The Summer 2015 season of the San Francisco Opera (SFO) will get under way in a little over a week, opening on the afternoon of Sunday, June 7. One might almost say that it will open during the better part of that Sunday, since the season will begin with the first of six complete performances of Hector Berlioz’ five-act operatic realization of Virgil’s epic Aeneid, which he called Les Troyens (the Trojans). More specifically, over the course of about five and one-half hours, the opera covers the fall of Troy to the Greeks at the end of the Trojan War followed by the refuge taken by Aeneas and his men in Carthage until Jupiter reminds Aeneas that it is his destiny to sail north to settle in Latium.
It goes without saying that such a massive undertaking needs partners. This production, based on a staging by David McVicar, is being shared with the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden, the Teatro alla Scala, and the Vienna State Opera. It will also feature the San Francisco Opera debut of American tenor Bryan Hymel in the role of Aeneas. (Hymel’s first studio recording, Héroïque: French Opera Arias, includes Aeneas’ aria “Inutiles regrets.”) The opera is also distinguished because the two major female roles are both for mezzo. During the fall of Troy, the role of Cassandra will be sung by Anna Caterina Antonacci for four of the six performances and by Michaela Martins for the other two. Susan Graham will then sing the role of Dido, Queen of Carthage, at all performances. The conductor will be Donald Runnicles.
The second opera to open will be the world premiere of Two Women, an operatic treatment of Alberto Moravia’s 1958 novel La Ciociara (the woman from Ciociara) with music composed by Marco Tutino. This narrative is best known through the 1960 film adaptation by Carlo Ponti, directed by Vittorio De Sica and starring Sophia Loren, released in the United States as Two Women. The “two women” of the title are a mother, Cesira (Loren’s role), sung by Antonacci, and her daughter Rosetta, sung by soprano Sarah Shafer. The staging by Francesca Zambello is being shared through a co-production with the Teatro Regio di Torino; and the conductor will be Nicola Luisotti, who has enjoyed a long-standing working relationship with the composer.
The final production will be the revival of John Copley’s delightful and perceptive staging of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s K. 492 opera The Marriage of Figaro. The title character will be sung by the young bass-baritone Philippe Sly, performing with soprano Lisette Oropesa as his betrothed, Susanna. Their respective employers will be sung by bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni as the Count Almaviva and soprano Nadine Sierra as his Countess. (Note the parallels in vocal ranges. Pisaroni sang Figaro when SFO last presented the opera in October of 2010.) Copley’s staging will be realized by Robin Guarino; and the conductor will be Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers, also Artistic and Music Director of the Houston Grand Opera.
Specific dates and times for each of these productions have been posted on the respective event pages for Les Troyens, Two Women, and The Marriage of Figaro on the SFO Web site. Single ticket prices begin at $25 and may be purchased through the individual event pages. They may also be purchased at the SFO Box Office in the War Memorial Opera House (301 Van Ness Avenue at the northwest corner of Grove Street) or by calling 415-864-3330. The Box Office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. It is open for telephone orders only on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. during the performance season. In addition Standing Room tickets go on sale for $10 (cash only) at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance.
In addition Opera at the Ballpark will present a free live simulcast of The Marriage of Figaro. This will begin in AT&T Park at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, July 3. This is open seating, but it requires advance registration. Registration may be made online through the Web page for this event on the SFO Web site. Because seating is unreserved, attendees tend to show up early, but there have always been events to keep the audience entertained while waiting for the performance to begin.
Finally, two of the operas will be given Insight Panel Discussions. The first of these, for Les Troyens, will take place on Thursday, June 4. It will be followed by an Insight Panel Discussion for Two Women on Monday, June 8. Both of these events will take place in the Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station), beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting for about one hour. Both are free for San Francisco Opera members, subscribers, and students with valid identification. Admission for the general public is $5. Tickets may be reserved through Eventbrite Web pages for Les Troyens and Two Women, respectively.