March 27, 2018
The Rake’s Progress is a unique opera. Igor Stravinsky pays homage to classical music while turning it on its head — gloriously. It also demands much from singers and the orchestra, so a great performance stays in memory forever ... or, in this case, at least 13 years.
It was in 2005 that the Merola Opera Program presented The Rake’s Progress in Yerba Buena, with Ailyn Pérez as the brilliant Anne and a cast of young talent on their way to fame. Pérez went on to starring roles in Europe and at the Met; San Francisco audiences have been waiting for another Rake ever since.
The wait is over: Merola’s 2018 season, July 5 – Aug. 18, announced today, includes performances of Rake on Aug. 2 and 4, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. The Concert Hall has only 400 seats, so when tickets go on sale on April 16, act quickly by visiting or calling the S.F. Opera box office at (415) 864-3330.
The conductor is San Francisco Opera Center Director of Musical Studies Mark Morash (Merola 1987) and the stage director is Robin Guarino.
Merola’s other fully staged opera will be Mozart’s Il re pastore, on July 19 and 21, also in the Conservatory.
Public performances begin in the Concert Hall on July 5 and in in Stanford's Bing Concert Hall on July 7, with the Schwabacher Summer Concerts presenting scenes from Vanessa, Il tabarro, Don Giovanni, and The Pearlfishers, accompanied by full orchestra. The conductor is Kathleen Kelly (Merola 1991–1992), the first woman and first American named as Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera.
The season-closing grand finale on Aug. 18, with the participation of all Merolini, is held in the War Memorial Opera House, conducted by Dean Williamson, music director of the Nashville Opera, and directed by Merola Apprentice Stage Director Marcus Shields. The concert is followed by a big fund-raising reception.
In addition to these public appearances by the young artists, they can be seen and heard during the program’s 12 weeks at masterclasses, rehearsals, and many other activities, but admission is for Merola Opera Program members who contribute to the program’s approximately $3 million operating budget.
For more than a half a century, the international training program started by S.F. Opera General Director Kurt Herbert Adler, and named for his predecessor and company founder Gaetano Merola, has helped to launch the careers of hundreds of now-famous artists, including Patricia Racette, Joyce DiDonato, Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Thomas Hampson, and Stuart Skelton.
For this summer, 29 young artists have been selected from more than 800 applicants around the world. They range — alphabetically — from SeokJong Baek of South Korea to Meigui Zhang of Chengdu, China.
For 12 weeks, under the guidance of local and visiting artists, Merolini are trained in musical style and interpretation, role preparation, movement and acting, accompaniment and conducting, languages and diction.
Corrections: The July 7 concert is at Stanford's Bing Hall, not the S.F. Conservatory, as stated in the original version of this article. Also, the program is 12 weeks, not 10.