Fired Up 

Hot opera at the Crucible


Take a 17th-century opera. Yeah, the whole shebang -- soloists, choir, early-music ensemble. Have local artists design the sets. Add assorted cavorting glassblowers, welders, and metal-casters. Then, of course, there's the belly-dance troupe. And the fire dancers will show up at some point, which really goes without saying ... because what have you got? Why, it's the Crucible's fifth anniversary show. This weekend, everybody's favorite nonprofit industry and arts education facility is putting on an extra-spicy version of Henry Purcell's Dido and Aeneas. Purcell probably didn't envision the Ultra Gypsy Dance Company performing North African Zar dance, belly dance, and Afro-Brazilian and Haitian choreography as the Nereids, Venus' watery escorts. But he sure did mean it to be one hell of a fiery opera -- it's about the Queen of Carthage's self-immolation on a flaming pyre.

Also featured, flaming or otherwise, will be soloists from the SF Opera, the American Bach Soloists Orchestra and Choir, and performances by Mark Growden and Xeno. The premiere, including wine, food, and an art auction, is on Friday at 6:30 p.m., and costs $125. Opera for the Community, with post-operatic bacchanalia, is on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and costs $25. The opera starts at 8 p.m. both nights. Tickets are available from or 510-444-0919. The Crucible is at 1260 7th St. (at Union St.), Oakland. -- Nora Sohnen

MON 1/19

Strut 'n' Fret

All new plays, all the time

Oh, those frisky playwrights. In the nine years of its existence, the PlayGround project has staged more than three hundred original short plays -- none longer than ten minutes. It's a unique way for writers to flex their creative muscles, and a breeding ground for new playwriting talent in the Bay Area. They're at it again. Last week some 36 playwrights were given four days to write new scripts on a particular theme. The plays were judged by local theater figures, and now at the Monday Night PlayGround on Monday (8 p.m.) at Berkeley Rep, the six winning entries will receive fully staged readings by professional actors and directors. And you're invited to watch. General admission is $12, students $6. The Berkeley Rep is at 2025 Addison St., Berkeley. For more info: 415-704-3177 or -- Kelly Vance

WED 1/14

Sad Songs

Reports of forced musical performances by people imprisoned in WWII Nazi death camps are one of the more macabre chapters in that very grim story. Evidently the inmates also composed music. Thus Wednesday's concert, Music of the Holocaust. Classically trained mezzo-soprano Sylvie Braitman sings and introduces music written and performed during the Holocaust and in concentration camps, at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Israel in Alameda, 3183 Mecartney Rd. A $5 donation is requested. 510-522-9355. -- Kelly Vance

SUN 1/18

A Real Diva

Cuban soprano takes the stage

Havana-born diva Elizabeth Caballero may not trash hotel rooms or demand her M&Ms color-coordinated to match her outfit, but the young soprano sings, according to SF Chronicle music critic Joshua Kosman, "with enough technical virtuosity and dramatic flair for three." Caballero, a current Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, performs arias by Mozart, Verdi, Charpentier, and Cilea; songs by Fauré, Menotti, and Turina; and Beethoven's "Ah! Perfido" in a solo recital Sunday at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave. in Berkeley. 7 p.m.; tickets cost $20, $15 for students and seniors. Info: 510-845-6830 or 510-658-3298. -- Stefanie Kalem


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