Best Bets: Treasures from trash; arias + trios; top British theater

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.

Arias con vino: Livermore Valley Opera is back in the vineyards this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. with its popular bring-your-own-picnic extravaganza featuring four talented singers and a pianist regaling attendees with a variety of classical opera offerings, including some duets and ensembles, and a smattering of Broadway show tunes.

Soprano Shawnette Sulker joins three other singers entertaining folks at an “Opera in the Vineyard” program at Retzlaff Vineyards in Livermore on Sunday. (Photo courtesy Shawnette Sulker)

The attractive outdoor setting is the grounds of Retzlaff Vineyards at 1356 S. Livermore Ave., and the winery will have glasses and bottles available for purchase.

Three of the vocalists are well-known to LVO fans: baritone Eugene Brancoveanu, tenor Alex Boyer and soprano Shawnette Sulker. Mezzo-soprano Silvie Jensen joins them on the raised stage, making her LVO debut, and LVO music director Alexander Katsman is the accompanist. The “arias a la carte” portion of the program will again offer opportunities to buy an aria from a “menu” of choices and have it presented at your own tableside.

Individual seats are $65; tables of six or eight are available for $350 or $475. Purchase online at

Violinist Jennifer Koh, pianist Timo Andres and cellist Jay Campbell close out San Francisco Performances’ Summer Music Sessions on Saturday at Herbst Theatre. (Photo courtesy Beowulf Sheehan)

Sessions’ end: It’s a triple play for the final concert in San Francisco Performances’ first-ever Summer Music Sessions, a parade of programs previously scheduled for the pandemic era.

Celebrated violinist Jennifer Koh is collaborating with composer-pianist Timo Andres and cellist Jay Campbell of the JACK Quartet in a 7:30 p.m. recital at the Herbst Theatre Saturday that will feature two of Andres’ own works – his Piano Trio and, for solo cello, “Winding Stair, Small Wonder.” The program also includes Janacek’s “Pohádka (A Tale)” and Sonata for Violin and Piano.

Social-distancing protocols will be observed at the Herbst, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Find your tickets, $45-$65, at

Here’s a sampling of Andres’ talent, as he tackles a contemplative etude by Philip Glass:

Emo Gould’s “Guzzler” is part of a new exhibition at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek featuring works made from recycled trash. (Photo courtesy Bedford Gallery)

Art from humble beginnings: It’s not uncommon to learn that various theater troupes, dance companies and orchestras have artist-in-residence programs, but a trash company?

In the case of Recology, the San Francisco-based waste management and recycling corporation, that is definitely so. Ever since 1990, Recology has named more than 100 professional and student artists-in-residence at its 47-acre recycling and transfer center, offering access to mountains and mountains of refuse that, in the right hands, can become evocative sculptures, quilts, multimedia works and more. Which brings us to the Bedford Gallery at Walnut Creek’s Lesher Center for the Arts. The venue is hosting a new exhibition featuring dozens of works from those who have served as Recology artists-in-residence.

“Reclaimed: The Art of Recology” features chunks and shards and parts of everything from clothes and shoes to motorcycles and meat grinders to vacuum cleaners and upholstery and all kinds of household items to bullet shell casings. These discarded items have been fashioned into metallic jackrabbits, carpet mountains, a bug/motorcycle thingie and a vase made out of computer cables. Some 40 Bay Area artists are represented in all.

The exhibition runs through Oct. 17. Gallery hours are noon-5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays; admission is $5 (free for kids 12 and under). The Lesher Arts Center is at Civic Drive and Locust Street; (925) 295-1417, You can also view a virtual version of the exhibition at

Imelda Staunton stars in the National Theatre’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s “Follies,” which will be screened at the Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose Thursday and Sunday. (Photo courtesy Johan Persson/National Theatre Live)

From U.K. to San Jose: London’s vaunted theater scene has reopened, but traveling there now is problematic, according to the U.S. State Department, because of a surge in COVID cases. Fortunately, the Hammer Theatre in San Jose has reopened, and its partnership with London’s National Theatre resumes this week.

That means you can settle in at the Hammer and take in some of the best stage shows Britain has to offer. The program is titled “National Theatre Live,” but what you are getting is a professionally filmed stage performance shown on a high-definition screen, and if you can’t be there in person, this is the next best thing.

Screening this week is Imelda Staunton starring in a West End-revival of “Follies,” Stephen Sondheim’s 1971 melancholy tip-of-the-hat to a long-ago Broadway. The screenings are at 7 p.m. Thursday and 2 p.m. Sunday.

Next week’s offering is the adaptation of Mark Haddon’s acclaimed mystery “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” The production has won accolades for the inventive stage techniques used to tell the story from the point of view of a 15-year-old autistic boy. The screenings are at 7 p.m. July 29 and 2 p.m. Aug. 1.

Following is National Theatre’s heralded new take on the classic romance “Cyrano de Bergerac,” starring James McAvoy (7 p.m. Aug. 5 and 2 p.m. Aug. 8). The Hammer Theatre Center is at 101 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose, between Second and Third streets. Tickets are $20; contact (408) 924-8501 or

Reggie D. White and Jeremy Kahn star in Lauren Yee’s “The Song of Summer” at San Francisco Playhouse, which runs through Aug. 14. (Photo courtesy Jessica Palopoli/San Francisco Playhouse)

No. 1 with a bullet: Playwright and San Francisco native Lauren Yee has relocated to New York, but she never seems to be far away. Or at least her plays aren’t. “The Great Leap,” inspired by her father’s basketball-playing days, played at American Conservatory Theater in 2019, and it opens San Jose Stage’s new season in September.

Her acclaimed work “Cambodian Rock Band” will be presented by Berkeley Rep next year. And right now you can catch her comedy “The Song of Summer” at San Francisco Playhouse (or, for that matter, in your own home).

The play takes its name from that annual warm-weather phenomenon, the three-minute earworm that seems to be playing everywhere nonstop until summer ends and the song disappears forever. The play follows a singer who has scored that summer single, but the fame is too hot to handle, so he sneaks home to try and sort things out. Of course, complications ensue.

S.F. Playhouse, which resumed live productions last month, is presenting “The Song of Summer” at its theater on 450 Post St., but also offering it as a streaming production. The show runs through Aug. 14. Tickets are $15-$100; contact (415) 677-9596,

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