As part of its centennial celebrations, San Francisco Opera has released the first instalment of Streaming the First Century, a project offering free access to historic recordings.
The new online hub at sfopera.com/firstcentury features recordings from the company's past, along with rare artist interviews, archival photographs, program articles, oral history excerpts and newly captured conversations among past and present San Francisco Opera creative luminaries.
Each Streaming the First Century session – to be released one per month from September until December – includes two complete recordings, audio excerpts from four additional performances, and introductions to each by contemporary scholars, artists, and company members.
The contents of the sessions, drawn from ‘only-at-San-Francisco-Opera' moments and not found on commercial recordings, are thematically inspired by the 2022–2023 season, looking at past presentations of Slavic, French, Italian and German repertoire.
Streaming the First Century
Session 1: Slavic Sensibilities
With Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin returning this month (25 September – 14 October), Session 1 offers an exploration of the works of Czech and Russian composers through landmark San Francisco Opera performances.
Complete Recordings are with Elisabeth Söderström and Sena Jurinac in Janáček's Jenůfa (1980); conductor Calvin Simmons; Anja Silja and Chester Ludgin in Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1981); conductor Calvin Simmons.
Excerpted Recordings are of Ezio Pinza and the San Francisco Opera Chorus in Boris Godunov (1945); Marie Collier and Gregory Dempsey in The Makropulos Case (1966); Peter Gougaloff and Galina Vishnevskaya in The Queen of Spades (1975).
Archival Interviews are with sopranos Sena Jurinac and Elisabeth Söderström who discuss performing Janáček's Jenůfa in a broadcast intermission feature from 1980.
Conductor Calvin Simmons and stage director Gerald Freedman discuss Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk with Richard Rodzinski whose father, conductor Artur Rodzinski, was instrumental in bringing the opera to the US.
Spanning the Decades Conversations – Hair and Makeup Edition: San Francisco Opera's Head of Hair and Makeup Jeanna Parham speaks with friend and mentor Stan Dufford, who held the position from 1956–1968 and has served the company for nearly five decades.
Props Edition: Learn about the differences between props and scenery from San Francisco Opera's Master of Properties Lori Harrison in this discussion about Harrison's path to working on the stage.
Chorus Edition: Part 1 of a discussion between Kip Cranna and recently retired Ian Robertson about Robertson's 35-year tenure as San Francisco Opera's Chorus Director.
Director Edition: The first of a three-part conversation between Francesca Zambello and Kip Cranna about Zambello's historic career and beginnings with San Francisco Opera in the early 1980s. She discusses the Company's introduction of supertitles and working with esteemed directors Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Nicholas Lehnhoff.
Session 2: Parlez-vous français? (10 October)
Mid-century masterpiece Dialogues of the Carmelites is on stage in October, providing the point of departure for this concentrated tour of French style in works by Massenet, Charpentier, Berlioz and Messiaen. Also included is the oldest San Francisco Opera-adjacent recording.
Complete recordings: Massenet's WERTHER (1978) / Charpentier's LOUISE (1999)
Excerpts: MANON (1939); LES TROYENS (1966); THAÏS (1976); SAINT FRANÇOIS D'ASSISE (2002)
Session 3: Italian Roots (7 November)
November brings new San Francisco Opera productions of La Traviata and Orpheus and Eurydice, along with an opportunity to survey the Company's foundations in great Italian works by Leoncavallo, Puccini, Giordano, and Verdi.
Complete recordings: Leoncavallo's PAGLIACCI (1962) / Puccini's TURANDOT (1977)
Excerpts: TOSCA (1932); ANDREA CHÉNIER (1938); IL TROVATORE (1971); LA FORZA DEL DESTINO (2005)
Session 4: Ho Jo To Ho! (5 December)
Die Frau ohne Schatten is on the horizon for Summer 2023, so Streaming the First Century invites you to delve into works by German and Austrian composers in December with memorable San Francisco Opera performances of works by Strauss, Korngold, Mozart, and Wagner.
Complete recordings: Strauss' SALOME (1974) / Korngold's DIE TOTE STADT (2008)
Excerpts: DIE WALKÜRE (1936); COSÌ FAN TUTTE (1960); ELEKTRA (1966); FIDELIO (1978)
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.