Nights at the opera 

As the saying goes, "Out with the old, in with the new." Though the San Francisco Opera’s 2006-07 season — which opens this Friday — is definitely unveiling "the new," it is also holding onto some of its old favorites.

The San Francisco Opera’s 84th season begins Friday at 5:30 p.m. with a cocktail reception, followed by the opening night performance of Verdi’s classic, "A Masked Ball," starring internationally acclaimed soprano Deborah Voigt.

"This season offers an array of colorful productions from classic Italian, French and German repertoire," Music Director and Principal Conductor Donald Runnicles said, referring to composers ranging from Gluck to Strauss, Mozart to Wagner.

"I have the pleasure of leading some very fine singers in important ‘firsts,’" Runnicles adds, such as Christine Brewer in the San Francisco Opera’s first-staged "Tristan and Isolde." "She and I performed and recorded the complete ‘Tristan and Isolde’ together in London and Atlanta, so this is special for us."

Renowned American stage director Francesca Zambello is the San Francisco Opera’s new artistic adviser. Zambello has directed eight productions for the San Francisco Opera over two decades.

"The designers and I are using American history, mythology, iconography and landscape to set the operas," Zambello said. "We are creating a world in some ways familiar to our audience but also one that will feel very mythic as we look to our country’s rich imagery."

Here’s the 2006-07 season:

On Friday, tenor Marcus Haddock will be making his San Francisco Opera Company debut as King Gustav III in "A Masked Ball," which runs Friday through Sept. 29. Following the performance — a first for the San Francisco Opera — dinner will be served in the Opera Ball Pavilion.

Strauss’ "Die Fledermaus" — "A delightfully intoxicating battle of the sexes" — returns in this lavish production, Saturday through Oct. 13.

Verdi’s masterpiece of treachery and revenge, "Rigoletto," is presented Sept. 30 through Oct. 29.

Wagner’s "Tristan and Isolde" — debuting mezzo-soprano Jane Irwin and baritone Boaz Daniel — takes place Oct. 5-27. This will be new Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello’s production.

San Francisco Opera’s 2003 production of the quick-witted comedy "The Barber Of Seville" returns Oct. 31 through Nov. 30.

Not seen in San Francisco since 1988, Puccini’s "Manon Lescaut" returns Nov. 19 through Dec. 10. Conductor Runnicles says this "blisteringly intense opera" is "my personal favorite amongst the great composer’s operas."

The vivid and passionate Bizet classic, "Carmen," returns Nov. 21 through Dec. 9.

Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien, who made his San Francisco Opera debut as Marcello in the 2004 production of "Don Giovanni," returns in the title role of Mozart’s famed opera, June 2-30.

Strauss’ "Der Rosenkavalier" — a bittersweet tale of fading youth and budding love — is presented June 9 through July 1.

"Iphegenie En Tauride," a San Francisco Opera first, premieres June 14-29.

"Maestro Donald Runnicles and I are bringing you a wonderfully diverse mix of composers, styles and periods in this season’s repertory," General Director David Gockley adds.

San Francisco Opera

When: The 2006-07 season kicks off Friday at at 5:30 p.m.

Location: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave.,

San Francisco

Info: Call (415) 864-3330 or visit www.sfopera.com

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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