New productions of Beethoven’s “Fidelio” and Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” the West Coast premiere of Poul Ruders’ “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and the company’s first-ever production of Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Der Zwerg,” are among the highlights of San Francisco Opera’s 2020-21 season, announced by general director Matthew Shilvock.
Calling the season one of “thrilling story-telling,” Shilvock said the new season — the company’s 98th — will run Sept. 11 through May 16, 2021, with productions that also include revivals of Verdi’s “Rigoletto,” Puccini’s “La Boheme,” and Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville.” Concerts and special events complete the calendar, beginning with a season-launching “Opening Night Celebration” concert (Sept. 11, 2020), conducted by music director designate Eun Sun Kim and featuring soprano Albina Shagimuratova and tenor Pene Pati. Here is the schedule:
“Fidelio” (Sept. 12-Oct. 1) launches the mainstage productions in the War Memorial Opera House. Kim, who made her San Francisco Opera debut with a brilliant production of Dvorak’s “Rusalka” in 2019, returns to the podium to lead Beethoven’s only opera as part of the global celebration marking the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth. “Fidelio,” a story of triumph over political oppression, boasts a new staging by Matthew Ozawa; the cast features soprano Elza van den Heever as Leonora and tenor Simon O’Neill as Florestan, with bass-baritones Falk Struckmann, Eric Owens, and Alfred Walker in supporting roles.
2020 fall offerings continue with “Rigoletto” (Sept. 13-Oct. 4) featuring Georgian baritone George Gagnidze in the title role of Verdi’s drama. In a Mark Lamos production conducted by Mark Elder, “Rigoletto” also features Pene Pati as the Duke of Mantua; Armenian soprano Nina Minasyan makes her American debut as Gilda.
“Cosi fan tutte” (Oct. 6-28), the second in the company’s trilogy of Mozart-Da Ponte operas, follows 2019’s much-heralded production of “The Marriage of Figaro.” Michael Cavanagh returns to direct the new production, and Speranza Scappucci conducts six performances, with a cast that includes soprano Jennifer Davis and baritone John Chest.
“The Handmaid’s Tale” (Oct. 29-Nov. 22) features leading American mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as Offred in Ruders’ opera, based on Margaret Atwood’s best-selling 1984 novel. John Fulljames’s English-language production, which premiered in Copenhagen in 2000, makes its West Coast premiere in a co-production with Royal Danish Opera. The cast also includes Michaela Martens as Serena Joy, Sarah Cambidge as Aunt Lydia, and James Creswell as Offred’s Commander.
“La Boheme” (Nov. 15-Dec. 6) returns with two casts, the first headed by soprano Maria Agresta and tenor Michael Fabiano. Former S.F. Opera music director Nicola Luisotti conducts Puccini’s masterwork, in a production by John Caird.
The fall calendar also includes “The Future is Now: Adler Fellows in Concert” (Nov. 27, 2020, at Herbst Theatre), and the company’s annual Opera in the Park concert, with this year’s lineup of singers headed by soprano Sondra Radvanovsky (Oct. 18, Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park).
The 2021 offerings begin with “The Barber of Seville” (April 26-May 16), featuring Lucas Meachem in the title role and Daniela Mack as Rosina.
“Der Zwerg” (April 27-May 9) marks the return of Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási, who propelled the company’s 2019 “Marriage of Figaro” to impressive heights. He’ll lead Zemlinsky’s rarely performed opera, adapted from the Oscar Wilde fairy tale, “The Birthday of the Infanta.” The cast includes heldentenor Clay Hilley and sopranos Heidi Stober and Sarah Cambidge.
Nánási is also slated to conduct “A Celebration of Verdi and Wagner” (May 2, 6, and 8, 2021), with sopranos Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin in concert with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
Shilvock described the season as one that depicts characters “striving to overcome obstacles of society, yearning for the triumph of hope.”
“This is a season of bold stories that reflect our world of beautiful music making, and of human emotions writ large,” he said.
Subscription tickets for San Francisco Opera’s 2020-21 season, which went on sale Jan. 22, range in price from $147-$2,921 for full subscriptions, $63-$1,697 for half subscriptions. Single tickets go on sale in June. Contact 415-864-3330 or www.sfopera.com.
Contact Georgia Rowe at email@example.com.
It’s a Beethoven year, but Brahms is big this month. His music’s featured on the California Symphony’s all-Brahms program, and Garrick Ohlsson’s recital at Herbst. Also of interest are events by West Edge Opera, Midsummer Mozart, the Orlando Consort, and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble.
Here are concerts classical music fans should know about for Jan. 30-Feb. 5.
Cal Symphony’s all-Brahms: Under music director Donato Cabrera, the California Symphony is taking a deep dive into the composer’s works this weekend; the program features Brahms’ Hungarian Dances No. 5 and 6, Symphony No. 3, and the Concerto for Violin and Cello, with violinist Alina Kobialka and Oliver Herbert as soloists. Details: 8 p.m. Feb. 1, 4 p.m. Feb. 2; Lesher Center, Walnut Creek; $44-$74; 925-943-7469; www.californiasymphony.org.
Brahms piano works: At San Francisco Performances, powerhouse pianist Garrick Ohlsson performs the first of two 2020 recitals devoted to the composer; along with a program still to come on March 31, these performances complete Olhsson’s two-year survey of Brahms’ complete solo piano works. Details: 7:30 Feb. 4; Herbst Theatre, San Francisco; $45-$85; 415-392-2545; sfperformances.org.
Hear it first at West Edge: Where do new operas come from? Find out this week when West Edge Opera presents its popular “Snapshot” series, which lets audiences take a listen to operas in their nascent stages. This weekend’s installment includes works in progress by composers Nicolas Lell Benavides, Joan Huang, Peter Michael von der Nahmer and Ryan Suleiman. Details: 8 p.m. Jan. 31 at Ed Roberts Campus, Berkeley; 8 p.m. Feb. 1 at Taube Atrium Theatre, San Francisco: $40; 510-841-1903; www.westedgeopera.org.
Midsummer Mozart, revived: George Cleve, the late founder and music director of the beloved Midsummer Mozart Festival, always wanted to host a mid-winter concert series. Now music director Paul Schrage, who succeeded Cleve, is making it happen. The group’s 2020 Midwinter Beethoven Festival features Robin Hansen and others in works that include the composer’s Op. 132 String Quartet in A minor. Details: 7:30 Jan. 31 at Villa Montalvo, Saratoga, 12:30 p.m. Feb. 4 at Old St. Mary’s Cathedral, San Francisco, and 3 p.m. Feb. 8 at Maybeck Studio, Berkeley; $30-$45; www.midsummermozart.org.
“Passion” at Stanford: A masterwork in the silent film genre, Carl Dreyer’s 1928 “The Passion of Joan of Arc” receives a special showing at Bing Hall this week, paired with a live performance by the Orlando Consort. The early music quartet sings Guillaume Dufay’s a capella score, featuring a setting of texts by 15th-century poet Christine de Pizan. Details: Presented by Stanford Live; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 1; Bing Hall, Stanford University; $32-$52; 650-724-2464, live.stanford.edu.
Left Coast plays Messiaen: Written in 1941 when composer Olivier Messiaen was confined to a German prisoner of war camp, the “Quartet for the End of Time” is a work that encompasses terrifying power and sublime beauty. The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble plays this 20th-century masterwork on a program titled “French Sublime,” which also includes works by Debussy, Lili Boulanger, and a Messiaen-inspired world premiere by Left Coast violist and composer Kurt Rohde. Details: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 2 at Berkeley Hillside Club, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at San Francisco Conservatory of Music; $35 general, $18 youth; 415-617-5223; www.leftcoastensemble.org.
Georgia Rowe, Correspondent