Tuesday, July 2, 2019

San Francisco Opera: Fall, 2019

Single tickets are now on sale for the 2019 Fall Season of the San Francisco Opera (SFO). The season will consist of five operas, all of which will be given in productions new to San Francisco. One of them will be the premiere of a new production, and another will be a co-production with The Royal Opera of London. As usual, these performances will be supplemented by a variety of special events, making it likely that there will be offerings that will appeal to all tastes.

It is also worth noting that subscriptions to the full 2019–20 season are still available. Prices for the Full Series of eight productions run from $160 to $3024. There are also Half Series subscriptions for three or four operas that are priced between $77 and $1512. Separate Web pages have been created for the purchase of Full Series and Half Series subscriptions. There is also a Web page for a “Design Your Own” subscription, allowing one to build a subscription around three or more specific selections.

Specifics about the five operas to be presented in the the Fall in order of their respective first performances are as follows:

Roméo et Juliette by Charles Gounod: Jules Barbier and Michel Carré provided a libretto based on William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. As might be guessed, the musical highlights of this opera may be found in the duets sung by the title characters. For all but one of the performances, the vocalists will be tenor Bryan Hymel as Roméo and soprano Nadine Sierra as Juliette. (At the final performance the vocalists will be tenor Pene Pati and soprano Amina Edris.) However, the waltz “Je veux vivre” (I wish to live) that serves as a coloratura high-point for Juliette. Jean-Louis Grinda will make his American debut in staging an opera production, and the conductor will be Yves Abel. There will be seven performances at 8 p.m. on September 6, 7:30 p.m. on September 13, 18, 21, and 24 and October 1, and 2 p.m. on September 29.

The first performance of the season will also be the evening of the annual Opera Ball. As might be expected, the theme of the event will be The Capulet’s Masked Ball. Opening night tickets are included as part of the festivities, along with pre-performances cocktails and a sumptuous dinner. The performance will then be followed by dancing and masquerade. A Web page has been created for purchasing tickets.

Finally, the September 21 performance will be the next event to be given a free live simulcast to Oracle Park. Entrance to the stadium will begin at 5:30 p.m.. Field access will be available to registered participants on a first-come, first-served basis via the Marina Gate. A Web page has been created with further details and a hyperlink for registration.

Billy Budd by Benjamin Britten: Consistently serious about setting the right music to literature in the English language, Britten worked with a libretto prepared jointly by E. M. Forster and Eric Crozier. As in Herman Melville’s novella (which he died before completing), all characters are male. All the action takes place on board the HMS Indomitable (called the Bellipotent in Melville’s text). The libretto is framed as a recollection, in old age, of an episode that deeply troubled the ship’s Captain Vere. That role will be sung by tenor William Burden, and the title role will be sung by baritone John Chest, who will be making his SFO debut. The “nemesis” character, responsible for Vere’s uneasy memories, is the ship’s Master-at-arms John Claggart, whose role will be sung by bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, who will be performing this part for the first time. The production will be staged by Michael Grandage, also making his SFO debut; and the conductor will be Lawrence Renes. There will be six performances at 7:30 p.m. on September 7, 12, 17, and 20, and 2 p.m. on September 15 and 22.

The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Mozart’s K. 492 comic opera will mark the beginning of a three-opera cycle, which will unfold over the course of three seasons. The other two operas will be Così fan tutte (thus do all women, K. 588), and Don Giovanni (K. 527). These are the three Mozart operas with libretto texts by Lorenzo Da Ponte. As General Director Matthew Shilvock announced at the beginning of this year, all three operas will be given new stagings by Michael Cavanagh around a common setting, whose appearance somewhat suggests Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. Each opera will be set during a different period in American history, and K. 492 will take place in Colonial times.

The plot involves a married couple, whose marriage has gone “on the rocks,” and the two servants that attend to their needs. Count Almaviva (baritone Levente Molnár) has grown tired of his wife (soprano Jennifer Davis) and has been making advances to his wife’s servant, Susanna (soprano Jeanine De Bique). However, Susanna is betrothed to the Count’s servant Figaro (bass-baritone Michael Sumuel), who is determined to expose the Count for his lusts. Sumuel will be the only vocalist to have performed previously with SFO. De Bique will be performing the role of Susanna for the first time, and Davis will be performing opera in the United States for the first time. The conductor will be Henrik Nánási.

There will be eight performances at 7:30 p.m. on October 11, 16, 19, 22, and 25 and November 1, and 2 p.m. on October 13 and 27.

Manon Lescaut by Giacomo Puccini: This will be the “Italian version” of an operatic setting of the French novel of the same name by Antoine François Prévost (best known as the Abbé Prévost). (The “French version” was composed by Jules Massenet less than a decade earlier.) The plot concerns how an obsession with the title character (soprano Lianna Haroutounian, performing this role for the first time) leads to the undoing of the student the Chevalier Renato des Grieux (tenor Brian Jagde, also performing the role for the first time). (At the final performance this role will be sung by tenor Rafael Davila, making his SFO debut.) Nicola Luisotti will return to conduct the SFO Orchestra and Chorus, and the production will be by Olivier Tambosi, originally staged for the Lyric Opera of Chicago. There will be six performances at 7:30 p.m. on November 8, 13, 16, 20, and 26, and 2 p.m. on November 20.

Hansel and Gretel by Englebert Humperdinck: The Fall Season will conclude with a new co-production of this traditional Christmas opera shared with The Royal Opera in London. Staging will be by Anthony McDonald making his SFO debut. The title roles will be sung by mezzo Sasha Cooke and soprano Heidi Stober, respectively. The libretto by Adelheid Wette will be sung in English with English supertitles. The conductor will be Christopher Franklin. There will be eight performances for the holiday season at 7:30 p.m. on November 15, 21, and 23, and December 3 and 7, and 2 p.m. on November 17 and December 1.

Prices for single tickets run from $26 to $398. Tickets may be purchased through the event pages for the individual operas. Hyperlinks to those Web pages have been attached to the opera titles above. Tickets may also be purchased at the SFO Box Office in the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue, on the northwest corner of Grove Street, or by calling 415-864-3330. Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Saturday hours are from 10 a.m. to 6 pm. but only for telephone orders.

The opening weekend of the season will also include the annual Opera in the Park event presented by the San Francisco Chronicle. As usual, this performance will feature stars on the Fall Season in concert with the SFO Orchestra. It will take place at Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park, and there is no charge for this event.

Towards the end of the season, Chorus Director Ian Robertson will present an all-choral program featuring the full forces of the SFO Chorus. Accompaniment will be provided at the piano by Associate Chorus Master Fabrizio Corona. An event page has not yet been created for this concert, which means that tickets are not yet on sale. However, for those wishing to save the date, the performance will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, November 22. The performance will take place in the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater in the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building, located at 401 Van Ness Avenue on the southwest corner of McAllister Street.

Finally, the SFO Calendar for 2019 will wrap up with The Future is Now, the annual concert featuring performances by the Adler Fellows, the current SFO Resident Artists. The program has not yet been announced. However, the performance will include the SFO Orchestra conducted by Eun Sun Kim. Kim is currently Principal Guest Conductor of the Houston Grand Opera, and she just completed her SFO debut as the conductor for last month’s performances of Antonín Dvořák’s Opus 114 opera Rusalka. This concert will also begin at 7:30 p.m., again on a Friday, this time December 6. The venue will be Herbst Theatre, whose entry is on the ground floor of the Veterans Building. Tickets are now available for $65 in the Orchestra, $55 for the Rear Orchestra and Boxes, $45 for the Dress Circle, and $30 for the Balcony. An event page has been created with a hyperlink for purchasing tickets.

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