Best Bets: Festa Italiana, Levitt Pavilion concerts, Gail Dobson tribute, ‘Page to Screen’ authors, SF Opera summer season  

Famed chef and pizza-tosser Tony Gemignani will demonstrate his skills at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club’s Festa Italiano June 1-2 in San Francisco’s North Beach. (Courtesy Tony Gemignani)

Freebie of the week: Don’t we all need pizza-tossing and accordion symphonies in our lives? Fortunately, we can get our fill of them this weekend at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club’s Festa Italiana, an old-fashioned Italian street fair in the heart of San Francisco’s beloved North Beach district. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday along the 1600 block of Stockton Street, between Union and Filbert streets (near the famed Washington Square and Saints Peter and Paul Church). In addition to lots of terrific things to eat and drink, there will be a full docket of entertainment, including tarantella dancing and music from classic Italian pop singer Vanessa Racci, accordionist Cory Pesaturo and Bay Area bands Nina Lane, Sonamó and Il Sole. Sunday marks the return of the traditional “symphony of accordions” featuring Bella Ciao and other talented musicians. There’s also a Kid’s Corner with face-painting, a puppet show and other fun stuff; street vendors offering Italian arts, craft and goods; and the 103rd running of the Statuto Race at 9 a.m. Sunday, an event that celebrates the anniversary of the creation of the first Italian constitution. (Race sign-ups have closed, but you can watch!) The no-nonsense pizza-tossing features award-winning pizza celebrity Tony Gemignani, whose famed Tony’s Pizza Napoletana restaurant is nearby. Admission is free, and more information is at Other free-admission festivals this weekend include the Union Street festival in San Francisco (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 Sunday; and the Walnut Creek Art & Wine Festival (11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday;

San Jose soul singer-songwriter and guitarist Noah Kibreab and his band the Arkiteks play a free show in San Jose on June 2. (Courtesy Friends of Levitt Pavilion San Jose) 

Another freebie: The drive to bring a Levitt Pavilion to San Jose’s St. James Park has reportedly gotten no closer to securing a permanent structure, but it continues to draw free music to the area. The Friends of Levitt Pavilion San Jose Spring Concert Series is offering Sunday concerts at the park through June 16. Performing this weekend is San Jose soul singer Noah Kibreab and his band The Arkiteks, with openers The Pearl Alley Band. On June 9, Tokyo-born, Northern California-based hip-hop star Lyrics Born brings his insane MC skills, with talented rapper Dox Black opening the show with his band The Aquanauts. The series wraps June 16 with the Newark, N.J.-born duo The Jack Moves performing soul/R&B-meets-punk (dubbed “punk-funk”). The music runs 3:30 to 7 p.m. Sundays in the park, at North Second and East Saint James streets. Picnics and blankets are welcome, and food trucks and drinks concessions will be on hand. For more information about the series, which aims to how live music on a permanent stage could enliven the park and neighborhood, visit

Gail Dobson and Smith Dobson were popular fixtures in the Bay Area jazz scene for years. A concert tribute to Gail, who died recently, will be at Keys Jazz Bistro in San Francisco on June 2. (Lifeforce Records)

Remembering Gail Dobson: The Bay Area lost a talented and beloved jazz singer and teacher with the recent passing of Gail Dobson, whose five-decade career made her an indelible fixture on the local music scene. She started performing in San Francisco nightclubs before she was 20, often with her first husband, George Muribus. She also gained a big following in the South Bay, performing with her second husband, Smith Dobson IV, in clubs such as Kuumbwa Jazz Center in Santa Cruz and The Garden City in San Jose. As a solo artist, she released several albums and collaborated with the late great bassist John Shifflett, Bay Area multi-instrumentalist Masaru Koga and guitarist and producer Tim Volpicella. She’s also remembered as a longtime vocal teacher and mentor to countless artists. Revered for her talent, passion and embracing a wide range of music and musicians, Dobson will be feted at concerts at San Francisco’s Keys Jazz Bistro. The show is being organized by her daughter, Sasha, a New York-based jazz singer, and her son, a Bay Area saxophonist. The pair will perform and share memories of their mother, with help from Bay Area jazz luminaries. Performances are at 5 and 7 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are $15. Go to Speaking of the Bistro, the club at 498 Broadway is hosting wildly talented singer Tiffany Austin in a Friday-Saturday stint paying homage to Duke Ellington and John Coltrane. More details are the club website.

L-R, Alka Joshi, Piper Kerman and Viet Thanh Nguyen will talk about the treatment their works got from Hollywood in “Page to Screen,” a ticketed Bay Area Book Festival event on Sunday in Berkeley. (Courtesy

From page to screen: The Bay Area Book Festival, a bonanza for bibliophiles here, is marking its 10th anniversary this weekend at four outdoor and two indoor stages in downtown Berkeley on Saturday and Sunday. Its organizers have taken an interest in Hollywood adaptations of popular literature. From 5:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday, moderator Laura Warrell will host panelists at Freight & Salvage drawing insights on their experiences. Piper Kerman will talk about her memoir, “Orange Is the New Black,” which became one of Netflix’s longest-running series. Also present will be Viet Thanh Nguyen, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Sympathizer,” now streaming as a seven-episode series on HBO. Also, Alka Joshi will share her thoughts about the upcoming series based on her novel “The Henna Artist,” now in early production stages for Netflix and set to star Freida Pinto as Lakshmi. Although most of the festival’s many happenings are free, this is a $20 ticketed event. For tickets, and the entire schedule, go to

San Francisco Opera’s eye-popping production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” features Amitai Pati as Tamino (left), Kwangchul Youn as Sarastro (atop the elephant), Zhengyi Bai as Monostatos and Christina Gansch as Pamina (bottom right). (Courtesy Cory Weaver/S.F. Opera).

Summer opera season is here: After a six-month hiatus, San Francisco Opera is proudly ushering in two of its three summer opera offerings this weekend. Both look extremely promising. Mysticism and fanciful fairy tales are staples of every production of “The Magic Flute,” arguably Mozart’s most popular opera, but the performances music director Eun Sun Kim introduces at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at War Memorial add some early-20th-century elements of silent film, German cabaret and Edward Gorey-style animation to the mix. The inventive production, originally staged by Suzanne Andrade and Barrie Kosky for Komische Oper Berlin, and starring tenor Amitai Pati as Tamino and soprano Christina Gansch as Pamina, runs through June 30. On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., things get shockingly more contemporary as guest conductor Clément Mao-Takacs, making his San Francisco Opera debut, brings us the U.S. premiere of the late great Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s final opera, “Innocence.” The action revolves around a wedding where a deeply disturbing secret about a traumatic school shooting emerges. San Francisco Opera co-commissioned the work, which had its world premiere in France in 2021 and features an original Finnish libretto by the novelist Sofi Oksanen with a multilingual translation by Aleksi Barriére.  The five-act opera, sung over 105 minutes without intermission, runs for six performances through June 21, with a livestream on June 12. Find tickets for both productions, $26-$426 ($27.50 for the livestream), at 415-864-3330 or

The post Best Bets: Festa Italiana, Levitt Pavilion concerts, Gail Dobson tribute, ‘Page to Screen’ authors, SF Opera summer season   appeared first on Local News Matters.

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