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San Francisco Opera

From Academic Kids

San Francisco Opera (SFO) is the second largest opera company in North America. It was founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola (1881-1953).

Its first performance was La bohème, with Queena Mario and Giovanni Martinelli, on September 26, 1923, in the city's Civic Auditorium.

Nine years later, the SFO inaugurated the War Memorial Opera House with a performance of Tosca on October 15, 1932 with Claudia Muzio. The building was designed by Arthur Brown, Jr., the architect who also created San Franscisco's Coit Tower and City Hall.

Since 1923, SFO has presented the American debut of numerous artists, including Vladimir Atlantov, Inge Borkh, Boris Christoff, Marie Collier, Sir Geraint Evans, Mafalda Favero, Tito Gobbi, Sena Jurinac, Mario del Monaco, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Margaret Price, Leonie Rysanek, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Giulietta Simionato, Ebe Stignani, Renata Tebaldi and Ingvar Wixell; conductors Gerd Albrecht, Valery Gergiev, Georg Solti and Silvio Varviso; and directors Francis Ford Coppola, Harry Kupfer and Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

In 1983, the SFO experimented with English supertitles at performance of La Traviata. The overwhelmingly favorable response prompted the company provide supertitles for all its productions.

In addition to the standard operatic repertoire, the SFO has also performed a series of new operas:

  • The Dangerous Liaisons, composed by Conrad Susa to a libretto by Philip Littell. The work had its premiere during the 1994 fall season and was the subject of a nationwide TV broadcast.
  • Harvey Milk, a new opera by composer Stewart Wallace to a libretto by Michael Korie.The work was performed in 1996 as a joint commission and co-production of the San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, and New York City Opera.
  • A Streetcar Named Desire, composed by André Previn to a libretto by Philip Littell, after the play by Tennessee Williams. The work had its premiere during the 1998-99 fall season.
  • Dead Man Walking, composed by Jake Heggie to a libretto by Terrence McNally, after the book by Sister Helen Prejean.

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