When the SF Opera 08-09 season was announced, we were all excited by the weirder stuff, the Bonesetter's Daughter, or die tote Stadt. "Who needs another La Bohème?" we shrugged at the time.

Turns out, we do. There's something to be said about timeless music performed with contagious enthusiasm by amazing artists. Due to the collapse of the stock market, the endowment of the SF Opera has melted like snow in June. Opera general director David Gockley came on stage last Wednesday (as he will prior to all Bohème performances) to announce the grim news, and pretty much to ask us to keep the Opera in our prayers when we make our end-of-fiscal-year charitable contributions. The more avant-garde production for next year, Peter Grimes, has been canned already, and there are murmurs the Ring could go the same way: it is co-produced by Washington National Opera, which has already canceled its share.

Since current music director Donald Runnicles was slated to conduct Grimes and the Ring, his future with SF Opera would be seriously curtailed. Oh well, we'll do with his successor, Nicola Luisotti: he did a masterful job at the helm of La Bohème, and he is a specialist of the bread-and-butter Italian repertoire we might see more in these tighten-the-belt times. As Chron critic Joshua Kosman perfectly summarizes: If our operatic life is about to get safer and more traditional - and the looming financial crisis would seem to leave little doubt on that point - then the least we can hope for is to have our chestnuts well-cooked. It's our goal in life, to keep our nuts warm!

Georghiu and Bezcala above, picture by SF Opera/Terrence McCarthy. The set of Act II below, in front of Café Momus