San Francisco Opera opens its season tomorrow night, with Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet, and soprano Nadine Sierra making her role debut on a stage that’s she’s performed on many times. The season continues with Benjamin Britten’s Billy Budd on Saturday night, and the annual Opera in the Park celebration and free concert in Golden Gate Park on Sunday afternoon.
There’s more information about the upcoming season at the San Francisco Opera website.
“It’s my debut in the role,” Sierra says. “I’ve never had the opportunity to sing it, and honestly, I never took the opportunity to sing it if it had been presented to me in the past, because French music is a little bit heavier, maybe a little bit more dramatic… Just from the basics of the orchestration being a lot more there, as opposed to in Bel Canto, when you can sort of get away with singing things a bit lighter.” This year, though, she’s already taken on another French role, in Massenet’s Manon. She says the roles can require more from the singers, even the young Juliet. “The role itself, yes, it’s displaying a young girl, there’s a lot of youthfulness associated with the part. But, it is a bigger sing. You do have to be a grown woman, I think, to basically showcase yourself to the best of your abilities. “Ah je veux vivre” in the beginning is a bit lighter, it’s a bit more coquettish, I suppose, because Juliet is 14, it’s her coming out party, and she really hasn’t been exposed to anything yet. And she hasn’t even met Romeo yet.” But later on, she sings an aria (which for many years wasn’t sung after the soprano for whom it was written didn’t like it) that shows great depth. “The poison aria is completely different. It’s like this 14-year-old girl has transformed into maybe a 25-year-old woman, who has so many different pressures being presented to her.” Sierra says San Francisco has always been welcoming to her, from when she was in the Merola and Adler programs to recent performances. “I think if I were making this role debut elsewhere, I would feel a lot more nervous. But now I… I know I’m just going to have fun. And I’m going to enjoy every bit of it, because of the people that thankfully I get the opportunity to work with again.”