Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - October 5, 2012

Worth a look

Music

California Pops Orchestra

After four years of performing in Los Gatos, the Palo Alto-based California Pops Orchestra is coming back closer to home, with a new home base at the Smithwick Theatre at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills.

Many audience members had been asking the upbeat orchestra to return to the Midpeninsula — the Pops used to play at Spangenberg Theatre, among other local venues — and conductor Kim Venaas said he's thrilled to come back. "We do do requests after all," he said jokingly (the orchestra is an all-request group).

Shows are usually cheerful affairs punctuated with jokes and patter from the friendly Venaas, focusing on popular Broadway, film and Big Band music. On Oct. 14, the orchestra's first show back home will be themed "Turn On the Heat!" with tunes from the Great American Songbook by Berlin, Gershwin, Kern and other classic composers. Jazz/ragtime/stride/comedic pianist Frederick Hodges will return to solo with the Pops as he's done several times before, along with featured Big Band singer Ann Gibson.

The 3 p.m. show is at 12345 El Monte Road in Los Altos Hills. Tickets range from $15 for youths to $42 for premium seats. Go to calpops.org or call 650-856-8432.

Art

Pacific Art League

Palo Alto photographer Judy Kramer has had fine fortune so far this fall at the Pacific Art League. Her photo "A Profusion of Poppies," a bright scene captured at Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Ranch County Park east of Gilroy, has been chosen as the first-prize work in the current group show of landscapes at the league. In addition, she also had a second photo, "East on Vallejo Street," accepted into the juried display.

Kramer is one of 36 artists in the exhibition, which opened this week in the league's main gallery and has a reception tonight, Oct. 5. Mountain View artist Joan Osborn Dunkle took second place with her watercolor painting "Forest Walk," while Connecticut artist Peter Schachter was awarded third place for a very different work: his "New York late summer afternoon" cityscape created on an iPad with a stylus.

Woodside artist and art teacher Jim Caldwell juried the show, choosing 38 pieces from 190 submissions. He describes Schachter's work as "a fine example of the new world of digital art," one that was created with a virtual airbrush and several virtual wet-media tools.

The exhibition, titled "Scapes: Land, Sea, and Urban," runs through Oct. 25 at 668 Ramona St., with the reception scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. tonight. Gallery hours are weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 to 4. Admission is free. Go to pacificartleague.org or call 650-321-3891.

Opera

'Les contes d'Hoffmann'

Unless you have a supremely long memory for the arts, the idea of seeing "Les contes d'Hoffman ("The Tales of Hoffman")" at West Bay Opera will seem like a fresh, new idea. The company had its premiere performance of the opera on Feb. 13, 1959.

With music by Jacques Offenbach and a libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carre, the opera is based on a trio of tales by the 19th-century German fantasy and horror writer E.T.A. Hoffmann. Hoffmann is also the protagonist of the hallucinatory stories, encountering his Muse, a mechanical doll named Olympia, the overly passionate singer Antonia and the soul-stealing courtesan Giulietta. And there's a bad guy, of course, who's sometimes named Lindorf, and sometimes Dr. Miracle, among other monikers.

West Bay will present the French opera with new English titles, conducted by Jose Luis Moscovich, who also heads the opera company; and directed by Ragnar Conde. Christopher Bengochea plays Hoffmann, with Rochelle Bard singing all the soprano roles.

Performances are at the Lucie Stern Theatre at 1305 Middlefield Road in Palo Alto: Oct. 12 and 20 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 14 and 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $40-$75, with discounts available for groups. Go to wbopera.org or call 650-424-9999.

Books

Mick LaSalle

Longtime San Francisco Chronicle film critic Mick LaSalle also spends plenty of time on the Peninsula. He regularly teaches Stanford Continuing Studies courses, including his current class, "Before They Stopped the Party: The Ten Greatest Pre-Code Movies."

Next Monday, LaSalle is giving a free public talk organized by Continuing Studies, focusing on his new book, "The Beauty of the Real: What Hollywood Can Learn from Contemporary French Actresses." The movie world in France, LaSalle argues, is currently going through a golden age for French actresses, with meaty, complex parts and quality scripts available that don't shy away from revelations or the dark corners of life.

It's a bit different from Hollywood, where aging actresses typically find themselves relegated to bland Mom — or Grandma — roles.

LaSalle has also written two other books: "Complicated Women: Sex and Power in Pre-Code Hollywood" and "Dangerous Men: Pre-Code Hollywood and the Birth of Modern Man."

The talk is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 8 in Geology Corner (Building 320), Room 105, Stanford University. For more information, go to events.stanford.edu or call 650-725-2650.

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