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S.F. Opera Announces Changes in Its Summer Season Cast

February 7, 2019

San Francisco Opera today announced cast changes to the original summer season lineup:

Adler Fellow countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen will make his company debut as Medoro in Orlando, replacing David Daniels; bass Kristinn Sigmundsson will sing the role of Vodník in Rusalka, instead of Ferruccio Furlanetto; and Michelle Merrill will conduct the June 20 performance of Carmen, with James Gaffigan on the podium on all other previously scheduled dates.

The summer season in the War Memorial consists of Bizet’s Carmen, June 5–29; Handel’s Orlando, June 9–27, and Dvořák’s Rusalka, June 16–28.

San Francisco Opera was among the first organizations canceling scheduled appearances for Daniels, when the famous countertenor was accused last fall of sexual assaults in the past. He was arrested a week ago in Michigan, facing extradition to Texas.

Nussbaum Cohen, who turns 25 this week, is an alumnus of SFO’s Merola Opera Program, in his second year as an Adler Fellow. In 2017, he was named a Grand Finals Winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. His response to today’s announcement: “Thrilled ... a dream come true!”

His upcoming engagements include David in Handel’s Saul with the Philharmonia Baroque, the world premiere of choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s … two united in a single soul … with San Francisco Ballet, and the release of his debut solo album with American Bach Soloists.

Nussbaum Cohen also performed in Poems of Life with the London Symphony Orchestra, the recording now nominated for a Grammy in the Best Classical Compendium category.

Icelandic bass Sigmundsson’s return to San Francisco as a water gnome in Rusalka is occasioned by Furlanetto’s decision not to add the role to his repertory. Sigmundsson made his SFO debut in 2003 as Méphistophélès in Berlioz’s La Damnation de Faust and performed leading roles with the company in operas by Mozart, Strauss, Verdi, and Wagner.

Former San Francisco Symphony associate conductor Gaffigan is making his SFO debut with Carmen, and he has a schedule conflict on June 20, opening the way for Merrill to take the podium.

Merrill has had guest appearances with Orchestre National d’Île-de-France, the National Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and was for four years associate conductor of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. She currently serves as the newly appointed music director of the Coastal Symphony of Georgia.

Performing the title heroines in the 2019 Summer Season operas, each for the first time, are mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges as Carmen; mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke taking on Orlando, a role originally composed for the alto castrato Senesino; and Rachel Willis-Sørensen portraying the water nymph Rusalka. Conducting debuts, besides Gaffigan and Merrill, are by Eun Sun Kim (Rusalka) and Christopher Moulds (Orlando).

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].