Opera in the Park, the free annual concert in Golden Gate Park, serves as a preview of the upcoming SF Opera season, featuring artists and excerpts from the indoor productions. We wrote about Verdi's Luisa Miller already, whose overture opened the festivities. It was the tenth Opera in the Park for General Director David Gockley, and his last one hosting, as he's retiring and a successor will be announced next week.
Also happening at SF Opera, Sweeney Todd, whose Elliot Madore showed bravado and perkiness in excerpt from the Barber of Seville (he won't be in it, but it's coming up in November). Heidi Stober (also in Sweeney Todd) put an aria from Mozart's La Finta Giardiniera so delicate that maestro Nicola Luisotti conducted only with his fingertips. Elliot was playing football with his kids in between turns on stage, and Heidi was chasing her toddler, and we listened to music to the smell of a fragrant tomato and basil salad a couple seats away, who said opera was fussy? A short-haired Ekaterina Semenchuk, amazing under a blond wig in Luisa Miller, made us feel horrible for not mentioning her more in our review with an amazingly hefty aria from Samson and Delilah, "Reponds a ma tendresse."
Coming up next in October, Lucia di Lammermoor and the tenor will be Piotz Beczala, who showed off in a bright e lucevan le stelle, and then in an Italian song about ungrateful heart, Cardillo Core 'ngrato. Concertmaster Kay Stern's violin solo provided a perfect counterpoint to his voice. The soprano in Lucia is Diana Damrau, but there are rumors it may change. She wasn't at Opera in the Park, if that's any indication.
The interlude from Two Women that we liked so much opened the second half, and it mirrored the Luisa Miller overture with its own beautiful clarinet solo. At intermission, an old man with a megaphone was warning us: SF Opera is a fascist and anti-semitic organization. We asked him why, he didn't say and moved away, grumbling, and picking up the megaphone a couple steps further. Why, we wondered? Is it because they're showing Wagner's Die Meistersingers of Nuremberg?
Michael Fabiano was as intense as always, even on a bright sunny Sunday in the park in the Lamento di Federico from Cilea's L'Arlesiana; he concluded the program with that old Pavarotti favorite, Puccini's Nessun Dorma and did he hit that one out of the park. He can't come back soon enough in June as the title character in Don Carlo.
The rest of SF Opera's Fall season includes The Magic Flute, the SF premiere of philanthropist Gordon Getty's Usher House in a double bill with Debussy's La Chute de la Maison Usher; and in the Summer, Janáček's Jenufa conducted by Jiří Bělohlávek, and Carmen in a production by controversial director Calixto Bieito. Bieito had the chorus sing sitting on the toilet in Verdi's Masked Ball a couple years back, in addition to depicting rape, murder, male and female nudity; and his version of Mozart once included "masturbation, fetishism, singers urinating on one another and a scene including nipple-slicing". We can't wait to what he'll do to Bizet.
The SF Symphony is currently on tour in Europe, will come back to open its Fall season on September 24th with Frasier on stage in a selection of Broadway musicals. He sings!. Also, opera star Nathan Gunn and your SF Symphony in Respighi Roman Festivals.
The Symphony season stays true to form and mixes the old and the new; the traditional and the experimental. There is one female conductor coming, and it's Susanna Mälkki next month, so don't blink or you'll miss it. On the modern side, the orchestra will perform the world premiere of Mason Bates’ Auditorium, the US premiere of Jörg Widmann’s first piano concerto Trauermarsch with Yefim Bronfman, and the West Coast premiere of New Voices composer Ted Hearne’s Dispatches (Ted Hearne succeeds last year's New Voices composer ). Also new to us, French composer Guillaume Connesson’s Une lueur dans l’âge sombre (A Glimmer in an Age of Darkness), led by Stephane Deneve.
The NY Phil will stop by, as will a bunch of superstar virtuosos, including Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax and Itzhak Perlman, Jeremy Denk, András Schiff, Leif Ove Andsnes, Hilary Hahn, and Christine Brewer; and visiting conductors such as Herbert Blomstedt, Charles Dutoit, Pablo Heras-Casado, Susanna Mälkki, Vladimir Ashkenazy, James Conlon, Stéphane Denève, Marek Janowski, Edwin Outwater, Yan Pascal Tortelier, Itzhak Perlman, András Schiff, Pinchas Zukerman... More info here.
This week-end, the New Century Chamber Orchestra opens its season, with Aylin Perez. NCCO music director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg was having a good time at Opera in the Park on Sunday, in between rehearsals. NCCO welcomes a featured composer, this time Jennifer Higdon whose earlier work is performed throughout the season, and a world premiere commissioned for the spring. Jennifer is one of the most-performed American living composers, and her opera Cold Mountain just received its premiere in Santa Fe (starring SF Symphony Opening Night Gala star Nathan Gunn). SF Opera had commissioned Higdon for a work with librettist Gene Scheer, on NOT Hurricane Katrina, but it looks like it ended up in Santa Fe instead.
SF Performances open its season with Sir András Schiff. Composer/pianist Thomas Adès will visit, violinist Jennifer Koh comes back, Richard Goode, Christian Tetzlaff, and among singers Anna Caterina Antonacci (from SF Opera's Two Women last June), Ian Bostridge, Frederica von Stade, and a few others.
The Philharmonia Baroque opens their season next month with the American premiere of a serenata not heard in the western hemisphere for nearly 300 years by Antonio Scarlatti, then follows with programs of all Bach, all Mozart, and other Baroque composers on period instruments. It's the 30th season of PBO with Nicholas McGegan at the helm! Happy anniversay, Nic!
Next week, Cal Performances hosts Gustavo Dudamel and his Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, including a not-to-be-missed performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony at the Greek Theater. The list of recitals at Zellerbach is quite impressive: America's diva Renée Fleming, pianists Yefim Bronfman and Murry Perahia, McArthur genius and violinst Leila Josefowicz, the list goes on. Mummenschanz is coming back, it's not classical music, their tag line is "the musicians of silence," but it's a really sweet family show.
Opera Parallele opens a new family opera by Chris Pratorius, Amazing Grace, in November. The grown-up production is Champion, an Opera in Jazz, by Terence Blanchard. This was commissioned in Saint Louis, and it will be the West Coast premiere. Expect the usual stellar visual display and musical excellence from the creative team, Brian Staufenbiel and Nicole Paiement.
If we forgot some interesting performances, please let us know in the comments!