SF Opera Returns to Live Performance

Lucas Meachem (Figaro)_photo Simon Pauly  San Francisco Opera returns to live performance this April with Il barbiere di Siviglia in an outdoor drive-in production at the Marin Center in San Rafael. The performances star Lucas Meachem (pictured, photograph by Simon Pauly) as Figaro, Daniela Mack and Laura Krumm sharing the role of Rosina, and Alek Shrader as Almaviva. There will also be three Adler concerts in a similar format. Tickets go on sale on March 9 for donors and subscribers and March 23 for everyone else.

There are also a number of digital offerings in the spring, including free streams of the Ring Cycle in March.

Press Release | On StageOpera Is On


SF Opera Tosca Drive-In Review

Picture041 * Notes * 
San Francisco Opera presented Tosca (Adrianne Pieczonka in the title role and Lado Ataneli as Scarpia, photograph by Cory Weaver) at Fort Mason Flix last weekend. The 2009 performance is not the latest production, but the previous one from 1997 for the War Memorial's reopening.

The orchestra, conducted by Marco Armiliato, sounded vivid. Lado Ataneli is quite an evil Scarpia, his voice has a nice heft to it. Tenor Carlo Ventre is an appealing Cavaradossi, he seems less delicate in the filmed version of this performance but the reedy quality of his voice is apparent. His "E lucevan le stelle" was lovely. Adrianne Pieczonka is a creamy-voiced and powerful Tosca. Her "Vissi d'arte" had me in tears.

This recording includes a lot of shots of the audience in the War Memorial Opera House. It was a little difficult to watch, not only because it is hard to imagine being that close to people inside without masks after all these months, but also because live performance seems so remote at this point and I, for one, sure do miss it.

* Tattling * 
I was lightly teased by a staff member of Fort Mason Flix about seeing this opera by myself, which made me laugh, since I've basically been around my children and husband constantly for 335 days. I considered bringing my almost seven-year old to the screening but decided I wasn't ready to have to explain Scarpia to him just yet.

We were not supposed to leave our vehicles except to use the restrooms, and there were no concessions on the premises. I brought blueberries, apples, cashews, and cheese to snack on. Some cars had trouble keeping their headlights off, I was glad to see the staff had signs to indicate this to the offending patrons.

There is still a lot of daylight at 5pm when the screening I saw started, so it was a little difficult to see what was happening in some of the early scenes of the opera. It was very funny to see seagulls fly past the screen, after hearing them so much in the nearby Cowell Theater for years.


SF Opera Drive In Tosca Rescheduled

Picture011San Francisco Opera has rescheduled Puccini's Tosca on February 12 and 13 at the Fort Mason Flix Drive-In. The 2009 production starring Adrianne Pieczonka (pictured with Carlo Ventri as Cavaradossi and Joel Sorensen as Spoletta, photograph by Cory Weaver) in the title role was orignally set for December 11 and 12 but was cancelled because of the Stay at Home order that ended on Monday.

Press Release | Official Site


SF Opera Streaming January February 2021

001 TraviataSan Francisco Opera continues its streaming program Opera Is On with Verdi's La Traviata (pictured, photograph by Cory Weaver) from 2014 this weekend on January 30 to 31. From this production tenor Stephen Costello, soprano Nicole Cabell, and assistant stage director Shawna Lucey will be interviewed live on Friday, January 29 at 1pm. One can register for this Zoom event here.

In February, the weekends will bring Wagner's Lohengrin, Mozart's Così fan tutte, Puccini's La Rondine, and Verdi's Falstaff.

Press Release | Opera Is On


Very Merola Christmas Virtual Recital

Merola-christmas-2020 * Notes *
Merola, San Francisco Opera's training program, held a third virtual recital yesterday afternoon via Zoom with pianist Ronny Michael Greenberg, soprano Maria Valdes, mezzo-soprano Alice Chung, tenor Casey Candebat, and bass-baritone Christian Pursell. It was a lovely 50 minutes of wide-ranging music from these musicians that live all over the country.

Candebat and Chung began the performance with a warm rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" accompanied by Greenberg. They were video edited to be in the same scene by Pursell, who did this work for the whole recital in addition to his contribution as a bass-baritone. Greenberg did the introductions for the rest of the pieces, starting with Pursell singing "Sibilar gli angui d'Aletto" from Händel's Rinaldo, with a bit of Messiah interpolated in before the da capo. It was a bit startling to hear the English text pop up in the middle, but Pursell sang robustly. Valdes joined him for the beautiful duet from Die Zauberflöte "Bei Männern," after she sang "O Holy Night" as a solo. Her voice is very clean and has a precise delicacy.

Chung sang "Mon Coeur S’ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila. Her rich tones and the depths of her voice are evident even over Zoom. Candabat gave a vivid performance of "Ch'ella mi creda" from La fanciulla del West. The encores were Greenberg playing "La campanella" by Liszt and "Carol of the Bells." It was impressive how bell-like the piano and the voice can sound.

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There were a few small glitches in the sound every now and again. Candabat joked that we don't want the virtual recitals to be too good, or else no one will get back to the theater in person.

I cried during  the Mozart duet, I so miss going to the opera house. Seeing The Magic Flute at the Met last year seems so remote from now, when we can't even go to the drive in to see Tosca because of the huge spike in Covid cases and subsequent safer at home order.


Sanikidze/Barsotti Virtual Merola Recital

Sanikidze-2020 * Notes *
San Francisco Opera's training program Merola held another virtual recital yesterday afternoon via Zoom with vocal coaches and collaborative pianists Tamara Sanikidze (pictured left) and Edoardo Barsotti. It was lovely to see these artists usually behind the scenes highlighted.

Sanikidze opened the performance with Three Intermezzi for piano, Op. 117 by Johannes Brahms, playing with richness and lyricism. She was in Merola in 2009 but has done musical preparation for San Francisco Opera as recently as Manon Lescaut and Rusalka last year. It was nice to see both her Ring posters from 2011 and 2018 in the background of her studio in Austin, Texas. She dedicated her second offering, Chopin's Nocturne in C-sharp minor, to Suzanne Turley, a devoted San Francisco Opera patron who recently died.

The second half of the program was three pre-recorded pieces from Edoardo Barsotti (Merola '14/'15), who is in Florence working at the Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. Barsotti started with Jeux d'eau by Maurice Ravel, playing with a good deal of fire. His collaborative piano skills were on full display for Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto by Franz Liszt, he gets a lot of sound out of the instrument and a range of colors. I only know Morricone's music for Sergio Leone, so it was fun to hear Ennio Morricone's "Magic Waltz" from the film The Legend of 1900 as the last piece of the afternoon.

Tattling * 
I couldn't get Zoom to play through my entertainment room's speakers, though I could watch it on my television. There was a bit of static during Sanikidze's portion of the performance, but nothing too terrible. My daughter listened attentively to her as she sat on my lap, but wandered off during Ravel to go play outside.

I cried during the Chopin, not only was Sanikidze's playing very moving, it made me think of my mother, who loves this composer and plays his nocturnes. I haven't seen her in person since February. I also will miss seeing Suzanne around, I never spoke to her but always liked seeing her jaunty hair bows when she was in the audience.


SF Opera Drive-In Lucia Review


Lucia-drive-in-2020* Notes *

San Francisco Opera held a drive-in event (pictured left, photograph by Kristen Loken) at Fort Mason Flix yesterday evening. The opera screened was Lucia di Lammermoor from 2008 with soprano Natalie Dessay  in the title role. She is an incredible Lucia, and the filmed version captures this well. It was also flattering to the rest of the production.

The drive-in was orderly, the staff let each car in, first scanning tickets, then explaining which FM station to tune into to get the sound, and lastly leading each car to a space to allow for good sight lines. I was very pleased to see much of the house staff from the War Memorial, and glad to be in the third row near the middle in my compact hybrid.

There was strong enforcement of no lights from cars, drivers were admonished before the show began. Unfortunately, there were times when headlights and brake lights would turn on (including my own at least once) as cars would automatically shut off to conserve battery power.

Otherwise, the format is engaging, I preferred this to watching streams at home, it felt more like a real opera. It was nice to be in my own enclosed space without the normal distractions of small children or other ill-behaved audience members. It was noticeable how many coughs were carefully recorded in the audio when the orchestra was playing quietly.

Graham Vick's direction and Paul Brown's sets are suitably dramatic on the big screen. Dessay is both vulnerable and viscerally disturbing in her mad scene, it's clear how she's giving her all the the performance. Everyone sounded fine, better than I remembered live. Mezzo-soprano Cybele-Teresa Gouverneur didn't seem underpowered as Alisa, tenor Giuseppe Filianoti was only strained at times, and was always audible. The sextet was beautiful. It was lovely to hear the chorus and orchestra, they were consistent and powerful.

* Tattling * 
It was very strange for me to be somewhat "out and about" doing something at least adjacent to what I would normally do before shelter-in-place. I felt extremely uncomfortable and could not bring myself to leave my car for concessions or the restrooms. It was good to see how many people wore masks outside of their cars but compliance was not perfect.


SF Opera Streaming November 2020

_B5A2417San Francisco Opera continues its streaming program Opera Is On with Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor on October 31 to November 1. The production is the one to be shown as a drive-in movie next Sunday.

Verdi's Un Ballo in Maschera (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) from 2014 will be presented on November 7-8, Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov from 2008 on November 14–15, Verdi's Rigoletto from 2012 on November 21–22, and Donizetti's L'Elisir d'Amore from 2008 on November 28–29.

Press Release | Opera Is On


Opera San José Three Decembers Stream

Three-Decembers_Credit-David-Allen_2-scaledOpera San José will present a new fully staged production of Jake Heggie's Three Decembers as an on-demand stream starting December 3, 2020. The cast (pictured, photograph by David Allen) features mezzo-soprano Susan Graham in the lead role along with Opera San José Resident Artists soprano Maya Kherani and baritone Efraín Solís.

Tickets are $40 per household, which includes on-demand streaming access only, or $50 for the added admission to the post-show gala on December 3.

Official Site | Tickets


SF Opera Drive In Lucia

LuciaHandsSan Francisco Opera presents Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor (pictured left, photograph by Terrence McCarthy) on October 25 at 6pm at Fort Mason Flix Drive-In. The production is from 2008 and stars Natalie Dessay.

98 cars with pre-purchased tickets will be admitted starting at 5pm and social distancing enforced. Guests must remain in their cars during the opera and wear a mask when leaving to visit concessions or restrooms.

Press Release | Official Site


SF Opera Streaming October 2020

_F2A6328San Francisco Opera continues its streaming program Opera Is On with Puccini's Tosca (pictured left, photograph by Cory Weaver) on October 10–11. The production is the revival from 2014 that stars Lianna Haroutounian.

Verdi's Attila from the summer of 2012 will be presented on October 17-18 and Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro from the 2014-2015 season on October 24-25.

Press Release | Opera Is On


Lucas Meachem's Virtual Merola Recital

Lucas-meachem-natasha-sadakin* Notes *
Merola, San Francisco Opera's training program, kicked off a virtual recital series last Sunday via Zoom with baritone Lucas Meachem (pictured left, photograph by Natasha Sadakin) and his piano accompanist and wife Irina Meachem. They were very charming and it was a stark reminder of just how strange these pandemic times are.

Lucas Meachem was in Merola in 2003 and went on to be an Adler, he's performed most recently in San Francisco as Mercutio in Roméo et Juliette last season. He pretty much sang from operas he has performed in at San Francisco Opera, so there was “Mab, la reine des mensonges” from the aforementioned Gounod, “Bella siccome un angelo” from Don Pasquale, and such.

Irina Meachem introduced the pieces, and we got to hear about how it is to be in the same industry as your romantic partner and a little bit about the challenges of having a one-year-old.

I loved hearing him sing “Hai già vinta la causa” from Le Nozze di Figaro and “Deh, vieni alla finestra” from Don Giovanni. Meachem channels rakishness well and the richness of his voice came through even in Zoom. Best of all was "Mein Sehnen, Mein Wähnen" (Pierrot’s Tanzlied) from Die Tote Stadt. It brought back to mind San Francisco Opera's dazzling production of this opera back in 2008.

I definitely felt a pang of loss as I heard this recital from our camper van as we drove from Vernal, Utah to Reno, Nevada, the penultimate leg of a cross country trip from Nantucket, where we've been sheltering in place for the summer. 2020 has been a tough year, as much as I feel my privilege acutely, I do miss live performing arts so much. And I feel for all the artists who have had so many gigs canceled and whose livelihoods are on the line.

Lucas and Irina Meachem took the opportunity of this recital to present a piece by a black female composer, namely, Undine Smith Moore. The art song “Love Let the Wind Cry” is as beautiful as anything in the standard repertoire, and was a welcome addition to the program.

* Tattling * 
There were some technical difficulties, though I'm not entirely sure if they were all on my end, since cellular coverage can be spotty in rural areas of our country. I got kicked off Zoom during an aria from Eugene Onegin, but was able to rejoin within a few minutes.


War Memorial Opera House Seat Replacement

Seatupgrade_1San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera, along with the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center, announced today that the previously planned seat replacement project originally scheduled for summer 2021 will now take place over a 14-week period between September 2020 to January 2021 during the continuing COVID-19 venue closure this year.

FAQ | San Francisco Opera


SF Opera Cancels Fall 2020

EDU19MTA_BP0043General Director Matthew Shilvock announced the cancelation of the 2020-2021 season opening at San Francisco Opera today because of COVID-19. The performances were to begin on September 11 and to continue until December 6. The company expects return in April 2021 with Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Zemlinsky's Der Zwerg, and concerts starring Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

San Francisco Opera has been streaming operas under the name "Opera Is On," most recently Il Trittico and continuing with Salome next weekend.

Press Release | Opera Is On