German Strings & Burlesque Themes : SF SoundBox
The venue feels like the big city. The massive 50ft walls are covered with precise lighting and calculated blackness. It’s industrial yet inviting, and absolutely possessed by artists. Standing in line at the bar I notice there are load bearing cables on the walls, weights and measures, elaborate schemes for lighting above, we’re standing on a massive stage, in fact, SoundBox is a replica of the San Francisco Opera stage, used for practice by the Opera, Ballet, and Symphony.
Seating at night happens where ballerinas and sopranos usually practice by day. The soundbox set and seating design is deceivingly elaborate, there are three stages in total and the audience sits both between and around them, so the performances take place nearly everywhere, and the spectator is invited to feel as though they are sharing in the spotlight. Immersed, modernized, basking in sound and video, and surrounded by world class musicians.
Enter Meow Meow, she makes her way through the crowd to a small center stage, her silhouette cuts into a massive blue projection of a woman drowning, a piano quintet rains Weill and Brecht over the audience, the lighting shifts again, Meow Meow sings her ballad in German. It’s no wonder that this is one of the most sought after tickets in town. This isn’t your typical show, your typical venue, or your typical night out, it’s SoundBox. The game changed, and this isn’t your grandmother’s Schubert.
Under the direction of Edwin Outwater (conductor) the 2nd SoundBox season opened with a strong post-war German theme highlighted by the bawdy, glowing performance of an internationally celebrated burlesque queen, and incredible musical performances by some of SF Symphony’s finest. A performance of Hindemith, Kammermusik No. 1 in particular shook the audience. Two woman sitting near me held their chests before it was over, and I have to admit the number raised my pulse. It was inspired, as were the artistic notes from lighting and video designers Luke Kritzeck & Adam Larsen.
Many associate burlesque and lassez faire with Paris, but before the Nazi’s started kicking down doors in the late 1930’s, Berlin was an incredible home to art and nightlife, to the sexy, the surreal, to the satirical grotesque. The art scene was rising out of the devastation of World War I, to heal it’s wounds, to reflect, and to burst out of it’s despair, to find change, and perhaps new love. I think this performance captured that, and perhaps even re-invented it.
The January performance of SoundBox is already sold out, they sell out in hours. If you’d like a chance at seeing the February Performance, you’ll want to be online Tuesday January 19th, tickets go on sale at 10am, and they will sell out too.