Monday, February 04, 2008

San Francisco Opera Season Announcement

[I'm posting this rather belatedly, yes.]

San Francisco Opera had a press conference this morning to announce the 2008-09 season, and here's what it looks like, briefly:
  • Simon Boccanegra; Runnicles/Hvorostavsky, Frittoli, Kowaljow, Haddock
  • The Bonesetter's Daughter (Wallace); Sloane/Cao, Liang, Yi
  • Die Tote Stadt; Runnicles/Kerl, Magee, Meacham
  • Idomeneo; Runnicles/Streit, Coote, Tamar
  • Boris Godunov; Sinaisky/Ramey, Kowaljow, Grivnov, Ognovenko
  • L'Elisir d'Amore; Campanella/Vargas, Mula, Corbelli
  • La Boheme; Luisotti/Gheorghiu, Beczala, Viviani, Ansellem
  • Three Decembers (Heggie); Summers/von Stade, Phares, Kristin Clayton
  • Tosca; Armiliato/Pieczonka, Aronica, Ataneli
  • The Gershwins Porgy & Bess; DeMain/cast not announced
  • La Traviata; Runnicles/Netrebko, Castronovo, Croft
I am sort of depressed by this: Despite the three operas I've never seen (yay!), the two commissions, and the great and underperformed Simon Boccanegra and Idomeneo, it's an unimaginative and middle-of-the-road season.

Commissions are great, in principle, but I don't have much hope for either of the new works, based on what I remember - or don't - of Harvey Milk and Dead Man Walking, CNN operas to the core. I expect that at best they'll be inoffensive and forgettable, both of which are offensive to me. I'm not a Gershwin fan, so while it'll be interesting to see Porgy, it's not my first choice of 20th c. American operas for SF to stage. I mean, I can't be the only person faintly embarrassed by the dialect.

Beyond the commissions, Boris, Die tote Stadt, Boccanegra, and Idomeneo, in fact, who cares? Two Puccinis, Traviata, and Elisir? Yes, with good casts, but....

[I predicted to a friend after I saw the announcement that he'd be missing Pamela Rosenberg within two years, if Gockley's programming continues to play it this safe. He gave me a lecture about the financial health of the company. Well, even newbies and the conservative get tired of Puccini and, one hopes, Donizetti. Bring back the Berlioz and Janacek, please. Please? Patrick Vaz at The Reverberate Hills agrees with me, with much greater eloquence.]


Patrick J. Vaz said...

I'm extremely depressed about it, and I really am a Gershwin fan (by the way, most contemporary Porgy productions soften the dialect -- heaven instead of hebbin, that sort of thing -- but I suspect that's not your only objection).
As for the financial health of the company, I feel as if I'm being told to eat my vegetables. This is supposed to be pleasure, not a painful duty. And to be blunt, the company's financial health is not really my problem. But it should be obvious that boring the hardcore fans even before a note has been sounded is not the best long-term financial plan.

Anonymous said...

After reading the Alex Ross book, I only wish they'd thought to pair Porgy with Wozzeck.

Brian said...

I completely share your feelings Lisa. I felt disappointed about the season though it isn't a total loss. It is most certainly middle of the road and unimaginative.

It is interesting how Gockley has gone from touting how "well-balanced" last season was to offering up this one which has only one German language offering with a straight face.

Who needs more evidence? I'm already missing Rosenberg.

Anonymous said...

yes, some of the repertory is boring - and I agree about those 2 commissions - but many of us want most to hear great singing. Personally. having seen them so many times in my long opera-going life, I skip the Traviatas and Bohemes unless they are exceptionally well cast. Many houses put on these shows with 2nd tier singers, knowing they'll probably sell out the house regardless of the quality of the cast. I give Gockley credit for bringing Gheorghiu and Netrebko (and Vargas) in. It is only singers of that quality that would make me bother with coming into the city to see these shows.

And I'll never miss Rosenberg. She planned much and delivered some interesting repertory (and her controversial productions did not bother me in the least), but the quality of singing in those years was pretty dismal.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I thought there was a lot of dismal singing in the Mansouri era, that it was worse than under Rosenberg. No time right now to go through the cast lists, but which operas and singers are you thinking of?

Henry Holland said...

Luckily for *my* finances, only the Die Tote Stadt would compel me to hop on a Southwest Airlines flight, and even that's iffy: Torsten Kerl sounds strained on the recording from Salzburg with Runnicles...from 2004!

Also, Los Angeles Opera will be doing Die Tote Stadt in 2009/10 or 2010/11 as part of the Recovered Voices project and I might go to London in February 2009 for their production, which has a good cast and a great conductor of this rep, Ingo Metzmacher.

I don't care about singers all that much, I'm more interested in the operas themselves, so unless Birgit Nilsson ca. 1965 is going to be reanimated so that Elektra, Isolde and Turnad can be properly sung, singers are singers are singers to me, unless they're truly ghastly like, say, Gabriel Schnaut, they're just....there.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between The Gershwins Porgy & Bess and some other Porgy & Bess?

Lisa Hirsch said...

That is an excellent question. I do not know for sure but it looks to me like a way to brand the opera.

Ced said...

If I'm not mistaken, Rosenberg did end up in the black financially, after taking over a company deep in the red. So there is no need to trade off risk taking with accounting responsibility.

Lisa Hirsch said...

At the end of the Mansouri era, no one thought the company was in the red, and the claim wasn't made until a couple of years after he left. By then, Rosenberg had, among other things, spent $3 million on "rebranding" the opera. She wasted vast amounts of money - for example, in scenes where only 20% of the chorus would be visible, most companies would get costumes for that 20%. There was such a scene in St. Francois - she got costumes for the whole chorus. She destroyed the sets and costumes for many productions, including the 1985 Ring sets and, it's rumored, St. Francois. Hello! You spent four million smackers on a production and then trashed it??

There were definitely ticket sale problems, partly because of the economy. There are rumors that a noticable percentage of long-time subscribers and donors stopped subscribing because of her. She had bad relations with all of the unions, which magically cleared up within months of Gockley's arrival.

I was a fan of her programming, mostly dislike how she ran the company.

Anonymous said...

I'm newer to the SF Opera scene though I've lived in the East Bay for years. Gockley has been a grand disappointment. When I learned of his announcement a few years back, I asked a friend who runs a major arts institution in NYC if this was an innovative choice for SF Opera. His answer was, "It would have been innovative 20 years ago." Alas, he's so right. It's a boring season that has moved me from a "design your own series" subscriber to a single ticket buyer simple because there aren't enough operas for me to design a series. Bummer. I hope they get more interesting.

Lisa Hirsch said...

I took to standing room plus single tickets a few years ago, even before he got here.

Someone posted about the 2009-10 season at Patrick's blog, and it's considerably more interesting than 2008-09.

Anonymous said...

These prices are way out of reach at $760 for a mediocre pair of tickets. They must be courting a certain class of people who
have money to burn or worse...

Lisa Hirsch said...

What seats are you talking about? The highest-priced tickets are $225 for orchestra prime - superb seats - and something in that range, maybe $250, for boxes. I know of no seats in the house that hit $760/pair.