Saturday, June 23, 2018

The Swinging Ring?

Jazz composer and pianist Valerie Capers (courtesy of the San Francisco Opera)

During the week of the last of the three performances of the entire cycle of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelung by the San Francisco Opera (SFO), the Saturday between Siegfried and Götterdämmerung will offer “something completely different.” That evening jazz composer and pianist Valerie Capers has prepared a program entitled Wagner Takes the “A” Train. Working with bassist John Robinson III as collaborator, Capers has created and will present music conceived as a companion piece for Wagner’s epic score.

This may not be quite as massive an undertaking as Wagner’s, but it is still a major one. Capers was the first blind person to graduate at both the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels with degrees in classical composition and performance from the Juilliard School, and she only made the shift to jazz after having acquired those degrees. There is thus every reason to believe that her understanding of Wagner is far more than a casual one. Nevertheless, this is not her first venture into Wagner territory, since she previously prepared a program for National Public Radio (NPR) entitled Adventures of Wagner in Jazz.

For those who have not encountered her NPR project, Capers will precede her performance with a conversation with SFO Dramaturg Kip Cranna. This will give her the opportunity to reflect on how her own music-making has been influenced by the Ring and by Wagner on a more general scale. Capers is one of the composers affiliated with the African American Composers Initiative (AACI), which is dedicated to commissioning and presenting the work of both current and past African American composers; and all proceeds from Wagner Takes the “A” Train will be applied to the benefit of AACI.

This performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 30. The venue will be the Recital Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street, halfway between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street and a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. General admission will be $25, and tickets may be purchased in advance online from a Brown Paper Tickets event page.

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