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SFO Streaming the First Century


Session 3: Excerpts

After Merola gave the downbeat on that October evening almost a century ago, the Great Depression was put on hold and Puccini dominated the next several hours. San Francisco Opera history made a new start. Finalmente.
Larry Rothe (on Tosca, 1932)

There are times that a performance simply catches fire, the electricity sizzles between performers on stage and between the stage and the audience. The drama is so alive that singers can dare to take chances because something bigger has taken over, and is pushing the performance to even greater heights. Beniamino Gigli’s first act aria in this broadcast is a perfect example of this phenomenon. It is so overwhelming, so potent, that I am sometimes tempted to think it is the supreme example of an Italian tenor’s artistry in live performance.
Paul Thomason (on Andrea Chénier, 1938)

The 100th anniversary of San Francisco Opera offers a welcome opportunity to salute the contributions of innumerable great artists with whom the company has been fortunate to enjoy a particularly close association. Among them is Leontyne Price, whose incomparable artistry assured her of the San Francisco audience’s devotion throughout her operatic career. The Mississippi-born soprano’s limitless potential had been recognized by San Francisco Opera general manager Kurt Herbert Adler as early as 1957, when he presented her first appearance onstage with a major American company: Mme. Lidoine in Dialogues of the Carmelites, the first of 14 roles over the next 35 years. 
Roger Pines (on Il trovatore, 1971)

Tosca, 1932 (Giacomo Puccini)




Broadcast (10/15/1932)
3 excerpts: total run time ~ 6 minutes
The inaugural performance in the War Memorial Opera House. This rare broadcast of Puccini’s Tosca stars Claudia Muzio with Company founder Gaetano Merola conducting.


Andrea Chénier, 1938 (Umberto Giordano)




Broadcast (10/07/1938)
4 excerpts: total run time ~ 8 minutes

Few broadcast fragments can match the frisson and vocal intensity of this one when Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli’s passionate singing brings the house down on opening night of the 1938 Season.

Il Trovatore, 1971 (Giuseppe Verdi)




Audience recording (10/26/1971)
4 excerpts: total run time ~ 9 minutes

The artistry of Leontyne Price, who made her American debut with San Francisco Opera in 1957, is on full display in this performance of one of her greatest roles, Leonora in Verdi’s Il Trovatore.

La Forza del Destino, 2005 (Giuseppe Verdi)




House recording (November)
1 excerpt: total run time ~ 3 minutes

Nicola Luisotti made his house debut conducting this performance of Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. The dynamic and kinetic force heard in the overture foreshadows his work as Company music director from 2009–2018.