Due to the pandemic, San Francisco Opera has canceled its fall 2020 season, its 98th, which would have included a new production of Beethoven’s “Fidelio”; a new staging of Mozart’s “Così fan tutte”; the West Coast premiere of Poul Ruders’ “The Handmaid’s Tale” and standards “Rigoletto” and “La Bohème.”
The Sept. 11 opening night, which was to feature San Francisco Opera Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim conducting “Fidelio,” also has been canceled, as have the traditional glitzy opera ball and gala dinner.
General director Matthew Shilvock said, “It is heartbreaking to have to make this announcement today. It will mean a full year without opera on the War Memorial stage, and the loss of projects that would have connected powerfully with our world today.”
The 2021 spring season is slated to run from April 25-May 16 as scheduled, with “The Barber of Seville,” the company premiere of Alexander Zemlinsky’s “Der Zwerg” and concerts featuring Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.
In the meantime, the opera will continue to offer online programming, including streaming productions, captured in high definition from the War Memorial stage, of Strauss’ “Salome” on June 20; Massenet’s “Manon” on June 27; and Floyd’s “Susannah” on July 4.
“As painful as this moment is, we remain a company of extraordinarily creative artists, artisans and technicians, dedicated to doing everything we can to bring opera to life in other contexts, whether digitally or live in other venues, as government mandates and critical issues of safety allow,” Shilvock said, adding that there are hopes to “find homes” for the canceled works in development.
In a news release, music director designate Kim said: “As I’ve been preparing ‘Fidelio,’ I’ve been reminded of one of Beethoven’s most powerful ideals: ‘per aspera ad astra,’ which means ‘through hardship to the stars.’ Perhaps this philosophy can offer inspiration to us now, while we are separated by physical distance, each nurturing our own small flames of dedication to our beloved art form. When our orchestra, chorus and loyal audiences are finally reunited at the War Memorial, these individual lights will be magnified, reminding us all of the community we continue to build with each note played and sung.”
In order to accommodate the 2021 performances, the final phase of a long-term project to replace old seats in the opera house, originally planned for May through August, is being rescheduled, but new dates have not been announced.
Season ticketholders to canceled performances and patrons of the gala events will be contacted regarding refunds, credits or donations; processing of refunds for the fall 2020 season is scheduled to begin July 15.