San Francisco Opera's Second Century Dawns with New Music and Fresh Explorations
Music Director Eun Sun Kim To Lead Annual Presentations of Works by Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner Beginning with IL TROVATORE and LOHENGRIN
Company Premieres of Repertoire-Expanding Co-Commissions:
THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS by Mason Bates and Mark Campbell
OMAR by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels
INNOCENCE by Kaija Saariaho, Sofi Oksanen and Aleksi Barrière
Other 2023–24 Season Highlights Include:
New Co-Production of Gaetano Donizetti’s THE ELIXIR OF LOVE by Daniel Slater
Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s Staging of Mozart’s THE MAGIC FLUTE
Return of Handel’s PARTENOPE in Christopher Alden’s Production
OPERA BALL Headlined by Roberto Alagna, Aleksandra Kurzak and Eun Sun Kim
Other Special Events Include Free Opera in the Park and The Elixir of Love Encounter
Third Performance of Each Mainstage Opera Will Be Livestreamed
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 24, 2023) — San Francisco Opera Tad and Dianne Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock and Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim today announced details for the Company’s 101st season, which opens September 8, 2023. To begin the first season of its second century, San Francisco Opera will introduce a new, multi-season initiative where Kim will conduct works by both Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner every season while the Company simultaneously reaffirmed its commitment to expanding the repertoire with three co-commissioned new works by leading composers of today.
Kim, who enters her third year as San Francisco Opera’s music director with the 2023–24 Season, continues the cycle of annual Verdi presentations begun in 2022 with La Traviata by leading another fervent 1853 work from the composer: Il Trovatore (opening September 12). A new-to-San Francisco Opera production of Lohengrin (opening October 15) marks the beginning of a parallel, annual artistic journey under Kim’s baton through the works of Richard Wagner.
Eun Sun Kim said: “The works of Wagner and Verdi are cornerstones of the operatic repertoire as we know it. Each composer blazed new trails in his day—and each changed the world of opera forever. As music director, part of my work is to set priorities for orchestral collaboration that will lead to the artistic growth of the Company. With this in mind, I will program operas from these two giants every year, enabling continuous development of these musical styles and our shared craft.”
Music Direct Eun Sun Kim and General Director Matthew Shilvock.
Photo: Cody Pickens
Matthew Shilvock commented: “Our new season carries forth all of the thrilling energy of the Centennial as we welcome the community into a fascinating array of experiences and stories. I cannot wait for Eun Sun’s first Wagner opera in the house as she continues to bring awe-inspiring interpretations to our theater. I am so proud that we are telling so many new stories this season, and I’m excited to continue our innovation explorations as we chart a course for the future of opera. The Bay Area Community is discovering opera in fabulous new ways, and we look forward to welcoming many new audience members to immerse themselves in artwork that connects us, bridges differences and speaks to the soul.”
The 2023–24 Season launches with an opening week of music and festivities beginning Friday, September 8, with Opera Ball, a gala concert featuring soprano Aleksandra Kurzak and, in his first Company appearance, tenor Roberto Alagna with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus under the baton of Eun Sun Kim. On Sunday, September 10, Kim and the Orchestra, along with vocal soloists from the Company’s fall season, take to Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park for the annual Opera in the Park free concert. Then, on Tuesday, September 12, Kim will lead the Company in the first full opera of the season, Verdi’s Il Trovatore.
Three new works co-commissioned by San Francisco Opera punctuate the Company’s 101st season. First, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Bay Area composer Mason Bates and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell takes the stage in September with baritone John Moore as eponymous iconoclastic Steve Jobs, whose ideas helped reshape our world. Omar, the first opera by Grammy Award-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens in collaboration with composer Michael Abels, brings an urgent, American story to the War Memorial Opera House in November. The acclaimed new work Innocence, from esteemed Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho with libretto by Sofi Oksanen and text dramaturgy and multilanguage translations by Aleksi Barrière, has its American premiere in June 2024.
Additional highlights of the season include David Alden’s production of Wagner’s Lohengrin from London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden, with tenor Simon O’Neill in the title role; Gaetano Donizetti’s comedic romance The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir d’Amore) staged by director Daniel Slater and choreographed by Tim Claydon, with tenor Pene Pati as Nemorino and Slávka Zámečníková, in her American debut, as Adina; and Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) conducted by Eun Sun Kim in Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s inventive production that conjures the topsy-turvy delights of silent film, 1920s cabaret and early Hollywood animation. Verdi’s Il Trovatore returns in the 2009 co-production by Sir David McVicar with a powerful cast and Handel’s gender-bending comedy Partenope will be reprised in the award-winning staging by Christopher Alden and starring French soprano Julie Fuchs and Italian countertenor Carlo Vistoli in their American opera debuts. The artists of the San Francisco Opera Chorus, recently praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for “singing splendidly under its new director, John Keene,” will be featured throughout the new season.
In partnership with the Dolby family, the Company will continue its popular Dolby Family Opera for the Bay program. The audience-building ticket initiative makes prime seats available for $10 each to Bay Area residents who have not purchased tickets in the last three years. The Company will continue to share its performances globally through livestreams of the third performance of each opera in the repertory. On December 1, the Company presents The Elixir of Love Encounter, a rollicking, experiential evening which activates the War Memorial Opera House around themes from The Elixir of Love and invites attendees to immerse themselves in the world of Donizetti’s work.
Along with Eun Sun Kim’s multi-season Verdi and Wagner cycles and the repertoire expanding co-commissions, San Francisco Opera’s 2023–24 Season will witness the Company debuts of many exceptional artists on stage and in the pit. Artists making house debuts include sopranos Claire de Sévigné, Julie Fuchs, Brittany Renee, Lucy Shelton, Anna Simińska, Slávka Zámečníková; mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi; countertenors Nicholas Tamagna, Carlo Vistoli; tenors Roberto Alagna, Bille Bruley, Jonah Hoskins, Jamez McCorkle, Miles Mykkanen; baritones Norman Garrett, Thomas Lehman, John Moore, George Petean, Lauri Vasar; bass-baritones David Bižić, Renato Girolami, Kwangchul Youn; bass Wei Wu; interdisciplinary musician Vilma Jää; and conductors John Kennedy, Clément Mao-Takacs, Ramón Tebar.
2023–24 MAINSTAGE SEASON
September 8, 2023
Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak; Eun Sun Kim
Music Director Eun Sun Kim and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus inaugurate the Company’s 101st season with a program of arias and scenes featuring tenor Roberto Alagna and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. The husband-and-wife duo, each a celebrated artist on the world’s leading opera stages, headline Opera Ball, the annual benefit co-presented by San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Opera Guild. The 2023–24 Season-launching gala event is co-chaired by Francesca Gutierrez Amann and Sue Graham Johnston. The festive season opener marks Kurzak’s return to the War Memorial Opera House stage following her “nothing short of remarkable” (San Francisco Chronicle) 2012 Company debut as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto, and Alagna’s first-ever appearance with San Francisco Opera.
IL TROVATORE by Giuseppe Verdi
September 12–October 1, 2023
Arturo Chacón-Cruz; Angel Blue; George Petean; Anita Rachvelishvili; Eun Sun Kim
Giuseppe Verdi’s Il Trovatore has been a pillar of the Italian repertoire and popular favorite in San Francisco since the Gold Rush days. Eun Sun Kim, continuing her annual exploration of the operas of Verdi which she initiated in 2022 with La Traviata, takes on the composer’s spirited classic, which abounds in turbulent passions and hit tunes like the famous Anvil Chorus. The rotating set of Sir David McVicar’s production, directed in revival by Roy Rallo, keeps the opera’s musical momentum and simmering intensity building to a stunning conclusion.
Tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz portrays Manrico, the heroic troubadour of the opera’s title. Soprano Angel Blue, who made her Company debut in 2009 as Clara in Porgy and Bess, returns as Leonora, one of Verdi’s greatest heroines. Baritone George Petean joins the Company as Count di Luna, and mezzo-soprano Anita Rachvelishvili, whom conductor Riccardo Muti praised as “without doubt the best Verdi mezzo-soprano today on the planet” (New York Times), completes the powerful quartet in the pivotal role of Azucena. Chorus Director John Keene prepares the artists of the San Francisco Opera Chorus.
WATCH In Song: Arturo Chacón-Cruz
The Mexican tenor leads young musicians at a mariachi academy and reflects on culture, love and determination in both music and life in this episode of the Company’s award- winning In Song series.
CO-COMMISSION BAY AREA PREMIERE
THE (R)EVOLUTION OF STEVE JOBS music by Mason Bates, libretto by Mark Campbell
September 22–October 7, 2023
Mason Bates; Mark Campbell; John Moore; Sasha Cooke; Bille Bruley; Wei Wu; Michael Christie
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Bay Area composer Mason Bates and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell had its world premiere in 2017 and has since enjoyed a Grammy-winning recording and multiple productions around North America. Dramatizing the nexus of the sleek, high-tech devices that revolutionized modern life and the less tidy human beings who dreamed them into existence, this San Francisco Opera co-commission makes its long-awaited local premiere. The creative team from the original production, led by director Kevin Newbury, will be reunited for this presentation near the Silicon Valley environs that provide the opera’s setting. Michael Christie conducts the fast-paced, electro-acoustic work.
The cast features baritone John Moore in his Company debut as the iconoclastic Steve Jobs, a role for which he has won praise with companies in Seattle, Atlanta, Austin and Kansas City. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who “radiantly personified” (Dallas Morning News) Laurene Powell Jobs at the world premiere, and bass Wei Wu, role creator of Jobs’ spiritual advisor, Kōbun Chino Otogawa, reprise their respective parts. Tenor Bille Bruley appears with San Francisco Opera for the first time as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.
The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is the first of three San Francisco Opera co-commissions to be presented during the 2023–24 Season, reaffirming the Company’s commitment to expanding the operatic repertoire.
LOHENGRIN by Richard Wagner
October 15–November 1, 2023
Simon O’Neill; Julie Adams; Judit Kutasi; Brian Mulligan; Kristinn Sigmundsson; Eun Sun Kim
At the center of Richard Wagner’s Lohengrin stands a woman accused and her mysterious protector, the proverbial knight in shining armor. Amid the romance and intrigue, the opera’s story is driven forward by one of opera’s most elevating soundscapes. Beginning with this glorious gem of the operatic canon, presented in director David Alden’s production from London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Eun Sun Kim and the Company initiate a multi-season journey through the composer’s works.
New Zealand-born heldentenor Simon O’Neill is Lohengrin and American soprano Julie Adams, a recent San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, portrays Elsa. The union of Elsa and Lohengrin is opposed by the scheming Ortrud, performed by Romanian-Hungarian mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi in her American debut, and the Telramund of baritone Brian Mulligan. Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson, who was the Water Gnome in Dvořák’s Rusalka under Kim’s baton in 2019, returns as King Heinrich.
CO-COMMISSION BAY AREA PREMIERE
OMAR music by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, libretto by Rhiannon Giddens
November 5–21, 2023
Rhiannon Giddens; Michael Abels; Jamez McCorkle; Taylor Raven; Brittany Renee; Daniel Okulitch; John Kennedy
In the early 1800s, Islamic scholar Omar Ibn Said was forcibly taken from his village in West Africa and sold into slavery in Charleston, South Carolina, where he recorded his story as an expansive canvas of testimony and faith. Said’s two-hundred-year-old autobiography comes vividly to life on the lyric stage in Omar, the first opera by MacArthur Fellowship “genius award” recipient Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels, known for his music for films, including Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Us and Nope. This San Francisco Opera co-commission, which was hailed as “a sweeping achievement” by The New York Times, comes to the War Memorial Opera House in the production by Kaneza Schaal. Conductor John Kennedy, who led the work’s 2021 world premiere at Spoleto Festival USA, leads Giddens and Abels’ expansive score which synthesizes strains of bluegrass, spirituals, the West African kora, folk music and jazz into a compelling theatrical experience.
In his Company debut, tenor Jamez McCorkle portrays Omar, “a role he brings to life in all its spiritual magnificence” (Los Angeles Times). Mezzo-soprano Taylor Raven, who has appeared during San Francisco Opera’s Centennial Season in the world premiere of John Adams’ Antony and Cleopatra, Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites and Verdi’s La Traviata, portrays Fatima, Omar’s mother who bestows wisdom on her son through dream sequences. Soprano Brittany Renee makes her house debut as Julie, a friend to Omar amid the trials of their lives under enslavement. Baritone Norman Garrett makes his house debut in the double roles of Omar’s brother, Abdul, and Abe; baritone Daniel Okulitch portrays both Johnson and Owen and tenor Barry Banks is the Auctioneer and Taylor.
NEW SAN FRANCISCO OPERA CO-PRODUCTION
THE ELIXIR OF LOVE (L’ELISIR D’AMORE) by Gaetano Donizetti
November 19–December 9, 2023
Pene Pati; Slávka Zámečníková; David Bižić; Renato Girolami; Ramón Tebar
Gaetano’s Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (L’Elisir d’Amore) returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage in a co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago from Opera North in the UK by director Daniel Slater and choreographer Tim Claydon. The updated setting for this funny and heart-warming 1832 romance, which includes Donizetti’s cherished aria “Una furtiva lagrima” (“A furtive tear”), takes place on the Italian Riviera during the 1950s. Robert Innes Hopkins, who designed San Francisco Opera’s recent new productions of Tosca and La Traviata, is production designer, and Ramón Tebar makes his Company debut leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
Tenor Pene Pati, whose fast-rising career began at San Francisco Opera with triumphs as the Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto and Roméo in Roméo et Juliette, returns as the lovable Nemorino. He is joined by several exciting artists making their first engagements with the Company. Slovak soprano Slávka Zámečníková is the beautiful but aloof Adina. Serbian baritone David Bižić is the handsome military officer, Belcore, with whom Adina flirts to stir Nemorino’s jealousy. Dulcamara, the miracle worker whose elixir provides the liquid courage Nemorino needs to express his true feelings, is performed by Italian baritone Renato Girolami. American tenor Jonah Hoskins makes his house debut as Nemorino in the November 29 performance.
WATCH In Song: Pene Pati
The Samoan tenor reflects on the centrality of his family in his musical journey from New Zealand to the world’s leading opera stages in this episode from the Company’s award-winning In Song series.
THE MAGIC FLUTE by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
May 30–June 30, 2024
Amitai Pati; Christina Gansch; Kwangchul Youn; Lauri Vasar; Anna Simińska; Eun Sun Kim
Layered in Masonic symbolism and occult mysteries, Mozart’s The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) is, above all, one of opera’s most joyous and accessible masterworks. Its lively arias illuminate a hero’s quest and the steadfastness of true love. The worlds of silent film, 1920s cabaret and animation collide in Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s internationally acclaimed production which originated at Komische Oper Berlin and makes its Bay Area premiere. Music Director Eun Sun Kim conducts Mozart’s timeless, exhilarating work of art.
Following his success as Don Ottavio in Mozart’s Don Giovanni with San Francisco Opera in 2022, Samoan tenor Amitai Pati returns as prince Tamino. Austrian soprano Christina Gansch, who won plaudits in last summer’s Don Giovanni as Zerlina, adds Pamina to her gallery of Mozart portrayals on the War Memorial Opera House stage. Three esteemed international artists make their San Francisco Opera debuts in this production: Estonian bass-baritone Lauri Vasar as Papageno, South Korean bass Kwangchul Youn as Sarastro and Polish soprano as the Queen of the Knight. Chinese tenor and recent San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Zhengyi Bai portrays Monostatos.
CO-COMMISSION AMERICAN PREMIERE
INNOCENCE music by Kaija Saariaho, libretto by Sofi Oksanen,
text dramaturgy and multilanguage translations by Aleksi Barrière
June 1–21, 2024
Kaija Saariaho; Sofi Oksanen; Aleksi Barrière; Ruxandra Donose; Lucy Shelton; Vilma Jää; Clément Mao-Takacs
Innocence follows a family’s ability to deal with tragedy. In this gripping one-act drama by composer Kaija Saariaho, librettist Sofi Oksanen and dramaturg Aleksi Barrière, a harrowing story of emotional shock and surprise unfolds in which the understanding of innocence and guilt is continually upended. This co-commissioned work, which The New York Times proclaimed “a masterpiece … the most powerful work Saariaho has written in a career now in its fifth decade,” was first presented at Aix-en-Provence in 2021 in Simon Stone’s production. San Francisco Opera presents the opera’s American premiere.
Saariaho specialist Clément Mao-Takacs conducts an international cast of singers and actors in this towering work performed in nine languages. Mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose is the Waitress, Claire de Sévigné and Rod Gilfry are the Mother-in-Law and Father-in-Law. Miles Mykkanen portrays the Groom, bass Kristinn Sigmundsson is the Priest and Lucy Shelton is the teacher. Vilma Jää, a Finnish musician who crosses musical boundaries from folk to experimental electronic music, makes her house debut as Markéta.
PARTENOPE by George Frideric Handel
June 15–28, 2024
Julie Fuchs; Carlo Vistoli; Daniela Mack; Nicholas Tamagna; Alek Shrader; Hadleigh Adams; Christopher Moulds
Handel’s 1730 comedy Partenope returns in the Olivier Award-winning production by director Christopher Alden. First presented by San Francisco Opera in 2014, Alden’s staging updates the action from Handel’s ancient Neapolitan setting to a 1920s Parisian salon and, according to the Mercury News, “turns the opera’s genderbending plot into a nonstop parade of visual and vocal delights.” English conductor and harpsichordist Christopher Moulds, who made his Company debut in 2019 with Handel’s Orlando, returns to lead Partenope.
In her American opera debut, French soprano Julie Fuchs portrays the title role, a queen who is pursued by wildly different suitors. Mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack reprises the role of Rosmira, tenor Alek Shrader returns as Emilio and Hadleigh Adams is Ormonte. Countertenor Carlo Vistoli makes his American opera debut as Arsace, and countertenor Nicholas Tamagna joins the Company as Armindo.
For the complete press release, including cast and calendar, open the PDF version above.