Berlioz’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ closes San Francisco Symphony season

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony – Photo BayTaper

Just because the end of the season is upon is, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony don’t see that as a reason to gently slide into the summer. Indeed, their final performance is Romeo and Juliet – Hector Berlioz’s Dramatic Symphony for chorus and solo voices, inspired by Shakespeare’s tragedy, with a text by Émile Deschamps, after William Shakespeare.

Appearing with the Symphony are the Grammy Award-winning San Francisco Symphony Chorus (director Ragnar Bohlin) and widely acclaimed opera stars Sasha Cooke, Nicholas Phan and Luca Pisaroni.

Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke – Photo Dario Acosta

Sasha Cooke, the “luxuriant, lustrous mezzo-soprano” (New York Classical Review), is a firm favorite here, having performed a number of times in productions by both the Symphony and SF Opera. Ms Cooke sang in the Symphony’s staging of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde last year, and appeared twice with San Francisco Opera in 2015 – in Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg and Berlioz’s Les Troyens.

Tenor Nicholas Phan – Balance Photography

Highlights of tenor Nicholas Phan’s forthcoming season include debuts with the Minnesota Orchestra in Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, and the Orquestra Sinfônica de São Paulo in Britten’s War Requiem with Marin Alsop. “One of the most beautiful young lyric voices around”, according to Opera News – he returns to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Philharmonia Baroque, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and to the Chicago Symphony – for Schubert’s Mass in E-flat with Riccardo Muti – as well as to the Toronto Symphony, appearing in the title role in Bernstein’s Candide. Mr Phan also serves as artistic director of two festivals next season: Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago’s sixth annual Collaborative Works Festival, and will be the first singer to hold the title of guest Artistic Director of the Laguna Beach Music Festival.

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni – courtesy San Francisco Symphony

Bass-baritone Luca Pisaroni – “One of the Metropolitan Opera’s most dependably exciting performers …” says Time Out New York – was most recently seen here in San Francisco Opera’s 2015 production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. He opened the 2016-17 season as Leporello in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at the Berlin Staatsoper, a role in which he appeared in his debut performance at Teatro alla Scala earlier this month. Other role debuts during the season included those of Méphistophélès in Gounod’s Faust at Houston Grand Opera, and Giorgio in Bellini’s I Puritani at the Metropolitan Opera. Mr Pisaroni also sang Méphistophélès at the Wiener Staatsoper, as well as Conte Rodolfo in Bellini’s La Sonnambula. This appearance in Romeo and Juliet is one of many concert performances he’s made this season, mainly in European centers.

Romeo and Juliet was first performed in three parts, at individual concerts, in November and December 1839. With Berlioz conducting an ensemble of 200 performers, they took place at the Salle du Conservatoire in Paris. The complete version of the work was performed in Vienna in 1846, and after more changes were made, Berlioz published the full score in 1847.

Michael Tilson Thomas leads the San Francisco Symphony, soloists Sasha Cooke, Nicholas Phan and Luca Pisaroni, and the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, in Berlioz’s Romeo and Juliet at Davies Symphony Hall, from June 28 to July 1. For more information and tickets, visit the San Francisco Symphony website.



San Francisco Symphony program notes by James M Keller

The Hector Berlioz Website © Michel Austin


Artists’ websites:

Sasha Cooke

Nicholas Phan

Luca Pisaroni


ArtsPreview home page


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