Release date: 1/26/2009

San Francisco Opera Announces 2009-10 Repertory and Casting

Photos Available
SAN FRANCISCO, January 26, 2009—San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley, joined by Music Director Designate Nicola Luisotti and Chairman of the Board of Directors John Gunn, today announced artistic details for the upcoming 2009–10 repertory season; plans to commission three operas by American composers Christopher Theofanidis, Mark Adamo and Jennifer Higdon; the presentation of Richard Wagner’s magnum opus Der Ring des Nibelungen for June 2011; the appointments of Patrick Summers as principal guest conductor and Giuseppe Finzi as assistant music director; and a return to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team, for free community simulcast performances of Tosca and Il Trovatore.
Today’s announcement occurred at a reception in the historic War Memorial Opera House Rhoda Goldman foyer before a distinguished gathering of press, the Company’s board of directors and donors, civic and corporate leaders, cultural arts directors, and members of the Bay Area diplomatic corps. Gockley and Maestro Luisotti laid out a bold artistic vision of repertory and artists underscoring their new working relationship, while Gunn reaffirmed the Company’s strategic financial planning reflective of the evolving international economic climate. Members of the San Francisco Opera Center’s Adler Fellowship Program performed musical excerpts from the 2009–10 repertory.
 “The 2009–10 season launches our new relationship with incoming Music Director Nicola Luisotti, a wonderfully talented and charismatic conductor who I believe will be warmly embraced by the community,” said General Director David Gockley. “With Maestro Luisotti, San Francisco Opera will return to its heritage of an emphasis on the Italian opera repertory.” 
“We all acknowledge that this economic environment is very serious and challenging. After careful financial and artistic planning, including many modifications to the budget, I am very pleased to announce that we have assembled a season of grand opera productions with a roster of world renowned singers, conductors and directors. While there may be fewer and less elaborate productions, I will not shrink away from the musical values for which this Company is regarded around the globe, and I believe the new season emphasizes this point.” 
 “In its 86 years of existence, San Francisco Opera has remained a bastion of artistic excellence and innovation,” said Chairman John Gunn, “and the new season is no exception. The financial realities now confronting our global economy have forced us to reduce expenses in the coming seasons and work within a tighter and leaner budget. The reduction of our endowment in particular has precipitated this strategic financial repositioning of the Company. That said, San Francisco Opera remains fully committed to our core values of offering a superior grand opera experience to our audiences both inside the War Memorial and out in the community. In short, we are managing confidently but remain ambitious.”
San Francisco Opera’s forthcoming 87th season commences on Friday, September 11, 2009 and showcases Music Director Nicola Luisotti on the podium leading an international cast in Giuseppe Verdi’s popular Il Trovatore in a production by David McVicar.
In addition to Il Trovatore, Maestro Luisotti conducts Salome, Otello and The Girl of the Golden West in his inaugural season as San Francisco Opera’s music director. He is the Company’s third music director and follows the acclaimed musical legacy of Sir John Pritchard (1985–89) and Donald Runnicles, who concludes his 17-year tenure in the summer of 2009. Luisotti made his Company debut in 2005 with La Forza del Destino and returned in 2008 for La Bohème. Since his professional debut with Stuttgart Opera in 2002, Luisotti’s meteoric rise in the classical music world has brought him to leading opera houses and concert halls, including London’s Royal Opera, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, the Vienna State Opera, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera and Tokyo’s Suntory Hall, where his performances have been unanimously acclaimed.
 “It was love at first sight with this company and with this beautiful city of San Francisco,” said Luisotti. “I cannot imagine a more simpatico place to make my life and my music, especially with such a talented group of musicians as the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. My job as music director and conductor is to serve the composer—and the community. Life is short, and we have to use music to improve the lives of the people around us. That is my mission.”
From popular classics to operatic works long absent from the War Memorial Opera House stage, the 2009–10 season offers Verdi’s Il Trovatore, Giacomo Puccini’s three one-act operas that comprise Il Trittico (Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s The Abduction from the Seraglio, Gaetano Donizetti’s The Daughter of the Regiment, Richard Strauss’ Salome, Verdi’s Otello, Charles François Gounod’s Faust, Puccini’s The Girl of the Golden West and Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre. Previously announced plans to present a new production of Benjamin Britten’s Peter Grimes, as well as Puccini’s La Boheme, have been cancelled as a result of the current financial challenges. The 2009–10 season runs September 11 through December 2, 2009 and June 5 through July 2, 2010 and features the critically acclaimed San Francisco Opera Chorus, led by Chorus Director Ian Robertson, and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
The 2009–10 season includes the Company debuts of several renowned artists, such as sopranos Diana Damrau (Marie/The Daughter of the Regiment), Nadja Michael (title role of Salome), Sondra Radvanovsky (Leonora/Il Trovatore), Svetla Vassileva (Desdemona/Otello) and Eva-Maria Westbroek (Sieglinde/Die Walküre); mezzo-sopranos Janina Baechle (Fricka/Die Walküre) and Malgorzata Walewska (Azucena/Il Trovatore); contraltos Meredith Arwady (The Marquise of Berkenfeld/The Daughter of the Regiment, The Abbess/Suor Angelica, Zita/Gianni Schicchi) and Ewa Podleś (The Princess/Suor Angelica); tenors Johan Botha (title role of Otello), Beau Gibson (Cassio/Otello), Salvatore Licitra (Dick Johnson/The Girl of the Golden West) and Garrett Sorenson (Narraboth/Salome); baritone Marco Vratogna (Iago/Otello); and basses Burak Bilgili (Ferrando/Il Trovatore), and Bruno Praticò (Sulpice/The Daughter of the Regiment); and conductors Maurizio Benini (Faust), Michele Mariotti (The Daughter of the Regiment), and Cornelius Meister (The Abduction from the Seraglio), who makes his U.S. opera debut with the Company.
San Francisco Opera welcomes back many acclaimed singers to the War Memorial Opera House, including sopranos Anna Christy, Mary Dunleavy, Patricia Racette, Nina Stemme and Deborah Voigt; mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Blythe (Blythe makes her Company debut in May 2009 with the Verdi Requiem), Catherine Cook, and Irina Mishura; tenors Kim Begley, Marco Berti, Juan Diego Flórez, Brandon Jovanovich, Matthew Polenzani, Stefano Secco (Secco also makes his Company debut in the Verdi Requiem this May) and Christopher Ventris; baritones Mark Delavan, Roberto Frontali, Paolo Gavanelli, Greer Grimsley, Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Brian Mulligan; and basses Raymond Aceto, Jake Gardner, Eric Halfvarson, John Relyea and Peter Rose.
San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello continues her relationship with the Company and directs the second installment of the “American” Ring cycle, Die Walküre, in 2010. Acclaimed directors Laurent Pelly (The Daughter of the Regiment), Walter Sutcliffe (Il Trovatore, in a production by David McVicar), Chas Rader-Shieber (The Abduction from the Seraglio) and Seán Curran (Salome) make their San Francisco Opera debuts, and the Company welcomes back James Robinson (Il Trittico, Salome) and Stephen Barlow (Otello, Faust).
Patrick Summers, a longtime veteran of numerous San Francisco Opera productions, former music director of the San Francisco Opera Center and current music director of Houston Grand Opera, has been re-appointed principal guest conductor to San Francisco Opera. In this capacity, Maestro Summers will lead at least one production in each of the next three seasons and will advise David Gockley and Nicola Luisotti as a key member of the artistic team. Summers previously served as the Company’s principal guest conductor from 2000 to 2004. In the 2009–10 season, Maestro Summers conducts Puccini’s Il Trittico.
            Giuseppe Finzi, assistant conductor, coach and pianist at Milan’s La Scala, has been appointed San Francisco Opera’s assistant music director. Finzi recently made his Company debut with the The Elixir of Love for Families and La Bohème. He made his professional debut in 2003 with Tosca at the Teatro Rendano in Cosenza and has led productions at many of Italy’s regional opera theaters.
David Gockley’s commitment to presenting new works includes plans to commission operas by composers Christopher Theofanidis, Mark Adamo and Jennifer Higdon. In the 2011–12 season, San Francisco Opera plans to present the world premiere of a new opera by Christopher Theofanidis, with a libretto by Donna DiNovelli, that deals with themes of heroism and the September 11, 2001 attacks. Conducted by Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers, this opera is expected to have its premiere in September 2011. Mark Adamo creates the music and libretto for The Gospel of Mary Magdalene, scheduled for June 2013. According to the composer, this opera “draws on the Gnostic gospels, the canonical gospels and fifty years of new Biblical scholarship to reimagine the loves and conflicts of the New Testament through the eyes of its leading female character.” Composer Jennifer Higdon will work with librettist Gene Scheer for the creation of a new work—Higdon’s first full-length opera— slated to have its premiere in Fall 2013. The subject of Higdon and Scheer’s work will be announced at a later date.
            San Francisco Opera also plans to present Bay Area stage premieres of two American operas:  Nixon in China by John Adams, set to a libretto by Alice Goodman, and Moby-Dick by Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, a co-commission with the opera companies of Dallas, San Diego, and Calgary. Considered one of the seminal operas of the 20th century and a cornerstone of minimalist music since its 1987 premiere at Houston Grand Opera, Nixon in China has been performed around the world and receives its fully staged Bay Area premiere in the summer of 2012. Heggie and Scheer’s eagerly anticipated opera based on Herman Melville’s landmark of 19th-century American fiction receives its premiere by the Dallas Opera in the 2009–10 season and features world renowned tenor Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab and Patrick Summers on the podium; Heppner and Summers return to San Francisco Opera for the work in the fall of 2012.
            “With Washington National Opera’s recent announcement to postpone the final installment of our joint Ring production indefinitely, it has fallen to San Francisco Opera to take the leadership role in completing the project by creating Götterdämmerung,” said David Gockley. “Company Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello and Maestro Donald Runnicles will work with us on the artistic direction of Götterdämmerung and the presentation of the complete Der Ring des NibelungenDas Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung —in three cycles set for June 2011.”
Current casting for Götterdämmerung includes Mark Delavan as Wotan and Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde; additional artists will be announced at a later date. Tickets for the 2011 Ring cycle go on sale in Fall 2009 and will be initially offered to San Francisco Opera subscribers and donors. Complete details about the cycle will be announced at a later date.

San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants partner with Webcor Builders to present two free live simulcasts at AT&T Park in 2009. Puccini’s Tosca will be simulcast live from the War Memorial Opera House to AT&T Park’s high definition scoreboard on Friday, June 5 as part of the Company’s Summer 2009 season. On Saturday, September 19 the Company celebrates the opening of the Fall 2009 season with a simulcast of Verdi’s Il Trovatore, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti. Baseball and opera fans alike have the rare opportunity to enjoy glorious opera in the beautiful and convivial outdoor setting of AT&T Park. Webcor Presents Opera at the Ballpark is made possible through the extraordinary technology of the Koret-Taube Media Suite. The Company’s previous simulcasts in September 2007 and June 2008 were enjoyed by more than 38,000 attendees. [ See related news release for further details. ]   
San Francisco Opera’s 87th season opens on Friday, September 11 with Verdi’s Il Trovatore conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti and featuring an illustrious cast, including Marco Berti, Dmitri Hvorostovky, Sondra Radvanovsky and Stephanie Blythe. A highlight of the City’s cultural and philanthropic season, the opening night gala festivities include Opera Ball 2009, presented by San Francisco Opera Guild and benefiting San Francisco Opera and the Opera Guild’s education outreach programs, and BRAVO! CLUB’s Opening Night Gala, geared especially toward young professionals.
The season-opening weekend culminates with San Francisco Opera in the Park on Sunday, September 13 in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow. A beloved San Francisco tradition, the free annual concert features acclaimed artists from the Company’s Fall 2009 season and the San Francisco Opera Orchestra conducted by Maestro Luisotti.
Il Trovatore – Giuseppe Verdi
San Francisco Opera’s 2009–10 season opens September 11, 2009 with Nicola Luisottion the podium in his first production as the Company’s music director. Italian tenor Marco Berti stars in the title role of this suspenseful story of a corrupt count, a dashing warrior and a Gypsy who plots to avenge her mother’s wrongful death. Russian baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky returns to the Company as Count di Luna and Sondra Radvanovsky, whose exquisite soprano voice has thrilled audiences from Vienna to New York, makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Leonora. They are joined by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, recently named Musical America’s 2009 “Vocalist of the Year,” who makes her first appearance in a fully staged San Francisco Opera production in these performances as Azucena. Blythe shares the role with Malgorzata Walewska in this visually striking production by David McVicar directed by Walter Sutcliffe. Il Trovatore has been a staple of the Company’s repertoire since 1926, and San Francisco audiences have witnessed the role debuts of Leontyne Price (1958) and Joan Sutherland (1975) as Leonora and the first Manrico of Luciano Pavarotti’s career (also in 1975).
Il Trittico – Giacomo Puccini
A triptych that runs the gamut from heart-wrenching tragedy to sparkling comedy, Puccini’s masterwork returns to the War Memorial stage in its entirety after an absence of more than fifty years. Soprano Patricia Racette makes role debuts in each of these three one-act operas—Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi. Italian baritone Paolo Gavanelli and tenor Brandon Jovanovich return to San Francisco Opera in this inventive production, and celebrated contralto Ewa Podleś makes her long-awaited Company debut. Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers leads these performances, and James Robinson directs this contemporary production from New York City Opera.
The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail)  – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
A Spanish nobleman sets out to rescue his beloved from the clutches of a tenacious Turk in this witty tale set to Mozart’s exuberant score. Mary Dunleavy and Matthew Polenzani head a world-class cast with Anna Christy, Peter Rose and Adler Fellow Andrew Bidlack. Exciting young conductor Cornelius Meister makes his U.S. operatic debut in this charming co-production with Lyric Opera of Chicago directed by Chas Rader-Shieber.
The Daughter of the Regiment (La Fille du Régiment) – Gaetano Donizetti
A rambunctious tomboy raised by a group of soldiers is forced to assume the airs of an aristocrat in this delectable soufflé of an opera. Making her Company debut, acclaimed soprano Diana Damrau sings the title role of Donizetti’s classic opera for the first time and joins the roster of luminaries that have sung this role at San Francisco Opera, including Lily Pons and Beverly Sills. Damrau is joined by Peruvian tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who made the New York Times front page when he encored his rendition of the opera’s most challenging aria—hitting all nine high Cs not once but twice. Renowned director Laurent Pelly and conductor Michele Mariotti make their Company debuts in a production that has delighted audiences in New York, London and Vienna.
Salome – Richard Strauss
Set in biblical times, this erotically charged opera adapted from Oscar Wilde’s scandalous play of the same name centers on a tangled triangle: the imprisoned John the Baptist, a lecherous King Herod and the monarch’s pathologically seductive stepdaughter, Salome. German soprano Nadja Michael is “indolent, sexy, [and] scary” in the title role, giving a performance that “blazes with dramatic intensity” according to London critics. She makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Salome opposite returning artists Kim Begley (Herod) and Greer Grimsley (Jokanaan). Music director Nicola Luisottileads this opera for the first time in a production directed by Seán Curran and James Robinson.
Otello – Giuseppe Verdi
In Verdi’s masterful adaptation of Shakespeare’s tragedy, a great warrior encounters the one enemy against which he has no defense—his own jealousy. South African tenor Johan Botha makes his Company debut as the ill-fated Moor, joining the roster of previous San Francisco Opera Otellos that includes Lauritz Melchior, Mario Del Monaco, and Plácido Domingo. Svetla Vassileva (Desdemona) and Marco Vratogna (Iago) also make their San Francisco Opera debuts. Stephen Barlow directs this Lyric Opera of Chicago production conducted by Maestro Luisotti.
Faust – Charles François Gounod
A forlorn philosopher regains his youth by making a dubious deal with the Devil in this ever-popular opera that has been performed in 18 previous San Francisco Opera seasons and featured such legends as Jussi Björling, Ezio Pinza, Licia Albanese, and Samuel Ramey. Stefano Secco stars in the title role in his first fully-staged Company production opposite Patricia Racette (Marguerite) and John Relyea (Méphistophélès).Conductor Maurizio Benini leads his first production at San Francisco Opera and Stephen Barlow directs.
The Girl of the Golden West (La Fanciulla del West) – Giacomo Puccini
A love triangle set during the California Gold Rush, the work Puccini considered “the best of my operas” returns home for the first time in three decades in celebration of its 100th anniversary. Nicola Luisotti conducts a stellar cast led by Deborah Voigt, making her role debut as Minnie, and Roberto Frontali as Sheriff Jack Rance, with Salvatore Licitra making his Company debut as the bandit Dick Johnson.
Die Walküre – Richard Wagner
A powerful god finds himself torn by conflicting loyalties as the second installment of Wagner’s majestic Ring cycle comes to San Francisco in this new co-production with Washington National Opera. San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser and director Francesca Zambellogives this epic tale of an emotionally volatile father and his disobedient children a distinctly American touch while honoring its mythic roots. Donald Runniclesleads an all-star cast headed by Nina Stemme as Brünnhilde, Eva-Maria Westbroek as Sieglinde (in her Company debut) and Christopher Ventris as Siegmund, with former Adler Fellow Mark Delavan returning as Wotan. This production of Die Walküre will be part of the complete Der Ring des Nibelungen—in addition to Das Rheingold, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung—presented in three cycles in June 2011.
Subscriptions for San Francisco Opera’s 2009–10 Season are priced from $120 to $2,700 for Full Series and $60 to $1,500 for Half Series; these prices reflect discounts of up to 30% over single ticket prices. The Company is also offering Mini Series of 3- and 4-opera packages, priced from $45 to $1,060, with 10% discounts in many areas. Subscriptions go on sale to renewing subscribers on January 26, 2009. Patrons interested in new subscriptions may call or visit the Opera Box Office starting January 27, 2009. New subscriptions will be available online at beginning March 17, 2009. Single tickets for San Francisco Opera’s 2009–10 season performances range from $15 to $360 and will go on sale July 12, 2009 at 10am. Please visit for further details, or call the Opera Box Office at (415) 864-3330. San Francisco Opera Box Office winter hours: Monday 10am–5pm; Tuesday through Friday 10am–6pm. All casting, repertoire and dates are subject to change.
All War Memorial Opera House performances (except the September 11 season opening) feature an informative Pre-Opera Talk 55 minutes prior to curtain. Pre-Opera Talks are presented free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance.
Opera Guild Preview Lectures are scheduled in communities throughout the greater Bay Area by local Guild chapters. Renowned musicologists lead presentations to familiarize the audience with repertoire from the current season. Admission prices vary.
Opera Guild Insight Panel Discussions feature renowned artists and personalities from the world of opera, who share their insights and experiences during informal panel discussions. Free to Opera Guild members, $5 for non-members.
The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For further public transportation information, visit and