Tag Archives: Merola Grand Finale

MEROLA GRAND FINALE: A GRAND BEGINNING

Tutti Merolini! All 29 artists at SF Opera House

The excitement of an opera premiere electrified the San Francisco Opera House, August 18, as the Merola Grand Finale was moments away. Merola is the training program for accomplished, adult artists already on their way to grand careers. They audition for a place in this program which will launch them into the best houses around the world. Previous stellar graduates of the Merola program include Brian Asawa, Joyce DiDonato, Thomas Hampson, Patricia Racette, Ruth Ann Swenson, Patrick Summers (conductor), Rolando Villazon, Deborah Voight, Dolora Zajick. And that is a partial list. Opera aficionados attend the Grand Finale knowing they are hearing the international stars of the day after the show. The singers were accompanied by the full San Francisco Opera Orchestra, conducted by Maestro Dean Williamson with stage direction by Merola Apprentice stage director, Marcus Shields.

Tenor Brian Michael Moore as Fritz sang “Buon giorno, signor Fritz… O pallida, che un giorno…O amore, o bella luce,” from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz

The Grand Finale is not the performance of a full opera. Instead it offers arias, duets, and other groupings selected from many great operas. It is what Dorismae Hacker Friedman calls “the good parts” version of opera. Each presentation was very fine in its own way: dramatic, tragic, funny, delightful. There were operas by Puccini, Verdi, Mascagni, Smetana, Donizetti, Bernstein, Mozart. Familiar and beloved music and some which would be new discoveries. A favorite of this listener was perhaps the oldest piece on the program:; Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse, beautifully and powerfully sung by Xiaomeng Zhang as Ulisse.

Soprano Patricia Westley as Papagena sang “Papagena! Papagena…Pa-pa-pa” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)

Andrew Moore as Papageno sang “Papagena! Papagena…Pa-pa-pa” from Mozart’s Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute)

The Merola program is named in honor of Gaetano Merola, the founder and first director of the San Francisco Opera, 1923. The “Merolini” receive full sponsorship in San Francisco and aide in travel to audition elsewhere. Maestro Merola would be so proud.

This year’s class of 29 included artists from Canada, China, South Korea, Ukraine as well as from all around the US. In addition to singers, the program can include apprentice coaches, stage directors, conductors, designers.

It is impossible to select the “best” or “favorite” arias or performances. There were too many wonderful moments. Especially memorable were Cheyanne Coss and Jacob Scharfman as Norina and Malatesta in “E il dottor non si vede…Pronta io son” from Don Pasquale, by Donizetti; Andrew Moore and Patricia Westley as Papageno and Papgena in “Papagena! Papagena… Pa-pa-pa” from Die Zauberflote, by Mozart. Oh, and Kendra Berentsen as Thais singing “Ah, se suis seule…Dis-moi que je suis belle; and Marlen Nahhas as Elisabetta and Chistopher Colmenero as Don Carlo singing “Io vengo a domandar grazia” from Don Carlo by Verdi. It was a program of richness as well as variety. I notice that this list includes fewer items from the first than from the second half of the program. This reflects only on the brain being so loaded with great song.

Meigui Zhang as Gilda and Jaeman Yoon as Rigoletto sang “Parla, siam soli…Tutte le feste al tempio… Si, vendetta” from Verdi’s Rigoletto

The finale of the Grand Finale was the grandest sound of all. The full cast was onstage to sing together “Gia che il caso ci unisce… Bevo al tuo fresco sorriso” from Puccini’s La Rondine. A glorious sound sent us home wanting more. To keep up with the Merola’s performances visit  merola.org

All photos by Kristen Loken, courtesy of the Merola Opera

 

 

MEROLA OPERA GRAND FINALE: A LIVELY EVENT!

Over the years, the Merola Opera has made it possible for The Lively Foundation friends to attend some of its wonderful performances in San Francisco. Named after Gaetano Merola, the first director of the San Francisco Opera, Merola is THE great training program for professional singers. They spend a year in Merola and go on to become world famous stars. Just a few of their graduates are Ruth Ann Swenson, Thomas Hampson, Deborah Voight, Brian Asawa. In July, Lively friends attended a comic Mozart opera performed by the Merolini (singers in the program carry this festive name), Il re pastore.

Zhengyi Bai as Alessandro in Il re pastore

Patricia Westley as Elisa in Il re pastore

On August 18, a group of Lively friends will attend the Merola Grand Finale at the San Francisco Opera House. It will be a sensational evening. All of the 2018 Merolini will perform. The program includes arias, duets, and other groupings selected from many different operas. The voices will be excellent. Watch the Lively Foundation News & Events and the Hedgehog Highlights on livelyfoundation.org for a report and review of this great event. It’s the Merolini’s graduation party, and we are invited!

photos by Kristen Loken, courtesy Merola Opera

Lively Friends Meet the Merolinis

janeLeslieFrancoMerolaGrpSharonAnnA Lively group of Friends of The Lively Foundation enjoyed an evening of gorgeous singing at the San Francisco Opera House, Aug. 20.  The eleven Lively individuals came from Marin, San Francisco, Pacifica, Mountain View, and San Jose. The Merola Opera program has given Lively tickets for its friends to attend Merola performances each of the last 7 summers. Merola is a training program for singers on their way to international fame. The program gives them many opportunities and by doing so gives the rest of us the opportunity to hear great music sung by stars. Previous “Merolini”  have included Ruth Ann Swenson, Thomas Hampson, Carol Van Ness, Patrick Summers, Brian Asawa, and many others beginning brilliant careers. This summer rather than a full length opera, eleven Lively friends were treated to the Merola Grand Finale, a gala performance of arias and ensembles accompanied by full orchestra. The voices were splendid. We shall all keep our programs in order to follow the careers of our favorites. Keep in touch with Lively for future great events.