Operas offstage, online
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The other shoe dropped last week as the San Francisco Opera joined the growing list of music institutions cancelling the rest of their spring and summer seasons. General Director Matthew Shilvock announced the "heartbreaking decision," made after an April 10 board meeting and weeks of consultation, following SF Mayor London Breed's initial shelter-in-place order March 16.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a daily influx of shifting information, arts companies are forced to make serious unprecedented judgments. "The safety and health of our audiences, artists and employees must come first." Facing an estimated $8 million financial loss, Shilvock admits stopping the rest of the season is the only sensible choice. Safety measures and social distancing make travel, preparation, and rehearsals a logistical nightmare.
The Company intends paying full compensation and benefits for employees through the current May 3 shelter-in-place period. Continuing negotiations will focus on the effect of cancellations on the lives of artists, crew and staff and an uncertain future.
Audiences will miss Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim conducting Verdi's Ernani, the revival of Christopher Alden's delightfully witty production of Handel's Partenope, and the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates and Mark Campbell's The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.
Cancellations of Pride Night at the Opera and SF Pride 2020 prevent public celebration with SFO staff, but San Francisco is still an opera town and where there's a will there's a way.
"This company has faced many challenges in its nearly 100 years. Our very theater was built from the determination of San Franciscans to bring music back after the devastation of the 1906 earthquake," said Matthew Shilvock in a press statement. His commitment to the city and opera is heartening.
In a typical act of civic commitment, the company recently donated a supply of in-house PPE to UCSF's Mt. Zion campus. N95 masks, suits, gloves, and disinfectants, ordinarily used to insure the safety of musicians and stage workers are out of storage and onto the crisis frontline.
Spiritual aid comes with the launch of Opera is ON. The evolving initiative online includes new and historical material. Odes to Joy features performances by talented young SFO Adler Fellows. General Director Shilvock, Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim, and General Director Shilvock, Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim, and Managing Director Artistic: Gregory Henkel curates playlists on Spotify. Blog articles by orchestra and chorus members, production artists and administration are open as well at www.sfopera.com
More music at home
More Bay Area organizations offer opera performances online for listeners, feeling early pains of withdrawal. We can gorge on carbs and grand opera in the privacy of our own homes as Opera San Jose streams its 2011 production of Mozart's majestic Idomeneo, on the company's official website through May 18, 2020. www.operasj.org
All Remaining 2019-20 Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale Performances are cancelled due To COVID-19 related orders; especially sad, since beloved Music Director Nicholas McGegan is retiring after 35 amazing years.
A highly anticipated semi-staged production of Leclair's Scylla et Glaucus will also go uncelebrated. Fortunately, McGegan's fans have made their affection clear throughout the pre-quarantine season and he maintains a strong presence on YouTube. Among many delights, catch McGegan conducting the PBO in orchestral suites from Rameau's Les Paladins and Leclair's Scylla et Glaucus.
In a generous gesture from hard-hit Manhattan, the Metropolitan Opera is lifting everyone's spirits, streaming full productions on 'Metropolitan Opera's Nightly Streams.' Since this luscious programming began over a month ago, the company has allowed listeners to select an audience favorite.
The winning choice was Puccini's Madama Butterfly starring San Francisco Opera favorite, out and proud Patricia Racette, with Marcello Giordani, and Dwayne Croft, conducted by Patrick Summers, from a March 7, 2009 performance.
Upcoming operas in week six include:
Monday, April 20: Strauss's Elektra starring Nina Stemme, Adrianne Pieczonka, Waltraud Meier, and Eric Owens, conducted by San Francisco Symphony Music Director Designate Esa-Pekka Salonen
Tuesday, April 21: Puccini's Tosca with Sonya Yoncheva, Vittorio Grigolo, and Zeljko Lucic, conducted by Emmanuel Villaume.
Wednesday, April 22: Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffmann starring Anna Netrebko, Kathleen Kim, Ekaterina Gubanova, Joseph Calleja, and Alan Held, conducted by James Levine.
Thursday, April 23: Lehar's The Merry Widow starring Renée Fleming, Kelli O'Hara, and Nathan Gunn, conducted by Sir Andrew Davis.
Friday, April 24: Verdi's La Traviata starring Natalie Dessay,
Matthew Polenzani, and the late, great Dmitri Hvorostovsky, conducted by Fabio Luisi. (From April 14, 2012)
Saturday, April 25: the At-Home Gala features more than 40 leading artists in a live stream from their homes around the world.
Sunday, April 26: Rossini's La Cenerentola starring Joyce DiDonato and Juan Diego Florez, conducted by Fabio Luisi.
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