Monday, September 09, 2013

Lotfi Mansouri

Photo Courtesy of San Francisco Opera*

Lotfi Mansouri, fourth general director of San Francisco Opera, died in San Francisco on August 30 at 84 of pancreatic cancer. 

The Iranian-born Mansouri came to SFO in 1988, following the financially-disastrous five-year tenure of Terry McEwan, and served until 2001. He put the opera company back on a decent financial footing (only to have successor Pamela Rosenburg run the company into another hole), brought Supertitles, his own invention, to the War Memorial Opera House, got together enough money for badly-needed earthquake strengthening of the opera house as well as some renovations and a small expansion, ran the project so that it came in on time and on budget, and managed a season out of the opera house while the work went on, making good use of the Orpheum for several productions and the Civic Auditorium for the rest. 

He commissioned a few operas while at SF: Conrad Susa’s The Dangerous Liaisons, AndrĂ© Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, John Adams’s The Death of Klinghoffer, Stewart Wallace’s Harvey Milk, and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. He staged a number of Russian rarities, including Ruslan and Ludmilla, The Fiery Angel, Betrothal in a Monastery, and The Tsar's Bride. He brought Donald Runnicles to San Francisco Opera as music director, following Runnicles' great showing in the 1990 Ring

Mansouri also directed many productions at SFO, too many to list. I can't say I thought he was more than a competent director, as I can't remember a single particularly insightful production. Casting under Mansouri (and Christina Scheppelman) was erratic; Carol Vaness was engaged for dramatic soprano roles, hastening her vocal decline; Wolfgang Schmidt was a little too much in evidence; too many stars never made it to SF or seemed to be excluded for thinner singers with less voice.

Other obituaries:

The bas relief in the opera house lobby shows a grim Mansouri - all wrong; he was a smiler.


Kozmika said...

The Russian Operas Lotfi brought to San Francisco are his great legacy not to mention Maestro Gergiev. Lotfi also was very good at fundraising and bringing us through the year we were out of the theater due to Earthquake retrofit.

Lisa Hirsch said...

If only those Russian operas could be revived!