San Francisco Opera opens 2013 season with huge ‘Mefistofele’

Grand spectaculars of opera and musical theater are on tap for the San Francisco Opera’s 2013-14 ?season.

General director David Gockley announced Monday that the season will open Sept. 6 with Arrigo Boito’s 1868 mighty, ultra-romantic, Wagner-scale “Mefistofele” in Robert Carsen’s sensational production last seen here in 1994.

The work fits well into 2013’s Verdi-Wagner bicentennial in that it was composed by Verdi librettist Boito and admired by Verdi.

The opera will celebrate Verdi’s 200th birthday generously. Music director Nicola Luisotti, who will conduct much of the season, is enthusiastic about the prospect: “I’m honored to lead the company’s recognition of Italy’s finest opera composer with his final masterpiece, ‘Falstaff,’ set to a libretto by Boito, followed by his soul-stirring ‘Requiem Mass,’ and later with the great romantic drama, ‘La Traviata.’”

In observation of Wagner’s birthday, the opera presents “The Flying Dutchman” in a new co-production with Opéra Royal de Wallonie of Belgium and Patrick Summers conducting.

A rare excursion into Broadway comes with Jerome Kern’s “Show Boat.” The production by Francesca Zambello will be the first musical in the Opera House since the 2008-09 “Porgy and Bess.”

The promised world premiere is “Dolores Claiborne” by Tobias Picker and J. D. McClatchy,  based on Stephen King’s novel. Featuring a cast led by Dolora Zajick and Elizabeth Futral, the piece will be Gockley’s sixth commissioned work since he took the reins of the company in 2006.

Previous commissions include “Appomattox” (2007), “The Bonesetter’s Daughter” (2008), “Heart of a Soldier” (2011) and the upcoming “The Secret Garden” in March and “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” in June.

Old, reliable audience favorites are Rossini’s “The Barber of Seville” in 11 performances and Puccini’s seemingly ever-present “Madama Butterfly” in eight performances.

Gockley said a “financial lockdown” continues in light of the ongoing recession. Budgeting sparingly, and presenting crowd-pleasers to bring in audiences, he plans to eliminate the $5 million annual deficit carried during each of the past three seasons. Budgets for the next two fiscal years will be in the $68-$70 million range.

2013 schedule

  • Mefistofele (Boito) — Sept. 6-Oct. 2
  • Dolores Claiborne (Picker) — Sept. 18-Oct. 4
  • Falstaff (Verdi) — Oct. 8-Nov. 2
  • The Flying Dutchman (Wagner) — Oct. 22-?Nov. 15
  • Requiem (Verdi) — Oct. 25
  • The Barber of Seville (Rossini) — Nov. 13-Dec. 1

2014 schedule

  • Show Boat (Kern) — June 1-July 2
  • La Traviata (Verdi) — June 11-13
  • Madama Butterfly (Puccini) — June 15-July 9
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