San Francisco Opera revealed its 2023-2024 with plans to offer new music and fresh explorations while reaffirming its commitment to expand the repertoire with three co-commissioned new works by leading composers of today.
Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock and Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim announced details for the season — the Company’s 101st — which opens September 8, 2023. Expect annual Verdi presentations which begun in 2022 to continue with Il Trovatore. Also look for a new-to-San-Francisco-Opera production of Lohengrin.
See below for full details of the San Francisco Opera 2023-2024 season.
Eun Sun Kim said: “The works of Wagner and Verdi are cornerstones of the operatic repertoire as we know it. Each composer blazed new trails in his day—and each changed the world of opera forever. As music director, part of my work is to set priorities for orchestral collaboration that will lead to the artistic growth of the Company. With this in mind, I will program operas from these two giants every year, enabling continuous development of these musical styles and our shared craft.”
From the announcement:
The 2023–24 Season launches with an opening week of music and festivities beginning Friday, September 8, with Opera Ball, a gala concert featuring soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and, in his first Company appearance, tenor Roberto Alagna with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Eun Sun Kim. On Sunday, September 10, Kim and the Orchestra, along with vocal soloists from the Company’s fall season, take to Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park for the annual Opera in the Park free concert. Then, on Tuesday, September 12, Kim will lead the Company in the first full opera of the season, Verdi’s Il Trovatore.
Three new works co-commissioned by San Francisco Opera punctuate the Company’s 101st season. First, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Bay Area composer Mason Bates and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell takes the stage in September with baritone John Moore as eponymous iconoclastic Steve Jobs, whose ideas helped reshape our world. Omar, the first opera by Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens in collaboration with composer Michael Abels, brings an urgent, American story to the War Memorial Opera House in November. The acclaimed new work Innocence, from esteemed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho with libretto by Sofi Oksanen and dramaturgy by Aleksi Barrière, has its American premiere in June 2024.
Matthew Shilvock commented: “Our new season carries forth all of the thrilling energy of the Centennial as we welcome the community into a fascinating array of experiences and stories. I cannot wait for Eun Sun’s first Wagner opera in the house as she continues to bring awe-inspiring interpretations to our theater. I am so proud that we are telling so many new stories this season, and I’m excited to continue our innovation explorations as we chart a course for the future of opera. The Bay Area Community is discovering opera in fabulous new ways, and we look forward to welcoming many new audience members to immerse themselves in artwork that connects us, bridges differences and speaks to the soul.”
SAN FRANCISCO OPERA
September 8, 2023
Music Director Eun Sun Kim and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus inaugurate the Company’s 101st season with a program of arias and scenes featuring tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. The husband-and-wife duo, each a celebrated artist on the world’s leading opera stages, headline Opera Ball, the annual benefit co-presented by San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Opera Guild. The 2023–24 Season-launching gala event is co-chaired by Francesca Gutierrez Amann and Sue Graham Johnston.
IL TROVATORE by Giuseppe Verdi
September 12–October 1, 2023
Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore has been a pillar of the Italian repertoire and popular favorite in San Francisco since the Gold Rush days. Eun Sun Kim, continuing her annual exploration of the operas of Verdi which she initiated in 2022 with La Traviata, takes on the composer’s spirited classic, which abounds in turbulent passions and hit tunes like the famous Anvil Chorus. The rotating set of Sir David McVicar’s production, directed in revival by Roy Rallo, keeps the opera’s musical momentum and simmering intensity building to a stunning conclusion.
Tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz portrays Manrico, the heroic troubadour of the opera’s title. Soprano Angel Blue, who made her Company debut in 2009 as Clara in Porgy and Bess, returns as Leonora, one of Verdi’s greatest heroines. Baritone George Petean joins the Company as Count di Luna, and mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, whom conductor Riccardo Muti praised as “without doubt the best Verdi mezzo-soprano today on the planet” (New York Times), completes the powerful quartet in the pivotal role of Azucena. Chorus Director John Keene prepares the artists of the San Francisco Opera Chorus.
THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS music by Mason Bates, libretto by Mark Campbell
September 22–October 7, 2023
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Bay Area composer Mason Bates and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell had its world premiere in 2017 and has since enjoyed a Grammy-winning recording and multiple productions around North America. Dramatizing the nexus of the sleek, high-tech devices that revolutionized modern life and the less tidy human beings who dreamed them into existence, this San Francisco Opera co-commission makes its long-awaited local premiere. The creative team from the original production, led by director Kevin Newbury, will be reunited for this presentation near the Silicon Valley environs that provide the opera’s setting. Michael Christie conducts the fast-paced, electro-acoustic work.
The cast features baritone John Moore in his Company debut as the iconoclastic Steve Jobs, a role for which he has won praise with companies in Seattle, Atlanta, Austin and Kansas City. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who “radiantly personified” (Dallas Morning News) Laurene Powell Jobs at the world premiere, and bass Wei Wu, role creator of Jobs’ spiritual advisor, Kōbun Chino Otogawa, reprise their respective parts. Tenor Bille Bruley appears with San Francisco Opera for the first time as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is the first of three San Francisco Opera co-commissions to be presented during the 2023–24 Season, reaffirming the Company’s commitment to expanding the operatic repertoire.
LOHENGRIN by Richard Wagner
October 15–November 1, 2023
At the center of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin stands a woman accused and her mysterious protector, the proverbial knight in shining armor. Amid the romance and intrigue, the opera’s story is driven forward by one of opera’s most elevating soundscapes. Beginning with this glorious gem of the operatic canon, presented in director David Alden’s production from London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Eun Sun Kim and the Company initiate a multi-season journey through the composer’s works.
New Zealand-born heldentenor Simon O’Neill is Lohengrin and American soprano Julie Adams, a recent San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, portrays Elsa. The union of Elsa and Lohengrin is opposed by the scheming Ortrud, performed by Romanian-Hungarian mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi in her American debut, and the Telramund of baritone Brian Mulligan. Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson, who was the Water Gnome in Dvořák’s Rusalka under Kim’s baton in 2019, returns as King Heinrich.
OMAR music by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, libretto by Rhiannon Giddens
November 5–21, 2023
In the early 1800s, Islamic scholar Omar Ibn Said was forcibly taken from his village in West Africa and sold into slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, where he recorded his story as an expansive canvas of testimony and faith. Said’s two-hundred-year-old autobiography comes vividly to life on the lyric stage in Omar, the first opera by MacArthur Fellowship “genius award” recipient Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels, known for his music for films, including Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Us and Nope. This San Francisco Opera co-commission comes to the War Memorial Opera House in the production by Kaneza Schaal. Conductor John Kennedy, who led the work’s 2021 world premiere at Spoleto Festival USA, leads Giddens and Abels’ expansive score which synthesizes strains of bluegrass, spirituals, the West African kora, folk music and jazz into a compelling theatrical experience.
In his Company debut, tenor Jamez McCorkle portrays Omar. Mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven, who has appeared during San Francisco Opera’s Centennial Season in the world premiere of John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra, Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and Verdi’s La Traviata, portrays Fatima, Omar’s mother who bestows wisdom on her son through dream sequences. Soprano Brittany Renee makes her house debut as Julie, a friend to Omar amid the trials of their lives under enslavement. Baritone Norman Garrett makes his house debut in the double roles of Omar’s brother, Abdul, and Abe; baritone Daniel Okulitch portrays both Johnson and Owen and tenor Barry Banks is the Auctioneer and Taylor.
THE ELIXIR OF LOVE (L’ELISIR D’AMORE) by Gaetano Donizetti
November 19–December 9, 2023
Gaetano’s Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir d’Amore) returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage in a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago from Opera North in the UK by director Daniel Slater and choreographer Tim Claydon. The updated setting for this funny and heart-warming 1832 romance, which includes Donizetti’s cherished aria “Una furtiva lagrima” (“A furtive tear”), takes place on the Italian Riviera during the 1950s. Robert Innes Hopkins, who designed San Francisco Opera’s recent new productions of Tosca and La Traviata, is production designer, and Ramón Tebar makes his Company debut leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
Tenor Pene Pati, whose fast-rising career began at San Francisco Opera with triumphs as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, returns as the lovable Nemorino. He is joined by several exciting artists making their first engagements with the Company. Slovak soprano Slávka Zámečníková is the beautiful but aloof Adina. Serbian baritone David Bižić is the handsome military officer, Belcore, with whom Adina flirts to stir Nemorino’s jealousy. Dulcamara, the miracle worker whose elixir provides the liquid courage Nemorino needs to express his true feelings, is performed by Italian baritone Renato Girolami. American tenor Jonah Hoskins makes his house debut as Nemorino in the November 29 performance.
THE MAGIC FLUTE by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
May 30–June 30, 2024
Layered in Masonic symbolism and occult mysteries, Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) is, above all, one of opera’s most joyous and accessible masterworks. Its lively arias illuminate a hero’s quest and the steadfastness of true love. The worlds of silent film, 1920s cabaret and animation collide in Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s internationally acclaimed production which originated at Komische Oper Berlin and makes its Bay Area premiere. Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts Mozart’s timeless, exhilarating work of art.
Following his success as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with San Francisco Opera in 2022, Samoan tenor Amitai Pati returns as prince Tamino. Austrian soprano Christina Gansch, who won plaudits in last summer’s Don Giovanni as Zerlina, adds Pamina to her gallery of Mozart portrayals on the War Memorial Opera House stage. Three esteemed international artists make their San Francisco Opera debuts in this production: Estonian bass-baritone Lauri Vasar as Papageno, South Korean bass Kwangchul Youn as Sarastro and Polish soprano as the Queen of the Knight. Chinese tenor and recent San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Zhengyi Bai portrays Monostatos.
INNOCENCE music by Kaija Saariaho, libretto by Sofi Oksanen,
dramaturgy by Aleksi Barrière
June 1–21, 2024
Innocence follows a family’s ability to deal with tragedy. In this gripping one-act drama by composer Kaija Saariaho, librettist Sofi Oksanen and dramaturg Aleksi Barrière, a harrowing story of emotional shock and surprise unfolds in which the understanding of innocence and guilt is continually upended. This co-commissioned work was first presented at Aix-en-Provence in 2021 in Simon Stone’s production. San Francisco Opera presents the opera’s American premiere.
Saariaho specialist Clément Mao-Takacs conducts an international cast of singers and actors in this towering work performed in nine languages. Mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose is the Waitress, Claire de Sévigné and Rod Gilfry are the Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law. Miles Mykkanen portrays the Groom, bass Kristinn Sigmundsson is the Priest and Lucy Shelton is the teacher. Vilma Jää, a Finnish musician who crosses musical boundaries from folk to experimental electronic music, makes her house debut as Markéta.
PARTENOPE by George Frideric Handel
June 15–28, 2024
Handel’s 1730 comedy Partenope returns in the Olivier Award-winning production by director Christopher Alden. First presented by San Francisco Opera in 2014, Alden’s staging updates the action from Handel’s ancient Neapolitan setting to a 1920s Parisian salon. English conductor and harpsichordist Christopher Moulds, who made his Company debut in 2019 with Handel’s Orlando, returns to lead Partenope.
In her American opera debut, French soprano Julie Fuchs portrays the title role, a queen who is pursued by wildly different suitors. Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack reprises the role of Rosmira, tenor Alek Shrader returns as Emilio and Hadleigh Adams is Ormonte. Countertenor Carlo Vistoli makes his American opera debut as Arsace, and countertenor Nicholas Tamagna joins the Company as Armindo.
Tickets are priced from $146 to $3,280 for Full series (6-8 productions), $52 to $1,640 for Half series (2-4 productions) and a Design Your Own (DYO) option (minimum four operas).