Valentine's Day Suggestions

Anti-romantics may find solace, enlightenment and entertainment at major events staged in San Francisco this month.

BY PAUL DUCLOS

 

Anti-romantics may find solace, enlightenment and entertainment at major events staged in San Francisco this month.

 

Beginning on February 10, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco invite ferry riders to journey into the world of 18th-century Europe through the eyes of one of its most colorful and notorious characters, Giacomo Casanova, an Italian who lived from 1725 to 1798. And yes, there are several works of art displayed here celebrating the romance of boating and watercraft.

 

Commonly regarded now as a seducer and adventurer, Casanova was considered by his own contemporaries to be a witty conversationalist, autobiographer, man of letters, gambler, spy and one of history’s greatest travelers. More than 80 works of art, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, period furnishings, delicate porcelains and lavish period costumes, will recreate the luxurious and sparkling world of masked balls, palaces, theaters and operas that formed the resplendent backdrop to Casanova’s escapades and adventures.

 

“Although he is considered by many to be a scandalous libertine, Casanova is a fitting guide to lead visitors on a tour of the glittering art capitals of 18th-century Europe,” said Max Hollein, director and CEO of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

 

“Visitors will feel an affinity with many of the themes in the exhibition, including the cult of celebrity, the desire for travel, the dangers of social and political ambition and the freedom of self-invention and individuality—all set on a glorious stage of Rococo paintings, fashion, and decorative arts.”

 

Visitors will immerse themselves in Casanova’s world, examining artworks not only as individual pieces but also as combined and cumulative expressions of wealth and prestige. These works—often exhibited in isolation—are best understood as parts of luxurious environments that also included architecture and interior design. To achieve the effect of 18th-century opulence, the exhibition will stage several tableaux enlivened by mannequins dressed in period costume surrounded by paintings, sculptures and decorative arts, creating scenes reminiscent of some of the dramatic episodes of Casanova’s memoirs and bringing his world to life.

 

“This theatrical display of artworks is fitting for Casanova, who was not only the son of an actress but also an occasional theater musician and playwright,” said Virginia Brilliant, curator-in-charge of European paintings for the Fine Arts Museums. “These tableaux will also show how he lived a life surrounded by the sensual pleasures of art by featuring amorous mythological and pastoral paintings by some of the most important painters of the time, including François Boucher, Canaletto, Jean-Honoré Fragonard and William Hogarth.” For more information, see legionofhonor.famsf.org.

 

SFJAZZ Holds Bernstein Tribute

 

Tahiti as a honeymoon destination may also come into question as SFJAZZ and Opera Parallèle join forces again for a multi-media, multi-genre tribute to the centennial of iconic and versatile American composer Leonard Bernstein.

 

This production links Bernstein’s classic 1951 one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti with composer Jake Heggie’s 2005 work At the Statue of Venus for a unique collaboration that celebrates the American voice in opera and its continuing legacy, featuring a cutting-edge production including atmospheric visual projections, costumes, and staging.  In 2016, SFJAZZ and Opera Parallèle presented Terence Blanchard’s Champion to sold-out audiences at the SFJAZZ Center.

 

Seven performances in total will be given at the SFJAZZ Center. The performance dates and times are Wednesday, February 14, to Friday, February 16, at 7:30 p.m. each evening; and on Saturday and Sunday, February 17 and 18, at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.

       

The only piece for which Bernstein wrote both the music and the libretto, Trouble in Tahiti paints the portrait of a young couple whose loveless union defies the stereotypical ideal of marital bliss in the Atomic Age. For more information, see www.operaparallele.org and www.sfjazz.org

 

Follow Paul Duclos’ Cultural Currents online with his blog at: www.duclosculturalcurrents.com.