The Summer 2014 season of the San Francisco Opera (SFO) begins at the very beginning of next month on Sunday, June 1. One of the three productions will be a company premiere. Another will be a new production of one of the most familiar operas in the repertoire. The season will continue through Sunday, July 13. Last year I discussed the productions in order of novelty. It seems appropriate to do the same again as follows:
The premiere will be an “opera house treatment” of one of the most important musicals to be presented on the Broadway stage. This is Jerome Kern’s Show Boat, with both book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II based on the novel of the same name by Edna Ferber. While this show is remembered for its many familiar songs, it was uncharacteristically serious for its time (first performed on December 27, 1927) for taking an unflinching look that the problems of racial discrimination.
This new production, staged by Francesca Zambello, who is at home on Broadway as much as in opera houses, is being shared with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Washington National Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera. The conductor will be John DeMain, who previously worked with Zambello in the 2009 SFO production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess. Actor Bill Irwin will perform the role of Cap’n Andy Hawks, owner of the paddle boat of the title. He will be making his debut in this role here in San Francisco, which will probably also be his first performance in an opera production. Vocal soloists will include Patricia Racette as Julie LaVerne, Heidi Stober as Magnolia Hawks, Morris Robinson as Joe, Angela Renée Simpson as his wife Queenie, and Michael Todd Simpson, who will be making his SFO debut as Gaylord Ravenal.
The production new to San Francisco will mark the return of Jun Kaneko as production designer. For the Summer 2012 SFO season, Kaneko created “the first all-digital production in SFO history” with his staging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Magic Flute (in which Stober sang the role of Pamina). This time he will apply his imaginative skills to Giacomo Puccini’s Madama Butterfly for a co-production being shared with Opera Omaha. The conductor will be SFO Music Director Nicola Luisotti, with two performances conducted by Giuseppe Finzi. Racette will sing the title role, and Brian Jagde will be her Pinkerton.
The final opera will be the return of John Copley’s staging of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata. This will be another double-cast production. The two Violettas will be Nicole Cabell (replacing Sonya Yoncheva, who withdrew due to pregnancy) and Ailyn Pérez, the Alfredos will be Saimir Pirgu and Stephen Costello, and the elder Germonts will be Vladimir Stoyanov and Quinn Kelsey. Once again, Luisotti and Finzi will share conducting duties.
Specific dates and times for each of these productions have been posted on the respective event pages for Show Boat, Madama Butterfly, and La Traviata on the SFO Web site. Single ticket prices begin at $24 and may be purchased through the individual event pages. They may also be purchased at the SFO Box Office in the War Memorial Opera House (301 Van Ness Avenue at the northwest corner of Grove Street) or by calling 415-864-3330. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It is open for telephone orders only on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the performance season. In addition Standing Room tickets go on sale for $10 (cash only) at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance.