When San Francisco Opera’s Adler Fellows present their annual “The Future Is Now” concert at Herbst Theatre on Wednesday, they will be taking part in an event with great history and at the fulcrum of Bay Area musical life.
Opera director Kurt Herbert Adler created the Merola Program for young singers in 1954, naming it for company founder Gaetano Merola. In 1977, Adler added the “affiliate artists program” for more-advanced singers, and later it was named in his honor.
For decades, Merolini and Adlers have gone forth to conquer opera houses worldwide. While this year’s Adlers may not be famous yet, local audiences are lucky to witness the glory of their talent now.
Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald says the concert gives audiences the opportunity to see what they “will be applauding in the future, to see the reality of the Adlers’ talent in light of what the future will hold for them.”
Soprano Leah Crocetto, in the second of her three Adler years, calls the concert “the culmination of our efforts, a blessing that we have this opportunity to put our gifts on display to show exactly what makes us unique and special.”
Last year, tenor Alek Shrader said, “After all the hard work and preparation as an Adler Fellow, it becomes very easy to be fearless.” Shrader is now a member of Munich’s Bavarian State Opera, singing leading roles. (The Munich company is under the direction of Kent Nagano, also a product of the San Francisco Opera.)
Opera fans may find the Adlers familiar. Former and current members are appearing in the company’s production of “The Makropulos Case,” including some who will sing at Wednesday’s concert — soprano Susannah Biller, mezzo Maya Lahyani, tenor Brian Jagde and baritone Austin Kness.
Adlers have been part of every San Francisco Opera production this season — especially “Aida” — and some leaving the program are expected to return next season, especially for the summer’s big production of Wagner’s “The Ring of the Nibelung.”
Opera companies in the area also make good use of the Adlers. For example, Berkeley West Edge Opera’s recent successful production of Handel’s “Xerxes” featured countertenor Ryan Belongie, who received ovations and rave notices. Wednesday, he will sing an aria from Mozart’s rarely performed “Mitridate.”
Biller is scheduled to sing arias by Thomas and Handel; Lahyani will be heard in the final scene of Bizet’s “Carmen” and a Tchaikovsky aria.
David Lomelí, a promising tenor, will challenge memories of Pavarotti, singing the ever-present “Nessun dorma” from Puccini’s “Turandot” and a “Traviata” duet with Crocetto.
Soprano Sara Gartland and apprentice coaches Tamara Sanikidze and Allen Perriello also are among 10 of the program’s 20 participants taking part in the Herbst concert.
The opera orchestra, squeezed onto the small Herbst stage, is conducted by Mark Morash, the Opera Center’s director of musical studies.
Presented by the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows
Where: Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Tickets: $25 to $60
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfopera.com