San Francisco Opera Opens 99th Season with Giacomo Puccini's Tosca; August 21–September 5

Release date: 7/28/2021


New Music Director Eun Sun Kim Leads San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Cast Featuring Ailyn Pérez, Michael Fabiano and Alfred Walker

Update: Proof of Vaccination Now Required for All Guests 12 and Up

TOSCA_2021_updated August 13, 2021.pdf  Photos

San Francisco Opera inaugurates its 99th season and first under the baton of Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim, with five performances of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, August 21–September 5. The Italian thriller, long associated with significant moments in San Francisco Opera’s history, will be the first opera staged in the War Memorial Opera House since the pandemic shutdown. Kim leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus and a cast headed by Ailyn Pérez in the title role, tenor Michael Fabiano as Cavaradossi and Alfred Walker as Scarpia. The Company’s “colorful and lavish” (San Francisco Examiner) production, first unveiled in 2018, is by director Shawna Lucey with sets and costumes designed by Robert Innes Hopkins and lighting by Michael Clark.

Born in Seoul, South Korea, Eun Sun Kim began her career in Europe and, with her 2017 American debut in Houston and subsequent triumphs on American opera house and concert hall stages, is recognized worldwide as an insightful musical interpreter. Her first performances with San Francisco Opera—“a company debut of astonishing vibrancy and assurance” (San Francisco Chronicle)—led to her December 2019 appointment as the Company’s music director, a move the New York Times called “pathbreaking.” Though Kim’s highly anticipated return to the War Memorial stage was delayed by the shutdown, her European engagements continued to dazzle, including the 2020 Bastille Day concert telecast from Paris and livestreamed on YouTube. Returning to American concerts earlier this month at the Grant Park Music Festival in Chicago, Kim was hailed by former Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein for her conducting of Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony: “She had the orchestra relaxing into the lyricism but also had them whipping up firmly dramatic climaxes” (Chicago Classical Review).

Kim takes to San Francisco Opera’s podium on August 21 to lead Tosca, one of opera’s most popular works. It will be her second time conducting Puccini’s 1900 score since leading performances in the composer’s native Italy at the Macerata Festival in 2014. Kim’s inaugural season as San Francisco Opera’s music director will also include Live and In Concert: The Homecoming with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and soloists Rachel Willis-Sørensen and Jamie Barton which will be simulcast for free to Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants (September 10); a new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio (October 14–30), the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows’ The Future Is Now concert (December 10) and a summer tribute to the music of Giuseppe Verdi (June 30, 2022).

Soprano Ailyn Pérez, known for her “remarkable vocal talent, combined with radiance and charm” (San Francisco Chronicle), returns to the War Memorial Opera House as the tragic, Roman diva, Tosca. Previously heard with San Francisco Opera as Violetta in two different productions of Verdi’s La Traviata (2009 and 2014), Pérez brings her “melting sound and affecting vulnerability” (New York Times) to one of Puccini’s greatest lyric heroines in a highly anticipated role debut.

Tosca’s lover, the painter Cavaradossi, will be portrayed by Michael Fabiano in his first performances of the role in North America. The high-flying American tenor (Fabiano is also a pilot) first performed Cavaradossi last month at Opéra National de Paris followed by Tosca performances at Madrid’s Teatro Real. Praised for his “muscular, richly colored tenor” (Mercury News) and singing with “full-throated ardor and heart-on-the-sleeve anguish that felt real” (Opera News), Fabiano has already created a stir on social media with clips of his Cavaradossi from Paris, including his impassioned cries of “Vittoria, Vittoria” (“Victory!”) from the opera’s second act.

Bass-baritone Alfred Walker returns to San Francisco Opera as one of opera’s greatest villains, Rome’s corrupt chief of police, Scarpia. Walker’s first engagement with the Company as Orest in Strauss’ Elektra was hailed by the San Francisco Chronicle as “a formidable company debut” with “singing as ominous and sepulchral as his presence.” The New Orleans native, whose credits include leading roles with the Metropolitan Opera, Washington National Opera and Michigan Opera Theatre, takes on Scarpia for the first time in his career.

The cast of Tosca is completed by San Francisco Opera veteran bass-baritone Dale Travis as the Sacristan, tenor Joel Sorensen as Spoletta, bass Soloman Howard as Angelotti and current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows baritone Timothy Murray as Sciarrone, bass Stefan Egerstrom as the Jailer and soprano Elisa Sunshine as a Shepherd Boy. The Company’s Chorus Director of 35 years, Ian Robertson, prepares the San Francisco Opera Chorus in his final season opener before retiring at the end of December 2021.

Shawna Lucey, who made her San Francisco Opera directorial debut with Verdi’s La Traviata in 2017, remounts her 2018 Tosca production about which the Mercury News commented: “Tosca has always been about the devastating effects of power on individuals, and Lucey’s staging … gives it particular resonance for today.” The sets and costumes of are designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, whose previous work on the War Memorial Opera House stage includes Janáček’s The Cunning Little Vixen (2004), Rossini’s L’Italiana in Algeri (2005) and Wagner’s Lohengrin (2012). Michael Clark is the lighting designer.

Beginning with the Company’s 1923 inaugural season at the Civic Auditorium, Tosca has occupied a significant role in San Francisco Opera history. Presented in 39 of the Company’s previous 98 seasons with extraordinary casts, the opera was selected for San Francisco Opera’s first opening night in its new home, the Beaux-Arts War Memorial Opera House, on October 15, 1932. The Company’s first new staging of Tosca was created by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle in 1972 to honor the Company’s 50th anniversary. The original 1932 Tosca was recreated in 1997 for an archival production by Thierry Bosquet which commemorated the Company’s 75th anniversary season and reopening of the Opera House after closure for seismic retrofitting. Tosca will, once again, provide the occasion for a return to the War Memorial stage and the inception of Eun Sun Kim’s music directorship.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the five performances of Tosca are scheduled for August 21 (7:30 pm), August 27 (7:30 pm), August 29 (2 pm), September 3 (7:30 pm) and September 5 (2 pm), 2021.

*For the complete press release please view the attached PDF.