The last time we caught sight of him around here, he was prancing about the War Memorial Opera House stage in a bird-catcher's costume. Prior to that, he was a bare-chested sailor swabbing the decks in the same locale. And perhaps you'll remember him vroooooming onto that very stage as a dashing barber on a hot red motorcycle even earlier.
But when American baritone Nathan Gunn next pops up in the Bay Area, on Saturday night to be precise, he'll be in church and wearing, we're willing to bet, his own best dark suit. A known entity at San Francisco Opera (as Papageno in Mozart's "The Magic Flute" last year, the title character in Benjamin Britten's "Billy Budd" in 2004 and Figaro in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" in 2003, a role he revisited in 2006), Gunn is here to sing a recital for Cal Performances at the First Congregational Church in Berkeley. An added reason he is likely to be looking his sharpest? He'll have the lovely Julie Gunn, wife and mother of his five children, as his piano accompanist. The Gunns, who hail from Champaign, Ill.
Their Saturday night program is a mix of the classical and contemporary song repertoire. Robert Schumann's famed "Dichterliebe" cycle is in the lineup, as are Franz Schubert's "Die Taubenpost," "Das Rosenband," "Im Walde," "Nachtviolen" and "Auf der Bruck."
Switching from the German to his own native tongue, Gunn will dip into some Samuel Barber -- "With rue my heart is laden," "Sure on this Shining Night" and "I hear an army" are among the selections. From the voluminous, wit-laden Charles Ives songbook will come "Circus Band," "Down East," "Tom Sails Away," "An Old Flame" and "General William Booth Enters into Heaven." Some of William Bolcom's cabaret songs round out the program, specifically "Black Max," "George," "Fur (Murray the Furrier)" and "Over the Piano."
Details: 8 p.m., 2345 Channing Way, Berkeley; $56; 510-642-9988, www.calperformances.org.
IN THEIR OWN WRITE: The Bay Area-based women's vocal ensemble Kitka is known here and far afield for its expertise with and championship of the music of the Balkans and Eastern Europe in general. As proponents of that often haunting music, these eight singers have performed, over the course of their 33 seasons, the works of countless composers across several centuries in a dozen different languages. Much of their repertoire has been "discovered" by the members searching through old archival recordings or taking research trips abroad. But they have also had commissioned works written specifically for them by composers as well known as David Lang, Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk and Chen Yi.
So it must be especially gratifying for them to be able to bring us their upcoming program, "New Folksongs From Within," which will showcase the world premieres of works by two of their own, Janet Kutulas and Elizabeth Setzer, both recent music directors of the ensemble.
Kutulas' "Iron Shoes" is offered as a concert-style excerpt from an upcoming full opera, and it revolves around the heroines (of course!) of three separate European fairy tales. Setzer describes her "Apple Blossoms and Brine," a song cycle, as centering on "the timeless experiences of love and heartbreak, loss and celebration."
"New Folksongs From Within" will be presented three times at an intimate, relatively new venue for performance in Oakland, the Piedmont Piano Company.
Details: 8 p.m. Friday through Sunday, 1728 San Pablo Ave., Oakland. $15-$20 advance, $20-$25 at the door; www.kitka.org.
Contact Sue Gilmore at email@example.com