San Francisco Opera Returns for Fourth Season on KQED

David Gockley

The fourth season of the acclaimed series co-produced by KQED and the San Francisco Opera includes four spectacular productions performed by world-class singers. David Gockley, general director of the San Francisco Opera, spoke to On Q's editor about the 2013 season.

Why these four operas?
We try to have a diversity of titles and styles to share with the KQED audience, and I think there's real interest in each of these titles.

Any time you can get Porgy and Bess on to the screen it's a special occasion. It's the greatest American opera, and after years of haggling we've cleared the rights for this particular performance. We've done a lot of post-production and audio work on it, so it should be in pristine condition. The performance of Eric Owens, the great American bass-baritone, is the best I've ever seen.

Renée Flemming is one of the great opera stars of today. To see her perform the role of Lucrezia Borgia on KQED will be a huge event and a huge asset to the series.

Aida is perhaps the most popular opera ever. This production features the amazing work of fashion designer Zandra Rhodes and a very strong cast. With Nicola Luisotti on the podium, I think it will be special.

Boris Gudunov has the advantage of being short and sweet. It's an airing of the seven-scene original version that clocks in at about two hours and fifteen minutes. The marquee name here is the great bass-baritone Samuel Remey, and it's the only recorded rendition of his performance in the title role.

Do you know of any opera companies other than the Met doing similar broadcasts?
There are a couple of opera companies that have tried the ballpark simulcast — Washington Opera and Dallas — but as far as this special relationship with a local PBS station, I think other than the Met, this is unique.

We treasure the audience that we can get on KQED. Most viewers don't regularly attend the opera, but they may start to as a result of these broadcasts.

After four broadcast seasons, have you made any changes to your process?
We aren't doing anything monumentally different from a couple of years ago, but we are getting better and better at adapting our work to the screen. We're also becoming more sophisticated in our recording process, and we're able to do color correction in a way that we couldn't a couple of years ago.

We've chosen to do a lot more detailed work so you don't see the hairlines of the wigs and the makeup looks more natural. We also do more electronic microphone pickup so the sound remains consistent, even when a singer is performing way up-stage, away from the proscenium.

And Frederica von Stade is hosting the series again …
She is, and she is delightful. We're thrilled that she's made herself available to do it.

Anything else you'd like to add?
Start to finish, I think this is our best season yet.

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