San Francisco Opera in 2024-2025

San Francisco Opera takes a step back in the 2024-25 season

Music director Eun Sun Kim and general director Matthew Shilvock © Cody Pickens

After a 2023-24 season that featured three significant and well-received new operas, San Francisco Opera this week announced a 2024-25 season with fewer performances and only one company premiere – The Handmaid’s Tale, which dates from 2000.

Except for the pandemic-affected 2020 and 2021 seasons, this is the shortest season in decades. The company typically stages eight to ten operas a year. In interviews, general director Matthew Shilvock cited financial concerns, a situation that has forced classical musical organizations across the United States, and the world, to rethink their plans.

For this company, that will mean only one contemporary work, The Handmaid’s Tale, in a lineup of well-known Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Bizet and Mozart operas. The 2023-24 season concludes in June with Saariaho’s Innocence in its U.S. premiere. Along with Rihanna Giddens’s Omar and Mason Bates’s The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, these three operas out of eight in 2023-24 had placed San Francisco in the forefront of presenting new works.

Replacing the two missing opera slots for next season are concerts – Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in October and a concert in June to coincide with Pride Week.

If the shortened season and proliferation of such familiar fare are disappointing, there are some positive aspects in the announcement, among them a world premiere for 2025-26 of a new commission, The Monkey King, by Huang Ruo and librettist David Henry Hwang. It is based on an episode in Journey to the West, a Ming dynasty novel that is considered a masterpiece of classical Chinese literature.

Music director Eun Sun Kim’s initiative to take on operas by Verdi and Wagner each season continues with the opener on 6 September – Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera – to be followed in October by Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde. An impressive list of singers new to San Francisco Opera, one of the strong points of recent seasons, looks promising for the next one.

In Ballo, tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Lianna Haroutounian are back for the starring roles. Amartuvshin Enkhbat, an emerging star baritone from Mongolia, makes his company debut, and Romanian mezzo-soprano Judit Kutasi, who dazzled in this season’s Lohengrin, returns. In Tristan, tenor Simon O’Neill and soprano Anja Kampe take on the lead roles in a production from La Fenice in Venice designed by Robert Innes Hopkins, whose sets for last fall’s Elixir of Love were a big hit.

The Handmaid’s Tale, a co-production with Danish National Opera of composer Poul Ruders’s and librettist Paul Bentley’s take on Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel, was scheduled for the 2020 season but postponed by the pandemic. The cast includes soprano Irene Roberts, mezzo-sopranos Lindsay Ammann and Sarah Cambidge and bass-baritone John Relyea.

The fall season concludes with Bizet’s Carmen, staged by Francesca Zambello, with Swiss-born mezzo-soprano Eve-Maud Hubeaux in her U.S. opera debut; tenor Jonathan Tetelman, in a role debut as Don José; soprano Louise Alder, making her American opera debut; and bass-baritone Christian Van Horn.

The Beethoven Ninth Symphony on 26 October will be a company first, with Kim leading the orchestra, chorus and soloists – soprano Jennifer Holloway, mezzo-soprano Annika Schlicht, tenor Russell Thomas and bass Kwangchul Youn.

In June 2025, conductor Ramón Tebar and homegrown tenor Pene Pati, who delivered a juicy Elixir last fall, return for Puccini’s La bohème, and tenor Matthew Polanzani heads a starry cast for Mozart’s Idomeneo that includes mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack, soprano Ying Fang and Elza van den Heever. Kim will conduct.

Details for the Pride concert 27 June 2025 have not been announced.

San Francisco Opera’s 2024-2025 full season announcement can be read here.

Harvey Steiman

Featured Image: Poul Ruders’s The Handmaid’s Tale, the only contemporary work on San Francisco Opera’s 2024-25 schedule ©  Camilla Winghter/Royal Danish Opera

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