Tenor Russell Thomas, who was scheduled to sing the title role of “Ernani,” is among the artists appearing in San Francisco Opera’s online “Celebrating the Summer Season” from July 10-12. Courtesy Fay Fox

Opera in The City rescued via online July programming

Singers scheduled for ‘Ernani,’ ‘Steve Jobs,’ ‘Partenope’ to appear

San Francisc Opera is catching up with its COVID-19-canceled summer season in a 90-minute, free stream of performances with stars of the three operas that were to be seen in the War Memorial.

“Celebrating the Summer Season” will be online at SFOpera.com from 7:30 p.m. July 10 through midnight July 12. The opera’s other weekend offerings of complete works from the archives are also limited to 38 hours, and they are all free, but with prompts for donations.

One of the three canceled operas is Mason Bates and Mark Campbell’s “The (R)Evolution of Steve Jobs,” with the famous mezzo Sasha Cooke cast as Lauren Jobs, the late inventor-magnate’s wife. Cooke, who is participating in the streaming program, regrets the cancellation, but finds connections between opera and the current reality:

“The aria ‘Look up, Look out’ is about getting out of your phone or computer and being with those around you, absorbing the beauty and warmth of moments together,” Cooke says of the character.

“She tells the audience to do precisely what I think we are all doing and thinking about right now during COVID — connecting with what matters and what we really ‘need’ in our lives.

“Not only are we all craving being together but we appreciate it more than ever. It’s interesting and poignant that Mason and Mark chose this to be the last message of their opera.”

The program also will cover the two other operas that were to make up the summer season: Verdi’s “Ernani” and Handel’s “Partenope.” Hosted by general director Matthew Shilvock, with participation by music director designate Eun Sun Kim, the opera orchestra and chorus, the program also features Bates, Cooke, singers Louise Alder, Michelle Bradley, Jakub Józef Orlinski, Russell Thomas and others.

“We are celebrating and honoring the operas that should have been on our stage right now,” says Shilvock. “While it has been heartbreaking to cancel, we wanted to share some of the extraordinary artistry that we were so looking forward to seeing on our stage and have a chance to delve deep into the operas themselves.”

Thomas, a prominent African-American tenor who appeared in the title role of “Roberto Devereux” last year who was to sing the title role of “Ernani,” will perform an aria from the opera in the digital program.

“Ernani” was the very first Verdi opera performed in San Francisco, on April 8, 1851, in the Adelphi Theatre, reported as a great hit with the goldminers. The story of three men pursuing one woman had a particular resonance in a town more than 90% male.

Another online opera program takes place July 9, the birthday of the late mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao. The Merola Program is holding a fundraising program of performances and remembrances, with participation from Frederica von Stade, Jake Heggie, Amy Tan, Nicolle Foland, Catherine Cook, Emil Miland, Ao Li, WooYoung Yoon and Kristen Choi.

The program will be streamed beginning 6 p.m. Thursday at the Merola Benefit YouTube Channel. It’s free, but donations are appreciated.

In lieu of the canceled six-decade old Merola season ,which was scheduled for July-August, this major program for young artists persists with online coaching and instruction, and a public series of master classes offered at merola.org/calendar.

Classical Music

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