Release date: 2/3/2014
San Francisco Opera’s Summer 2014 Season opens June 1 with the Company premiere of one of the masterpieces of American musical theater, Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Show Boat. Newly announced cast members include Tony Award–winning theater actor, film and television star and physical comedian Bill Irwin as Cap’n Andy Hawks; dashing young American baritone Michael Todd Simpson as Gaylord Ravenal, replacing Nathan Gunn who has withdrawn from the production; and Tony Award–winning actress well known for her work on television and in film, Harriet Harris as Parthy Ann Hawks. Also joining the cast of opera singers and Broadway stars are renowned triple threat artists (acting, dancing, singing) Kirsten Wyatt and John Bolton in the high-voltage roles of Ellie Mae Shipley and Frank Shultz.
SAN FRANCISCO OPERA PRESENTS SUMMER 2014 SEASON
JUNE 1 TO JULY 13, WAR MEMORIAL OPERA HOUSE
Casting Updates include Bill Irwin as Cap'n Andy Hawks, Michael Todd Simpson as Gaylord Ravenal and Harriet Harris as Parthy Ann Hawks in Company Premiere of Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's Show Boat, opening June 1
Two International Casts Perform Verdi's La Traviata, opening June 11
Madama Butterfly Starring Patricia Racette and Conducted by Nicola Luisotti opens June 15
Free Live Simulcast of La Traviata at AT&T Park Saturday, July 5
Tickets Now On Sale; Call (415) 864-3330 or visit sfopera.com
The season continues with Verdi’s La Traviata featuring two exciting sets of singers, including Sonya Yoncheva and Saimir Pirgu in one cast led by Music Director Nicola Luisotti, and husband-and-wife team Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello in another cast led by Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi. Special to this presentation of La Traviata, San Francisco Opera today announced plans to return to AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, for a free live simulcast of this very popular opera work on Saturday, July 5. San Francisco Opera simulcasts have provided world class performances to more than 165,000 Bay Area residents and visitors for the past seven years enjoying opera al fresco while sitting in the stands and on the outfield under the stars. Completing the Summer Season is Puccini’s masterwork Madama Butterfly, featuring soprano Patricia Racette in her signature role and a colorful production new to San Francisco audiences created by Japanese artist Jun Kaneko. All performances feature the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus (Ian Robertson, chorus director) and take place in the historic War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco.
Show Boat – Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (June 1-July 2)
A watershed of American musical theater, Show Boat, with music by Jerome Kern and book and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, receives its Company premiere in director Francesca Zambello’s new grand-scale production, of which the Chicago Sun-Times exclaimed, “No one should miss it!” A beloved story of life on the Mississippi in the 1920s, Show Boat is both a poignant love story and a powerful reminder of America’s bitter legacy of racism. Of recent performances at Houston Grand Opera, the Houston Chronicle wrote “[This is] a towering work. . . there’s a magnificence in its music, its narrative sweep, its deep awareness of something bigger than ourselves.” The score is filled with unforgettable songs such as “Ol’ Man River” and “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man,” and the dazzling production features large, colorful sets, sumptuous costumes and exhilarating dance numbers.
San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley explained: “In this day and age, only opera companies command the resources necessary to give a grand work like Show Boat its artistic due. The commercial theater sector, which gave birth to Show Boat and many others of its genre, simply cannot afford to remount them on their terms. The original orchestrations called for an orchestra of 50, two choruses, dancers and a large cast of principals. As a top tier opera company, we are able to present this work the way Kern and Hammerstein intended it, and we are able to cast the type of rich, legitimate voices required to give it its luster.”
Cap’n Andy Hawks, owner of the paddle boat Cotton Blossom, will be portrayed by Tony Award-winning American actor Bill Irwin. Irwin’s long and varied career as an actor and vaudevillian performer includes performances on and off Broadway of Waiting for Godot, with Steve Martin and Robin Williams; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, for which he received the 2005 Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play; as well as his original work Largely New York, which received five Tony nominations as well as Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and New York Dance and Performance awards. Other notable credits include films such as Rachel Getting Married, My Blue Heaven and Eight Men Out; television roles on Northern Exposure, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Sesame Street; and a featured performance in Bobby McFerrin’s iconic music video for “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” with Robin Williams. Well known to Bay Area audiences, Bill Irwin is an original member of the San Francisco-based Pickle Family Circus; has appeared as a guest artist with the ODC Dance Company; and regularly performs with American Conservatory Theatre, where his credits include Fool Moon, Scapin, Texts for Nothing, and Endgame. The first performer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship, Irwin has also been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Choreographer’s Fellowship as well as Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships.
Michael Todd Simpson makes his San Francisco Opera debut as the handsome gambler Gaylord Ravenal, a role he previously performed to great success at Washington National Opera. The Washington Times wrote of his portrayal: “Mr. Simpson’s rich, supple baritone voice was the perfect match for his character’s youthful confidence.” Also this season, the striking young baritone will appear as John Sorel in The Consul with Seattle Opera and as Demetrius in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Metropolitan Opera. Other notable operatic engagements include Moralès (Carmen) and Hermann and Schlémil (Les Contes d’Hoffmann) at the Met, the title role of Don Giovanni and Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro) with Pittsburgh Opera and Marcello (La Bohème) and Escamillo (Carmen) with Seattle Opera.
American actress Harriet Harris, well known for her television roles as Bebe Glazer on Frasier and Felicia Tillman on Desperate Housewives, will appear in the role of Parthy Ann Hawks. In addition to her television roles, Harris received a 2002 Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for her performance as Mrs. Meers in Thoroughly Modern Millie, the L.A. Stage Alliance Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for On the Town, and has appeared on Broadway in Cry-Baby, Old Acquaintance, The Man Who Came to Dinner, Present Laughter, and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella. Harris’s film credits include Memento, Monster-in-Law, Addams Family Values and Nurse Betty.
The ensemble cast is completed by American soprano Heidi Stober, whose recent San Francisco Opera credits include Susanna (Le Nozze di Figaro), Atalanta (Xerxes), Pamina (The Magic Flute), and Nannetta (Falstaff), in her role debut as Magnolia Hawks, and soprano Patricia Racette in her first performances of Julie LaVerne. Morris Robinson, who appeared at San Francisco Opera as the Commendatore in 2011’s Don Giovanni, brings his resonant bass voice to the role of Joe, interpreting the iconic song “Ol’ Man River,” and dramatic soprano Angela Renée Simpson, who triumphed in her performances of the role in Chicago and Washington, D.C., is his wife Queenie. Simpson is also in demand for her portrayal of Serena in the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, a role she has performed with San Francisco Opera, Paris’ Opéra Comique, at the Styriarte Festival and with New York City Opera in their televised presentation for “Live from Lincoln Center.”
American actress, singer and dancer Kirsten Wyatt joins the cast as Ellie Mae Shipley. Wyatt’s numerous Broadway credits include the 2012 revival of Annie, the 2007 revival of Grease and the original Broadway productions of Elf–The Musical and High Fidelity. Broadway regular and television actor John Bolton performs the role of Frank Shultz. Bolton is best known for originating the role of The Old Man in A Christmas Story: The Musical on Broadway. Other Broadway credits include the original Broadway production of Curtains, Spamalot and Titanic as well as notable revivals of Damn Yankees and How to Succeed in Business.
Maestro John DeMain, who last conducted San Francisco Opera’s 2009 production of another music theater masterpiece, the Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, will lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus. Zambello’s stunning production features choreography by Michele Lynch, sets by Peter Davison, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Mark McCullough and sound design by Tod Nixon. This San Francisco Opera co-production premiered at Lyric Opera of Chicago in February 2012, and these performances will reunite the original creative team.
In conjunction with these performances, the San Francisco Opera Education Department will present Exploration Workshops for the whole family. To receive updates regarding Exploration Workshops, sign up for E-Opera at sfopera.com/EOpera.
San Francisco Opera Guild will present an Insight Panel Discussion featuring members of the cast and production team from Show Boat. The discussion will take place on Monday, June 2 at 6 p.m. in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall (50 Oak Street). 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.
La Traviata – Giuseppe Verdi (June 11-July 13)
Two spectacular casts bring to life Verdi’s most beloved opera, La Traviata. For six performances in June, the high-spirited yet delicate Violetta Valéry will be portrayed by Sonya Yoncheva. The Bulgarian soprano made her United States operatic debut in November 2013 at the Metropolitan Opera to critical acclaim as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. Of that performance, The New York Times labeled her “an artist on the brink of a major career [who] has been winning acclaim for appearances internationally.” Complementing Yoncheva as Violetta’s beloved Alfredo Germont is returning Albanian tenor Saimir Pirgu, and Bulgarian baritone Vladimir Stoyanov makes his San Francisco Opera debut as Alfredo’s controlling father Giorgio Germont.
For four performances in July, the ill-fated lovers are portrayed by off-stage husband and wife Ailyn Pérez and Stephen Costello. Frequent co-stars, the couple also appear as Violetta and Alfredo this season at Hamburg’s Saxon State Opera; Deutsche Oper Berlin; and London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Of the pair’s previous performance of La Traviata, Opera News wrote: “A strikingly beautiful woman, Pérez is eminently suited to Violetta, not only physically but vocally” and that Costello “has a clear, attractive tenor, and the emotional directness of his singing is apt for this uncomplicated character.” San Francisco audiences recently heard Pérez and Costello together at the Stern Grove Festival in August 2013 with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. Hawaiian baritone Quinn Kelsey returns to San Francisco Opera as Giorgio Germont.
This opulent San Francisco Opera production, conceived by John Copley and designed by John Conklin with costumes by David Walker, will be directed by Laurie Feldman. Music Director Nicola Luisotti will conduct the June performances and Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi will lead the July performances.
Madama Butterfly – Giacomo Puccini (June 15-July 9)
Puccini’s beautiful, tragic love story reunites soprano Patricia Racette and tenor Brian Jagde, who recently co-starred in the Company’s Fall 2012 production of Puccini’s Tosca, as the geisha Cio-Cio-San and Lieutenant B. F. Pinkerton. Racette has championed the role around the world with opera companies such as Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Munich’s Bavarian State Opera and Opera Australia. Of her performance as Cio-Cio-San at the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Times wrote: “Her singing was robust, nuanced and passionate, befitting a performer of her skill and experience. . . In every dimension Ms. Racette’s effort was exceptional; hers is a performance not to be missed.” Of Brian Jagde’s 2011 performance as Pinkerton the Washington Times wrote: “Brian Jagde was forceful, decisive, and powerful as Butterfly’s anti-hero.”
Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth DeShong is Butterfly’s maid and confidante Suzuki, and Brian Mulligan is the American Consul Sharpless. Of her portrayal of the role earlier this year at the Metropolitan Opera, The New York Times wrote: “The mezzo Elizabeth DeShong was outstanding as Butterfly’s servant Suzuki. With her deeply resonant low register, she created a character who is tragically prescient about the unfolding disaster.” Brian Mulligan was also praised for his recent performance by the Times, London as being “an outstanding Sharpless.”
Following the great success of Jun Kaneko’s new production of The Magic Flute for San Francisco Opera in 2012, these performances will feature the artist’s bold, colorful production and costume designs and will be directed by Leslie Swackhamer in her Company debut. Reflecting on performances of this production in Vancouver, the Globe and Mail wrote: “A Butterfly that soars in style. . . the visual component of this production is so compelling, and so intelligent, that it lifts this opera to a new level.” Music Director Nicola Luisotti conducts, with Resident Conductor Giuseppe Finzi leading the final two performances.
Free Live Simulcast of La Traviata, AT&T Park (July 5)
Continuing what has become a beloved Bay Area tradition, San Francisco Opera partners with the San Francisco Giants to present the Company’s eighth free live simulcast at AT&T Park on Saturday, July 5, 2014 at 8 p.m. Verdi’s La Traviata, featuring Ailyn Pérez, Stephen Costello and Quinn Kelsey and conducted by Giuseppe Finzi, will be simulcast live from the War Memorial Opera House to AT&T Park’s high-definition scoreboard. As a unique opportunity for fans to enjoy the sights and sounds of San Francisco Opera in one of the nation’s premier ballparks, the Company’s simulcasts at AT&T Park have drawn more than 165,000 people, many experiencing opera for the first time.
Through state-of-the-art technology, the simulcast will be transmitted in 1920x1080 high definition (HD) to AT&T Park’s 103-feet wide Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision scoreboard—one of the highest quality outdoor scoreboards in the nation—live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House. Concert quality audio combined with AT&T Park’s huge screen creates an unmatched operatic experience for attendees sitting in the stands and on the baseball field itself. AT&T Park concessions will be open for the simulcast, providing audiences the rare opportunity to partner hot dogs, peanuts and popcorn with world-class opera.
San Francisco Opera at the Ballpark is made possible through the extraordinary technology of the Koret-Taube Media Suite. This event marks the twelfth free simulcast presented by San Francisco Opera under David Gockley’s leadership. Free registration for early entry and best seating is available beginning March 1 at sfopera.com/simulcast.