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Performing Arts in the Bay Area

Museums, music, and a hint of bohemia

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Nested near the city’s cupola-topped City Hall, impressive performance spaces in San Francisco present some of California’s—and the world’s—classiest productions. In an enormous Beaux Arts complex, the acclaimed dancers of the San Francisco Ballet twirl and leap, and San Francisco Opera superstars reach for the high notes. Adjacent the War Memorial Opera House is Davies Symphony Hall where the San Francisco Symphony creates musical magic. Opening night galas for these heralded companies bring out San Francisco’s elite, with dashing men in tuxes and women dressed in sumptuous gowns and dripping with jewels. Other celebrated dance companies in the Bay Area include Smuin Ballet, and Oakland Ballet.

"As for music, the Bay Area commands the stage there, too, most memorably for the no-holds-barred Summer of Love in 1967."

Theater in the Bay Area ranges from avant-garde troupes to distinguished companies like the nonprofit American Conservatory Theater, with quality productions presented at The Geary Theater downtown. There are dozens of alternative options, including the New Conservatory Theatre, focusing on LGBT works, Magic Theatre (boldly provocative productions), and Lamplighters Music Theatre, merging wit, literacy, and music since 1967. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts presents diverse performances and shows, and is the home of Alonzo King LINES Ballet. In the East Bay, Berkeley Repertory is consistently lauded for outstanding works.

As for music, the Bay Area commands the stage there, too, most memorably for the no-holds-barred Summer of Love in 1967. In the hippie-hazed Haight-Ashbury District, rock took hold with Bay Area-born groups like Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead. The Fillmore, a pinnacle performance space then, still presents top acts like Lorde and local band Train (if you go to a show, check the mezzanine level walls for a remarkable collection of vintage rock posters). University of California, Berkeley, is home to the outdoor Greek Theater, drawing big names like John Legend, Radiohead, and James Taylor. Jazz fans can get their bee-bop on at the impressive San Francisco Jazz Center. 

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