Best Bets: holiday streaming and Bay Area theatre

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


San Francisco Ballet is streaming a high-def version of its 2007 “Nutcracker” from Nov. 27-Dec. 31. (Courtesy of Erik Tomasson/San Francisco Ballet)

Streaming ‘Nutcrackers’

It takes more than a worldwide pandemic to sideline “The Nutcracker,” goshdarnit. The holiday dance staple won’t be in theaters this year, but you can enjoy it from your home. San Francisco Ballet is offering a high-definition streaming version of its famed adaptation of the classic ballet, recorded in 2007. Offered Friday-Dec. 31 for $49, the production includes such extras a virtual tour through a holiday-decorated War Memorial, plus family activities, backstage scenes, even gift shopping. Go to www.sfballet.org. Meanwhile, San Jose Dance Theatre is streaming three different takes on “The Nutcracker” Friday through Dec. 25 ($25 each, www.sjdt.org).


Tenor Ramon Vargas stars as the lovelorn Nemorino in San Francisco Opera’s production of Donizetti’s “The Elixir of Love.” (Photo courtesy of Terrence McCarthy/S.F. Opera)

Drunk on love

A young ice cream vendor in the Napa Valley in 1915, desperate to win the affections of a local beauty, buys a phony love potion from a traveling quack in San Francisco Opera’s 2008 resetting of Gaetano Donizetti’s frothy comedy, “The Elixir of Love,” streaming for free this weekend as part of the company’s Opera Is ON series. Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas stars as the sweet, but somewhat befuddled Nemorino (he swallows the potion – twice – but it’s really just cheap wine), and soprano Inva Mula is the one he so passionately desires. The opera is full of gorgeous music, one of the standout arias being Nemorino’s anguished “Una furtiva lagrima.” Register at sfopera.com to see it for free, beginning at 10 a.m. Saturday, and it will remain available until midnight the following day. Here’s a taste of it:

"The Elixir of Love" Moving Moment, featuring Ramón Vargas

A virtual hug from Yo-Yo

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma has been releasing some “Songs of Comfort and Hope” recorded from his home ever since the COVID-19 crisis began. (https://youtu.be/UpTem6mWv3Y)

Pianist Kathryn Stott and cellist Yo-Y0 Ma team up for a recital of “Songs of Comfort and Hope.” (Photo courtesy of Mark Mann)

Now, he and longtime collaborator pianist Kathryn Stott will be featured in a prerecorded concert inspired by that effort at 7 p.m. Nov. 27 as a part of the ongoing Cal Performances at Home series. Their full-length concert, filmed in mid-November in Taiwan, will feature a wide range of music from the cello-piano repertoire, including such traditional favorites as “Shenandoah” and “Londonderry Air” and Robert Schumann’s “Five Pieces in Folk Style” and an arrangement of Manuel de Falla’s “Seven Spanish Songs.” Those who register at calperformances.org/at-home for tickets, $15-$60, will receive a link that allows them to access the program for two full weeks. 


Peter Marietta and Merrill Grant star in Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s “It’s a Wonderful LIfe.” (Ben Krantz/Contra Costa Civic Theatre)as Mary Bailey. (Photo by Ben Krantz)

‘Wonderful’ news

Some people just can’t get enough of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the tear-jerking (some would say hideously manipulative) Frank Capra movie that explores the nature of redemption and looks back fondly on an age when a measly $8,000 could trigger a banking scandal. Contra Costa Civic Theatre’s annual radio-play adaptation of the film is still on this year, presented as a Zoom streaming show. The El Cerrito stage company is making it available for $20-$50 Friday through Dec. 20 at ccct.org. But wait, there’s more. Tabard Theatre in San Jose is also streaming a radio-play version of “Wonderful Life” Dec. 4-20 at www.tabard theatre.org; tickets are $15-$50.


It takes a Little Village

The Bay Area-based Little Village Foundation is on a mission to spotlight musicians who possess more talent than fame. It’s a laudable goal that seems more important now than ever. The foundation’s record label on Nov. 19 released “20×20,” a collection of — you guessed it — songs by 20 talented performers in gospel, blues, R&B, and other American roots music genres. On Sunday, Little Village and Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage music club are combining to stream a record-release concert featuring many of the “20X20” artists. Performers include Aireene Espiritu, a ukulele-packing singer-songwriter known to embrace everything from Latin to gospel to bluegrass; singer Alabama Mike, who delivers a revved-up version of classic blues; and Kofy Brown, a singer and musician known for her incendiary blend of soul, funk and hip-hop; and many more. The show starts at 4 p.m., and access is free, though donations are encouraged. Go to www.thefreight.org.


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