Monday, July 04, 2016


The San Francisco Opera 2015-16 season is over, with 2016-17 opening in September. It's time for the summer festival season, whether at the abandoned Oakland Wood St. Station, where West Edge Opera will hold forth, or Bayreuth, where Andris Nelsons abruptly stepped down from conducting the new production of Parsifal, which stars Klaus Florian Vogt.

But the talk never stops. A few weeks ago, music director Nicola Luisotti and SFO announced that Luisotti had decided not to renew his contract when it runs out in two years, that is, at the end of the 2017-18 season. This effectively means that his last appearance on the podium as music director will be during the fall of 2017, because the summer season in 2018 is given over wholly to the Ring, with former MD Donald Runnicles conducting.

So here's a place for you to list your favorite candidates for the job, their strengths and weaknesses, and why you'd like to see them here.

I, of course, have a few of my own favorites and will comment on other names that have come up. In no particular order:
  • James Conlon, since the Met didn't pick him up to succeed James Levine. He is a terrific all-around conductor who has done some superb work in LA and at SF Symphony; he has lots of opera experience; he is passionate about a particular repertory (Entartete Musik, which he promoted with his Recovered Voices project). Currently: Music Director of the LA Opera and of the RAI National Symphony Orchestra, Turin, Italy.
  • Semyon Bychkov. Well, who wouldn't want him? A great conductor, and he does not have a permanent post. Of course, that means he doesn't want one.
  • Pablo Heras-Casado. PH-C should be the front runner for a lot of jobs right now; why the NY Phil didn't grab him, I do not know. He has the widest working repertory of any living conductor, from early music to music of our time; he is an interesting and exciting conductor; he would look good in the publicity photos. He appears to be extremely charming. (Gratuitous and unnecessary remark: he looked awfully slick at his last SFO appearance. The unruly curls were better.) Currently: Principal Conductor of the Orchestra of St. Luke's, NYC and Principal Guest Conductor, Teatro Real, Madrid.
  • Donald Runnicles. Love him, and he's as photogenic as Heras-Casado, but: Been there, done that. Why would he leave his current great job at the Deutsche Opera Berlin to come back here? The only thing that would surprise more than the Return of Runnicles would be the appointment of James Levine.
  • Susanna Malkki. Her visits to San Francisco Symphony have been mighty impressive and have included lots of interesting repertory. She is formidable in 20th and 21st c. music, as the former MD of the mighty Ensemble Intercontemporaine. She was recently appointed Principal Guest Conductor of the LA Philharmonic, so we know she'll be spending some time in sunny California. She is chief conductor of the Helsinki Philharmonic.
  • Alan Gilbert. The outgoing music director of the NY Philharmonic is a dab hand at late 19th repertory and forward, and the upcoming season is his last in NY. He has conducted at the Met and done semi-staged opera at the NYPO. We could conceivable get a production of Nielsen's Maskerade if he were SFO MD.
  • Cornelius Meister, who lead a fabulous Abduction from the Seraglio in his only SF Opera appearance some years ago. Unfortunately, he was just named music director of the Stuttgart Opera.
Okay, I'll name Heras-Casado, Malkki, and Gilbert as my actual favorites for the job.


John Marcher said...

Michael Border would be my first pick.
Then Fabio Luisi.
Then Conlon.
Ok, actually Salonen is my first pick but that's a fantasy.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Luisi has no relationship with the company....and a very good job in Zurich.

Has Border ever conducted in SF?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Aaargh, Boder.

Michael Strickland said...

James Gaffigan is a great young conductor who loves opera. He'd be my ideal choice.

Lisa Hirsch said...

Long time since I last heard Gaffigan!

Answering my own question about Boder, yes. A Flying Dutchman, one Ring cycle in '99, and Grand Macabre.

JSC said...

I've heard Patrick Summers' name being floated around. He has a long-standing relationship with the company and his contract w/ HGO is up for renewal in 2018.