San Diego Opera season to mix concerts with Mozart’s ‘Cosi’ and Gounod’s ‘Romeo’
After fall recitals at theaters countywide, the company returns to full productions at the Civic Theatre in February 2022
San Diego Opera fans who’ve been eagerly awaiting the return of mainstage opera to the San Diego Civic Theatre will have to cool their heels a bit longer.
The company’s just-announced 2021-22 season will include two large-scale productions of “Così fan tutte” and “Roméo et Juliette” at the Civic, but they won’t arrive until early 2022.
In the meantime, San Diego Opera is planning three solo recitals at concert halls in La Jolla, the Gaslamp Quarter and Escondido. Also planned as the season-closing production next May is the long-delayed chamber opera “Aging Magician.”
David Bennett, San Diego Opera’s general director, said the focus of the upcoming season will be to showcase “spectacular singing,” with many international artists making their company debuts, including Samoan tenor Pene Pati, Russian soprano Kristina Mkhitaryan and Korean baritone Gihoon Kim, who just last week was crowned the winner of the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021 competition.
“Our mission statement used to say that our focus is on the transformative power of live performance, but we’re changing that to the’ transformative and expressive power of the human voice,’” Bennett said. “What makes opera unique is that at the centerpiece of everything we do is the expressive potency that everyone carries inside of them.”
The upcoming season will carry on the company’s mission to expand its offerings to people from all walks of life and in all corners of the county. The popular Detour series — introduced in 2016 to feature concerts, chamber works and other nontraditional fare — will expand to four offerings, with “Aging Magician” and recitals by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe, soprano Michelle Bradley and tenor Arturo Chacón-Cruz.
The budget approved for the 2022 fiscal year, which begins July 1, will be $7.6 million because it includes just two, rather than the traditional three, mainstage productions. The company concludes its 2021 fiscal year on Wednesday. Final results will be announced Monday at the company’s annual meeting.
Only subscriptions for the 2021-22 season are on sale now. Single tickets will go on sale later this year. Subscriptions to the two mainstage productions start at $70, subscriptions to the three recitals start at $105. Tickets to “Aging Magician” start at $35. Full season subscriptions start at $210. Discounts are available for military and seniors. For information, call (619) 533-7000 or visit sdopera.org.
Here’s a look at the 2021-2022 season:
Stephanie Blythe in Concert: The world-renowned American mezzo-soprano was scheduled to appear this year in the Puccini one-acts “Suor Angelica” and “Gianni Schicchi,” but those have moved back to a future season. Instead, Bennett said Blythe will present a diverse program of songs that he’s leaving to her imagination. Besides exploring opera repertoire in the lower ranges of her voice, she’s also been singing to her own ukulele accompaniment in recent years. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23. Balboa Theatre, San Diego.
Michelle Bradley in Concert: The American soprano made her company debut in 2019 in the title role of “Aida,” which she has sung worldwide. Bennett said Bradley is a skilled recitalist who is accomplished in many genres, including jazz and gospel, and the concert program will reflect that versatility. 7:30 p.m. Nov. 20. Baker Baum Concert Hall, Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center, La Jolla.
Arturo Chacón-Cruz in Concert: Making his company debut, Mexican tenor Chacón-Cruz has sung more than 60 roles in more than 30 countries. Chacón-Cruz started his career as a mariachi singer, and his winter recital will mix opera with mariachi and will include an onstage mariachi ensemble. This concert is the first San Diego Opera season production ever produced in Escondido. It will take place in the California Center for the Arts’ 400-seat concert hall. 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3. California Center for the Arts, Escondido.
“Così fan tutte” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Last produced in 2005, Mozart’s 1790 opera buffa about two men whose scheme to test their fiancées’ fidelity ends in surprise. The company will create a modern new production to match the concept imagined by director Tim Nelson in his company debut. Bennett said the production may feature video screens, like those used in the company’s recent drive-in productions, to capture the singers in close-up. Soprano Alisa Jordheim, who debuted here as Gilda in 2019’s “Rigoletto,” returns as the clever maid Despina. All of the other principal singers are making their company debuts: Baritone Reginald Smith Jr., who represented America in this month’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World 2021 Competition, plays the scheme instigator Don Alfonso, baritone Gihoon Kim as Guglielmo, tenor Konu Kim as Ferrando and mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey as Dorabella. The soprano role of Fiordiligi has yet to be cast. Bennett said: “It will be a diverse group of people on stage with big rich voices.” San Diego Opera’s Bruce Stasyna, who led San Diego Symphony musicians in the drive-in “Barber of Seville” in April, conducts. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12, 15, 18; 2 p.m. Feb. 20. San Diego Civic Theatre.
“Roméo et Juliette” by Charles Gounod: Last produced here in 2010, this new production of the 1867 opera will feature stunning scenery from Minnesota Opera that mixes traditional elements with modern touches. Tenor Pene Pati of New Zealand has sung Romeo all over the world, including two seasons ago at San Francisco Opera under the baton of conductor Yves Abel, who will lead the San Diego Symphony for this production. Bennett said Pati is the right type of voice for Romeo: “It’s a difficult role with large singing over a big orchestra and he has to float his voice over the top.” Kristina Mkhitaryan, who plays Juliette, made several recent role debuts at the Metropolitan Opera in New York and Covent Garden in London. Chinese baritone Yunpeng Wang will play Mercutio. Making his company directing debut is Matthew Ozawa, who got his start at San Diego Opera in the children’s chorus. Performances at 7:30 p.m. March 26, 29 and April 1; 2 p.m. April 3. San Diego Civic Theatre.
“Aging Magician”: Postponed from spring 2020, this choral opera by Paola Prestini and playwright/actor/singer Rinde Eckert is the story of a dying clockmaker, played by Eckert, who imagines himself a magician who must pass along his prized book of magic before he dies. The show, developed for production by Beth Morrison Projects, features the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Grammy-winning Attacca Quartet and puppetry. Performances at 7:30 p.m. May 13; and 2 and 7:30 p.m. May 14. Balboa Theatre.
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