- The on-stage debut of Christine Brewer, she of the glowing dramatic soprano voice. Yeah, it's in Fidelio, and I'd been hoping for Tristan, but I've never seen Fidelio live, so fine.
- La Forza del Destino, the last middle/late Verdi work I've never seen live
- The company premiere of Handel's Rodelina (alas, not with the glittering cast heard recently at the Met; alas, in a production described as "film noir," meaning more trench coats and fedoras)
- A rare staging of Tchaikowsky's The Maid of Orleans
- Best of all, the world premiere of John Adams's Doctor Atomic, based on the life of physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and starring, among others, the great Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, not seen at SFO since 1998's L'incoronazione di Poppea
I expect Catherine Nagelstad will be a good Norma, certainly miles better than Carol Vaness was in the opera's last outing. (I must admit to some concern for Nagelstad, who arrives, rehearses and performs Rodelinda, then rehearses and performs Norma. Yow!) Nozze is one of the few operas I will happily sit through in alternate years.
But there's also a very significant low point to the schedule: the return, in May and June, 2006, of Madama Butterfly, which will be seen in San Francisco for the sixth time in eleven years.
Yes, you read that right: the sixth time. Here is the recent performance history of the opera at SFO:
October, 1995 - 8 performancesYes, it sells tickets; yes, it's cheap to put on, with only four leads (and who cares about Pinkerton and Sharpless, anyway? They have been weakly cast most years.); yes, everybody looooooooooves Puccini.
December, 1995 - 4 performances
June, 1997 - 20 performances (with several rotating casts)
January, 1999 - 8 performances
June, 2002 - 9 performances
January, 2003 - 5 performances
May/June, 2006 - dates not announced, but there is only one cast; presumably 6 to 8 performances
But good god. Give the cash cow a rest. PLEASE. It is just plain wrong (and BORING) to schedule this one opera so often. It is wrong to ask subscribers to pay to see the same opera SIX TIMES in eleven years. SFO seasons these days are nine operas long, and we've never had more than twelve; you can't bury a repeat the way the Met, with 25 productions per year, can bury its perennial Boheme performances.
It reeks of lack of trust in the audience, which is bizarre in a company willing to put on St. Francois and Le Grand Macabre, among other less-than-mainstream works, and productions such as the controversial Alcina of a couple of years back. Or maybe it reeks of sheer laziness: given the generally challenging nature of the repertory and productions during the Rosenberg years, this is one work that can be put on without much thought or energy, knowing few will object to it. But that doesn't make it right.
Whatever the reasons: basta, baby! BASTA!!