Tuesday, August 27, 2019

San Francisco Opera Fall/ Winter 2019: A Very Exciting Season Begins September 6 with a Grand Gala — Ballgowns and Creative Attire for the Masked Ball

Upcoming highlights of the dazzling season: Gounod, Mozart, Puccini, and Humperdinck and a dash of Britten. And I can’t wait to see the all-new and totally chic staging of The Marriage of Figaro.

I’m looking forward to a colorful, musical, dramatic, witty, joyous, and highly inspiring 97th season. It’s a dream season, opening with Romeo and Juliet, and racing onward to Billy Budd, The Marriage of Figaro, Manon Lescaut, and magical Hansel and Gretel. San Francisco Opera is world-class, classical opera at its best. I’m going to immerse myself in elegant staging, inspiring costumes and stage design, superb lighting, engaging casts and libretti…and the best of the best of international opera artists.

Congratulations and thanks to Matthew Shilvock, General Director, San Francisco Opera, and his entire team. Bravi!

Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet."
Photo: Alain Hanel

SAN FRANCISCO OPERA OPENS 97TH SEASON ON SEPTEMBER 6 with a grand gala and masked ball. Charles Gounod’s inspired ‘Romeo and Juliet’ with tenor Bryan Hymel and exquisite soprano Nadine Sierra will be presented on September 6, the season opening night at the San Francisco War memorial Opera House.

Gounod's "Romeo and Juliet."
Photo: Alain Hanel


The curtain rises on San Francisco Opera’s 2019–20 Season with Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette), a French operatic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic love story. Distinguished by rapturous duets and brilliant, show-stopping arias, this sensuous lyric drama returns to the Company’s repertory, after a 32-year absence. It’s under the baton of French-Canadian conductor Yves Abel.

Making his American directorial debut, Opéra de Monte-Carlo Director Jean-Louis Grinda offers his colorful staging evoking the Verona of the original play.

Bryan Hymel (Romeo) and Nadine Sierra (Juliette) from an early rehearsal of Gounod's "Romeo et Juliette."
Photo by Cory Weaver San Francisco Opera

Of the production, director Grinda says, “To ensure that this drama of absolute love touches every spectator, we respect its original setting and gracefully simplify its scenographic presentation. Without being minimalistic, we suggest Renaissance splendor and leave the imagination to work, focusing the attention on the stage artists.”

The staging, originally a co-production by Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice and Opéra de Monte-Carlo, premiered in 2012 with sets designed by Eric Chevalier, costumes by Carola Volles and lighting by Roberto Venturi.

Britten's "Billy Budd."
Photo: Alastair Muir/Glyndebourne Productions Ltd.

The season continues with the West Coast premiere of Michael Grandage’s “powerful” (New York Times) production of Billy Budd (September 7–22) by English composer Benjamin Britten. Featuring an all-male cast.

Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro" set design for Act IV.


Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (Le Nozze di Figaro; October 11–November 1) presented in a new production by Michael Cavanagh with sets designed by Erhard Rom, costumes designed by Constance Hoffman and lighting designed by Jane Cox.

The Marriage of Figaro, set during the post-Revolutionary War period, features an ensemble cast of bass-baritone Michael Sumuel as Figaro.

Four artists are making Company debuts: soprano Jeanine De Bique as Susanna, baritone Levente Molnár as the Count, soprano Jennifer Davis as Countess Almaviva and mezzo-soprano Serena Malfi as Cherubino.

With Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, who made his acclaimed Company debut in 2017 leading Richard Strauss’ Elektra, on the podium.

Puccini's "Manon Lescaut."
Photo: Terrence McCarthy/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera presents Giacomo Puccini’s first triumph as an opera composer, Manon Lescaut (November 8–26), for the first time in 13 years.

Olivier Tambosi’s production is dramatic. Soprano Lianna Haroutounian and tenor Brian Jagde make role debuts as Manon Lescaut and Chevalier des Grieux, respectively, and former Company Music Director Nicola Luisotti returns to the podium in this work of Italian verismo.

Humperdinck's "Hansel and Gretel."
Photo: Cory Weaver


San Francisco Opera co-production with London’s Royal Opera of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel (November 15–December 7) closes the fall season presentations.

Conducted by Christopher Franklin, the cast features mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke (Hansel) and soprano Heidi Stober (Gretel) as the impoverished siblings who, alone in the woods, must face a witch, portrayed by tenor Robert Brubaker.

Featuring storybook sets by Antony McDonald , which The Times (UK) called “enchanting.”

With cameos by fairy tale figures and Humperdinck’s romantic, sweeping score, this family-friendly production offers a rich musical and theatrical experience where children are the heroes.

San Francisco Opera Ball 2018
Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

Opera Ball

One of the premier philanthropic events on the West Coast, San Francisco Opera Guild’s Opera Ball 2019: The Capulets’ Masked Ball celebrates the opening of the new season with an elegant pre-performance cocktail reception and dinner, and the performance, followed by dancing and celebration into the night.

Information: sfopera.com/operaball2019 or (415) 565-3204.


The BRAVO! CLUB’s annual black-tie gala for opera-loving, young professionals includes a cocktail reception and opening night performance of Romeo and Juliet. After the opera, revelers join in the festivities of the Opera Ball celebration. 

For more information and to join BRAVO! Club. sfopera.com/bravo.

Opera in the Park
Photo: Drew Altizer Photography

Opera in the Park — Free Concert in Golden Gate Park on September 8 at 1:30pm

Presented by the San Francisco Chronicle, Opera in the Park features the stars of the Company’s 2019 Fall Season in concert with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. This annual al fresco event held at Robin Williams Meadow in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is free and open to the public. This free concert and the entire opening weekend are funded and supported by San Francisco philanthropist Dede Wilsey, who has been a major benefactor of San Francisco Opera for many decades. 

For more event information, visit sfopera.com/park.

Special Event — Romeo and Juliet

Each presentation of Romeo and Juliet (except for the September 6 performance) at the War Memorial Opera House features a 25-minute Pre-Opera Talk by Alexandra Amati, Professor and Director of the Music Program at the University of San Francisco.

Opera at the Ballpark
Photo: Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

Opera at the Ballpark

On September 21, San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants will present Opera at the Ballpark, featuring a live simulcast of Romeo and Juliet.

A free community event, the simulcast will be transmitted in high definition live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House to the new Mitsubishi Electronic Diamond Vision Board at Oracle Park.

This has been a highly popular event since it was founded two decades ago, and both opera lovers and baseball fans crowd the ballpark to view and enjoy it.

San Francisco Opera War Memorial Opera House during 2015 performance of Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg.
Photo by Cory Weaver.

Tickets and More Information

For tickets, visit sfopera.com, call (415) 864-3330.

San Francisco Opera Box Office is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. Box Office hours: Monday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the morning of each performance. Standing room tickets are $10 each, cash only and limited to two tickets per person. Casting, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change


San Francisco Opera Fall 2019 opening weekend includes:

  • Opera Ball and Bravo! Club galas on September 6
  • Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd opens on September 7
  • Free Opera in the Park Concert on September 8

Tickets available at sfopera.com and (415) 864-3330


Photography courtesy of San Francisco Opera.

War Memorial Opera House.
Photo by Cesar Rubio

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Decorative Artist to Watch: Marie Christophe

I’m delighted this week to introduce Marie Christophe, a French designer who crafts chic and charming and functional sculptures from steel wire. She’s a favorite of my friend, designer Jean-Louis Deniot and has attracted a loyal following among the luxury fashion houses of Paris.

Come with me this week to meet Marie Christophe and see how her witty and charming and artful handcrafted and custom-made wire sculptures, often in classical forms, are persuading her followers to lighten up.

I first discovered the light-hearted works by Marie Christophe in the Left Bank studio of Jean-Louis Deniot. He has placed her crystal and gem-studded wire chandeliers in his international residences. And quietly, working in the French countryside, she has attracted the attention of leading fashion houses in Paris.

“Marie Christophe makes wonderful, whimsical works in wire. It’s such an ordinary and practical and unexpected material to turn into something so fantastically beautiful,” said her agent, New Mexico-based Lisa Fontanarosa. “Her Cinderella-at-the-ball chandeliers and her frisky animal sculpture are delightful to encounter.”

Christophe often punctuates her sculptures and imagery with glass beads, crystals, faux coral, shells, and ceramic pieces.

Working in strong iron wire, Christophe, who lives on a farm in South-west France, crafts functional chandeliers, along with decorative insects, airy birdcages, birds, chickens, crocodiles, angels, and other diaphanous creations.

Bees and elephants and butterflies shimmer with crystals. Some large-scale sculptures are light and transparent, as ephemeral as a sketch.

Marie Christophe’s colossal new chandelier, created for Guerlain’s new boutique Cours des Senteurs (Court of Scents) in Versailles, is a confection in gold and clear crystal. The LED chandelier is 7’ H x 4 ‘ in diameter and made with antique gold crystal, sourced from local flea markets, and also embedded with gold paper. 

“Marie has an eye for turning the functional into the extraordinary and every piece she creates is a fairytale filled with wonder,” said Fontanarosa,  who has represented Christophe for two decades. “The wire is the perfect substance for her imagination. She usually works very spontaneously, even skipping the sketching and moving straight onto engagement with the wire. She is able to coax movement from a length of wire, and she convinces it to twist and curl into something gloriously unexpected.”

Fontanarosa observed that the sculptures’ very ‘nothingness’ and near invisibility are what makes them charming and humorous and very admired by French and American designers.

About Marie Christophe

She attributes her interest in design and art to her father, an architect with a passion for Japanese gardens and African art.

Marie says that ‘a good design is for me to get the right balance between style and substance, so that the object organically finds its inherent function, be it aesthetic or utilitarian.’

She considers herself a creative artisan rather than a designer.

Lisa Fontanarosa said she admires the singular beauty of an artist’s touch and especially loves the spontaneity of Christophe’s work.

“I always look for the unexpected, and sometimes what’s not there catches my attention. When I discovered Marie Christophe, it was love at first light,” said Fontanarosa.  “I was stunned by the elegance of her curves, the cleanness of her lines. Marie’s delicate, airy silhouettes fit perfectly in a large loft space, country kitchen, contemporary living room.”

Lisa discovered Christophe in 1999. She was strolling on the Left Bank in Paris when she saw one of Marie’s chandeliers.

“It was suspended from the ceiling of En Attendant les Barbares, 35 rue de Grenelle,” said Lisa. “My heart skipped a beat. I inquired who the artist was and contacted her immediately. I knew I had to share her whimsical wire works with the world. She was the first artist I signed to my design agency, so she and I really started together. I continue to look for others like Marie who create powerful pieces that mesmerize me.”

Marie Christophe’s Bio

She attended the prestigious graphic design and interior architecture school Penninghen in Paris. She studied drawing and sculpture and decided to blend the two disciplines in scribble-like wire objects that grew more complex over time. Working in wire followed naturally from Christophe’s progression through art school.

She immediately set herself up to work simply with wire, as she likes its transparency.

Marie Christophe was discovered by Hermes’ Jean-Louis Dumas at a group exhibition in 1996. Her collaboration began with Hermes when she made a horse sculptures in 1997.

Her work has been showcased by France’s greatest luxury houses-- Dior, Cartier, Roger Vivier, Baccarat, and Guerlain as well as hotels, spas and private home throughout the world. 

Marie Christophe lives with her husband, an interior designer, and two children in a remote historic corner of France called le Gers, home to large farms, vast fields of wheat. It’s west of Toulouse and north of the Pyrénées, and notoriously inaccessible (especially by fast train).

In the heat of summer, and beneath the intense July sun, the fields of Gers wheat smell like baking bread. It’s a heavenly part of France. Perfect for this artist to work at her craft undisturbed.

She admits, however, that her work often brings her to Paris and she and her husband keep a studio for their visits. She continues to work closely with Jean-Louis Deniot and other designers, and often work for Hermes and other fashion houses.

Marie Christophe began developing artistic and functional wireworks and likes working with wire because it is very easy, clean and light to work with. She twists her sculptural bespoke commissions one by one, with a simply a ball of wire, her grip and pliers.

Colored ceramics and antique beads and handblown crystals are added to heighten the piece’s visual with and charm. Her pliable wire menagerie — dogs, elephants, birds, octopuses, owls, flamingoes and alligators find homes around the globe. 

Above, Marie Christophe made a special chandelier for the bedroom of Jean-Louis Deniot in Los Angeles.

Deniot, has been a devoted collector of Marie Christophe’s work, including decorative garden animals, chandeliers and table lamps.

His firm has commissioned bold and witty sculptures, whimsical decor, and a series of custom chandeliers for his international clients and also his own residences.

For the airy bedroom of his new residence in Los Angeles, Marie Christophe made a custom chandelier in his favorite pale golden hue. It feels both classical and modern, and adds a light and witty note hovering above his bed. The custom chandelier has four lights and is shown in black, white and honey gold ceramics.


Lisa Fontanarosa
Lisa Fontanarosa Collection

Marie Christophe
Tél. +33 6 03 22 77 48
Email: marie_christophe_paris@yahoo.com

Marie Christophe also works closely with the Studio of Jean-Louis Deniot in Paris: www.deniot.com

Photos courtesy of Marie Christophe and Lisa Fontanarosa.