New Productions and a West Coast Premiere Highlight San Francisco Opera’s 2020-21 Season

Lucas Meachem as Figaro in 'The Barber of Seville.' Photo by Cory Weaver

San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock has announced the opera’s 98th season, which includes several new productions of classic favorites, the West Coast premiere of The Handmaid’s Tale, and the rarely performed Der Zwerg by Alexander Zemlinsky.

In addition to the seven operas in the 2020-21 season (down from the usual eight), SF Opera will present the sopranos Lianna Haroutounian and Iréne Theorin in concert with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra where they will sing Puccini, Verdi, Strauss and Wagner. Opera in the Park will be returning on October 18 with a concert headlined by Sondra Radvanovsky at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

In light of the recently announced renovations to the War Memorial Opera House, the final two operas in the season will take place in April and May, rather than the usual schedule of June and July.  

In addition to a jam-packed season with many productions new to SF Opera, as well as the renovations of the opera’s residence, Eun Sun Kim will be assuming the role of music director beginning in August and will be directing the first show of the season, Fidelio.


September 12–October 1, 2020

San Francisco Opera joins the global celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th anniversary with a new production of the composer’s only opera, Fidelio. Last presented by the Company in 2005, this monumental work of love and liberty triumphing over corruption returns in an insightful new staging by Matthew Ozawa.

Arrested. Tortured. Presumed dead. Two years ago, Leonora’s husband disappeared into the depths of a detention facility run by his political enemy. Now, the only way to discover if he’s alive is for Leonora to infiltrate the prison disguised as a man. Elza van den Heever stars as Leonora.

Music Director Designate Eun Sun Kim conducts the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus.


September 13–October 4, 2020

Sir Mark Elder conducts this Italian classic of seduction, betrayal and vengeance in his first engagement with San Francisco Opera since making a triumphant 2015 Company debut leading Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg.

As the court jester, Rigoletto’s job is to entertain the Duke of Mantua, usually at the expense of powerful members of the court. When he is cursed for a taunt that cuts too deep, a terrible sequence of events is set in motion, threatening his only treasure in life: his daughter. Sir Mark Elder conducts George Gagnidze in the role of Rigoletto, Pene Pati as the Duke of Mantua, and Nina Minasyan as Gilda.

The set design for the new production of ‘Così fan tutte.’ Photo courtesy of San Francisco Opera
Così fan tutte

October 6–28, 2020

San Francisco Opera’s new production by director Michael Cavanagh is the second installment in the Company’s trilogy set in the “Great American House of Mozart and Da Ponte.” 

A couple of club members engage in a playful bet about the fidelity of their partners. Testing the limits of loyalty and forgiveness, Così fan tutte puts love on trial in this bittersweet comedy where affections become entangled and confused. From the creative team behind the 2019 smash hit The Marriage of Figaro.

The Handmaid’s Tale

October 29–November 22, 2020

Grammy-nominated Danish composer Poul Ruders’ powerful adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s landmark literary work The Handmaid’s Tale receives its West Coast premiere in a new co-production with the Royal Danish Opera.

In a dystopian future, fertile women deemed sinful are forced into child-bearing servitude by an extremist theocratic regime. Resistance is nearly impossible—but necessary. Based on the landmark literary work by Margaret Atwood and starring Sasha Cooke as Offred.

Michael Fabiano (left) reprises the role of Rodolfo in La ‘Bohème.’ Photo by Cory Weaver
La Bohème

November 15–December 6, 2020

Puccini’s popular work of love and loss among a group of bohemian artists in mid-19th-century Paris will be presented in director John Caird and designers David Farley and Michael James Clark’s beloved 2014 production. 

Infused with melodies of unforgettable intimacy, buoyancy and pathos, this masterpiece remains one of the most heart-wrenching emotional experiences on the opera stage. Conducted by former Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

The Barber of Seville

April 25–May 16, 2021

Rossini’s timeless lyric comedy returns to the War Memorial Opera House stage in Emilio Sagi’s buoyant, Spanish-themed production which was first unveiled here in 2013. The sparkling coloratura, hilarious comedy and exuberant action of this bel canto classic will be helmed by conductor Roderick Cox in his Company debut.

Count Almaviva must rely on the talents of the quick-witted Figaro if he is to win the beautiful Rosina from her lecherous guardian.

Performance of ‘Der Zwerg.’ Photo by Robert Millard
Der Zwerg

April 27–May 15, 2021

Alexander Zemlinsky’s rarely performed operatic adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Birthday of the Infanta” follows an outsider whose earnest affection for a princess leads to a heartbreaking rejection. Featuring a brilliant score that shimmers with sensuous and poignant musical textures and harmonies, an all-female chorus and a small cast of soloists, Der Zwerg is one of the Austrian composer’s most extraordinary works. Premiered in 1922 in Cologne, the one-act opera was suppressed by German authorities before World War II and rescued from obscurity in recent times by musicians who believed in its beauty and powerful story.

For the Company premiere of this compelling work, Serbian American director Darko Tresnjak makes his Company debut directing his opulent production inspired by the paintings of Diego Velázquez. First unveiled at LA Opera in 2008 as part of the “Recovered Voices” initiative to reintroduce works by Jewish composers that were silenced by the Nazis.

Subscriptions for San Francisco Opera’s 2020-21 season are available on their website.