San Francisco Opera in 2017-2018 presents the Ring cycle, a new John Adams/Peter Sellars collaboration called Girls of the Golden West, plus new productions of Elektra (Christine Goerke, Stephanie Blythe, Adrianne Pieczonka) and Manon (Nadine Sierra, Michael Fabiano.)
The full press release follows:
SAN FRANCISCO, CA (January 17, 2017) — San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock and Music Director Nicola Luisotti today announced plans for the 2017–18 repertory season. The Company’s 95th season will open Friday, September 8 with a gala performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot led by Maestro Luisotti and an international cast starring Martina Serafin, Maria Agresta and Brian Jagde. On the occasion of this special evening, San Francisco Opera Guild will produce their signature event Opera Ball 2017, presented in honor of Nicola Luisotti, who concludes his tenure as the Company’s music director at the end of the 2017–18 Season.
San Francisco Opera’s new season features the highly anticipated world premiere of Girls of the Golden West by composer John Adams; the return of Francesca Zambello’s production of Richard Wagner’s epic tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung); bold new productions of Richard Strauss’ gripping music drama Elektra and Jules Massenet’s sensual Manon; and revivals of Giacomo Puccini’s Turandot and Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. All performances will be presented at the War Memorial Opera House.
Today’s public announcement was held at San Francisco Opera’s Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera before an audience of the Bay Area press corps, cultural and civic community leaders and special guests. Director Francesca Zambello, composer John Adams and librettist/director Peter Sellars joined Matthew Shilvock for the live-streamed press conference.
“Our 2017–18 Season encapsulates the power of opera to tell the great stories of humanity, whether about us as individuals or as a society. The diverse sweep of engaging productions features many of the world’s finest artists, including some very exciting debuts,” said Matthew Shilvock. “The season was planned by David Gockley, and it represents the tenets of excellence that defined his incredible tenure with the Company, including the commissioning of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West. We are so proud to premiere this new opera in the fall as a culmination of the worldwide events honoring John’s 70th birthday year.”
Shilvock continued: “Beginning in September, we also honor Nicola Luisotti in his final season as our distinguished music director. The energy and vitality he has brought to us will resonate long into our future. The esteemed forces of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus, Dance Corps and Crew will create spectacular worlds on the War Memorial Opera House stage, worlds that will move, transport and thrill audiences. At the apex of this is the summer Ring Cycle, the most monumental celebration imaginable of the Company and the community that we serve. I am incredibly excited for what lies ahead.”
The 2017–18 Season marks Matthew Shilvock’s second as general director of San Francisco Opera. Shilvock is the Company’s seventh General Director in its 94-year-history, following in the footsteps of Gaetano Merola who founded San Francisco Opera in 1923, Kurt Herbert Adler (1953–1981), Terence A. McEwen (1982–1988), Lotfi Mansouri (1988–2001), Pamela Rosenberg (2001–2005) and David Gockley (2006–2016). Due to the necessity of long-term artistic planning and contracting of artists, David Gockley planned the 2017–18 Season. Shilvock’s first planned season as general director will be the 2018–19 repertory season.
At the conclusion of the 2017–18 Season, Nicola Luisotti will formally step down as music director. Maestro Luisotti made his San Francisco Opera debut in 2005 conducting Verdi’s La Forza del Destino and became music director in 2009. During his tenure with the Company, he has led over 40 opera productions and concerts, including a historic performance of Verdi’s Messa da Requiem that united the orchestras and choruses of San Francisco Opera and Teatro di San Carlo of Naples on the War Memorial Opera House stage. During the fall season, Luisotti will conduct performances of Turandot, La Traviata and the annual San Francisco Opera in the Park concert. As an expression of San Francisco Opera Guild’s appreciation of Nicola Luisotti’s artistic contributions, Guild President Jane Mudge designated the Italian maestro as their distinguished honoree for Opera Ball 2017.
“I am deeply honored to be on the podium for the gala opening of San Francisco Opera’s 2017–18 Season and to lead such an important cast of singers in Turandot,” commented Nicola Luisotti. “I’m very proud of the work we have accomplished during my time with San Francisco Opera. As I will be stepping down from the post of music director at the end of next season, it will certainly be an emotional year for me. I believe strongly in our Company and that we will continue to make extraordinary music each night. My wife, Rita, and I both thank the entire Company, the San Francisco Opera Guild and the Bay Area community from the bottom of our hearts.”
For the 2017–18 Season, San Francisco Opera has invited many of the world’s leading singers, as well as emerging artists, to perform at the War Memorial Opera House. They include: Maria Agresta, Jamie Barton, Stephanie Blythe, J’Nai Bridges, Julia Bullock, Melissa Citro, Leah Crocetto, Aurelia Florian, Christine Goerke, Evelyn Herlitzius, Hye Jung Lee, Karita Mattila, Ronnita Miller, Adrianne Pieczonka, Martina Serafin, Nadine Sierra, Nina Stemme; Raymond Aceto, Paul Appleby, Atalla Ayan, Daniel Brenna, David Cangelosi, Michael Fabiano, Greer Grimsley, Soloman Howard, Brian Jagde, Brandon Jovanovich, Elliot Madore, Štefan Margita, Ryan McKinny, Brian Mulligan, David Pershall, Artur Ruci?ski, Andrea Silvestrelli, Falk Struckmann, Davóne Tines and Alfred Walker.
Featured conductors, directors and designers include: Patrick Fournillier, Christopher Franklin, Grant Gershon, Nicola Luisotti, Henrik Nánási, Donald Runnicles; Vincent Boussard, Garnett Bruce, Anja Kühnhold, Shawna Lucey, Peter Sellars, Keith Warner, Francesca Zambello; John Conklin, David Gropman, David Hockney, Vincent Lemaire and Michael Yeargan. Ian Robertson is San Francisco Opera Chorus Director.
FALL 2017 SEASON
Puccini: Turandot (September 8–30; November 18–December 9)
The 2017–18 Season opens Friday, September 8 with Turandot, Giacomo Puccini’s 1926 unfinished masterpiece of fantasy and romanticism set in legendary Peking (last duet and finale by Franco Alfano). San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts an international cast led by the acclaimed Viennese soprano Martina Serafin as Princess Turandot. A frequent performer with the Vienna State Opera, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala and the Opéra National de Paris, Serafin sang her first performances in North America with San Francisco Opera in 2007 as the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. American tenor Brian Jagde, who was praised by The Mercury News for his “ardent and expressive” role debut as Radames in Aida last November, returns in 2017 to take on Calaf, another new role which is known for the famous aria “Nessun dorma.”
Italian soprano Maria Agresta will debut as the tragic heroine Liù on September 8, 12, 15 and 21. Heralded for her artistry in a variety of roles, Agresta’s performance as Amelia in Simon Boccanegra with Rome Opera led Opera News to observe: “her voice is exquisitely focused and freshly attractive in coloration, her legato impeccable and her soft singing as effortless as her fortissimos above the staff.” Last season at London’s Royal Opera, Agresta was praised for her portrayal of Violetta Valéry in La Traviata, which featured conductor Luisotti on the podium. American soprano and current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Toni Marie Palmertree will perform Liù on September 24 and 30. Palmertree thrilled San Francisco Opera audiences in November 2016 when, with two hours’ notice, she stepped in for an ailing colleague to perform as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly. American bass Raymond Aceto sings the role of Timur. Director Garnett Bruce stages this revival of David Hockney’s colorful production and Company Chorus Director Ian Robertson prepares the San Francisco Opera Chorus.
Turandot returns to the stage in November and December with a cast led by Swedish soprano Nina Stemme in the title role. Admired for her Brünnhilde in Wagner’s Ring cycle at San Francisco Opera in 2011, Stemme gives an equally accomplished stage portrayal of Turandot, for which the New York Times praised her “powerful, luxuriant voice [which] retained its warmth throughout the evening, with blazing high notes.” American soprano Leah Crocetto sings Liù, a role which she first performed with San Francisco Opera in 2011 and subsequently at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2015–16 Season. American bass Soloman Howard makes his Company and role debut as Timur, and American conductor Christopher Franklin bows for the first time with the Company leading the Opera Orchestra and Chorus in the November and December performances. Brian Jagde returns as Calaf and Joo Won Kang (Ping), Julius Ahn (Pang), Joel Sorensen (Pong), Brad Walker (a Mandarin) and Robert Brubaker (Emperor Altoum) complete the cast in all performances.
Strauss: Elektra (September 9–27)
On September 9, Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s 1909 opera Elektra surges back onto the War Memorial Opera House stage for the first time in two decades in a provocative new production by celebrated English director Keith Warner. This psychologically complex and vocally formidable opera requires lyric artists of the first rank and San Francisco Opera has assembled a superlative cast that includes soprano Christine Goerke, mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, along with bass-baritone Alfred Walker in his Company debut and tenor Robert Brubaker. The staging of this co-production with the National Theatre in Prague and the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe will be directed in revival by Anja Kühnhold. The creative team features the work of set designer Boris Kudli?ka, costume designerKaspar Glarner, lighting designer John Bishop and video designer Bartek Macias.
American soprano Christine Goerke returns to San Francisco Opera in one of her most celebrated roles as the deranged and vengeful Elektra. Her portrayal of the part with the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall led the New York Observer to proclaim: “To the rarefied society of superb interpreters of Elektra, consisting of perhaps two or three singers in each generation, we can now welcome Ms. Goerke.” American mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, “who boasts one of the most powerful voices in opera” (New York Times), makes her role debut as Elektra’s embattled mother, Klytemnestra. Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, renowned for her interpretation of Chrysothemis, returns to the Company for the first time since performing Tosca in 2009. In his first appearance with San Francisco Opera, American bass-baritone Alfred Walker sings Orest and tenor Robert Brubaker is Aegisth. Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, General Music Director of Komische Oper Berlin, makes his podium debut with the Company leading Strauss’ intricate and explosive score.
Warner’s setting of this opera based on the classic Greek tragedy brings Elektra into the present day. The British director commented: “On one hand, Elektra is really an amazingly complex, deep piece and on the other it is an almost horror movie kind of thriller. Dreadful, terrible deeds are happening in this family: there have been murders in the past and there will be more murders on the day when the story is taking place. We have decided to set the piece in a modern museum where a girl is going through and reading about Sophocles’ Electra and Carl Jung’s Electra complex. The artifacts and information trigger a series of memories in her and we go back into her story. She must confront the truth by confronting the terrible events that started this whole chain reaction of murder and mayhem.”
Verdi: La Traviata (September 23–October 17)
A revival of Verdi’s enduring classic La Traviata opens on September 23 with Maestro Nicola Luisotti leading a cast that includes three artists making their Company debuts in leading roles. Romanian soprano Aurelia Florian, who has performed Violetta Valéry in Berlin, Munich, Oslo and Tel Aviv, will sing her first performances in the United States as the courtesan who sacrifices everything for love. Brazilian tenor Atalla Ayan debuts as Alfredo Germont, a role which he will also sing this year in March and April at the Metropolitan Opera and in June at Covent Garden. Polish baritone Artur Ruci?ski will portray Giorgio Germont. Since his 2010 breakout performances in the title role of Eugene Onegin at Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin, Ruci?ski has been heard in many of the world’s leading opera houses and has performed Germont in Berlin, Verona and London. John Copley’s elegant production returns and will be directed in revival by Shawna Lucey. Flamenco performer and Artistic Director of Theatre Flamenco of San Francisco Carola Zertuche contributes new choreography in her Company debut.
Massenet: Manon (November 4–22
Soprano Nadine Sierra and tenor Michael Fabiano headline a new production of Jules Massenet’s opera of young love and reckless passion, Manon, which returns to the Company’s repertory on November 4 after an absence of 19 seasons. Sierra sings the title role for the first time in her career, which in 2016 included acclaimed debuts with the Metropolitan Opera, Milan’s La Scala and Opéra National de Paris where her “lithe soprano masterfully soared with tones of exceptional grace” in Cavalli’s Eliogabalo (Musical America). Hailed as “a sensational performer” by The Guardian for his role debut as Lensky in Eugene Onegin and last heard with San Francisco Opera in June 2016 performing the title role in Don Carlo for the first time, Fabiano premieres another new role with the Company in 2017 with Chevalier des Grieux. At a recent San Francisco Opera gala, the duo of Sierra and Fabiano were featured in the “vocally steamy” St. Sulpice scene from the opera. The San Francisco Chronicle declared “nothing got the audience quite so jazzed as the incendiary duet from Massenet’s Manon.”
Baritone David Pershall, who made his first appearance with the Company in September 2016 as Roucher in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, returns as Lescaut. Bass James Creswell is Comte des Grieux, baritone Timothy Mix is De Brétigny and tenor Robert Brubaker portrays Guillot de Morfontaine. Parisian-born conductor and Massenet specialist Patrick Fournillier, who made his Company debut in 2010 conducting Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac and who also led the 2013 new production of Les Contes d’Hoffmann, returns to conduct the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in Massenet’s plush score.
Vincent Boussard, whose production of Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi was presented at San Francisco Opera in 2012, returns to direct this new interpretation of Manon, a co-production with the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre and the Israeli Opera, featuring sets designed by Vincent Lemaire, costumes designed by Boussard and lighting by Gary Marder.
Boussard noted: “Manon is a specific play from 18th-century France, rewritten by Massenet in the 19th century, who was dreaming about that earlier time. So, we have to find all the crispy colors of all those periods of time. I tried to make it as pure as possible in terms of setting, not too much decoration. It is a style that requires the singers to be great performers because Manon is a very intimate piece. I believe that the story of a young lady who wants to listen to a call for freedom and pleasure belongs to our period of time.”
Adams: Girls of the Golden West (November 21–December 10)
On November 21, the War Memorial Opera House will play host to one of the musical season’s most eagerly anticipated events: the world premiere of Girls of the Golden West, the newest opera by composer and California resident John Adams, written expressly for San Francisco Opera. With a libretto by director Peter Sellars, Girls of the Golden West explores the dramatic and often brutal stories of pioneers on California’s Gold Rush frontier during the 1850s.
Initiated by the Company’s former General Director David Gockley, this auspicious opera debut will be the culmination of the yearlong, worldwide celebrations honoring the American composer’s 70th birthday. A co-commission and co-production between San Francisco Opera, The Dallas Opera, Nationale Opera and Ballet Amsterdam and the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Girls of the Golden West will premiere in San Francisco, a mere 200 miles away from the opera’s setting in the historic mining sites of Rich Bar and Downieville. The opera is presented by arrangement with Hendon Music, Inc., a Boosey & Hawkes company, publisher and copyright owner.
Adams, whose previous operas Nixon in China, The Death of Klinghoffer and Doctor Atomic have all been produced by San Francisco Opera, began work on the score in June 2015. He said, “I have a cabin in the Sierra Nevada Mountains not far from where these events in the opera took place. I know the terrain. I have hiked through those valleys and along those hillsides. This is home to me. Not many composers can hope to be as lucky as I to have this connection to the historical reality.”
The libretto by Sellars is drawn from period sources including The Shirley Letters, vivid accounts of life at Rich Bar written by Louise Amelia Knapp Smith Clappe, using her pen name “Dame Shirley”; speeches by civil rights champion Frederick Douglass; poetry of Argentinian, Chilean and Chinese miners; songs of the period; and the journalistic writings of Mark Twain.
Reflecting on these historic writings, Sellars commented: “The true stories of the Forty-Niners are overwhelming in their heroism, passion and cruelty, telling tales of racial conflicts, colorful and humorous exploits, political strife and struggles to build anew a life and to decide what it would mean to be American. And let me add that I’m hugely stimulated by the dynamic, high-spirited and deeply moving music that John is creating. I am in high anticipation in my eagerness to bring this new work to life, first in San Francisco, and later around the world.”
“One of the key elements in the opera,” Adams remarked, “is the trove of original Gold Rush song lyrics that I’ve set. These are lyrics that, in their frank and homely simplicity, describe the hardships, wild expectations and crushing realities these miners experienced.”
Adams continued, “I am unusually excited about our cast for this world premiere. They are, in a lot of ways, a slam dunk.” Soprano Julia Bullock will make her Company debut as Dame Shirley. Earning acclaim for her performances in contemporary works by Adams, Kaija Saariaho and Tyshawn Sorey, Bullock’s performance in Purcell’s The Indian Queen with the English National Opera was admired by The Telegraph for its “moments of heart-stopping beauty.” Bass-baritone Davóne Tines makes his first local operatic appearance as Ned Peters, an African-American cowboy and former slave who is drawn to the promise of the frontier. At age 30, Tines has had three operas composed with his voice in mind, and was hailed in a tweet by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross as a “great, electrifying singer.”
Mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges returns to the Company as Josefa Segovia, a young Mexican woman who serves drinks and entertains the miners at The Empire Hotel in Rich Bar. Along with her 2016 San Francisco Opera debut as Bersi in Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, Bridges, whom the Los Angeles Times and Opera News have declared a “rising star,” also won acclaim last year for her portrayal of Nefertiti in Philip Glass’ Akhnaten with LA Opera. Bass-baritone Ryan McKinny, who recently portrayed Amfortas in Parsifal at the Bayreuth Festival, will make his Company debut in Girls of the Golden West as Clarence King.
Tenor Paul Appleby, who last appeared with the Company as Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute in 2015, returns to sing the pivotal role of Joe Cannon, a miner whose desire for Josefa leads to a crisis in the camp. Having previously appeared with San Francisco Opera as Madame Mao Tse-tung in Nixon in China in 2012 and Olympia in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann in 2013, Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee returns to portray Ah Sing, the Chinese courtesan who wishes to marry Joe. Baritone Elliot Madore, who first appeared with the Company as Anthony Hope in Sweeney Todd, portrays the bartender of The Empire Hotel, Ramón. San Francisco Ballet principal dancer Lorena Feijoo will portray the mid-19th-century entertainer and celebrity Lola Montez, who was known for her provocative “Spider Dance.”
Sellars, who “has created a body of work that will transcend epoch and place, style and fad” (Opera News), anchors a creative team that is drawn from the worlds of opera, theater and cinema, including set designer David Gropman, costume designer Rita Ryack, lighting designerJames F. Ingalls, sound designer Mark Grey and choreographer John Heginbotham. Conductor Grant Gershon, currently in his sixteenth season as the artistic director of the Los Angeles Master Chorale, will lead the cast, San Francisco Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Dance Corps in this new work.
The collaboration between San Francisco Opera and John Adams began with the co-commission of The Death of Klinghoffer and presentation of its West Coast premiere in 1992. The Company commissioned the composer to create Doctor Atomic, presenting that work’s world premiere in 2005. Adams’ collaboration with Sellars extends back to 1987 when Sellars directed the world premiere of Adams’ first opera, Nixon in China, with a libretto by Alice Goodman, at Houston Grand Opera. San Francisco Opera presented Nixon in China in a production by Michael Cavanagh in 2012.
SUMMER 2018 SEASON
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (June 12–July 1)
(The Ring of the Nibelung)
From June 12 through July 1, 2018, San Francisco Opera will present one of the greatest and most ambitious works of music, theater and stagecraft ever created: Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung). When first unveiled as a full cycle at San Francisco Opera in 2011, Francesca Zambello’s production was hailed by the New York Times as “boldly contemporary” and the San Francisco Chronicle observed: “San Francisco Opera’s most ambitious undertaking in years also turned out to be the company’s greatest triumph.”
The 2018 Ring Festival will revive the acclaimed production in three complete cycles of the tetralogy: Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung. Director Francesca Zambello returns to direct and introduce several new features, including technologically advanced projections, new imagery and restudied stage action that were not part of the production’s earlier incarnation at San Francisco Opera in 2011. Utilizing visuals from various periods of American history in each of the four operas, Zambello commented: “Since directing the Ring again in 2016 in Washington, D.C., the power of the work feels even more contemporary. We are presenting a world in some ways familiar to our audience but also one that will feel very mythic as we look to our country’s rich imagery. The characters seem known to us as we have placed more emphasis on the role of the family and the role of redemption through all the female characters. The great overarching themes of the Ring—nature, power and corruption—resound through America’s past and haunt our present.” Renowned Wagnerian conductor Donald Runnicles returns to lead cast, orchestra and chorus in all three cycles.
An international cast of the world’s leading Wagnerians has been assembled for this production of the Ring, including a trio of exceptional artists who are new to the Company. German soprano Evelyn Herlitzius will portray Brünnhilde in Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung; American tenor Daniel Brenna will bow as Siegfried in both Siegfried and Götterdämmerung; and German bass-baritone Falk Struckmann, who has performed most of the low-voiced roles in the Ring, makes both his Company and role debuts as Alberich in Das Rheingold, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung.
Known throughout the world for his interpretation of Wotan King of the Gods, American bass-baritone Greer Grimsley brings his celebrated portrayal to the War Memorial Opera House stage for the first time. Finnish soprano Karita Mattila will sing Sieglinde in Die Walküre. American tenor Brandon Jovanovich reprises the roles he performed in the 2011 production: Froh in Das Rheingold and Siegmund in Die Walküre. Triumphant in her Company debut as Adalgisa in the 2014 performances of Bellini’s Norma, American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton will sing the roles of Fricka in Das Rheingold and Die Walküre, and Waltraute and the Second Norn in Götterdämmerung. Štefan Margita and David Cangelosi reprise the roles of Loge and Mime respectively, portrayals for which the two tenors were highly praised in the Company’s 2011 Ring. Bass Raymond Aceto sings the roles of Fafner (Das Rheingold and Siegfried) and Hunding (Die Walküre); baritone Brian Mulligan portrays Donner (Das Rheingold) and Gunther (Götterdämmerung); and bass Andrea Silvestrelli is Fasolt (Das Rheingold) and Hagen (Götterdämmerung).
As part of today’s announcement, San Francisco Opera revealed additions to the roster of artists who will be featured in the four Ring operas. Soprano Julie Adams joins the previously announced cast as Freia in Das Rheingold and Gerhilde in Die Walküre. Mezzo-soprano Ronnita Miller, mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton and incoming Adler Fellow soprano Sarah Cambidge will portray the three Norns in Götterdämmerung. The Valkyries in the third act of Die Walküre, who sing the memorable “Ho-jo-to-ho”s following Wagner’s iconic “Ride of the Valkyries,” will be performed by Adams, Cambidge, Melissa Citro, Laura Krumm, Lauren McNeese, Renée Rapier and Renée Tatum.
All artists will perform their roles in each of the three cycles, which are scheduled for June 12–17, June 19–24 and June 26–July 1, 2018. Ring cycle performances take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. To provide Ring aficionados and those who are new to the work additional points of engagement, San Francisco Opera will partner with Bay Area cultural institutions to present myriad activities during the 2018 Ring Festival, including lectures and other events. The full calendar of ancillary programs will be announced at a later date. For more information, visit sfopera.com/ring.
Regarded as one of the world’s leading companies in presenting the Ring, San Francisco Opera first produced Wagner’s masterwork in 1935 with Friedrich Schorr (Wotan), Lauritz Melchior (Siegmund/Siegfried), Elisabeth Rethberg (Sieglinde) and Kirsten Flagstad (Brünnhilde). Later stagings followed in 1972, 1985, 1990, 1999 and 2011.
For details of past San Francisco Opera presentations of Turandot, Elektra, La Traviata, Manon and the Ring, visit the online performance archive at archive.sfopera.com.