Opera Blog

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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The Ring

The Ring--Cycle 1

The Ring--Cycle 2

The Ring--Cycle 3