Monday, August 29, 2016

Musical Rapture

San Francisco Opera opens its dynamic 2016/ 2017 season September 9 and 10 with two galas—and a dazzling series of six operas through December.
This week I’ve put together a tip sheet with insider information and images to inspire you.

I love San Francisco Opera. It’s one of the greatest opera companies in the world, and many decades of vivid artistic relationships with all the top opera houses. I’m especially excited about this 94th season with a fantastic series of six operas over three months.

My top picks are the classical ‘Andrea Chenier’ (love and lust and the French Revolution), and the world premiere of ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ (Neo-Orientalist costumes, classical Chinese inspiration, and sets by Tim Yip). ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ has a fantastic creative team—and the opera world is buzzing about the talent and grand concept.

And I can’t wait to see the new production of ‘Aida’, with artistic direction by RETNA. It is directed by the great Francesca Zambello. This is going to be dramatic and definitely the one for designers, art lovers and architects to attend. For pathos there’s ‘Madame Butterfly’, and for wit there’s ‘Don Pasquale’. 

San Francisco Opera’s 2016–17 Season opens Friday, September 9 with a gala performance of Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier in a new production by Sir David McVicar.

For Andrea Chenier, company music director Nicola Luisotti leads a stellar cast, including three international stars making their San Francisco Opera debuts in the demanding lead roles: South Korean tenor Yonghoon Lee in the title role, Italian soprano Anna Pirozzi as Maddalena di Coigny and Georgian baritone George Gagnidze as Carlo Gérard.

The opera opening night festivities are distinguished by San Francisco Opera Guild’s glamorous Opera Ball 2016: La Révolution et L’Amour.

The company’s 94th Season also marks Matthew Shilvock’s inaugural year as San Francisco Opera’s new general director, succeeding his mentor and internationally respected impresario, David Gockley, who will stepped down in July. You’ll learn more about Matthew Shilvock below.

Dream of the Red Chamber, the world premiere, opens with a gala on September 10.

Dream of the Red Chamber

I’m so excited to be attending the opening night of ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ a fantastic new San Francisco Opera production, with a highly talented team of creators.

The production is based on the legendary 6-volume novel, ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ by 18th-century Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xueqin. The opera depicts a mythical love triangle played out by a rich young nobleman and two women from noble families, who may be incarnations of heavenly creatures. 

This new adaptation of the surreal epic was created by an international team including composer, Bright Sheng, librettist David Henry Hwang, and director Stan Lai.

Costume designer Tim Yip spent six months studying the original pages and immersing himself in art, costumes and the rich culture of the period. Regal, bold, and elegant, the costume designs include ‘new orientalist’ crimson gowns, diaphanous green robes, and multi-layered golden gowns for the women.

All of the costumes, accessories, armor, footwear, and elaborate jeweled robes and headpieces were created in the San Francisco Opera’s costume department.

His colors include crimson and emerald for the lead characters, infused with transparency and lightness to enhance the mood. Yip dreamed up bold armor and graphic costumes for the men.

“For ‘Dream of the Red Chamber, I worked with the idea of updating historical references and having respect for18th century styles but I added contemporary simplicity,” said Yip. “ I kept traditional ideas as a base, and extended that to the level of a dream. So it is half historical, half imagined, said Tim Yip. “I am deeply devoted to the idealized feminine beauty of classical China. It is full of imagination, poetry and sadness and that’s very inspiring for my design approach.”

Don Pasquale ©Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

Don Pasquale ©Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

Don Pasquale

Don Pasquale by Donizetti offers a light-hearted opera with a charming surreal rotating set, vivid costumes and a fresh production design.

The Makropulos Case ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Makropulos Case ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Makropulos Case ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

The Makropulos Case 

The Makropulos Case has music and libretto by Leoš Janáček. It’s a dynamic production. Sung in Czech.




The new production of Aida is going to be extremely exciting.

Bold graffiti-esque sets and the inventive concepts by urban artist RETNA, inspired by hieroglyphics, will be unlike anything audiences have seen at the War Memorial.

This will be Leah Crocetto’s role debut as Aida and the opera will be directed by the great Francesca Zambello (Zambello’s production of the Ring cycle will return to San Francisco Opera in Summer 2018).


About the creative director of this new Aida production

Artistic Designer for Aida, contemporary artist RETNA was introduced to the Los Angeles mural scene at an early age, and has lead one of the largest graffiti art collectives in the city since he was in high school. Born Marquis Lewis in 1979, he took the name RETNA from a from a Wu-Tang Clan lyric.


Through the appropriation of Gothic scripts, calligraphy, and fashion photography, RETNA reinvents them with intricate line work, complex layering, and a powerful range of color.

Incorporating elements of fine art and graffiti into his varied compositions, RETNA combines visual linguistics, urban poetics, and a unique power, exploring an eclectic range of media.

I’ve attended London and La Scala in Milan, and the Met…all very traditional and grand. This new ‘graffiti’ production is going to be fantastic.

Madame Butterfly  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madame Butterfly  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madame Butterfly  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Madame Butterfly 

Madame Butterfly has been re-invented with costumes and design by Jun Kaneko.

Matthew Shilvock  ©Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

Introducing Matthew Shilvock, the New General Director of San Francisco Opera

The transition from David Gockley’s popular tenure, to the new director now brings Matthew Shilvock into the bright lights. He has been David’s close associate since 2003.

Matthew Shilvock has devoted his career to executive management in the performing arts. After early work with New Chamber Opera in Oxford, England, and PORTopera in Portland, Maine, he became a 2002 Fellow with OPERA America, the national service organization for opera companies in North America.

In 2003, he joined Houston Grand Opera as the General Director’s Liaison for David Gockley, who served as General Director for that company from 1972– 2005. Shilvock came to San Francisco Opera in 2005 as part of Gockley’s transition team, serving as General Director’s Associate (2005–2007). He was promoted to Director of New Initiatives (2007–08), Assistant General Director (2008–2010) and in 2010, Associate General Director. In his positions at San Francisco Opera, Shilvock has worked closely with David Gockley on all aspects of managing this institution and nurturing innovative new projects and initiatives.

Matthew Shilvock was born in 1976 in Kidderminster, England. He studied music performance and history, reading music at Christ Church, Oxford University. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a specialization in nonprofit administration. Shilvock resides in Marin County with his wife Kate and their two children. 

More News: ‘Dream of the Red Chamber” will travel on to Hong Kong in 2017

San Francisco Opera’a world premiere of Chinese-American composer Bright Sheng’s Dream of the Red Chamber, with a libretto by the composer and David Henry Hwang, in six performances from September 10–29, 2016.

Based on one of the quintessential works of world literature, Sheng and Hwang’s opera will be a vivid musical and theatrical experience.

Commissioned by San Francisco Opera, the work is a co-production with the Hong Kong Arts Festival and will be performed March 17–18, 2017 at the Grand Theatre in the Hong Kong Cultural Centre as part of its 45th annual festival.

San Francisco Opera partners with cultural and educational institutions throughout the Bay Area to present events for audiences to further explore Dream of the Red Chamber. A calendar of ancillary events and for further information,

Free Online Course

Learn more about the story behind the opera with Dream of the Red Chamber: Afterlives, a free course and collection of exhibits by the University of Minnesota. For more information,

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco – Photo by Cesar Rubio for San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera:  Location and Dining

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street, San Francisco.

The neighborhood has many excellent restaurants and guests enjoy drinks of a light supper before the performance. I like Jardiniere, Absinthe, the Hayes Street Grill, and Cala, which are all within a block of the opera house. 

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco – Photo by David Wakely for San Francisco Opera

New Opera Archive Exhibition Opens
San Francisco Opera recently announced the opening of the installation of a permanent photography exhibition, Looking Through the Lens: The Glory of San Francisco Opera, Past and Present.

Located in the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera (corner Van Ness Avenue and McAllister St.), the exhibition features 135 photos drawn from the newly formalized Edward Paul Braby San Francisco Opera Archive collections. Many of the photographs in the exhibition have never before been published, displayed or seen by anyone outside of the Company staff and archive volunteers. The retrospective marks the beginning of the Company’s public celebration of San Francisco Opera’s Centennial in 2022.

The exhibition was curated and assembled by San Francisco Opera Director of Communications and Public Affairs Jon Finck.

Highlights of the David Gockley Gallery include striking black and white images of Italian diva Claudia Muzio as Tosca in the 1932 performance that opened the War Memorial Opera House, the Company's spectacular first production of Turandot in 1927 with Hungarian soprano Anne Roselle in the title role and legendary Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad and tenor Lauritz Melchior on stage in a 1935 performance of Die Walküre.

Images of opera greats include the company's spectacular first production of Turandot in 1927 with Hungarian soprano Anne Roselle in the title role and legendary Wagnerian soprano Kirsten Flagstad and tenor Lauritz Melchior on stage in a 1935 performance of Die Walküre. Portraits of the American baritone Lawrence Tibbet as Baron Scarpia in Tosca, American soprano Leontyne Price in her Company debut as Madame Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, in her United States debut.

A unique gem from the collection—and the centerpiece of the Gockley Gallery—shows the entire company at the Civic Auditorium after the October 6, 1923 performance of Andrea Chénier during the Company’s inaugural season. 

War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco – Photo by David Wakely for San Francisco Opera

All photography and art renderings here courtesy of SF Opera.

For more information, subscriptions and tickets:

San Francisco Opera
War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Avenue, corner Grove Street, San Francisco. It’s opposite City Hall.

No comments: