Patricia Racette, James Valenti, Joshua Hopkins and Heidi Melton appear with conductor Stephen Lord and the SF Opera Orchestra Opera

By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Fine Arts Critic
Copyright © 2007 San Francisco Sentinel

SAN FRANCISCO OPERA returns to Sigmund Stern Grove for the final concert of the 70th Season of the Stern Grove Festival on Sunday, August 19 at 2:00 pm. Renowned soprano Patricia Racette, tenor James Valenti, baritone Joshua Hopkins, and San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellow Heidi Melton are featured in a program of classic Italian opera arias and ensembles with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra led by acclaimed conductor Stephen Lord. This concert is free; no tickets are required. Stern Grove is located at 19th Avenue and Sloat Boulevard in San Francisco.

Stern Grove

San Francisco Opera’s performance at Stern Grove is sponsored by the Patricia Yakutis Endowment Fund; the Hendrickson Family in memory of J. Scott Hendrickson, Supernumeraries and by an Anonymous Donor.

Winner of the prestigious 1998 Richard Tucker Award, PATRICIA RACETTE has had a long association with San Francisco Opera. A former Merola Opera Program participant and Adler Fellow, the American soprano made her Company debut in 1989 as Mistress Ford in family performances of FALSTAFF and has subsequently sung many roles at San Francisco Opera, among them Cio-Cio-San in MADAME BUTTERFLY in 2006 (the opening night performance of which was simulcast to Civic Center Plaza, Liu in TURANDOT, Desdemona in OTHELLO, Mimi LA BOHEME, Antonia in LES CONTES D’ HOFFMANN, Micaela in CARMEN, Mathilde in GUILLAUME TELL, Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, as well as the title roles of Luisa Miller and JENUFA. She sang a leading role in the world premiere of Tobias Picker’s AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY at The Metropolitan Opera, which was broadcast internationally on December 24, 2005. Racette garnered international acclaim in the title role of Tobias Picker’s EMMELINE at the Santa Fe Opera (a production which was nationally televised on the PBS Great Performances series), and also created the role of Love Simpson in the Houston Grand Opera’s world premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s COLD SASSY TREE. In Europe, Racette has been applauded as Ellen Orford in PETER GRIMES at La Scala, “Mimi” at London’s Royal Opera and the Vienna State Opera, Micaela in CARMEN at Geneva Opera, as well as Blanche de la Force in DIALOGUES DES CARMELITES, Musetta in LA BOHEME, and “Violetta” at Paris Opera. Racette recently performed in DON CARLO under James Levine at The Metropolitan Opera, opened Chicago Lyric Opera’s 2006-07 season as Liu in TURANDOT, and sang the title role of “Jenufa” at Washington Opera. Upcoming engagements include a concert version of MADAME BUTTERFLY at the Ravinia Festival, PETER GRIMES at the Metropolitan Opera, and LA RONDINE at Los Angeles Opera. Declared “La Fantastique” by the SAN FRANCISCO SENTINEL, Patricia Racette will reprise her role as Cio-Cio-San in MADAME BUTTERFLY as part of San Francisco Opera’s 2007-08 Season.


Tenor JAMES VALENTI makes his San Francisco Opera concert debut. The singer, who studied at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia, made his professional debut in 2003 at age 25 as Rodolfo in LA BOHEME, directed by Franco Zeffirelli at Teatro dell’ Opera di Roma. Last season Mr. Valenti made his Spanish debut at Las Palmas de Gran Canaria as Alfredo in Pier Luigi Pizzi’s production of LA TRAVIATA, as well as a debut in the same opera with Canadian Opera Company, and a debut at the Dresden Semperoper in his signature role of Rudolfo in LA BOHEME. Other career highlights include Mr. Valenti’s December 2006 debut at the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels in LA TRAVIATA, a debut with the New York City Opera in LA BOHEME (which earned him the Betty Allen Prize), as well as performances at the Teatro Verdi in Trieste in LA BOHEME, and Teatro Carlo Felice in Genova for MADAME BUTTERFLY, directed by Renata Scotto. Additionally, Mr. Valenti sang Alfredo in a new production of La Traviata with Anna Netrebko and Thomas Hampson, directed by Willy Decker. Upcoming engagements include MADAME BUTTERFLY at the Ravinia Festival with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James Conlon, a concert performance with Opera Pacific, LA TRAVIATA at the Deutsche Oper Berlin with Angela Gheorghiu, and Rudolfo in LA BOHEME for his debut with La Scala in 2008.

Winner of the 2006 Borletti-Buitoni Trust Award, baritone JOSHUA HOPKINS makes his San Francisco Opera concert debut. In 2005 Joshua Hopkins completed his training as a member of the Houston Grand Opera Studio where he played the role of The Pilot in THE LITTLE PRINCE and Sharpless in MADAMA BUTTERFLY. Mr. Hopkins also has performed Count Almaviva in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO at Opera Pacific, held a New York recital presented by the George London Foundation for Singers, and gave the world premiere of Michael Tilson Thomas’ “Rilke Songs” at Zankel Hall in New York. Operatic performances of the past season included his debut with Opera Carolina as Silvio in I PAGLIACCI and return engagements at L’Opera de Montreal in DON GIOVANNI and at Santa Fe Opera for Rameau’s PLATEE. He is also the recipient of the Sylvia Gelber Foundation Award from the Canada Arts Council and is a grant winner of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation. Hopkin’s scheduled operatic performances of the 2007-08 season bring the Canadian baritone to Houston Grand Opera as Marcello in LA BOHEME and to Arizona Opera as Papageno in DIE ZAUBERFLOTE. His busy concert schedule includes PEER GYNT with the Cleveland Orchestra under the baton of Vladimir Ashkenazy, Bach’s “Magnificat” and Handel’s “Dettingen Te Deum” with Bernard Labadie and “Les Violons du Roy”, and “Messiah” with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and Sir Trevor Pinnock.


Soprano HEIDI MELTON, a first-year Adler Fellow, was born and raised in Spokane, Washington and was a 2006 participant in the Merola Opera Program where she performed Amelia in scenes from SIMON BOCCANEGRA at Yerba Buena Gardens. She also provided a stunning performance as a last minute replacement for the “Duenna” in San Francisco Opera’s DER ROSENKAVALIER. Operatic roles include the title heroines ARIADNE AUF NAXOS and ALCINA, Lady Billows in ALBERT HERRING and Fiordiligi in COSI FAN TUTTE all with Curtis Opera Theater. Her oratorio credits include the Szymanowski “Stabat Mater” and Schubert “Mass in A” with the Eastman Philharmonic Orchestra, Beethoven “Mass in C” with Eastman Summer Sing, Bach’s “Mass in F” with Curtis Madrigal Singers and the Philadelphia premiere of Richard Danielpour’s cycle, “Sweet Talk”. She recently graduated from Curtis Institute of Music where she completed her Masters of Music in Opera and holds a Bachelor of Music from the Eastman School of Music. In 2006 she was a national semi-finalist at the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions as well as the winner of the Mario Lanza Competition. Future engagements include her debut with the Philadelphia Opera Company in the fall of 2007 as Gertrude in HANSEL AND GRETEL.


Conductor STEPHEN LORD was recently chosen by Opera News as one of the “25 Most Powerful Names in U.S. Opera” and is continually praised for conducting a variety of both traditional and contemporary operatic works. He is currently music director for Opera Theatre of St. Louis and music director of Boston Lyric Opera until the end of the 2007-08 season. Stephen Lord made his New York City Opera debut in 2004 conducting LA RONDINE. Other career highlights as guest conductor included appearances at Wolf Trap Opera (LA BOHEME, LE NOZZE DE FIGARO and LA CLEMENZA DI TITO) and with other North American companies such as the Canadian Opera, Opera Colorado, Michigan Opera Theatre, Florentine Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Opera Pacific, Cleveland Opera and Arizona Opera. Mr. Lord has been a guest with the Boston Pops and first appeared in San Francisco leading the Merola Grand Finale Concert for the opera company. He also conducted Opera Omaha in telecast productions of LA TRAVIATA and ROMEO ET JULIETTE, and the world premiere of the completed critical edition of LES CONTES D’HOFFMANN. Mr. Lord was previously music director of the Banff Festival Opera, where he conducted L’ORMINDO, THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA, CENDRILLON, LE NOZZE DI FIGARO and COSI FAN TUTTE. In addition to his operatic endeavors, Stephen Lord has conducted at Carnegie Hall for PDQ Bach’s annual concerts and at the Berkshire Choral Festival Institute. Stephen Lord teaches Master Classes at various institutions including Yale University, The Blossom Festival, the Hartt School of Music and Westminster Choir College. In addition, he serves as an adjudicator in vocal competitions such as the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions, Opera America’s George London/Sullivan Grants, and the Richard Tucker Foundation.

For more information and to purchase tickets on-line to San Francisco Opera’s 2007/08 Season:

See Seán’s recent articles:
A CONVERSATION WITH JIM BROCHU AND STEVE SCHALCHLIN – The New Conservatory Theatre extends “The Big Voice: God or Merman?” until August 26th
CASTRO THEATRE Celebrates 85th Anniversary, August 10th – 12th
“H.M.S. PINAFORE” Sails The Lamplighters Music Theatre Into 55th Season
THE BIG VOICE: God or Merman?
HOTEL CASABLANCA – World Premiere in San Francisco
INSIGNIFICANT OTHERS – A Conversation with Composer Jay Kuo
IPHIGÉNIE EN TAURIDE – Everything old is new again at SF Opera
An Interview with PASCAL MOLAT, Principal Dancer of the San Francisco Ballet
SAMSON vs DELILAH at AT&T Park – Can Stadium Survive Biblical Shearing?
LA VIE EN ROSE (La Môme) – Biography of Edith Piaf – A Sensation at the 50th San Francisco International Film Festival
SPIDER-MAN 3, An All-American Cinematic Marvel


San Francisco Sentinel’s Fine Arts Critic 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 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:

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