San Francisco Opera to Return to Radio

Classic Arts News   San Francisco Opera to Return to Radio
Classical 102.1 KDFC and San Francisco Opera have formed a broadcast partnership that will bring the opera company back to Bay Area radio.

Recorded live at the War Memorial Opera House, the year-round monthly broadcasts of current and past season SF Opera productions, hosted by Dianne Nicolini, will begin on April 1 at 8 p.m. The debut broadcast in the series is the fall 2006 production of Puccini's Manon Lescaut conducted by company music director and principal conductor Donald Runnicles and starring Karita Mattila in the title role.

The series continues on the first Sunday of each month at 8 p.m. Upcoming broadcasts will include: Verdi's Rigoletto on May 6, with Paolo Gavanelli in the title role and Mary Dunleavy as Gilda; Tchaikovsky's Joan of Arc, with Dolora Zajick in the title role, on June 3; Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, starring Christine Brewer and Thomas Moser, on July 1; Rossini's The Barber of Seville, with Nathan Gunn as Figaro, on August 5; and Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, with Deborah Voigt as Amelia, on September 2.

According to The San Francisco Chronicle, the deal eases listeners' worries about the possibility of a format change for KDFC, which was acquired by Pennsylvania-based Entercom Communications in January.

Under program director Bill Lueth, KDFC has reportedly emphasized accessibility, offering short selections of 18th- and 19th-century instrumental music but little contemporary or vocal repertoire. This format has helped make KDFC one of the rare success stories in the fraught landscape of commercial classical radio, writes the Chronicle, which adds that, with half a million listeners, KDFC is the second-largest classical station in the country, behind only New York's WQXR.

The collaboration between San Francisco Opera and KDFC was made possible in part by a new series of contracts signed last year with the American Federation of Musicians and the American Guild of Musical Artists.

The SF Opera has agreed to find an underwriter to cover KDFC's lost advertising revenues. "Naturally, they're concerned about what advertising dollars they're going to forgo," the Chronicle quotes company general director David Gockley as saying. "If you're running full-length operas, you don't have the opportunity to run as many 30-second spots." The company will also be flexible about repertoire, agreeing not to broadcast, for example, Schoenberg's Moses und Aron.

Marilyn Mercur, who served as producer of San Francisco Opera's radio broadcasts from 1972 to 1987, will produce the opening three broadcasts in the series.

In addition to the KDFC deal, the San Francisco Opera has joined a coalition of opera companies whose performances will be distributed nationally and internationally by the WFMT Radio Network. The broadcasts, which are scheduled to air between October and December (when the Met begins its radio season) will include performances from Lyric Opera of Chicago, Los Angeles Opera and Houston Grand Opera.

A full broadcast guide and additional information will be available online at

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