Last Tuesday marked the beginning of the 56th season of the Merola Opera Program. This is one of the leading institutions dedicated to preparing talent for the opera productions of the future. This summer the participants include 23 singers (five sopranos, five mezzos, five tenors, four baritones, and four bass-baritones), five pianists serving as apprentice coaches, and one apprentice stage director. Three of the vocalists are returning participants. The audition and application process screened more than 1000 candidates.
While Merola is primarily about providing first-rate training with the participation of some of the opera world’s leading professionals, the “public face” of Merola involves a summer season of performances. As in the past, these will include two fully-staged operas, a concert of semi-staged scenes and arias, and a Grand Finale concert given in the War Memorial Opera House. Details are as follows:
The first of the fully-staged operas will be performed in recognition of the 100th birthday of Benjamin Britten, who was born on November 22, 1913. Britten composed many highly dramatic and musically sophisticated operas. From this repertoire, Merola has selected The Rape of Lucretia, composed for the great mezzo Kathleen Ferrier, which will be directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by Mark Morash. It will be sung in English with English subtitles. There will be two performances in Everett Auditorium, located at 450 Church Street. They will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 11, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 13.
The second fully-staged opera will be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s four-act comedy Le nozze di Figaro (the marriage of Figaro). This will be directed by Robin Guarino and conducted by Xian Zhang. It will be sung in Italian with English subtitles and performed, again, in Everett Auditorium. There will again be two performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 1, and 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 3.
The program of scenes and arias is the annual Schwabacher Summer Concert. This provides one of the broadest showcases of the summer’s Merola talent. A full orchestra conducted by Roy Rallo will provide the accompaniment. This will also take place in Everett Auditorium beginning at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 18. The full program will then be repeated at 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, as a free concert in Yerba Buena Gardens as part of the 2013 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, all of whose events are free.
The Grand Finale, involving all Merolini, will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. August 17, in the War Memorial Opera House.
Ticket prices range from $25 to $45 (except for the free performance in Yerba Buena Gardens). Ticket sales are handled by the San Francisco Box Office, which may be visited in the lobby of the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness Avenue. They may also be ordered by calling 415-864-3330. Finally, they may be purchased online at the Single Tickets Web page on the San Francisco Opera Web site, where all Merola events are listed under “Other Productions.”