Friday, June 25, 2021

San Francisco Opera 2021-22 Season

War Memorial Opera House
December, 2019
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

Yes, it's several days after the season announcement and I'm just getting to blog about the upcoming SFO season. It is...incredibly cautious, in repertory, scheduling, and health. They are very clear that this is a "transitional" season. The centennial season, 2022-23, had better be a humdinger, after this. NOT THAT THEY ARE BREATHING A WORD ABOUT IT.

Regarding health, here's how the fall season will start, at least through the performances of the opening opera:

  • Upon entry, patrons will be required to show proof of full vaccination (defined as two weeks after final shot) or a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours of performance or antigen test taken within 1 day of performance (paper or electronic/photo documentation), along with a photo ID.
  • All patrons—including those who have received a COVID-19 vaccine—will be required to wear a face mask while attending performances.
  • Safety protocols include enhanced cleaning practices and availability of hand sanitizer stations throughout the building. Ventilation systems in the War Memorial Opera House meet Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines. All front-of-house and backstage employees will follow rigorous safety protocols including a vaccination requirement.
  • The Box Office will seat one production at a time and use buffer seats (keeping one seat free between parties).
  • Tickets must be purchased in advance either by phone or online; at this time, tickets are not available for in-person purchase.
  • All ticket exchange fees are eliminated for the current season. Exchanges will be accepted up to two hours before the performance. 
  • For a touchless experience, tickets will be delivered digitally (print-at-home and mobile). In lieu of printed program books, a digital program will be available. 
  • The Opera is working with the War Memorial and Global Gourmet to offer concessions to patrons, including limited food and beverage service. Plans for pre-opera talks are being developed. More information will be available soon.
SFS is selling seats up to capacity, for contrast. That business of the Box Office seating one production at a time? Yikes. That's a lot of overhead. Of course, the possibility of updating the above does mean that by August, SFO could decide to just send out a season's worth of tickets to subscribers.

The fall season will be done in stagione style, where only one opera at a time is performed. That will reduce costs: each production has to be set up and struck just once. Too bad if you're coming from another location: you'll have to return for each production instead of coming for a busy weekend with three operas.

I'm getting briefly up on a soapbox here to say that Global Gourmet, which replaced the previous food service provider, isn't as good. The buffet was diminished and the one dessert I had was allegedly panna cotta, but it had the texture of something much denser. Also, for a while coffee was served on an honor system of some kind, where you bought a cup and then served yourself. That reverted to the person behind the counter having to serve you, which wildly slowed down the lines. Look, Seattle Opera has had an honor system for coffee since 2003 and it works very well for them! There are multiple stations on every floor where you leave your cash, grab a cup, and drink as much as you'd like. I saw something like this in Disney Hall last time I was there, too. It works! Trust your patrons! Make life easier for us!

On the positive side

Eun Sun Kim takes charge as SFO's music director!

The seat replacement project is complete!

There are accessibility improvements!

On the not-so-positive side

On to the actual season, which, well, see for yourself:
  • Aug. 21, 27, 29, Sept. 3, 5 - Puccini’s Tosca - Kim, conductor;  Shawna Lucey, stage director; Robert Innes Hopkins, production designer; the cast includes Ailyn Perez, Michael Fabiano, and Alfred Walker
  • Sept. 10 - “Live and in concert: The Homecoming” in the War Memorial and a free live simulcast to Oracle Park, conducted by Kim,  featuring Rachel Willis-Sorensen and Jamie Barton
  • Oct. 14, 17, 20, 22, 26, 30 - Beethoven’s Fidelio - new production,   Kim, conductor; Matthew Ozawa, stage director; Alexander V. Nichols, production designer; the cast includes Elza van den Heever,  Russell Thomas, Greer Grimsley, James Creswell, Soloman Howard,  Anne-Marie MacIntosh, Christopher Oglesby
  • Nov. 21, 23, 27, Dec. 1, 3 - Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte - new production,  Henrik Nanasi, conductor;  Michael Cavanagh, stage director; Erhard Rom, production designer; the cast includes Nicole Cabell, Irene Roberts, Ben Bliss, John Brancy, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Nicole Heaston
  • Dec. 10 - “The Future is Now” Adler Fellows Concert (in Herbst Theater)
  • June 4, 10, 12, 15, 18, 21, 26. July 2 -  Mozart's Don Giovanni - new production, Bertrand de Billy, conductor; Michael Cavanagh, stage director; Erhard Rom, production designer ; the cast includes Etienne Dupuis, Adela Zaharia, Carmen Giannattasio, Amitai Pati, Luca Pisaroni, Christina Gansch, Soloman Howard
  • June 14, 17, 19, 23, 25, July 1, 3 - Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber - Darrell Ang, conductor; Stan Lai, stage director; Tim Yip, production designer; cast includes Meigui Zhang, Yijie Shi, Hyona Kim, Karen Chia-ling Ho, Hongni Wu, Sabina Kim, Guang Yang
  • June 30 - Verdi Concert, Kim conductor, with Nicole Car,  Arturo Chacon-Cruz, Soloman Howard
One Puccini, one Beethoven, two Mozart, one Sheng, plus concerts. That's right, it's a season of five operas. LA Opera, which generally has a much smaller budget than SF, and whose endowment is literally one-tenth of SF's, has a much more varied season, which is a shocker. 

What do I like here? Well, we'll see more of Eun Sun Kim. That Tosca cast is attractive, and it's nice that SFO has noticed that more than one tenor knows the role of Cavaradossi. (Fabiano should be wonderful.) Willis-Sorensen and Barton are both terrific singers. Elza van den Heever (welcome back) after thirteen years) and Russell Thomas, nice pairing! It's always good to revive a company commission, but I admit: I would have picked Dolores Claiborne over Dream of the Red Chamber. Still, I have to commend this.  I'm happy to see some of these singers back and I look forward to hearing those who are new to me.

What don't I like? Timidity. Also, Don Giovanni, which presumably will be in the international version, which is too long and incoherent for my taste. It's....kind of a dull season.

What do I hope for? Well, considering the works left on the sidelines by the pandemic: Der Zwerg, The Revolution of Steve Jobs, and The Handmaid's Tale. Maybe we'll get those in the centennial season or some other future season. It's no secret that SFO is one of several organizations that commissioned the new Saariaho opera, which the Aix-en-Provence Festival premieres this summer. What about the opera John Adams is allegedly working on for SF, Anthony and Cleopatra?



Michael Good said...

Looking forward to your compare and contrast with the San Francisco Symphony announcement!

Lisa Hirsch said...

Ahahahahah YOU COULD WRITE IT YOURSELF, I feel sure. Initial comments should be up pretty soon. The short version is "OMG OMG OMG."