MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

San Francisco Opera: Streaming the First Century

Now that San Francisco Opera has officially launched it 100th-anniversary season — with John Adams’s new opera Antony and Cleopatra, which I’ll be covering soon — the company is also celebrating its remarkable history with a curated series of selected historical recordings. Called Streaming the First Century, this new online hub provides free access to selected historic recordings from the SFO’s past century, along with rare artist interviews, archival photographs, program articles, oral history excerpts, and newly captured conversations among past and present San Francisco Opera creative luminaries.

Streaming the First Century sessions are being released for each month from September through December. Each session includes two complete historic recordings, audio excerpts from four additional performances, and introductions to each preserved audio experience by contemporary scholars, artists, and SFO members to add historical context and insights. The selection have been drawn from performances unique to San Francisco Opera and are not available on commercial recordings.

The themes of the 2022–23 season have been used to guide the selections. Session 1: Slavic Sensibilities pays homage to Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which returns to the stage later this month (25 September–14 October), by offering an in-depth exploration of the works of Czech and Russian composers through landmark San Francisco Opera performances.

The complete recordings for Session 1: Leoš Janáček’s Jenůfa, from a 1980 broadcast starring Swedish soprano Elisabeth Söderström and Sena Jurinac as the stepmother (San Francisco Opera’s first production of a Czech opera in the original language ); and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, from a 1981 broadcast starring Anja Silja as Katerina Ismailova.

Coming up on 10 October is Session 2: Parlez-vous français? — which will have a French focus, in tandem with the upcoming production of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites.

Filed under: music history, music news, San Francisco Opera

John Adams’s Antony and Cleopatra

Antony and Cleopatra, the latest opera by John Adams, is receiving its world premiere this month at San Francisco Opera. Tomorrow is opening night and the start of the company’s centennial season.

Here’s a preview I wrote for Opera Now‘s September issue, in which the composer discusses his decision to set Shakespeare’s love tragedy.

[San Francisco Opera will livestream the performance of 18 September at 2pm PST. Tickets are $27.50.  
PLEASE PURCHASE YOUR LIVESTREAM TICKET AT LEAST 60 MINUTES PRIOR TO CURTAIN.]

Filed under: John Adams, San Francisco Opera, Shakespeare

Don Giovanni Completes the “Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy” at San Francisco Opera

Etienne Dupuis as Don Giovanni;
Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

I wrote about Michael Cavanagh’s production of Don Giovanni currently being presented by San Francisco Opera.

SAN FRANCISCO  — The flames are already flickering as the overture begins in the new production of Don Giovanni directed by Michael Cavanagh at San Francisco Opera. Set and projection designer Erhard Rom’s accompanying visuals establish a scenario of civilizational destruction as the backstory for what we’re about to see transpire onstage. 

Filed under: Mozart, review, San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera’s 100th Anniversary Season

So it’s now official: San Francisco Opera will launch its centennial season with the world premiere of a new John Adams opera: Antony and Cleopatra, set to the composer’s own libretto culled from Shakespeare’s tragedy and various classical sources (Virgil, Plutarch, etc.). Music Director Eun Sun Kim will conduct the production directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer; the cast will be led by Julia Bullock and Gerald Finley as the lovers, with Paul Appleby, as the young Caesar, Octavius, Alfred Walker as Antony’s confidante Enobarbus, and mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong as Octavia (Octavius’ sister and the wife of Antony).

But there’s much more that promises to make this an extraordinary season, with a return to eight mainstage offerings. SFO will present the local premiere of El último sueño de Frida y Diego by Gabriela Lena Frank, an SFO co-commission that will receive its first performances at San Diego Opera in October 2022 before coming to the War Memorial Opera House in June 2023.

There will be new SFO productions of La Traviata directed by Opera San José’s incoming general director Shawna Lucey, Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice featuring countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński in a new production by Matthew Ozawa, and Madame Butterfly directed by Amon Miyamoto and starring Karah Son and Michael Fabiano.

Two operas that received their American premieres in the 1950s are also being featured: Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and the Richard Strauss masterpiece Die Frau ohne Schatten in a David Hockney production. Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin is also part of the lineup, in the Bay Area premiere of the Robert Carsen production. On 16 June 2023, there will additionally be a gala 100th Anniversary Concert.

Complete press release here.

Bookmark sfopera.com/100 for the latest news and updates.

Filed under: John Adams, music news, San Francisco Opera, Uncategorized

Fidelio at San Francisco Opera

A scene from Act One: image (c) Corey Weaver

There was a lot of excitement in the air at the opening of San Francisco Opera’s new production of Fidelio, which had been delayed for a year for obvious reasons. Here’s my review for Musical America:

Filed under: Beethoven, Musical America, review, San Francisco Opera

Opera in Latin America: San Francisco Opera Talks

San Francisco Opera’s Opera Aficionado virtual conversations in July will focus on Opera in Latin America in a series of live, 75-minute Zoom discussions.

  • Sunday, July 11, 1 pm: The Zarzuela

Speaker: Stage Director Emilio Sagi

Originating at a palatial, 17th-century hunting lodge near Madrid, the Zarzuela is a dramatic form of musical storytelling that once dominated the stages of Spanish-speaking counties in worlds both old and new. Opera stage director Emilio Sagi will lead us on a historical survey of an art form rarely appreciated—or even known—in modern-day America

  • Sunday, July 18, 1 pm: Baroque Opera in the New World

Speaker: Laura Prichard

The arrival of Spanish colonists in what they thought was a “new world” forever changed human civilization and its course in history. Laura Prichard will travel with us back in time to the Baroque Era in Latin America, where unique forms of classical music and opera flourished. From boy choirs singing a cappella to the lost operatic works of Mexican composers like Manuel de Zumaya, this lecture will have you yelling Bravo! for all things Mexican Baroque.

  • Sunday, July 25, 1 pm: Contemporary Latin Stage Works

Speaker: Albert Montañez

In today’s operatic landscape, the old classics still reign, and the roster of new works premiered by major companies is dominated by composers of European and American birth. Meanwhile, composers throughout Latin America continue to tell their own stories and heritage through our beloved art form of opera. Multidisciplinary artist Albert Montañez returns to Opera Aficionado to shine a spotlight on new stage works from the contemporary Latinx world.

TICKETS: $5–$40

Students, educators and individuals in need: $5/session.

General admission: $20/session, discount available for multiple-sessions order.

Enable another person to attend*: $40.

*This is not a tax-deductible contribution.

Tickets are available until noon on the day of each event at sfopera.com/aficionado.

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera Announces New Season

And it’s now been announced: San Francisco Opera returns to a season of live performances with Puccini’s Tosca on Saturday, August 21, inaugurating the tenure of Eun Sun Kim as the company’s new music director. The refurbished War Memorial Opera House will greet audiences with newly installed custom seats and accessibility enhancements.

This is being billed as a “transitional year” and includes three new productions: Ludwig van Beethoven’s Fidelio and, continuing the Company’s Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni. The season also includes a revival of Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s Dream of the Red Chamber, a free Opera at the Ballpark simulcast, multiple concert programs, and a new livestreaming option for select performances.

From the press release:

Kim’s music directorship begins with Tosca, a masterpiece central to San Francisco Opera since it opened the War Memorial Opera House in 1932. Kim will also lead Live and In Concert: The Homecoming on September 10 and returns to the podium on October 14 to conduct a bold new production of Beethoven’s ode to freedom Fidelio, along with the annual Adler Fellows concert, The Future Is Now, and a Summer 2022 tribute to the music of Giuseppe Verdi.

Eun Sun Kim said: “When I was appointed Music Director Designate in December 2019, it seemed certain that the time until I officially assumed the position would fly by. And then, of course, the whole world came to a standstill. I’m so proud of the way the entire San Francisco Opera family has worked to remain resilient during this time—we’ve created new ways to make music together and we’ve encouraged each other in strength. Now this steadfast faith will allow us to finally rejoin the audiences who have so patiently waited for our return to the War Memorial Opera House. I hope this is a joyful moment for our whole community, as we open this new chapter together with a sense of renewed hope and optimism.”

After making “a company debut of astonishing vibrancy and assurance” (San Francisco Chronicle) leading Antonín Dvořák’s Rusalka in June 2019, Eun Sun Kim was appointed Music Director Designate in December 2019 in a move the New York Times called “pathbreaking.” The Seoul, South Korea-born Kim will help shape San Francisco Opera’s artistic vision as the Company heads into its second century. San Francisco Opera’s first two general directors, Gaetano Merola and Kurt Herbert Adler, both regularly conducted performances during the Company’s first six decades. In 1985, Sir John Pritchard was appointed San Francisco Opera’s first music director (1985–89). He was succeeded by Donald Runnicles (1992–2009) and Nicola Luisotti (2009–18). Kim is the fourth music director in the Company’s 99-year history.

San Francisco Opera Tad and Dianne Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “Opera gives us opportunities to gather and share in deep, collective, emotional expression. I have never felt more urgently the need for us to gather in this way. We need to be together again, and, on August 21, we will raise the curtain and do just that. But we are not returning unchanged. We emerge with a new music director in Eun Sun Kim! We emerge informed by the bold experiments of the last year, carrying them forward with our new livestreaming program. And we emerge with an even deeper understanding of the power of opera to connect us after the long winter of its absence.

“That all of our productions this season will be new or recently new to our stage is a testament to the local artisans who built them and to the local community which has supported this Company so magnificently during this year. We will return to the social history of the Mozart-Da Ponte Trilogy, be welcomed back into the light of liberation with Beethoven’s Fidelio and enter into the great story of imperial China in Dream of the Red Chamber. But first we return to Tosca—the time-honored way that San Francisco Opera reopens, recommits to our community and reemerges with all of the thrilling energy of live grand opera. It is a moment I cannot wait to share.”

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

Rossini at the Drive-In, as San Francisco Opera Returns

Photo: Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera is presenting a fully staged opera before a live audience for the first time in 16 months. I wrote about the opening for The New York Times.

SAN FRANCISCO — It feels almost too good to be true after a pandemic closure of Wagnerian scale: an audience watching a cast of singers enter the War Memorial Opera House here to rehearse and perform Rossini’s classic comedy “The Barber of Seville”….

continue

Filed under: New York Times, Rossini, San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera Announces 2020-21 Season

fidelio

Season 98 at San Francisco Opera has been announced.

The lineup includes: Fidelio, Rigoletto, Così fan tutte, The Handmaid’s Tale by Poul Ruders, La bohème, The Barber of Seville, and Alexander Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg (“The Dwarf”). Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin will also appear in a concert titled A Celebration of Verdi and Wagner.

Immediately of note is the shift of the customary summer season to April and May (a consequence of renovations that will be taking place in the War Memorial Opera House). And there are now concerts for the traditional season opening as well as the third summer (now spring) season opera.

This season will be the first under new music director, Eun Sun Kim. But there are too many safe and predictable choices. I’m especially glad to see the Ruders (I reviewed the North American premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale at Minnesota Opera 17 years ago) and the gorgeous, heartbreaking, neglected Zemlinsky (which I reviewed just last year in Berlin)–though not sure how that will work as the sole offering.

Here’s the press release.

Complete 2020-21 Season listing:

FALL 2020

OPENING NIGHT CELEBRATION CONCERT with soprano Albina Shagimuratova and tenor Pene Pati; Eun Sun Kim conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra September 11, 2020 (8 pm)

FIDELIO by Ludwig van Beethoven NEW SAN FRANCISCO OPERA PRODUCTION September 12 (7:30 pm), 15 (7:30 pm), 18 (7:30 pm), 23 (7:30 pm), 27 (2 pm), October 1 (7:30 pm), 2020

RIGOLETTO by Giuseppe Verdi September 13 (2 pm), 16 (7:30 pm), 19 (7:30 pm), 22 (7:30 pm), 26 (7:30 pm), October 2 (7:30 pm), 4 (2 pm), 2020

COSÌ FAN TUTTEby Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart NEW SAN FRANCISCO OPERA PRODUCTION October 6 (7:30 pm), 11 (2 pm), 14 (7:30 pm), 17 (7:30 pm), 23 (7:30 pm), 28 (7:30 pm), 2020

THE HANDMAID’S TALE by Poul Ruders WEST COAST PREMIERE October 29 (7:30 pm), November 1 (2 pm), 11 (7:30 pm), 14 (7:30 pm), 17 (7:30 pm), 20 (7:30 pm), 22 (2 pm), 2020

LA BOHÈME by Giacomo Puccini November 15 (2 pm), 18 (7:30 pm), 21 (7:30 pm), 24 (7:30 pm), 28 (7:30 pm), 29 (2 pm), December 2 (7:30 pm), 3 (7:30 pm), 4 (7:30 pm), 5 (7:30 pm), 6 (2 pm), 2020

SPRING 2021
THE BARBER OF SEVILLE (IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA) by Gioachino Rossini
April 25 (2 pm), 28 (7:30 pm); May 1 (7:30 pm), 4 (7:30 pm), 7 (7:30 pm), 11 (7:30 pm), 14 (7:30 pm), 16 (2 pm), 2021

DER ZWERG by Alexander Zemlinsky COMPANY PREMIERE April 27 (7:30 pm), 30 (7:30 pm), May 5 (7:30 pm), 9 (2 pm), 15 (7:30 pm), 2021

LIANNA HAROUTOUNIAN & IRÉNE THEORIN IN CONCERT May 2 (2 pm), 6 (7:30 pm), 8 (7:30 pm), 2021
Henrik Nánási, conductor

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera

Opera in San Francisco

H&G-SFO-1

Act III of Humperdinck’s “Hansel and Gretel” with Heidi Stober as Gretel and Sasha Cooke as Hansel, production by Antony McDonald; photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The last few weeks have been so busy I forgot to post my coverage of a trip last month to the Bay Area. Here are links to my reviews for Musical America of two productions at San Francisco Opera (Hansel and Gretel and Manon Lescaut) and of a concert performance of the first act of Die Walküre by San Francisco Symphony.

Filed under: Engelbert Humperdinck, Musical America, Puccini, review, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Symphony, Wagner

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