SAN FRANCISCO OPERA – 87th Season Opens Friday, September 11th with Verdi’s IL TROVATORE

Music Director Nicola Luisotti will conduct an illustrious cast featuring Marco Berti, Dmitri Hvorostovky, Sondra Radvanovsky and Stephanie Blythe.
“With Maestro Luisotti, San Francisco Opera will return to its heritage of an emphasis on the Italian opera repertory,” says David Gockley, General Director.

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley, joined by Music Director Designate Nicola Luisotti and Chairman of the Board of Directors John Gunn, announced artistic details for the upcoming 2009–10 repertory season; plans to commission three operas by American composers Christopher Theofanidis, Mark Adamo and Jennifer Higdon; the presentation of Richard Wagner’s magnum opus Der Ring des Nibelungen for June 2011; the appointments of Patrick Summers as principal guest conductor and Giuseppe Finzi as assistant music director; and a return to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, for free community simulcast performances of Tosca and Il Trovatore. Gockley and Maestro Luisotti laid out a bold artistic vision of repertory and artists underscoring their new working relationship, while Gunn reaffirmed the Company’s strategic financial planning reflective of the evolving international economic climate.

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David Gockley, Nicola Luisotti, and John Gunn.
Photo, Seán Martinfield

“The 2009–10 season launches our new relationship with incoming Music Director Nicola Luisotti, a wonderfully talented and charismatic conductor who I believe will be warmly embraced by the community,” said General Director David Gockley. “With Maestro Luisotti, San Francisco Opera will return to its heritage of an emphasis on the Italian opera repertory.”

“We all acknowledge that this economic environment is very serious and challenging. After careful financial and artistic planning, including many modifications to the budget, I am very pleased to announce that we have assembled a season of grand opera productions with a roster of world renowned singers, conductors and directors. While there may be fewer and less elaborate productions, I will not shrink away from the musical values for which this Company is regarded around the globe, and I believe the new season emphasizes this point.”

“In its 86 years of existence, San Francisco Opera has remained a bastion of artistic excellence and innovation,” said Chairman John Gunn, “and the new season is no exception. The financial realities now confronting our global economy have forced us to reduce expenses in the coming seasons and work within a tighter and leaner budget. The reduction of our endowment in particular has precipitated this strategic financial repositioning of the Company. That said, San Francisco Opera remains fully committed to our core values of offering a superior grand opera experience to our audiences both inside the War Memorial and out in the community. In short, we are managing confidently but remain ambitious.”

San Francisco Opera’s forthcoming 87th season commences on Friday, September 11, 2009 and showcases Music Director Nicola Luisotti on the podium leading an international cast in Giuseppe Verdi’s popular Il Trovatore in a production by David McVicar.

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IL TROVATORE – Marco Berti, Dmitri Hvorostovsky, and Sondra Radvanovsky
Photo, Nigel Dickson

In addition to Il Trovatore, Maestro Luisotti conducts Salome, Otello and The Girl of the Golden West in his inaugural season as San Francisco Opera’s music director. He is the Company’s third music director and follows the acclaimed musical legacy of Sir John Pritchard (1985–89) and Donald Runnicles, who concludes his 17-year tenure in the summer of 2009. Luisotti made his Company debut in 2005 with La Forza del Destino and returned in 2008 for La Bohème. Since his professional debut with Stuttgart Opera in 2002, Luisotti’s meteoric rise in the classical music world has brought him to leading opera houses and concert halls, including London’s Royal Opera, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the Vienna State Opera, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, where his performances have been unanimously acclaimed.

“It was love at first sight with this company and with this beautiful city of San Francisco,” said Luisotti. “I cannot imagine a more simpatico place to make my life and my music, especially with such a talented group of musicians as the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. My job as music director and conductor is to serve the composer—and the community. Life is short, and we have to use music to improve the lives of the people around us. That is my mission.”

From popular classics to operatic works long absent from the War Memorial Opera House stage, the 2009–10 season offers Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Giacomo Puccini’s three one-act operas that comprise Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment, Richard Strauss’ Salome, Verdi’s Otello, Charles François Gounod’s Faust, Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West and Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre. Previously announced plans to present a new production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, as well as Puccini’s La Boheme, have been cancelled as a result of the current financial challenges. The 2009–10 season runs September 11 through December 2, 2009 and June 5 through July 2, 2010 and features the critically acclaimed San Francisco Opera Chorus, led by Chorus Director Ian Robertson, and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

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EWA PODLEŚ, MALGORZATA WALEWSKA, and DIANA DAMRAU

The 2009–10 season includes the Company debuts of several renowned artists, such as sopranos Diana Damrau (Marie/The Daughter of the Regiment), Nadja Michael (title role of Salome), Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora/Il Trovatore), Svetla Vassileva (Desdemona/Otello) and Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde/Die Walküre); mezzo-sopranos Janina Baechle (Fricka/Die Walküre) and Malgorzata Walewska (Azucena/Il Trovatore); contraltos Meredith Arwady (The Marquise of Berkenfeld/The Daughter of the Regiment, The Abbess/Suor Angelica, Zita/Gianni Schicchi) and Ewa Podleś (The Princess/Suor Angelica); tenors Johan Botha (title role of Otello), Beau Gibson (Cassio/Otello), Salvatore Licitra (Dick Johnson/The Girl of the Golden West) and Garrett Sorenson (Narraboth/Salome); baritone Marco Vratogna (Iago/Otello); and basses Burak Bilgili (Ferrando/Il Trovatore), and Bruno Praticò (Sulpice/The Daughter of the Regiment); and conductors Maurizio Benini (Faust), Michele Mariotti (The Daughter of the Regiment), and Cornelius Meister (The Abduction from the Seraglio), who makes his U.S. opera debut with the Company.

San Francisco Opera welcomes back many acclaimed singers to the War Memorial Opera House, including sopranos Anna Christy, Mary Dunleavy, Patricia Racette, Nina Stemme and Deborah Voigt; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe (Blythe makes her Company debut in May 2009 with the Verdi Requiem), Catherine Cook, and Irina Mishura; tenors Kim Begley, Marco Berti, Juan Diego Flórez, Brandon Jovanovich, Matthew Polenzani, Stefano Secco (Secco also makes his Company debut in the Verdi Requiem this May) and Christopher Ventris; baritones Mark Delavan, Roberto Frontali, Paolo Gavanelli, Greer Grimsley, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Brian Mulligan; and basses Raymond Aceto, Jake Gardner, Eric Halfvarson, John Relyea and Peter Rose.

San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello continues her relationship with the Company and directs the second installment of the “American” Ring cycle, Die Walküre, in 2010. Acclaimed directors Laurent Pelly (The Daughter of the Regiment), Walter Sutcliffe (Il Trovatore, in a production by David McVicar), Chas Rader-Shieber (The Abduction from the Seraglio) and Seán Curran (Salome) make their San Francisco Opera debuts, and the Company welcomes back James Robinson (Il Trittico, Salome) and Stephen Barlow (Otello, Faust).

David Gockley’s commitment to presenting new works includes plans to commission operas by composers Christopher Theofanidis, Mark Adamo and Jennifer Higdon. In the 2011–12 season, San Francisco Opera plans to present the world premiere of a new opera by Christopher Theofanidis, with a libretto by Donna DiNovelli, that deals with themes of heroism and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers, this opera is expected to have its premiere in September 2011. Mark Adamo creates the music and libretto for The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, scheduled for June 2013. According to the composer, this opera “draws on the Gnostic gospels, the canonical gospels and fifty years of new Biblical scholarship to reimagine the loves and conflicts of the New Testament through the eyes of its leading female character.” Composer Jennifer Higdon will work with librettist Gene Scheer for the creation of a new work—Higdon’s first full-length opera— slated to have its premiere in Fall 2013. The subject of Higdon and Scheer’s work will be announced at a later date.

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MARY DUNLEAVY, JOHAN BOTHA, and NADJA MICHAEL

San Francisco Opera also plans to present Bay Area stage premieres of two American operas: Nixon in China by John Adams, set to a libretto by Alice Goodman, and Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, a co-commission with the opera companies of Dallas, San Diego, and Calgary. Considered one of the seminal operas of the 20th century and a cornerstone of minimalist music since its 1987 premiere at Houston Grand Opera, Nixon in China has been performed around the world and receives its fully staged Bay Area premiere in the summer of 2012. Heggie and Scheer’s eagerly anticipated opera based on Herman Melville’s landmark of 19th-century American fiction receives its premiere by the Dallas Opera in the 2009–10 season and features world renowned tenor Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab and Patrick Summers on the podium; Heppner and Summers return to San Francisco Opera for the work in the fall of 2012.

“With Washington National Opera’s recent announcement to postpone the final installment of our joint Ring production indefinitely, it has fallen to San Francisco Opera to take the leadership role in completing the project by creating Götterdämmerung,” said David Gockley. “Company Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello and Maestro Donald Runnicles will work with us on the artistic direction of Götterdämmerung and the presentation of the complete Der Ring des NibelungenDas Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung – in three cycles set for June 2011.”

Tickets for the 2011 Ring cycle go on sale in Fall 2009 and will be initially offered to San Francisco Opera subscribers and donors. Complete details about the cycle will be announced at a later date.

San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants partner with Webcor Builders to present two free live simulcasts at AT&T Park in 2009. Puccini’s Tosca will be simulcast live from the War Memorial Opera House to AT&T Park’s high definition scoreboard on Friday, June 5 as part of the Company’s Summer 2009 season. On Saturday, September 19 the Company celebrates the opening of the Fall 2009 season with a simulcast of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti. Baseball and opera fans alike have the rare opportunity to enjoy glorious opera in the beautiful and convivial outdoor setting of AT&T Park. Webcor Presents Opera at the Ballpark is made possible through the extraordinary technology of the Koret-Taube Media Suite. The Company’s previous simulcasts in September 2007 and June 2008 were enjoyed by more than 38,000 attendees.

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See Related: FINE ARTS CRITIC SEAN MARTINFIELD

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Seán Martinfield is a native San Franciscan. He is a Theatre Arts Graduate from San Francisco State University, a professional singer, and well-known private vocal coach to Bay Area actors and singers of all ages and persuasions. His clients have appeared in Broadway National Tours including Wicked, Aïda, Miss Saigon, Rent, Bye Bye Birdie, in theatres and cabarets throughout the Bay Area, and are regularly featured in major City events including Diva Fest, Gay Pride, and Halloween In The Castro. As an Internet consultant in vocal development and audition preparation he has published thousands of responses to those seeking his advice concerning singing techniques, professional and academic auditions, and careers in the Performing Arts. Mr. Martinfield’s Broadway clients have all profited from his vocal methodology, “The Belter’s Method”, which is being prepared for publication. If you want answers about your vocal technique, post him a question on AllExperts.com. If you would like to build up your vocal performance chops and participate in the Bay Area’s rich theatrical scene, e-mail him at: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.

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