Release date: 10/18/2011

Starring Susan Graham and David Daniels, October 30-November 19, War Memorial Opera House

Olivier Award-winning Nicholas Hytner Production DIrected by Michael Walling; Conducted by Patrick Summers

Photos Available
SAN FRANCISCO (October 18, 2011)—San Francisco Opera presents the Company premiere of George Frideric Handel’s Xerxes, opening October 30 with five subsequent performances through November 19. Widely acclaimed as one of the greatest Handel productions of our time, this visually stunning Olivier Award–winning staging of Xerxes, created by film and theater director Nicholas Hytner, is directed by Michael Walling. Clever comedy is intertwined with tender poignancy in this tale of unrequited love and intrigue at a royal court. Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers leads an outstanding cast featuring mezzo-soprano Susan Graham as Xerxes, countertenor David Daniels as Arsamenes, soprano Lisette Oropesa as Romilda, soprano Heidi Stober as Atalanta, contralto Sonia Prina as Amastris and bass-baritones Wayne Tigges as Ariodates and Michael Sumuel as Elviro.
Mezzo-soprano Susan Graham returns to San Francisco Opera in the title role of Handel’s Baroque masterpiece, Xerxes. She previously performed this role in the same Hytner production opposite David Daniels with Houston Grand Opera in 2010. A beloved and frequent collaborator with San Francisco Opera, Graham’s most recent Company appearance was in the title role of 2008’s Ariodante, following 2007’s acclaimed performances in the title role of Gluck’s Iphigénie en Tauride—a role she has also performed at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden; the Metropolitan Opera; Paris Opera; Lyric Opera of Chicago; and the Salzburg Festival. Among several other San Francisco Opera performances, Graham notably created the role of Sister Helen Prejean in the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking.
American countertenor David Daniels (Arsamenes) made his San Francisco Opera debut as Nerone in 1998’s L'Incoronazione di Poppea and returned in the title role of Giulio Cesare and as Bertarido in Rodelinda. Frequently performing both in operas and recitals around the world, Daniels made history as the first countertenor to give a solo recital in the main auditorium of Carnegie Hall. Highlights of recent seasons include the title role in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera; Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Lichas in Hercules with Lyric Opera of Chicago as well as Roberto in Vivaldi’s Griselda with the Santa Fe Opera. Daniels has previously appeared as Arsamenes at Houston Grand Opera, Canadian Opera Company and New York City Opera. An active recording artist, David Daniels’ debut album in 1998 was Handel: Opera Arias conducted by Sir Roger Norrington featuring several selections from Xerxes.
American soprano Lisette Oropesa makes her San Francisco Opera debut as Romilda—a new role in her repertoire. A graduate of the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Artist Program, her engagements with that company include Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Woglinde in Das Rheingold and Götterdämmerung, Lisette in La Rondine, the Forest Bird in Siegfried and Amor in Orfeo ed Euridice. Other recent appearances include the title role of  Lucia di Lammermoor at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and her Bavarian State Opera debut as Ismene in Mitradate, Re di Ponto.
American soprano Heidi Stober (Atalanta) made her San Francisco Opera debut last season as Sophie in Werther and returned as Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro; shereturns again this season as Pamina in The Magic Flute. A graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, Stober also appeared as Atalanta in that company’s 2010 production of Xerxes.  Future engagements this season include Pamina in The Magic Flute, Zerlina in Don Giovanni and Micaëla in Carmen, among otherswith Deutsche Oper Berlin; Gretel in Hänsel und Gretel at the Metropolitan Opera; and Zdenka in Arabella with the Santa Fe Opera.
Italian contralto Sonia Prina made her United States debut in 2008 with critically acclaimed performances at San Francisco Opera as Polinesso in Ariodante. Prina returns as Amastris, a role she also sang previously with Susan Graham and David Daniels at Houston Grand Opera in 2010. Holding a particular fondness for Handel, Prina has sung the title roles of Giulio Cesare in Genoa and Lille, Orlando in Ravenna, Amadigi di Gaula at the Teatro San Carlo, and Silla in Rome.
Bass-baritone Wayne Tigges made his San Francisco Opera debut earlier this season as Sam and Wesley in Heart of a Soldier. He returns as Ariodatesin this production and again as Zuniga in Carmen. Recent engagements include Willy Wonka in the European premiere of Peter Ash’s The Golden Ticket at the Wexford Festival; Escamillo in Carmen and Leporello in Don Giovanni at the San Diego Opera; Jochanaan in Salome with Arizona Opera; and Basilio in Il Barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Colorado and Lyric Opera of Chicago.
San Francisco Opera Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers most recently led the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis and Donna Di Novelli’s Heart of a Soldier at San Francisco Opera. Summers has previously led a vast repertory for the Company, including Ariodante; Samson et Dalila; Iphigénie en Tauride; Il Trittico; the world premieres of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire (1998) and Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking (2000); and the West Coast premiere of Heggie’s Three Decembers (2008). Artistic and Music Director of Houston Grand Opera, Summers has frequently conducted at the Metropolitan Opera, Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Welsh National Opera, the Dallas Opera, Opera Australia, Seattle Opera, Lisbon Opera, Bordeaux Opera, and the Bregenz Festival, among many others.
This stunning English National Opera production was created by internationally acclaimed director Nicholas Hytner, with sets and costumes designed by David Fielding and lighting designed by Paul Pyant. Equally at home in theater, opera and film, Nicholas Hytner currently serves as artistic director of London’s Royal National Theatre. A three-time Olivier-award winner, Nicholas Hytner has directed everything from Le Nozze di Figaro to Miss Saigon and the well-known film The Madness of King George. Michael Walling makes his San Francisco Opera debut directing this revival which he has previously led at English National Opera and Houston Grand Opera. His other opera credits include Nixon in China at Greek National Opera, and La Bohème and Die Walküre at English National Opera.
Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the six performances of Xerxes are scheduled for October 30 (1:30 p.m.), November 4 (7:30 p.m.), November 8 (7:30 p.m.), November 11 (7:30 p.m.), November 16 (7 p.m.) and November 19 (7:30 p.m.), 2011.
Insight Panel Discussion
San Francisco Opera Guild will present an Insight Panel Discussion featuring members of the cast and production team from Xerxes. The discussion will take place on Monday, October 24 at 6 p.m. in the Herbst Theater at the War Memorial Veterans Building (401 Van Ness Avenue). Insight panels are free for Opera members and $5 for the general public; tickets can be purchased at the door 30 minutes prior to the discussion.
Tickets and Information
Tickets for the performance of Handel’s Xerxes are priced from $21 to $330 and may be purchased at or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office [301 Van Ness Avenue (at Grove Street), or by phone at (415) 864-3330]. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only.
All performances will feature an informative Opera Talk by musicologist Joseph Calver. Talks begin fifty-five minutes before each performance in the orchestra section of the War Memorial Opera House and are presented free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance.
The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. 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 more public transportation information, visit and
Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Xerxes and San Francisco Opera’s 2011–12 season, please visit