Opera San José - "Falstaff"
A scene from Falstaff | Credit: Bob Shomler

Shawna Lucey hit the ground running last year when she took over as general director of Opera San José. Although Khori Dastoor, her predecessor, had laid the groundwork for some of the season, Lucey had to come in, finish the job, and take care of all the details in planning a schedule, which, conditions permitting, will roll out in 2022–2023 in full.

The productions are standard repertory by design, plus one crowd-pleasing recent opera. This will be a season for welcoming back OSJ’s audiences to public performances, and Lucey was certain that she wanted her young resident artists to get core roles under their belts. But more than that, there was a need to get the opera family, the artists, and audience together again, and there’s no telling how long we’re going to be feeling that necessity.

Shawna Lucey
Shawna Lucey | Credit: Ken Howard

Says Lucey, “I always think of our work as theater makers. We are the civic space: The algorithms can keep us apart, but opera can bring us together. The people you might never engage with, you can find common ground if you’re talking Mozart. And if you can find common ground in Mozart, that’s the beginning of a more robust conversation. We can be that civic space, and that is what is incumbent upon us, emerging from these pandemic times when people could not gather.”

The season is set to begin with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro (Sept. 10–25) in a production by Brad Dalton that is set in colonial India and features Kathak dance facilitated for OSJ by Mosaic America, a local nonprofit that incubates cross-cultural artistic collaborations.

Opera Modesto - "The Marriage of Figaro"
A scene from The Marriage of Figaro | Courtesy of Opera San José

“We double down on the strengths that make Opera San José great,” says Lucey, “and one of those is our community partnerships. This new production of Figaro was Khori’s vision, and I’m so proud to bring it over the finish line, after it was postponed by COVID. This production allows us to focus on diversity in casting (and we’re going to have the debut of conductor Viswa Subbaraman, for example). We’ve worked with Mosaic America before at their events, and this seemed like a perfect way to continue that partnership. We’re happy that we were able to partner with Local Color, in order to identify the artist who’s doing our season art, which we’ll be rolling out very soon. That has partly to do with our mission as well — we are the incubator for great artists.”

Alma Deutscher, the prodigy musician and composer who wrote the libretto and music of her own opera, Cinderella, at age 12, is returning at the ripe old age of 17 to conduct her opera, Nov. 17–27. Brad Dalton revives his original production.


Opera San José - "Cinderella"
A scene from Cinderella | Credit: Bob Shomler

“This is a production that was suggested by the Packard Humanities Institute and OSJ partnered with them to produce it [in 2017]. There was a massive community thrill at seeing this young female composer make this amazing work. And she herself has continued to grow as an artist, so we’re thrilled to be supporting her to make her operatic conducting debut. And it’s incredibly important to me to have family programming that people can bring their children to. I feel very passionate about having children running around the opera house and having access to the best music possible from the get-go. I think it will be exciting for them to see Alma on the podium. And she really knows herself, and she knows music.”

Rounding out the season are Falstaff (Feb. 11–26, 2023) in a production directed by Jose Maria Condemi and Tosca (April 15–30, 2023) in a production by OSJ’s first-ever resident director, Tara Branham. Casting is mostly complete and will be announced later.

Also on the map, but still in the planning stage, are further digital productions. “It gives us a way to engage with material that will not work on our mainstage, and we’re excited for what’s coming down the pike for our Heiman Digital Studio,” says Lucey, teasing a future announcement.

After the success of the company’s past two filmed productions, we’ll all have to stay tuned.