San Francisco Opera Announces Casting Update for Puccini's TURANDOT

San Francisco Opera Announces Casting Update for Puccini's TURANDOTSan Francisco Opera announced today a casting update for its season-opening production of Giacomo Puccini's Turandot, running from September 8 through 30 at the War Memorial Opera House. American soprano Toni Marie Palmertree will sing Liù, replacing Maria Agresta who has withdrawn due to illness. Originally scheduled to portray Puccini's tragic heroine on September 24 and 30, Palmertree will now perform in all six September performances.

Palmertree scored a triumph last season when she substituted for an ailing colleague on two hours' notice as Cio-Cio-San in Puccini's Madama Butterfly. The occasion marked her first time portraying the character on stage and her first leading role with the Company. San Francisco Classical Voice remarked: "The young soprano not only met the challenge, but she claimed her place among the finest vocal interpreters of the role heard here recently." Currently in her second year of a San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship, Palmertree has sung the Priestess in Verdi's Aida, the Heavenly Voice in Don Carlo and appeared in Company productions of Jen?fa and Dream of the Red Chamber. She recently starred in West Bay Opera's production of Puccini's Il Trittico, portraying Giorgetta in Il Tabarro and the title role in Suor Angelica.

San Francisco Opera inaugurates its 95th season on Friday, September 8, with Puccini's Turandot, staged in the iconic production by English artist David Hockney and conducted by Company Music Director Nicola Luisotti, and two opening night galas. Saturday, September 9 features the opening of a new production of Richard Strauss' Elektra. The festivities continue on Sunday, September 10, with San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, an annual Bay Area tradition celebrating the opening of the opera season with a free concert in Golden Gate Park.

Puccini's 1926 masterpiece is set in fabled Peking and follows the courtship of a beautiful and untouchable princess by a mysterious stranger who must triumph in a deadly game of riddles to win her love. The opera is renowned for its powerful choruses and extraordinary vocal highlights, including Turandot's commanding "In questa reggia" ("In this palace"), Liù's dramatic death scene and Calaf's famous Act III aria, "Nessun dorma" ("No one sleeps"). Left unfinished at the time of Puccini's death, Turandot was completed by Italian composer Franco Alfano and had one of the 20th century's most spectacular operatic premieres.

An internationally acclaimed artist who is known for a diverse repertory of roles, Martina Serafin returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage in one her most celebrated portrayals as Princess Turandot. This season, the Austrian soprano also performs Turandot at the Metropolitan Opera and Opernhaus Zürich; Abigaille in Verdi's Nabucco at Milan's Teatro alla Scala; and the title role of Tosca at London's Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Serafin made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2007 as the Marschallin in Richard Strauss' Der Rosenkavalier.

Praised by The Mercury News for his "ardent and expressive" role debut as Radames in Aida last November, American tenor Brian Jagde also added Maurizio in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur to his repertory earlier this year with critically acclaimed performances at Covent Garden. The fast-rising artist continues to expand his arsenal of heroic portrayals this season when he takes on Calaf, the brave suitor of Turandot, for the first time.

Rounding out the cast are bass Raymond Aceto as Timur, baritone Joo Won Kang as Ping, tenor Julius Ahn as Pang, tenor Joel Sorensen as Pong, bass-baritone Brad Walker as a Mandarin and tenor Robert Brubaker in his Company debut as Emperor Altoum.

Kicking off his final season as Company Music Director, Nicola Luisotti will lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in Puccini's evocative and picturesque score. After nine seasons as music director, Luisotti, who has conducted over 40 operas and concerts with the Company, will step down from his post at the conclusion of the 2017-18 Season. On the podium for the season-opening performance in each of his seasons as music director, the Italian maestro will be officially honored for his leadership and distinguished tenure at this season's Opera Ball.

Director Garnett Bruce stages the revival of the exuberant production by artist David Hockney, who celebrates his 80th birthday this year and is being honored internationally with exhibitions of his work. The costumes are designed by Ian Falconer and lighting for the revival is designed by Gary Marder. Ian Robertson directs the San Francisco Opera Chorus.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles, Turandot is scheduled for six performances: September 8 (8 p.m.), September 12 (7:30 p.m.), September 15 (7:30 p.m.), September 21 (7:30 p.m.), September 24 (2 p.m.) and September 30 (7:30 p.m.). The opera returns in November and December with six more performances and a cast led by Swedish soprano Nina Stemme in the title role, American soprano Leah Crocetto as Liù, Jagde reprising the role of Calaf and American bass Soloman Howard in his Company debut as Timur.

San Francisco Opera Guild's annual gala to celebrate the opening of the San Francisco Opera season, Opera Ball is one of the premier social and philanthropic evenings on the West Coast. Courtney Labe and Maryam Muduroglu co-chair Opera Ball 2017 at The Imperial Palace, a Turandot-inspired event designed by J. Riccardo Benavides. Opera Ball begins with pre-performance cocktails in the War Memorial Opera House and an elegant dinner by McCalls Catering & Events in the Imperial Palace Pavilion followed by the gala performance of Turandot. After the opera, dancing and further celebrations will ensue in the Pavilion. This year's Opera Ball festivities will honor San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

The BRAVO! CLUB's annual black-tie gala will celebrate the opening of San Francisco Opera's 95th Season with pre-performance cocktails and late night dancing following the opera. The gala will be hosted by event co-chairs Alex Petalas and Victoria Weatherford. With a membership of over 500, the BRAVO! CLUB is a group for opera-loving professionals ages 21-40 whose members enjoy ticket discounts throughout the year, as well as educational and social events.

Richard Strauss' ELEKTRA

Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal's 1909 opera Elektra surges back onto the War Memorial Opera House stage on Saturday, September 9 for the first time in two decades in a provocative new production by English director Keith Warner. This psychologically complex and vocally formidable opera will feature soprano Christine Goerke in the title role, mezzo-soprano Michaela Martens as Klytemnestra, soprano Adrianne Pieczonka as Chrysothemis, bass-baritone AlFRed Walker in his Company debut as Orest and tenor Robert Brubaker as Aegisth. Conductor Henrik Nánási will direct the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in his premiere engagement with the Company. Elektra will be presented in six performances through September 27.

On Sunday, September 10 at 1:30 p.m., the annual San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park returns to Sharon Meadow in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park. Established by former San Francisco Opera General Director Kurt Herbert Adler in 1971, the Bay Area tradition attracts more than 15,000 music lovers each year to celebrate the opening of the San Francisco Opera season. Maestro Luisotti leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and stars of the Fall 2017 Season in this free open-air concert.

Tickets for Turandot and Elektra are priced from $26 to $398 and may be purchased at sfopera.com, the San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue and by phone at (415) 864-3330. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only, and limited to two tickets per person.

Each presentation of Turandot at the War Memorial Opera House, with the exception of the September 8 opening night performance, features an informative 25-minute Pre-Opera Talk. Beginning 55 minutes prior to curtain and free of charge to patrons with tickets for the corresponding performance, each Turandot Pre-Opera Talk will be presented by Robert Hartwell, a music educator who specializes in welcoming the uninitiated into the world of classical music.

Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Turandot and San Francisco Opera's 2017-18 Season, please visit sfopera.com.

Tickets for Opera Ball 2017 at The Imperial Palace are priced at $1,500; $2,500; $5,000 and $10,000 and are available at sfopera.com/operaball2017 and by calling (415) 565-3204. Tickets for the opening night performance of Puccini's Turandot are sold separately.

Tickets for BRAVO! CLUB's Opening Night Gala are available to BRAVO! members only. For tickets and more information, please visit sfopera.com/bravo.

San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park is a free, family-friendly outdoor concert; no tickets are required. Food and beverages will be available for sale at the event. Parking is extremely limited; taking public transit is highly recommended. For more information, visit sfopera.com/park.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART Station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For further public transportation information, visit bart.gov and sfmta.com.




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