In Quest of 21st Century Operatic Projects

The following is a list of four operas I am scheduled to review during the Santa Fe Opera’s 2023 and San Francisco Opera’s 2023-24 seasons. One is a newly reorchestrated work dating from the Italian Renaissance. Three of the operas are recent compositions.

Orfeo (Monteverdi), Santa Fe Opera, July 29, August 2,11, 16 and 24, 2023

The most senior opera in the opera world’s performance repertory is Italian Renaissance composer Claudio Monteverdi’s 1607 opera, “Orfeo”. The Santa Fe Opera has commissioned a new production of the work. To accompany the new production, the company enlisted contemporary opera composer Nico Muhly to create a new orchestration.

Monteverdi creates continuo orchestration (groups of specified Renaissance instruments arranged for a specific dramatic effect), Muhly seeks to translate the musical and dramatic intentions of Monteverdi’s continuo, for contemporary musicians playing modern instruments.

[Below: Shepherds and nymphs, friends of Orfeo and Euridice, frolic in Thrace; edited image, based on a Curtis Brown photograph, courtesy of the Santa Fe Opera.]

Tenor Rolando Villazón makes his Santa Fe Opera debut in the opera’s title role.  Mezzo-soprano Paula Murrrihy performs the role of Messaggera and mezzo-soprano Lucy Evans the role of La Ninfa for the first four performances, with mezzo-soprano Evans singing the final Messaggera and Meridian Prall the last Ninfa. Soprano Lauren Stouffer is La Musica and Speranza. Soprano Amber Norelai is Euridice. Bass James Creswell is Caronte.

Other cast members include baritone Blake Denson, soprano Caitlin Aloia, bass-baritone Christian Simmons, tenor Efrain Corralejo, baritone Brandon Bell, countertenor Luke Elmer, bass Younggwang Park and bass-baritone Le Bu.

Maestro Harry Bicket conducts. Yuval Sharon directs. The Visual Environment is provided by Alex Schweder and Matthew Johnson, Designers Carlos J. Soto, Hana S. Kim and Mark Grey created, respectively, the costumes, the projections and the sound design.

For my performance review, see: Review: Luke Sutliff, Replacing Injured Rolando Villazón, Triumphs in Opening Night of Monteverdi’s “Orfeo” – Santa Fe Opera, July 29, 2023.

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (Bates and Campbell), San Francisco Opera, September 22, 24(m), 27, 30, October 3 and 7, 2023.

Mason Bates’ opera, with its libretto by Mark Campbell, centers on the personal evolution of Steve Jobs, the driven technological genius, and the influence of both his wife and of Zen Master Kobun Chino Otogawa in Jobs’ achieving a degree of inner peace.

I was present at the opera’s world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera in 2017 (see link to my review below). The San Francisco Opera originally scheduled its performances of the work for June 2020, but the Covid-19 epidemic caused its postponement and rescheduling for Fall 2023.

[Below: John Moore (left) as Steve Jobs with his zen master Otagawa (Wei Wu); edited image of a Cory Weaver photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

New to the opera are three artists making their San Francisco Opera debuts. John Moore assumes the role of Steve Jobs. Bille Bruley is Wozniak and Wei Wu is Zen master Kobun Otagawa.

Sasha Cooke, who created the role of Laurene Powell Jobs, repeats it in San Francisco. Other veterans of the Santa Fe world premiere are conductor Maestro Michael Christie, director Kevin Newbury, set designer Victoria Tzykun, costume designer Paul Carey, lighting designer Jophy Weiderman and projection designer 59 Productions.

For my performance review, see: Review: Aural Splendor Permeates Composer Mason Bates’ Revised “(R)evolution of Steve Jobs” – San Francisco Opera, September 24, 2023.

For my review of the opera’s world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera, see: World Premiere Review: Ovations for the (R)evolution of Steve Jobs – Santa Fe Opera, July 22, 2017

Omar (Giddens and Abels), San Francisco Opera, November 5, 7, 11, 15 and 21, 2023]

Grammy-winning North Carolina folk singer-historian Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels collaborated on creating an opera about Omar bin Said, an African Islamic scholar who was captured by in Senegal by slavetraders in 1807 and transported to Charleston, South Carolina, to be sold to a plantation owner. Omar wrote an autobiography that became source material for the opera.

[Below: Jamez McCorkle as Omar bin Said in the Los Angeles Opera’s mounting of Giddens’ and Abels’ “Omar”; edited image, based on a Cory Weaver photograph for the Los Angeles Opera.]

The opera’s world premiere took place at the 2022 Spoleto Festival in Charleston, and it has been performed also by the Los Angeles Opera. Tenor Jamez McCorkle, who performed the title role in both Spoleto and Los Angeles, will be San Francisco’s Omar. Brittany Renee is Julie. Taylor Raven is Fatima. Daniel Okulitch is Johnson and Owen. Norman Garret is Norman and Barry Banks is the Auctioneer and Taylor.

Maestro John Kennedy conducts; Kaneza Schaal directs. The visual features were created by designers Christopher Myers (production), Amy Rubin (sets), April M. Hickman and Micheline Russell-Brown (costumes) Pablo Santiago (lighting) and Joshua Higgason (projections).

Innocence (Saariaho and Oksanen), San Francisco Opera, June 1, 7, 12, 16 and 18, 2024

The San Francisco Opera hosts the American debut of the one act drama “Innocence”, a co-production of the Aix-en-provence’s Grand Theatre de Provence, Dutch National Opera, Amsterdam; Royal Opera House-Covent Garden and Finnish National Opera and Ballet, Helsinki.

The one act opera centers on a wedding in Finland between a Finnish bridegroom and a Romanian bride. A waiter scheduled to serve at the wedding reception has fallen ill and is replaced by a substitute Waitress. That Waitress turns out to be the mother of one of ten students who was killed a decade earlier by the groom’s elder brother who perpretrated a school massacre. This horror and other family secrets are revealed, impacting all of the opera’s characters.

[Below: one aspect of the rotating set for “Innocence” , showing a classroom (upper left), a wedding reception (lower left; and a kitchen (lower right); editied image, based on a Jean Luis Fernandez photograph, courtesy of the San Francisco Opera.]

The opera, whose principal language is English, includes passages in Finnish, Czech, Romanian, French, Swedish, German, Spanish and Greek. The Opera stars Romanian mezzo-soprano Ruxandra Donose as the Waitress, Canadian coloratura soprano Claire de Sévigné as the Mother-in-Law, California baritone Rod Gilfry as the father-in-law, Michigan tenor Myles Mykannen as the Groom, Icelandic bass Kristinn Sigmundsson as a Priest, soprano Lucy Shelton as a Teacher and Finnish folk singer Vilma Jaa as Marketa.

Maestro Clemenet Mao-Takacs conducts. Simon Stone created the production, Chloe Lamford the sets, Mel Page the costumes, James Farncombe the lighting, Timo Kurkkangas the projections and Arco Renz the choreography.

This list is supplementary to previous lists in this “Quests and Anticipations” series of selected operas being performed through December 2023:

Frank’s and Cruz’ “El Ultimo Sueno de Frida y Diego” [See In Quest of 21st Century Operas.]

Puccini’s and Illica/Giacosa’s “Madama Butterfly” [See In Quest of San Francisco Opera Centennial Season Operatic Performances, October 2022 through July, 2023.]

Richard Strauss’ “Die Frau ohne Schatten”, Verdi’s “Il Trovatore”, Wagner’s “Lohengrin”, and Donizetti’e “L’Elisir d’Amore” [See In Quest of San Francisco Opera Centennial Year Performances, June through December, 2023.]

Puccini’s “Tosca”, Wagner’s “Flying Dutchman”, Debussy’s “Pelleas et Melisande” and Dvorak’s “Rusalka” [See In Quest of Summer 2023 Santa Fe Opera Productions.]