San Francisco Opera presents encore of ‘Aida’

Verdi’s Egyptian masterpiece will feature a new principal cast.

The triumphal scene photo by Cory Weaver
The triumphal scene photo by Cory Weaver
The triumphal scene photo by Cory Weaver
The triumphal scene photo by Cory Weaver

San Francisco Opera announced they’ve added five performances of Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida, a compelling tale of conflicting loyalties and forbidden passions, at the War Memorial Opera House from November 23 through December 5. Verdi’s Egyptian masterpiece, which opened the Company’s 88th Season in September, will feature a new principal cast including Michele Capalbo, Guang Yang, Carlo Ventre, Quinn Kelsey and Eric Owens.

British fashion icon Zandra Rhodes’ colorful and fanciful production, originally directed by Jo Davies, is directed by Jose Maria Condemi and Assistant Music Director Giuseppe Finzi is on the podium conducting the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Speaking about the production, General Director David Gockley explains that “Zandra’s work is pure theater, just like she is. It’s bigger than life and full of fantasy. It’s perfect for making a big impact in a venue the size of ours.”

Hao Jiang Tian (Ramfis), Dolora Zajick (Amneris), Christian Van Horn (The King of Egypt), Marcello Giordani (Radames), Micaela Carosi (Aida) and Marco Vratogna (Amonasro) with the San Francisco Opera Chorus photo by Cory Weaver
Hao Jiang Tian (Ramfis), Dolora Zajick (Amneris), Christian Van Horn (The King of Egypt), Marcello Giordani (Radames), Micaela Carosi (Aida) and Marco Vratogna (Amonasro) with the San Francisco Opera Chorus photo by Cory Weaver

Soprano Michele Capalbo makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Aida, a role she has previously performed in Nice, Toulon, Mexico City, Houston, Santiago and Toulouse. Other recent credits include Leonora in Il Trovatore in Madrid, Winnipeg and Santiago; the title role of Tosca in Calgary, Seattle, Québec and New York; and Lady Macbeth (Macbeth) in Dublin, Montreal and Dayton.

Chinese mezzo-soprano Guang Yang appears with San Francisco Opera for the first time as Princess Amneris. Yang has previously sung the role of Amneris at Deutsche Oper Berlin and Bregenz Festival Opera. Other recent credits include Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana at Lyric Opera Chicago and Deutsche Oper Berlin; Suzuki in Madama Butterfly at Lyric Opera Chicago and Dallas Opera; and Eboli in Don Carlos at Canadian Opera Company and Welsh National Opera.

Dolora Zajick (Amneris), Marcello Giordani (Radames) and Christian Van Horn (The King of Egypt) photo by Cory Weaver
Dolora Zajick (Amneris), Marcello Giordani (Radames) and Christian Van Horn (The King of Egypt) photo by Cory Weaver

Italian tenor Carlo Ventre appears in one of his signature roles—Radames, the handsome young warrior at the heart of a tumultuous love triangle. Ventre has performed Radames in Rome, Verona, Leipzig, Salerno, Berlin and San Diego, and he will reprise the role this spring at Royal Opera, Covent Garden.

Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey returns to San Francisco Opera as Amonasro, a role he recently debuted in Bregenz. Kelsey made his Company debut in 2008 as Marcello in La Bohème and has since appeared as Count di Luna in Il Trovatore and as Sharpless in Madama Butterfly, a role he has also performed at Hawaii Opera Theater and New York City Opera.

Marcello Giordani (Radames) and Hao Jiang Tian (Ramfis) photo by Cory Weaver
Marcello Giordani (Radames) and Hao Jiang Tian (Ramfis) photo by Cory Weaver

Following his unanimously-praised performances as Alberich in Das Rheingold at the Metropolitan Opera this fall, American bass-baritone Eric Owens returns to San Francisco Opera in Aida as the high priest Ramfis. In addition to his celebrated performances in the title role of the Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in 2009, Owens’ previous appearances at San Francisco Opera include Lodovico in Otello, Don Fernando in Fidelio and the King of Scotland in Ariodante.

Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, who appeared for the first time at San Francisco Opera earlier this season in the same role, is Amneris’ father, the King of Egypt. Van Horn has also performed with the Company this season as the Bailiff in Massenet’s Werther and the Bonze in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Adler Fellow Leah Crocetto reprises her role as the Priestess and Adler Fellow Brian Jagde is the Messenger.

Aida by Giuseppe Verdi

San Francisco Opera San Francisco Opera

November 23 (8 p.m.), 26 (8 p.m.), 29 (8 p.m.);

December 2 (7:30 p.m.), 5 (2 p.m.), 2010

Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni
Approximate running time: 3 hours with one intermission
Sung in Italian with English supertitles

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  • NY Transplant

    I saw the performance on Dec 2nd at the War Memorial Opera House. Sadly, Capalbo and Ventre were not in their element vocally. Ms. Capalbo floated many lovely pianissimi, but there are fortes and climaxes that were unpleasantly out of her reach. She did her best with the big arias to her credit. Yet I heard occasional pitch problems throughout the night. Mr. Ventre does not have the vocal luster or heft to be a first class Radames. He had a lovely final scene with Aida, coupled with predominantly painful moments for most of the evening. The two standouts were Yang and Kelsey. With the right coaching from future conductors, they will have major careers in major opera houses. They each had a bright, young tone and compelling musicianship. Ms Yang was exceptionally passionate and sometimes the passion overtook her singing. But she received the most applause and deservedly so. Mr Kelsey has a unforced lyricism which blossoms at the top. His costume diminished some of his dramatic credibility but his burnished singing and legato line pointed towards a bright future in Verdi baritone roles. Eric Owens was a fine Ramfis, typically a faceless role. With the right coaching and career opportunities, he may be singing at Bayreuth one day. The conducting ran the gamut from good to confusing, especially in Amneris’ Act 3 scene with Radames. The costumes were very colorful and were consistent with many people’s vision of “Grand Opera”.