“XERXES” – At San Francisco Opera, Starring Susan Graham and David Daniels, 10/30—11/19

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Sean Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Opera presents the Company premiere of George Frideric Handel’s Xerxes, opening October 30th with five subsequent performances through November 19th. Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest Handel productions of our time, this visually stunning Olivier Award–winning staging of Xerxes, created by film and theater director Nicholas Hytner, is directed by Michael Walling. Clever comedy is intertwined with tender poignancy in this tale of unrequited love and intrigue at a royal court. Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers leads an outstanding cast featuring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as “Xerxes”, countertenor David Daniels as “Arsamenes”, soprano Lisette Oropesa as “Romilda”, soprano Heidi Stober as “Atalanta”, contralto Sonia Prina as “Amastris” and bass-baritones Wayne Tigges as “Ariodates” and Michael Sumuel as “Elviro”.

Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham returns to San Francisco Opera in the title role of Handel’s Baroque masterpiece, Xerxes. She previously performed this role in the same Hytner production opposite David Daniels with Houston Grand Opera in 2010. A beloved and frequent collaborator with San Francisco Opera, Graham’s most recent Company appearance was in the title role of 2008’s Ariodante, following 2007’s acclaimed performances in the title role of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride—a role she has also performed at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the Metropolitan Opera; Paris Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago; and the Salzburg Festival. Among several other San Francisco Opera performances, Graham notably created the role of “Sister Helen Prejean” in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.

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Susan Graham and David Daniels

American countertenor David Daniels (“Arsamenes”) made his San Francisco Opera debut as “Nerone” in 1998’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea and returned in the title role of Giulio Cesare and as “Bertarido” in Rodelinda. Frequently performing both in operas and recitals around the world, Daniels made history as the first countertenor to give a solo recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall. Highlights of recent seasons include the title role in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera; “Oberon” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and “Lichas” in Hercules with Lyric Opera of Chicago as well as “Roberto” in Vivaldi’s Griselda with the Santa Fe Opera. Daniels has previously appeared as “Arsamenes” at Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company and New York City Opera. An active recording artist, David Daniels’ debut album in 1998 was Handel: Opera Arias conducted by Sir Roger Norrington featuring several selections from Xerxes.

American soprano Heidi Stober (“Atalanta”) made her San Francisco Opera debut last season as “Sophie” in Werther and returned as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro; she returns again this season as “Pamina” in The Magic Flute. A graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Stober also appeared as “Atalanta” in that company’s 2010 production of Xerxes. Future engagements this season include “Pamina” in The Magic Flute, “Zerlina” in Don Giovanni and “Micaëla” in Carmen, among others with Deutsche Oper Berlin; “Gretel” in Hänsel und Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera; and “Zdenka” in Arabella with the Santa Fe Opera.

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Heidi Stober and Lisette Oropesa

American soprano Lisette Oropesa makes her San Francisco Opera debut as “Romilda”—a new role in her repertoire. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Artist Program, her engagements with that company include “Susanna” in Le Nozze di Figaro, “Woglinde” in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, “Lisette” in La Rondine, the “Forest Bird” in Siegfried and “Amor” in Orfeo ed Euridice. Other recent appearances include the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and her Bavarian State Opera debut as “Ismene” in Mitradate, Re di Ponto.

Italian contralto Sonia Prina made her United States debut in 2008 with critically acclaimed performances at San Francisco Opera as “Polinesso” in Ariodante. Prina returns as “Amastris”, a role she also sang previously with Susan Graham and David Daniels at Houston Grand Opera in 2010. Holding a particular fondness for Handel, Prina has sung the title roles of Giulio Cesare in Genoa and Lille, Orlando in Ravenna, Amadigi di Gaula at the Teatro San Carlo, and Silla in Rome.

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Sonia Prina and Wayne Tigges

Bass-baritone Wayne Tigges made his San Francisco Opera debut earlier this season as “Sam” and “Wesley” in Heart of a Soldier. He returns as “Ariodates” in this production and again as “Zuniga” in Carmen. Recent engagements include “Willy Wonka” in the European premiere of Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket at the Wexford Festival; “Escamillo” in Carmen and “Leporello” in Don Giovanni at the San Diego Opera; “Jochanaan” in Salome with Arizona Opera; and Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Colorado and Lyric Opera of Chicago.

San Francisco Opera Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers most recently led the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis and Donna Di Novelli’s Heart of a Soldier at San Francisco Opera. Summers has previously led a vast repertory for the Company, including Ariodante; Samson et Dalila; Iphigénie en Tauride; Il Trittico; the world premieres of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1998) and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (2000); and the West Coast premiere of Heggie’s Three Decembers (2008). Artistic and Music Director of Houston Grand Opera, Summers has frequently conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Welsh National Opera, the Dallas Opera, Opera Australia, Seattle Opera, Lisbon Opera, Bordeaux Opera, and the Bregenz Festival, among many others.

This stunning English National Opera production was created by internationally acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner, with sets and costumes designed by David Fielding and lighting designed by Paul Pyant. Equally at home in theater, opera and film, Nicholas Hytner currently serves as artistic director of London’s Royal National Theatre. A three-time Olivier-award winner, Nicholas Hytner has directed everything from Le Nozze di Figaro to Miss Saigon and the well-known film The Madness of King George. Michael Walling makes his San Francisco Opera debut directing this revival which he has previously led at English National Opera and Houston Grand Opera. His other opera credits include Nixon in China at Greek National Opera, and La Bohème and Die Walküre at English National Opera.

Click on the date to order tickets on-line:
Sunday, October 30th, 1:30 pm
Friday, November 4th, 7:30 pm
Tuesday, November 8th, 7:30 pm
Friday, November 11, 7:30 pm
Wednesday, November 16, 7:00 pm
Saturday, November 19th, 7:30 pm

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