San Francisco Opera Opens 97th Season With ROMEO AND JULIET
San Francisco Opera inaugurates its 97th season on Friday, September 6 with Charles Gounod's romantic Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette) and two season-opening benefit events-Opera Ball 2019: The Capulets' Masked Ball and BRAVO! CLUB's Opening Night Gala. The Company's opening weekend also includes Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd in director Michael Grandage's acclaimed production opening on September 7; and on September 8 San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, the annual free concert tradition celebrating the opening of the opera season.
The curtain rises on San Francisco Opera's 2019-20 Season with Gounod's Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette), a French operatic adaptation of William Shakespeare's classic love story. Distinguished by rapturous duets and brilliant, show-stopping arias, this sensuous lyric drama returns to the Company's repertory, after a 32-year absence, under the baton of French-Canadian conductor Yves Abel. Making his American directorial debut, Opéra de Monte-Carlo Director Jean-Louis Grinda brings his colorful staging evoking the Verona of the original play.
Gounod's music requires virtuosic singers of the first rank. San Francisco Opera's cast is headed by tenor Bryan Hymel and soprano Nadine Sierra as the titular lovers. One of the most in-demand French opera interpreters of his generation, Hymel has earned praise on the world's leading stages, including the Metropolitan Opera, Bavarian State Opera and Royal Opera, Covent Garden, for his momentous portrayals in works by Berlioz, Meyerbeer, Rossini and Verdi. The American tenor first appeared with San Francisco Opera in 2015 as Enée in Berlioz's epic Les Troyens, earning praise for his "bright-toned, tireless tenor" (San Francisco Chronicle). In this return engagement, Hymel makes his role debut as Romeo.
Sierra adds Juliet to her gallery of San Francisco Opera heroines, which includes the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor. The recipient of the 2017 Richard Tucker Award and the Metropolitan Opera's Beverly Sills Award in 2018, the former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow has emerged as one of today's leading sopranos, earning praise from the New York Times for "singing with expressivity and tenderness" and her "bright, agile voice." Sierra's first solo CD, There's a Place for Us, was released last summer by Deutsche Grammophon.
Baritone Lucas Meachem brings his "earnest appealing baritone" (New York Times) to Mercutio, a role he has previously performed with the Metropolitan Opera. Tenor Daniel Montenegro, a former Adler Fellow, is Tybalt. The cast is complemented by bass James Creswell as Friar Lawrence, baritone Timothy Mix as Capulet, bass-baritone Philip Skinner as the Duke of Verona and, in their Company debuts, mezzo-sopranos Stephanie Lauricella as Stéphano and Eve Gigliotti as Gertude. For the October 1 performance, the title roles will be taken by Samoan-born New Zealand tenor Pene Pati and Egyptian-born New Zealand soprano Amina Edris. Adler Fellow graduates and a married couple off-stage, Pati and Edris make role debuts as Romeo and Juliet.
Of the production, director Grinda says, "To ensure this drama of absolute love touches every spectator, we respect its original setting and gracefully simplify its scenographic presentation. Without being minimalistic, we suggest Renaissance splendor and leave the imagination to work, focusing the attention on the stage artists." The staging, originally a co-production by Genoa's Teatro Carlo Felice and Opéra de Monte-Carlo, premiered in 2012 with sets designed by Eric Chevalier, costumes by Carola Volles and lighting by Roberto Venturi.
Sung in French with English supertitles, the seven performances of Romeo and Juliet are scheduled for September 6 (8 p.m.), Sep. 13 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 18 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 21 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 24 (7:30 p.m.), Sep. 29 (2 p.m.); and October 1 (7:30 p.m.), 2019.
On September 21, San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants will present Opera at the Ballpark, featuring a live simulcast of Romeo and Juliet. A free community event, the simulcast will be transmitted in high definition live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House to the new Mitsubishi Electronic Diamond Vision Board at Oracle Park.
Roméo et Juliette was first performed by San Francisco Opera in its inaugural season (1923) at the Civic Auditorium. Company founder Gaetano Merola conducted the French work, the only non-Italian offering that season, featuring tenor Beniamino Gigli and soprano Queena Mario in the title roles. Leading artists in successive presentations included Bidu Sayão (Juliette), Jussi Björling (Roméo), Ezio Pinza and Emmanuel List (both Friar Lawrence). The Company's most recent staging in 1987 featured a production designed by Rolf Gérard and with Michel Plasson conducting Ruth Ann Swenson as Juliette opposite the three different Roméos: Alfredo Kraus, John David De Haan and Fernando De La Mora.
Tickets for Romeo and Juliet are priced from $26 to $398. A $2 facility fee is included in all Balcony sections. All other sections include a $3-per-ticket facility fee. For tickets, visit sfopera.com, call (415) 864-3330 or visit the San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco.
Box Office hours: Monday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the morning of each performance. Standing room tickets are $10 each, cash only and limited to two tickets per person. Casting, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change.