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


Merola Opera Cancels Summer 2020

8.18.17_finale-1845_resizedThe Merola Opera Program announces the cancellation of the 2020 training program and Summer Festival, including all public performances, public master classes, and events scheduled, in accordance with local and global efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This is the first time in 63 years that San Francisco Opera's summer training program for singers, collaborative pianists, and directors has been canceled.

Press Release | Merola Artists Emergency Fund


Merola's 63rd Season Participants

4.Sheri_Greenawald_Photo_Kristen_Loken-1-scaledSopranos
Emily Blair, Hoffman Estates, Illinois
Catherine Goode, Friendswood, Texas
Magdalena Kuźma, New York, New York
Celeste Morales, San Antonio, Texas
Mikayla Sager, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Johanna Will, Dresden, Germany

Mezzo-Sopranos
Gabrielle Barkidjija, River Forest, Illinois
Gabrielle Beteag, Atlanta, Georgia
Jesse Mashburn, Hartselle, Alabama
Nikola Printz, Novato, California
Isabel Signoret, Miami, Florida

Tenors
Victor Cardamone, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Gabriel Hernandez, Tampa, Florida
Philippe L'Esperance, Grafton, Massachusetts
WooYoung Yoon, Seoul, South Korea
Tianchi Zhang, Huainan, Anhui, China

Baritones
Thomas Lynch, Lynbrook, New York
Samson McCrady, Tucson, Arizona
Laureano Quant, Barranquilla, Colombia

Bass-Baritones
Ben Brady, Denver, Colorado
Andrew Dwan, Mountain View, California
Seungyun Kim, Cheong-ju, South Korea

Apprentice Coaches
Yang Lin, Shanghai, China
Michael McElvain, Chicago, Illinois
Anna Smigelskaya, Saint Petersburg, Russia
Shiyu Tan, Changsha, Hunan, China
Marika Yasuda, Williamsburg, Virginia

Apprentice Stage Director
Audrey Chait, Menlo Park, California

The Merola Opera Program announced participants for 2020, the last for San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald (pictured, photograph by Kristen Loken), who is also the Artistic Director of the program.

The Schwabacher Summer Concert at the Presidio Theatre (99 Moraga Avenue, San Francisco) is on Thursday, July 9 and Saturday, July 11.

The Merola artists perform Postcard from Morocco on Thursday, July 23 and Saturday, July 25 and Le nozze di Figaro on Thursday, August 6 and Saturday, August 8. All of these operas are to be performed at the Presidio Theatre.

The season ends with the participants singing in the annual Merola Grand Finale on Saturday, August 22 at the War Memorial Opera House.

The Merolini arrive June 2, 2020, though the COVID-19 situation is being monitored, and the season may be postponed or canceled as a result.

Official Site | Press Releases


The Met's 2020-2021 Season

MetoperaSeptember 21- December 12 2020: Aida
September 22- October 16 2020: Les Contes d'Hoffmann
September 23- October 10 2020: Roberto Devereux
October 2 2020- March 12 2021: Carmen
October 17- November 6 2020: Tristan und Isolde
October 24 2020- May 8 2021: La Traviata
October 30 2020- May 29 2021: Il Trovatore
November 12- December 5 2020: The Fiery Angel
November 21 2020- April 17 2021: La Bohème
November 30- December 23 2020: Fidelio
December 11 2020- January 14 2021: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
December 15 2020- January 8 2021: Hansel and Gretel
December 31 2020- June 5 2021: Die Zauberflöte
January 12- April 22 2021: Roméo et Juliette
March 2-21 2021: Giulio Cesare
March 1- May 20 2021: Don Giovanni
March 5-20 2021: Lulu
March 16- April 6 2021: Rusalka
April 8- May 2 2021: Dead Man Walking
March 26- May 15 2021: Nabucco
April 16- May 6 2021: Die Frau Ohne Schatten
May 7- June 4 2021: Il Pirata
May 21- June 5 2021: Billy Budd

The Met announced the 2020-2021 season. The new productions are Aida, The Fiery Angel, Die Zauberflöte, Don Giovanni, and Dead Man Walking. Sunday matinee performances are continuing and the season extends into June.

Press Releases | Official Site


Don Giovanni at Pocket Opera

Don-giovanni-pocket-opera-2020* Notes *
Pocket Opera opened the 2020 season with Don Giovanni yesterday afternoon at the Hillside Club in Berkeley. The singing and staging of this English language performance was one of the most engaging I've experienced of Mozart's dark comedy.

Donald Pippin, the Artistic Director Emeritus of Pocket Opera, has retired and this is the first performance of the company I've seen without his whimsical commentary. While I did miss him, his stamp is still certainly seen in the translation of the libretto.

The opera started off more or less as a local company production, some very suspect playing from the tiny orchestra and fine singing from a strong cast. Director Jane Erwin's work is straightforward. Mozart's music leaves the eleven instrumentalists very exposed, every sour note or lack of unison was obvious.

Music director and conductor César Cañón made an earnest effort but there were moments of complete and painful chaos. Cañón's piano playing was sprightly and there were times when the Pocket Philharmonic managed to pull it together.

The cast is talented. Bass Jason Sarten is highly believable as the Commendatore, especially when he is meant to be a statue, his movements were spot on. Baritone Mitchell Jones is charming as Masetto, as is soprano Sara LeMesh as Zerlina. It was very interesting to hear LeMesh in something so different her spectacular turn as Bess in West Edge Opera's Breaking the Waves last summer. Her voice has a wonderful vitality to it but is always precise.

Mezzo-soprano Jaime Korkos begins with an appropriately hysterical tone as Donna Elvira, her desperation seems real and she grew more and more plaintive by the end. In contrast, Rabihah Davis Dunn was a well-controlled Donna Anna, her soprano is clear and flexible. As Don Ottavio, tenor Kevin Gino is sturdy and open. Baritone Spencer Dodd is a warm and winsome Leporello while baritone Anders Fröhlich radiates danger and menace as Don Giovanni.

By the beginning of the Act I finale I had pretty much heard and seen what I had expected, but when Don Ottavio brandishes a gun (which is in the libretto but I've rarely if ever seen on stage) I was snapped out of my complacency. The stakes seem very genuine, Don Giovanni's use of Leporello as a human shield actually makes sense, as is the latter's anger at the beginning of Act II.

The momentum of the drama wasn't lost after the intermission, and the handling of Don Giovanni's descent to hell was skillful. Fröhlich tears off his shirt as he is tormented by the invisible chorus of demons, then he himself is unseen by the rest of the cast. Leporello picks up the cast-off clothing as he explains himself in the concluding ensemble.

* Tattling * 
There were the usual watch alarms at the hour. The audience looked full, I only saw one empty seat in the sixth row.