While most of Le Grand Macabre requires imaginative leaps and bounds from the audience, something about the opening of the third act -- a name-calling contest between two stumping politicians -- feels unnervingly timely. Thankfully Nekrotzar (the mohawked harbinger of death) breaks up the squabble and brings the focus back to the topic at hand: the imminent apocalypse. We can thank departing S.F. Opera General Director Pamela Rosenberg (set to leave in 2006) for the madcap American premiere of Ligeti's absurd romp through the end of the world; she's brought us a lion's share of exciting, challenging, and, most of all, relevant operatic works (read: no Viking helmets). And though Macabre's comic-book staging and modern score might be a steep grade for the unschooled ear -- and probably some of the more staid opera patrons -- when the futuristic posse sings, squeals, and burps its way toward impending death, the production becomes a fantastical celebration of living. Le Grand Macabre continues tonight at 8 (and runs through Nov. 21) at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Tickets are $10-180; call 864-3330 or visit www.sfopera.com.
-- Nate Cavalieri
The Gift of Garb
Dance and design are obvious bedmates -- the famously unerring fashion sense of Isadora Duncan and the boho stylings of dance companies attest to this fact. But choreographer Kate Mitchell makes the connection clear with her latest production, "Threads: An Evocation of the Modern Feminine," a show in which the couture is almost as important as the movements of the bodies it sheathes. By using a fashion show as the framework for the performance, Mitchell explores the idea of style as a vehicle for female individuality. Music ranging from French hip hop to Prokofiev whisks viewers from the catwalk to the intimate spaces of thought and fantasy. In the end, sartorial flair might not make the woman, but the show's testament to women's beauty and creativity should strike a chord with fashion aficionados. Catch the spectacle at 8 p.m. Friday (the show runs through Saturday, Nov. 13) at ODC Theater, 3153 17th St. (at Shotwell), S.F. Admission is $18-20 ($35 for the Nov. 12 gala performance, which includes admission to the after-party); call 863-9834 or visit www.odctheater.org.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
War -- What Is It Good For?
It made an amusing musical, anyway
Much of the fun in a "lost" musical -- stock-in-trade for the 42nd Street Moon company -- is figuring out how it got lost. In the case of Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg's Hooray for What!, the answer is simple: Adolf Hitler and The Wizard of Oz. In 1937, isolationist America greeted the duo's sendup of war profiteers with open arms, making it an unqualified Broadway smash. But "by the end of 1938," says director Greg MacKellan, "when Hooray for What! would have been ready to start a long national tour, the hopes of a peaceful resolve in Europe had diminished greatly," and the production stalled. As news of the concentration camps got out, the show's central twist -- a "death gas" that paradoxically spreads peace and brotherhood -- became decidedly unfunny. The satire in the anti-jingoist song "God's Country" was so effectively killed off by the wartime mood that Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland sang it in the 1939 movie Babes in Arms as a straightforward patriotic tribute.
The last shovelful of dirt was tossed by Arlen and Harburg themselves, who went on to score a little-heralded movie about a Kansas farmgirl at war with an evil witch. In the shadow of tunes like "If I Only Had a Brain" and the immortal "Over the Rainbow," poor Hooray for What! was doomed to obscurity. That is, until now, when weapons of mass destruction, jingoism, and war profiteering are, once again, all the rage.
Arab-Israeli trad/rock fusion? Sure! Raquy and the Cavemen are becoming well-known for it in their hometown of N.Y.C., and the band's brand of Middle Eastern music fueled by the beat of the dumbek drum has landed it spots on the Lollapalooza tour and in the North by Northeast festival. The act's new CD, Dust, reached the CMJ top 20. Opening shenanigans, including circus acts and a band called Cotton Candy, begin at 9 p.m. at the Odeon, 3223 Mission (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $7; call 550-6994 or visit www.raquy.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
If you could be anyone, wouldn't you at least consider becoming George Clinton? The star of Parliament Funkadelic almost always looks happy. And why not? He wrote "Up for the Down Stroke" and "Flashlight." Maybe Clinton's signature dreadlocks conceal a sad heart, but it's not likely. See him tonight at 9 at the Grand, 1300 Van Ness (at Sutter), S.F. Admission is $35; call 864-0815 or visit www.anotherplanetent.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser