It’s blood, sweat and tears with Tosca, Porgy and Bess, La Traviata, and the Verdi Requiem
By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka
San Francisco Opera presents its 2009 summer season June 2nd through July 5th at the War Memorial Opera House. The featured works are Giacomo Puccini’s TOSCA, Giuseppe Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA and George and Ira Gershwin’s PORGY AND BESS. This trio of masterpieces – two beloved Italian classics and the quintessential American folk opera – will thrill both opera aficionados and novices alike with a cadre of world renowned artists and three of opera’s most magnificent scores. The summer season is also highlighted by a special performance of the VERDI REQUIEM honoring Maestro Donald Runnicles on May 29th and a return to OPERA IN THE BALLPARK for a free live simulcast of TOSCA on June 5th. Click here for more information: SF Opera
San Francisco Opera’s summer repertory opens June 2nd with Puccini’s TOSCA,, bringing to life a tempestuous world of cruelty and deception through the tale of an idealistic artist, a celebrated singer and a corrupt police chief engaged in a fierce battle of wills. Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka makes her Company debut in the title role of this Lotfi Mansouri production – a re-creation of Armando Agnini’s Tosca production that opened the War Memorial Opera House in 1932, first seen at the 1997 reopening of the War Memorial Opera House after its extensive renovation. A turbulent story of love found and lost, PORGY AND BESS stands at the pinnacle of the American operatic repertoire and is highlighted by almost a dozen of Gershwin’s most recognizable melodies. American bass-baritone Eric Owens and Merola Opera Program alumna Laquita Mitchell both make their role debuts as Porgy and Bess, an unlikely couple who manage to find love amidst the squalor of Catfish Row. General Director David Gockley, whose long association with Porgy and Bess has made it a mainstay of the operatic repertoire, brings Gershwin’s beloved opera to San Francisco for the first time in more than a decade. San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello directs her critically acclaimed production, and John DeMain returns to the podium. Director Marta Domingo’s lively production of Verdi’s LA TRAVIATA sets the timeless story of a conflicted courtesan, her devoted lover and his disapproving father in the appropriately exuberant Roaring Twenties. Donald Runnicles conducts the emotionally evocative and eternally popular score in his final performances as the Company’s music director. International superstar Anna Netrebko is the glamorous yet tortured Violetta, a role she shares with Elizabeth Futral and Ailyn Pérez.
THE VERDI REQUIEM HONORING MAESTRO DONALD RUNNICLES (May 29th)
As Maestro Donald Runnicles concludes his illustrious 17-year tenure as San Francisco Opera’s music director and principal conductor, he leads a special concert of Verdi’s Requiem on May 29 at 8 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House. The celebrated roster of soloists includes soprano Patricia Racette, who returns in the 2009–10 Season to star in Puccini’s Il Trittico and Gounod’s Faust, as well as bass Andrea Silvestrelli, last seen as Fasolt in Wagner’s Das Rheingold. Also featured, in their highly anticipated San Francisco Opera debuts, are mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and tenor Stefano Secco, both also returning in the 2009–10 Season. This salute to Donald Runnicles marks a rare occasion when the San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra will be showcased on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House under the baton of their renowned maestro.
Donald Runnicles’ nearly two decades of musical leadership have left an indelible mark on the Company and the Bay Area musical community. Music Director of San Francisco Opera since 1992, he first led San Francisco Opera in two Wagner Ring cycles in 1990 and has since conducted more than 60 productions here, including the world premieres of Adams’s Doctor Atomic and Susa’s The Dangerous Liaisons; the North American premiere of Messiaen’s Saint François d’Assise; and the West Coast premiere of Wallace’s Harvey Milk. Although Maestro Runnicles goes on to his newly appointed posts as general music director of Deutsche Oper Berlin and chief conductor of the BBC Scottish Symphony in the fall of 2009, he will continue to be a part of San Francisco Opera’s musical life in the future, which includes leading Die Walküre in June 2010 and the complete Ring cycle in 2011.
WEBCOR BUILDERS PRESENTS OPERA IN THE BALLPARK (June 5th)
San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants partner with Webcor Builders to present one of the summer’s most exciting community events: a FREE live simulcast of Puccini’s Tosca at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 5 at AT&T Park. Through state-of-the-art technology made possible by the Company’s Koret-Taube Media Suite, Tosca will be transmitted in 1920×1080 high definition (HD) to AT&T Park’s 103-feet wide Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision scoreboard—one of the highest quality outdoor scoreboards in the nation—live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House. Concert quality audio combined with AT&T Park’s huge screen will create an unmatched operatic experience for attendees sitting in the stands and on the baseball field. Traditional baseball game concessions will be available, providing audiences the rare opportunity to eat hot dogs, peanuts, garlic fries and popcorn while listening to glorious opera. Over 23,000 music lovers enjoyed the Company’s June 2008 simulcast of Lucia di Lammermoor, and large crowds are once again expected to turn out and experience world-class opera in one of San Francisco’s most beautiful locations. Online registration for the simulcast, which assures early entrance into the ballpark for preferred seating and entry into a special prize drawing, begins April 6 at sfopera.com.
PUCCINI’S TOSCA, (June 2nd – 26th)
A fierce melodrama set to magnificent music, Tosca tells the tragic story of the beautiful yet volatile singer Floria Tosca, the idealistic painter Mario Cavaradossi, and an amoral police chief, Baron Scarpia, willing to use his power to satisfy his lecherous appetite. Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka makes her Company debut in the title role opposite Carlo Ventre as Cavaradossi and Lado Ataneli as the evil Scarpia, also making his debut. Italian conductor Marco Armiliato returns to conduct and former Adler Fellow Jose Maria Condemi directs the San Francisco Opera production.
THE GERSHWINS PORGY AND BESSS (June 9–27)
George Gershwin originally conceived Porgy and Bess as an “American folk opera” and hoped it would have its world premiere at the Metropolitan Opera, a suggestion that was refused because of the the controversial nature of the subject matter. Porgy and Bess was consequently reworked as a musical theater piece and opened on Broadway in 1935 with a cast of all African-American artists–an extremely bold move given the segregationist views of the era. The work enjoyed more than 40 years in the musical theater repertoire, with several significant revivals and a film version starring Sydney Poitier and Dorothy Dandridge in the title roles. Houston Grand Opera (HGO), under the leadership of David Gockley, presented Gershwin’s original opera for the very first time on the operatic stage in 1976, conducted by John DeMain. The production established Porgy and Bess as one of the greatest American operas and earned HGO a Tony Award, a Grammy Award and the Grand Prix du Disque. San Francisco Opera Guild presents an Insight Panel Discussion featuring members of the cast and production team on Wednesday, June 3 at 6 p.m. in the Herbst Theatre. Insight panels are free for Opera members and $5 for the general public; tickets can be purchased at the door 30 minutes prior to the discussion.
VERDI’S LA TRAVIATA (June 13-July 5)
Director Marta Domingo brings the Roaring Twenties to life in Verdi’s La Traviata, the eternally popular opera about a conflicted courtesan, her devoted lover and his disapproving father. San Francisco Opera Music Director Donald Runnicles conducts a cast headed by soprano Anna Netrebko as Violetta; she shares the role with Elizabeth Futral and Ailyn Pérez. Netrebko, Musical America’s 2008 “Musician of the Year,” is a 1996 alumna of the Merola Opera Program who made her United States debut as Lyudmila in San Francisco Opera’s 1995 Ruslan and Lyudmila. The cast also features tenors Charles Castronovo and 2009 Adler Fellow David Lomelí as the faithful Alfredo Germont and baritones Dwayne Croft and Stephen Powell as Giorgio Germont, Alfredo’s controlling father. Conductor Edwin Outwater leads the July 5 performance. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first performance of Verdi’s La Traviata in the city of San Francisco.
Start practicing now! Click on the titles to order the vocal scores on-line:
TOSCA – Complete Vocal Score. By Giacomo Puccini. For Voice and Piano.
Porgy and Bess – Complete Vocal Score. By George Gershwin, Dorothy Heyward. For Voice and Piano.
LA TRAVIATA – Complete Vocal Score. By Giuseppi Verdi. For Voice and Piano.
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Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Seán Martinfield, who also serves as Fine Arts Critic, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.