Merola Opera Program Announces Season, Unveils Opera Stars of Tomorrow
San Francisco's acclaimed Merola Opera Program, one of the most prestigious and selective opera training programs in the world, launches its 61st season offering audiences a look at the opera stars of tomorrow. The 2018 Merola Summer Festival will present this year's 29 Merola artists, selected from more than 800 international applicants, in the Schwabacher Summer Concert (July 5 & 7), Mozart's Il re pastore (July 19 & 21), Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress (August 2 & 4), concluding with the Merola Grand Finale (August 18). The 2018 Merola Summer Festival includes performances in San Francisco and Palo Alto. Individual event tickets and information available at www.merola.org or 415-864-3330.
Schwabacher Summer Concert - July 5 & 7
Some of opera's greatest moments will come to life as Merola's young artists perform staged scenes from Vanessa, Il tabarro, Don Giovanni, and Les pêcheurs de perles in the Schwabacher Summer Concert. Vanessa, a three-act American opera by Samuel Barber follows Vanessa and Erika, two women torn between fighting for ideals and settling for what life has to offer. Il tabarro (The Cloak) is a one-act opera by Puccini, based on Didier Gold's play La houppelande. Mozart's Don Giovanni brings to life the infamous seducer. Rounding out the program is a selection from Bizet's Les pêcheurs de perles (The Pearl Fishers), the story of two men's vow of eternal friendship, threatened by their love for the same woman. With performances in English, Italian, and French (with supertitles), the Schwabacher Summer Concert will be conducted by Kathleen Kelly (Merola 1991/1992), the first woman and first American named as Director of Musical Studies at the Vienna State Opera. Kelly returns to San Francisco's Merola Opera Program where she was an apprentice coach. It will be directed by Aria Umezawa (Merola 2016), currently completing her second year as a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow - the first stage director awarded this fellowship in 15 years. The Schwabacher Summer Concert will be presented 7:30pm, July 5 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and 7:30pm, July 7 at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford.
Il re pastore - July 19 & 21
Next, the talented artists will present Mozart's Il re pastore. This exquisite early work, which features a string of transcendent arias, explores the competing pulls of love and duty as a young shepherd finds he must renounce his true love in order to reclaim his lost throne. The Merola artists will bring to life this opera's dazzling melodies and high spirits in a fully stage production. Performances will be conducted by Stephen Stubbs, a leading figure in the American early music scene and winner of a Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 2015 for Charpentier: La descente d'Orphée aux enfers, and directed by Tara Faircloth (Merola 2006), who is in demand at regional houses including Wolf Trap Opera, Utah Opera, Arizona Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Atlanta Opera, and has directed two world premieres with the Houston Grand Opera's East+West series. Il re pastore will be performed 7:30pm, July 19 and 2pm, July 21 at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
The Rake's Progress - August 2 & 4
Merola begins August with The Rake's Progress, an opera in three acts and epilogue by Igor Stravinsky, performed by Merola artists. Based loosely on the eponymous eight paintings and engravings by William Hogarth (1733-1735), Stravinsky's lively tale follows the decline and fall of a profligate heir who makes a devil's bargain with Nick Shadow, abandoning life in the country and his tender fiancée for the wicked temptations of London. Stravinsky's intricate score and W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman's brilliant libretto offer the Merola artists an exciting challenge. The Rake's Progress will be conducted by Mark Morash (Merola 1987) and directed by Robin Guarino. Morash is currently the Director of Musical Studies at the San Francisco Opera Center. Film and opera director Guarino has staged lauded productions at the Metropolitan Opera, as well as Seattle Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Julliard Opera Center, and many more. The Rake's Progress will be performed 7:30pm, August 2 and 2pm, August 4, at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Merola Grand Finale - August 18
The Summer Festival concludes August 18 with the Merola Grand Finale, a concert at the War Memorial Opera House featuring the 29 young artists of the 2018 Merola Opera Program, who will showcase a dazzling array of opera's most exciting arias and ensembles. Conducted by Dean Williamson, the acclaimed conductor now completing his third season as music director at Nashville Opera, and directed by 2018 Merola Apprentice Stage Director Marcus Shields, this evening showcases the hard work and burgeoning talent of the Merolini. The Merola Grand Finale will be presented 7:30pm, Saturday, August 18 at the War Memorial Opera House. Following the performance, join the Merola artists for a celebration in the Veterans Building Green Room (separate ticket required).
The Merola Opera Program is widely regarded as the foremost opera training program for aspiring singers, coach accompanists, and stage directors. Merola nurtures the opera stars of tomorrow, and presents outreach through educational programs for students and the general public. Throughout the summer, the Merola artists participate in master classes and private coaching with opera's most accomplished singers, conductors, and directors. Participants also receive training in operatic repertory, foreign languages, diction, acting, and stage movement. Offered free of charge for all participants, the Merola Opera Program is unique in the industry in many ways. It is the only young artist program to provide financial support to developing artists for five years following participation, offering financial aid for essential career development costs including coaching, language classes, and audition travel. In addition, only Merola graduates are considered for participation in the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship Program. Merola has served as a proving ground for hundreds of artists, who have gone on to extensive careers in opera, including Leona Mitchell, Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Rolando Villazon, Thomas Hampson, and Patrick Summers among many others.
This year's Merola Opera Program artists include:
- Kendra Berentsen, Portland, Oregon
- Cheyanne Coss, Eaton Rapids, Michigan
- Marlen Nahhas, Houston, Texas
- Brittany Nickell, Coral Springs, Florida
- Patricia Westley, Santa Barbara, California
- Meigui Zhang, Chengdu, China
- Megan Grey, Cedar Falls, Iowa
- Anne Maguire, Washougal, Washington
- Simone McIntosh, Vancouver, B.C., Canada
- Alexandra Urquiola, Bergenfield, New Jersey
- Zhengyi Bai, Linyi, Shandong, China
- Christopher Colmenero, Burlington, Vermont
- Addison Marlor, Salt Lake City, Utah
- Brian Michael Moore, Cincinnati, Ohio
- Christopher Oglesby, Woodstock, Georgia
- Charles Sy, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada
- WooYoung Yoon, Seoul, South Korea
- SeokJong Baek, Jeon-Ju, South Korea
- Jacob Scharfman, Boston, Massachusetts
- Jaeman Yoon, Seoul, South Korea
- Xiaomeng Zhang, Wenzhou, China
- Andrew Moore, Point Pleasant, New Jersey
- Ted Pickell, El Dorado Hills, California
- Apprentice Coaches
- Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad, Kyiv, Ukraine
- Annie Brooks, Seattle, Washington
- Matthew Gemmill, Ames, Iowa
- James Maverick, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
- Thomas Morris, Atlanta, Georgia
Apprentice Stage Director
- Marcus Shields, Charleston, South Carolina
Photo: Natalie Image (soprano), Samantha Hankey (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Hiers (bass-baritone), and Edith Grossman (mezzo-soprano) seen in Merola Opera Program's 2017 season performance of La Cenerentola.
Photo Credit: Kristen Loken