The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.

Freebie of the week: Yes, the arrival of Thanksgiving week and Black Friday marks the beginning of the holiday season, reminding us of all the shopping, planning, decorating, wrapping and traveling this time of year entails. Yet the season is about much more than being busy. Events and attractions like San Jose’s Christmas in the Park celebrate the season’s magic. For more than 40 years, Christmas in the Park has been a treat in San Jose’s Plaza de Cesar Chavez, offering more than 40 musical and animated exhibits, a dazzling 65-foot tall Christmas tree, opulent and festive light displays, the 50-foot Community Giving Tree, live entertainment and an enchanted forest of holiday trees decorated by local students and community groups. For example, the Lima Train display includes a melting snowman, caroling mice and elf woodcrafters. There are also ticketed attractions: amusement rides are $5 apiece and there is an ice-skating rink across the street ($21 for 90 minutes). There is also a nearby drive-through holiday light show available Nov. 29-Jan. 1 ($30-$35 per car). Christmas in the Park, at 1 Paseo de San Antonio, kicks off at 6 p.m. Friday, then runs daily from noon to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1. Admission is free. More information is at www.christmasinthepark.com.


From left, Brady Morales-Woolery, Daniel Duque-Estrada, Joseph Patrick O’Malley and David Bryant perform in Michael Gene Sullivan’s adaptation of George Orwell’s “1984” for Aurora Theatre Company. (Courtesy Kevin Berne/Aurora Theatre Company)

Party like it’s 1984: George Orwell didn’t have the internet, rampant social media saturation or 21st-century electronic surveillance technology to fret over when he wrote his famed dystopian novel “1984.” In other words, the classic story on the horrors of totalitarianism and government lying, spying and repression is seemingly even more relevant than when it was published in 1949. Aurora Theatre Company in Berkeley tackles the legendary tome, in an adaptation penned some 20 years ago by Bay Area actor and playwright Michel Gene Sullivan, a member of the politically minded stage company San Francisco Mime Troupe. Sullivan’s stripped-down take on Orwell’s story unfolds as one long, intense and occasionally violent interrogation of a political prisoner, with references to such things as love and freedom uttered as long-ago memories in a world now enveloped in paranoia and repression. Under Barbara Damashek’s direction, Sullivan and Aurora’s adaptation is largely faithful to the original story, which, with its references to thoughtcrimes and doublespeak, might seem dusty and outdated to those familiar with Orwell’s novel (which once was required reading in high school and college English courses.) But cruel governmental machinery is not the true enemy in Orwell’s tale; it’s the flaws in human nature that make fascism and repression all too possible. Aurora’s “1984” runs through Dec. 10 at 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. Tickets are $20-$65; go to www.auroratheatre.org.


An ill-fated party leads to a murder mystery in City Lights Theater Company's “Game’s Afoot; Or Holmes for the Holidays,” starring, from left, Damian Vega, Naomi Evans, Alycia Adame and Tom Gough. (Courtesy Christian Pizzirani/City Lights Theater Company)

Holmes sweet Holmes: No one’s ever going to confuse playwright Ken Ludwig with Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams, perhaps, but he’s compiled an enviable catalog of popular stage comedies, mysteries and musicals. With some 25 productions to his credit, his plays have been performed in more than 30 countries and more than 20 languages. City Lights Theater in San Jose is staging one of his more popular shows, one of three that incorporate the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes (a fourth is said to be on the way). “The Game’s Afoot; Or Holmes for the Holidays,” has a genius concept: A party at the estate of 1930s Broadway star William Gillette, known for portraying Holmes, ends with one of the guests being murdered. All of a sudden, the fake Sherlock Holmes has to become a real one. Part comedy, part mystery, “Afoot” makes for a fun, lively choice by City Lights for its holiday-season production. The show, directed by Mark Anderson Phillips (whose credits include playing Ebenezer Scrooge in Center Repertory Company’s “A Christmas Carol”), runs at City Lights Theater, 529 S. Second St., San Jose, through Dec. 17. Tickets are $38-$60; go to cltc.org.


Tenor Pene Pati sings the role of the lovestruck Nemorino in San Francisco Opera's production of Donizetti's “The Elixir of Love.” (Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera via Pagransen)

Love potion (not quite) wins the day: A secret tear. Lovestruck Nemorino spies it rolling down the object of his affection’s cheek, and he is thinking that – yes! The magic dram that the quack Dulcamara has sold him may be finally working. So he bursts into the plaintive but hopeful “Una furtiva lagrima,” one of the most famous of Gaetano Donizetti’s arias, and one that aspiring tenors all over the world have adopted for their solo repertoires. You can hear Samoan tenor Pene Pati pour it out in San Francisco Opera’s presentation of “L’Elisir d’ Amore” (“The Elixir of Love”), a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago that sets this tuneful comic opera on the Italian Riviera in the 1950s. Making both her San Francisco and American debuts as his paramour Adina is Slovak soprano Slávka Zámečníková, with Serbian baritone David Bizic as Belcore, Nemorino’s rival, and Italian baritone Renato Girolami as the full-of-himself buffoon Dulcamara. Five performances remain at the War Memorial Opera House at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Sunday and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29, Dec. 5 and Dec. 9. Sunday afternoon’s performance, which will be livestreamed, will feature tenor Jonah Hoskins as Nemorino. Find tickets, $26-$426, at sfopera.com and (415) 864-3330. Tickets for the livestream, which will be available for 48 hours, are $27.50 at sfopera.com/digital.


Guest soloist Jorge Glem makes his San Francisco Symphony debut playing Gonzalo Grau's “Odisea: Concerto for Venezuelan Cuatro and Orchestra.” (Courtesy Jose Blanco)

Dudamel on the podium: What the heck is a cuatro? If you Spanish speakers out there are holding up four fingers, you are partially right. The Venezuelan cuatro, a cousin to the Puerto Rican original, is a four-stringed instrument similar to a ukulele or a guitar, and it will be put to good use in Davies Hall this weekend when soloist Jorge Glem makes his San Francisco Symphony debut playing Gonzalo Grau’s “Odisea,” a concerto for his instrument with the orchestra. None other than the world-renowned Gustavo Dudamel is guest conductor, bringing a work he premiered at the Los Angeles Philharmonic two years ago, Gabriela Ortiz’s “Kauyumari,” which translates to “blue deer” in the Huichol language of her native Mexico and is considered a spiritual guide by those indigenous people. The second half of the program is a work sure to warm the hearts of traditionalists, Johannes Brahms’ cheerfully upbeat Symphony No. 2. Performance times are 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Find tickets, $35-$255, at sfsymphony.org and (415) 864-6000.