San Francisco Opera Unveils New Production of Giuseppe Verdi's Aida, November 5-December 6

Release date: 10/10/2016    

Directed by Francesca Zambello, Conducted by Nicola Luisotti

Provocative Visual Artist RETNA Makes Theatrical Debut with Bold, Urban Contemporary Settings

Soprano Leah Crocetto and Tenor Brian Jagde Make Role Debuts; Cast Includes Mezzo-Soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk, Baritone George Gagnidze and Bass Raymond Aceto

 AIDA.pdf  Photos Available 

San Francisco Opera presents Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida in a new production directed by Francesca Zambello and featuring designs by Los Angeles-based, contemporary visual artist RETNA (Marquis Duriel Lewis). A co-production with Washington National Opera, Seattle Opera and Minnesota Opera, this striking and bold vision for Verdi’s enduring classic will feature soprano Leah Crocetto and tenor Brian Jagde in their role debuts as the lovers at the heart of the opera, the enslaved princess Aida and the Egyptian war hero Radames. Mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk is Amneris, the daughter of the king who desires Radames’ love, baritone George Gagnidze portrays Aida’s vengeful father, Amonasro, and bass Raymond Aceto is Ramfis. The international cast and San Francisco Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Company Music Director Nicola Luisotti. Resident Conductor Jordi Bernàcer will conduct the final performance on December 6. Ian Robertson is Chorus Director.

American director Francesca Zambello, whose recent productions at San Francisco Opera include Verdi’s Luisa Miller, Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (which will be revived in June 2018), the world premiere of Marco Tutino’s Two Women and Jerome Kern’s Show Boat, has earned acclaim for her stagings of new works and repertory staples alike. Aida, one of Verdi’s most intimate dramas set within arguably his grandest spectacle, employs the sets of Michael Yeargan, costumes designed by Anita Yavich, lighting design by Mark McCullough and choreography of Jessica Lang. Yavich and Lang make their Company debuts with this production.

Much of the scenery and visual presentation on stage features the designs of RETNA, whose work combines elements of traditional street art with hieroglyphics and Arabic and Hebrew calligraphy. His unique and innovative style as a graffiti artist, muralist and painter has earned commissions and gallery exhibitions around the world. The collaboration with Zambello and Yeargan as artistic designer of Aida marks RETNA’s first work on a theatrical production during his celebrated career.

Following breakout performances as Liù in Puccini’s Turandot at San Francisco Opera and Anna in Rossini’s Maometto II at Santa Fe Opera, American soprano Leah Crocetto has steadily added to her repertory of memorable portrayals, including the Verdian heroines Desdemona in Otello, Leonora in Il Trovatore, Elisabetta in Don Carlo and the title role of Luisa Miller. Last season she opened San Francisco Opera’s 2015–16 Season as Luisa Miller, debuted at the Metropolitan Opera as Liù and made acclaimed appearances with Canadian Opera Company and Santa Fe Opera. An exciting artist on the rise, the New York Times applauded Crocetto’s ability to move audiences with “warmth, full penetrating sound and tenderness.”

Since making his San Francisco Opera debut in 2010 as Joe in Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, American tenor Brian Jagde has performed many of opera’s leading tenor roles, including Mario Cavaradossi in Tosca, Lt. B.F. Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Bacchus in Ariadne auf Naxos and the Prince in Rusalka. Hailed by The Guardian for his “attractive, silvery tone” as Pinkerton at London’s Royal Opera, Covent Garden in 2015, Jagde has received critical praise during recent engagements at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Naples’ Teatro San Carlo; Houston Grand Opera; Deutsche Oper Berlin and last summer at San Francisco Opera.

As former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, Crocetto and Jagde both appeared in the Company’s previous production of Aida during the 2010–11 Season as the Priestess and Messenger. This season, the pair of sought after operatic stars return to the work to perform the leading roles of Aida and Radames for the first times in their careers.

Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk will portray Amneris, a role she has performed at many of the world’s leading opera houses including Milan’s Teatro alla Scala, St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre, Berlin Staatsoper and Naples’ Teatro di San Carlo. Georgian baritone George Gagnidze, who the Mercury News hailed as a “powerhouse” for his Carlo Gérard in the Company’s recent Andrea Chénier, will portray the ruthless Amonasro. American bass Raymond Aceto takes on the part of the implacable Egyptian priest Ramfis. Current San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows bass Anthony Reed, soprano Toni Marie Palmertree and tenor Pene Pati are also featured.

Since becoming Music Director of San Francisco Opera in 2009, Nicola Luisotti has brought passionate and spirited direction to many stage works and promoted a resurgence of the Italian repertory within the Company. Following his acclaimed performances of Verdi’s Don Carlo in summer 2016 and the season-opening production of Giordano’s Andrea Chénier, Luisotti will lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in this new staging of Verdi’s monumental tragic drama. Resident Conductor Jordi Bernàcer conducts the final performance on December 6. 

One of the most famous and beloved operas in the repertory, Aida features iconic arias like “Celeste Aida,” “Ritorna vincitor” and “O patria mia” along with intimate duets, ballets and a grand triumphal scene. Nearly 150 years after its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt, Verdi’s score endures as one of the monuments of 19th-century artistic achievement for its fluent combination of intimacy and grandeur in a deeply moving story of passionate love, thundering vengeance and heart-breaking sacrifice.

San Francisco Opera has enjoyed a rich history of presenting Verdi’s masterpiece during 32 of its 94 seasons, beginning with the Company premiere in 1925 with Italian soprano Claudia Muzio in the title role. American soprano Leontyne Price, one of the 20th-century’s greatest interpreters of the tragic heroine, sang the role for the first time in her career on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House in 1957.

Sung in Italian with English supertitles, the eleven performances of Aida are scheduled for November 5 (7:30 p.m.), November 8 (7:30 p.m.), November 11 (7:30 p.m.), November 14 (7:30 p.m), November 17 (7:30 p.m.),  November 20 (2 p.m.),  November 23 (7:30 p.m.),  November 27 (2 p.m.), November 30 (7:30 p.m.), December 3 (7:30 p.m.) and December 6 (7:30 p.m.), 2016.

Artist bios for the cast and creative team for this new production of Aida are available at



Get a rare glimpse into the creative process that goes into bringing Verdi’s Aida to life on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House. Join director Francesca Zambello, soprano Leah Crocetto, tenor Brian Jagde, Company dramaturg Kip Cranna and other members of the production’s cast and creative team for a lively panel discussion followed by a Q&A session on Wednesday, October 26 from 6:30 p.m.–7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. The Insight Panel is free for San Francisco Opera members, subscribers and students with a valid student ID; $5 for the general public. Pre-registration and tickets are available via Eventbrite; tickets also available at the door. For more information, visit


Tickets for Aida are priced from $26 to $397 (subject to change) and may be purchased at or through the San Francisco Opera Box Office at 301 Van Ness Avenue or by phone at (415) 864-3330. Standing Room tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. on the day of each performance; tickets are $10 each, cash only, and limited to two tickets per person.

The War Memorial Opera House is located at 301 Van Ness Avenue at Grove Street. Patrons are encouraged to use public transportation to attend San Francisco Opera performances. The War Memorial Opera House is within walking distance of the Civic Center BART station and near numerous bus lines, including 5, 21, 47, 49 and the F Market Street. For more public transportation information, visit and

Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change. For further information about Aida and San Francisco Opera’s 2016–17 Season, please visit

For the complete press release including calendar listing, please view the attached PDF.