SF Opera offers tales classic and modern in new season  

The West Coast premiere of “The Handmaid’s Tale” is on the schedule for San Francisco Opera’s fall 2024 season. (Photo by Camilla Winther/Royal Danish Opera)

San Francisco Opera will present six operas including the War Memorial Opera House premiere of Danish composer Poul Ruders’ “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a 200th anniversary concert of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and a Pride Week celebration when its 102nd season opens Sept. 6. 

On Feb. 20, San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock announced the 2024-25 season, which kicks off with the Opera Ball and Leo Moscato’s new-to-San Francisco production of “Un Ballo in Maschera,” running Sept. 6-27. Tenor Michael Fabiano and soprano Lianna Haroutounian will perform the roles of Riccardo and Amelia in the Verdi opus.  

Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera” opens San Francisco Opera’s 2024-25 season. (Photo by Yasuko Kageyama/Teatro dell’Opera di Roma)

Shilvock cites economic trends—it would cost as much as $16 million more in 2024-25 to stage what the company did in 2018-19—as the reason why there are two fewer operas this season, which has been crafted “within revenue feasibility.”  

Nonetheless, based on experience and data from the past two seasons, he is optimistic the new season will be successful. 

“The last two years have been extraordinary for the company, seasons in which thrilling artistry onstage has inspired new audiences at a rate never before seen. Capacities are back to pre-pandemic levels (80 percent for last fall), and we saw 18,000 new audience members coming into the Opera House last fall alone,” Shilvock says. “The combination of great works of the repertory combined with vital new stories, all told in emotionally impactful ways, is resonating with audiences existing and new, and I hope that the 2024-25 season will continue that trend.” 

Opening weekend festivities include the free Opera in the Park concert conducted by music director Eun Sun Kim at Robin Williams Meadows in Golden Gate Park on Sept. 8.

After being delayed to due to the pandemic, San Francisco Opera stages “The Handmaid’s Tale” in fall 2024. (Photo: Camilla Winther/Royal Danish Opera)

The West Coast premiere of “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Sept. 14-Oct. 1), with mezzo-soprano Irene Roberts starring as the handmaid Offred, follows. Based on Margaret Atwood’s landmark novel in which women are forced into child-bearing servitude, the opera, a co-production with The Royal Danish Theatre and a libretto by Paul Bentley, was scheduled to make its company debut in 2020 but canceled due to the pandemic. 

“At that time, it already felt at once futuristic and of this moment — a dystopian tale that shone light on contemporary realities; four years later the work is sadly even more prescient and has moved closer to reality,” Shilvock says. “Margaret Atwood has talked about every element in ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ having a real-world precedent at some point in history. That is a stark reminder of the deep resonance of this work. As told through an operatic lens, one feels all of that resonance, but also the emotional immediacy of opera. What results is a work of towering impact.” 

Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” will be on the War Memorial Opera House stage for the first time in 18 years this fall. (Photo: Michael Crosera/Teatro La Fenice) Credit: MICHELE CROSERA

Paul Curran’s new-to-San Francisco production of Wagner’s “Tristan and Isolde” (Oct.19-Nov. 5) brings the work to the War Memorial Opera House for the first time in 18 years. In Curran’s San Francisco Opera directing debut, New Zealand tenor Simon O’Neill (commanding in Wagner’s “Lohengrin” this season) and German soprano Anja Kampe (Sieglinde in 2010’s “Die Walküre” here) sing the lead roles.

Kim will lead “Tristan and Isolde” for the first time. The opera, along with “Un Ballo in “Maschera” — the former was written in 1859, the same year that the latter work premiered — marks the second seasonal pairing of a work each by Wagner and Verdi as Kim continues on an odyssey through operas by the genre’s giants. 

“It has been a revelation to experience these great classics of the repertoire under Eun Sun’s musical leadership,” Shilvock says. “In the Verdi we’ve heard under Eun Sun’s baton, I’ve felt so clearly the familial relationships, the deeply complex emotional truths, the connection back to us and what we’re grappling with in our own lives. Eun Sun brings out a truth in musicmaking that illuminates these works in ways I’ve never before heard or felt. And in the Wagner repertoire, she brings an exquisite sense of pacing, of unfolding over broad arcs of time but always with beautiful nuances between light and dark.” 

The San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus, with Kim at the helm, presents Beethoven Ninth Symphony, for the first time, on Oct. 26. 

A fan favorite, Bizet’s “Carmen,” follows on Nov. 13-Dec. 1, headlined by acclaimed Swiss-born mezzo-soprano Eve-Maud Hubeaux in her U.S. debut. “Carmen Encounter,” on Nov. 21, is the third of San Francisco Opera’s successful new program featuring an opera’s first act followed by a party.  

The Future Is Now Adler Fellows Concert, featuring up-and-coming opera stars, at the Herbst Theatre on Nov. 15, and San Francisco Opera Chorus in Concert at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater on Nov. 17 round out the fall season. 

Summer 2025 productions include Puccini’s beloved “La Bohéme” (June 3-21), a two-cast revival of John Caird’s production. All-stars — tenor Pene Pati and soprano Karen Chia-Ling Ho, and tenor Evan LeRoy Johnson and soprano Nicole Car — sing Rodolfo and Mimi. 

Australian director Lindy Hume’s staging of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” comes to the War Memorial Opera House in 2025. (Photo: Charlie Kinross/Opera Australia)

Australian director Lindy Hume’s staging of “Idomeneo,” Mozart’s opera seria (composed at age 24) debuts June 14 and runs through June 25. The production features Michael Yeargan’s scenery effects depicting Tasmania’s rugged coastline and turbulent sea. Tenor Matthew Polenzani sings the title role, mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack (Frida Kahlo last summer in “El último sueño de Frida y Diego”) is Idamante, soprano Ying Fang makes her house debut as Ilia, and soprano Elza van den Heever is Elettra. 

The season concludes with the Pride Concert, with a to-be-announced program, on June 27. 

Also slated for 2025 is “The Monkey King,” a commission making its world premiere in the fall. In Chinese and English, Huang Ruo’s opera is based on a Ming dynasty novel considered among China’s four great literary classics, and features a libretto by David Henry Hwang, who collaborated with Ruo on “M Butterfly” (2022). 

“It is a great privilege to be able to tell operatic stories on the 50-foot wide canvas of the opera stage, and it is vital that we build a repertory of works that allow all members of our community to feel welcome into the Opera House and be able to connect with their own stories in this multimedia art form of opera,” Shilvock says. 

San Francisco Opera’s 2024-25 season runs Sept. 6-June 27, 2025 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave. San Francisco. For single tickets ($28-$438), subscriptions, or livestreams (of the third performance of mainstage operas at $27.50), call (415) 864-3330 or visit sfopera.com.

San Francisco Opera mainstage productions  


Un Ballo in Maschera: Sept. 6-27 

The Handmaid’s Tale: Sept. 14-Oct. 1 

Tristan and Isolde: Oct.19-Nov. 5  

Carmen: Nov. 13-Dec. 1  


La Bohéme: June 3-21 

Idomeneo: June 14-25  

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