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San Francisco Opera's new season opens with Bellini's ‘Norma’

San Francisco Opera celebrates the opening of its 92nd Season this week, with Vincenzo Bellini’s bel canto masterpiece, Norma - the Druid high priestess who betrays her own people by falling in love with an occupying Roman soldier. Starring Sondra Radvanovsky in the title role, this is the premiere of a new production of the opera, directed by Kevin Newbury. The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus is conducted by Music Director, Nicola Luisotti.

Sondra Radvanovsky in the Met Opera's production of 'Norma'
Sondra Radvanovsky in the Met Opera's production of 'Norma'Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

The Gala Opening, on September 5, features a highlight of San Francisco’s cultural and philanthropic season - the Opera Ball 2014: Passione which opens with a banquet in the City Hall prior to the performance, after which festivities continue well into the night.

American soprano Sondra Radvanovsky - one of the leading singers of the lyric stage - has appeared in every major opera house in the world. She first performed the role of Norma at teatro Campoamor de Oviedo during the 2011-12 season. This was followed in 2013 by her appearance in this most demanding of roles at the Metropolitan Opera, earning her a “thunderous ovation” wrote The New York Times, referring to "her top notes ringing and powerful, her middle range velvety, her coloratura nimble and phrasing elegant”. Later in the season, Sondra Radvanovsky will sing Norma at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, and at the Bavarian State Opera in Munich.

In the San Francisco Opera production, the young priestess, Adalgisa, is sung by American mezzo-soprano, Jamie Barton, who appeared in this role at the Metropolitan Opera during the 2013-14 season. A Grammy-nominee, Miss Barton was the winner of both the Main and the Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, and also of the 2007 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

The role of Pollione - the Roman Proconsul, and the object of Norma’s desire - is sung by Italian tenor, Marco Berti. Acknowledged as one of the most sought-after and versatile tenors in the operatic world, Mr Berti made his debut in Norma at Teatro Regio in Torino in 2012, a performance described by Teatro.it as “enthralling, virile and authentically passionate”. He has appeared on the stages of some of the world’s major opera houses - including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan Opera, Teatro alla Scala and l’Opéra de Paris - and his repertoire includes the roles of Cavaradossi in Tosca, Calaf in Turandot, Don José in Carmen, and Radames in the first live 3D broadcast of Aida.

American bass-baritone Christian Van Horn, sings Oroveso in this production of Norma. Having appeared with some of the world's most prestigious opera companies, Mr Van Horn will be appearing in six different productions for San Francisco Opera this season. Making his debut as Alidoro in La Cenerentola and as Narbol in Les Troyens, he will also appear in Colline, and in the world premiere of Marco Tutino’s La Ciociara, a San Francisco Opera commission.

Norma is sung in Italian, with English supertitles. Set design is by David Korins, and costumes by Jessica Jahn.

The production runs at the War Memorial Opera House for seven performances only - between September 5 and 30. For information on times and tickets, visit the San Francisco Opera website or call the box office on (415) 864-3330.