In the beginning — more precisely in 1954 — San Francisco Opera’s legendary General Director Kurt Herbert Adler created the Merola Program. Named for company founder Gaetano Merola, it acted as a hothouse of young talent.
In 1977, an affiliate artists program called Adler Fellows was created. A kind of graduate school for the best of Merolini, bridging the gap between preparing for and actually beginning an operatic career, the program boasts young artists who have become world-renowned stars.
Few groups of Adler Fellows have been as potent as this year’s singers. All have been seen and heard in opera mainstage productions. Also, they have significant future engagements here and elsewhere.
On Sunday, the Adler Fellows perform in “The Future is Now.” Their final concert of the year is an evening of arias and duets in Herbst Theatre.
Calling the concert the “culmination of our efforts,” soprano Leah Crocetto says, “We all have something to offer, and it is a blessing indeed that we have this opportunity to put our gifts on display to show exactly what makes us unique and special.”
Facing the concert without trepidation, tenor Alek Shrader says, “After all the hard work and preparation as an Adler Fellow, it becomes very easy to be fearless.”
The event features a full orchestra under the direction of Mark Morash, who put the program together.
“This year’s concert should be a special treat for the bel canto audience. Each Adler will be featured in a selection by Verdi, Donizetti or Rossini,” Morash says. “It promises to be a great evening for great singing by some of the most beautiful voices emerging in the opera world today.”
On top of the talent paraded for the occasion, the program is unusual in featuring rarities and the customary war horses. For example, there are selections from Gonoud’s “Sappho” (not “Faust”) Donizetti’s “Rita” and “Lucrezia Borgia” (and “Lucia di Lammermoor”).
In addition to Crocetto and Shrader, the singers include soprano Tamara Wapinsky; mezzo-sopranos Daveda Karanas, Daniela Mack and Renée Tatum; tenors Andrew Bidlack and David Lomelí; baritone Austin Kness; and bass Kenneth Kellogg.
Soprano Heidi Melton will miss the event because she has a Metropolitan Opera engagement. For her, “the future is now” indeed.
The Future is Now: Adler Fellows Gala Concert
Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: 7 p.m. Sunday
Tickets: $20 to $55
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com