Best Bets: ‘Hamlet,’ San Jose jazz, ‘Dolores’ opera preview

Devon La Bar stars as the titular prince in Vallejo Shakespeare’s free production of “Hamlet.” (Courtesy Vallejo Shakespeare)

Freebie of the week: Add Vallejo Shakespeare in the Park to the stage companies who serve up free shows around the Bay Area each summer. This troupe’s 2023 offering is a classic Bard tragedy, “Hamlet,” and if you are a devoted fan of the classic “to be or not to be” soliloquy or other aspects of the bloody tale of a revenge-minded prince, you have two chances to catch it this weekend.

Vallejo Shakespeare has been known for its passionate, low-fi productions marked by simple props and costumes, and an impromptu approach. The company was founded in 2010 by Dalia Vidor with an eye toward presenting professional-level Bard productions with a diverse cast. Many of its productions, including this one, are presented “Ren-Style,” meaning that, as in Renaissance times, actors rehearse from scripts consisting of only their lines and cues, instead of the entire play. There is a prompter offstage to assist if an actor forgets a line, but it all means that performers have to be on their toes and ready to improvise during a rough patch.

This is also a somewhat condensed version of “Hamlet.” As organizers put it, the play in its entirety consists of 30,557 words (full disclosure: we did not count the words in the original text to verify this statistic) and represents a production of four hours or more. This version is closer to three hours.

Performances are 4 p.m. Saturday at Peralta Hacienda Historical Park, 2465 34th Ave., Oakland, and 4 p.m. Sunday at Lower Dracena Park, 130 Dracena Ave., in Piedmont. For more information, go to

The Bad Plus, an acclaimed band that has seen its lineup and sound evolve over the years, plays San Jose Jazz Summer Fest Aug. 11. (Cory Dewald/The Bad Plus)

All that San Jose Jazz: While Outside Lands, which takes over Golden Gate Park Friday through Sunday, is an internationally lauded event that draws A-List stars and hundreds of thousands of music lovers, another one of the Bay Area’s best music festivals also takes place this weekend.

San Jose Jazz’s annual Summer Fest runs Friday through Sunday at outdoors stages around downtown San Jose and offers an impressive and wide-ranging lineup. Although most of the shows feature front-line and emerging jazz, blues and funk artists, Summer Fest is also known for tossing in a surprise booking or two. This year that surprise is hip-hop legend Big Daddy Kane, one of the best rappers to ever pick up a mic. Kane performs at 9:30 p.m. Friday.

If it’s jazz, funk, blues and American roots music you want, Summer Fest will not disappoint. Among the performers are the acclaimed genre-blending outfit The Bad Plus, pianist/composer Billy Childs and The Soul Rebels brass band on Friday; revered saxophonist Isaiah Collier, Cuban superstar Cimafunk and jazz/funk bassist extraordinaire Marcus Miller on Saturday; and acclaimed Ukranian trumpeter Yakiv Tsvietinskyi, sizzling singer Veronica Swift and a trio of jazz crooners, Kenny Washington, Nicolas Bearde and Jamie Davis, on Sunday. And we are just scratching the surface.

The music starts at 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. Tickets are $10-$225 for single-day passes, $30-$610 for three-day passes. Go to

Calling all Kilbanes fans: Club Fugazi’s popular circus show “Dear San Francisco,” starring the 7 Fingers performance troupe, is taking August off. But the North Beach nightspot has a worthy stand-in.

This weekend, Club Fugazi welcomes the excellent Bay Area music-theater band The Kilbanes on Thursday through Sunday. Consisting of married couple Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses, The Kilbanes are an inventive and talented outfit best known for the award-winning indie rock, sisterhood-and-mythology-fueled musical “Weightless” (also available as a soundtrack album), which made its off-Broadway debut in 2022.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 6 p.m. Sunday. The set is the first of a trio of bookings at Fugazi titled Club Dates. Other shows in the series include actor, musician and singer-songwriter John Gallagher, Jr., a Tony Award-winner for “Spring Awakening,” on Aug. 17-20; and The Bengsons, the songwriting-musical duo of Abigail and Shaun Bengson known for the musical “100 Days” and the single “The Keep Going Song,” on Aug. 24-27. Club Fugazi is at 678 Green St., San Francisco. Tickets for Club Dates shows run $37-$50; go to

Violinist Eunice Kim and double bassist Xavier Foley will perform Foley’s new concerto, “Resurrection of Titan,” as the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music draws to a close this weekend. (Courtesy

Celebrating new music: Conductor Cristian Măcelaru brings the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music’s 2023 season to a close Sunday evening with a concert featuring the world premiere of the composer and highly acclaimed double bass player Xavier Foley’s concerto, “Resurrection of Titan,” which he will perform with his frequent collaborator, violinist Eunice Kim.

Also on the program, which is at 7 p.m. in the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, are instrumental and electronic composer Dan Caputo’s “Liminal,” the late Robert Hughes’ “Estampie,” Pulitzer Prize-winner Kevin Puts’ “Hymn for the Hurting” and Anna Clyne’s “Wild Geese,” inspired by the Mary Oliver poem and commissioned by the festival in tribute to departing executive director Ellen Primack, stepping down after her 33rd year.

Find tickets, $20-$80, at

Mezzo-soprano Kelly Guerra sings the title role in “Dolores” for West Edge Opera. (Courtesy Cory Weaver)

A little bonus: West Edge Opera has brought its standout 2023 festival to a close in the Oakland Scottish Rite Center but is capping it all off with a special one-hour bonus preview of “Dolores,” an opera under development by composer Nicolás Benavides and librettist Marella Martin Koch revolving around the life and struggles of farm worker rights advocate Dolores Huerta.

Co-commissioned by West Edge’s Aperture project, Albuquerque’s Opera Southwest, Santa Monica’s The Broad Stage and San Diego Opera, the work will have a rolling premiere in 2024-25.

The special preview takes place at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Taube Atrium Theater in San Francisco.

Mezzo-soprano Kelly Guerra, fresh off her starring role as Renata in “Cruzar de la Cara de la Luna,” is in the title role. Others in the cast include Jesús Vicente Murillo as César Chávez, Alex Boyer as Robert F. Kennedy, Chelsea Hollow as Ethel Kennedy and Samuel Faustine as “Tricky Dick.”

Tickets, $40-$200, are available at

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