Welcome to the KDFC Guide to Opera, a new series of blogs designed to help you explore the world of opera. Whether you’re newly interested, vaguely curious, or looking to expand your knowledge, this series will help break down the jargon, introduce you to some gorgeous music, and the local groups putting on incredible performances in the Bay Area.
There’s never a shortage of wonderful live music in the Bay Area, and the classical scene gets more diverse and exciting every year. The following is a brief guide to just one aspect of that musical landscape, the many opera companies in our community. From big-budget to strictly volunteer, the Bay Area has it all:
Walnut Creek’s Festival Opera was established in 1991 and performs at the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts. In addition to main stage productions, Festival Opera also presents artist recitals.
LVO’s stated mission is to present the world’s best operas and to encourage young singers in their careers. They are offering two productions in the 2019-2020 season.
The Merola Opera Program is the acclaimed training arm of SF Opera. Its graduates include megastars like Thomas Hampson, Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato, Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Deborah Voigt, and many others. The Merolini present concerts throughout the year.
Bay Area opera lovers are fortunate to have one of the world’s great opera companies right here in San Francisco. San Francisco Opera was officially founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola, however, a loose-knit organization existed earlier than that, spearheaded by Italian immigrants to the city. They managed to lure the likes of Enrico Caruso to San Francisco in 1906. (When the great earthquake shook him out of his bed at the Palace Hotel, he vowed never to return.) These days, SF Opera has a massive budget, lavish productions, and regularly features on its stage at the War Memorial Opera House the biggest opera stars in the world. Currently, SF Opera presents five main stage operas during the Fall season and three productions in June during the summer season. The long and storied heritage of SF Opera places it at the pinnacle of operatic art worldwide.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Nicole Paiment, San Francisco-based Opera Parallel is dedicated to developing and presenting contemporary opera in accessible spaces.
Opera San José was founded in 1984 by the late Irene Dalis, who was General Director for 30 years. The company presents four full productions of mostly standard repertory operas each season at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose.
Pocket Opera’s name says it all! Mini-productions of some of the most popular operas out there, in charming English-language translations by its founder, Donald Pippin. Pocket Opera has been around for 40 years and continues to enthrall audiences at various Bay Area venues.
Having been founded in 1956, West Bay Opera is the second oldest opera company in the Bay Area. Performing at the Lucie Stern Theater in Palo Alto, WBO’s mission is to bring the art of opera to an ever wider audience.
This East Bay company is all about the cool factor, both in terms of repertory and venue. Before they were summarily kicked out, they were performing at the super-atmospheric and unexpected old Amtrak train station in West Oakland. The August 2019 season of three operas happens at the new Bridge Yard at the foot of the Bay Bridge in Oakland.