A sure sign that the economy is turning around, besides IPOs raining gazillionaires on Noe Valley, the resurrection of the San Francisco Lyric Opera. We were sad when they suspended operations, we liked what we had seen for sure. So when we heard that not only they'd start staging shows again, but that they had picked David Lang's The Little Match Girl for their return, we had to be very excited.

See, the big opera house on Van Ness can stage Mozart or Verdi operas with resource the smaller companies can't dream of. But when these small companies bring a new irreverent light to an old chestnut, like West Edge Opera's recent highly acclaimed Manga Magic Flute, or when they stage cutting-edge contemporary repertoire like Ensemble Parallele's Gatsby, then they fulfill their mission: take on the exciting risks that an opera house with 3,000 seats to fill cannot afford; and lay the foundation for these new pieces to work their way into the mainstream repertoire.

The Little Match Girl has earned its stripes already, earning a Pulitzer prize to its composer. It will be performed by a cast led by Tony-award winning baritone Eugene Brancoveanu. Eugene left singing on Broadway for opera in San Francisco, where he joined the highly selective Merola and Adler programs of the SF Opera. Since then he has been involved in all kind of risk-taking activities locally in addition to touring worldwide: he was Papageno in that Manga Flute, he was Orphee in the Ensemble Parallele triumphant production of the namesake opera. He's fearless, as performing naked for the Rape of Lucretia or these (dressed, safe for work) youtube clips will demonstrate. And he's good looking, compelling the authority on all baritone's matters to coin the word bearihunk to describe him. We called him this past Wednesday to discuss the Little Match Girl and his upcoming PBS appearance in Michael Tilson-Thomas' The Tomashefskys on March 29th.