Opera Blog

June 29, 2022

From ‘Don Giovanni’ to ‘Carmen,’ Confronting Sexual Violence in Opera

From Tosca to Don Giovanni to Carmen, gender-based and sexual violence features prominently in many canonical opera plots. What are the ramifications for audiences? Experts weigh in.

June 27, 2022

Ten Questions with Conductor Vassilis Christopoulos

Eugene Onegin conductor Vassilis Christopoulos opens up his home in Athens, Greece, to offer a view into his life and work—as well as highlights from his upcoming U.S. debut.

May 31, 2022

‘Live for Your Craft:’ Tenor Michael Fabiano Shares Wisdom From His New Documentary

Fabiano was an opera star on the rise: He was the first person to win both the Richard Tucker Award and the Beverly Sills Artist Award in the same year. It was his job to bring to life dashing rogues and winsome lovers.

May 31, 2022

An ‘Actor at Heart,’ Baritone Etienne Dupuis Forges His Own Path

One of the premier baritones in the opera world today, Dupuis is a regular on stages in France, Germany, and New York. His debut in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2018 La Bohème led the New York Times to hail the arrival of a “refined and charismatic” voice on the American opera stage.

May 25, 2022

Novelist Jenny Tinghui Zhang on Dream of the Red Chamber’s Literary Legacy

From the very first pages of the novel Four Treasures of the Sky, author Jenny Tinghui Zhang’s heroine knows she has been born to a literary fate. She is, after all, named for one of the most iconic characters in Chinese literature, Lin Dai Yu.

April 29, 2022

‘I’m Proud to be Asian:’ Soprano Shigemi Matsumoto on Her Life in Opera

Matsumoto was one of the rising stars of the opera industry in the 1960s and ‘70s—a time many consider a “golden age” for talent. It was an era when icons like Maria Callas and Marian Anderson still roamed the stage, and new voices like Luciano Pavarotti and Leontyne Price were hitting their stride.

April 29, 2022

At Home With Tenor Konu Kim, Chickens Rule the Roost

It started with three: a bachelor and two eligible females. But as the pandemic stretched on, three became 16—and tenor Konu Kim’s flock of silkie chickens have rapidly overtaken his back garden.

April 25, 2022

Zombies, Wildlife, and Cartoons: Conductor Darrell Ang Reflects on a Life of Many Passions

The Yale-educated musician projects a decidedly eclectic persona, full of wide-roaming passions. One minute, he might be celebrating the sounds of the rock band Coldplay. The next, he might be denouncing the evils of wildlife trafficking, considered one of the biggest threats today to biodiversity, next to habitat destruction.

March 30, 2022

From Small-Town America to the World Stage, Opera Legend Simon Estes Shares His Journey

Estes imagined he would one day study to be a doctor. Growing up on East Jackson Street—in a little house no bigger than 27 feet by 25, with no electricity or running water—Estes remembers looking up to the doctors, ministers and teachers in his community. He credits them with fueling his strong sense of community service.

March 28, 2022

‘You Find a Pride in There:’ Composer Gabriela Lena Frank on Exploring Your Roots

It started small—a “little grapevine effort,” she calls it. But what began as a 15-acre farm has blossomed into a destination for emerging artists from around the globe: the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music.

February 28, 2022

A First Opera, a Last Dream: Inside Composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s 'El Último Sueño de Frida y Diego'

“Between the opera and going to the Carnegie premiere, this is the first time I left Northern California and heard some of my music in two years,” she says, bright laughter punctuating her thoughts.

February 24, 2022

‘I’m in it to Make Change:’ Singer Nikola Printz Expanding the Boundaries of Classical Music

Born to punk-rock parents in Sonoma County, California, Printz had grown up surrounded by music—jazz, cabaret, you name it—but singing opera was new terrain.

January 28, 2022

‘What You Have, Nobody Else Has:’ How Soprano Michelle Bradley Learned to Embrace Her Voice

One day, though, her singing would no longer be a secret. One day, it would grace stages around the world, making her one of today’s most buzzed-about up-and-coming opera stars.

January 27, 2022

A Princess Returns: Soprano Karen Chia-Ling Ho on ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’

2022 was the year that soprano Karen Chia-Ling Ho expected to get married. But like many plans made before the pandemic, the wedding she envisioned was upended by the spread of the coronavirus.

December 16, 2021

From Child Pianist to Chorus Director, John Keene Traces His Passion for Music

In a widely circulated recording of that fateful 1975 performance, an insistent cough echoes out from the audience. It hacks. It hawks. It sniffles and snorts, gasping forward, defying suppression. Its impudence demanded justice. And so a knight stepped forward.

December 10, 2021

In Memoriam 2021

As a multifaceted synthesis of music, theater, visual art, stagecraft, and boundless creative inspiration, opera is by its very nature a deeply collaborative art form. The magic on stage and in the pit would not be possible without the community of individuals on both sides of the curtain who care deeply for the art and work together to make it a reality.

December 9, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: Rediscovering Opera

As the world reemerges from silence, we are finding opera as though for the first time. The crashing chords that open Tosca filled us with dread and foreboding as though we’d never heard them before.

November 30, 2021

‘The International Language Is Music:’ Opera Star Justino Díaz Reflects on a Life in Song

In bowties and gowns, they gathered—business magnates and world leaders, celebrities and socialites—all to herald the start of a new era in American opera.

November 29, 2021

After a Lifetime of Music, Ian Robertson Bids Farewell to the San Francisco Opera Chorus

The production had been dogged by problems, starting on opening night. The set of San Francisco Opera’s 1992 Don Carlo was meant to be dynamic, with walls that moved and narrowed in on the characters at crucial moments in the story.

October 28, 2021

Self-Doubt? Soprano Nicole Heaston Is Done With That

The days stretched into weeks. The weeks into months. The months into a whole year. And still, the coronavirus pandemic showed no signs of abating.

October 27, 2021

‘It’s About Time:’ Director Michael Cavanagh on Making ‘Così fan tutte’ for the 21st Century

Opera director Michael Cavanagh has a confession to make.

“I'm one of the few Canadians never to have played organized hockey,” he says, his laughter belying the seriousness of his transgression. “I should be in a museum.”

September 28, 2021

‘It Is a Warning:’ Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley on ‘Fidelio’ and Finding Your Voice

Greer Grimsley had never seen an opera before. But he had a love for theater and a love for music. Even as a young boy, he would fashion improvised wind instruments out of pieces of hose he’d find around his home in New Orleans, Louisiana.

September 27, 2021

Tenor Russell Thomas on Reimagining ‘Fidelio’ and Leading the Opera Industry

“Whenever there was singing, my attention was glued to that radio. And it was always that way for me with singing, even in church,” Thomas recalls. “But listening to opera for the first time as a kid, it was just the nature of the voices—that the human voice can make that kind of sound. It was miraculous to my young ears.”

September 27, 2021

The Insider Story Behind ‘Tosca’s’ Viral Proposal, From Star Soloman Howard Himself

“In front of God, in front of my sisters and cousins, and most importantly in front of your mom and dad,” he said, gesturing to the crowd, “I ask you: Will you marry me?”

September 1, 2021

Finding Home with Soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen

At the time, Rachel Willis-Sørensen wasn’t even sure she needed vocal lessons. She was a teenager, and singing had been her entire life, ever since she was five years old. She had done jazz, choir, every school musical she could. What could a voice lesson possibly teach her that she didn’t already know?

September 1, 2021

Embracing ‘Tosca,’ Soprano Ailyn Pérez Embraces Contradiction

You might think it would be easy for an opera singer to play another opera singer on stage. But not so for Chicago-born soprano Ailyn Pérez. She had seen the Giacomo Puccini opera Tosca several times early in her career, but the overall effect left her cold. The performances were too melodramatic, too over-the-top.

August 4, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: A Glorious Reawakening

In just two weeks, we will raise the gold curtain of the War Memorial Opera House on an opera for the first time in over 20 months. It is going to feel extraordinary.

July 29, 2021

Director Shawna Lucey Tackles the ‘Impossible:’ Parenthood and Opera

Shawna Lucey never thought she would be a parent. It seemed impossible. As an opera director, she had to be ready to travel on a moment’s notice, staging productions in Barcelona one moment, Santa Fe the next. It was hard enough to juggle the uncertainty of life on the road without adding a baby to the mix.

July 27, 2021

Talking 'Tosca' and Voting Rights with Opera Star Soloman Howard

Soloman Howard was always meant for the stage. You might even say he was destined for it. His mother sang. His father sang. His aunts and uncles performed in gospel groups. Even his godfather made singing his life’s work: He served as minister of music at a church in the Washington D.C. area, where Howard grew up.

June 24, 2021

Teetering Toscas, Bulletproof Toscas, Historic Toscas: Five Stories of Giacomo Puccini’s Masterpiece on the San Francisco Opera Stage

Giacomo Puccini’s tragic romance Tosca has had a history on the San Francisco Opera stage stretching back to the company’s first season in 1923. And over that time span — nearly a century in length — the company has racked up stories of Toscas come and gone. Goofy stories. Heartbreaking stories. Inspiring stories.

June 24, 2021

Getting into Character with Bass-Baritone Alfred Walker, ‘Tosca’s’ New Villain

Though bass-baritone Alfred Walker has played a variety of roles, he has become best known perhaps for his villains—and he's about to add a new name to his lineup with his role debut as Baron Scarpia in 2021's Tosca. Find out how he gets into character in this new interview.

May 27, 2021

He Was Backstage. She Was Front of House. It Was a Match Made in Opera.

Maybe you’ve seen her: the commanding presence patrolling the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House, curly hair and eyes smiling behind a pair of glasses.

May 26, 2021

A First Date at the Opera Leads to a Lifetime of Love for Tom Taffel and Bill Repp

The night Bill Repp first clapped eyes on Tom Taffel, he was sporting a huge 19-inch incision on his leg, held together with steel sutures. Repp couldn’t help but notice the strips of adhesive tape, the fresh stitches. What was this man doing out of bed, much less spending a night on the town in 1970s San Francisco?

May 26, 2021

For Opera Stars Beth Clayton and Patricia Racette, It’s All About the ‘Zing’

Normally, life is nonstop for Grammy-winning soprano Patricia Racette and her wife, mezzo-soprano and mental wellness performance coach Beth Clayton. Jetting around the world is just what they do.

May 15, 2021

A Taste for Music: Composer Bright Sheng Shares His Creative Process

Six months on the road, six months at home. That’s a typical year for composer, conductor and pianist Bright Sheng.

But when the coronavirus pandemic grounded his travels, the MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient did something unexpected. He strapped on a set of wheels—and discovered a whole new way to get around.

May 15, 2021

‘Whoever Heard of a Chinese Bass?’ A Granddaughter’s Memories of Boundary-Breaking Performer Yi-Kwei Sze

It was 1970s China, and the pins identified the children as part of the Little Red Guard, an honor bestowed to select students under the Chinese Communist Party. But the politics were lost on a child as young as Li. One day she asked her teacher: Why not her?

May 15, 2021

San Francisco Opera’s Department of Diversity, Equity, and Community Issues Statement About Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Heritage months are a good opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the rich contributions of the many cultures that exist in the United States. But that recognition should not be relegated to a single month in the year.

May 15, 2021

‘We Want to Belong:’ Director Matthew Ozawa on Opera, Identity, and Embracing Risk

He knows it’s cheesy. But when acclaimed director Matthew Ozawa thinks about why he sticks with opera, he thinks of a moment during during his first year working in stage management at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

April 27, 2021

With 30 Years on the San Francisco Stage, Catherine Cook Returns to ‘The Barber of Seville’

In the solitude of her car, as she drove home from that first staging rehearsal, Catherine Cook started to cry. She didn’t expect to. But suddenly the emotions overwhelmed her: She would be back on stage, performing live, for the first time in over a year.

April 27, 2021

‘Coming Full Circle,’ Bass Kenneth Kellogg Looks to the Future of Opera

When he arrived for staging rehearsals at the War Memorial Opera House, bass Kenneth Kellogg was dressed for the occasion. He preparing to become one of the first singers to perform in a fully staged opera in the San Francisco Bay Area since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

April 23, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: The Return of Live Opera: It’s Here!

There are moments in life when nothing says it as clearly as music. This is one of those moments. As more  people get vaccinated, as the trends continue downwards, and as we prepare to move into the yellow tier, it’s time to find release and joy in some of the most exuberant opera ever written! After more than a year of being denied live music, it’s time to remedy that!

April 18, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: The Return of Live Opera: Part 3

It has been quite the task to slim down the hundreds of photos I’ve taken over the course of the last week to share with you today! Since my last Backstage with Matthew, so much has been happening as we prepare to open our Barber of Seville on April 23.

April 16, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: The Return of Live Opera: Part 2

Rehearsal weeks are always packed with activity as the elements of opera all come together in beautiful harmony. But as we prepare our new Barber of Seville production—the return of live opera to the Bay Area — I find myself pausing amidst the swirl of activity to reflect on "first times back."

April 14, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: The Return of Live Opera

Extraordinary things are happing at the Marin Center as we prepare to bring to life our LIVE production of The Barber of Seville! Every day propels us forward in major ways, and the whole production is taking shape at a breathtaking pace in advance of our opening on April 23.

April 13, 2021

One Fan’s Memory of the Late Mirella Freni, Opera Superstar

Nearly a year ago, the virtuoso Italian soprano Mirella Freni passed away at age 84. In tribute to her memory, longtime San Francisco Opera Intermezzo Lounge manager Tom Taffel shares a story about the excitement that surrounded her performances—and the brief encounter he’ll cherish forever.

April 13, 2021

Greatest Fears? Guiltiest Pleasures? Three Adler Fellows Reveal All

They’re some of the most dazzling young opera performers of their generation—and they’re based right here in San Francisco.

Every year, artists from around the world travel to California to take part in the Adler Fellowship Program, a prestigious opera residency designed to showcase top emerging talent. But this year’s cohort of singers, pianists and vocal coaches face a performing-arts industry reeling from pandemic-related closures.

April 13, 2021

A Taste of Wagner: The Recipe for Muscoli Ripieni (Stuffed Mussels)

Because Richard Wagner meticulously documented most every incident in his life, we know that he began writing the music for the Ring cycle in La Spezia on the Italian Riviera in the summer of 1853. After a rough night at sea, he landed in the port of La Spezia near where fishermen brought their daily catch, and was transported to a locanda on Via del Prione 45. With his lingering seasickness and the noisy animation of the busy town, Wagner fell into a deep sleep, and he tells us, “I thought I was falling down in a whirlpool—this abyss into which I was falling—and I awakened having heard the opening chords of Das Rheingold.”

April 13, 2021

Opera in the COVID Era? Conductor Roderick Cox Is ‘Up for the Challenge’

Cox didn’t grow up going to the opera or the symphony. Instead, he spent his childhood in Macon, Georgia, assembling his action figures into imaginary gospel choirs or hanging out in the band room after school.

April 13, 2021

The Barber in Love: How Musicians Irina and Lucas Meachem Found Romance Through Figaro

It all started in 2013 in Minneapolis, where Lucas was running late for rehearsals at Mill City Summer Opera — about a week late, in fact. He had been on a fishing trip that delayed his arrival.

Irina was already there, contracted as a rehearsal pianist for Mill City’s upcoming production of The Barber of Seville. It was hard work, and she was tired. She barely paid any attention to the fisherman who’d just waltzed into the rehearsal space.

When Lucas walked to the center of the rehearsal space, it clicked: This man was the opera’s star, its Figaro. And she instantly had a million questions....

March 26, 2021

The Incomparable Lawrence Brownlee

Set in the country's heartland at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Rust Belt enclave of Youngstown, Ohio is better known for its steel and manufactured goods than for producing masters of the music of Rossini and Donizetti. Yet Lawrence Brownlee, lyric tenor and premier exponent of the bel canto repertoire, has emerged as one of that city's most prominent native sons. Endowed with a richly textured tone, lightning quick agility, and extraordinary range, he sits atop opera's A-list, sought after by virtually every notable company on both sides of the Atlantic. And as an African-American male artist at the pinnacle of success, he has learned to thrive in the rarefied air of opera stardom against the headwinds of America's cultural history.

March 26, 2021

Inspired by Figaro, Mezzo-Soprano Laura Krumm Tackles ‘The Barber of Seville’

Reading Hamlet is a rite of passage for many American high schoolers, and for Iowa City native Laura Krumm, it was no different. Of course she knew about the skull scene. Of course she knew about the murdered king, the angsty prince and the scheming uncle.

March 25, 2021

‘This Is Not a Story:’ Baritone Joshua Hopkins on Creating ‘Songs for Murdered Sisters’

The drip of broken pipes echoes in the empty hall. Plaster peels from the wall. And from down a marble staircase, yellowed from disuse, a man appears, dressed all in black.

He walks into the long shadows of Oakland’s 16th Street Station, a decaying Beaux-Arts thoroughfare, when his progress is stopped. In front of him sits what appears to be an empty chair. But for the man, baritone Joshua Hopkins, it symbolizes so much more. "Who was my sister?" Hopkins starts to sing in short, fractured lines: "Is now an empty chair. Is no longer there. She is now emptiness. She is now air."

March 24, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: A Safe and Stylish Return to Live Opera

March 16 marked the one-year anniversary of the local shelter-in-place order that dramatically impacted all of us and brought live performances to a standstill. It is hard to believe that our last live performance as a company was December 7, 2019 with Hansel and Gretel. That makes our return to live opera in Marin with drive-in performances of The Barber of Seville beginningon April 23, 2021, some 16 months later, so exciting and so meaningful. Throughout this time, one of our constant creative threads has been our Costume Shop. We reopened the Costume Shop early in the pandemic under manufacturing guidelines and have continued to build and ready ourselves for our return.

March 1, 2021

‘Barber of Seville’ Star Alek Shrader on Confronting Elitism and Anxiety

It was 2006, and tenor Alek Shrader was on the verge of a massive breakthrough in his career. In a year’s time, at age 25, Shrader would be crowned one of six winners at the prestigious Metropolitan National Council Auditions. What’s more, his victory would be captured in a feature-length documentary, The Audition, broadcast on public television stations across the United States.

March 1, 2021

This Weekend’s Grammy Nominees? You’ve Seen Them Right Here

It’s nearly here. After being delayed by the coronavirus for nearly two months, the 63rd annual Grammy Awards are set to air on March 14, marking a night of celebration for the music industry.

February 24, 2021

Backstage with Matthew: Assessing the Risks of Opera

I have often wondered during the last year what it will feel like to return to live performance. To experience the hush of expectation before a performance begins, to be swept along in the complete focus on a beautiful aria, to be in collective applause at the end. Well, in just two months’ time beginning on April 23rd we will experience just that, after what will be almost 18 months without live opera. I am over the moon that we are able to produce live drive-in performances of the Barber of Seville at the Marin Center drive-in, and I am excited to share many more behind-the-scenes looks with you as we go through the next two months.

February 22, 2021

Giuseppe Verdi and Falstaff

When Verdi’s Macbeth was first performed in Paris in 1865 in a version specifically revised for performance in the French capital—with an added ballet and many modifications—the reaction of the French public was not enthusiastic. 

February 20, 2021

‘I Can’t Let That Stop Me:’ Stage Legend George Shirley on Overcoming Hatred

Tenor George Shirley has always been aware of the fact that, for many Americans, his skin color alone has made him the object of hatred. Back in the early days of his career—when he was completing basic training on his way to a position in the U.S. Army Chorus—he knew some of his fellow soldiers were uncomfortable sharing the barracks with a Black man in uniform. He heard the slurs as their cars rolled by.

February 20, 2021

Bay Area Spotlight: Librettist Aja Couchois Duncan on Writing One of 2020’s Biggest Hits

It proved to be one of the biggest opera successes of 2020. The New York Times labeled it “a parable for our time.” The Los Angeles Times dubbed it “the best ticket in opera right now.” And The New Yorker called it a “gut punch.” Sweet Land—which premiered last year on February 29—marked a powerful new entry in a line of experimental operas from the Los Angeles-based company The Industry.

February 20, 2021

Once Gifted a Trip to the Opera, Board Member Sylvia Lindsey Now Gives Back

The pharmacist was on the verge of what would become a nasty divorce. Needless to say, his wife would not be joining him for Tosca that night at the Metropolitan Opera. So he turned to a friend to accompany him: future San Francisco Opera board member Sylvia Lindsey. Now in her 70s, Lindsey remembers the circumstances well. Because that would be her first night at the opera—a spark that launched a passion, as well as a tradition of service.

February 15, 2021

“One swallow does not a summer make” Puccini’s Bittersweet Operetta

A major criticism of Giacomo Puccini during his lifetime was that, at a time of fervent Nationalist sentiment, he was not Italian enough. Here was a man whose operas were inspired by the French literati (Manon LescautLa BohèmeTosca—albeit set in Rome), the American playwright David Belasco (Madama Butterfly and La Fanciulla del West—set respectively in Japan and the Wild West), and brilliantly-overblown Orientalism (Turandot). 

February 8, 2021

A Humane School for Lovers

Experience, so the truism goes, is a hard school but fools will learn no other. The school in the case of Wolfgang amadeus Mozart and Lorenzo Da Ponte’s 1790 comedy Così fan tutte is a metaphorical one, created by Don alfonso and his friends.

February 1, 2021

With Grammy Nods and a Film on the Way, It’s Kenneth Overton’s Year

He had stepped onto the stage knowing one world. He would leave to discover another.

It was March 12, 2020, and baritone Kenneth Overton was wrapping up a solo performance, singing spirituals at Lehmen College in New York City. He had heard the rumors before showtime. As he looked out onto the crowd, he noticed it was unusually sparse.

February 1, 2021

The Dream of Lohengrin

Lohengrin was the opera that, more than any other, introduced the art of Richard Wagner to international audiences. It was arguably his most popular opera for generations, and the composer’s first to be produced at several theaters, including New York’s Metropolitan Opera. In spite of its own challenges to ears accustomed to the conventions of traditional European music, Lohengrin appealed to audiences with its rich score (alternating ravishing passages with bracing martial eruptions in a marvelous melange of colors and moods) and its romantic story.

January 23, 2021

A Heroine of Singular Complexity: Verdi’s Timely, and Timeless, 'La Traviata'

On New Year’s Day of 1853, Giuseppe Verdi wrote about the challenges of finding suitable libretti: “I want subjects that are new, great, beautiful, varied, daring … and daring to an extreme degree, with new forms, etc., and at the same time [that are] capable of being set to music.”

January 18, 2021

'Samson et Dalila': A Glorious Finale for Parisian Grand Opera

Despite a long, insistent trend by opera lovers since the death-in-action of Puccini and the rarification of late-late Strauss to turn back to those two composers in their prime—plus the basic glories of Mozart, Verdi, and Wagner—there still exists a move on both sides of the proscenium towards a widened, more diversified repertoire. The answer to that impulse in the last century would have been the appearance of new works. Opera lovers today are not favored in that way (except for a handful of recent bequests by Berg and Britten) and must look elsewhere—nearly always with inventive compromise—for the routine-breaker.

December 17, 2020

Backstage with Matthew: The Beauty of Catharsis

As we come to the close of this most unique of years, I find myself craving musical connection more and more each day. Music binds us in collective experience and it allows us to delve into our emotions and find resonance outside ourselves. The Cambridge Dictionary defines catharsis as “the process of releasing strong emotions through a particular activity or experience, such as writing or theater, in a way that helps you to understand those emotions.” If there was ever a time in which we needed opera to help us process the deep emotions of life, it is this year.

December 16, 2020

Carrie-Ann Matheson and Markus Beam Lead San Francisco Opera Center Into a New Year

“What?!” Carrie-Ann Matheson’s hands are in the air. It’s mid-December, mere weeks before the celebrated pianist and vocal coach is set to take over as artistic director of the San Francisco Opera Center, and she’s just discovered something shocking about the man scheduled to lead alongside her.

December 16, 2020

Sasha Cooke’s “Sasha Sesh” Series Dives Into Size Discrimination in Opera

The first thing mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke wants you to know is that you’re not alone. The two-time Grammy winner has experienced firsthand what it is to feel scrutinized, sized up, and ultimately dismissed for how you look. She also knows what it means to internalize that criticism. So on April 25, she went on Instagram with a message.

December 11, 2020

In Memoriam 2020

The unique, unprecedented challenges of 2020 have not spared the opera community. The sheer number of profiles below is just one measure of the collective and individual losses we have endured this year. Yet, despite the darkness, there have also been examples of overwhelming generosity and compassion, bold scientific breakthroughs to overcome this pandemic, opportunities for contemplation, along with newfound connections and discoveries in the virtual space.

December 10, 2020

Consuming Consumption: Tuberculosis on the Opera Stage

“But if she’s dying of that dreadful disease, how could she still sing such gorgeous music?” It’s a question operagoers often get asked when trying to describe what happens at the climax of one of the most beloved works in the repertoire. In the famous scene from the film Moonstruck, the character played by Cher—who is seeing La Bohème for the first time—notices the paradox and declares, “I didn’t know she was going to die!” 

December 10, 2020

Everything you know about 'La Bohème' is wrong…

All the clichés may have been right a hundred years ago (probably not), but they are assuredly tired and wrong now. If we’re going to continue to hold La Bohème at the core of operatic repertory—and we should—then the narrative surrounding the opera needs to evolve.  

December 2, 2020

From Musical Theater to ‘Lovecraft Country,’ Janai Brugger Shares Her Journey to the Stage

She walks through the flames that rain down upon her, from burning buildings and pointed guns, from airplanes dropping explosives from the sky.

Letitia Lewis has just witnessed a woman burn alive. A family slaughtered. Thousands of lives destroyed. Protected by magic, she walks through the inferno, cradling a book that holds the knowledge she needs to protect the ones she loves.

November 30, 2020

Sheri Greenawald on Culture Shock, Generation Divides and Retiring in 2020

At the end of 18 years as the Director of the San Francisco Opera Center, Sheri Greenawald is excited for what comes next. She hopes it’ll look a little more like her hometown of Morley, Iowa.

It’s not the microscopic population she misses. (Morley hovers at just over 100 residents.) Nor does she yearn for the isolation of rural life.

Rather, it’s that endless blue sky she craves — blue as far as the eye can see. That, and a little more space to roam. Those are her wishes as she heads into retirement this December, the culmination of decades in the opera industry.

November 25, 2020

What Lies Beneath the Seat Removal?

As the highly anticipated completion of the War Memorial Seat Upgrade Project continues, we’ve uncovered a number of hidden treasures and peeled back the layers of the Opera House, its history, and inner workings. The project is in its final phase and will be finished in 2021. In October, seats throughout the Orchestra, Grand Tier, and Dress Circle sections were removed. What did we find? Quite a few surprising things you might not expect!

November 24, 2020

Where did you get that hat?

One of the main focuses of the Costume Shop this fall has been building our new production of Così fan tutte, the second opera in our trilogy of the Mozart-da Ponte operas directed by Michael Cavanagh. The manor house that came to life in The Marriage of Figaro last year has moved forward in time to the 1930s, and has become a country club, replete with a swimming pool, badminton court, and locker rooms.

November 23, 2020

The Elixir of Love: Donizetti’s Altered States

Whenever someone introduces The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir d’Amore), you can be sure the discussion will include mention of the jaw-dropping speed of its composition. I find myself slightly bemused by the skepticism with which scholars approach Donizetti’s boast that he completed the work in about two weeks; some suggest that the more accurate figure might have been closer to… a whole month (as if that in itself were not impressive enough)!

November 16, 2020

Rethinking the Elements of Melodrama: Verdi’s Innovative Vision in 'Rigoletto'

Master of the theater that he was, Verdi liked to recall a childhood incident in which real life seemed to trump the most hair-raising effects imagined for the stage. At the local church in his native village of Roncole, young Verdi found his attention naturally drawn to the music he heard during worship services. One day, while serving as an altar boy, he became so distracted from his duties that the priest celebrating Mass kicked him.

November 16, 2020

Soprano Sheri Greenawald on the Power of Cookies

It was an opening night tradition: to exchange gifts to celebrate the start of a show. But as soprano Sheri Greenawald recalls, she was “as poor as a church mouse.” Her opera career was still young. And she didn’t have the money to go out and buy presents for her fellow cast members, celebrity singers like Frederica von Stade among them.

November 16, 2020

Nicola Luisotti’s Secret to Mushroom Hunting? He’ll Never Tell

“It is important to create confusion in your enemy.” On that point, Nicola Luisotti is adamant. You never go into specifics. If someone asks if you’re going north, you tell them you’re going south. If they ask if the season is right, you tell them it’s wrong. And you never, ever divulge the most important secret of all: your favorite mushroom-hunting spot.

November 16, 2020

Giuseppe Verdi’s 'Rigoletto': Ahead of its Time

“A revolutionary opera” — that is how Verdi would describe Rigoletto in the years to come after its premiere. At first sight this seems like an exaggeration. There are no revolutions in Italian opera comparable to the one accomplished in Germany by Wagner’s Das Rheingold, which dates from the same decade. Audiences throughout the Italian peninsula had a set of expectations which no composer could afford to disregard.

November 9, 2020

His Opera to the Nation: Mussorgsky’s ‘Boris Godunov’

From the heroics of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, through the twilit bourgeois world of Chekhov to the vast epics of War and Peace, Russia’s culture is obsessed with one thing and one thing only, the country out of which it grew. It is then no coincidence that two of the greatest “national” operas in the canon, Boris Godunov and Khovanshchina, are both by a Russian. By calling on periods in his country’s past, beset by peril and religious and political separatism, Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky was able to create recognizable parables for his compatriots. The performance history of his third opera Boris Godunov may have obscured its important message about personal and corporate responsibility, but seen in its original version, untrammelled by later Romantic posturing, we are able to uncover the story of a man dogged by the guilt of what he has done.

November 5, 2020

Zooming Adlers

Over the last eight months, an extraordinary operation has been underway at the Opera, as we have sought to keep creativity alive in the San Francisco Opera Center. Our twelve Adler Fellows (ten singers and two coach/pianists) had barely started their year with us when the pandemic hit, throwing their whole world into question. Musical coachings, drama and language classes, not to mention preparation for stage roles, suddenly became impossible in the ways that they’ve been done for decades. 

November 2, 2020

Un Ballo in Maschera: A Political Opera—but in a Bigger Way than You Might Imagine

Verdi's active involvement with the Italian unification and independence movement, the Risorgimento, has labeled him a "political" composer. He is, moreover, valued as a political artist to feel good about—his patriotism is convincingly sincere and refreshingly non-toxic. One can see a parallel between the fortunes of the Risorgimento and expressions of patriotism in Verdi’s operas between the years 1842 and 1859.

October 30, 2020

Opera Legend Frederica von Stade Talks Costumes, Confidence, and the Long Arc of Justice

The phone line goes silent. The legendary mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade is rustling around, looking for a poem. “Are you there,” she asks, reemerging from her search. She’s found the lines that have been speaking to her lately. “Listen closely,” she begins, before reciting a verse from Seamus Heaney: “History says, ‘Don’t hope on this side of the grave.’ But then, once in a lifetime, the longed-for tidal wave of justice can rise up, and hope and history rhyme.”

October 30, 2020

An Insider Look at the 2020 Costume Sale With Daniele McCartan

Her mother was a cellist and always dreamed that her five children would play instruments too. But while she and her siblings dabbled — taking piano lessons, things like that — Daniele McCartan took an unexpected path into music. Her passion was not in the orchestra pit. It was in the costume shop at San Francisco Opera.

October 26, 2020

Out of their Minds

Allied to words in the medium of opera, music can take us to areas of experience that elsewhere might be uncontainable. Music inhabits a terrain beyond reason, and so is capable of depicting madness—and opera composers from Christoph Willibald Gluck to Alban Berg have allowed audiences entry to a world more usually associated with the analyst’s couch.

October 26, 2020

“So, you have ta’en up your bonny bridegroom?” Gaetano Donizetti and Lucia di Lammermoor

"Our theaters go bad to worse… The operas flop, the public hisses, our audience is scarce…. Now at the San Carlo, we will have Persiani’s old opera Danao, then my Lucia di Lammermoor which is now finished…. The crisis is near, the public has indigestion, the theater management is falling apart, Vesuvius is smoking, and the eruption is near." So wrote Gaetano Donizetti on July 16, 1835, sourly noting the current difficulties besetting the theater scene in Naples.

October 19, 2020

The Spirit of this Place: Mozart’s 'The Marriage of Figaro'

That overused word, genius, is not the fixed image we often seek; it is a kaleidoscope. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s extraordinary gifts continue to mystify and inspire because he exemplifies a complex idea of genius—for some he is spiritual enlightenment itself, music’s great philosopher—to others he is earthly proof of a deity. To still others he is a visionary miscreant, a bawdy and brilliant savant. He utterly satisfies the intellect while piercing the heart. For a few curmudgeons who deserve avoidance, his music just isn’t dramatic enough to be found interesting.

October 19, 2020

'The Marriage of Figaro': Fomenting the French Revolution?

Before The Marriage of Figaro became one of the world’s most beloved operas—with 420 global performances during the 2013-14 season alone—it was, like many operas, a play. But what a play! La Folle Journée, ou Le Mariage de Figaro was written as a five-act comedy in 1778 by French playwright Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, and was no simple dramatic exercise. Loaded with subtext, this original Figaro was considered nothing less than an incendiary call to both political and social uprising.

October 15, 2020

Goosebumps and Ghost Stories With Opera House Head John Boatwright

In the gloom of night, after the audiences have filed away and the stage door swings shut, John Boatwright steps onto the empty stage. He carries with him a little bulb, affixed to the end of a stand: a ghost light to shine when the theater is dark — and a fall from the stage is especially perilous.

October 15, 2020

Tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz on Celebrating His Roots

It’s fall. The days are getting shorter, and already, Arturo Chacón-Cruz is bundled up in jackets. He may be in chilly Montreal, Canada, but his words take you over 2,000 miles south, to the warmth of his desert hometown, Hermosillo, in the Mexican state of Sonora.

October 15, 2020

Vampires, Rejoice! An Edible Blood Recipe for Halloween

Imagine blood so easy to wash away that you could splatter it all over your clothes and sheets with nary a sign of carnage afterward. Just a quick dip into some soap and water, and all evidence of slaughter would simply slip down the drain. It’s the holy grail for prop designers and costume teams. Whenever a play, musical, or opera calls for an avalanche of gore, the quest for the perfect stage blood continues, one that can be cleaned as easily as it splatters.

October 12, 2020

“You can have the universe, but leave Italy for me!” Politics and Patriotism in Verdi’s Attila

Attila of 1846 is an exciting trove of operatic vigor and melody. It was championed early on by partisans of Italian nationalism and the movement for unification known as the Risorgimento, or the “resurgence” (of Italy as a unified nation). The opera was based very loosely on history: the invasion of Italy by Attila the Hun in the fifth century.

October 12, 2020

Viva Verdi! Giuseppe Verdi and the Resorgimento

Throughout his life, Verdi was a genuine patriot of Italy. His sentiments were reflected both subtly and overtly in his compositions. During the Risorgimento, the movement to create the modern state of Italy, which did not exist until 1861, Verdi’s operas contained many dramatic scenes with slyly used words that might otherwise be considered inflammatory or politically subversive.

October 12, 2020

Nicola Luisotti and Gabriele Lavia Discuss Attila

Verdi’s Attila is a powerful opera that has galvanized audiences since its 1846 premiere in Venice, with its political undertones that hint at the universal struggle for freedom. Maestro Nicola Luisotti and director Gabriele Lavia share their thoughts on this co-production with Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, new to San Francisco Opera.

October 12, 2020

Ferruccio Furlanetto and Samuel Ramey on Attila

The recent popularity of Verdi’s Attila is due in large part to Samuel Ramey’s assumption of the title role at the New York City opera in 1981. Over the next twenty years, he played Attila in most of the world’s major opera houses, including a searing portrayal with San Francisco Opera in 1991. Now, Ferruccio Furlanetto returns to San Francisco for the first time in fourteen seasons to assume the role of Attila, and Ramey plays Pope Leo I. These two legendary singers spoke recently with San Francisco Opera Magazine.

October 7, 2020

'Tosca’s' Roman Monuments

The Roman setting of Tosca highlights three great monuments: the Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle in Act I; the Farnese Palace in Act II; and the Castel Sant’Angelo in Act III. All three locations have long histories and lore. The Church of Sant’Andrea della Valle is the backdrop for a parody of religious piety while the Farnese Palace evokes political repression of the state, and Castel Sant’Angelo becomes the violent venue for betrayal.

October 5, 2020

The Rest of the Story: 'Tosca's' Historical Background

Victorien Sardou (1831–1908) would be all but forgotten today, even in his native France, were it not for the extraordinary success of Puccini’s opera based his 1887 play La Tosca. Sardou was an avid historian who took pride in the wealth of factual detail he poured into his plays. In fact the overwhelming supply of erudition relative to the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars that overburdens La Tosca makes the play a tough slog for modern readers.

October 1, 2020

Did you know? Inside the War Memorial Opera House’s history

We’re missing the War Memorial Opera House these days. The usual rhythm of opening nights, rehearsals, and events. The unmistakable energy that comes from people creating something great and an audience soaking up every aspect of a production. While we eagerly await the day that we can enter the building again, we reflect upon the excitement leading up to its opening back in 1932 and other events that have occurred on its stage.

September 17, 2020

Artists Speak Out About Latinx Identity in Classical Music

Two artists — frequent San Francisco Opera director Jose Maria Condemi and conductor, pianist, and former Adler Fellow César Cañón — recently spoke with San Francisco Opera about how they see Latinx identity interacting with classical music. They shared their experiences and what they feel needs to change in order to foster greater acceptance.

September 17, 2020

One Missed Cue, One Lost Shoe, And an Unforgettable Night at the Opera

It has been five years. Some of my memories from my first San Francisco Opera production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen are long gone, but most I still hold onto dearly. My clearest memory is of one special performance that was broadcast live at the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark. It involved one lost shoe and one missed cue.

September 17, 2020

Baritone Efraín Solís on 'Being Stuck Between Two Worlds'

As he rehearsed the opera Cruzar la Cara de la Luna, baritone Efraín Solís practiced the lines of a son grappling with the agony of his father’s slow decline. But off stage, Solís was grieving as well. It was 2018. He was nearing anniversary of his grandfather’s death, and the opera had stirred up a flood of memories.

September 17, 2020

Soprano Nadine Sierra on Returning to Singing After COVID-19

When she picks up the phone, she’s sitting on a stoop in New York City. Her apartment building has been cordoned off: From what she’s heard, someone inside has reportedly collapsed with COVID-19 symptoms. It’s all left soprano Nadine Sierra feeling emotionally raw. Her own experiences with the novel coronavirus are still fresh in her mind.

September 1, 2020

From Coit Tower to the Opera House, a New Deal Artist Bucks Trends

Like traveling vaudeville acts, opera singers used to crisscross the globe with their own costumes in tow. Mismatches abounded. An opera set in the 1800s might have featured a diva in 20th century styles. A Carmen could emerge from her cigar factory dressed for high society. A Mimì could expire in finery no bohemian could afford.

September 1, 2020

The Evolution of Opera Makeup

Veteran artist Stan Dufford, who served as wig master at San Francisco Opera from 1956 to 1968 and head of makeup from 1962 to 1968, shares how he saw makeup trends shift over the last half of century of opera.

September 1, 2020

For Stan Dufford, a Battle for Respect in Hair and Makeup

In all his years presiding over hair and make-up at San Francisco Opera, Stan Dufford can only remember losing his cool once. It was early in his career. A singer was upset about her wig. Dufford broke into tears. He threw a hairbrush.

September 1, 2020

Costume Designer Jessica Jahn on Finding Her Way in Opera

Long before she ever considered costume design as a career, Jessica Jahn suspects she was subconsciously drawn to it. Just take the incident with her senior prom dress.

August 24, 2020

Your Curated Playlist — Historic Firsts and Lasts

Feeling a little wistful for times past? Let us lighten your nostalgia blues with an opera-backed stroll down memory lane.

Revisit memorable moments and notable performances with this week's Historic Firsts & Lasts mixtape. Close your eyes, let your mind wander, and hit play.

August 18, 2020

Your Curated Playlist — The Bad Romance Mixtape

Summer is the season of the fling, of careless romances played out against windswept beaches and fiery sunsets. But for every bittersweet love affair, there’s a romance that implodes in dramatic style — one might say, operatically.

August 14, 2020

Opera Stars Share Their Must-Read Summer Favorites

This is the summer to escape to faraway lands — at least, through the pages of a good book. But in this time of social distancing, it can be hard to casually thumb through the pages at your local library or browse the nearest bookstore, much less tap your friends for recommendations over coffee.

August 14, 2020

‘I Really Thought It Was My Exit Out of Academia:’ Naomi André on Writing ‘Black Opera’

It’s all her mother’s fault. Her, and someone she knew as “Eric the Opera.”

They’re the ones author Naomi André credits with launching her passion for opera — a passion that led her to write one of the most buzzed-about new books in the field, Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement.

August 14, 2020

How ‘Handel as Orpheus’ Changed the Dialogue Around 18th-Century Sexuality

It was a fantasy, one where courtiers imagined themselves as shepherds and shepherdesses, not a care in the world beyond romance. And Ellen T. Harris was steeped in it. At the time of her doctorate, she had chosen to study operas about those idyllic pastoral stories, specifically the ones written by composer George Frideric Handel.

August 10, 2020

Your Curated Playlist — The Opera Villain Mixtape

Get in touch with your villainous side with this specially curated YouTube playlist, featuring some of the baddest opera characters ever to appear on the San Francisco Opera stage: corrupt leaders, unabashed murderers, and even the devil himself.

July 31, 2020

‘Barber of Seville’ Star Daniela Mack on Finding Inspiration — and Navigating Hardship

At age 7, it started: a lifelong passion, sparked in the dark of a theater. Daniela Mack was attending her first opera, Giuseppe VerdiLa Traviata. It would plant the seeds of a career for the Buenos Aires-born singer, a mezzo-soprano who would one day tour the worlds great opera houses, with a voice critics compared to “polished onyx.”

July 31, 2020

Soprano Karita Mattila on Surviving Earthquakes and Shaking Up Opera

Soprano Karita Mattila has been busy. It’s 6:15pm in Helsinki, and she’s been preparing for a new production to open the Finnish National Opera’s fall season: Covid fan tutte.

July 22, 2020

Unraveling The Makropulos Case

Some mysteries are more puzzling than others. At first encounter, the secrets of The Makropulos Case appear buried as deeply as the secret its enigmatic heroine conceals until the final moments. The audience shares in the guesswork of those who try to grasp Emilia Marty’s intentions until, like them, we stand awed before her revelation, grateful for our mortality even as we dread its approach. No one can leave The Makropulos Case unmoved.

July 20, 2020

Beating the Twentieth Century Blues

Emilia Marty has seen it all: kings, princes, dukes and the common man on the Street. But it is modern life that does her in—or gives her release. Based on a play by Karel Čapek, Leoš Janáček’s 1926 opera The Makropulos Case (begun in November 1923) charts the final days of Marty’s life. 

July 17, 2020

Leontyne Price’s Farewell ‘Aida:’ An Opera To Remember

It was standing room only for the final performance of Leontyne Price’s Aida on the San Francisco Opera stage. Fans swarmed for a last chance to see the great diva sing her signature role right here in the Bay Area. And at this monumental performance, I was on stage, a fledgling, a greenhorn, in my virgin appearance as a supernumerary. It was June 1984. My job was to play the role of an Egyptian soldier.

July 17, 2020

A Tale of Two Princes: My First Time as a Supernumerary

I had only seen two operas from standing room — Tosca and Otello — before I was actually in one. A friend from a college acting class saw an ad in New West magazine calling for people to be extras or supernumeraries at San Francisco Opera. We were puzzled. Why advertise? Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to wear a glamorous costume? And perform on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House? I later discovered the reason for the ad was that the 1977 season featured a lot of big shows — Aida, Faust, Das Rheingold, and Turandot — that required a lot of “supers.”

July 17, 2020

Confronting Genius: Director Aria Umezawa on Battling Harassment in Opera

“You need to learn how to slap people around more.” That’s the advice director Aria Umezawa remembers receiving early in her career. It ran contrary to the ideals she had been raised with. It made her question whether she had a place in opera. “Certainly I wondered if the industry wanted me. I never really questioned if I wanted opera,” Umezawa said.

July 14, 2020

The Triumph of Cenerentola

Rossini’s La Cenerentola shares with Massenet’s Werther, Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, and Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette the distinction of being its composer’s second most popular opera, and like them it explores quite different territory from the first. While II Barbiere di Siviglia is a classic unclouded comedy, rossini’s version of the Cinderella story, as might be expected, carries a charge of pathos behind the laughter.

July 13, 2020

A Classic Fairytale

The name “Cinderella” is so commonly known that it is now part of the lexicon. Who doesn’t know what a “Cinderella story” is? A put-upon underdog triumphing over great odds? The trope is so adored by American culture that it is firmly embedded in our favorite books and countless movies.

July 10, 2020

Circling Around Steve Jobs

To Steve Jobs we owe much that defines modern life—not just the iPhones, iPods, iPads, and iMacs that transformed how we gather and communicate information, but also the engineering, the packaging, and even the attitudes that changed those once onerous and time-consuming tasks into bursts of instant gratification. But who, really, was he?

July 9, 2020

Ernani by the Bay: How Verdi’s Fifth Opera Became San Francisco’s First Love

San Francisco was an opera town from the very beginning, and those culture-craving Gold Rush-era locals loved modern opera. A top contender as their absolute favorite was Ernani. It was first heard in San Francisco in 1851, a scant two years after the world rushed in to create this city. It was one of the first three operas performed here, after Bellini’s La Sonnambula and Norma earlier that year.

July 9, 2020

Audacious Achievement: Verdi’s Ernani

Ernani, which premiered at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice on March 9, 1844, was Giuseppe Verdi’s fifth opera, but represented a significant departure and improvement from his previous works—Oberto (1839), Un Giorno di Regno (1840), Nabucco (1842) and I Lombardi alla Prima Crociata (1843). 

July 9, 2020

Partenope Plays for Keeps

The minute Handel’s London opera company was reorganized in 1729 as the Second Academy of Music, giving him more power, he put Partenope on the schedule, and set to work writing it. 

July 5, 2020

Creativity amidst Adversity

Happy July 4th Weekend! I hope that you are staying well and that you have been able to enjoy a festive weekend. I hope that you’ll tune in tonight at 8pm to Classical KDFC for our Broadway edition of The Opera Hour. President of KDFC Bill Lueth and I will explore the operatic side of Broadway in this holiday-weekend festival of song!

July 3, 2020

Susannah and Sam Polk Speak: An Interview with Patricia Racette and Brandon Jovanovich

The San Francisco Opera premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah on September 6, 2014 was one of those big nights. The opera had been performed in the House before in 1967 by the affiliated yet separate Spring Opera Theater Company (with the composer-librettist himself also acting as stage director), but even as she racked up hundreds of performances worldwide, Susannah had to wait another five decades for a return.

July 1, 2020

American Icon: Carlisle Floyd Talks About Life and Opera

On February 24, 1955, when the final curtain came down on the world premiere of Susannah, Carlisle Floyd’s life changed forever. Until then, the young pianist and assistant professor at Florida State University had no plans to devote himself to composing operas. But, with that moment, the disparate influences and events of his life came together to make his destiny impossible to ignore.

June 29, 2020

Innocence and Experience in Carlisle Floyd’s SUSANNAH

“The triumph of one human being over the depredations and moral pressure of a community is a wonderful source of drama, and the destruction of innocence is as heartbreaking a theme as we have to deal with.” —Carlisle Floyd

June 26, 2020

Fate, Feminism, and Physics: In Conversation with Sheri Greenawald

If you Google “Sheri Greenawald Manon” you’ll come across an LA Times review written by Martin Bernheimer following Greenawald’s 1986 performance at San Francisco Opera.

June 23, 2020

“Manon, it has to be Manon!”

On January 19, 1884, when Jules Massenet’s Manon was heard for the first time on the stage of Paris’ Opéra- Comique, there were no other French composers in contention for leadership of the lyric stage. Charles Gounod had not had a success since Roméo et Juliette in 1867; Ambroise Thomas’ glory, with Mignon and Hamlet, was nearly 20 years behind him; Georges Bizet was dead; Camille Saint- Saëns had had a recent success with Henry VIII but was still hoping to see Samson et Dalila staged in France; Édouard Lalo had two operas, Fiesque and Le Roi d’Ys, awaiting performance; Claude Debussy was still a student at the Conservatoire.

June 19, 2020

Pistols and Falling Dresses: One Violinist’s Adventures On Stage

Theirs are the closest seats to the stage — and yet, down in the recess of an orchestra pit, musicians rarely share the same spotlight that stage performers do. Leonid “Leon” Igudesman has bridged that divide, though. In his nearly 40 years at San Francisco Opera, the Russian-born violinist has performed alongside some of opera’s greatest voices, starring in marquee productions at the War Memorial Opera House stage.

June 19, 2020

An Ode to the Explosive Joy of ‘Operagasms’

I rarely talk about opera at work (or at least, it seems that way to me), partly because there’s nothing operatic about the job I do. My job title describes me as a support services coordinator, but much of my day is spent weaving in and out of the offices at San Francisco Opera, delivering mail, delivering office supplies, delivering messages. There’s no reason to take up the bandwidth of people whose jobs are all about opera.

June 19, 2020

The Legend of Persephone the Opera Pig

Move over, Peppa Pig. Long before Peppa was the toast of children’s TV, there was another porcine queen of entertainment: Persephone the Pig. In the 1970s, Persephone briefly became San Francisco Opera’s resident piglet. That’s because she had a powerful friend in one of the company’s most legendary figures: Kurt Herbert Adler.

June 19, 2020

From Hollywood to the Pit: Flutist Stephanie McNab on Her Journey to San Francisco Opera

Late at night, when her home is finally quiet, she can bring out her flute to practice. School has ended and, with it, the challenge of distance-learning in the time of the coronavirus quarantine.

June 17, 2020

Maria Jeritza: “Prima donna of the Century” and San Francisco Opera’s First Salome

When Maria Jeritza died in 1982, her obituary in the New York Times noted, almost parenthetically, that her second marriage, to Hollywood film executive Winfield Sheehan in 1935, “brought her a lavish estate in Beverly Hills, with a dining room that seated 182.” Few would have batted an eye. After all, that was only to be expected of the woman who was widely regarded as “the Prima Donna of the Century.”

June 15, 2020

Strauss Dances to the Abyss

Like the moon that features so prominently in its mise-enscène, Salome seems to reflect what its beholders are predisposed to find. The opera, variously praised and vilified, has been singled out for the sensual beauty and the aggressive brutality of its score alike. Overwrought sugary sweetness or acid-tinged dissonance? Take your pick. Where some find an artistically prophetic case study in modern neurosis, steeped in the Freudian Zeitgeist, others decry a luridly sensationalist glorification of depravity or a catalog of Orientalist clichés, cunningly repackaged.

June 10, 2020

End of the Line: Thoughts on Puccini’s Il Trittico at San Francisco Opera

It had been a tuneful 100 years. There were great operas, thankfully, before and after, in many nations, but from the premiere of Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia in 1816, to Puccini’s last completed work, his 1918 experimental trio of one act operas, Il Trittico, Italian opera enjoyed an abundant repertoire, an audience hungry for new works, and a scale of popularity it would never see again. 

June 10, 2020

A Cloak of Happiness and Sorrow: Puccini’s Glorious Triptych

Critics have often carped at Giacomo Puccini’s skill as a composer. Il Trittico, his 1918 triptych of operas, is an ingenious riposte to his detractors. Tragedy, melodrama, and ribald (black) humor are presented across three entirely separate works. Over three hours of music, we see and hear violence, lust, sentimentality, personal conviction, greed, and one-upmanship. But for many the operas are perplexing: Why have three? Why present themtogether in the same evening?

June 8, 2020

At the Intersection of Opera and Drag, Artists Look to the Future

Hers was the typical opera success story. A young mezzo-soprano with big dreams, she left her native Moscow to apprentice as a young artist in Paris, and there she had her lucky break. It was opening night at the Opera Garnier. Carmen was on the bill. And the performer in the title role? Indisposed after a run-in with a bus.

June 8, 2020

Talking Pride with Mezzo-Soprano Jamie Barton

The cancellations decimated her calendar. Suddenly there were no concerts. No operas. No in-person engagements at all through the end of August. The coronavirus pandemic, and the subsequent need for social isolation, had claimed them all.

June 8, 2020

Memories of José Sarria: Where Opera Meets Activism

He was Carmen. Aida. Marguerite. Madama Butterfly. And one of the pioneering figures in America’s struggle for LGBTQ rights. The late José Julio Sarria toppled barriers with his historic run for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, becoming the first known openly gay man to run for public office.

May 27, 2020

Secrets & Masks Bel Canto as Drama in Lucrezia Borgia

The premiere of Lucrezia Borgia on December 26, 1833 came at a crucial period in the thirty-six-year-old Gaetano Donizetti’s career. Although he had already accumulated substantial experience writing for the stage—by this point his complete list of operas, including incomplete and unperformed scores, tallied more than forty—the composer was riding the crest of fame that had really begun with the success of his “lyrical tragedy” Anna Bolena three years earlier.

May 27, 2020

Profile: Gaetano Maria Donizetti

Born on November 29, 1797 in Bergamo and baptized Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti, the future composer was the fifth of six siblings. In 1806, Donizetti was admitted to the music school in Bergamo. There, he was guided by Giovanni Simone Mayr, the distinguished Bavarian composer famous for his operas throughout Italy.

May 25, 2020

Director’s Note: Lucrezia Borgia – A Story of Love and the Misogyny of History

To understand the emotions behind the dramatic story line of Lucrezia Borgia, I feel that it is vital to bear in mind the social and historical background of the characters. Despite the fact that Lucrezia Borgia has been known primarily as a beautiful poisoner, there is an excellent case for viewing her as more victim than villain.

May 19, 2020

Chasing a Dark November

Novelist Gustav Flaubert famously claimed, “Madame Bovary contains nothing of my life ... It is one of my principles that you must not write yourself. The artist ought to be in his work like God in his creation, invisible and omnipotent.” It’s one of the big questions of the relevance of art in this age of saturation: can one separate the created from the creator or, more seriously, is there an audience for an artistic work simply because of its existence, and not merely for the level of celebrity surrounding it?

May 19, 2020

Director Leonard Foglia on Moby-Dick

Hear from Moby-Dick director Leonard Foglia as he shares how Moby-Dick came to be and provides insight into the creative process.

May 19, 2020

From Page to Stage: An Interview with Moby-Dick Librettist Gene Scheer

The challenge of turning Moby-Dick, one of the great classics of the English language, into an opera would have struck most librettists as Herculean. But for Gene Scheer, the effort was decidedly more Shakespearean.

May 19, 2020

Composing Moby-Dick

The creation of this opera began in early 2005, when the Dallas Opera contacted me about composing a new work as part of the inaugural season at the Winspear Opera House in 2010. At the time, I was at work on a piece with playwright Terrence McNally. He had been the librettist for our opera Dead Man Walking (2000) and we had been on the lookout for another big project. When I asked Terrence what he thought, he said “There’s only one opera I’m interested in doing: Moby-Dick.”

May 15, 2020

Transformation in Song and Ink: How tattooing brought tenors Amitai and Pene Pati closer to home

The idea first crossed his mind when he was 7. It was hard not to notice the massive tattoos that his uncle and other family members wore, darkening the skin from their waist down to their knees.

May 15, 2020

Bats vs. Batons: Are Opera Fans and Baseball Fans Really All That Different?

The fans are on their feet, cheering and whistling. You shout and clap along with everyone else, swept up in the sights and sounds, the rush of excitement. Are you at an opera performance or a baseball game?

May 15, 2020

The Soundtrack of Togetherness

My life is loud. Most years I spend several months in the San Francisco Opera pit and the rest of my time managing a family of four. When my boys are in school and I’m not rehearsing or practicing, I revel in the silence of an empty house.

May 15, 2020

At the Height of the Cold War, a Soviet Star Wins American Admiration

For its 50th anniversary in 1972, San Francisco Opera went big. General director Kurt Herbert Adler assembled an opera-lover’s dream season in which Birgit Nilsson headlining three cycles of the Ring was just one of many irresistible offerings. Festivities began on September 15 with a new production of Norma starring renowned Australian diva Joan Sutherland. The next night, Kiri Te Kanawa was introduced as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, the first of many happy returns for the Kiwi soprano.

May 12, 2020

Eleven Great Soprano / Mezzo-Soprano Duets

Vincenzo Bellini’s The Capulets and the Montagues is best known for Giulietta’s aria, “O quante volte.” This vocal showpiece, gorgeous as it is, is not the beating heart that sustains this opera. That duty is reserved for the extraordinary duets Bellini wrote for Romeo, played by a mezzo-soprano, and Giulietta, a soprano.

May 12, 2020

Director’s Note for The Capulets and the Montagues

Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi is possibly the shortest and most striking version of the story of the lovers of Verona. Bellini’s libretto was not inspired by Shakespeare, but by the source material that Shakespeare used. The spirit of the piece is more about the nineteenth-century obsessions of a young Italian composer than about any Elizabethan ghosts, and it is well known that Bellini composed the opera in a very short time for the Venice Carnival.

May 11, 2020

Fateful & Fragile Love: Vincenzo Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi

When Vincenzo Bellini arrived in Venice in mid-December 1829 to oversee La Fenice’s production of his 1827 Milan hit Il Pirata, he may still have been smarting from the recent drubbing administered to Zaira, his rather hastily-conceived opera that had been the young composer’s first out-and-out flop. An anonymous handbill had shown up on the streets of Parma immediately following Zaira’s premiere at the new Teatro Ducale: “anyone who finds the musical inspiration of signor Bellini is besought to take it to the box office of signor Bandini, the impresario, and he will be treated courteously.” That must have hurt.

May 7, 2020

Notes on 'Mephistopheles'

"Mefistofeleles is as old as the Bible and Aeschylus. Mefistofele is the serpent in the Garden of Eden; he is the vulture of Prometheus. Mefistofele is the doubt that generates learning, the evil that generates good. Wherever the spirit of negation is to be found, there is Mefistofele. Job has a Mefistofele called Satan; Homer has one called Thersites; Shakespeare has another called Falsta. Goethe’s original inspiration lies in forming a single type from these three: one who is as hellish as Satan, as grotesque as Thersites, as epi-curean as Falsta. Mefistofele is the embodiment of the eternal No addressed to the True, the Beautiful and the Good.”

May 1, 2020

On This Day, A Mozart Masterpiece Premiered

A thin little man settled in the conductor’s seat behind the keyboard, preparing to lead the orchestra in a premiere of his newest work. It was May 1, 1786, and the world was about to hear, for the very first time, a collaboration that would redefine opera: composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte’s masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro.

May 1, 2020

Catch Up with 'Mephistopheles' Director Robert Carsen

As a child, Robert Carsen dreamed of being an actor — but soon he found himself drawn into a different world, one that lies beyond the curtains, hidden to average theater-goer. He had the instinct for directing. And as a result, opera theaters around the world now play host to his visions, from New York to Paris and beyond.

April 25, 2020

Backstage with Matthew: Behind the Mask

We are a company that excels in solving complex problems in the theater, and it is so heartening to see that same creative urge shaping the Company’s response to the virus. We recently were able to make a large donation of personal protective equipment to UCSF from the Opera’s supplies, and our Costume Shop has been creating masks for the Bay Area’s community of hospitals and first responders.

March 22, 2020

Backstage with Matthew: Weathering the Crisis

We are coming up on the end of our first week of “remote” San Francisco Opera. For the first time I think in our history we have been spread to all corners of the Bay Area and are without a fixed place to gather.

March 5, 2020

Backstage with Matthew: Essential Preparation

In about eight weeks, we will welcome an exciting group of singers, conductors, and creative teams to San Francisco to begin rehearsals for our summer season.

February 28, 2020 Ernani

Power and passion: Tenor Russell Thomas dishes on Verdi’s ‘Ernani’ and the future of opera

It all started at age eight, with a young boy twiddling the radio dial, fatefully landing on a station that played opera. That moment of discovery, of bliss, of clarity and direction, led tenor Russell Thomas to pursue a career on some of the world’s greatest opera stages, his voice — by turns soft and earth-trembling — winning him legions of fans.

Inside the mind of ‘Steve Jobs’ star Sasha Cooke

She didn’t need to audition. She was simply asked. That’s how Grammy-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke landed the role of Laurene Powell Jobs in the world premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, itself a Grammy winner for Best Opera Recording.

February 1, 2020 The Handmaid's Tale

Where Opera Meets Illustration: An Interview with Shawna X

When announcing its 2020–21 Season, San Francisco Opera faced a dilemma: how to illustrate productions that were entirely new to the American stage.

That’s when we turned to visual artist Shawna X, whose illustrations brought splashes of color to the pages of The New Yorker and New York Magazine—not to mention her work for international brands like Adidas and Warby Parker.

December 20, 2019 Hansel and Gretel

Backstage with Matthew: A dash of holiday magic

As we come to the close of another great year of opera on the War Memorial stage, I wanted to express my deepest gratitude for all that you do to support world-class opera in the Bay Area. I have been so proud of the artistry we have shared together over the past year, and the thrilling appointment of Eun Sun Kim as our next Music Director was the most joyful way to close out the year.

December 18, 2019 The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs

Meet Mason Bates, the composer behind the turntable

There’s a degree of mystique surrounding the combination of unlike things — and composer Mason Bates’ fusion of classical music and electronica is no exception. It’s a recipe that’s won him acclaim and even a Grammy: His opera, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, nabbed the 2019 prize for best opera recording.

December 18, 2019

San Francisco Opera staff partner with Violins of Hope, Strings of the Holocaust, for music series from January 16 – March 15

For eight weeks beginning January 16, 2020, the San Francisco Bay Area will play host to the Violins of Hope, a collection of string instruments once played by Jewish prisoner-musicians in World War II-era ghettos and concentration camps.

December 6, 2019

Backstage with Matthew: The start of a thrilling new chapter

On Thursday I had the great honor of announcing our new music director at San Francisco Opera: Eun Sun Kim! It was, and will remain, one of the proudest moments of my career. 

November 26, 2019 Hansel and Gretel

Meet San Francisco Opera’s original Gretel, Queena Mario

Of the five seasons Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel has been performed on the San Francisco Opera stage, three featured a familiar face: that of popular American opera singer Queena Mario.

November 26, 2019 Hansel and Gretel

Inside the dangerous delicacies of ‘HANSEL AND GRETEL’

It’s the sugar-coated bait in the wicked witch’s trap: candy, confections, and cakes, all tantalizingly prepared and decorated for each production of Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

November 14, 2019 Hansel and Gretel

Backstage with Matthew: The intertwining of history and fairy tales

As we open the curtain on a charming new coproduction of the fairy-tale opera Hansel and Gretel, I thought it would be interesting to delve into the overall production design, and learn about the inspirations used by director/designer Antony McDonald in creating the production.

October 31, 2019 Hansel and Gretel

Backstage with Matthew: Into the Woods

On November 15th we raise the curtain on a new production of Hansel and Gretel — one of the most charming, heartfelt and nostalgic operas in the repertoire. A work of sumptuous orchestration, soaring melodies and a fantastical world that appeals to adults and children alike. 

October 28, 2019 Manon Lescaut


When director Olivier Tambosi’s production of Manon Lescaut first arrived in San Francisco in 2006, critics hailed it as “the best Puccini in years.” Now, 13 years later, the acclaimed production returns, with role debuts for two of opera’s most formidable stars: soprano Lianna Haroutounian and tenor Brian Jagde.

October 28, 2019 Hansel and Gretel


Fresh from his high-seas adventure this September in Billy Budd, tenor Robert Brubaker returns to the San Francisco Opera stage, starring this time as the cackling, Hitchcockian witch in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

October 15, 2019 The Marriage of Figaro

Backstage with Matthew: The Music of Conversation

It has been such a joy to open our brand new production of The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart, the beginning of our new trilogy of Mozart-Da Ponte operas to be rolled out over the course of three seasons. I am so proud of the creative energy of the company, conceiving, building and performing something so beautiful and humanistic.

October 3, 2019 The Marriage of Figaro

Backstage with Matthew: The Form, Function and Fichus of Figaro Fashion

With opening night of The Marriage of Figaro just around the corner on October 11, rehearsals are well underway on stage for this exciting new production, ushering in a brand-new trilogy of the Mozart-Da Ponte operas at San Francisco Opera. This new production, directed by Michael Cavanagh and designed by Erhard Rom (scenery), Constance Hoffman (costumes) and Jane Cox (lighting), will be a beautiful and fascinating new take on one of the most beloved operas in the repertoire.

September 30, 2019 The Marriage of Figaro


She is a former UNESCO youth ambassador. A headliner at the BBC Proms concerts. An internationally acclaimed opera singer with a cameo on the high-concept Netflix series The OA to her name.

And now soprano Jeanine De Bique has arrived in San Francisco to take on her latest challenge: headlining the start of San Francisco Opera’s Mozart-Da Ponte trilogy.

September 25, 2019 Romeo & Juliet


Tuesday, October 1, marks not only the final performance of San Francisco Opera’s 2019 Romeo and Juliet but also an important role debut for a rising star: New Zealand soprano Amina Edris.

September 19, 2019 Romeo & Juliet

Backstage with Matthew: To pronate or to supinate?

Our opening opera of Romeo and Juliet is such an intensely lyrical, romantic work, focused heavily on the journey of our two famous lovers from their star-crossed meeting to their tragic deaths. Four great duets punctuate the opera as we surge from one emotional high to the next. But surrounding the soaring romance is a world of politics, feuds, vengeance and … the sword. 

September 5, 2019 Billy Budd

Backstage with Matthew: Taking to the high seas

This week we open an extraordinary production new to the San Francisco Opera stage – Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd, based on the novella by Herman Melville of the same name. It has been 15 years since we have had any Britten on the War Memorial stage, and I am so excited for its return.

August 22, 2019

Backstage with Matthew: Backstage on the Road

In the brief weeks between our summer and fall seasons, a few of us at the Opera take to the road to hear singers, see productions, meet with colleagues at other companies, and connect with the broader world of Opera. This year we started rehearsals for the fall season very early on July 28. Though it’s been a lighter summer of travel than usual, it has still been important to squeeze in little trips where possible!

August 15, 2019 The Marriage of Figaro

Backstage with Matthew: A House Built for the Ages

On October 11th we will raise the curtain on a brand-new production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro, beginning an exciting three-season journey through the operas Mozart wrote with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. In a unique approach, The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni will be produced on a shared set, but a set that evolves through time.

July 25, 2019 Rusalka

Backstage with Matthew: Emerging from the Depths

As I reflect back on our 2018-19 season, I am so grateful for the amazing artistic journeys that we went on together this past year. One of the most deeply impactful for so many of us was Rusalka and I wanted to close out the summer with another glimpse of one of the many elements that came together so perfectly in this glorious production. Back in May we explored the crafts of Rusalka. This time we descend into the watery depths to explore the elevators that allowed characters to emerge so effortlessly through the water.

July 24, 2019 If I Were You

Jake Heggie debuts new work with Merola Opera Program

He’s a local talent renowned for bringing original work to San Francisco’s stages — and now he’s back with a brand-new work, tailor-made for the Merola Opera Program.

June 18, 2019 Carmen

Backstage with Matthew: Entering in Style

To quote Shakespeare, “all men and women...have their exits and entrances” but it has to be said that not all entrances are created equally. As we continue our run of Carmen, I’ve had many questions about the entrance of Escamillo and the four-footed friend on which he arrives and departs. I thought it was time to share with you the story of Drogen, our equine show-stealer in Carmen.

June 7, 2019 Orlando

Backstage with Matthew: Inside the Mind of Orlando

It’s a very exciting time at San Francisco Opera. This summer we welcome three beautiful, impactful productions to the stage, and in this edition of Backstage with Matthew I wanted to delve into the dramatic world of Handel’s Orlando, the particularly forward-looking Baroque opera that we are bringing back to San Francisco after 34 years.

May 16, 2019 Rusalka

Backstage with Matthew: The weird and wonderful crafts in Rusalka

It’s thrilling to be back in rehearsals at the Opera! Last week we welcomed a fantastic group of artists to the Opera as we prepare for our three summer operas. I am so excited for what is ahead of us: a sultry, evocative production of Carmen, a deeply insightful, exquisitely beautiful Orlando and a spectacular production of Dvořák’s opera Rusalka.

May 1, 2019

San Francisco Opera Pays Tribute to Paris at Solidarity Concert

In a cathedral lit in the colors of the French flag, artists and musicians from around the Bay Area came together to pay tribute to San Francisco’s sister city, Paris, and the tragedy that befell it on April 15.

May 1, 2019 Carmen

From Basement Performances to Broadway, Francesca Zambello Traces Her Journey

For Carmen director Francesca Zambello, the key is to start small. That’s how she built her own career. Though her work now graces the stages of the West End and Broadway, her directorial debut took place in the humblest of venues — her parents’ basement.

April 3, 2019 Rusalka

SPOTLIGHT ON ‘Rusalka’ star Rachel Willis-Sørensen

As a child, Rusalka star Rachel Willis-Sørensen loved the Disney film The Little Mermaid. She loved it so much that she would sing along with the heroine Ariel, whose voice enraptures the human prince she hopes to marry.

March 5, 2019 The Marriage of Figaro

Backstage with Matthew: The Art and Science of Fabrics

In the last edition of Backstage with Matthew, we delved into the pre-construction process for the scenic designs of our brand new production of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas. This is the beginning of a three-year journey through three of the most humanistic, emotionally perceptive operas ever written: The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte and Don Giovanni, all directed by Michael Cavanagh.

‘Steve Jobs’ reigns supreme at the 2019 Grammys

Our co-production The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs won big at the 2019 Grammys. It nabbed top honors in the Best Opera Recording category, beating heavyweight contenders like John Adams’ Doctor Atomic and the Metropolitan Opera’s recording of Der Rosenkavalier.

March 1, 2019 Carmen

J’Nai Bridges Brings the Sizzle in Carmen Debut

J’Nai Bridges was at a crossroads. As a high-schooler, she juggled her passions as best as she could, but now university was beckoning, and she had a choice to make: Should she pursue her passion for basketball or her love of singing?

January 31, 2019 The Marriage of Figaro

Backstage with Matthew: Crafting the Blueprints of Opera

It is always such a joy to launch a new year with a new season announcement, and I hope that you’ve had a chance to explore the varied offerings of the 2019–20 season. One of the most exciting for me is the inception of a new Mozart trilogy, composed of the operas he wrote with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte—The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte, and Don Giovanni.

December 21, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Reflections

What an incredible year of opera we have just experienced!

It all began on April 13 when we began our first musical rehearsals for the Ring cycle, ushering in eight months of intense creativity and transformational artistic experiences onstage.

The Ring was one of those moments that defined San Francisco Opera as one of the great opera companies of the world: a level of excellence in all aspects of our art and craft that made this Ring a life-changing experience for many, and one that scaled the heights of emotional possibility.

November 28, 2018 It's a Wonderful Life

Backstage with Matthew: Dressing through Time

We are currently in the midst of our highly acclaimed production of It’s a Wonderful Life, the new holiday opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, co-commissioned with Houston Grand Opera (where it premiered in 2016) and Indiana University. I have been thrilled by the heartfelt reaction from audiences and critics alike—it is a work for which a pack of Kleenex is pretty much a necessity as we follow the journeys of George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clara.

November 13, 2018 It's a Wonderful Life

Backstage with Matthew: Working Out the Wings

On November 17, we enter the fairy-tale world of It’s a Wonderful Life – the story of a man desperate to find meaning in life, and the angel who helps him find that meaning, earning her wings in the process. It is a beautiful, lyrical, heartfelt operatic version of the film of the same name, and this is a new co-commission between San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The composer: the Bay Area’s very own Jake Heggie, working with esteemed librettist Gene Scheer. It will be perfect for adults and children alike and it will make for a joyful holiday experience for families!

October 24, 2018 Arabella

Backstage with Matthew: The Birth of a New Arabella

Last week, we were privileged to witness a number of artists taking on new roles in Strauss’ exquisitely romantic opera, Arabella. Soaring into the stratosphere with the role for her very first time was Ellie Dehn, the American soprano who has already brought roles from Donna Anna to Fiordiligi to the Countess to Musetta to Manon alive on our stage. Arabella is a unique role. It sits very high for a soprano, and needs to float with a silvery magic but also soar over Richard Strauss’ sumptuous orchestral textures. There are not many sopranos in the world able to take on this role, and so we were thrilled to witness Ellie’s first.

October 7, 2018 Tosca

Backstage with Matthew: The Sounds of Rome

On Wednesday we raised the curtain on our breathtaking new production of Tosca. It was such a proud moment for me and for so many others in the Company: the birth of an exquisite new legacy production conceived for San Francisco Opera, built here by our own artists, artisans and technicians, and created for this city at this time. It’s a searingly incisive expression of this powerful opera and I hope that you will have a chance to see it.

September 21, 2018 Tosca

Backstage with Matthew: Recreating History

In less than two weeks we open the curtain on our brand-new production of Tosca, directed by Shawna Lucey with set and costume designs by Robert Innes Hopkins and lighting design by Michael James Clark. I couldn’t be more excited at what is coming to life in the Opera House. Today we have the piano dress rehearsal—the coming together of all the physical elements—after which we will add the orchestra and move towards the final dress and opening.

September 7, 2018 Roberto Devereux

Backstage with Matthew: Another opening, another season!

Welcome to opening day of the 2018-19 season, the 96th season of San Francisco Opera! Today we raise the curtain on another year of thrilling operatic journeys as we delve into eight extraordinary stories of humanity, told through eight productions new to San Francisco, with eight different conductors on the podium, and eight sensational casts. I cannot wait to explore all of these with you!

Backstage with Matthew: An Argentine Journey

When we open the curtain on September 7th, ushering in the 2018–19 season, the audience will be transported to a place of vibrant color, intense passions, close communities and…tango. The world of La Boca district in Buenos Aires—the Italian quarter of the city—will come to life as the setting for this fascinating take on Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci in a production conceived by the great Argentine tenor, and now director and designer, José Cura.

August 6, 2018 Tosca

Backstage with Matthew: Hats Off to Tosca!

Welcome to the 2018-19 Season! It is hard to believe, but we are already back in rehearsal as we prepare for a thrilling fall ahead, and this week our brand new production of Tosca takes to the stage for preliminary technical rehearsals. I cannot wait to share this production with you, created by local craftspeople, designed specifically for our stage and our audiences, and a beautiful new expression of this classic work.

July 23, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: A Little Valkyrie Magic

I am still feeling incredible euphoria after our extraordinary Ring cycle last month! It was such a powerful coming together of company and community in a powerful, shared experience. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt the Opera House resonate with that kind of energy before, and I hope that many of you also had a similar reaction.

June 28, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Controlled Conflagrations

Fire is a vital and very exciting part of telling the story of the Ring.

June 18, 2018

Top Dogs Train for the Opera Stage

Two male Malinois (Belgian shepherds), Finn and Fubar, trained for weeks for their War Memorial Opera House debut in Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre (the second opera of the epic Ring cycle).

June 12, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: The Immersive Ring

Today we raise the curtain on what promises to be an extraordinary presentation of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle.

May 29, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: A Noble Ring

After the double basses and bassoons lay the foundational sonorities at the opening of Rheingold, the first instruments we hear depicting the swells of the Rhine River are the horns.

May 24, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Big Art in Miniature

A few weeks ago I had a powerfully inspiring visit to Thomas Edison Elementary School in Daly City and a chance to see two classes working with SFO's flagship program.

April 16, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Building a Roman Icon

Something very exciting is currently happening 15 miles down the road from the Opera House. Something that you will see in all of its splendor this October, but which I’m so enthusiastic about that I wanted to give you a few glimpses of now! It is our spectacular new production of Tosca!

April 10, 2018

National Pet Day 2018

Meet some of the beloved furry companions that brighten our days!

March 13, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

The title of this week’s backstage email refers to an exquisite book on my shelf that chronicles twelve of the greatest feasts of history. I thought it a fitting stepping-off point for a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of our Special Events department.

February 21, 2018

In Celebration of Black History Month: Debuts through the Decades

This month we would like to honor and recognize different African American Opera stars that have shared their artistry with us. Below are a few highlights from the San Francisco Opera archives. Many, if not all, of these artists continue to sing with us and we are greatful to them for their contributions to the Opera world at large.

February 14, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Facilitating Experiences of a Lifetime

It’s been just about three weeks since we launched our 2018–19 season and we’ve been thrilled by the reception from patrons. Subscription sales are moving at a brisk pace, and there is a wonderful energy for what lies ahead. That energy is felt particularly acutely in the Box Office, the nerve center of our ticketing services.

December 18, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Looking Back with Joy

On December 10th we lowered the curtain on a fall season bursting with extraordinary opera. I am so proud to work for a company that makes possible this kind of work—both our exceptionally talented employees, and our generous and dedicated audiences.

December 11, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Sitting Side by Side

It is something of a truism that participation in the arts leads to a deeper connection to the arts. That is a central philosophy behind our education programs, opening opportunities to learn through creation and participation. 

November 28, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Singing Through the Centuries

This Thursday, November 30, we are presenting a very special concert in the Taube Atrium at the Wilsey Center. It is the second concert of the San Francisco Opera Chorus, and will be conducted by our Chorus Director, Ian Robertson and accompanied by Associate Chorus Master Fabrizio Corona. 

November 8, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: A Finely Coiffed Head!

As we delve into a busy November with three operas on stage, our wig department is working around the clock to ensure that all our artists are coiffed with wigs and facial hair that morph our singers and dancers into vibrant characters from mythical China, Belle Époque Paris, and 1850s California.

October 31, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Crafting the Gold Rush

With the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West less than a month away, the energy and fervor around the Company is palpable as all the details lock into place. It is shaping up to be one of the most impactful new operas seen on our (or any!) stage. 

October 9, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: The Art of Fashion

Tomorrow (October 10) we begin rehearsals for our next opera of this incredible fall season, Massenet’s Manon. This is a new SFO co-production with Lithuanian National Opera and a creation from the same team that brought us The Capulets and the Montagues in 2012—director (and, in this case, also costume designer) Vincent Boussard and set designer, Vincent Lemaire. As with Capuleti, Manon will be a shimmering interplay of light, reflection and color onstage, creating the giddy and capricious worlds through which Manon flits. 

September 28, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Stepping in for Callas

Overheard before a performance of Elektra at the Royal Opera House back in the 1960s: a grand doyenne of London society was talking with a friend and, upon suggesting that they continue their conversation at intermission, and upon finding out that there was no intermission, she exclaimed with incredulity: “My dear…an opera without an intermission?…What’s the point!”

September 22, 2017

Then and Now: Reflections on the Ring

Assistant Marketing Manager for Subscriptions, Steven Shear, interviews longtime San Francisco Opera subscriber, Michael Strange, on his tips and tricks for attending the Ring and what he is most looking forward to experiencing in the 2018 return.

September 20, 2017

Hello, Karita.

Finnish soprano Karita Mattila will make her highly anticipated return to San Francisco Opera as Sieglinde in the Ring. Hailed by critics and audiences alike for her definitive style, Mattila is sure to deliver nuanced compassion layered in Sieglinde despite a life scarred with misfortune. Get to know the Finnish diva with three fascinating facts.

September 15, 2017 Elektra

Why You Need ELEKTRA in Your Life

How serious is my Strauss addiction? Well, I recently celebrated a birthday (one that ends in zero) by going to hear his groundbreaking 1905 opera Salome at both the Met and LA Opera in the same season. My CD collection boasts over 50 recordings of Strauss operas, and my detailed reviews of each have earned me the coveted “Classical Enthusiast” title on Amazon.com. 

September 6, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: An Epic Jigsaw Puzzle

The air is getting thick with excitement as we build towards the opening of our 2017–18 Season on Friday. The following day we open Richard Strauss’ deeply psychological thriller Elektra in an insightful new production by Keith Warner. 

August 23, 2017

3 Things You May Not Know About Francesca Zambello

The intracies Ring Director Francesca Zambello weaves into her artistry stem from her varied artistic background and intriguing international upbringing. Here are three things you may not know about Director Francesca Zambello.

August 14, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: All Change Above

I can’t resist: how many electricians does it take to change a light bulb? Well, when you’re talking about the great chandelier of the War Memorial Opera House, it’s 3 electricians but it’s also 588 light bulbs! 

July 25, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Opera with a Twist

As we and other urban companies take an important summer breather between repertory seasons, something very exciting happens. The summer opera festivals leap into life, filling the languid months of summer with a thrilling array of operatic offerings.

July 19, 2017

Emerging Stars

For a second year in a row, San Francisco Opera benefactors Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem will generously sponsor the Emerging Star of the Year Competition and Award. You have a role to play this season too!  Help choose the 2017 Emerging Star of the Year. Voting runs through August 15, 2017.

July 17, 2017

Don Giovanni with Garlic Fries: Tweets from Opera at the Ballpark

On Friday, June 30, more than 23,000 people of all ages kicked off the July 4th weekend with an evening of opera at AT&T Park. The free live simulcast of Mozart’s Don Giovanni came from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House to the 103-foot wide scoreboard at the home of the San Francisco Giants.

June 22, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: The Roar of the Greasepaint

On July 2nd we will bid a very fond farewell to one of the most iconic characters backstage at San Francisco Opera for the past 45 years. Principal make-up artist William “Bill” Stewart Jones will make up Dale Travis as the two characters of Benoît and Alcindoro in Bohème for the last time, marking the close of a career that has seen some of the most luminous stars of opera pass under his make-up brush including Régine Crespin, Plácido Domingo, Ingvar Wixell and Sam Ramey.

June 14, 2017

Teaching Artistry 101

This semester in Teaching Artistry 101 I had the amazing opportunity to work with Nick at Mission High School. The goal of our work with the two choir classes was to prepare them for an upcoming concert and to give them some necessary tools for future singing.

June 13, 2017

Tweeting Bohemian Paris

Continuing San Francisco Opera’s experiments with social media, a band of brave live tweeters attended last week’s final dress rehearsal of Puccini’s La Bohème. This hardy group of opera newbies and experts sent out observations, reactions and emojis by the dozen as onstage the romantic tragedy played out.  Here are a few of their tweets under the hashtag #BohemeSF:

June 12, 2017

Backstage with Matthew-Dressing for Gold

In a recent Backstage with Matthew I showcased the process of building the sets for our new John Adams opera Girls of the Golden West. Last week, designer Rita Ryack joined us in the costume shop, meeting to finalize designs and choose fabrics for the incredible period costumes that will be featured on stage. 

May 15, 2017

My Experience Interning at San Francisco Opera

This past Spring I have had the honor to be an Intern with the San Francisco Opera’s Education Department. This opportunity has allowed me to get an in depth look and a better understanding of the work that goes into bringing arts education into schools and the community.

May 5, 2017

Backstage with Matthew-Creating the Art of Opera

In just a few days, the street lights and bus sides of San Francisco will be transformed with the arrival of the Opera’s new bold, energetic marketing campaign. 

April 19, 2017 Girls of the Golden West

Backstage with Matthew - Scaling the Sierra

Last week, scenic designer David Gropman visited the Opera for talks with the production department to make decisions on John Adams' new opera, Girls of the Golden West

April 11, 2017

At the Stage Door with Francis

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. Meet Francis Crossman our Senior Video Editor. 

April 4, 2017

At the Stage Door with Lori

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. Meet Lori Harrison, Master of Properties.

March 29, 2017

At the Stage Door with Sheri

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. Meet Sheri Greenawald our Opera Center Director.

March 22, 2017

At the Stage Door with Amy

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. Meet Amy Garcia, our Assistant Marketing Manager for Single Tickets.

March 21, 2017

Save the National Endowment for the Arts

The NEA was founded in 1965 to encourage participation in the arts, recognize the importance of arts learning and celebrate America’s rich cultural heritage. These are not just noble goals for government, they are absolute necessities for society.

March 14, 2017

At the Stage Door with Jennifer and Roya

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. Meet Jennifer and Roya in our Development Department! 

March 7, 2017

At the Stage Door with Alyssa Stone

Get an inside look at the people that make SF Opera happen—no badge required. Meet Alyssa Stone, our Community Programs Manager! 

February 27, 2017

Backstage with Matthew-  February 27

Last Friday we opened Ted Hearne’s searingly impactful dramatic oratorio, The Source in the Wilsey Center for Opera. It is a work that redefines artistry on many levels: musical language, technological effects, and stark questions about what it means to engage with art. It is also an example of how the Wilsey Center is redefining possibilities for the Opera’s employees.

February 13, 2017

Backstage with Matthew - February 13

There are two basic ways to organize an opera season. Repertory opera houses cycle through many productions at the same time, while staggione (or “season”) opera houses tend to focus on one production at a time. San Francisco Opera tends more towards the repertory model and if there’s one defining feature of repertory, its complexity! 

January 21, 2017

Backstage with Matthew - January 21

Happy New Year from San Francisco Opera! On Tuesday I was very proud to announce a thrilling 2017–18 Season at San Francisco Opera and I wanted to share a few personal reflections on what lies ahead.

December 14, 2016

Why I Give - Andrew Lan

Andrew Lan is a founding member of Orpheus, San Francisco Opera’s dynamic community of young donors ages 21—40 who share a passion for opera and a belief in its future. Thanks to special funding, gifts from Orpheus donors are matched to bring their total contribution to the Medallion Society Founder ($3,000) level.

December 12, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - December 12

I recently took off to Beijing for two days with our board member and Co-Chair of the Dream of the Red Chamber (DRC) Committee, Doreen Woo Ho, and my colleague Daniel Knapp, Managing Director: Production. Our objective: to try and secure safe passage for DRC in mainland China next year!

December 9, 2016

SF Opera Lab - The Many Faces of R&D

SF Opera Lab, the recently launched R&D branch of San Francisco Opera, is gearing up for its second season of programming. According to Elkhanah Pulitzer, Artistic Curator for SF Opera Lab, many valuable lessons learned from the program’s inaugural season have shaped what lies ahead for Season Two. 

November 28, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - November 28

As many of you know, we are very proud to be showcasing two former Adler Fellows, Leah Crocetto and Brian Jagde. But we are also proud to be showcasing two members of our corps de ballet as the solo dancers: Rachel Little and Jekyns Peláez.

November 14, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - November 14

One of the things I love about playing in repertory (changing productions night to night) is that we are constantly creating different worlds onstage. That magical shift is embodied in the incredible San Francisco Opera Chorus, a group of 48 talented singers who shift seamlessly between productions, languages, characterizations, and dramatic styles.

November 11, 2016 Aida

7 Street Artists We Love

Recognized the world over for his graffiti art and distinctive hieroglyphic script style, RETNA is the celebrated contemporary artist responsible for designing the stunning sets in our current production of Aida. Scroll ahead to see some of our favorite works by other artists known for their street art! 

November 3, 2016 Aida

Live tweeters tackle visually stunning Aida

Some courageous twitter adventurers stepped into the War Memorial Opera House on Wednesday evening for an evening of brilliant singers, arresting visuals and timeless music. These are their thoughts—encapsulated in 140 characters.

November 3, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - November 3

This week we’re visiting our orchestral librarian, Carrie Weick. The Opera has two full time librarians (one for orchestral music, the other for vocal music), and two part-time librarians supporting them. Carrie, as orchestral librarian, is a member of the orchestra and ensures that everyone’s music is fully prepared before rehearsals begin.

October 21, 2016 The Makropulos Case

The Little White Dress

This week we went behind the scenes with Assistant Costume Director, Christopher Verdosci and BRAVO! Club Board Member, Kari Lincks of Red Curtain Addict. Since opening night, we've been awestruck by the timeless wardrobe of Emilia Marty from the Makroplous Case. So we headed to the Wilsey Center to find out more about the inspiration behind the design on Facebook Live.

October 18, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - October 18

Stagecraft is all about magic: it’s about creating arresting worlds and feelings inside a black box. Unlike film, opera requires us to maneuver around these worlds in real time and, as such, needs a plethora of tricks and devices at its disposal.

October 14, 2016 The Makropulos Case

4 Fun Pop-Culture Parallels for The Makropulos Case

The Makropulos Case features a seductive diva who has broken hearts for over 300 years and yet doesn’t look a day over 30. Full of intrigue and drama, this captivating opera calls to mind plenty of pop-culture references everyone knows and loves. Read on to discover a few of our favorites!

October 12, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

Check out Kelly Dewees' reasons to see the operas in our 2016–17 Season.

October 3, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - October 3

One of the things that most excites me about this art-form is the passionate connection that exists between the stage and the audience. The audience is an essential part of the artistic process and the energy that flows back and forth between stage and auditorium is what creates those performances of a lifetime!

September 22, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

Another installment of Reasons to See, where Opera employees to share their thoughts on the operas in our 2016–17 Season.

September 19, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - September 19

Deep in the farthest reaches of the Opera House lies a room so secret that it is literally kept under lock and key, and its contents are kept under yet further locks. It is the Opera’s armory.

August 22, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - August 22

Today marks three weeks in my role as your new general director. It's been a fascinating time, with everything both very familiar and very new.

August 11, 2016

Looking Back: Working with David Gockley

Andrew Morgan has been with San Francisco Opera for over eight years and currently serves as Director of Individual and Leadership Giving. In today's blog post, he shares some of his fondest memories from David Gockley’s tenure with the Company.

August 4, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

Jennifer Jordan shares her thoughts on what's she is most excited about in our 2016–17 Season. - See more at: http://sfopera.com/archive/blog/#sthash.p0SacNuk.dpuf

Box Office dynamo Kyle Minor gives his picks for the 2016–17 season.

July 27, 2016

Looking Back: My Favorite Operas of the Gockley Era

Kristen Jones has been with San Francisco Opera for nearly seven years. In today's blog post, she reflects on the productions of David Gockley's tenure that have stuck with her most. 

July 26, 2016

From Strauss to Sondheim: David Gockley's Biggest Debuts

David Gockley has been an innovator, impresario, and inspiring force in the opera community from the time he developed his love for music and performance. During David Gockley’s time as General Director at San Francisco Opera, he gave 282 artists the chance to debut new roles. Here are the most notable!

July 25, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

From vampire stories and Death Becomes Her to adaptations of classic epic novels, our Annual Giving Manager, Jennifer Jordan shares her thoughts on what's she is most excited about in our 2016–17 Season. 

July 8, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

Our librarian and self-proclaimed opera nerd Michael Bragg dishes immortality, sex, divas, and other reasons to see the shows he is most excited about in our 2016–17 Season.

July 6, 2016 Carmen

Carmen at AT&T Park: an operatic home run!

This past Saturday, over 28,000 opera and baseball fans gathered at AT&T Park to watch a free live simulcast of Carmen at Opera at the Ballpark. The San Francisco Opera social media accounts were lit up by happy fans celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, or fans who were just there to sit on the field, watch opera, and have a great time with family and friends.

June 30, 2016

Emerging Stars

Each year our stage is graced with superb operatic talent, but this season offers something completely new, thanks to the generosity of Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem: our first-ever Emerging Star of the Year Competition and Award. 

June 27, 2016 Carmen

5 ways Opera is like Baseball

An evening spent at the opera is a very different evening than one spent at the ballpark. But they may be more similar than you imagine...

June 21, 2016

A Man with a Vision

San Francisco Opera dramaturg Kip Cranna reflects on the legacy and career of General Director David Gockley.

June 20, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

Another installment of Reasons to See, where Opera employees to share their thoughts on the operas in our 2016–17 Season.

June 20, 2016 Don Carlo

The Long Opera Survival Kit

There is nothing worse than waiting two hours for your favorite jealous aria, dramatic death scene, or hunky shirtless baritione to come on stage, only to be distracted by your fatigue and exhaustion. How do the Opera Pros do it? It's all in the preparation...

June 16, 2016

Opera Props Get a Second Life in Shanghai Disneyland

Like many, we have been anxiously awaiting the opening of Shanghai Disneyland. But for us, the reason is much more personal...

June 8, 2016

Reasons to See 2016–17

Earlier this year we asked San Francisco Opera employees to share their thoughts on the operas in our 2016–17 Season. - See more at: http://sfopera.com/blog/reasonstosee/#sthash.b3t8er3S.dpuf
Earlier this year we asked San Francisco Opera employees to share their thoughts on the operas in our 2016–17 Season. - See more at: http://sfopera.com/blog/reasonstosee/#sthash.b3t8er3S.dpufWe asked San Francisco Opera employees to share their thoughts on the operas in our 2016–17 Season.

We asked San Francisco Opera employees to share their thoughts on the operas in our 2016–17 Season.

May 27, 2016 Carmen

Love, Lust and Murder: Live Tweeting Carmen

What happens when you gather twenty, social-savvy opera lovers for the final dress rehearsal of Bizet’s Carmen? They tweet about it!

May 4, 2016

12 Ways Opera is like Star Wars

Star Wars...is an opera?! It's THE ultimate space opera! In honor of Star Wars Day, San Francisco Opera presents 16 ways Opera is like Star Wars:

April 22, 2016

15 Ways Opera is like Game of Thrones

Incest. Dragons. Bastard sons. As we eagerly anticipate the premiere of season 6 on Sunday night, we at San Francisco Opera give you 15 Ways Opera is like Game of Thrones.

March 28, 2016 Svadba-Wedding

5 Favorite Wedding Moments in Opera

With rehearsals for SF Opera Lab's exuberant production of Svadba underway, we find ourselves thinking about weddings. Opera weddings, specifically!

March 18, 2016 Svadba-Wedding

Wedding Traditions from around the World

With Svadba coming up soon, we looked into different cultural wedding traditions from around the world.

March 15, 2016 Dream of the Red Chamber

Dream of the Red Chamber Family Tree

Also called the Chinese Romeo and Juliet, Dream of the Red Chamber, is an epic tale including over 400 main characters.

February 26, 2016

9 Awesome Oscar Winning Films That Feature Opera

With the Oscars fast approaching this weekend, we scoured the internet looking for Oscar winning films that use opera in their soundtracks.

January 14, 2016

Opening the Bryan Education Studio

In addition to the exciting programming being planned for the new Dianne & Tad Taube Atrium Theater, the opening of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera in February 2016 will also mark a major expansion of San Francisco Opera’s Education programs.

January 13, 2016

Adler Profile: Anthony Reed

Anthony Reed is a second-year Adler Fellow who appeared in The Magic Flute, Die Meistersinger, and The Fall of the House of Usher this past fall. Read on to learn what he compares his experience as an Adler Fellow to, his original pop music, and more.

December 18, 2015

Embracing Change

San Francisco Opera is expanding into the historic Veterans Building adjacent to the War Memorial Opera House. On the top floor, construction of the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera is nearing completion, and everything is on track for the first performance in the brand-new Dianne & Tad Taube Atrium Theater in early March, 2016.

December 17, 2015 The Barber of Seville

Singing Together

Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack and her husband, tenor Alek Shrader, are enjoying enviable careers on the international operatic stage. They met while they were both participating in the Merola Opera program in 2007 and were married in 2011 after successful Adler Fellowships.  Now, after the birth of their baby daughter Evangelina in January, they are choosing to put their young family at the center of their professional decisions.

December 7, 2015 The Magic Flute

Our Newest Collaboration with Music App Developer Smule

Over the last two years, we have been working with San Francisco-based musical app developer Smule to bring songs from productions like The Magic Flute and The Barber of Seville to the Smule Songbook, as well artist performances to the Smule app platform. Our latest collaboration gives users a taste of what it feels like to sing on stage at the War Memorial Opera House with the the “SF Opera” vocal effect in Sing! Karaoke on iOS.

December 3, 2015 The Magic Flute

A Three Year-Old's First Opera

For many, attending their first opera can occur as early as age seven or eight. However, with the right opera and some fun preparation, one patron learned that you can successfully bring a three year-old to the opera. Meet Nathaniel, one of San Francisco Opera's newest (and youngest) fans. 

5 Questions with Brandon Jovanovich

Tenor Brandon Jovanovich can currently be seen as knight Walther von Stolzing in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. He first made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2007 as Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly, and has been thrilling San Francisco Opera audiences ever since. Read on to learn about where he first got his love for singing, his favorite things to do in San Francisco, and more!

November 18, 2015 The Magic Flute

Adler Profile: Efraín Solís

Mexican-American baritone Efraín Solís is a second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow who is currently appearing as Papageno in The Magic Flute. He made his Company debut in 2014 as Prince Yamadori (Madame Butterfly) and has appeared in our recent productions of A Masked Ball, Cinderella and Tosca. Read on to learn more about his backstage rituals, how we knew he wanted to be a performer and more.

November 16, 2015 The Magic Flute

Adler Profile: Nian Wang

Mezzo-soprano Nian Wang is a first-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow who made her Company debut as Ascanius in our summer 2015 production of Berlioz' The Trojans. Learn more about this brilliant young mezzo-soprano.

October 26, 2015 The Magic Flute

Live Magic – Live Tweeting The Magic Flute Dress Rehearsal

Recently a group of social-savvy tweeters gathered at the Opera House to live tweet the final dress rehearsal of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

October 26, 2015 The Magic Flute

A Flying Start: Thoughts from a Child Spirit

Pietro Juvara is one of the three Spirits in our 2015 production of The Magic Flute. Read on to find out what was going on in this 11-year-old's mind during opening night of the production!

October 16, 2015 Lucia di Lammermoor

Tartan, Leather, and Plot Twists: Live Tweeting Lucia di Lammermoor

They came, they saw, they tweeted: last Sunday a group of social-savvy tweeters gathered at the Opera House to live tweet the final dress rehearsal of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor. As usual, the tweets ranged from personal reactions to pop culture comparisons to advice for the characters.

5 Questions With Andrea Silvestrelli

Italian bass Andrea Silvestrelli can be seen in three of our productions this fall: Luisa MillerDie Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and The Barber of Seville. He has been performing at San Francisco Opera since 1998, and consequently knows the city well. Read on to learn about Andrea's love of motorcycles, his struggle to find shoes, and more!

September 21, 2015 Sweeney Todd

5 Questions with Stephanie Blythe

Mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe is back in San Francisco this September starring as Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. She kindly gave us some insight into her Mrs. Lovett, her favorite things to do when she's not on stage, and what she will be doing once Sweeney Todd ends...

September 20, 2015 Sweeney Todd

5 Questions with Elliot Madore

Canadian baritone Elliot Madore made his San Francisco Opera debut this month as Anthony in Sweeney Todd. We were curious to find out what his dream roles are, and what profession he would pursue if he weren't a singer.

September 10, 2015 Sweeney Todd

Blood, Gore and Pies: Live Tweeting Sweeney Todd

San Francisco Opera has hosted tweet seaters at selected final dress rehearsals since June 2012. The latest iteration saw a group of social-savvy tweeters attend the final dress of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd on September 9.

July 6, 2015

Hitting it out of the Park: The Marriage of Figaro at the Ballpark

On July 3, opera fans converged on AT&T Park for the 9th simulcast from the War Memorial Opera House since 2006. Mozart’s classic, The Marriage of Figaro, was greeted with joy by over 30,000 spectators at the ballpark along with some 3,000 audience members in the House.

June 25, 2015

5 Questions with Phillippe Sly

Bass-baritone Philippe Sly finished his Adler fellowship this past December and returned to San Francisco this summer to play the title role The Marriage of Figaro.

June 17, 2015

Live Tweeting a Marriage... of Figaro

On June 11 a brave band gathered in a box to live tweet their views from the final dress rehearsal of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.

June 15, 2015

Adler Profile: Edward Nelson

First year Adler Fellow Edward Nelson made his professional debut at San Francisco Opera this past weekend as Lieutenant John Buckley in the world premiere of Two Women.

June 1, 2015

The Top 6 Opera Tips

We asked and you answered! We reached out to our brilliant opera fans via social media for their top #OperaTips for people who have never attended live opera before. The top 6 suggestions may surprise you. Enjoy!

May 26, 2015

The Dogs of San Francisco Opera

Today we're barking up a totally different tree! This blog is dedicated to our outstanding staff members and the four-legged furry friends that inspire them—#OperaDoggies

April 29, 2015

Adler Profile: Zanda Svede

Second year Adler Fellow Zanda Švēde has graced the War Memorial stage countless times since she joined us last year. Originally from Latvia, Zanda has undoubtedly flourished during her time in San Francisco, and we can't wait to see her shine this Summer and Fall in our productions of La CiociaraLucia di Lammermoor, and The Magic Flute.

April 7, 2015

Adler Profile: Julie Adams

Julie Adams may be a first year Adler Fellow, but she is no stranger to San Francisco. Julie first came to SF for her undergraduate degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and never left, except to pursue further education at prestigious programs like Music Academy of the West and the International Vocal Arts Institute.

March 20, 2015 Don Carlo

Did you know? Verdi's Don Carlo

Today we dive into the history of Verdi’s brilliant work, Don Carlo.

March 13, 2015 Carmen

Carmen goes to the movies

Carmen routinely ranks among the world’s most performed operas, but perhaps no single work in the repertoire is as well known outside the opera house.

February 27, 2015 The Barber of Seville

Where have you heard the Barber of Seville before?

Gioachino Rossini's comic and musical masterpiece, The Barber of Seville has long been a favorite of opera aficionados and novices. 

February 26, 2015

Adler Profile: Chong Wang

Chong Wang joins us as an Adler Fellow from Shijiazhuang, Hebei, China. Mr. Wang studied at the Conservatory of the People’s Liberation Party in China, and has performed numerous roles at Beijing’s National Centre for the Performing Arts...

February 25, 2015

5 Questions with Daniel Knapp

We're excited to welcome Daniel Knapp, our new Director of Production, to the San Francisco Opera family. We had the opportunity to sit down and ask him a few questions about his career in opera and his new home in San Francisco! Enjoy!

Did you know...? Wagner's Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Did you know...? In writing Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Wagner turned to Johann Christoph Wagenseil’s 1697 historical study, Buch von der Meister-Singer holdseligen Kunst Anfang (Book of the Mastersingers’ Fair Art), for the basis of his libretto.

February 13, 2015

What's in a (Opera) Kiss?

Over the last few years, we've asked some of our artists the same question: "Describe your first onstage Opera Kiss." Their responses were vastly different. Many of the stories were funny, some were sweet, and some couldn't even remember!

February 12, 2015 The Magic Flute

Jun Kaneko's Colorful World

The use of video projections to complement traditional scenery and backdrops is by now a familiar sight to most operagoers. Perhaps no production mounted at the War Memorial Opera House depends as heavily on this technology as Jun Kaneko’s whimsical interpretation of The Magic Flute, returning to our stage this fall.

February 2, 2015 Lucia di Lammermoor

The Lucias of San Francisco Opera

Gaetano Donizetti’s beloved bel canto opera Lucia di Lammermoor returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage this October after seven years.  The new production will be directed by Michael Cavanagh and stars soprano Nadine Sierra as Lucia and Polish tenor Piotr Beczala as Edgardo.  

January 28, 2015 Sweeney Todd

All The Buzz around Sweeney Todd and the 2015–16 Season

The news is out and people are thrilled! Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical thriller Sweeney Todd; The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is coming to San Francisco Opera.

January 22, 2015 Luisa Miller

"Quando le sere al placido" from Luisa Miller

Our dear friend Placido Domingo recently celebrated his 74th birthday. In celebration of his birthday, we thought we’d share this special video of the brilliant tenor performing one of his signature arias, “Quando le sere al placido.”

January 22, 2015 Luisa Miller

"Quando le sere al placido" from Luisa Miller

Our dear friend Placido Domingo recently celebrated his 74th birthday. In celebration of his birthday, we thought we’d share this special video of the brilliant tenor performing one of his signature arias, “Quando le sere al placido.”

June 17, 2014

Earl & Alexis Return to SFO: Somthin' That the Angels Done Plan

It was cold in New York in February, 2008 when I flew into LaGuardia airport, but not too cold...

January 28, 2014

Red Carpet-Worthy Looks from 10 San Francisco Opera Productions

The Golden Globes, Screen Actor's Guild and of course the Grammy Awards are all behind us, and yet we've still got the Oscars to look forward to this winter!

November 23, 2013

Live Tweeting the #WilyBarber

On Friday night, during the dress rehearsal for the San Francisco Opera’s production of The Barber of Seville, sixteen preselected audience members broke every cardinal rule of operagoing by pulling out their phones, signing into Twitter, and tweeting non-stop for all three hours of the rehearsal.

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