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Newsletter Summer 2012

Dear Friends,


elcome to the first of what I hope will be a regular series of updates on Camerata. Established in October 2010, Camerata is a unique funding program that enables San Francisco Opera to build on our storied legacy and ensure the future of opera and this Company. As a valued member, you are part of a visionary group making possible the projects that define our worldclass reputation. We want you to experience unprecedented access to the amazing process of getting an opera onto the War Memorial Opera House stage, from inception to “Bravo!”

This newsletter is my way of saying Thank You to generous patrons like you who have stepped up to join Camerata, pledging nearly $5 million in special funding. Call it my love letter to you. Camerata projects to-date have ranged from Nicola Luisotti’s exhilarating appearances on the podium leading our Opera Orchestra to groundbreaking new works like Heart of a Soldier and innovative productions of seminal favorites like our new Magic Flute, which debuted to rave reviews this June. I wanted to share with you some behind-the-scenes glimpses that illustrate just a few of the ways Camerata is helping San Francisco Opera grow on the international stage and within our Greater Bay Area community both today and tomorrow.

GREAT SINGERS Joan & David Traitel, Founders For me, one of the key defining aspects of what makes a worldclass opera company is the regular appearance of today’s greatest singers, from celebrated household names to rising stars. As Joan Traitel, founder of the Great Singers Fund, puts it, “Without great singers, opera is not all it could be.” And I couldn’t agree more! This past fall, American soprano Renée Fleming returned to San Francisco for the first time since 2001. When I first approached her about coming back to our stage, she told me the opera that most interested her was Lucrezia Borgia, a rarely performed gem by Bel Canto master Gaetano Donizetti. Even with Renée’s superstar David and Joan Traitel with Susan Graham status, presenting a rather obscure work like Lucrezia can be a risk for any company, much less one with a 3,000+-seat house. Fortunately, she drew in crowds and house capacity was at over 95%, which is comparable to recent performances of “AA” operas like Turandot and Carmen. Camerata funding ensured that we were able to take that risk. More importantly, the Company was able to accomplish it at the highest artistic level with a beautiful production, an amazing ensemble cast, and a strong conductor. We did this because I believe that a production cannot be about one star performer – there must be a balance. As Gregory Henkel, Director of Artistic Administration, so eloquently puts it, “Like a tapestry, the beauty of each unique and individual thread combines to create its magnificence: you cannot pull one thread without marring the masterpiece.” Some patrons may have come to Lucrezia Borgia just to hear Renée, but once in the House they fell in love with rising stars Michael Fabiano, Elizabeth DeShong, and Vitalij Kowaljow. The same could be said for this fall’s “stagione” run of Tosca with our dueling divas, Angela Gheorghiu and Patricia Racette – both of whom are joined by powerhouse casts including Roberto Frontali and Mark Delavan as their villainous Scarpias. SAN FRANCISCO OPERA War Memorial Opera House 301 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102 David Gockley General Director Nicola Luisotti Music Director

SIGNATURE PRODUCTIONS One of the greatest joys throughout my career has been championing the works of American composers. America has become the hotbed of new opera in the 20th and 21st centuries, far surpassing the activities of our European counterparts. I think it is vital that companies like San Francisco Opera look to the great canon of American operas when programming seasons. It is important that we foster continued creativity through the commissioning of new works, and we must also continue to expand the “standard” repertoire by programming revival-worthy operas from the 20th and 21st centuries. Camerata makes this possible. As we were approaching the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 tragedies, I thought it would be fitting for San Francisco Opera to commission a work honoring that history-altering event. Heart of a Soldier was that tribute – an American experience that resonated far beyond the confines of this country or historical period. For this important commission, I selected Christopher Theofanidis, a Dallas native of enormous talent whom I knew from my time in Houston. While it was to be his first opera, I knew he was the right composer for the project. Heart of a Soldier was truly a San Francisco Opera family creation. The Company welcomed back Merola and Adler alumni, including William Burden and Thomas Hampson sing together in Heart of a Soldier Thomas Hampson and Melody Moore, and saw current Adler Fellows create pivotal roles. Francesca Zambello, who so brilliantly directed our American Ring last summer, created a seamless staging for a story that spanned nearly 60 years. The Company also welcomed local veterans and heroes into the Opera House to honor their years of dedicated service and watch the final dress rehearsal of the production. And Susan Rescorla, widow of the opera’s hero Rick Rescorla, became a cherished member of our family. Among the many challenges an opera company faces, perhaps the most daunting is to introduce a brand-new work. Yet we have a responsibility to refresh the repertory. Many of the tried and true classics were not considered successes immediately, but are now mainstays on stages around the world. Camerata funders may look back at a revival of Heart of a Soldier in years to come and feel proud to have supported a modern-day production written by an American composer that reflects recent history and demonstrates the vision and commitment of our Company. I’m extremely excited by the many American works that are part of our upcoming schedule. Jake Heggie’s Moby-Dick – which seems to have instantaneously established a place in the American canon – makes its much-anticipated Company debut this fall with Ben Heppner as Ahab. Then in 2013, we present the world premieres of three different works: The Secret Garden by Nolan Gasser (in conjunction with our friends at Cal Performances), The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by my dear friend Mark Adamo, and Dolores Claiborne by Tobias Picker, starring the great American mezzo-soprano Dolora Zajick in the title role from Stephen King’s thriller.

BUILDING THE NEXT GENERATION Of course, the brightest stars and the best productions won’t mean much if no one is there to enjoy it, so one of our most vital endeavors is building the next generation of opera attendees and supporters. It is quite simply vital to the longterm growth of our Company and to the health of the art-form as a whole. Through a mixture of family productions, community outreach, and diverse media offerings, Camerata members are making possible the projects that will help to ensure our future. At our sixth annual Opera at the Ballpark, over 16,000 attendees were treated to a free matinee simulcast of Turandot. This daytime event encouraged entire families to attend, and a new family zone was created that featured face painting, storytelling, and an area for children to create their own opera props and costumes. Members of Orpheus, the Opera’s young donor program, also had the


Of all of the events held throughout the year, the Orpheus party at Opera at the Ballpark is one of my favorites. There is nothing quite like being a part of tens of thousands of people engrossed in an opera.

- Ben Nelson, Orpheus founder

opportunity to watch the simulcast from a priceless vantage point: inside the first base dugout. Orpheus founder Ben Nelson states, “Of all of the events held throughout the year, the Orpheus party at Opera at the Ballpark is one of my favorites. There is nothing quite like being a part of tens of thousands of people engrossed in an opera. This year was particularly special because my wife Marina and I brought our daughter Zara for the first time, and we were surrounded by other young families enjoying opera together.” Camerata members also helped to bring our cherished family opera productions back to the War Memorial stage for the first time since 2008. Led by Adler Fellow Maya Lahyani as Carmen and Brian Jagde as Don José, Carmen for Families drew near sell-out crowds for its two Orpheus member Sally Lee (top right) with (l to r) Ella, Raymond, Sasha, Allison, and Colette enjoy the performances. And with the generous support of Camerata members, simulcast event from the dugout in spring 2013 we will premiere The Secret Garden, a co-production with Cal Performances and the first-ever commission of a children’s opera by the Company. These hallmark productions, along with free community events like Opera at the Ballpark, are just a few examples of what Camerata allows us to accomplish in building a new generation of opera goers.

AMICI DI NICOLA Jan Shrem & Maria Manetti Shrem, Chairs

Nicola Luisotti

One of our greatest assets as a Company is Music Director Nicola Luisotti. His passion for the music is palpable from every seat in the house and it is only fitting that Camerata members play a part in helping to realize his vision for San Francisco Opera. Amici di Nicola is a group of donors within Camerata who specifically champion the artistry of Nicola in the great Italian operas he was born to conduct, as well as repertoire that is new to him. Nicola is devoted to nurturing the enormous talent of the Orchestra — his musical amici. In fact, one of his stated goals when he was named Music Director in 2009 was to feature these fine musicians in symphonic programs of their own. With the support of Amici di Nicola, Nicola’s vision bore fruit this past season when, in conjunction with Cal Performances, the San Francisco Opera Orchestra presented two concerts featuring symphonic repertoire.

San Francisco Opera’s Concertmistress Kay Stern spoke of working with Maestro Luisotti and the impact the concert had on her and the orchestra: The Maestro is such a conduit to the Orchestra, committed to the story in the music, the life of the composer, and the talents of his musicians. From the very first downbeat at an orchestral reading, Maestro Luisotti lets us know the urgency and importance of every note we play – the expression of humanity in every note… the possibility to connect to something greater - to something higher. He helps people to open up to their passions, to live big and to love big. The concert was a gift from the Maestro and an opportunity for the Orchestra to stretch and grow and work together in a very different and intimate way. Maestro Luisotti will be at the podium this coming season for five different productions, including his first Wagner opera for the Company: Lohengrin. Future projects include a first for San Francisco Opera: the world premiere of an Italian opera based on the dramatic novel Two Women (“La Ciociara”). The book was also the basis for a 1960 movie starring Sophia Loren, who won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a Roman widow traumatized by the fallout from World War II. Thank you for bringing Camerata to life! I am continually astonished by the enormous generosity and dedication patrons like you demonstrate on a daily basis. It is truly my honor to serve as your General Director.

David Gockley General Director


Newsletter Summer 2012

CAMERATA MEMBERS ARE MAKING HISTORY Robert Mailer Anderson & Nicola Miner

Franklin & Catherine Johnson

John* & Maria Pitcairn

Athena & Timothy Blackburn

Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Keegan

Dr. & Mrs. Richard Rigg

Mr.* and Mrs. John M. Bryan

Ms. Karen J. Kubin

Betty & Jack Schafer

Robert & Laura Cory

Dr. & Mrs. John Lavorgna

Jan Shrem & Maria Manetti Shrem

Valerie & Paul Crane Dorfman

Mrs. Edmund W. Littlefield

Ms. Vivian M. Stephenson & Ms. Margarita Gandia

Shirley Davis & Paul Sack

Greg & Liz Lutz

Mr. & Mrs. David T. Traitel

Roberta & David Elliott

Jennifer Coslett MacCready

Tulsa and Simone Fund

Lisa Erdberg & Dennis Gibbons

The MacNaughton Family Foundation

Mary Van Voorhees, in memory of Gwin Follis

Ms. Kristina Flanagan

Mr. & Mrs. Burton J. McMurtry

Soo & Raj Venkatesan

Keith & Priscilla Geeslin

Mr. Steven M. Menzies

Barbara M. Ward & The Honorable Roy L. Wonder

Richard & Rhoda Goldman Fund

Ms. Nancy S. Mueller & Mr. Robert A. Fox

Diane B. Wilsey

John A. & Cynthia Fry Gunn

Marina & Ben Nelson

Mr. & Mrs. Clark Winslow

Mr.* & Mrs. F. Warren Hellman

Peggy & Boyce Nute

Thomas F. & Barbara A. Wolfe

Leslie & George Hume

Hiro & Betty Ogawa

Anonymous (2)

Bruce W. Hyman & Simone M. Quarré

Bernard & Barbro Osher

Mr. & Mrs. C. Bradford Jeffries

The Oshman Family Foundation

* Deceased

What our members have to say…

Attending the orchestral readings for Walküre – standing inches away as the full orchestra roared into “The Ride of the Valkyries” for the first time – was an experience I will never forget. –George Hume Our experience as Adler sponsors showed us that we can make a real difference for the future of opera. –Bob Cory We get so much pleasure out of it and the artists do so much for us, it is important for us to do something for them. –Jan Shrem I hope people can see the relationship between the Great Singers Fund and this season’s fantastic lineup. These amazing artists make an evening special, and at the end you walk away happy. –Joan Traitel Having the opportunity to attend orchestral readings and sitzprobes with both Maestros Donald Runnicles and Nicola Luisotti was fascinating. As I watched them work with the musicians and the artists, I gained an appreciation for the tremendous impact the conductor has on a performance. –Paul Sack

Thank you for bringing Camerata to life. We truly appreciate all that you do to define San Francisco Opera's international reputation. Our goal is to ensure that Camerata members enjoy one of the most rewarding and meaningful philanthropic experiences of their lives. There are many opportunities for you to go behind-the-scenes and see first-hand what it takes to bring an opera to our stage, including orchestral reading rehearsals, design presentations, staging rehearsals, and sitzprobes. Your giving officer will be happy to work with you to customize your experience as a Camerata member.


Camerata Newsletter Summer 2012