Opera Blog

November 28, 2018 It's a Wonderful Life

Backstage with Matthew: Dressing through Time

We are currently in the midst of our highly acclaimed production of It’s a Wonderful Life, the new holiday opera by Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer, co-commissioned with Houston Grand Opera (where it premiered in 2016) and Indiana University. I have been thrilled by the heartfelt reaction from audiences and critics alike—it is a work for which a pack of Kleenex is pretty much a necessity as we follow the journeys of George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clara.

November 13, 2018 It's a Wonderful Life

Backstage with Matthew: Working Out the Wings

On November 17, we enter the fairy-tale world of It’s a Wonderful Life – the story of a man desperate to find meaning in life, and the angel who helps him find that meaning, earning her wings in the process. It is a beautiful, lyrical, heartfelt operatic version of the film of the same name, and this is a new co-commission between San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. The composer: the Bay Area’s very own Jake Heggie, working with esteemed librettist Gene Scheer. It will be perfect for adults and children alike and it will make for a joyful holiday experience for families!

October 24, 2018 Arabella

Backstage with Matthew: The Birth of a New Arabella

Last week, we were privileged to witness a number of artists taking on new roles in Strauss’ exquisitely romantic opera, Arabella. Soaring into the stratosphere with the role for her very first time was Ellie Dehn, the American soprano who has already brought roles from Donna Anna to Fiordiligi to the Countess to Musetta to Manon alive on our stage. Arabella is a unique role. It sits very high for a soprano, and needs to float with a silvery magic but also soar over Richard Strauss’ sumptuous orchestral textures. There are not many sopranos in the world able to take on this role, and so we were thrilled to witness Ellie’s first.

October 7, 2018 Tosca

Backstage with Matthew: The Sounds of Rome

On Wednesday we raised the curtain on our breathtaking new production of Tosca. It was such a proud moment for me and for so many others in the Company: the birth of an exquisite new legacy production conceived for San Francisco Opera, built here by our own artists, artisans and technicians, and created for this city at this time. It’s a searingly incisive expression of this powerful opera and I hope that you will have a chance to see it.

September 21, 2018 Tosca

Backstage with Matthew: Recreating History

In less than two weeks we open the curtain on our brand-new production of Tosca, directed by Shawna Lucey with set and costume designs by Robert Innes Hopkins and lighting design by Michael James Clark. I couldn’t be more excited at what is coming to life in the Opera House. Today we have the piano dress rehearsal—the coming together of all the physical elements—after which we will add the orchestra and move towards the final dress and opening.

September 7, 2018 Roberto Devereux

Backstage with Matthew: Another opening, another season!

Welcome to opening day of the 2018-19 season, the 96th season of San Francisco Opera! Today we raise the curtain on another year of thrilling operatic journeys as we delve into eight extraordinary stories of humanity, told through eight productions new to San Francisco, with eight different conductors on the podium, and eight sensational casts. I cannot wait to explore all of these with you!

Backstage with Matthew: An Argentine Journey

When we open the curtain on September 7th, ushering in the 2018–19 season, the audience will be transported to a place of vibrant color, intense passions, close communities and…tango. The world of La Boca district in Buenos Aires—the Italian quarter of the city—will come to life as the setting for this fascinating take on Cavalleria Rusticana / Pagliacci in a production conceived by the great Argentine tenor, and now director and designer, José Cura.

August 6, 2018 Tosca

Backstage with Matthew: Hats Off to Tosca!

Welcome to the 2018-19 Season! It is hard to believe, but we are already back in rehearsal as we prepare for a thrilling fall ahead, and this week our brand new production of Tosca takes to the stage for preliminary technical rehearsals. I cannot wait to share this production with you, created by local craftspeople, designed specifically for our stage and our audiences, and a beautiful new expression of this classic work.

July 23, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: A Little Valkyrie Magic

I am still feeling incredible euphoria after our extraordinary Ring cycle last month! It was such a powerful coming together of company and community in a powerful, shared experience. I don’t think that I’ve ever felt the Opera House resonate with that kind of energy before, and I hope that many of you also had a similar reaction.

June 28, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Controlled Conflagrations

Fire is a vital and very exciting part of telling the story of the Ring.

June 12, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: The Immersive Ring

Today we raise the curtain on what promises to be an extraordinary presentation of Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle.

May 29, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: A Noble Ring

After the double basses and bassoons lay the foundational sonorities at the opening of Rheingold, the first instruments we hear depicting the swells of the Rhine River are the horns.

May 24, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Big Art in Miniature

A few weeks ago I had a powerfully inspiring visit to Thomas Edison Elementary School in Daly City and a chance to see two classes working with SFO's flagship program.

April 16, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Building a Roman Icon

Something very exciting is currently happening 15 miles down the road from the Opera House. Something that you will see in all of its splendor this October, but which I’m so enthusiastic about that I wanted to give you a few glimpses of now! It is our spectacular new production of Tosca!

March 13, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Apples of Gold in Settings of Silver

The title of this week’s backstage email refers to an exquisite book on my shelf that chronicles twelve of the greatest feasts of history. I thought it a fitting stepping-off point for a rare glimpse into the behind-the-scenes world of our Special Events department.

February 14, 2018

Backstage with Matthew: Facilitating Experiences of a Lifetime

It’s been just about three weeks since we launched our 2018–19 season and we’ve been thrilled by the reception from patrons. Subscription sales are moving at a brisk pace, and there is a wonderful energy for what lies ahead. That energy is felt particularly acutely in the Box Office, the nerve center of our ticketing services.

December 18, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Looking Back with Joy

On December 10th we lowered the curtain on a fall season bursting with extraordinary opera. I am so proud to work for a company that makes possible this kind of work—both our exceptionally talented employees, and our generous and dedicated audiences.

December 11, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Sitting Side by Side

It is something of a truism that participation in the arts leads to a deeper connection to the arts. That is a central philosophy behind our education programs, opening opportunities to learn through creation and participation. 

November 28, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Singing Through the Centuries

This Thursday, November 30, we are presenting a very special concert in the Taube Atrium at the Wilsey Center. It is the second concert of the San Francisco Opera Chorus, and will be conducted by our Chorus Director, Ian Robertson and accompanied by Associate Chorus Master Fabrizio Corona. 

November 8, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: A Finely Coiffed Head!

As we delve into a busy November with three operas on stage, our wig department is working around the clock to ensure that all our artists are coiffed with wigs and facial hair that morph our singers and dancers into vibrant characters from mythical China, Belle Époque Paris, and 1850s California.

October 31, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Crafting the Gold Rush

With the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West less than a month away, the energy and fervor around the Company is palpable as all the details lock into place. It is shaping up to be one of the most impactful new operas seen on our (or any!) stage. 

October 9, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: The Art of Fashion

Tomorrow (October 10) we begin rehearsals for our next opera of this incredible fall season, Massenet’s Manon. This is a new SFO co-production with Lithuanian National Opera and a creation from the same team that brought us The Capulets and the Montagues in 2012—director (and, in this case, also costume designer) Vincent Boussard and set designer, Vincent Lemaire. As with Capuleti, Manon will be a shimmering interplay of light, reflection and color onstage, creating the giddy and capricious worlds through which Manon flits. 

September 28, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Stepping in for Callas

Overheard before a performance of Elektra at the Royal Opera House back in the 1960s: a grand doyenne of London society was talking with a friend and, upon suggesting that they continue their conversation at intermission, and upon finding out that there was no intermission, she exclaimed with incredulity: “My dear…an opera without an intermission?…What’s the point!”

September 6, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: An Epic Jigsaw Puzzle

The air is getting thick with excitement as we build towards the opening of our 2017–18 Season on Friday. The following day we open Richard Strauss’ deeply psychological thriller Elektra in an insightful new production by Keith Warner. 

August 14, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: All Change Above

I can’t resist: how many electricians does it take to change a light bulb? Well, when you’re talking about the great chandelier of the War Memorial Opera House, it’s 3 electricians but it’s also 588 light bulbs! 

July 25, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: Opera with a Twist

As we and other urban companies take an important summer breather between repertory seasons, something very exciting happens. The summer opera festivals leap into life, filling the languid months of summer with a thrilling array of operatic offerings.

June 22, 2017

Backstage with Matthew: The Roar of the Greasepaint

On July 2nd we will bid a very fond farewell to one of the most iconic characters backstage at San Francisco Opera for the past 45 years. Principal make-up artist William “Bill” Stewart Jones will make up Dale Travis as the two characters of Benoît and Alcindoro in Bohème for the last time, marking the close of a career that has seen some of the most luminous stars of opera pass under his make-up brush including Régine Crespin, Plácido Domingo, Ingvar Wixell and Sam Ramey.

June 12, 2017

Backstage with Matthew-Dressing for Gold

In a recent Backstage with Matthew I showcased the process of building the sets for our new John Adams opera Girls of the Golden West. Last week, designer Rita Ryack joined us in the costume shop, meeting to finalize designs and choose fabrics for the incredible period costumes that will be featured on stage. 

May 5, 2017

Backstage with Matthew-Creating the Art of Opera

In just a few days, the street lights and bus sides of San Francisco will be transformed with the arrival of the Opera’s new bold, energetic marketing campaign. 

April 19, 2017 Girls of the Golden West

Backstage with Matthew - Scaling the Sierra

Last week, scenic designer David Gropman visited the Opera for talks with the production department to make decisions on John Adams' new opera, Girls of the Golden West

February 27, 2017

Backstage with Matthew-  February 27

Last Friday we opened Ted Hearne’s searingly impactful dramatic oratorio, The Source in the Wilsey Center for Opera. It is a work that redefines artistry on many levels: musical language, technological effects, and stark questions about what it means to engage with art. It is also an example of how the Wilsey Center is redefining possibilities for the Opera’s employees.

February 13, 2017

Backstage with Matthew - February 13

There are two basic ways to organize an opera season. Repertory opera houses cycle through many productions at the same time, while staggione (or “season”) opera houses tend to focus on one production at a time. San Francisco Opera tends more towards the repertory model and if there’s one defining feature of repertory, its complexity! 

January 21, 2017

Backstage with Matthew - January 21

Happy New Year from San Francisco Opera! On Tuesday I was very proud to announce a thrilling 2017–18 Season at San Francisco Opera and I wanted to share a few personal reflections on what lies ahead.

December 12, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - December 12

I recently took off to Beijing for two days with our board member and Co-Chair of the Dream of the Red Chamber (DRC) Committee, Doreen Woo Ho, and my colleague Daniel Knapp, Managing Director: Production. Our objective: to try and secure safe passage for DRC in mainland China next year!

November 28, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - November 28

As many of you know, we are very proud to be showcasing two former Adler Fellows, Leah Crocetto and Brian Jagde. But we are also proud to be showcasing two members of our corps de ballet as the solo dancers: Rachel Little and Jekyns Peláez.

November 14, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - November 14

One of the things I love about playing in repertory (changing productions night to night) is that we are constantly creating different worlds onstage. That magical shift is embodied in the incredible San Francisco Opera Chorus, a group of 48 talented singers who shift seamlessly between productions, languages, characterizations, and dramatic styles.

November 3, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - November 3

This week we’re visiting our orchestral librarian, Carrie Weick. The Opera has two full time librarians (one for orchestral music, the other for vocal music), and two part-time librarians supporting them. Carrie, as orchestral librarian, is a member of the orchestra and ensures that everyone’s music is fully prepared before rehearsals begin.

October 18, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - October 18

Stagecraft is all about magic: it’s about creating arresting worlds and feelings inside a black box. Unlike film, opera requires us to maneuver around these worlds in real time and, as such, needs a plethora of tricks and devices at its disposal.

October 3, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - October 3

One of the things that most excites me about this art-form is the passionate connection that exists between the stage and the audience. The audience is an essential part of the artistic process and the energy that flows back and forth between stage and auditorium is what creates those performances of a lifetime!

September 19, 2016

Backstage with Matthew - September 19

Deep in the farthest reaches of the Opera House lies a room so secret that it is literally kept under lock and key, and its contents are kept under yet further locks. It is the Opera’s armory.

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