San Francisco Opera Opens 97th Season on September 6 with Charles Gounod's Romeo and Juliet Starring Tenor Pene Pati and Soprano Nadine Sierra

Release date: 8/16/2019 (Updated 9/3/2019)


San Francisco Opera Opening Weekend Includes Opera Ball and BRAVO! CLUB Galas on September 6; Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd on September 7; and Free Opera in the Park Concert on September 8

ROMEO AND JULIET and Opening Weekend_update_Sep_3.pdf    Photos Available

San Francisco Opera inaugurates its 97th season on Friday, September 6 with Charles Gounod’s romantic Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette) and two season-opening benefit events—Opera Ball 2019: The Capulets’ Masked Balland BRAVO! CLUB’s Opening Night Gala. The Company’s opening weekend also includes Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd in director Michael Grandage’s acclaimed production opening on September 7; and on September 8 San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, the annual free concert tradition celebrating the opening of the opera season.

The curtain rises on San Francisco Opera’s 2019–20 Season with Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette), a French operatic adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic love story. Distinguished by rapturous duets and brilliant, show-stopping arias, this sensuous lyric drama returns to the Company’s repertory, after a 32-year absence, under the baton of French-Canadian conductor Yves Abel. Making his American directorial debut, Opéra de Monte-Carlo Director Jean-Louis Grinda brings his colorful staging evoking the Verona of the original play.

San Francisco Opera’s cast is headed by tenor Pene Pati and soprano Nadine Sierra as the titular lovers. Pati most recently sang the Duke of Mantua in the Company’s 2017 Rigoletto while still an Adler Fellow. Since graduating from the program, he has joined New Zealand’s Festival Opera for a new production of Madama Butterfly, appeared as Alfredo (La Traviata)for Opera San José and made his role debut as Nemorino (L’Elisir d’Amore) for New Zealand Opera. Pati makes his role debut as Romeo.

Sierra adds Juliet to her gallery of San Francisco Opera heroines, which includes the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. The recipient of the 2017 Richard Tucker Award and the Metropolitan Opera’s Beverly Sills Award in 2018, the former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow has emerged as one of today’s leading sopranos, earning praise from the New York Times for “singing with expressivity and tenderness” and her “bright, agile voice.” Sierra’s first solo CD, There’s a Place for Us, was released last summer by Deutsche Grammophon.

Baritone Lucas Meachem brings his “earnest appealing baritone” (New York Times) to Mercutio, a role he has previously performed with the Metropolitan Opera. Tenor Daniel Montenegro, a former Adler Fellow, is Tybalt. The cast is complemented by bass James Creswell as Friar Lawrence, baritone Timothy Mix as Capulet, bass-baritone Philip Skinner as the Duke of Verona and, in their Company debuts, mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Lauricella as Stéphano and Eve Gigliotti as Gertude. For the October 1 performance, the role of Juliet will be performed by Egyptian-born New Zealand soprano Amina Edris, marking a rare instance when a husband-wife duo (Pati and Edris) will perform opposite each other in the title roles.

Of the production, director Grinda says, “To ensure this drama of absolute love touches every spectator, we respect its original setting and gracefully simplify its scenographic presentation. Without being minimalistic, we suggest Renaissance splendor and leave the imagination to work, focusing the attention on the stage artists.” The staging, originally a co-production by Genoa’s Teatro Carlo Felice and Opéra de Monte-Carlo, premiered in 2012 with sets designed by Eric Chevalier, costumes by Carola Volles and lighting by Roberto Venturi

Sung in French with English supertitles, the seven performances of Romeo and Juliet are scheduled for September 6 (8 p.m.), Sep. 13 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 18 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 21 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 24 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 29 (2 p.m.); and October 1 (7:30 p.m.), 2019.

On September 21, San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants will present Opera at the Ballpark, featuring a live simulcast of Romeo and Juliet. A free community event, the simulcast will be transmitted in high definition live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House to the new Mitsubishi Electronic Diamond Vision Board at Oracle Park.

Roméo et Juliette was first performed by San Francisco Opera in its inaugural season (1923) at the Civic Auditorium. Company founder Gaetano Merola conducted the French work, the only non-Italian offering that season, featuring tenor Beniamino Gigli and soprano Queena Mario in the title roles. Leading artists in successive presentations included Bidu Sayao (Juliette), Jussi Björling (Roméo), Ezio Pinza and Emmanuel List (both Friar Lawrence). The Company’s most recent staging in 1987 featured a production designed by Rolf Gérard and with Michel Plasson conducting and Ruth Ann Swenson as Juliette opposite the three different Roméos: Alfredo Kraus, John David De Haan and Fernando De La Mora.


One of the premier philanthropic events on the West Coast, San Francisco Opera Guild’s Opera Ball 2019: The Capulets’ Masked Ball celebrates the opening of the new season with an elegant pre-performance cocktail reception and dinner, followed by dancing and celebration into the night. Co-chairs for Opera Ball 2019 areElizabeth Birka-White and Jane Mudge. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit or call (415) 565-3204.

The BRAVO! CLUB’s annual black-tie gala for opera-loving, young professionals includes a cocktail reception and opening night performance of Romeo and Juliet. After the opera, revelers join in the festivities of the Opera Ball celebration. For more information and to join BRAVO! CLUB, visit


Based on the unfinished novella by Herman Melville and set to a libretto by E.M. Forster and Eric Crozier, Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd returns to the Company’s repertory after a 15-year absence in the “powerful” (New York Times) staging by Tony Award-winning director Michael Grandage. Lawrence Renes conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and an all-male cast of 75 artists, led by tenor William Burden (Edward Fairfax Vere), baritone John Chest (Billy Budd), and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn (John Claggart). The performances coincide with the Melville bicentennial and the 100th anniversary of the posthumous discovery of the American author’s unfinished manuscript of Billy Budd. For tickets and more information, visit or call (415) 864-3330. 


Presented by the San Francisco Chronicle, Opera in the Park features the stars of the Company’s 2019 Fall Season in concert with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. This annual al fresco event held at Robin Williams Meadow in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is free and open to the public. For more information, visit

*For the complete press release, including cast and calendar, please view the attached PDF.