The SF Opera season announcement came out earlier this week. Before I tell you what's in it, let's take a look at some company history, including the upcoming season.
- Don Giovanni: 1995; 1999-2000; 2006-07; 2011-12; 2016-17 (five bring-ups since 1995)
- Rigoletto: 1997-98 (two runs with different casts), 2001-02, 2006-07, 2012-13, 2016-17 (five bring-ups since 1997)
- La Boheme: 1996-97 (Broadway Boheme, 4 rotating casts, many performances), 1999-2000 (two runs with different casts), 2003-04 (two runs with different casts), 2008-09, 2014-15 (two different casts), 2016-17 (6 bring-ups since 1996)
- Madama Butterfly: 1995-96, 1997-98, 1998-99, 2001-2002, 2002-03, 2005-06, 2007-08, 2010-11, 2013-14, 2016-17 (10 bring-ups since 1995, i.e. you can depend on seeing this in alternate years)
You know why I'm doing this, right? Because these works are again on the schedule, all in the same year. It is a depressing season, and the infinite rerun of Rigoletto, Boheme, Don Giovanni, and Butterfly is why. (It could be worse: La Traviata could have been on the schedule!)
This kind of scheduling suggests a major failure on the part of SF Opera, an admission that they can't figure out how to sell a modestly more interesting season to their patrons. David Gockley said as much to Joshua Kosman:
“This is a transition year, and I didn’t want to leave my successor with something big and ugly,” Gockley said in a phone interview. “I wanted to be sure to hand Matthew something that was attainable.”This is a sad state of affairs and doesn't serve the audience well. Or at least it doesn't serve audience members who want something beyond the operatic top 10 (or 25), who want the repertory to expand rather than contract, who think that a little dissonance doesn't chase audiences away, who think that there are plenty of operas with tunes that are never heard but are worth reviving, whether that's early Verdi, the unknown Donizetti, operas by Respighi, Martinu, and others.
Here are the main-stage operas, with some casting information.
- Andrea Chenier, with up-and-coming tenor Yonghoon Lee, soprano Anna Pirozzi, George Gagnidze, J'nai Bridges. Nicola Luisotti conducts.
- Dream of the Red Chamber, cond. George Manahan and an all-Asian cast that will be singing in English. Most singers make their debuts, but you will remember Nian Wang from Les Troyens.
- Don Pasquale, with the brilliant Lawrence Brownlee, finally making his SFO debut; Heidi Stober, Maurizio Muraro, Lucas Meecham/Giuseppe Finzi, production by Laurent Pelly so it will be Cute.
- Vec Makropoulos: with Nadja Michael as EM; I thought her poor in Salome. Stephen Powell as Prus, Scott Quinn is Albert Gregor. Mikhail Tatarnikov conducts.
- Aida, with Leah Crocetto, Brian Jagde, and Ekaterina Semenchuk. I am not convinced that this will work well for Crocetto, who has a lovely voice that doesn't seem quite right for this spinto role, and who isn't a big projector of emotions. I've never been wholly won over by Jagde. Prediction: Semenchuk, who showed both voice and temperament in her tiny appearance in Luisa Miller, runs away with the show. George Gagnidze is Amonasro; he is this season's Christian Van Horn/Brian Mulligan/Andrea Silvestrelli. Luisotti conducts.
- Madama Butterfly: If only I hadn't retired this opera, I might look forward to seeing Lianna Haroutounian in the title role. Zanda Svede as Suzuki, Maxim Aksenov as Pinkerton, Anthony Clark Evans as Sharpless. yves Abel conducts, Jordi Bernacer takes the last performance.
- Rigoletto: Quinn Kelsey should be very good, almost certainly superior to Zeljiko Lucic, who took the title role last time; Pene Pati as the Duke, Nino Machaidze as Gilda. Andrea Silvestrelli is back as Sparafucile, Zanda Svede is Maddalena. It'll be the Yeargan again, reimiagined in some way by director Rob Kearley.
- La Boheme. Erika Grimaldi/Julie Adams (Mimi), Ellie Dehn (Musetta), Arturo Chacon-Cruz (Rodolfo), Audun Iversen (Marcello; cond. Carlo Montanaro.
- Don Giovanni: I have not see DG since the great production of 2007, and I might skip it again. Idelbrando D'Arcangelo as Giovanni, Erin Wall (Anna), Ana Maria Martinez (Elviro), Marco Vinco as Leporello, Sarah Shafer as Zerlina. Marc Minkowski conducts (possibly the most interesting aspect of the opera).
God help us all: nine operas, of which seven are Italian, one is Czech, and one is in English (despite its source material, composer, and all-Asian cast!). Nothing German, nothing Russian, nothing French, and except for the premiere, none written after 1925. That's almost as timid a season as I can imagine. It's as though the giant productions of 2015 sucked all the
money sense air out of the room, leaving a Greatest Hits for Beginners season. Two Verdi, two Puccini, one each of Mozart, Donizetti, Sheng, Janacek, and Giordano.
Things are better across the street in the tiny Taube Atrium Theater, which seats 299. We'll get Anna Caterina Antonacci in Poulenc's poignant La voix humaine and Ted Hearn's The Source. That does not make up for the above....a season I'll have to be paid to attend, except for the three operas I've never seen before, two of which are not among opera's greatest works and one of which is completely new....and maybe Makropoulos because I love the opera.