David Henry Hwang Pens New Opera

News   SFO Season Will Feature Francesca Zambello-Directed Aida and David Henry Hwang Opera A Verdi opera gets a fresh perspective and David Henry Hwang pens operatic romance.
David Henry Hwang
David Henry Hwang Lia Chang

San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley and music director Nicola Luisotti have announced the company’s 2016–17 season, which includes Dream of the Red Chamber, featuring a libretto by Tony winner David Henry Hwang (M. Butterfly); and a new production of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, directed by Francesca Zambello (Broadway's The Little Mermaid).

In a statement Gockley said, "When I informed the board that I would be retiring after the 2015–16 Season, they gave me the responsibility to program the ’16–17 and ’17–18 Seasons. I have done this, as usual, in close consultation with the Opera’s senior staff, particularly General Director Designate Matthew Shilvock. The new season features a world premiere, three new productions and five revivals with fresh new casting. I am especially excited about the new Aida production by Francesca Zambello with designs by Los Angeles-based graffiti and visual artist RETNA. Complementing the exciting and bigger works on the War Memorial Opera House stage is the new 299-seat Taube Atrium Theater, which gives us the opportunity to offer aggressive and/or unique intimate programming. Ted Hearne’s provocative modern-day oratorio, The Source, and Poulenc’s La Voix humaine starring the astonishing Anna Caterina Antonacci are prime examples of what we hope to offer at the Taube each season."

Dream of the Red Chamber, penned by Bright Sheng and Hwang, will be presented Sept. 10-29. Eighteenth-century Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xueqin’s "Dream of the Red Chamber" is the source for this world premiere by renowned Chinese-American composer Sheng with an English-language libretto by Hwang. The opera, according to press notes, "focuses on a love triangle between the young nobleman Bao Yu and two very different women: Dai Yu, his spiritual soulmate, and Bao Chai, a beautiful heiress." Taiwanese stage director Stan Lai joins forces with Chinese production designer Tim Yip; the cast will be led by Chinese tenor Yijie Shi (Bao Yu), South Korean soprano Pureum Jo (Dai Yu) and Chinese mezzo-soprano and current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow Nian Wang (Bao Chai). American maestro George Manahan will conduct.

The classic opera Aida will run Nov. 5-Dec. 6 in a new staging by director Zambello inspired by contemporary L.A. visual artist RETNA, who makes his San Francisco Opera debut as a production artistic designer. Soprano Leah Crocetto and tenor Brian Jagde will make their respective role debuts as the Ethiopian slave girl Aida and the military hero Radames. Conducted by Nicola Luisotti, the cast also features Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk (Amneris), Georgian baritone George Gagnidze (Amonasro) and American bass Raymond Aceto (Ramfis). San Francisco Opera resident conductor Jordi Bernàcer leads the final performance. The production team also includes set designer Michael Yeargan, costume designer Anita Yavich and lighting designer Mark McCullough.

For more information visit SFOpera.com.

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