September is always an exciting month at Davies Symphony Hall, as Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony launch their new Season with a Gala Concert.
This year’s fun-filled extravaganza features a fabulous performance by MTT and the Symphony, with guest stars Renée Fleming – “possessor of the most sheerly beautiful soprano voice on the planet” (The Telegraph) – and the “exquisite” Susan Graham (Richard Ouzounian, Toronto.com) – both of whom hold a special place in the hearts of American opera lovers.
During the 2015-16 Season, Renée Fleming appeared in the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Lehar’s The Merry Widow, and reprised the role of Hanna Glawari at Lyric Opera of Chicago – both productions conducted by Sir Andrew Davis. Sir Andrew also led Lyric Opera’s production of Strauss’ Capriccio in which Ms Fleming appeared as the Countess Madeleine, and she sang this role again with conductor Christian Thielemann at the Semperoper Dresden. In April this year, she made her Broadway debut as an actress in the comedy Living on Love, which earned her a nomination for a Drama League Award, and in another achievement of the Season, she curated the creation of a world-premiere opera based on the best-seller Bel Canto for Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Susan Graham, in one of her first performances of the past season, appeared as Countess Geschwitz in a new production of Berg’s Lulu for the Metropolitan Opera, returning at the end of last year for a revival of Johann Strauss’s Die Fledermaus, in the role of Prince Orlovsky. More recently Susan Graham returned to Europe with her recital program, centered around Schumann’s song cycle Frauenliebe und -leben (A Woman’s Love and Life). Accompanied by pianist Malcolm Martineau, she also performed this recital at the Opéra National de Bordeaux and at Madrid’s Teatro Real. Ms Graham made her debut performances as the actress Clairon in Capriccio at Santa Fe Opera, under the baton of Leo Hussain, and appeared with Nicholas McGegan, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Master Chorale at the Hollywood Bowl for an evening of Handel favorites.
Renée Fleming and Susan Graham will appear together at the opening of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2016-17 season, in a concert performance of Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier, conducted by Andris Nelsons. They also appeared together in the Met Opera’s 2010 production of Der Rosenkavalier – as the Marschallin and Octavian – in what the Associated Press described as “some rare alignment of planets.”
This San Francisco Symphony Gala Concert opens with Rossini’s much-loved overture to his opera William Tell, the last of his 39 operas, which premiered in 1829. It’s followed by two gorgeous arias – Deh, per questo istante from Mozart’s La clemenza di Tito, and Francesco Cilea’s Ecco, respire appena… Io son l’umile ancella from his 1902 opera Adriana Lecouvreur. Fleming and Graham – long-time friends and collaborators – then sing the duet Ah, guarda sorella from Mozart’s Così fan tutte.
Next on the program is a work by contemporary American composer, Steve Reich – his Three Movements, for orchestra. Regarded as one of the pioneers of the minimalist school of music, Reich has been described by Stephen Sondheim as “both a startlingly original composer and a trailblazer”. Three Movements, composed in 1986, features two vibraphones, two marimbas and two pianos, all placed center stage in front of the orchestra.
For the concert finale, our two glamorous and versatile divas then take us to Broadway, with Gershwin’s Fascinating Rhythm from Lady Be Good, his supremely beautiful Summertime from Porgy and Bess, and Irving Berlin’s Anything You Can Do from Annie Get Your Gun.
To round off the evening, there’s the traditional Symphony After-Party, with live music, dancing, and an enticing spread of celebratory bites and drinks, to which all guests are invited.
Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony present the Opening Night Gala of the 2016-17 Season on Wednesday, September 7, at Davies Symphony Hall. Visit the San Francisco Symphony website for tickets, and for details on the four Dinner Packages available for purchase. Proceeds from the Opening Night Gala will benefit the Symphony’s many artistic, community and education programs.
San Francisco Symphony program notes