Opera lovers in the Bay Area are certainly well catered for this week. Not only is San Francisco Opera celebrating the opening of its 2014-15 season on Friday with a production of Bellini’s Norma, but a new production opens on Saturday - Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. There’s also the annual Opera in the Park performance on Sunday afternoon, and on Sunday evening, Classical KDFC broadcasts SF Opera’s recent production of La Traviata.
But even before this wonderful weekend of opera takes place, Thursday September 4 sees the first of four televised SF Opera productions on KQED Public Television - the fifth season of the Grand Opera Cinema Series - hosted by mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade. Recorded at the War Memorial Opera House in HD with 5.1 surround sound, these television specials - each sung in its original language, with English supertitles - feature recent all-star productions by the Company, so if you missed the live performances, you’ll be delighted to catch up with them on TV.
The opening work of this season of broadcasts is Bellini’s I Capuleti e i Montecchi, inspired by the story of Romeo and Juliet. Starring Joyce DiDonato and Nicole Cabell as the young lovers, the production is directed by Vincent Boussard - making his US debut - and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by conductor Riccardo Frizza. A co-production with the Bavarian State Opera of Munich, I Capuleti e i Montecchi has costumes designed by Christian Lacroix and sets by Vincent Lemaire.
On the following Thursday - September 11 - the opera featured on KQED 9 is Verdi’s Attila, the Hun who has mostly been considered a ruthless barbarian, but whom Verdi portrayed as a brave and ambitious warrior who battled against his own internal doubts. This co-production between San Francisco Opera and Teatro alla Scala, stars Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto as Attila, and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus are led by Nicola Luisotti.
Boito’s Mefistofele is the featured production on September 25. Described by The New York Times as a work of “choral grandeur and melodic richness”, this reimagining of Goethe’s Faust - directed by Robert Carsen - is regarded as one of the most impressive productions seen at the War Memorial Opera House. Russian bass Ildar Abrazakov makes his debut in a staged role as Mefistofele, and Nicola Luisotti once again conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.
On October 2, KQED broadcasts the San Francisco Opera’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto - the court jester determined to save his daughter at all costs. Serbian baritone Željko Lučić sings the title role, and polish soprano Aleksandra Kurzak appears as Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda. Nicola Luisotti leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this production which is directed by Harry Silverstein, with sets by Michael Yeargan.
There’s a further delight for opera lovers on October 17, as San Francisco Opera’s production of The Gershwins® Porgy and Bess℠ is broadcast nationwide on KQED, as part of the PBS Fall Arts Festival. This all-American classic - in which George Gershwin brilliantly blended classical music with jazz, blues, popular songs and spirituals - is directed by Francesca Zambello, and stars bass-baritone Eric Owens as Porgy, and soprano Laquita Mitchell as Bess. The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus are directed by John DeMain.