Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Opera Center Announce 2024 Schwabacher Recital Series
Beginning February 21, Three Recitals Showcase Artists in Intimate Concert Programs
Tickets available at sfopera.com/srs and (415) 864-3330
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 22, 2024) — Marking its milestone 40th year, the Schwabacher Recital Series, presented by Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Opera Center, returns this spring with a series of three recitals (February 21, March 6 and April 3) at San Francisco’s Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater. The series presents emerging and esteemed artists from around the globe, performing an eclectic selection of song literature and new works in the intimacy of a recital setting,
SIMONA GENGA AND HYEMIN JEONG
The series opens on February 21 with 2023 Merola Opera Program participants mezzo-soprano Simona Genga and pianist Hyemin Jeong in a program called Two Laurels, featuring both traditional art songs and new compositions, bringing the audience on a journey through the intimate moments of a queer love story.
Italian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Simona Genga possesses an “exceptional and rare voice” known for its “vocal plushness, amplitude and range” (Ludwig van Toronto/Opera Canada). A former member of Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio, she appeared last summer with Merola Opera Program as Bianca in Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and in recital for Metamorphosis: Recovery, Renewal and Rebirth where she “had the audience in her grip from her first masterly measures to the last” (San Francisco Classical Voice). A recent Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition national semi-finalist, she makes debuts this season with Victoria Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Choeur des Mélomanes and National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa). Her latest engagements include the title role of Carmen (Saskatoon Opera), the world premiere of Ian Cusson’s Fantasma (Canadian Opera Company), Handel’s Messiah (Peterborough Singers), Olga in Eugene Onegin (Highlands Opera Studio) and Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (Brott Music Festival).
Korean collaborative pianist Hyemin Jeong has made noteworthy contributions to stages in the U.S. and South Korea and in 2022 served as a fellow pianist and coach at the Miami Music Festival. In addition to being an alumnus of the Merola Opera Program, she apprenticed at the Palm Beach Opera during the 2022–23 Season. Throughout the 2021–22 Season, Jeong left an indelible mark performing at esteemed venues such as Mixon Hall at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Merkin Hall in the Kaufman Music Center and Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall. A graduate of the Manhattan School of Music, she delivered captivating recitals at the 2022 Cleveland Art Song Festival, Encinitas’ Music by the Sea and Beverly Hills’ Music in the Mansion. This year she is scheduled to perform in recital with baritone Sejin Park in New York.
ARIANNA RODRIGUEZ, OLIVIA SMITH, NIKOLA PRINTZ, JONGWON HAN, YANG LIN
Curated by Nicholas Phan
The second recital, on March 6, features five second-year San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows: sopranos Arianna Rodriguez and Olivia Smith, mezzo-soprano Nikola Printz, bass-baritone Jongwon Han and pianist Yang Lin. The artists will perform in a program curated by tenor Nicholas Phan comprising of songs in English, German, Russian, Spanish, French and Korean.
Soprano Arianna Rodriguez has been praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for her “crystalline” performance of a duet from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale in the 2022 Merola Grand Finale concert. As Musetta in Opera North’s La Bohème, she was described by the Eagle Times as “a delight … a brilliant soprano delivering her wit with flair.” During her first year as an Adler Fellow, Rodriguez sang Giannetta in L’Elisir d’Amore, made her mainstage debut in Strauss’ Die Frau ohne Schatten and performed Musetta in the Company’s production of Bohème Out of the Box. Other recent performances include Ask Your Mama, a multimedia work based on poetry by Langston Hughes and originally composed by Laura Karpman for Jessye Norman, and a staged production of Bernstein’s MASS under the baton of Marin Alsop.
In 2023 Canadian soprano Olivia Smith she made her mainstage debut as the Voice of the Falcon in Die Frau ohne Schatten and performed the role of Chrisann Brennan in Mason Bates and Mark Campbell’s The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. As a participant of the 2022 Merola Opera Program, she appeared as Margarita Xirgu in scenes of Golijov’s Ainadamar and as Leila in an excerpt from Bizet’s Les Pêcheurs de Perles. During her studies at Curtis Institute of Music, Smith performed the Governess in Britten’s The Turn of the Screw and Marguerite in excerpts of Gounod’s Faust with Curtis Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
Known for their “sheer stylistic range … full-throated vocalism and raw emotional honesty” (San Francisco Chronicle), artistically fluid performer Nikola Printz participated in the Merola Opera Program in 2021 and 2022 and made their San Francisco Opera mainstage debut in Die Frau ohne Schatten. This season, they returned to Opera San José for Rosina in Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Festival Opera for their acclaimed portrayal of Carmen. Recent career highlights include the title roles of Carmen and Dido and Aeneas with Opera San José, L’Italiana in Algeri with Opera Memphis, The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein with Pocket Opera, Freschi’s Ermelinda with Ars Minerva, Orfeo ed Eurydice with West Edge Opera and The Rape of Lucretia with Green Mountain Opera Festival.
Korean bass-baritone Jongwon Han was a winner of the Third Prize at the 2022 Operalia World Opera Competition and a Grand Finalist in the 2021 Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition. Last season he made his San Francisco Opera debut as the Bonze in Madama Butterfly and returned as a Voice of the Nightwatchmen in Die Frau ohne Schatten and Colline in the Company’s production of Bohème Out of the Box. Other season highlights include debuts with Atlanta Opera as Schaunard in La Bohème, Dayton Opera as the bass soloist in Handel’s Messiah and Palm Beach Opera as the Bonze. In the summer of 2022, Han joined Santa Fe Opera as an Apprentice Artist and made his professional debut at the Vernazza Opera Festival in Cinque Terra, Italy.
Pianist and coach Yang Lin’s 2023 assignments with San Francisco Opera included Bohème Out of the Box, Madama Butterfly, Mason Bates and Mark Campbell’s The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs and Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels’ Omar. Last year he was awarded a scholarship to train at the prestigious Bayreuth Festival in Germany. He has served on the music staff at Lyric Opera of Kansas City, where he joined productions of Amahl and the Night Visitors, La Traviata, Carmen, Tosca and The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs. A graduate of the 2022 Merola Opera Program, he has also worked with Cincinnati Opera, Pittsburgh Festival Opera, Canadian Vocal Arts Institute, I Sing Beijing, National Center for the Performing Arts and Shanghai Theater Academy.
Described by the Boston Globe as “one of the world’s remarkable singers,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction and is the curator of this recital. In addition to his work as artistic director of Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, an organization devoted to promoting underserved repertoire, he has created programs for broadcast on WFMT and WQXR and served as guest curator for projects with the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Merola Opera Program and San Francisco Performances. Phan’s programs often examine themes of identity, highlight unfairly underrepresented voices from history and strive to underline the relevance of music from all periods to the current of the present day.
SAMANTHA HANKEY AND CARRIE-ANN MATHESON
On April 3, the final concert of this year’s Schwabacher series will showcase the artistic collaboration between mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey and pianist Carrie-Ann Matheson. Their program will feature songs by Claude Debussy, Alma Mahler, Alexander Zemlinsky, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter and Kurt Weill.
With “much elegance and youthful tone” (Financial Times), mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey (Merola 2017) is increasingly lauded for her powerful stage presence. Hankey’s current season marks her debuts at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, where she appears as Dorabella in Così fan tutte, Semperoper Dresden as Cherubino in Le Nozze di Figaro, Detroit Opera as the Fox in The Cunning Little Vixen and at Lyric Opera of Kansas City in her role debut as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. Following critically acclaimed performances as Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, Hankey returns to the Metropolitan Opera as Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette. As a recitalist, she has sung at London’s Wigmore Hall and New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Metropolitan Museum of Art and Alice Tully Hall.
San Francisco Opera Center and Merola Opera Program Artistic Director Carrie-Ann Matheson has a multi-faceted international career as a pianist, conductor and educator. Passionate about nurturing the next generation of opera singers and pianists, she has worked with other leading young artist programs and is currently also a member of the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Matheson began her career at the Metropolitan Opera, where she was a tenured member of music staff, serving as assistant conductor, prompter, pianist and vocal coach. An invitation from Maestro Fabio Luisi to join his staff at Opernhaus Zürich led to the expansion of her performing career as a pianist and conductor in Europe. Especially in demand as a recital pianist, she has performed with many of the world’s most renowned opera singers, including Rolando Villazón, Jonas Kaufmann, Piotr Beczała, Benjamin Bernheim, Diana Damrau, Thomas Hampson and Joyce DiDonato.
*For the complete press release, including program details, open the PDF version above.