San Francisco Opera’s 101st season, announced today, will highlight works by 19th-century greats Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner. Music Director Eun Sun Kim begins what will become annual presentations of these composers’ operas, with Il trovatore and Lohengrin set for fall 2023.
The multiyear program that Kim will be leading is also an instance of institutional continuity. Her SF Opera predecessors are famous specialists in the works of these composers: Donald Runnicles with Wagner, Nicola Luisotti with Verdi (and Giacomo Puccini).
Former General Director David Gockley said of the company founded by Italian immigrants in 1923 that “core Italian repertory is San Francisco Opera’s birthright.”
Kim said of the plan: “The works of Wagner and Verdi are cornerstones of the operatic repertoire as we know it. Each composer blazed new trails in his day, and each changed the world of opera forever.
“As music director, part of my work is to set priorities for orchestral collaboration that will lead to the artistic growth of the company. With this in mind, I will program operas from these two giants every year, enabling continuous development of these musical styles and our shared craft.”
Looking to contemporary composers as well, SF Opera will also produce three co-commissioned new works next season, including the pandemic-postponed The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs by Mason Bates and Mark Campbell, Omar by Rhiannon Giddens and Michael Abels, and Innocence by Kaija Saariaho, Sofi Oksanen, and Aleksi Barrière.
General Director Matthew Shilvock, announcing the company’s 2023–2024 plans, said, “Our new season carries forth all of the thrilling energy of the centennial as we welcome the community into a fascinating array of experiences and stories.
“I am so proud that we are telling so many new stories this season, and I’m excited to continue our innovation explorations as we chart a course for the future of opera. The Bay Area community is discovering opera in fabulous new ways, and we look forward to welcoming many new audience members to immerse themselves in artwork that connects us, bridges differences, and speaks to the soul.”
Following the recent painful past, which shut down the War Memorial in 2020, SF Opera will continue livestreaming the third performance of each of the season’s productions, as well as some special events.
Other events in the September–June season include:
— A new co-production of Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, in Daniel Slater’s staging
— Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade’s staging of Mozart’s The Magic Flute
— The return of Christopher Alden’s production of Handel’s Partenope
— The annual Opera Ball, headlined this year by Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak, with performances conducted by Kim
— Another free Opera in the Park concert
Subscriptions go on sale today, priced from $146 to $3,280 for full series, $52 to $1,640 for half series, and in a design-your-own option, available online or by calling (415) 864-3330. The Dolby Family Opera for the Bay audience-building ticket initiative continues, making prime seats available for $10 each to Bay Area residents who have not purchased tickets in the last three years.
The 2023–2024 season begins on Sept. 8 with the Opera Ball, the company’s annual opening gala concert and party. On Sunday, Sept. 10, Kim and the orchestra, along with vocal soloists from the fall season, take to Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park for the annual Opera in the Park concert.
Unless pandemic conditions change, newly announced safety rules will apply to the next season. Effective Feb. 1, 2023, this is the SF Opera policy:
Proof of COVID-19 vaccination and masking is no longer required to attend San Francisco Opera performances in the War Memorial Opera House or Wilsey Center.
We continue to encourage patrons to wear a mask when attending a performance to protect themselves. San Francisco Opera will provide masks to any patron who wishes to wear one.
In addition, drinks will now be allowed in the theater during performances.
The health and safety of our patrons, employees, and artists is our number one priority. Our health and safety protocols have been developed and reviewed by a group of University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) doctors led by epidemiologist Dr. George Rutherford.”
Like the centennial season, the 101st season is budgeted at approximately $95 million, a striking increase from the pandemic-struck 2020–2021 season, which was halved from the previously planned $78.5 million to $44 million. Shilvock explained how this was possible:
“There is a strong connection between bold programming and bold philanthropy, and we have seen that wonderfully expressed this centennial season by donors increasing their giving to make possible a transformative start to our second century.”
That budget goes not only to the season’s mainstage performances but also to continued audience outreach. Shilvock mentioned this spring’s “Bohème Out of the Box” tour and next fall’s “The Elixir of Love Encounter,” among many educational and audience-building programs.
The full 2023–2024 season:
— Il trovatore (Sept. 12, 17, 20, 23, 29; Oct. 1): Kim (conductor), David McVicar (production), Charles Edwards (set designer). Cast: Angel Blue, Anita Rachvelishvili, Arturo Chacón-Cruz, George Petean.
— The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Sept. 22, 24, 27, 30; Oct. 3, 7): Michael Christie (conductor), Kevin Newbury (director), Victoria (Vita) Tzykun (set designer). Cast: John Moore, Sasha Cooke, Bille Bruley, Wei Wu.
— Lohengrin (Oct. 15, 18, 21, 24, 27; Nov. 1): Kim (conductor), David Alden (director), Paul Steinberg (set designer). Cast: Simon O’Neill, Julie Adams, Judit Kutasi, Brian Mulligan, Kristinn Sigmundsson.
— Omar (Nov. 5, 7, 11, 15, 17, 21): John Kennedy (conductor), Kaneza Schaal (director), Christopher Myers (production designer). Cast: Jamez McCorkle, Brittany Renee, Taylor Raven, Daniel Okulitch, Norman Garrett, Barry Banks.
— The Elixir of Love (Nov. 19, 24, 26, 29; Dec. 5, 9): Ramón Tebar (conductor), Daniel Slater (director), Robert Innes Hopkins (production designer). Cast: Pene Pati, Jonah Hoskins, Slávka Zámečníková, Renato Girolami, David Bižić.
— The Magic Flute (May 30, 2024; June 2, 4, 8, 14, 20, 22, 26, 30): Kim (conductor), Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade (production), Esther Bialas (production designer). Cast: Amitai Pati, Christina Gansch, Lauri Vasar, Kwangchul Youn, Anna Simińska, Zhengyi Bai.
— Innocence (June 1, 2024, 7, 12, 16, 18, 21): Clément Mao-Takacs (conductor), Simon Stone (production), Chloe Lamford (set designer). Cast: Ruxandra Donose, Claire de Sévigné, Rod Gilfry, Miles Mykkanen, Kristinn Sigmundsson, Lucy Shelton, Vilma Jää.
— Partenope (June 15, 2024, 19, 23, 25, 28): Christopher Moulds (conductor), Christopher Alden (production), Andrew Lieberman (set designer). Cast: Julie Fuchs, Daniela Mack, Carlo Vistoli, Nicholas Tamagna, Alek Shrader, Hadleigh Adams.
Artists making SF Opera debuts include sopranos Claire de Sévigné, Julie Fuchs, Brittany Renee, Lucy Shelton, Anna Simińska, and Slávka Zámečníková; mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi; countertenors Nicholas Tamagna and Carlo Vistoli; tenors Roberto Alagna, Bille Bruley, Jonah Hoskins, Jamez McCorkle, and Miles Mykkanen; baritones Norman Garrett, Thomas Lehman, John Moore, George Petean, and Lauri Vasar; bass-baritones David Bižić, Renato Girolami, and Kwangchul Youn; bass Wei Wu; interdisciplinary musician Vilma Jää; and conductors John Kennedy, Clément Mao-Takacs, and Ramón Tebar.
A reminder of what remains of the centennial year, SF Opera’s 2023 summer season:
— Madame Butterfly (June 3 – July 1)
— Die Frau ohne Schatten (June 4 – 28)
— El último sueño de Frida y Diego (June 13–30)
— 100th Anniversary Concert (June 16