Wednesday, January 19, 2022

SFO 100

War Memorial Opera House
Photo by Lisa Hirsch

It's finally here: the San Francisco Opera centennial season announcement. It's kind of a wow! And that's even though it's a shorter season than I would like; I'm somewhat surprised that with all of the hoopla and fundraising attendant on such an occasion, the company couldn't get donors to pony up enough money for 10 operas. 

To my surprise, the announcement includes part of the 2023-24 season, and that looks like it'll be a good one as well, because it's got three new operas on it.

Here are the answers to the quiz that Matthew Shilvock set up, with as much detail as I can reasonably fit in a bullet list:
  • Two new operas by Bay Area composers
    • John Adams, Antony and Cleopatra, libretto put together by the composer largely from the Shakespeare play, but with additional texts from other sources. Julia Bullock and Gerard Finley as the title characters; also starring Paul Appleby, Alfred Walker, Elizabeth DeShong; directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer. This will be the opening night performance, which I have some doubts about, because having an offbeat work didn't work so well back in the Rosenberg era when one of her seasons opened with The Mother of Us All. Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts. (Right now I'm thinking that I should try to find a commercial recording or bootleg of the Barber Antony that opened the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.)
    • Gabriela Lena Frank, El úlitmo sueño de Frida y Diego, libretto by Nilo Cruz. Co-commission; first performances are at San Diego Opera in October, 2022. Starring Daniela Mack (Frida), Alfredo Daza (Diego), Yaritza Vélez, and Jacob Ingbar star. Roberto Kalb conducts, Lorena Maza directs. SFO has made a great effort here to cast this with native Spanish speakers from the Americas! I think that this is the first main-stage work composed by a woman and the first work in Spanish to be presented by SFO. She is also Jewish, but there's Meyerbeer in the company's past, so she's definitely not the first Jewish composer to have a work in the repertory here.(Whatever happened to those rumors about Florencia en el Amazonas?) 
  • Two new productions from the core repertory
    • Madama Butterfly, co-production with The Tokyo Nikikai Opera Foundation, the Semperoper Dresden and The Royal Danish Opera. There is a concept, which is seeing the opera through the eyes of Dolor, Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton's son. Directed by Amon Miyamoto  and starring Karah Son and Michael Fabiano. Hyona Kim is Suzuki and Lucas Meachem is Sharpless. Eun Sun Kim conducts. There's an effort here not to engage in yellow face, which is good. There's also a statement about this opera and Asian Opera Alliance. Note the work being done at Boston Lyric Opera's Butterfly Project discussion series, which seems like the kind of thing SFO could do.
    • La Traviata (finally, the 35-year-old Copley production is being replaced). Pretty Yende (Violetta), Jonathan Tetelman (Alfredo), Simone Piazzola (Germont). Shawna Lucey directs, Eun Sun Kim conducts.
  • Two operas that had their US premieres here. YES, these are what I'd hoped for!
    • Die Frau ohne Schatten, R. Strauss, in the David Hockney production. Conducted by Sir Donald Runnicles, of course; with Nina Stemme (Dyer's Wife), Camilla Nylund (Empress), Linda Watson (the Nurse), Johan Reuter (Barak), and David Butt Philip as the Emperor. Nothing about the casting of the Spirit Messenger, Voice of the Falcon, Guardian of the Threshold of the Temple, the brothers, or any of the other gazillion roles in this gigantic work; presumably many of them will be drawn from the ranks of the 2023 Adler fellows because this is during the summer of 2023. Roy Rallo directs. 
    • Dialogs of the Carmelites, Poulenc, production by Olivier Py, from the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées. Heidi Stober as Blanche de la Force,  Michelle Bradley as Madame Lidoine, the new Prioress; Michaela Schuster (Madame de Croissy, the Old Prioress), Melody Moore as Mere Marie, Deanna Breiwick as Sister Constance. Ben Bliss returns as the Chevalier de la Force. Eun Sun Kim conducts. A great opera that hasn't been done here since 1982.
  • Two operas in styles not heard in a number of years 
    • Eugene Onegin, Tchaikovsky, Robert Carsen's production, which is supposed to be very beautiful. Evgenia Muraveva as Tatyana, Gordon Bintner as Onegin, Evan LeRoy Johnson (Lensky), Aigul Akhmetshina (Olga), Ferruccio Furlanetto (Prince Gremin). Vassilis Christopoulos conducts. in his American debut.
    • Orpheus and Eurydice, Gluck, new SFO production. This will be the third production of this opera that I've seen in the last several years.  Matthew Ozawa directs; his Fidelio was superb, so I have high hopes. Jakub Józef Orliński as Orpheus, Christina Gansch as Eurydice, Nicole Heaston as Amor. Peter Whelan from the Irish Baroque Orchestra and Ensemble Marsyas conducts.

The above are all productions new to San Francisco Opera.

For me, the biggest surprise in the above is that there's no production for Nicola Luisotti; I've assumed that there would be one for the former music director in this important season. Oh, well, maybe in 2023-24. But I do wonder whether either Traviata or Butterfly was originally intended for him.

Additionally, there's all of this happening:
  • Opening night concert and Opera Ball, September 9, 2022. Concert with Nadine Sierra, Michael Fabiano, Pene Pati, and Lucas Meachem. Eun Sun Kim conducts.
  • 100th Anniversary Concert, Friday, June 16, 2023. "A historic evening of music and memories." Eun Sun Kim conducts, details to follow.
  • Opera in the Park, Sunday, September 11, 2022 at 1:30 pm, Robin Williams Meadow, Golden Gate Park. Free.
  • Open House, Sunday, October 23, 2022. Tours and lots of family-friendly activities and demonstrations. Free.
  • Boheme Out of the Box, which will take a condensed La Boheme to SF communities.
  • Exhibitions of costumes and photos from the company's history.
Coming in 2023-24: three new operas, all SFO co-commissions, which is amazing for a company with an eight-opera season:
  • Mason Bates, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs
  • Kaija Saariaho, Innocence
  • Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels' Omar
Other items of interest:
Do I have a regret or two about this season? Sure: there's no sign of Karita Mattila or Patricia Racette, both of whom have been stalwarts of the company for many years. (Or Ruth Ann Swenson, who is retired.) Philip Skinner, one of my favorite singers, has only a small role. I'd hoped that if SFO did Frau that it would cast Christine Goerke as the Dyer's Wife; she was wonderful at the Met in 2013. But it's a short season; there are many exciting debuts, and the company is definitely looking very much to the future in its casting.


JSC said...

Very thrilling!!!

Lisa Hirsch said...

YES, it really is. Even this crank is happy.

Matthew said...

I'm sad that the company's finances can only support 8 productions. But it's definitely the boldest season since the Rosenberg era. Two world premieres, two seminal (and rarely-produced) 20th century operas that don't conform to Shilvock's dictum that opera should make the bourgeois comfortable.

New productions of "Traviata" and "Butterfly" are welcome indeed. And the first Glück in years (and first "Orfeo" in 25+ years) is also welcome.

I was surprised not to see Wagner on a 100th anniversary season schedule. But overall I'm actually looking forward a season at SFO after years of being bored by the repertoire.

Sacto OperaFan said...

Must say that this season looks fantastic. Hope there are no cancellations.

I am really thrilled as I can finally check off FROSH and Dialogues off my must see list. WOW. I am also looking forward to the Traviata as the last time I saw it was with A Netrebko in SF. Hated that borrowed production.

I was surprised that they are getting a new Butterfly set - wasn't the last one new? The very colorful one?? Not sure I want to see Butterfly again. The memory of the Racette/Jovanovich one still haunts me. I was so very lucky to have gotten to see them. I may have lucked out and caught it on a very good night, but it was magical.

Onegin is one of my favorite operas, so I look forward to seeing it again in SF.

I will wait for the reviews for the new pieces before committing. I've not had good luck with new opera in the past.

Finally, I'm not a fan of early opera, so the Gluck while it looks promising will not be on my list next year.

Wishing everyone a fantastic 2022. Live long and prosper in the Year of the Tiger.

Lisa Hirsch said...

- "Shilvock's dictum that opera should make the bourgeois comfortable." Ahahaha, SIGH. but yes, they do need a new Traviata. I think that I've seen four different Butterfly productions since 1995, so...

- Wagner. Starting next season, Kim is supposed to be conducting one Wagner and one Verdi opera annually. Since the 90s, I think that there have been two Wagner productions that Runnicles didn't conduct: "Meistersinger" with Mark Elder and "Lohengin" with Luisotti.

- Traviata with Netrebko. Yeah, terrible Marta Domingo production in....2009, the last year Runnicles was MD. I saw it with Elizabeth Futral, who sang extremely well and was the coldest Violetta I have ever seen.

- Butterfly. Racette/Jovanovich was my last Butterfly. I saw the noon Saturday matinee, I was there in balcony standing room mostly to try out OperaVision, and you are 100% correct that it was magical. Probably the opera performance I've seen that was closest to perfect. Everyone was so good.

- I didn't see Butterfly with the most recent production. I hated the designer's Magic Flute so much. I was planning to see it with Haroutounian anyway because she's so good, but that was in the fall of 2016 and I got sick basically on my way home from seeing Chicago's Les Troyens.