WERTHER – French Classic At San Francisco Opera

Ramón Vargas to sing title role, Emmanuel Villaume leads the SF Opera Orchestra

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By Seán Martinfield
Sentinel Editor and Publisher
Photo by Lynn Imanaka

San Francisco Opera presents WERTHER, Jules Massenet’s French opera based on Goethe’s novel, at the War Memorial Opera House opening September 15th with five subsequent performances through October 1st. Mexican tenor Ramón Vargas appears in the title role alongside mezzo-soprano Alice Coote as “Charlotte”. This new co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago, directed by Francisco Negrin and designed by Louis Désiré, debuts in San Francisco and is led by French conductor Emmanuel Villaume. These performances mark the return of Werther to the War Memorial Opera House stage after an absence of 25 years and only the fifth time it has been presented in the Company’s 88-year history.

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EMMANUEL VILLAUME, Conductor

Bringing one of his signature roles to San Francisco Opera, renowned lyric tenor Ramón Vargas appears as “Werther”, the story of a poet who cannot bear the pain of unfulfilled love. Ramón Vargas has previously sung Werther at opera houses in Vienna, Monte-Carlo, Los Angeles and Mexico City. Other recent credits include the title role of La Damnation de Faust and “Rodolfo” in La Bohème at the Metropolitan Opera; “Riccardo” in Un Ballo in Maschera at Royal Opera, Covent Garden; and “Rodolfo” in Luisa Miller at the Vienna State Opera. Vargas made his San Francisco Opera debut in 1999 as “Edgardo” in Lucia di Lammermoor and last appeared with the Company as “Nemorino” in 2008’s L’elisir D’amore.

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RAMÓN VARGAS, Tenor

Acclaimed British mezzo-soprano Alice Coote returns to San Francisco Opera as “Charlotte”, a role she recently sang at Frankfurt Opera and Opera North in the U.K. Her discography includes Walton’s Gloria (Chandos), The Choice of Hercules (Hyperion), and Orfeo (Virgin Classics); following the critical success of her recital disc of Schumann and Mahler for EMI, she has recently signed a recording contract with that label. Coote’s two highly praised previous appearances at San Francisco Opera include “Ruggiero” in 2002’s Alcina and “Idamante” in 2008’s Idomeneo.

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HEIDI STOBER, Soprano and ALICE COOTE, Mezzo-soprano

Soprano Heidi Stober makes her San Francisco Opera debut singing the role of Charlotte’s sister, “Sophie”. She has recently performed more than ten roles at Deutsche Oper Berlin including “Gretel” in Hänsel und Gretel, “Pamina” in Die Zauberflöte and “Susanna” in Le nozze di Figaro. Stober will return to San Francisco Opera as “Susanna” in three performances of Le nozze di Figaro in October 2010.

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BRIAN MULLIGAN, Baritone

Baritone Brian Mulligan recently made his role debuts as “Enrico” in Lucia di Lammermoor and “Sharpless” in Madama Butterfly with English National Opera and returns to San Francisco Opera and his debut in the role of “Albert”, Charlotte’s betrothed. Mulligan recently appeared as “Valentin” in the Company’s Summer 2010 production of Faust and will return this season in Madama Butterfly and Cyrano de Bergerac.

Bass-baritone Christian Van Horn sings the role of “the Bailiff” following his Company debut as “the King of Egypt” in Aïda; he will also appear this season as “the Bonze” in Madama Butterfly. Tenor Robert MacNeil makes his role debut as “Schmidt”; he will return this season as “Don Curzio” in Le nozze di Figaro. Adler Fellows Susannah Biller and Austin Kness complete the cast as the lovers “Kätchen” and “Brühlmann”.  
 
Massenet’s opera, which is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, was last presented at the War Memorial Opera House in 1985. This new co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago, directed by stage director Francisco Negrin and designed by Louis Désiré, is a psychologically intriguing take on this timeless story. The production debuts in San Francisco and is conducted by French conductor Emmanuel Villaume; the San Francisco Opera Chorus is led by Ian Robertson.
                                                                               
Sung in French with English supertitles, the six performances of Werther are scheduled for September 15th (7:30 pm), September 18th (8 pm), September 22nd (7:30 pm), September 26th (2 pm), September 28th (8 pm), and October 1st (8 pm), 2010.

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CHRISTIAN VAN HORN, Bass Baritone. Photo, Devon Cass and
JULES MASSENET, Composer

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Seán Martinfield
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: sean.martinfield@comcast.net.


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