I joined the Company in September 2009, days before the season opened. I had moved cross-country 10 days before, and two and a half weeks later I got married. It was a little nuts. But I was thrilled to be working for this Company, and for David, who both had such an incredible artistic history. Working for David has been one of the great privileges of my career. His trust, support, and friendship have made an indelible impression on me, and I will always be grateful to him for the opportunities he has given me.
In a lot of ways, I am not your typical opera employee. Many of my colleagues have rich backgrounds in music, whether as an academic, a musician or a vocal artist themselves. I, on the other hand, have a voice best suited for the shower, and my instrumental talents peaked playing saxophone in the 5th grade. But I grew up regularly attending theater and concerts with my family. And while I attended a couple of operas as a child, it wasn’t until my husband and I lived and worked in Vienna that I truly got exposed to the art form and started my love affair with it.
So I come to opera as an appreciator only. And while I have only worked for the Company for seven of David’s 10 years, here are 10 of my favorite operas from the past seven years (in chronological order).
#1: Il Trovatore (2009)
As the season opener of my first season here, this was one heck of an introduction. Let’s be honest: the story is crazy – it’s what soap opera dreams are made of – but this production was stunning. The huge, beautiful set, the massive chorus pieces such as the Anvil Song, and the stellar cast set the bar very high. In the final act, when the incomparable Sondra Radvanovsky (as Leonora) sings about losing her lover, I thought to myself: that is the sound of the human heart breaking. Her voice was so exquisite, so devastating, that I found myself in tears. Stephanie Blythe and Dmitri Hvorostovsky rounded out a stellar cast.
#2: Il Trittico (2009)
All three of these one-act operas were gems, but the one that surprised me the most was Il Tabarro. What first seems like another story of operatic infidelity (this time the wife cheats on her abrasive husband with a hunky dockworker) later exposes that the husband and wife lost a child some years before and both are still grieving. It felt modern, timely, and relevant, in no small part because of the portrayals by Patricia Racette (see #7, 8) and Brandon Jovanovich (see #4). The piece was also damn SEXY before it turned around and broke your heart. Great theatre as well as great music.
#3: The Daughter of the Regiment (2009)
When I think of this production, I think of The Princess Bride. Why? Because The Princess Bride is a movie I have seen a hundred times but never gets old. It makes me happy just watching it. I could watch this fabulous production with Diana Damrau and Juan Diego Flórez countless times and it would still bring a smile to my face. Every time Flórez hit all of his high C’s in “A Mes Amis” I wanted to cheer.
#4: Die Walküre (tie: 2010 and 2011)
I know, I know, I’m cheating because we did this production twice, but I loved both casts. The entire Ring Cycle was an incredible experience, but this installment is the jewel for me. The previously mentioned Brandon Jovanovich was fantastic, as well as Nina Stemme, Eva-Maria Westbroek, Anja Kampe, Mark Delavan, all of the Valkyries, etc. Just glorious.
#5: Heart of a Soldier (2011)
In full disclosure, I have a personal connection to this one. A friend in our Production department called me a few weeks before the show opened and begged asked me to be a supernumerary in it “because I would fit the costume.” I said yes, not exactly knowing what I was signing up for. As I later learned, the costume hadn’t been built and was later made to fit me, but she desperately needed someone to be in a featured role for 20 minutes on stage (!!).
I played Rick Rescorla’s first wife in the wedding scene, and I got to kiss Tom Hampson on stage every night. There are certainly worse ways to spend an evening. But what sticks with me was standing on stage during the bows on opening night: September 11, 2011. To be telling this story on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 – a story about real people, many of whom were alive and in the audience – was an emotionally overwhelming experience. It made me proud that San Francisco Opera would commission an opera about something so current. Not many other companies would. And it had some standout performances, including Bill Burden (see #10), Michael Sumuel, Melody Moore and a great group of Adler Fellows that included Nadine Sierra, Maya Lahyani, Susannah Biller, and Sara Gartland.