San Francisco Opera Returns to the Stage
The San Francisco Opera (SFO) announced a return to live performances—but not at its usual venue, the War Memorial Opera House.
Instead, SFO will stage a drive-in production at the Marin Center in San Rafael, an abridged 90-minute version of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville with no intermission. The expurgations include the chorus and a few of the characters.
The audience for the scheduled 11 performances will have a choice of two views: one will be of the set and the live performers, the other will be of a live simulcast projected onto a drive-in movie screen. After the performance run is complete, SFO plans to make a stream of the production available for purchase.
The SFO musicians, in addition to preparing for a return to live performance, have also been creative in other ways. They designed and introduced a double-layer facemask, in conjunction with the roll-out of their new T-shirts. The facemasks also include a pocket into which the wearer can insert a filter, providing additional protection. The branded facemasks and shirts are part of the musicians’ efforts to remain connected to the community in the absence of live performances, resulting from local government closure of the Opera House.
Colorado Receives Large Gift
In late December 2020, the Colorado Symphony Association (CSA) received a gift of $2 million from an anonymous donor. The gift will allow the organization to continue to pay for musician and staff salaries and healthcare at least through June of this year.
The gift is part of record calendar-year-end fundraising for the orchestra, according to a press release. The CSA has raised over $4.1 million since the beginning of the fiscal year on July 1, 2020, which has enabled the organization to expand education programs in addition to continuing to pay wages.
“The musicians of the Colorado Symphony are deeply grateful for this major anonymous gift,” said Jason Shafer, Principal Clarinet and Chair of the Orchestra Committee. “This incredible donor realizes the cultural importance of having a full-time orchestra in the state of Colorado, and the musicians are so excited to bring live music back to our community as soon as safely possible.”
Pittsburgh Still Celebrates
On Saturday February 27, 2021, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra will air a special gala episode of its digital series, Front Row, honoring its one hundred and twenty fifth anniversary. What started as an ambitious plan to honor such a momentous occasion has been distilled into two events: the release of a new recording of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony under the direction of music director Manfred Honeck, and the final installment of the PSO’s initial set of episodes in its digital series Front Row, produced by Pittsburgh production company Flying Scooter.
Initially plans for the celebration included a European summer festivals tour coinciding with celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday, with appearances in Salzburg and Grafenegg, among others, then returning to Pittsburgh to kick off a year-long celebration throughout the city. Since the PSO shares its founding date with the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, plans to perform all of the Beethoven string quartets in those libraries were also on the program, as was a performance of Mahler’s massive eighth symphony, and an ambitious plan to perform all of Beethoven’s symphonies in one week at diverse and unique locations throughout the Pittsburgh community.
With the outbreak of COVID-19, a mask mandate in the state of Pennsylvania, as well as limits on gatherings to no more than 25 people indoors, caused all those plans to change. Instead of indoors at the Carnegie Libraries, outdoor locations such as UNESCO world heritage site Fallingwater and aircraft hangars hosted small ensembles of the PSO, performing repertoire that rarely graces the stage at the orchestra’s home, Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts. New Principal Pops conductor Byron Stripling, a trumpet virtuoso and gifted singer, pivoted to doing interviews with prominent community members in place of trumpet solos from the podium. The performances captured at these locations, as well as at Heinz Hall, form the backbone of Front Row, the PSO’s new digital concert series.
“Looking toward the Pittsburgh Symphony’s future, I am enormously grateful for the 125-year-old commitment between the Orchestra and this great city,” said Honeck. “The Pittsburgh Symphony always strives to achieve the extraordinary, and that starts with great music and the deep connection between our beloved audience and musicians.” Here’s to another 125 years of sharing great music with the Pittsburgh community and the world.