San Francisco Opera is returning to live performance this month with a new production of The Barber of Seville and an Adler Fellows concert, both conceived for a drive-in audience at the Marin Center in San Rafael. While the company has been doing outreach and putting forth online programming, the April 23 – May 15 run of Barber means that the company can begin to receive revenue from live performance and, if all goes well, that will provide reason for optimism as the organization eyes the 2021 fall season indoors. That, of course, is a prelude to the 2022 season, the company’s centenary.
This Barber is different from the revival that was originally planned. For one thing, it stars former Adler Fellows — Lucas Meachem as Figaro and the husband-and-wife team of Daniela Mack and Alek Shrader as Rosina and Almaviva, with Philip Skinner as Dr. Bartolo, Kenneth Kellogg as Basilio, and Catherine Cook as Berta. Conductor Roderick Cox leads the SF Opera Orchestra, which will be onstage with the cast.
But the production had to be reconceived in a big way for the Marin Center. It uses the base set — a two-story scaffold — that was designed for the new production of Beethoven’s Fidelio that became a casualty of the pandemic shutdown. The new production, by Matthew Ozawa, is a 90-minute adaptation, in an English translation by Marcie Stapp, that takes place backstage at the San Francisco Opera itself. Using projections, Alexander V. Nichols’s designs will take the audience to the dressing rooms of the War Memorial Opera House.
Said Ozawa, “After such a lengthy period of hibernation, our drive-in Barber of Seville is a chance to bring what we love back to life while reawakening our resilient creativity. Coming at a time when audiences need laughter and true catharsis, we pull back the curtain to reveal San Francisco Opera’s backstage world of dressing rooms, divas, and divine escapades. Our goal is to breathe life back into live grand operatic performance and connect with joy, liberation, and love.”
Meanwhile, the Adler Fellows have been rehearsing for their concerts on April 29, May 6, and May 15, using a new real-time remote music collaboration service called Aloha by Elk. The Swedish company, which is known for Elk Audio OS, now has a beta version of Aloha, an ultra-low latency service that connects artists remotely, eliminating lag time and allowing musicians to collaborate and play together live, as if they’re in the same room. For the Adlers, this means that important musical cues such as hearing breaths, shifts in tempo, and expressive variation are now in sync during remote rehearsals.
Carrie-Ann Matheson, artistic director of the San Francisco Opera Center, said of the rehearsals, “After almost one year of musical isolation, the Aloha system has given our Adler Fellows the beautiful reminder of what it feels like to breathe with another artist. Connection is an integral part of being a musician, and the Aloha by Elk system has allowed us to connect, collaborate, create, and react in real time. As we prepare to make the long-awaited transition back into live performances, this exciting technology has helped us immensely in our training for upcoming concerts and operas.”
Both the Barber and “The Adlers: Live at the Drive-In” will be available to stream after the performance run ends, for $25 and $15, respectively. For tickets to the live shows, visit sfopera.com.