’Tis the season for classical music

The first week in September brings season-opener galas for the two of The City’s “big three” — the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Symphony. San Francisco Ballet will roar back to life in December, with “Nutcracker,” followed by the regular season in January. September and October also signal new seasons for chamber-music groups and other musical theaters across the Bay Area.

The following are a handful of some notable classical events coming up.

San Francisco Opera

‘Die Tote Stadt’

“The Dead City” is one of Erich Korngold’s most melodic operas, the music reminiscent of Puccini and Richard Strauss. Strangely, it will have its premiere here only now, 88 years after its great success in Europe. From the man who became one of Hollywood’s most successful film composers, this is a work reminiscent of Hitchcock’s “Vertigo.”  

The story is about a man (Torsten Kerl) whose obsession with his dead wife (Emily Magee) places him in a world torn between painful reality and yearning fantasy. Willy Decker’s intriguing production arrives in San Francisco from the Vienna State Opera and the 2004 Salzburg Festival. Donald Runnicles conducts.

Sept. 23-Oct. 12; War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. $15-$260, (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com.

S.F. Performances

Bayrakdarian Sings of Armenia

This novel celebration of a contemporary composer unknown in these parts features the visually and artistically spectacular soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra. The composer Gomidas Vartabed (1869-1935), the soprano’s fellow Armenian, is the country’s national composer.

In addition to Vartabed’s songs, the soprano will also sing works by Bartok, Ravel, Skalkottas and Gideon Klein.
Oct. 4, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. $40-$65, (415) 392-4400, www.performances.org
S.F. Girls Chorus

30th Anniversary Season

The singers’ season consists of four home concerts (including commissioned premeres); guest performances with the San Francisco Opera, Symphony and Philharmonia Baroque; a debut at New York’s Lincoln Center and a tour to South America. The home opening October concert “Dreams and Visions” includes music by Poulenc, Willcocks, Rachmaninov and the premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’ settings of two e.e. cummings poems. 

Oct. 24, 8 p.m., Calvary Presbyterian Church, 2515 Fillmore St., San Francisco. $20-$28, (415) 392-4400,

San Francisco Opera

‘The Elixir of Love’

The simplest and most enchanting of love stories boasts Donizetti’s irresistible music and a brilliant cast, including Inva Mula (the seven-foot-tall “blue diva” of the movie “The Fifth Element”) as Adina, Ramón Vargas as Nemorino and the San Francisco debuts of Giorgio Caoduro (Belcore) and Alessandro Corbelli (Dulcamara).

Bruno Campanella conducts, James Robinson is stage director. The opera is 2½ hours long, but a special “family edition” production is shortened to two hours. That performance features recent Adler Fellows in the principal roles and reduced admission.
Oct. 29-Nov. 26; family performances Nov. 8 and 15; War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave. $15-$260, (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com.

San Francisco Symphony

‘The Phantom of the Opera’

The iconic Lon Chaney silent film from 1925, the first of myriad versions of “The Phantom of the Opera,” will be screened in Davies Hall with Dennis James providing musical accompaniment on Davies’ 9,000-pipe Ruffatti organ, the largest such instrument in North America.

Oct. 31; Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness  Ave., San Francisco. $25-$55, (415) 864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org.

Music at Kohl Mansion

26th Season

The chamber-music program at historic Kohl Mansion in Burlingame presents international artists on the order of the Paris Piano Trio, playing Fauré, Schumann and Mendelssohn), and the La Catrina Quartet with works of Arias y Luna, Alvarez, Piazzolla, Moncayo and Grieg. In December, the annual fund-raiser presents “Musicians from the San Francisco Symphony” — Amy Hiraga and Sarn Oliver, violins; Peter Wyrick, cello; and Robin Sutherland, piano; as well as Geraldine Walther, principal violist of the symphony for 29 years, and now a member of the Takács Quartet.

Nov. 2, Nov. 23, Dec. 14, 7 p.m.; 2750 Adeline Drive, Burlingame.

$20-$42.(650) 762-1130, www.musicatkohl.org.

San Francisco Symphony

Mahler No. 8 (“Symphony of a Thousand”)

That title for this 1910 Mahler symphony is usually a bit of an exaggeration, but this is an enormous work, in length, breadth, ambition, majesty — and the number of performers. The text includes medieval Latin hymns and the hour-long closing scene of Goethe’s “Faust.”

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts a full orchestra, offstage instruments, three choruses and eight soloists (including Laura Claycomb Anthony Dean Griffey and James Morris, who is moonlighting from the title role of Boris Godunov at the opera, across the street).

Nov. 19-23; Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave.,  San  Francisco. $35-$65, (415) 864-6000,


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