Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Coming Up at San Francisco Opera

War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch, 2015

Joshua Kosman chatted with San Francisco Opera music director Eun Sun Kim the other week, and she revealed some future plans for the company:

Part of the problem, she says, is that there are only eight productions each season — and she is eager to conduct everything. For the time being, though, Kim has settled on a plan to conduct one Verdi and one Wagner opera each season, as well as cultivating the contemporary repertoire.

“The reason I picked Verdi among the Italian repertoire — not Puccini, but Verdi; I love every composer — is because Verdi is something I can build my relationship with the orchestra with,” she explained.

“The same thing with Wagner. I want to go through ‘Tristan,’ through the early operas, and through ‘Parsifal,’ so that when we get to ‘The Ring’ Cycle in five or six years I can do it with my orchestra, where even if I don’t say anything, they understand what I want.”

So: currently, they're planning to continue with eight productions annually. Boo, hiss: I had hoped that one of the goals of the centennial season fundraising would be a return to nine- or ten-opera seasons. Isn't there a big donor who'd like to be associated with this?

But it's good to know that there's some Wagner in the future. In addition to the Ring, done in 2011 and 2018, here's what we've had in this century:

  • Die Fliegende Holländer, 2004-05 and 2013-14
  • Die Meistersinger, 2001-02 and 2015-16
  • Parsifal, 1999-2000
  • Lohengrin, 2012-13
  • Tristan und Isolde, 2006-07
  • Tannhaüser, 2007-08
That's a little thin on the ground, except in the context of the shrinking number of productions each season. Certainly the change of music directors in 2009 had something to do with this; of the above, former MD Nicola Luisotti conducted only Lohengin. Mark Elder conducted the second Meistersinger and Patrick Summers conducted the second Dutchman. Donald Runnicles conducted the rest, including the two bring-ups of the Ring.

It's interesting that there's a plan for another Ring in five or six years. I am contemplating the current ages of the available singers for certain roles in the work and betting that some of those who sang in 2018 won't be returning. I'll guess that the Zambello production will get another outing, because it's a lot cheaper to use an existing production than go through creating a new one.

As for the Verdi, if I had my druthers, we'd get I Vespri Siciliani / Les vêpres siciliennes, the only middle or late Verdi opera that I have never seen. Beyond that, maybe one of the early rarities; I would love to see a staged Il Corsaro, which does come with colonialist / Orientalist problems, it's true. Maybe a convincing Otello?

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