Three Decembers, a McNally-Inspired Chamber Opera, Makes West Coast Debut Dec. 11

News   Three Decembers, a McNally-Inspired Chamber Opera, Makes West Coast Debut Dec. 11
San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances present the West Coast premiere of Three Decembers, a new chamber opera with music by Jake Heggie and libretto by Gene Scheer, based on an original play by Terrence McNally, Dec. 11-14 in Berkeley, CA.
Frederica von Stade and Keith Phares
Frederica von Stade and Keith Phares Photo by Kristen Loken

Created especially by Heggie for internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade, Three Decembers will be presented at Zellerbach Hall on the campus of University of California, Berkeley, for three performances.

The three-character opera had its world premiere in February 2008 at Houston Grand Opera. According to SFO notes, "Set in San Francisco and New York, Three Decembers follows the loving but often strained relationship between famous stage actress Madeline Mitchell (sung by von Stade) and her two grown children: Beatrice, performed by soprano Kristin Clayton, and Charlie, a gay man whose partner is dying of AIDS, sung by baritone Keith Phares in his San Francisco Opera debut."

This chamber opera features Broadway-style solo numbers and an 11-piece instrumental ensemble led by Houston Grand Opera music director and San Francisco Opera veteran Patrick Summers, with both the conductor and composer on piano. A frequent collaborator with Heggie and McNally, Leonard Foglia (Broadway's Master Class, On Golden Pond) makes his San Francisco Opera debut directing Three Decembers, a project commissioned by Houston Grand Opera in association with San Francisco Opera and Cal Performances.

Four-time Tony Award winner McNally's play Some Christmas Letters (and a Couple of Phone Calls) is the source material for Three Decembers. He is also the author of Love! Valour! Compassion!, Master Class, Some Men, Deuce, Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, The Ritz and more, including books to the musicals A Man of No Importance, The Full Monty and Ragtime.

McNally won his fourth Tony Award for Best Book for a Musical for Ragtime, and also received Tony Awards for Master Class, in which Zoe Caldwell created the role of Maria Callas; Love! Valour! Compassion!, which also garnered him Drama Desk, New York Drama Critics Circle and Outer Critics Circle awards; and Kiss of the Spider Woman. Three Decembers has lighting design by Brian Nason and costume designer by Cesar Galindo.

Sung in English with English supertitles, performances of Three Decembers run approximately two hours with one intermission and are scheduled for Dec. 11 (7:30 PM), Dec. 12 (8 PM) and Dec. 14 (3 PM).

For more information, visit


Heggie is the composer of the operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), The End of the Affair (libretto by Heather McDonald, Leonard Foglia, and the composer himself), the lyric drama To Hell and Back (libretto by Gene Scheer), and the musical scene At the Statue of Venus (libretto by Terrence McNally). Recent and upcoming commissions include Moby Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer) for the Dallas Opera; and For a Look or a Touch, a song cycle for baritone, narrator, and chamber ensemble about the persecution of homosexuals during the holocaust, commissioned by Seattle’s Music of Remembrance (texts by Gene Scheer, based on interviews in the documentary film "Paragraph 175").

Lyricist-librettist Scheer has collaborated on a number of projects with Jake Heggie, including the 2006 one-act opera To Hell and Back, the song cycles of Statuesque and Rise and Fall, and a chamber work titled For a Look or a Touch. He was the librettist for two projects with Tobias Picker: An American Tragedy, which received its premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005, and Thérèse Raquin, which had its premiere at the Dallas Opera in 2001 and was subsequently performed in Montreal, San Diego, and London. Scheer's song "American Anthem" is sung by Norah Jones in "The War," a seven-part film about World War II by Ken Burns, telecast on PBS in 2007.

Frederica von Stade in <i>Three Decembers</i> at the San Francisco Opera
Frederica von Stade in Three Decembers at the San Francisco Opera Photo by Kristen Loken
Today’s Most Popular News: