This season, the first programmed by general director David Gockley, includes several major events, including the world premiere of Philip Glass's Appomattox, the West Coast premieres of Rachel Portman's The Little Prince and director Francesca Zambello's "American Ring," and what is probably the world's largest-ever opera simulcast in a single location.
The simulcast will be on September 28, as the company transmits that evening's performance of Samson et Dalila to the Mitsubishi Electric Diamond Vision scoreboard in AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
Appomattox, a San Francisco Opera commission in honor of Glass's 70th birthday this year, opens on October 5, with seven performances through October 24. For most of the run, baritone Dwayne Croft plays Robert E. Lee and bass-baritone Andrew Shore plays Ulysses S. Grant; longtime Glass champion Dennis Russell Davies conducts, and Robert Woodruff directs the staging.
Before the Glass premiere, however, comes the first new production of the David Gockley era in San Francisco: Wagner's Tannh‹user, opening September 18 in director Graham Vick's first staging for the company. The four lead performers are also making their house debuts: Peter Seiffert in the title role, Petra Maria Schnitzer as Elisabeth, Petra Lang as Venus and James Rutherford as Wolfram. Company music director Donald Runnicles conducts.
Maurice Sendak created the sets and costumes for Houston Grand Opera's production of The Magic Flute, which opens in San Francisco on October 13. Runnicles conducts a cast headed by tenor Piotr Beczala as Tamino and soprano Rebecca Evans as Pamina. Erika Mikl‹sa sings Queen of the Night, Christopher Maltman is Papageno and Georg Zeppenfeld is Sarastro.
Angela Gheorghiu makes her house debut as Magda de Civry in Puccini's La Rondine, which opens November 7. Tenor Misha Didyk sings Ruggero, soprano Anna Christy sings Lisette and tenor Gerard Powers makes his house debut as Prunier. Ion Marin conducts the Nicolas JoêŠl production, a collaboration between the Royal Opera, Covent Garden and the Th_ê¢tre du Capitole de Toulouse.
Verdi's Macbeth stars Thomas Hampson in the title role, with soprano Georgina Lukšcs as his wife, tenor Carlo Ventre as Macduff and bass Raymond Aceto as Banquo. Conductor Massimo Zanetti makes his company debut on the podium for David Pountney's Zurich Opera production, which opens November 14.
Visionary Canadian director Robert Lepage stages a new co-production (a collaboration with Covent Garden and the major houses in Brussels, Lyon and Madrid) of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, opening November 23. Runnicles conducts William Burden as Tom Rakewell, Laura Aikin as Anne Trulove, Denyce Graves as Baba the Turk and James Morris as Nick Shadow.
San Francisco Opera's Madama Butterfly was a major success in the summer of 2006, selling out nine performances and marking a triumph for Patricia Racette in the title role. By popular demand, the company added five repeat performances of the production (December 1-8) after the rest of the season had been announced. Racette returns for three of those performances, alternating with Marie Plette as Cio-Cio-San. Sharing the role of Pinkerton will be Richard Tucker Award winner Brandon Jovanovich and Carlo Ventre, with Zheng Cao as Suzuki and Stephen Powell as Sharpless. Runnicles and Julian Smith will share conducting duties.
Following the winter-spring hiatus (during which San Francisco Ballet occupies the opera house), San Francisco Opera launches its 2008 summer season on June 3 with Wagner's Das Rheingold, the first installment of the Ring cycle the company is sharing with Washington National Opera (where it began in March 2006). Zambello and her design team are incorporating numerous elements of American historical imagery into the staging. Runnicles conducts a cast featuring Mark Delavan as Wotan, Richard Paul Fink as Alberich, Stefan Margita as Loge, Jennifer Larmore as Fricka, Jill Grove as Erda, David Cangelosi as Mime, Andrea Silvestrelli as Fasolt and G‹nter Groissb‹ck as Fafner.
Susan Graham takes the title role in Handel's Ariodante, which opens June 15, 2008; joining her are Ruth Ann Swenson as Ginevra, soprano Veronica Cangémi making her U.S. debut as Dalinda, and contralto Ewa Podles making her house debut as Polinesso. The cast also features Richard Croft as Lurcanio and Eric Owens as the King of Scotland. The Dallas Opera production features designs by John Conklin; John Copley directs and Patrick Summers conducts.
The company's season closes with Lucia di Lammermoor (June 17 to July 5), in the same Mary Zimmerman staging that opens the 2007-08 Metropolitan Opera season. In her house debut, Natalie Dessay takes the title role; Giuseppe Filianoti is Edgardo, Gabriele Viviani sings Enrico and Oren Gradus is Raimondo. Jean-Yves Ossonce conducts.
During May, San Francisco Opera gives a special presentation of Portman's The Little Prince in Zambello's original staging, which premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2003 and has since been seen in several other cities. The six-performance run, May 2-11, will be co-produced with Cal Performances and presented at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley. Casting will be announced later.