Monday, June 3, 2013

San Francisco Opera Summer Season Opens: I Can't Wait

I love San Francisco Opera. And now I’m looking forward to a month of summer opera, starting this week. Magical.

I’ve attended every opera in the fall/winter seasons for years—and intend to continue forever. The fantasy, artistry, creativity and expression are pure delight.

This is my favorite escape, a treasured time to dream and repose and watch a dream world, an idea, a concept expressed at the highest level. And, oh, for three hours I’m caught up in the music, the sets, the costumes, the artists, the colors, and the choreography all explore hidden worlds, times past and future. It’s pure discovery, and craft and expression at the highest level. 

There was an excellent recognition for SAN FRANCISCO OPERA in the International Herald Tribune this past weekend, speaking of the company's world premiere of newly commissioned 'The Gospel of Mary Magdalene'. 
In a piece titled, 'Summer, opera's season for the unusual', David Belcher quoted David Gockley, general director of SFO saying that "The repertory of opera needs to be replenished. This new opera is a story about sexuality and spirituality and how you can't separate the two, written by Mark Adamo, a gay, Catholic man, and what it means to him."

And now, the summer season has become a secret pleasure.

The vivid light and clamor of summer disappear and it’s pure fantasy indoors at the plush rose-velvet seated opera house, with its shimmering golden silk curtains, its carved and gilded decor, it curtained boxes, its promenade, and its pretty Medallion Society salon designed by Orlando Diaz-Azcuy.

With the stunning presentation of The Ring cycle two summers ago, the quality and compelling presentation of the summer season changed.

Now it’s world-class—and opera lovers come from around the globe for a month of opera in San Francisco. 

The Tales of Hoffmann

On stage, ‘The Tales of Hoffmann
, ‘Cosi fan Tutte’ and the new ‘The Gospel of Mary Magdalene’. Voices from all of the top opera houses perform. The three co-productions were created with leading European opera companies. Enrichment for the mind. 

I spent 18 hours one week in July 2011, seated in the front row of the San Francisco opera house, watching Wagner’s three magnificent opera dramas play out. At the very triumphant end, I wished for more. I could have happily watched another 18 hours. It was decidedly one of my great experiences among of any of the arts.

Now, the singers rehearse. The sets are painted, the costumes sewn. The instruments are tuned. On June 5, the curtain rises and the summer opera season begins.

Così fan Tutte

Here’s the magic:

San Francisco Opera’s Summer 2013 Season opens June 5 with the San Francisco debut of a dynamic new co-production of Jacques Offenbach’s Les Contes d'Hoffmann starring Matthew Polenzani, Natalie Dessay, Angela Brower and Christian Van Horn.

The season continues with Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducting Mozart’s whimsical Così fan Tutte featuring Ellie Dehn, Heidi Stober, Francesco Demuro, Christel Lötzsch and Philippe Sly. 

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene

Highlighting the Summer Season is the June 19 world premiere of Mark Adamo’s highly anticipated new opera, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, starring Sasha Cooke, Nathan Gunn, Maria Kanyova and William Burden. Drawing from the texts of and research on the Canonical and Gnostic Gospels (some recently discovered), Adamo’s provocative and thought-provoking new work reimagines the story of the New Testament and the relationship between Jesus and his female disciple Mary Magdalene.

Commissioned by General Director David Gockley, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene is one of three Company commissions premiering in 2013, including Nolan Gasser/Carey Harrison’s The Secret Garden (March 2013) and Tobias Picker/J.D. McClatchy’s Dolores Claiborne, based on the Stephen King novel (September 2013.

The San Francisco Opera sent me the following information on their summer season performances: 

Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann) – Jacques Offenbach

Jacques Offenbach’s melodic masterpiece Les Contest d'Hoffmann follows a sensitive poet as he searches fruitlessly for love. Distinguished American lyric tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role opposite renowned French soprano Natalie Dessay, who captivated San Francisco audiences in the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor in 2008 and returns to appear as Antonia. Ms. Dessay, who originally planned to sing the three additional soprano roles of Olympia, Giuletta, and Stella, has decided to concentrate solely on the role of Antonia.

San Francisco Opera’s presentation will now include Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee, who recently thrilled Bay Area audiences as Madame Mao in Nixon in China, as Olympia; American mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts in her Company debut as Giulietta; and soprano Jacqueline Piccolino as Stella.

American mezzo-soprano Angela Brower makes her San Francisco Opera debut as the Muse, disguised as Hoffmann’s closest friend Nicklausse. American bass Christian Van Horn returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage for his role debut as the four villains. The opera “dream team” assembled for this new co-production with Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu and L’Opéra National de Lyon features conductor Patrick Fournillier, director and costume designer Laurent Pelly and scenic designer Chantal Thomas. 

Così fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

An ingenious mix of hilarious farce and poignant drama, Mozart’s Così fan Tutte, set to a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, follows two young soldiers who disguise their identities to test their lovers’ fidelity. The strong ensemble cast—entirely composed of artists making stage role debuts—is led by two sopranos who have made notable contributions to San Francisco Opera’s past two seasons: Ellie Dehn as Fiordiligi and Heidi Stober as Despina. Appearing alongside them is Sardinian tenor Francesco Demuro as Ferrando, Christel Lötzsch as Dorabella and Adler Fellow Philippe Sly as Guglielmo. Italian bass Marco Vinco returns as Don Alfonso. Former Adler Fellow Susannah Biller is Despina in the final two performances. Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts and Jose Maria Condemi directs this whimsical San Francisco Opera/Opéra de Monte-Carlo co-production by John Cox, designed by Robert Perdziola, last seen here in 2004. This production marks the final opera in the Mozart/Da Ponte trilogy to be led by Nicola Luisotti following Le Nozze di Figaro in 2010 and Don Giovanni in 2011. 

The Gospel of Mary Magdalene – Mark Adamo

Mary Magdalene was long dismissed as a minor figure in Christian lore until, in 1948, archaeologists discovered a trove of alternate versions of Gospels that argued she may not only have been Jesus’ closest companion, but also his most respected and esteemed disciple. The resulting controversy has inspired and inflamed Western culture for the past sixty years.

Now Mark Adamo, the composer-librettist of internationally acclaimed operas Little Women and Lysistrata, approaches the debate with a new grand-scale opera, The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. Commissioned by San Francisco Opera, the opera stars Sasha Cooke as Mary Magdalene and Nathan Gunn as Yeshua (Jesus). The resplendent cast also features soprano Maria Kanyova as Miriam (the mother of Yeshua) and William Burden as the apostle Peter. Director Kevin Newbury, lauded for his “imagination and emotional nuance” (The New York Times), and conductor Michael Christie both make their San Francisco Opera debuts with this production. 

San Francisco's historic War Memorial Opera House

I hope you’ll attend—perhaps all three operas.

I know you will be uplifted, inspired, and swept up in the voices, the artistry, and the fantasy. 

CREDITS: All images courtesy San Francisco Opera, published with express permission.

For further information about San Francisco Opera’s summer 2013 season, please visit


peggy braswell said...

knew david hockley while living in Houston when he was with Houston Opera.

Parisbreakfasts said...

I used to be such an opera buff...even dated a tenor.
Then I has a soprano as a room mate...
Fini, kaput, over and out
The daily (or was it hourly) scales drove me nutz
You can have my seats anytime D.
But absolutely lovely pictures...