballet, she’s danced in everything from Nutcracker and Swan Lake to works by George Balanchine and contemporary ballets by hot young choreographers including Christopher Wheeldon, who won a Tony last year for choreographing and directing a dance-centric American in Paris on Broadway.

In Wheeldon’s Cinderella, the final program in the S.F. Ballet season, Hummel steps out of the corps to portray Clementine, one of Cinderella’s stepsisters.

When did you know you wanted to be a ballet dancer?

I have two older siblings, and my mom put all of us in ballet; I started taking lessons when I was about five. My brother went into sports, and my sister loved ballet but didn’t want to make a career out of it. I definitely knew I was interested, but I didn’t get serious until I was about 12 or 13 — that’s when I had to start adjusting my schedule for ballet and sacrificing certain things. I went from three or four days of ballet to six, and my mom had to drive pretty far for my lessons. Then when I was 16, I moved to San Francisco to take lessons with the San Francisco Ballet School.

At 16? — and by yourself?

Yes, the school has a dormitory on Jackson Street in Pacific Heights. I remember how wonderful the transition was at such a young age. It really helped to be with kids my age who loved ballet like me, even though we came from different parts of the world. Being in a new city can be lonely at first, but Jackson House felt like home, and my friends became family. We were so fortunate to be in such a beautiful neighborhood, surrounded by artists who share the same goal.

That’s how I got involved in the neighborhood. Then when I got accepted into the company I had to move out, and I was lucky enough to find an apartment here. I think [S.F. Ballet artistic director] Helgi Tomasson lives on the same street.

What about dancing as Clementine?

Clementine is a bit softer than her sister, Edwina. She’s the more geeky one. She has glasses and she’s a little clumsy. I see her more as the positive, helpful one. There’s a sweet side to her. Before Cinderella, Clementine was the one who had her place in the household. Where the stepmother and stepsisters are being mean or hitting Cinderella, she doesn’t really want to; you see a little seesaw process with her.

The dancers really have to be actors, too, don’t they?

You can get really absorbed in the steps, but once I paste those glasses on, I’m Clementine. I love being in character. You have to believe it as much as or more than the audience does. The costumes are amazing. The sets, too — like the table, and the way it rotates at the beginning as we’re eating the porridge. I love that part of the ballet, because it gives you a moment to get absorbed in it.

Neighborhood resident Ellen Rose Hummel (right) dances in the S.F. Ballet's production of Cinderella.

Ellen Rose Hummel (right) dances in the S.F. Ballet’s production of Cinderella.

And I’ll be dancing Spring, too. Spring has the green wig and green costume, green face paint, even glitter on the arch of the eyebrows, framing the green. It always feels like putting leaves on my face.

What is a typical day off like for you?

I’ll find time to take a walk down Fillmore or meet up with a friend. I love La Mediterranee; the people are always super nice in there. I love their salmon. I love the atmosphere — it’s very authentic and very cozy — and I like that it’s not super loud.

Palmer’s has very good drinks; sometimes I’ll meet with friends there. I love the atmosphere there, too, and I’ve always enjoyed whatever I’ve gotten. Fillmore Bakeshop — the food is always really fresh, and it’s very family oriented. And Peet’s Coffee, right next to the bookshop — it feels like it’s been there forever. It feels like community.

A musical journey

Chris Nichols performing at Oxford Lieder Festival in 2016.

Chris Nichols performing at Oxford Lieder Festival in 2016.

FIRST PERSON | CHRIS NICHOLS

My day job in the tech world is rewarding, but music is my passion. And much of my musical journey has played itself out on Fillmore Street.

It started two decades ago with a friend’s invitation to a Thursday night rehearsal of the choir at Calvary Presbyterian Church at Fillmore and Jackson. Alden Gilchrist was directing — my first encounter with this world-class musician and wonderful human being, who was at the heart of Calvary’s musical excellence for more than 60 years, until his death in 2014.

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Full House, fuller street

Fans of the Full House TV show flock to 1709 Broderick Street.

A new sign greets fans of the Full House television show flocking to 1709 Broderick Street.

FOR YEARS, residents of the 1700 block of Broderick Street, between Bush and Pine, have struggled with an overabundance of love from fans of the beloved ’80s sit-com Full House, supposedly set at 1709 Broderick.

When a sequel, Fuller House, was launched last year, the opening credits still showed the Italianate Victorian at 1709, and the daily confluence of fans intensified.

Now neighbors are bracing themselves for what comes next after learning the house has been sold, for $4 million, to Jeff Franklin, the creator and producer of Full House and Fuller House.

“The house came on the market and really, I just thought, I have to buy this house,” Franklin told the Hollywood Reporter. “It’s great to have the house in our Full House family and be able to preserve it for the fans.”

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