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San Francisco Opera celebrates its 92nd season opening

The opening night audience in the War Memorial Opera House in September of 2012
The opening night audience in the War Memorial Opera House in September of 2012
by Drew Altizer, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera

Since yesterday saw an article reporting on the beginning of the 2014–15 season of the San Francisco Symphony, it is important to note that September will also begin with the opening of the 92nd season of the San Francisco Opera (SFO). This will involve a similar mix of celebratory festivities and performances, the latter including the first performances of the first two operas in the new SFO season. Both of the operas will be given in productions new to San Francisco.

The opening night opera will be Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, an intense melodrama of love and betrayal set in the Roman occupation of Druid Britain. This production will be staged by Kevin Newbury, who last came to the War Memorial Opera House to direct Mark Adamo’s The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at the end of the 2012–13 season. SFO is sharing this production with the Canadian Opera Company, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

The principal singers will be the American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role of the high-priestess of the Druids, American mezzo Daveda Karanas as the young Druid priestess Adalgisa, Italian tenor Marco Berti as Pollione, the Roman soldier, who is secretly the father of Norma’s children, and American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn as Oroveso, Norma’s father and Chief of the Druids. Both Berti and Van Horn will be singing their respective roles for the first time. Nicola Luisotti will conduct, and Ian Robertson will lead the SFO Chorus.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, Norma will be given seven performances. The opening night performance will be on September 5 beginning at 8 p.m. The remaining performances will be at 7:30 p.m. on September 10, 19, 23, 27, and 30 with a 2 p.m. matinee on September 14. Further information may be found at the event page of this production on the SFO Web site. Tickets are priced from $30 to $370 and may be purchased through that same event page. 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. Standing Room tickets go on sale for $10 (cash only) at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance.

The second opera production will be the SFO premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah, using his own libretto text. A rural Appalachian setting of one of the episodes found in the Biblical apocrypha, Susannah is one of the most performed of all American operas. Soprano Patricia Racette will be making her role debut in the title role, leading an all-American cast. Susannah’s brother Sam will be sung by tenor Brandon Jovanovich, who performed some passionate scenes with Racette in the SFO 2009 production of Giacomo Puccini’s “Il Tabarro.”

This new production will be staged by Michael Cavanaugh. The conductor will be Karen Kamensek, Music Director of the Hannover State Opera. Kamensek will be making her SFO debut.

Susannah will be sung in English with English subtitles. It will be given five performances at 7:30 p.m. on September 6, 9, 12, and 16 and at 2 p.m. on September 21. It has its own event page from which tickets may be purchased. All further information about tickets, including prices and Box Office hours, is the same as given above for Norma.

There will also be two pre-performance events preceding the opening night performance:

  1. The theme of the 2014 Opera Ball will be Passione. To get attendees in the proper spirit for Norma, City Hall will be transformed into a resplendent Roman imperial palace by acclaimed event designer Riccardo Benavides. Beginning at 5 p.m., arriving guests will be escorted down the red carpet by Roman legionnaires into City Hall for an elegant cocktail reception. This will be followed by a lavish banquet orchestrated by McCalls Catering & Events. The Opera Ball has its own event page, which includes information about making arrangements for tickets. Tickets (which do not include tickets for the opera performance) are priced at $1500, $2500, and $5000. They are nearly sold out, so it will be necessary to check for availability, either through the event page or by calling 415-565-3204.
  2. BRAVO! CLUB was formed to encourage the community of young adults to build a new audience for SFO. Annual membership is $60. This group has arranged a pre-performance reception at 6:30 p.m. in the Loggia of the War Memorial Opera House, as well as a post-performance party with dancing at Jardinière. The full BRAVO! CLUB package, including tickets, costs $250 for Balcony Front seating, $325 for Balcony Circle seating, and $425 for Dress Circle seating. There are also $195 tickets for Balcony Front and only the post-performance party. There is an event page with further information from which tickets may be purchased.

Finally, the opening weekend of the season will conclude with San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park. This is an annual tradition held in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow. The SFO Orchestra will be conducted by Maestro Luisotti, and General Director David Gockley will serve as Master of Ceremonies. Vocalists will include stars from the Fall Season performing favorite arias. This event will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 7. It is free and open to the public, and no tickets are required. Further information may be found on this concert’s event page.

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