As was announced at the end last month, the first full-length fully-staged production in the 60th anniversary season of the Merola Opera Program will be a triple bill of one-act operas. Each of those operas involves the reduced resources of either two or three vocalists. Casting has now been announced, so this is the time to review the specifics of the three offerings.
The first of these is Giovanni Battista Pergolesi’s “La serva padrona” (the servant mistress). This was originally written as a comic intermezzo for his three-act opera seria Il prigionier superbo (the proud prisoner), which was first performed in Naples in 1733. The intermezzo turned out to be far more successful than the opera seria and has subsequently enjoyed a life of its own. It involves the familiar battle of wits between a cunning young servant maid (soprano Jana McIntyre) and her aging master (bass-baritone Daniel Noyola).
The second opera will be Gustav Holst’s “Sāvitri,” based on an episode from the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata, known as the story of Savitri and Satyavan. It involves the young woman Savitri (soprano Kelsea Webb) and the foreseen death of her husband Satyavan (tenor Addison Marlor). On the day of his predicted death, Savitri accompanies Satyavan into the forest and there confronts Yama, the god of Death (bass-baritone David Weigel). Through her skill in outwitting Yama, the life of her husband is spared.
The final opera is William Walton’s “The Bear,” based on a play of the same title by Anton Chekhov. (Those of my generation may recall that this play was adapted for an episode of Have Gun Will Travel.) It involves the grieving widow Yelena Ivanovna Popova (mezzo Ashley Dixon) having to contend with Grigory Stepanovich Smirnov (baritone Cody Quattlebaum), one of her late husband’s boorish creditors. The result is a raucous battle of both wits and manners. Noyola will return to the stage to sing the role of Popova’s servant Luka.
All three of these operas will be staged by Peter Kazaras, currently Director of Opera and Music Theater at the University of California at Los Angeles. The conductor will be Christopher Ocasek, who is currently part of the San Francisco Opera conducting staff and has worked with Kazaras in the past. This production will be given two performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 20, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 22.
These performances will take place in the Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Ticket prices will be $70 and $50. Tickets are being sold by the Box Office in the outer lobby of the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street. The Box Office may also be reached by telephoning 415-864-3330. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Friday. Tickets for both performances are also available online.