Lovers of the performing arts have several great performances to enjoy this weekend in the South Bay, all featuring performers with connections to Santa Clara.
Sunnyvale Piano Concert for a Good Cause
Santa Clara resident and composer Benjamin Belew Sakagch Akeala likes to describe his compositional style as “neo-classical”— meaning that he composes in Western classical musical forms and works with the familiar Western musical palette of melody and harmony.
On June 3, Belew will be giving a concert at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in Sunnyvale featuring Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Franz Liszt’s dazzling Tarantella di Bravura, Belew’s Chemical Reaction and improvisation on a theme suggested by the audience.
A native of Indiana, the Japanese-American Belew grew up in a Navy family and moved to Santa Clara in 2011 to be near his father.
Belew’s path through the education systems of two countries was anything but conventional. In high school, he neglected his studies to work as an animator in Japan. He was an indifferent music major in college until a teacher suggested he enter a state piano competition. Belew won the competition and became serious about music.
Saturday’s performance is at 6:00 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 231 Sunset Ave. in Sunnyvale. The suggested donation is $20, part of which will support Livable Sunnyvale.
San José Stage Extends Run of Audience-Pleasing Show
San Jose Stage is extending the run of its latest production Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 through this weekend. The award-winning show — which ran both on and off Broadway — made its West Coast debut at San Jose Stage, the theatrical production arm of Guggenheim Entertainment, which operates 3Below theaters in downtown San Jose.
Although “War and Peace” has become an unfortunate synonym for “long and boring” the novel, in fact, contains several stories that are anything but. Comet takes up one of these: the story of how Natasha Rostova becomes infatuated with the dissolute Anatole Kuragin breaks her engagement and plans to run off with Kuragin. Pierre Bezukhov, War and Peace’s central character, isn’t at the center of this story but makes an important discovery about himself that drives much of the rest of the novel.
But this bare bones summary tells you little about the show. It is exuberant, melodic, and full of colorful characters brought to life by an outstanding cast. Guggenheim Entertainment’s production is fast-paced, and brings the audience right into the show with innovative staging. The music runs the gamut from Russian folk tunes, to Western classical music, to blues and electronic dance music.
Three-decade-old Guggenheim Entertainment is the creative brainchild of husband-and-wife team Scott and Shannon Guggenheim and Scott’s brother, internationally-known opera singer Stephen Guggenheim. Scott is a Santa Clara University graduate, as are several members of the cast, and the family are long-time Santa Clara Valley residents — like many in the show’s cast.
Comet’s remaining performances are Thursday, June 1 through Sunday, June 4. You can buy tickets at sanjoseplayhouse.org/get-tickets. San José Stage has a full offering of theater coming up the rest of the year, including the Guggenheim’s original musicals Thanks for Playing! The Game Show Show, and The Meshuga Nutcracker based on Yiddish folk tales and set to Tchaikovsky’s famous music.
Annual Concert Tribute to Portuguese Culture in the South Bay
Finally, Mission Chamber Orchestra concludes its 2023 season with its annual free Portuguese concert at Five Wounds Church in San José. These annual concerts — now more than 15 years old — feature Portuguese composers and performers.
Medeiros will perform vocal favorites by composers ranging from Handel and Puccini to Gershwin, as well as an aria by Portuguese composer, Francisco de Lacerda (1869 –1934). Botelho Vierira will play the Piano Concerto No. 5 by Contemporary Portuguese composer Sérgio Azevedo, who is also her husband.
Completing the program is the Symphony No. 2 by João Domingos Bomtempo (1775-1842), a contemporary of Beethoven whose music is reminiscent of the era of Mozart, Hayden and Beethoven. His two known symphonies are the first by any Portuguese composer.
This is the last concert scheduled to be conducted by MCO founder Emily Ray. She founded the orchestra while she was teaching at Mission College at the time and the college invited her to bring the orchestra there and perform. Mission Chamber Orchestra’s first performance was in the “center space” of the original Mission College administration building.
The performance is at 3 p.m., Sunday, June 4, at Five Wounds Church, 1375 Santa Clara St. San José.