Oakland Opera Theater's artistic director Tom Dean never thought the diminutive company could mount what he considers "the masterwork opera of the 20th century," Igor Stravinsky's delightful The Rake's Progress. But after success with Virgil Thompson and Gertrude Stein's outlandish collaboration, Four Saints in Three Acts, and the critical raves that inspired OOT's recent reprise of Philip Glass' Akhnaten, Dean and music director Deirdre McClure decided to give Rake's "magical surrealism" a try. "Rake's Progress pays homage to the whole 18th-century Mozartian tradition," Dean says, "while constantly turning it backwards, sideways, and on its ear from measure to measure. I can't think of a superior piece. Nothing else has the shocking beauty, driving rhythms, and tenderness of this opera." The plot concerns itself with the corruptive power of money and the redemptive power of love. Set in mid-18th-century London, the story revolves around Tom Rakewell, a farmboy who suddenly receives a huge inheritance. Though lured astray by the glamour of high society, Tom is saved by soprano Anne Truelove's wealth of unconditional love.
Oakland Opera Theater has updated W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman's Faustian libretto, setting the story in Manhattan in the late 1970s. Taking full advantage of the flexibility of the performance venue, the former Jack London Square pub now known as the Metro, the company has designed a three-level set that resembles an imposing Manhattan skyscraper. Action takes place simultaneously on three levels in a series of twelve distinct cells. Choreography by Corey Action of the New Style Motherlode Dance Company, a twelve-piece orchestra, and ingenious use of slide projections promise to add to the opera's many delights. One of the glories of Oakland Opera Theater, besides the genius that has animated its string of compelling multimedia successes, is that it replaces the "artistic distance" of larger houses with accessible immediacy.
After previews on December 2, the production opens Friday, December 3 and runs through Sunday, December 19. Shows are Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (December 9 show begins at 8:45 p.m.). Tickets are $18-$32, available online at OaklandOpera.org or on the door. Oakland Metro, 201 Broadway, 510-763-1146. -- Jason Victor Serinus
Tat Ol' Soft Shoe
"Tatau" is Tahitian for "tattoo," so let your ink show when you attend the CD release party for Tatau, the latest CD from Mahalealani Uchiyama, founding artistic director of the KaUaTuahine Polynesian Dance Company. Tatau is a collaboration between that Bay Area group and Tahiti's Orihere Maohi Company. "It is the fruit of the love and the appreciation between the people of Tahiti and those of us from outside the islands," Uchiyama says, "which, like a tattoo, is everlasting." KaUaTuahine and San Jose's Hui Tama Nui will both perform at the event at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts (2640 College Ave., Berkeley), to the traditional Polynesian sounds of Tatau. Tickets cost $12-$20. Info: KaUaTuahine@yahoo.com or 510-845-2605. -- Stefanie Kalem
Tapped for Stardom
Got that Flashdance-Riverdance-Tap Dogs itch going and don't know what to do about it? Beat It Down, cousin. For three days (five shows) only at Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, enjoy the stage-battering dance talents of Jason Kalish, Amanda Pierce, Bryan Berry, Namita Kapoor, and Gary Schaufeld, along with songs by Tielle Baker. As choreographed by Michelle Miner, the road show aims to provide "true New York tap" -- heavily on the muscular athleticism and sanitized funk, not to mention the Great White Way moxie. Tix are $30 adults, $25 kids and seniors, from 925-943-7469. -- Kelly Vance
So a political revolutionary, a narrative visionary, and the founder of Dada walk into a bar ... Tom Stoppard poured Vladimir Lenin, James Joyce, and Tristan Tzara into an Importance of Being Earnest commemorative shot glass to create Travesties, opening this week at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave. in Berkeley. Shotgun Players presents Travesties Thursday-Sunday at 8 p.m., Dec. 4-Jan. 9, with previews Dec. 2 and 3 and no performances Dec. 23-26. Admission to all shows is free, with pass-the-hat donations accepted after the show. Call 510-704-8210 or visit ShotgunPlayers.org for the whole story. -- Stefanie Kalem
What the Fork - December 1, 1:56 PM
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What the Fork - November 11, 11:00 AM
Culture Spy - November 8, 2:53 PM