SFOpera - Backstage with Matthew - August 22

Backstage with Matthew - August 22

Today marks three weeks in my role as your new general director. It's been a fascinating time, with everything both very familiar and very new. After eleven years here I realize I'm still something of a newbie given the decades' worth of association so many of you have with the Opera. Thank you for the heartfelt welcome and support you've given me through this transition! I am beginning this new chapter surrounded by wonderful friends.

Opera is a communal art form. We bring together all of the arts in profound moments of dramatic entertainment. It is a community of singers, stitchers, string players, sound engineers, stage managers, staff, supernumeraries, subscribers, and so many more. Putting together an artistic jigsaw puzzle with hundreds of diverse colleagues is one of the key reasons I got into opera management.

I am passionate about creating closer connections between all aspects of the Company and, to that end, I'd like to write to you periodically as members of the SFO family of employees, volunteers, board members, donors, subscribers and beyond. The diversity of activity that happens here is staggering and I hope this will help give an insight into the stories, joys and challenges that go into an international opera season. For more regular peeks behind the curtain, please follow me on Twitter @matthewshilvock.

We've now had two weeks of rehearsals and, with 18 days to go until opening night, the ability of this company to power through so much so quickly is stunning. This is our "summer tech" period—a few weeks of intense technical activity where each production gets a few days onstage to work out any kinks with the scenery and props, to write the lighting cues and to allow the directors time with the chorus on the set. We have already had Aida, Makropulos, Don Pasquale and Red Chamber on stage. Andrea Chénier is being loaded onto the stage as I write. That's five shows in two weeks. There aren't many houses that can work that kind of pacing, but we have one of the finest stage crews and production teams in the world, so we are in excellent shape.

With so much going on it's hard to pick out just a few things to share!

  • Aida is going to be amazing. This new production by Francesca Zambello features the design concepts of contemporary artist RETNA and, along with Music Director Nicola Luisotti, Leah Crocetto and Brian Jagde, is going to be powerful, visceral and visually stunning. Check out more of RETNA’s work.
  • I had a chance to visit our facility in Burlingame two weeks ago to see our scenic artists paint the translucent panels that form the backdrop of Dream of the Red Chamber. We just hung those panels on stage. As you can see, they’re intricate, interlocking pieces and you'll be amazed by the effect when you see them head on.
  • The Makropulos Case returned from our partners in Helsinki in fine shape. Somewhere along the way, however, the corners that fill in around the turntable disappeared but replacements were quickly fashioned!
  • Our three debuting artists in Andrea Chénier are exciting additions to the Company: Yonghoon Lee, Anna Pirozzi and George Gagnidze. I am so eager to share this season opener with you. Think BBC or PBS period drama and you have a sense of the historical accuracy that's unfolding on stage in David McVicar's magnificent production. Check out a video of our "meet and greet" where we introduced the artists to the Company on day one of rehearsal.

I look forward to sharing more glimpses of the work and people of this extraordinary community. Thank you for the part you play in bringing opera to life.

Warmest wishes,

Matthew Shilvock
General Director
San Francisco Opera

Backstage with Matthew - September 19