Opera Blog

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.

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.

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.”

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 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

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 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?

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

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

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

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 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 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 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.

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.

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.

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 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:

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.

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

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 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!

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

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 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.

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 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 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 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 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.

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.

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.

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 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 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!

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 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 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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