Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Opera Obsession — San Francisco Opera Fall 2017 Season Opening: The Music and the Glory

San Francisco Opera opens its dynamic Fall 2017 season September 8 with a dazzling series of five classic and new operas through December. 

This week I’ve put together a tip sheet with insider information and images to inspire you. And an exclusive and informative list of season highlights especially for THE STYLE SALONISTE readers, from SF Opera general director, Matthew Shilvock. It’s great.

I love San Francisco Opera. It’s one of the greatest opera companies in the world, with many decades of outstanding new operas, great performers, and vivid artistic relationships with all the top international opera houses.

I’m especially excited about this season with a fantastic series of five operas over three months. In sequence, the fall opera season encompasses,
Turandot, which opens the season, followed by Elektra, La Traviata, Manon, and Girls of the Golden West, the new John Adams opera.

Puccini's Turandot

San Francisco Opera inaugurates its 95th season on Friday, September 8, with Puccini’s Turandot, staged in a vivid, graphic and iconic production by English artist David Hockney and conducted by company music director Nicola Luisotti. Saturday, September 9 features the opening of a new production of Richard Strauss’ Elektra.

The opening weekend festivities continue on Sunday, September 10, with San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, an annual Bay Area tradition celebrating the opening of the opera season with a free concert in Golden Gate Park.

Puccini's Turandot

Puccini's Turandot

The season opens with Turandot. Opera fans that attend every production each season will be excited to hear that San Francisco Opera announced a casting update for its season-opening production.

American soprano Toni Marie Palmertree will sing Liù, replacing Maria Agresta who has withdrawn due to illness. Originally scheduled to portray Puccini’s tragic heroine on September 24 and 30, Palmertree will now perform in all six September performances.

Toni Marie Palmertree

I was fortunate to attend Madama Butterfly last season when…in a stunning surprise for the audience…Palmertree scored a triumph when she substituted for an ailing colleague on two hours’ notice as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

San Francisco Classical Voice remarked: “The young soprano, Toni Marie Palmertree not only met the challenge, but she claimed her place among the finest vocal interpreters of the role heard here recently.”

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

Richard Strauss’ Elektra

La Traviata

La Traviata




Special Insider Information for Opera Lovers—or First-time Opera Attendees

There are two sets of Turandot dates:
  • September 8–30: Nicola Luisotti (Conductor); Martina Serafin (Turandot), Brian Jagde (Calaf), Toni Marie Palmertree (Liù), Raymond Aceto (Timur)
  • November 18–December 9: Christopher Franklin (Conductor); Nina Stemme (Turandot), Brian Jagde (Calaf), Leah Crocetto (Liù), Soloman Howard (Timur)

Nina Stemme will perform as the princess in Turandot on November 18, 25, 28; December 3m, 6 and 9.

Michael Fabiano will perform the role of Chevalier des Grieux in Manon on November 4, 7, 10, 16, 19m, and 22

Nina Stemme

Michael Fabiano

Special to The Style Saloniste:  An Exclusive Tip Sheet of Matthew Shilvock’s and Insider Notes on the Season

Matthew Shilvock

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock offers his highlighs and insights:

1. The 95th Fall Season opens with Giacomo Puccini’s grand opera “Turandot” featuring our Italian Music Director Nicola Luisotti on the podium leading the cast, orchestra and chorus. What better way to launch the opera year than with this very lush, lyrical and dramatic work all staged in David Hockney’s celebrated production. This presentation coincides with the 80th birthday celebration year of David Hockney.

2. I am particularly pleased that we will present “Turandot” for six performances in September with astonishing soprano Martina Serafin and then in November for six performances with acclaimed Swedish soprano Nina Stemme, our Brunnhilde from the 2011 Ring.

3. Opening night of the fall season begin with the San Francisco Opera Guild’s time-honored tradition of Opera Ball and by all reports, this year’s gala is completely sold-out under the leadership of co-chairs Courtney Labe and Maryam Muduroglu. Opening night and Opera Ball are dedicated to Music Director Nicola Luisotti, who will be relinquishing his post as company music director at the end of the season; Maestro will however return in future seasons as a special guest conductor.

4. Our opening weekend will bring to the stage on Sept 9 the high-voltage lyric drama of “Elektra” by Richard Strauss, a work absent from the War Memorial Opera House stage for 20 years. I’m so terribly proud that we will present one of the world’s leading interpreters of the role, Christine Goerke, along with the extraordinarily talented Micaela Martens, Adrianne Pieczonka and Alfred Walker. In his San Francisco Opera debut, Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási will lead the 102 musicians in the pit. No pun intended, but this will be an electrifying evening in the Opera House.

5. And for complete contrast, our Opening Weekend includes the annual free San Francisco Opera in the Park Concert on Sunday, Sept 10 at 1.30 pm. Luisotti will be on the podium at Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and several stars of the fall season in works by Verdi, Gounod, Wagner, Puccini in this highly popular opera al fresco concert. And don’t forget the audience sing-along to Verdi’s famous “drinking song” from “La Traviata.”

6. “La Traviata” opens Sept 23. I’m thrilled to present the U.S. debut of beautiful and talented Romanian soprano Aurelia Florien along with the company debuts of Brazilian tenor Attalla Aryan and Polish baritone Arturo Ruciński. Very special to me was our ability to secure the return of award winning English director John Copley to oversee his plush and elegant production of mid-19th century Paris along with Shawna Lucey.

7. Our return to elegance will continue November 4 with a new production of Massenet’s opera “Manon,” one of the most romantic works from the French repertory. Soprano Ellie Dehn will make her title role debut and the incomparable tenor Michael Fabiano returns for his role debut as the lover, des Grieux. The French creative team features conductor Patrick Fournillier and director/costume designer Vincent Boussard.

8. Perhaps the musical event of the fall season will be the world premiere of the new John Adams opera, “Girls of the Golden West,” opening November 21 through December 10. This extraordinary creation by John Adams (composer of “Nixon in China,” “The Death of Klinghoffer” and “Doctor Atomic”) is set in the California Gold Rush with a libretto by Peter Sellars drawn from original sources including the well-known “Shirley Letters.” A brilliant, young, talented, and diverse cast of artists will be featured including Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, J’Nai Bridges, Hye Jung Lee, Ryan McKinny, Elliot Madore, Paul Appleby and former San Francisco Ballet’s prima ballerina, Lorena Feijoo in the role of Lola Montez. I can’t imagine a more compelling opera than this that explores our story, our history and our place in the world. See you at the Opera!

Matthew Shilvock

About Matthew Shilvock, General Director, San Francisco Opera

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.
In production and rehearsal: The cast and creative team of Girls of the Golden West.
From left to right: choreographer John Heginbotham; composer John Adams, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, soprano Hye Jung Lee, soprano Julia Bullock, baritone Elliot Madore, mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, conductor Grand Gershon, librettist and director Peter Sellars
Photo credit: ©Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

Exciting New Production

This fall season also includes a vivid new opera, Girls of the Golden West, composed by John Adams. I’ve always admired Adams, and was fortunate to attend the historic opening night of ‘Doctor Atomic’ at San Francisco Opera House.

The Beaux-Arts San Francisco War Memorial Opera House is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. The interiors—with marble staircases, bronze lanterns, dazzling chandeliers, and grand gilded proscenium and ornate gold silk honors the performances within.

All images here courtesy of San Francisco Opera, used with express permission.




carrps said...

Diane, I think I've mentioned before that my mother was an usher at the Opera House in the 1940s, so I always appreciate your opera posts.

I like the staging for Turandot much more than the version I saw at the Music Center here in Los Angeles. That was a very edgy staging, and I remember whispering to my sister that the prince looked like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth. She whispered back that the woman next to her told her husband that he looked like a Klingon! Kei-Kyung Hong was awesome as Liu, and all the singing was glorious!

Diane Dorrans Saeks said...


Thank you.
Yes, I agree that some costumes (not many) can be so extreme and do not relate well to today's culture. But Klingons...is not the right approach. Or John Travolta..oh dear.
We know of course that opera is fantasy...usually...and that's why we love it.
We love the princes and counts and princesses and countesses and valkyrie and so many handsome men and beautiful women...and then sometimes costumes can veer into comedy.
Turandot...yes, this will be the Hockney creation (which I've seen before). It is very beautiful and it enhances the theatricality and outsize ideas and movement of the opera.
I can't wait to see it. Saturday, Elektra...modern dress I believe...very best--DIANE