Bay Area Best Bets | Feb. 14-16

French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet brings the U.S. premiere of composer Aaron Zigman’s “Tango Manos” to the San Francisco Symphony this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Eccles)

The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here

• Who burned the baby! The lusty refrain of the world famous “Anvil Chorus” rings out soundly in San Jose this weekend, as Giuseppe Verdi’s “Il Trovatore” opens its run in the California Theatre. Opera San Jose’s production of this tale of love and revenge stars American soprano Kerriann Otaño as Leonora and mezzo-soprano Daryl Freedman as the enraged gypsy Azucena, with tenors Mackenzie Gotcher and Alex Boyer alternating as Manrico. The which-baby-got-tossed-into-the-bonfire plot element of the opera is admittedly one of the most ludicrous in the entire repertoire, but the music is sublime, and the three leads all have powerhouse roles to fill. The opera opens at 8 p.m. Feb. 15, at 345 S. First St. in San Jose, and runs through March 1. Tickets, $55-$195, are at 408-437-4450 or

• Dancing hands: Playing a sensual, Latin-inflected concerto written specifically for him, world-renowned French pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet brings the U.S. premiere of composer Aaron Zigman’s “Tango Manos” to the San Francisco Symphony’s Davies Hall stage this weekend. Stepping up to the podium for his debut with the orchestra, conductor Fabien Gabel will also lead the ensemble through performances of Dukas’ “La Peri” and Camille Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, known as the “Organ Symphony,” and two of its four movements will indeed deploy Davies Hall’s mighty Ruffatti pipe organ, with soloist Jonathan Dimmock at the keyboard. Concerts are at 8 p.m. Feb. 14 and 15 and 2 p.m. Feb. 16;

• Cool jazz: Who says music festivals have to be held in the summer? The ever-adventurous programmers at San Jose Jazz have found that music lovers will indeed flock to an offseason event, and so they are staging another Winter Fest. The concert series runs Feb. 14-29 in venues ranging from intimate clubs like Cafe Stritch and the Poor House Bistro to bigger joints like the Hammer Theatre Centre. Performers include pianist Aaron Goldberg, drummer Matt Wilson and his Honey and Salt Quintet, singer Stacey Kent, Quincy Jones protege Sheléa, and Bay Area singers Kim Nalley, Denise Perrier and Tiffany Austin performing their tribute to iconic female blues women. Tickets for most shows run $25-$45; see the schedule and snag tickets at

• A novel idea: First things first: “Gatz,” the Elevator Repair Service’s much-acclaimed, epic theater adventure, is NOT an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic “The Great Gatsby” — even though each of the novel’s 47,000 words (that’s according to the New York Times) is uttered onstage. It’s what happens while one actor is reading the novel aloud that propels what has been one of the theater world’s most surprising hits. Now Elevator Repair is bringing the two-part, six-plus-hour production (with three intermissions and a dinner break) to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre through March 1. It’s a demanding undertaking that’s not for everyone, but rarely has a show generated such consistently glowing reviews. Tickets are $75-$125 ($37.50-$115 for those under 35); 510-647-2949;

Carlos Aguirre takes on Edgar Allan Poe in “Tell Tale Heart” at the Aurora Theatre. (Photo courtesy of Aurora Theatre)

• Rapping with Poe: Bay Area spoken word artist Carlos Aguirre and the Bay Area Theatre Cypher hip-hop collective are at Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre this weekend to stage their night of highly literate, socially conscious hip-hop and slam poetry titled “Tell Tale Heart.” The title comes from the show’s centerpiece — Aguirre’s beatbox take on Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “A Tell-Tale Heart.” The show is staged in Aurora’s intimate Harry’s UpStage theater, so you probably won’t miss a word. Performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 13-15; 510-843-4822,

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