April 19, 2024
Also on tap in an exciting new season: Lidiya Yankovskaya in San Jose; a John Adams masterpiece; and Rhiannon Giddens' groundbreaking opera 'Omar.'

Mark your calendars, classical music fans: There’s a lot to look forward to as the 2023/24 season begins.

With events featuring opera, symphonies, recitals, new works and early music revivals, there’s a great lineup of events in store.

San Francisco Opera’s season offerings begin with Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” followed by the Bay Area premiere of Mason Bates’ “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” and the company’s first “Lohengrin” since 2012. Opera San Jose launches its 40th season with general director Shawna Lucey’s new production of Gounod’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

Looking for a rarity? Ars Minerva, acclaimed in recent seasons for its revivals of Domenico Freschi’s “Ermelinda” and “Astianatte,” returns with the composer’s 1682 “Olimpia Vendicata.”

In the East Bay, Livermore Valley Opera is presenting Carlisle Floyd’s “Of Mice and Men,” and Solo Opera has a family-friendly production of Lori Laitman’s “The Three Feathers.”

Music director Esa-Pekka Salonen has made the San Francisco Symphony’s opening night galas a must. On Sept. 22, he’ll launch the season with a program featuring baritone Simon Keenlyside as soloist in Mahler’s “Songs of a Wayfarer,” along with works by Ravel, Richard Strauss, and Anders Hillborg.  A new music “California Festival” and a “Signature Salonen” series are also on the Symphony’s calendar; and Salonen, who brought his orchestra across the Bay to Cal Performances in 2022, will make a return trip to Berkeley this fall.

Orchestras throughout the region have compelling programs ready: The California Symphony launches its season with works by American composers, including “MeChicano” by Grammy nominated Mexican composer Juan Pablo Contreras; Berkeley Symphony’s season features works by Jessie Montgomery and Gabriela Lena Frank, among others; and the Oakland Symphony welcomes W. Kamau Bell in the latest installment of the orchestra’s “Playlist,” celebrating author-activist Angela Davis.

Recitals and special events include appearances by top artists including soprano Christine Goerke at Cal Performances, pianists Emanuel Ax at Stanford Live and Isata Kanneh-Mason at San Francisco Performances. The Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra mixes old and new in its season-opening program pairing music by Handel with a new work by composer-in-residence Tarik O’Regan.

Here are five concerts you shouldn’t miss.

‘The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs’

Bates’ opera, with a libretto by Mark Campbell, takes an dramatic look back at the life and work of the tech titan; it makes its much-anticipated Bay Area premiere at San Francisco Opera, with a cast featuring John Moore in the title role and Sasha Cooke as Jobs’ wife, Laurene. Michael Christie conducts.

Details: Sept. 22-Oct. 7; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $26-$426; sfopera.com.

‘Myths, Fairy Tales and Legends’

Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, the Chicago Opera Theater music director who led an acclaimed “Rusalka” at Santa Fe Opera this summer, makes her first Symphony San Jose appearance, leading the orchestra in the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde,” music from Prokofiev’s “Cinderella,” and Lera Auerbach’s “Icarus.”

Details: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 30, 2:30 Oct. 1; California Theatre, San Jose; $55-$115; symphonysanjose.org.

‘Naïve and Sentimental Music’

This big, three-movement orchestral work remains one of John Adams’ greatest creations, one that the composer dedicated to Salonen, who led its first performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1999 and conducted its San Francisco Symphony debut five years later. It’s a masterpiece, and Salonen returns to it as the centerpiece of a program that also includes the world premiere of Jesper Nordin’s “Convergence.”

Details: Oct. 6-7;l Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco; $25-$75; sfsymphony.org.

‘Music to Accompany a Departure’

Heinrich Schütz’s work, composed in the 1630s during the 30 Years War, will be performed by the Los Angeles Master Chorale in this production directed by Peter Sellars and conducted by Grant Gershon. The Baroque masterwork offers a deep meditation on grief and loss. Presented by Cal Performances, it promises an unusual and intensely dramatic experience.

Details: 8 p.m. Oct. 28; Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; $30-$90; www.calperformances.org.

‘Omar’

San Francisco Opera presents this groundbreaking opera by Grammy-winning artist Rhiannon Giddens and composer Michael Abels. It’s a story of faith and endurance set in the early 1800s, as an Islamic scholar is captured in West Africa and sold into slavery in South Carolina. Giddens’ score is an irresistible blend of folk, bluegrass, spirituals and West African kora.

Details: Nov. 5-21; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco; $26-$426; sfopera.com.

Contact Georgia Rowe at [email protected].

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