SF Opera Summer Season in Jeopardy, As Other Festivals Fall Victim to COVID-19

Janos Gereben on March 31, 2020
Canceled: Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang’s April 28 recital

As COVID-19 rages on, the best way to keep track of cancellations would be to list opera-symphony-ballet-chamber music still scheduled — but then that would immediately change as the other list is becoming a global, all-encompassing itemization of what is not to be.

While San Francisco Opera is still undecided about its Summer Season (June 7 – July 3), SF Symphony has canceled all concerts in April and through May 10, the Bayreuth Wagner Festival (July – August) announced today it has suspended performances until next summer (similar to the Tokyo Summer Olympics), and most East Coast and European music festivals canceled or postponed their 2020 events.

In the past 24 hours, news came also about cancellation of the Cabrillo Music Festival (July – August), and the shifting of the Monterey Jazz Festival’s 50th Annual Next Generation Jazz Festival to online April 3–9. That’s added to news that the Ojai Festival canceled its 2020 festival and Festival Napa Valley has rescheduled for 2021. Still held in abeyance, locally, is the fate of Music@Menlo, July 17 – Aug. 8.

What’s at stake at SF Opera, where preparations would normally have started by now, is the summer season of Verdi’s Ernani, June 7 – July 2; Handel’s Partenope, June 12–27; and the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates’s The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, June 20 – July 3.

Cancellation or postponement of the SFO Summer Season may also seriously impact the Merola Opera Program, July 9 – Aug. 22.

The SFS cancellations include “An Evening with Bernadette Peters” (March 27), Yefim Bronfman’s recital (April 5), and Gautier Capuçon and Yuja Wang in recital (April 28).

What’s still unknown is the fate of some grand events in June at the finale of Michael Tilson Thomas’s 25th and final season with the orchestra as its music director, including concert performances of Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman and Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.

Francesco Lecce-Chong conducts the Santa Rosa Symphony | Credit: Colin Talcroft

Against the dismal news of the Kennedy Center receiving $25 million in aid and then the National Symphony laying off its musicians and staff with one week’s pay, there is the heartening story of the Santa Rosa Symphony, where postponement of the season was accompanied by paying the musicians for the concerts they will not play:

“In an unprecedented move, the Symphony Board of Directors has approved a plan that guarantees that any musician hired to perform services in March, April, or May will be paid promptly for those services, even though the work will happen at a later date.”

Correction: The original article misstated that the $25 million in aid that the Kennedy Center received was given solely to the National Symphony.