Bass-baritone Christian Pursell, who will sing in two of this season’s recitals (courtesy of the San Francisco Opera)
At the beginning of this week, the San Francisco Opera Center and the Merola Opera Program jointly announced the program plans for the 35th anniversary season of the Schwabacher Recital Series. The series is named after James Schwabacher, who was a co-founder of the Merola Opera Program; and it provides an opportunity to showcase the talents of the exemplary artists who have participated in the training programs of the Merola Opera Program and/or the San Francisco Opera Center. As in the past, the season will consist of four concerts which will be held during the months of February, March, and April. While these used to be performances held on Sunday afternoons, all of this season’s concerts will take place on Wednesday evenings, beginning at 7:30 p.m. As was the case last year, the venue will be the Taube Atrium Theater. Specifics are as follows:
February 21: This season will begin with an ambitious undertaking, a performance of Hugo Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch in its entirety. These are all settings of German texts by Paul Heyse, which Wolf published in two separate volumes. The first volume consists of 22 songs composed between 1890 and 1891. Then in 1896 he published a second volume of another 24 songs.
The collection lends itself to performance in a single recital with an intermission between the two volumes. Wolf specified that the songs may be easily divided between a soprano and a baritone; and that is how they will be presented by two Merola alumni. The soprano will be Jana McIntyre; and the baritone will be Andrew G. Manea, now a second-year Adler Fellow. They will be accompanied at the piano by second-year Adler Fellow John Elam (also a 2016 Merola alumnus).
March 7: This program will be organized around a single literary source, Ludwig Tieck’s 1797 “Liebesgeschichte der schönen Magelone und des Grafen Peter von Provence” (love story of the beautiful Magelone and Count Peter of Provence). Tieck structured his narrative in eighteen sections, each of which consisted of a single poem with a prose introduction. Between 1861 and 1899 Johannes Brahms set fifteen of these poems as songs for voice with piano accompaniment, published as his Opus 33. Director Aria Umezawa (second-year Adler Fellow and 2016 Merola alumna) has conceived a presentation of the song cycle that will include narration based on the prose passages and visual projection. The female and male “roles” from Tieck’s title will be sung by soprano Felicia Moore and bass-baritone Christian Pursell (both 2017 Merola alumni), respectively. Pursell is currently a first-year Adler Fellow. The pianist will be first-year Adler Fellow César Cañón, also a 2017 Merola alumnus. The narrator for this production has not yet been announced.
March 21: This will be a solo recital by soprano Toni Marie Palmertree, currently an Adler Fellow and a 2015 Merola alumna. She will be accompanied at the piano by Mark Morash, Director of Music Studies at the San Francisco Opera Center. Two of her selections will also require a clarinet, which will be performed by Jose Gonzalez Granero, Principal Clarinet in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. The first of these will be settings of three poems by Fiona McLeod composed by Charles Tomlinson Griffes, and the second will be three folk song arrangements by John McCabe. The composers of Palmertree’s selections for voice and piano will be Benjamin Britten, Claude Debussy, Federico Mompou, and Fernando Obradors.
April 4: The season will conclude with a quartet of vocalists. Pursell will return, joined this time by Adler Fellows Natalie Image (soprano), Ashley Dixon (mezzo), and Amitai Pati (tenor). The pianist will be Kevin Murphy. The program for this concluding recital has not yet been announced.
The Taube Atrium Theater is part of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, which is located in the Veterans Building (on the fourth floor) at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street. General admission will be $30. Tickets may be purchased in advance online through an event page on the San Francisco Opera Web site. Note that, because much of the seating is raked, it is possible to select the option of Wheelchair Accessible seats. In addition, subject to availability, student rush tickets will go on sale at 5 p.m. at the reduced rate of $15. There is a limit of two tickets per person, and valid identification must be shown.
Subscriptions for the entire four-recital series are available for $100. However, these are not available online. They may be purchased in person at the San Francisco Opera Box Office, located in the outer lobby of the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street. They may also be purchased by calling 415-864-3330.