Entertainment

March 10 Vallejo/Vacaville Arts and Entertainment Source: SF Opera hits the century mark; leaders envision a dynamic future

Written by corres2

Opera, basically a sung play, an entertainment with music with a 400-plus-year history, is for everybody. San Francisco Opera wants to prove it this coming season as the company honors its first 100 years while its leaders cast an eye toward what they hope will be a dynamic future.

Given the lineup of the 2022-23 centennial season, the future appears to be here and it includes, as one of the top opera companies in the nation, an ongoing commitment to innovation.

Consider that opening weekend, Sept. 9 to 11, features a gala concert on opening night and the traditional Opera Ball, on Friday; the world premiere of Bay Area composer John Adams’ “Antony and Cleopatra” on Saturday; and the annual Free Opera in the Park (in Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park) on Sunday, all led by Music Director Eun Sun Kim.

Perhaps the news that augurs especially well for the company (and the Bay Area and the nation emerging from the recent omicron variant wave) is the return of eight mainstage operas, additional concerts, and community events through July 1, 2023.

Besides the new Adams opera (Sept. 10 to Oct. 5), based on Shakespeare and classical sources and directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, the season also boasts the premiere of a co-commissioned opera, “El ultimo sueno de Frida y Diego” (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego) by Bay Area composer Gabriela Lena Frank and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Nilo Cruz. It will run June 13 to 30, 2023 (but has its world premiere at San Diego Opera in October). The story? Three years after the famed female Mexican artist (portrayed by mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack) has died, her ailing, lonely husband, equally famed artist and muralist Diego Rivera (Mexican tenor Alfredo Daza) wishes to see her one more time — and the underworld helps him out.

Then there are several new company productions: Verdi’s “La Traviata” (Nov. 11 to Dec. 3), which tells the story of courtesan dying of consumption; and Gluck’s “Orpheus and Eurydice” (Nov. 15 to Dec. 1), about a man who vows to rescue his wife from the underworld; and a new co-production of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” (June 3 to July 1, 2023), with companies in Tokyo, Dresden and Copenhagen weighing in with the well-known story of a Japanese girl who falls in love with a U.S. Navy officer and bears his child but cannot abide with his desire to gain custody.

Additionally, the season includes some 20th-century masterpieces Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites” (Oct. 15 to 30), about an order of nuns who are guillotined one by one during the French Revolution; and Strauss’ “Die Frau ohne Schatten,” in English “The Woman Without a Shadow” (June 4 to 28, 2023), the story of two pairs of lovers who experience emotional and spiritual salvation. Both return to the War Memorial Opera House, at 301 Van Ness Ave., where they had their U.S. premieres.

Also, Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” (Sept. 25 to Oct. 14), based on the Pushkin poem, tells the story of a love-smitten girl rejected by the handsome Onegin. Performances mark the return of  Russian opera to the company after 14 years.

Besides the 100th anniversary concert (June 16, 2023), other centennial celebrations include “Bohème Out of the Box”; “The Traviata Encounter” (Nov. 19); an open house (Oct. 23); the Historic Recordings Project; “The Future Is Now: Adlers in Concert” (Dec. 2); San Francisco Opera Chorus in Concert (Dec. 4); community stories and exhibitions.

The company has a well-known history of innovation and within the past quarter-century cast many singers who made their operatic debuts and went on to international fame.

In a press statement, General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “From the moment (company founder) Gaetano Merola raised the first curtain on San Francisco Opera, this has been a company of possibility, of excellence, of innovative spirit. Our centennial will honor the extraordinary people who shaped our first hundred years, and also be a stepping-off point into the incredible creative possibilities that lie ahead.

“As we begin our second century, we want to be a place where our community feels that their stories are being told, where we are energizing new conceptions of the art form, and where we continue to create experiences so profound that they reverberate for a lifetime.”

San Francisco Opera Association President Keith Geeslin added, “Our extraordinary community of subscribers and donors have sustained this company as a vibrant and creative force and a leader in the international opera world for a century.”

Currently in her first season as company music director, Kim launched a new era for the company beginning with the return to live performances in the War Memorial Opera House last August with Puccini’s “Tosca.” She also led the company’s new production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio,” two concerts with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and will return to the podium this summer for a Verdi celebration (June 30, 2022). Last November, the South Korean conductor made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, leading Puccini’s “La Bohème” to solidly favorable reviews.

“Music’s powerful language inspires us to better understand our world — and each other,” said Kim. “I’m deeply honored to be a part of the legacy built over the first 100 years of San Francisco Opera, and I look forward to engaging with our community in so many ways during this celebratory year. San Francisco has supported, nurtured and energized this company. We musicians in turn will continue to strive for the highest levels of artistic excellence, to ensure this rich legacy can be handed down to future generations.”

For the centennial season, Kim leads all performances of “Antony and Cleopatra,” “Dialogues of the Carmelites,” “La Traviata” “Madame Butterfly,” the Opening Night Concert, Opera in the Park, the resident artist Adler Fellows concert and will be among the conductors for the 100th Anniversary Concert.

For more information, including season subscriptions and tickets, visit www.sfopera.com/100 or telephone (415) 864-3330.


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