San Francisco Opera today (news and reviews) announced the repertory, guest artists, conductors and creative teams for the Company’s 2014–15 Season.
General Director David Gockley and Music Director Nicola Luisotti revealed the lineup:
Les Troyens (The Trojans), the monumental and epic French opera by Hector Berlioz starring Anna Caterina Antonacci, Susan Graham, Bryan Hymel and Sasha Cooke, conducted by Donald Runnicles and featuring the U.S. debut of the new David McVicar production; the Company premiere of composer Carlisle Floyd’s American music drama Susannah with Patricia Racette; the Company premiere of George Frideric Handel’s Partenope, presented on the War Memorial Opera House stage in the Olivier Award-winning production by Christopher Alden with Baroque music specialist Christian Curnyn leading an exceptional cast including Danielle de Niese and David Daniels; and the world premiere of Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara (Two Women) set to a libretto by the composer and Fabio Ceresa starring Anna Caterina Antonacci, directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by Nicola Luisotti.
A hallmark of David Gockley’s notable career over the past four decades has been the commissioning and presentation of new operatic works.
Sondra Radvanovsky, one of the world’s leading singers of the lyric stage will open the new season Friday, September 5, 2014 with a gala performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterwork Norma, presented in a new and highly theatrical production directed by Kevin Newbury and conducted by Maestro Luisotti.
Gockley, now in his ninth year as San Francisco Opera general director, commented “I am genuinely enthused about the new season and believe it stacks up against the finest seasons offered over the decades by this great company. All the productions will be sung at the highest international level and will feature our extraordinary San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. On a personal note, I am particularly thrilled to present Carlisle Floyd’s beautiful and popular Susannah. I have championed Carlisle’s operas throughout my entire career, and I couldn’t be more pleased to finally present Susannah to Bay Area audiences in a handsome new production.”
A hallmark of David Gockley’s notable career over the past four decades, both at San Francisco Opera and formerly at Houston Grand Opera, has been the commissioning and presentation of new operatic works. In June 2015, San Francisco Opera’s world premiere presentation of Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara will mark Gockley’s 40th world premiere project.
In a related announcement regarding San Francisco Opera’s commissioning of new operas, the Company confirmed plans for a forthcoming world premiere in Fall 2016—Dream of the Red Chamber, featuring music by world renowned Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng (Madame Mao, Silver River) and an English-language libretto by the composer and Tony Award-winning Chinese-American playwright David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly and Chinglish). The new work is based on the book Dream of the Red Chamber by 18th-century Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xuequin, and is considered one of the four great classical novels of historic Chinese literature. This San Francisco Opera commission was initiated and funded by the Chinese Heritage Foundation Friends of Minnesota. Casting and creative team artists will be announced at a future date.
San Francisco Opera also announced that all evening performances in the 2014–15 Season will now have a curtain time of 7:30 p.m. The only exceptions include all evening performances of Les Troyens which will begin at 6 p.m. due to the opera’s length, and the September 5 season opening night performance of Norma, which will remain at 8 p.m. Matinee performances will continue to begin at 2 p.m., except the June 7 matinee of Les Troyens, which will begin at 1 p.m. This change in curtain time does not affect the upcoming Summer 2014 performances, which will remain at their previously announced times.
La Ciociara (Two Women) – Music by Marco Tutino June 13–30, 2015
Libretto by Marco Tutino and Fabio Ceresa
San Francisco Opera presents the world premiere of Italian composer Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara, based on 20th-century Italian author Alberto Moravia’s novel of the same name, with a libretto by the composer and Fabio Ceresa, adapted from a script by Luca Rossi, and by arrangement with Studio Legale Cau Morandi Minutillo Turtur. Moravia’s critically acclaimed 1958 work was adapted in 1960 by noted Italian film producer Carlo Ponti into a film starring Sophia Loren, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
This moving drama follows a strong-willed widow and her 16-year-old daughter in World War II as they flee Rome in a vain attempt to find safety. Starring as Cesira will be Anna Caterina Antonacci, who has garnered outstanding reviews for her rare United States performances. Of a recent recital at Lincoln Center, the New York Times wrote, “The extraordinary Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci has concentrated her career in Europe. Each appearance she makes in America. . . is coveted by opera fans familiar with her intelligent and charismatic artistry.” Antonacci made her San Francisco Opera debut in 1992 in the title role of Ermione and returned in 1998 as Adalgisa in Norma. Completing the cast are soprano Sarah Shafer, who recently created the role of Mary in Nolan Gasser and Carey Harrison’s world premiere opera, The Secret Garden, as Cesira’s daughter Rosetta; tenor Stephen Costello as Michele, a young intellectual who becomes close to both mother and daughter; and bass-baritone Mark Delavan as the devious Giovanni.
Sung in Italian, Tutino’s La Ciociara will be conducted by Nicola Luisotti and directed by internationally lauded opera and theater director Francesca Zambello, director of the Company’s 2011 Ring cycle. This world premiere co-production with Turin’s Teatro Regio features sets designed by Peter Davison, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Mark McCullough and projections by S. Katy Tucker.
Susannah – Carlisle Floyd September 6–21, 2014
Carlisle Floyd’s 1955 opera Susannah receives its eagerly awaited Company premiere with soprano Patricia Racette in the title role. One of the most performed of all American operas, Susannah was the first score and libretto written by the prolific composer and features iconic music that evokes the work’s rural Appalachian setting. Racette returns to San Francisco Opera in her role debut as the innocent, strong-willed and falsely accused young woman Susannah Polk. The all-American cast also includes bass Raymond Aceto as Reverend Olin Blitch, the itinerant preacher who targets Susannah as a sinner, and tenor Brandon Jovanovich as her hot-headed brother Sam Polk. This new production will be created by director Michael Cavanagh and set designer Erhard Rom, who most recently brought their critically acclaimed Nixon in China production to San Francisco in 2012. Conductor Karen Kamensek, music director of Hannover State Opera, will make her Company debut.
Partenope – George Frideric Handel October 15–November 2, 2014
San Francisco Opera presents, for the first time in the Company’s history, George Frideric Handel’s brilliantly entertaining comedy Partenope. Winner of the 2009 Olivier Award for “Best New Production,” this production is directed by Christopher Alden and has sets designed by Andrew Lieberman. Set in 1920s Paris, the production’s edgy and often surreal aesthetic was inspired by the artwork of Dadaist Man Ray. Lyric soprano and baroque specialist Danielle de Niese returns in the title role of the Queen of Naples opposite leading countertenor David Daniels, who thrilled audiences in 2011’s Xerxes, as her suitor Arsace. Argentinean mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack is the crafty Rosmira, Arsace’s scorned lover who attempts to use a cross-dressing disguise to enact her revenge. Countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo makes his Company debut as another of Partenope’s admirers, Armindo, and tenor Alek Shrader is Prince Emilio. British conductor Christian Curnyn, who also led this production’s critically acclaimed premiere at English National Opera, makes his San Francisco Opera debut with these performances.
Additional New Production
Norma – Vincenzo Bellini September 5–30, 2014
The Fall 2014 Season opens with a dramatic new production of Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece Norma, starring American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in one of opera’s most dazzling and demanding roles. Of her recent performance as Norma at the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Times wrote, “[Radvanovsky] earned a thunderous ovation. . .her top notes ringing and powerful, her middle range velvety, her coloratura nimble and phrasing elegant.” Featuring “Casta Diva,” one of the most popular and recognized arias in the operatic repertoire, Norma tells the story of a Druid high priestess who betrays her people by falling in love with an occupying Roman soldier, only to be betrayed herself; her conflicted state of mind threatens the lives of the innocent and guilty alike. American mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas is the young priestess Adalgisa; Italian tenor Marco Berti is Pollione, the Roman who secretly fathered Norma’s children; and American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn is Oroveso, chief of the Druids and Norma’s father. Director Kevin Newbury and set designer David Korins return to San Francisco Opera for this vivid, large-scale new co-production with Canadian Opera Company, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Productions New to the Bay Area
Les Troyens (The Trojans) – Hector Berlioz June 7–July 1, 2015
San Francisco Opera presents the long-awaited return of one of the most significant and monumental pieces in the operatic repertoire—Berlioz’s epic saga, Les Troyens set to a text by the composer and based on Virgil’s Aeneid. After an absence of 47 years, Les Troyens is presented in a massive and visually striking co-production with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and Vienna State Opera by David McVicar, which The Guardian (London) described as “a major event” when it premiered in London in 2012. Over the course of five and one-half hours, Berlioz’s five-act visionary masterpiece portrays the tragic fall of Troy, the passionate love of two great leaders and the urgent pull of destiny. The resplendent cast is headlined by the “vocally sumptuous and alluring” mezzo-soprano Susan Graham and tenor Bryan Hymel, who gives “an impassioned and confident performance of a heroic role” (New York Times), as the ill-fated lovers Dido and Aeneas. The dramatic role of the prophetess Cassandra is shared by Italian soprano Anna Caterina Antonacci, who received enthusiastic reviews in this production at its London premiere, and mezzo-soprano Daveda Karanas. Sasha Cooke, who recently shone in the title role of San Francisco Opera’s world premiere of Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, returns as Dido’s sister Anna. Former San Francisco Opera Music Director Donald Runnicles, who currently holds posts at Deutsche Oper Berlin, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Grand Teton Music Festival and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, returns to conduct.
San Francisco Opera has a long history with Les Troyens, having staged an abridged version of the opera in 1966 billed as the “American professional stage premiere,” following an earlier stage presentation of the work by the New England Opera Theater. The Company premiere featured Régine Crespin as both Cassandra and Dido, and Jon Vickers as Aeneas. San Francisco Opera has previously presented Les Troyens in three seasons: 1966 (San Francisco), 1968 (San Francisco and Berkeley) and 1969 (Los Angeles tour).
La Bohème – Giacomo Puccini November 14–December 7, 2014
Puccini’s masterpiece about an aspiring poet and a fragile seamstress who experience passionate love and poignant tragedy in 19th-century Paris, features two superb alternating casts in a new production. One cast features Sonya Yoncheva as Mimì opposite Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo. Yoncheva, who will make her San Francisco Opera debut as Violetta in June 2014’s La Traviata, was recently described by the New York Times as “an artist on the brink of a major career.” This performance will mark her role debut as Mimì. Fabiano, who sang Rodolfo in this production at Canadian Opera Company earlier this year, was reviewed by Musical Toronto as “a tenor that operatic dreams are made of.” Former Adler Fellow Nadine Sierra returns as Musetta and Alexey Markov makes his Company debut as Marcello. The other cast is headlined by Leah Crocetto as Mimì and Giorgio Berrugi as Rodolfo, with Ellie Dehn as Musetta and Brian Mulligan as Marcello. Christian Van Horn returns as Colline and Adler Fellow Philippe Sly is Schaunard in all performances. John Caird makes his San Francisco Opera debut directing a new production designed by Olivier Award-winning and Tony Award-nominated scenic designer David Farley. Farley’s setting is conceived as a collage of canvases by the painter Marcello and is inspired by the artistic brilliance and romance of France’s Belle Époque. Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
Revivals of San Francisco Opera Productions
Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball) – Giuseppe Verdi October 4–22, 2014
Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera, which the San Francisco Chronicle calls “one of the composer’s most hot-blooded and vividly crafted tales,” is headlined by Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas as the unwisely flirtatious and cavalier King Gustavus III. Vargas has previously sung the role with companies around the world, including Munich’s Bavarian State Opera; Paris Opera; the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; and Zurich Opera. Amelia, the object of the king’s affection, is portrayed by Bulgarian soprano Krassimira Stoyanova in her Company debut; Stoyanova will appear this spring as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at the Salzburg Festival. Julianna Di Giacomo joins the Ballo cast as Amelia for the final performance. Singing the role of Gustavus’ jealous and impulsive advisor Count Anckarström is preeminent American baritone Thomas Hampson; Brian Mulligan sings two performances of the role. Soprano Heidi Stober is the page Oscar, and riveting mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick returns as the fortune teller Madame Arvidson. A compelling tale of love, betrayal and revenge, Verdi’s magnificent drama is presented in San Francisco Opera’s classic production, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti and directed by Jose Maria Condemi.
Tosca – Giacomo Puccini October 23–November 8, 2014
Italian maestro Riccardo Frizza conducts Tosca, Puccini’s masterful melodrama in which a great singer, a rebellious painter and a corrupt police chief engage in a deadly test of wills. San Francisco Opera’s elegant and beloved production designed by Thierry Bosquet is directed by Jose Maria Condemi. Lianna Haroutounian makes her San Francisco Opera debut in the title role. Haroutounian is in high demand throughout Europe for her portrayals of many of the Verdi and Puccini heroines, including Desdemona (Otello), Mimì (La Bohème), Amelia (Un Ballo in Maschera), Elizabeth (Don Carlos) and Cio-Cio-San (Madama Butterfly). Tenor Brian Jagde and bass-baritone Mark Delavan return as Mario Cavaradossi and Baron Scarpia, reprising roles they sang together most recently in San Francisco Opera’s 2012 production. Jagde has since appeared as Cavaradossi at Deutsche Oper Berlin, and Delavan brought his portrayal of Wotan to the Metropolitan Opera’s Ring cycle last year.
La Cenerentola (Cinderella) – Gioachino Rossini November 9–26, 2014
Based on one of the most beloved fairy tales of all time, Rossini’s La Cenerentola sparkles in Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s charming and heartwarming production. French mezzo-soprano Karine Deshayes makes her San Francisco Opera debut in the title role of Angelina (Cinderella), the gentle servant girl who catches the eye of a handsome prince. Deshayes has previously sung the role with great success throughout her native France, including at Paris Opera, Opera de Tours, Bordeaux National Opera and Nantes Opera. American tenor René Barbera makes his Company debut as the dashing prince Don Ramiro, Italian baritone Fabio Capitanucci returns as the prince’s valet Dandini and Spanish baritone Carlos Chausson is Cinderella’s evil stepfather. Gregory Fortner directs and esteemed Spanish conductor Jesús López-Cobos, who previously has held music director posts at Madrid’s Teatro Real, Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Orquesta Nacional de España, leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart June 14–July 5, 2015
Mozart’s eternally popular comedy Le Nozze di Figaro features a cast of vivid characters headlined by young bass-baritone Philippe Sly in the title role and soprano Lisette Oropesa as Susanna. Sly—fresh from completing his Adler Fellowship—delighted audiences as Guglielmo in San Francisco Opera’s 2013 production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, a role he will reprise this spring with the Los Angeles Philharmonic conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Oropesa recently appeared with the Company as Romilda in 2011’s critically acclaimed Xerxes; she has previously sung the role of Susanna at the Metropolitan Opera, the Ravinia Festival in Chicago and Santa Fe Opera. Soprano Nadine Sierra returns as the Countess Almaviva and Luca Pisaroni, who sang the role of Figaro in San Francisco Opera’s 2010 performance of this opera, appears as her philandering husband Count Almaviva. Kate Lindsey returns as Cherubino following her 2011 Company debut as Zerlina in Don Giovanni; Angela Brower, who most recently impressed San Francisco audiences as Nicklausse in 2013’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann, sings three performances of the role. Principal Guest Conductor and Houston Grand Opera Artistic and Music Director Patrick Summers will be on the podium for this Company revival created by John Copley and directed by Robin Guarino.
La Bohème for Families, November 22 & 29
The Future is Now: Adler Fellows Gala Concert, December 6
In addition to the above mentioned main-stage performances, San Francisco Opera will present two afternoon performances of La Bohème for Families (November 22 & 29) and The Future is Now: Adler Fellows Gala Concert, featuring the talented artists from San Francisco Opera Center’s prestigious young artist training program with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra (December 6).
OPENING WEEKEND FESTIVITIES
Opening Night Galas, September 5
Opera in the Park, September 7
San Francisco Opera’s 92nd Season opens on Friday, September 5 with Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti and featuring Sondra Radvanovsky in what is quickly becoming her most dazzling signature role. Daveda Karanas, Marco Berti and Christian Van Horn complete the cast for this impressive new production created by director Kevin Newbury and set designer David Korins. A highlight of the City’s cultural and philanthropic season, the Opening Night Gala festivities include Opera Ball 2014, presented in collaboration with the San Francisco Opera Guild—now celebrating their 75th Anniversary season—and benefiting San Francisco Opera and the Opera Guild’s education and community programs, and BRAVO! CLUB’s Opening Night Gala, geared toward young professionals.
The season-opening weekend concludes with San Francisco Opera in the Park on Sunday, September 7 in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow. This free annual concert features artists from the Company’s Fall 2014 season and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra conducted by Maestro Luisotti.