Best Bets: SF Symphony fireworks, SF Mime Troupe and sunset rooftop jazz in San Jose

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.

Conductor Edward Outwater leads the San Francisco Symphony in a Fourth of July concert at the Shoreline Amphitheatre. (Photo courtesy San Francisco Symphony)

An explosive night: Conductor Edwin Outwater and the San Francisco Symphony, as has been their custom, celebrate the Fourth of July at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View. The stir-’em-up program of orchestral music begins at 8 p.m., and a spectacular display of fireworks follows. Vocalist Rosena M. Hill Jackson joins the ensemble for a musical lineup beginning with the John Philip Sousa arrangement of, you guessed it, “The Star-Spangled Banner” and winding up with Germaine Franco’s Suite from “Encanto.” In between we’ll have excerpts from Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” — the Overture and the “Cool Fugue” and “Mambo” selections from its “Symphonic Dances” arrangement — and a medley of tunes from the great Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Tickets for the remaining seats range from $21.50 to $103.50 and are available through

Eun Sun Kim, music director of the San Francisco Opera, will close out the season with a concert of excerpts from Giuseppe Verdi’s works. (Photo courtesy Kim Tae-hwan)

A Verdi special concert: The San Francisco Opera winds up its summer season Thursday night with works by Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, led by its new music director, Eun Sun Kim. Named a “breakout classical music star” by the New York Times, Kim conducts the Orchestra, Chorus and singers Nicole Car, Etienne Dupuis, Mikayla Sager and Soloman Howard. The program includes an overture and scene from the opera “Luisa Miller”; the famed “Anvil Chorus” and three scenes from “Il Trovatore”; and the “Auto da Fe” and three other scenes from “Don Carlo.”

The concert takes place at 7:30 p.m. in War Memorial Opera House, and the livestream for non-attendees is $25. Tickets and seats for the in-house performance are $29-$249 and available to purchase at (415) 864-3330 or There is an after-party with drinks and appetizers following the two-hour concert in the Green Room of the Veterans Building next door with Eun Sun Kim and Matthew Shilvock, general director of SF Opera. Tickets are $250.

Andre Amarotico and Alicia M. P. Nelson star in the San Francisco Mime Troupe’s new production, “Back to the Way Things Were.” (Photo courtesy David Allen/San Francisco Mime Troupe)

Mimes making noise: The July 4th weekend unleashes some cherished traditions: firecrackers going off at all hours of the day, traffic jams and charred hamburgers. Oh, and the San Francisco Mime Troupe. For decades, the popular purveyors of left-leaning political satire have debuted a new stage show over Independence Day weekend and performed the production at a variety of Bay Area parks and outdoor venues though Labor Day. (And FYI, these performers are mimes in name only; there is plenty of talking and singing in their shows.) This year’s production is titled “Back to the Way Things Were” and focuses on a liberal middle-aged couple, relieved that “we again have a president who isn’t dumb as a two-dollar ham.” But they’re concerned that their daughter, in an era of war, climate change and political upheaval, may never know a time that she can be nostalgic for.

You can catch the show at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Cedar Rose Park in Berkeley and 2 p.m. Monday at Mission Dolores Park in San Francisco. During the rest of the summer, the show will travel to other parks in Berkeley, San Francisco, Mill Valley, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz. Most shows are preceded by a half-hour of music. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged. More information is available at ​​

Svetlana and the New York Collective, a jazz/swing outfit, opens up the Hammer Theatre Center’s Sunset Series of rooftop concerts on Friday. (Photo courtesy Nina Galicheva/Hammer Theatre Center)

Rooftop serenades: The Hammer Theatre Center in San Jose emerged as a cool spot for concerts in recent years (at least when live shows are able to go on). The venue previously hosted the Black Cab Jazz series, featuring top-flight artists performing in its intimate Hammer4 black box theater. The Hammer’s new series, kicking off this week, vacates the Hammer4 in favor of the roof. The appropriately named Sunset Series will offer shows at the Rooftop Terrace, which already earned a reputation as a great location to catch sunsets. The concerts launch at 8 p.m. Friday with Svetlana & The New York Collective. The band is fronted by singer Svetlana, who’s equally comfortable delivering jazz, swing and pop standards with plenty of charisma and a story or two. Expect to hear at least a few tracks off the band’s latest 2019 release “A Night at the Movies.”

Tickets for the show are $35-$45. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is not required at the Hammer, though masks are strongly recommended. Upcoming shows in the Sunset Series include pop-folk singer-songwriter Mason Jennings (July 15); soul/jazz singer Lilian Kane and the San Jose High School All Stars (July 29); saxophonist Aaron Lington and his sextet performing a tribute to the legendary Art Blakey (Aug. 11); Brazilian singer-songwriter Cláudia Villela and her band (Sept. 8); folk-blues guitar wizard Sunny War (Sept. 22); and the Alaya Project, an Oakland outfit that fuses classical Indian music with funk and jazz (Sept. 23). More information is at

Singer-songwriter Rissi Palmer performs at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley on Thursday as part of the Black Opry Revue. (Photo courtesy Rissi Palmer)

Black Opry comes to town: Country music execs would want you to think otherwise, but artists of color often experience the industry as an inhospitable environment. In spite of this, singers ranging from Charlie Pride to Darius Rucker to Mickey Guyton found stardom as country crooners. One organization trying to change things is the Black Opry, a nonprofit aiming to “evolve the country music industry and create a space that is both safe for and helpful to Black fans and Black artists.” A byproduct of that goal brings some wonderfully talented performers to Berkeley this week.

The Black Opry Revue, a touring concert show, lands at the Freight & Salvage Thursday night, featuring four performers who might not be household names, but are good enough to be. That’s especially so for singer-songwriter Rissi Palmer, who describes her country/gospel/R&B sound as “Southern Soul.” She broke through in 2007 with a self-titled album that yielded the hit “Country Girl.” Her latest 2019 release, “Revival,” includes the powerful civil rights-themed song “Seeds.” Palmer also hosts a show on Apple Music Country Radio titled “Color Me Country,” featuring interviews with Black country music artists. Thursday’s bill also includes singers Miko Marks, Stephanie Jacques and Leon Timbo.

The music starts at 8 p.m. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required, and masks must be worn in the venue. Tickets are $26-$30. Go to

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