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San Francisco Opera will give Jerome Kern’s musical an ‘opera house treatment’

Angela Renée Simpson as Queenie and Morris Robinson as Joe
Angela Renée Simpson as Queenie and Morris Robinson as Joe
by Dan Rest, courtesy of the Lyric Opera of Chicago

The first production in the Summer 2014 season of the San Francisco Opera (SFO) will be a performance of Jerome Kern’s musical Show Boat, conceived on a scale for the facilities and audience of an opera house, rather than a Broadway theater for musicals. That conception is due primarily to Stage Director Francesca Zambello for a production that is being shared with the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Washington National Opera, and the Houston Grand Opera. The performance requires a large cast, along with a full chorus (being prepared by Chorus Director Ian Robertson) and a generous share of choreography by Michele Lynch (who will be making her SFO debut in this capacity).

Casting will bring together major talents with a wide variety of backgrounds. Sopranos Heidi Stober (Magnolia Hawks) and Patricia Racette (Julie La Verne) have appeared frequently in a variety of roles for SFO, while baritone Michael Todd Simpson will be making his SFO debut as Gaylord Ravenal. Other vocalists with SFO experience include Angela Renée Simpson (Queenie) and Morris Robinson (Joe, best known as the soloist in the performance of “Ol’ Man River”). On the other hand Bill Irwin, who is equally adept at both comic mime and serious drama will be making his role debut (and SFO debut) as Cap’n Andy Hawks. Other performers with Broadway background include Harriet Harris (Parthy Ann Hawks) and Kirsten Wyatt (Ellie Mae Chipley), both of whom will also be making role and SFO debuts.

Show Boat will be given ten performances taking place on June 1 at 2 p.m., June 3 at 8 p.m., June 10 at 7:30 p.m., June 13 at 8 p.m., June 19 at 7:30 p.m., June 22 at 2 p.m., June 26 at 7:30 p.m., June 28 at 8 p.m., July 1 at 8 p.m., and July 2 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets may be purchased through the event page for this production. They may also be purchased at the SFO Box Office (in the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House) 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. In addition Standing Room tickets are available at the Box Office for $10, cash only, going on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance. Finally, those wishing to attend all three operas in the Summer 2014 season can save up to 30% when buying the tickets as a group. Further information may be obtained by calling the Box Office.

Each performance will be preceded by a talk with open seating in the Orchestra section of the War Memorial Opera House. This is free for all ticket holders and begins 55 minutes prior to curtain. There will also be two other major events for the general public:

  1. The San Francisco Opera Education Department will present one of its Exploration Workshop events four times, at 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on both June 1 and June 11. Admission is only $5 per person. There is an event page from which tickets for any of these events may be ordered.
  2. The Koret Auditorium, on the lower level of the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) building at 100 Larkin Street, will host a discussion entitled “An Exploration of Race in the Musical Show Boat.” The Museum of the African Diaspora has joined with SFO and SFPL to arrange this event; and the discussants will be SFO General Director David Gockley and Dr. Ethel Walker, Professor Emeritus from San Jose State University. This 90-minute event is free and will begin at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 14.