Thursday, April 26, 2018

San Francisco Opera Annual Meeting

I received in my email a link to a film of the board meeting of the San Francisco Opera.  The president, the CFO and Matthew Shilvock, the general manager.  The entertainment was cut.  A number of points were covered.

Ticket sales for next season are well ahead of this season.  We are closer to a balanced budget than we've been in years.

The search is on for a new Musical Director to succeed Nicola Luisotti. I hope they can find another Italian.

We were told that Dream of the Red Chamber from the 2016-17 season has been touring in Asia where it is a big hit.  Fascinating.

Next season there will be only 8 productions, a significant factor in balancing the budget.  This was accompanied by a rather disturbing announcement.  Only two (Riccardo Frizza and Patrick Summers) of next season's 8 conductors have ever conducted an opera before.  I am hoping I misunderstood this.

The San Francisco Opera began with Tosca, and it seems we have been watching the same Tosca set for all that time.  I remember Maria Collier, Angela Gheorghiu and Leontyne Price.  We are getting a new production created here in our shops.

Matthew addressed the issue of his artistic vision.  When they first hired him, I brought up the fact that no one had ever mentioned this in anything I had read about him.
  • I entered the world of the San Francisco Opera through Kurt Herbert Adler (1953–1981), probably first seeing him looking up at me auditioning.  His vision was to make our company into one of the finest in the world.  He attracted famous singers by offering to stage whatever they wanted to sing.  These included Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo.  He started the Merola program.  
  • Terence McEwen (1982–1988)  was a recording executive who knew the singers personally.  His biggest achievement was Norma with Sutherland and Horne.  He was the first to use supertitles.
  • Lotfi Mansouri (1988–2001) was a director and continued his career as a director while being general manager.  He hired Donald Runnicles as Musical Director, something of a coup.  He brought us James Morris as Wotan, the greatest thing ever.  He produced some outstanding new operas:  Harvey Milk, composed by Stewart Wallace, A Streetcar Named Desire, composed by André Previn, Dead Man Walking, composed by Jake Heggie, and The Death of Klinghoffer composed by John Adams.  This must be considered a great success.
  • Pamela Rosenberg (2001–2005) is for me most famous for bringing us Messiaen's Saint-François d'Assise.  She had been Intendant in Stuttgart, a medium sized German house, and brought us things she would have produced there.  San Franciscans were horrified.  I may only have seen her when she came out after 9/11 to lead us in singing God Bless America.
  • David Gockley (2006–2016) promised us stars and basically delivered.  He also brought us what is called The American Ring, which plays again in June.  He replaced Runnicles with Luisotti who now departs.
Shilvock spoke only of connecting with the communities of the San Francisco Bay Area.  I support this.  The San Francisco Opera is idle in both early spring and late summer, giving him ample time to see operas from around the world.  He hasn't promised us anything in particular, and I still see this as a problem.  I will be watching closely to see who he hires as Musical Director.  And just because we haven't been promised stars doesn't mean we can't still have them.

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