Alameda Theatre: Bringing Opera to the Island


The San Francisco Opera is sharing recordings of four operas with Alameda Theatre & Cineplex and about 10 other theaters across the Bay Area and the nation this month and next as part of its Grand Opera Cinema Series.

“Recorded live in high-definition at San Francisco’s historic War Memorial Opera House, this inaugural series of four popular grand operas provides an exceptional high quality experience that will have you feeling like you were watching this performance from your favorite seat in the Opera House,” according to SF Opera. 

Opera lovers and newbies alike can still catch digital recordings of two operas in Alameda – “Samson and Delilah” and “La Rondine,” which will be shown at 11 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday and Wednesday, August 22 & 25 and August 29 & September 1, respectively.

“Samson and Delilah” by Camille Saint-Saens tells one of “the most compelling Biblical tales to emerge from the Old Testament,” says SF Opera. “This riveting opera features lush music and one of the most thrilling bacchanalian dance spectacles ever conceived for the stage.”

Sung in French with English subtitles, the production lasts for about two hours and a half, with two 10-minute intermissions.

“La Rondine” by Giacomo Puccini was inspired by Viennese operetta and tells the story of love between a kept woman from high society and a naïve younger man of moderate means.  (The photo above is from “La Rondine” and features Angela Gheorghiu as Magda de Civry.)

It is performed in Italian with English subtitles and lasts two hours and five minutes (with one 10-minute intermission).

Tickets are $10.50 — roughly the price of a movie, and the series means all we have to do is walk across the Island (or the neighborhood) to enjoy the San Francisco Opera!

Thanks to San Francisco Opera/Terrence McCarthy  for the photo.


Alameda Theater to Give $5,000

The tally is in.

We don’t know how many romantic embraces there were after the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex hosted its February 13 gala “Valentine’s Rock,” but we do know how much money was raised for local and other charities: $5,000.

And on April 2, these funds will be given to the Alameda Education Foundation, the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda and the American Red Cross Haiti fund. 

Set to accept the donations are George Phillips, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda and Ed Kofman, president of Alameda Hospital Foundation. 

According to the theater, major contributors to the event included R & B Cellars and Pappo Restaurant.


Alamedans Rock at Valentine’s Eve Event

Valentine’s Rock was just what the sweethearts around town were hoping for.

The event, which took place on February 13 in the lobby and main theater of the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex, aimed to raise money for several local charities while treating guests to a great (and romantic) time.

Judging from the photo above and the buzz around town, the event seemed to be quite a success.

The Valentine’s event was held for fun and as way to support Haiti Relief, the Alameda Hospital Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club of Alameda.  It featured the Beatles-themed band “The Sun Kings.”

Just a few days before this fiesta, the Alameda Theatre & Cineplex delivered a handsome check for $14,000 to several local charities thanks to the success of its New Year’s Eve gala benefit.


Alameda Theatre New Year’s Benefit: A Big Success

The balloon drop wasn’t the only thing that a few hundred Alamedans enjoyed on New Year’s Eve at the Alameda Theatre. Residents are buzzing about what a great event “Casino Night” at the theatre was — including some Las Vegas- style performers, games, fine wine and plenty of other treats and entertainment.

Proceeds from this polular “retro” event are going to the Alameda Civic Light Opera, Alameda Civic Ballet, Blossom Garden Alameda Chapter of Oakland Children’s Hospital, Midway Shelter for women and children, and Alameda Meals on Wheels.

Past charity events staged at the theater have collected as much as $14,000. So, let’s keep our fingers crossed that this event did as well or better.

Event sponsors included the Bank of Alameda, Rosenblum Cellars, Alameda Point Wine Works at Rock Wall Wine Company, Pappo Restaurant, Culina Gourmet Deli, Hangar One, Burgermeister, Torani syrups, A Sound Explosion and Parker Orthodontics.

About 180 VIP (or “high-rollers”) tickets and another 500 general admission tickets were being sold, and there’s talk in town that they all sold out.

Past charity events staged at the theater have collected as much as $14,000.

Many thanks and congratulations to theatre owner Kyle Conner, performer Chuck Campagnet and event sponsors.

Building on the success of the New Year’s Eve benefit, Conner’s organized “Valentine’s Rock” for February 13.

The theatre is also hosting a classic film series from January 13 to February 11.

It showcases local talent every Friday and Saturday night before the last two shows in the historic theatre. To participate, come to a Tuesday night try-out session.


Time to Toast Alameda Reads!

Angela’s Bistro & Bar, at 2301 Central Ave., and several local vintners are full of good cheer in October.

The restaurant and bar, located near the Alameda Theatre and Cineplex, is donating proceeds raised from wine tasting this Friday, October 9, to the Alameda Free Library’s adult literacy program, Alameda Reads!

If you try two 4 ounce glasses of wine, or an 8 ounce glass, for $10 between 5:30 to 7 p.m. on Friday, you will be helping Alamedans to improve their reading skills.

Angela’s did the same wine tasting and benefit last Friday, October 2, and is calling such events “Friday Night Flights.”

It’s great to see local winemakers, merchants and community groups come together for such a great cause and in such a creative way.

According to staff, the restaurant is named for the daughter of manager, Maria Zafari.


No drama since theater opened

On May 22, 2008 the Alameda Theatre reopened after going dark in 1979. It is lovely. But the process leading to its renewal was, at times, a battlefield, as is the case nearly every time there is a plan to change something in Alameda.

Its opponents believed:

It would be too big, thereby ruining the atmosphere and views of the homey downtown area.

It would crush the streets with massive traffic.

It would go broke because this town couldn’t support an eight-screen movie house.

And sometimes, there was a subtext from a handful of opponents, a mostly unspoken fear that it would bring people from other towns to Alameda. In addition to the traffic, the out-of-towners would surely bring crime to the area.

Today, despite vacancies in some commercial sites, downtown looks a lot better than it did five, or even 10 years ago. I don’t worry about crime, or hear about it, nearly as much as I did when the theater building housed a teen nightclub in the late 1980s. I knew some teens who went there and from what they told me, it was far from the wholesome institution its operator touted it to be. Whether the operator knew it or not, the kids told me there were plenty of drugs consumed at the club. He sold the city on a concept to give youth a place to go in town at night, where they would be off the streets, where they could enjoy games and music and dancing. But, judging from the number of police calls from residents from nearby streets, it looks like the teens I knew were speaking the truth when they implied the operation was unlike any other youth center. Eventually, it closed and things settled down again.

The theater has brought us back, in a way, to the past. Downtown has a focal point again, Alamedans have movies again, teens have another place to work in their own hometown and more restaurants have cropped up in the area. Parents and kids see family movies together and go for ice cream afterward. Couples enjoy dinner and a movie. Teens go to movies in groups.

Even in this wracked economy, they’re doing this and the result is revenues, severely needed revenues, for the city. Certainly the theater and the city’s businesses in general cannot repair our budget, but as we’ve all become painfully aware in the past couple of years, every penny really does count.


A visit to Alameda’s Angela’s Bistro

Last Friday night we dined with friends at the just-opened Angela’s Bistro on the corner of Central and Oak. The place was jolly and crowded and sleekly-decorated. We spotted at least one school board member and at least one graduate of my high school.

When my dining companion’s menu caught fire on a candle—the holder was so slight the flame was above the rim—the waitstaff asked to keep the menu (we were told it was the third such fire of the evening) to show management and convince them that the holders, though lovely, were not so sensible. There was bread, but slow. Wine but no wine menu and dessert but no dessert menu. The food was a little uneven—our teeny-tiny eggplant appetizer was a bit of a shock (that two-bite serving for $7 dollars?)—but overall the food was yummy. And, for a second night open, all was running relatively smoothly. We will go back. A special hat tip to our young waiter—just moved from Hawaii—who was gracious and lovely throughout the meal.


Google’s ‘Street View’ comes to Alameda

I admit I had not heard of Google Street View until yesterday (thanks goes, yet again, to my research assistant for the heads up). The street-by-street 360 degree view service, launched by Google in five cities in May of 2007, has expanded and is now here in Alameda. What does it mean? It means you can go online and enter an address and move, in a virtual way, at street level through Alameda. You can start here in front of the new theatre (the pictures were obviously taken before construction was complete—and, too, before the Pepsi truck hit the theater sign). It’s pretty cool, actually, in an-oh-my-gosh-my-front-door-is-open kind of way (ours was ajar at the time the pictures were taken).


Alameda theatre open! Indiana Jones played at midnight

Though, in the end, I did get a press pass, family obligations kept me from the gala theatre opening last night. And it’s too early at the moment—it being 6:35 a.m.—to call others and find out what they thought. But ABC news was there, the East Bay Express is running a theatre story on their cover this week, and your very own home-town Alameda Journal sent a correspondent to check out the building last week. Feel free to let me know how it went.

[Updated: It turns out John Knox White went. You can read his detailed and amusing description of the events here.]