The Rise of ISIS, PBS Frontline

Sometimes a good documentary merely confirms what is generally feared to be true. But as any government official (or journalist) will acknowledge, confirmation is not an easy task. Layers of nuance and obfuscation have to be scrubbed away before the truth emerges, and the result is often unpalatable. Truth, though  ...

Tosca, SF Opera

Take one good-looking couple, she a fantastic soprano and he a very good tenor, add a not-very-threatening villain, a heavy-handed conductor, mix well and bake for a little over two hours. What comes out of the oven is San Francisco Opera’s “Tosca,” pretty digestible but not a wholly satisfying gourmet  ...

Egon Schiele: The Radical Nude, London

Fin de siècle Vienna. A city fizzing with avant-garde intellectualism and “new” music. The city of Freud, Mahler and Schoenberg. A city teetering on the precipice of change in the twilight years of the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire. Onto the artistic scene swaggers Egon Schiele, just 16, a precocious art  ...

Rembrandt: The Late Works, London

His hand rests affectionately on her bosom; she acknowledges his gesture with a gentle caress. Although it's called "The Jewish Bride," we don't know whether the painting depicts a contemporary couple or a historic union, perhaps Isaac and Rebecca. No matter. Whoever they are, the loving regard of the newlyweds  ...

Death Comes to Pemberley, PBS

The Jane Austen spin-off industry has a strong contender in this opulent and engrossing adaption of “Death Comes to Pemberley,” based on the 2011 novel by P.D. James, the award-winning British mystery writer. The story imagines the lives of the beloved duo of “Pride and Prejudice,” Elizabeth Bennet (Anna Maxwell  ...

Partenope, SF Opera

Near the end of Act I of this decidedly comic British production of “Partenope,” in its company premiere at San Francisco Opera, a breeze wafts through an open window, billowing the diaphanous curtain in seductive swirls. That undulating fabric is a metaphor for how director Christopher Alden has reimagined Handel’s  ...