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A Page from the Past, Informing the Present

As more and more of the world is impacted by the coronavirus and the need to self-isolate, San Francisco Opera reached out to its staff for updates about what they’re doing in this time of quarantine. Composer and San Francisco Opera Orchestra double-bassist Shinji Eshima sent in this update, about how a spring cleaning led him to a curious artifact: a program-book page that connects his past and present.

During this “stay-at-home” COVID-19 order, I have been using the time to compose and go through old files.

I’ve been working on a new composition based on the story “Snow White.” My “Swimmer” ballet, which premiered with the San Francisco Ballet in 2015, is scheduled to be performed at a couple venues around the world next year. The CD recording should be released soon.

As I was cleaning out files, I came across this photo (below) of an old program from 2005. A trio I composed for a San Francisco Opera Orchestra colleague, cellist Emil Miland, was on the concert.

Shinji Eshima

Also performing in this concert was the late, great mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao. The irony here is that I have been commissioned by a private group to compose an opera about her life. It is entitled Zheng. I had forgotten we once shared a concert.

I am working on this opera now.


Shinji Eshima has served as double-bassist on the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1980 and as associate principal bass for the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra since 1982. A Berkeley-born composer, Eshima has written over 30 works, including the ballet “Swimmer,” choreographed by Yuri Possokhov.

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