San Diego’s opera season starts in February, bringing back favorites with new joie de vivre

San Diego Opera presents TOSCA. February, 2016.

Starting with Puccini’s Tosca, one of the most beloved (and most sellable) operas in the rep, San Diego Opera (SDO) is back with a vengeance, helmed by a new general director, David Bennett (formerly of Gotham Opera in NY), and with this 51st season, the org is quite literally enjoying a new lease on their life in the arts.

The opera season further shows that Southern California loves both Puccini and Jake Heggie, as SDO’s three mainstage shows this year are comprised of two of Giacomo’s audience faves as well as the West Coast premiere of Great Scott, which has so far received more attention in Dallas for its casting than for the show itself — but it may just need another outing.  Coincidentally, LA Opera is also presenting Heggie’s Moby-Dick and multiple Puccinis (three!) this year, including their own revival of Madama Butterfly, which runs just a few weeks earlier than SDO’s. We’re told that the productions are quite different, however, so this could be an interesting opportunity for treatment comparison for one of the genre’s most beloved masterworks.

The season started, of course, with the celebrity recitals the company is becoming known for.  This organization has repeatedly been hailed by world-class artists as one of their favorites to work with, and this year’s dignitaries of the recital stage include René Barbera, who performed a mixture of opera, zarzuela and art songs in September, and Patricia Racette, continuing her “Diva on Detour” cabaret project, earlier this month.  Still to come is the magnificent Italian bass Ferruccio Furlanetto, who will perform with full orchestra conducted by Maestro Emanuele Andrizzi, with a retrospective selection of Furlanetto’s greatest musical moments with SDO. That will all take place on March 5th.  (Be sure to get your tickets asap — this gentleman is well and truly beloved in the city of ships and Seuss!)

What seems to be vigorously beefed up is the company’s selection of auxiliary events, adding exploratory foodie events, rapidly-selling Community Conversations, talkbacks, the “Opera Exposed!” student showcase program, and other show-connected shindigs to make quite a busy community calendar.  Gala events include the Swing & Bling on January 30, opening the stage season with “a party like none other”, including dinner, live auction, dancing, performance and details that are still hush-hush.  Proceeds will support SDO’s education programs.

The adapted press release follows below.  They’re sprucing up their image, too, with a new, more modern logo and a redesigned website (which is much easier to use).  Check out the website here.

sdo_logo_2016Puccini’s Tosca Opens the 2015-2016 Mainstage Season

November 17, 2015

  • Important Company Debuts by soprano Alexia Voulgaridou as Tosca and tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi
  • Bass-baritone Greer Grimsley returns in his signature role as Scarpia
  • Conductor Massimo Zanetti returns to lead the San Diego Symphony
  • New Production Never Seen Before in San Diego 

San Diego, CA – San Diego Opera’s 51th mainstage season opens at the San Diego Civic Theatre on Saturday, February 13, 2016 with Giacomo Puccini’s operatic thriller Tosca. Last performed by San Diego Opera in 2009, Tosca features the exciting Company debut of Greek soprano Alexia Voulgaridou as Tosca and Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi and who has been hailed by the London Times as “simply one of the best Cavaradossis London has heard…” Returning to San Diego to round out the cast are bass-baritone Greer Grimsley in his signature role of Scarpia, American bass Kristopher Irmiter as Angelotti/Sciarrone, American bass-baritone Scott Sikon as Sacristano and American tenor Joel Sorensen as Spoletta. Italian conductor, Massimo Zanetti, will conduct the San Diego Symphony in the pits and stage director Lesley Koenig directs.  

Performed in Italian with English translations above the stage, Tosca is Giacomo Puccini’s gripping drama filed with torture, treachery, lust, execution and suicide. Scarpia, the chief of police, wants only two things: to recapture the escaped prisoner Angelotti and to seduce Tosca, an opera singer of incredible voice and beauty. Tosca is in love with Cavaradossi, an artist and sympathizer of Angelotti. After arresting Cavardossi for harboring Angelotti, Scarpia plays with Tosca’s emotions, promising to free Cavaradossi if Tosca will have sex with him. But Tosca has a plan of her own and Scarpia a secret order, all of which unfolds with tragic consequences from which no one can escape. Soaring and sensuous, filled with such beautiful arias as Tosca’s “Vissi d’arte”, Cavaradossi’s “Recondita armonia” and the beautiful choral piece “Te Deum”, Tosca has some of Opera’s most beloved music, and one of Opera’s most gripping plots. 

This production is new to San Diego Opera and owned by San Diego Opera. It was originally designed by Ft. Worth Opera. The set designer is Andrew Horn. The costumes were originally created for New York City Opera and refurbished by the Seattle Opera Costume Shop. The original costume designer is Andrew Marley with additional designs by Heidi Zamora. The lighting designer is Gary Marder. These performances will be the eighth time Tosca has been performed by San Diego Opera with performances happening in 2009, 2002, 1996, 1986, 1981, 1974, and 1967.

Tosca will have a radio broadcast on Saturday, February 20, 2016 at 8 PM on KPBS radio, 89.5 FM (97.7 FM Calexico) and online at

Pre-production photos can be found online at:

The Cast

voulgaridou_alexiaAlexia Voulgaridou, Tosca

San Diego Opera Debut. Greek soprano Alexia Voulgaridou made her professional debut at the Prinzregententheater in Munich as Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro. Notable performances include Mimì in La bohème, Marguerite in Faust, and Cio-Cio San in Madama Butterfly for The Royal Opera, Covent Garden. Notable roles included Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Violetta  in La traviata, Adina in The Elixir of Love and the three heroines in The Tales of Hoffmann. She sings regularly with the Hamburg State Opera, where her many roles include Marguerite, Blanche in Dialogues des Carmélites, Cio-Cio-San, Nedda in Cavalleria rusticana and Desdemona in Otello. Notable engagements elsewhere include the title role of Tosca and Magda in La rondine for Opera Australia, Mimì, Massenet’s Manon and Micaëla in Carmen at La Scala, the title role of Luisa Miller for Stuttgart State Opera, Maria in Mazepa for De Vlaamse Opera, Amelia Grimaldi in Simon Boccanegra in Toulouse and Anna Bolena in Turin and Palermo. Her concert performances include Verdi’s Requiem at the Ravenna Festival under Riccardo Muti. Her recordings include a solo album with Nicola Luisotti and the Munich Radio Orchestra on the Arte Nova label.

jones_gwyn_hughesGwyn Hughes Jones, Cavaradossi

San Diego Opera debut. Welsh tenor Gwyn Hughes Jones has sung at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, English National Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Opéra de Lyon, La Monnaie Brussels and Norwegian National Opera. In America, he has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Washington National Opera and Sante Fe Opera. Roles include Manrico in Il trovatore, Calàf in Turandot, Duke of Mantua in Rigoletto, Pinkerton in Madama Butterfly, Rodolfo in La bohème, Nemorino in The Elixir of Love, Chevalier des Grieux in Manon Lescaut, and the title role of Faust. He has appeared with orchestras including the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Trondheim Symfoniorkester, Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Flanders Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Sinfonietta and Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and in recital at St Olaf Festival, Trondheim, Musashino Civic Cultural Hall, Tokyo, Wigmore Hall and Purcell Room, London, and Auditorium du Louvre, Paris. Recordings include Macduff in Verdi’s Macbeth. Recent roles include Pinkerton  at the Metropolitan Opera and Walther von Stolzing Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg for English National Opera.

Grimsley.G.HeadshotGreer Grimsley, Scarpia

American bass-baritone Greer Grimsley made his San Diego Opera debut as Telramund in Lohengrin in 2000, returned for Pizarro in Fidelio in 2003, The High Priest of Dagon in Samson and Delilah in 2007, Scarpia in Tosca in 2009, Méphistophélès in Faust in 2010, and in 2012 as Jochanaan in Salome. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Captain Balstrode in Peter Grimes and has returned as Escamillo in Carmen, Jochanaan, Scarpia, Telramund, and Amfortas in Parsifal. Recent engagements include Wotan in Seattle Opera’s Ring Cycle, Don Pizarro in Fidelio with Opera Company of Philadelphia, Portland Opera and the Portuguese National Opera, Kurwenal in Tristan und Isolde at Lyric Opera of Chicago, John the Baptist with the companies of Santa Fe, Vancouver and San Francisco and Scarpia with L’Opera de Montreal, Opera Colorado and Lyric Opera of Kansas City.  Other roles include The Flying Dutchman in Lithuania and Seattle Opera, the title role of Macbeth with Vancouver Opera, Amonasro in Aida with Portland Opera, Méphistophélès in Faust with New Orleans Opera, and the title role of Sweeney Todd with Vancouver Opera. A frequent singer in Europe, Grimsley has performed leading roles at Deutsche Oper Berlin, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Royal Danish Opera, Prague National Theatre, Aarhus-Den Jyske Opera in Denmark, the Scottish Opera and the Stadttheater Basel in Switzerland, among others.  

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 10.57.31 AMKristopher Irmiter, Angelotti/Sciarrone

American bass-baritone Kristopher Irmiter made his San Diego Opera debut as Ned Keene in Peter Grimes in 2009, returning to sing Dr. Grenvil in La traviata in 2010, the Fifth Jew in Salome in 2012, The Second Priest in 2013’s Murder in the Cathedral, and Masetto in last season’s Don Giovanni.  The 2007 Grammy nominee has performed over 90 roles with more than 45 opera companies and made his Lyric Opera of Chicago debut as Scarpia in Tosca.  Other credits include Daland in The Flying Dutchman for Opera Carolina, the title role of The Flying Dutchman for Michigan Opera Theatre and Utah Festival Opera, Scarpia for Arizona Opera, Méphistophélès in Faust for Lyric Opera Baltimore, The Immigration Officer in Flight for Austin Lyric Opera, Escamillo in Carmen and Don Alfonso in Così fan tutte for Opera Carolina, Raimondo in Lucia di Lammermoor for Opera Cleveland, Méphistophélès in Faust for Baltimore Lyric Opera, Rucker Lattimore in Cold Sassy Tree with Utah Opera and Atlanta Opera, the title role of Don Giovanni with Opera Carolina, Escamillo with San Francisco Opera, Capulet in Romeo and Juliet with Atlanta Opera, T.J. Rigg in the world premiere of Elmer Gantry with Nashville Opera, Mr. Redburn in Billy Budd with Pittsburgh Opera, Gremin in Eugene Onegin with the Todi Music Festival, and The Four Villains in The Tales of Hoffmann with Opera Lyra in Ottawa.  

sorenson_joelJoel Sorensen, Spoletta

American tenor Joel Sorensen made his San Diego Opera debut as Curley in Of Mice and Men in 1999, returning as Camp Williams in Cold Sassy Tree in 2001, as Andres in Wozzeck in 2007, Rodriguez in Don Quixote in 2009, Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet in 2010, as Pang in Turandot and Valzacchi in Der Rosenkavalier in 2011, the First Tempter/First Knight in Murder in the Cathedral in 2013, and Beppe in Pagliacci and Rodriguez in Don Quixote in 2014. He made his Metropolitan Opera debut in 2000 in Samson and Delilah, returning for Sly, Madama Butterfly, Der Rosenkavalier, War and Peace, The Barber of Seville, Tosca and The Magic Flute. He made his debut with New York City Opera as Monostatos in The Magic Flute, returning in Madama Butterfly, Falstaff, Turandot, The Marriage of Figaro, Prince Igor, La rondine, The Seven Deadly Sins and Margaret Garner. Other appearances include Tosca with Los Angeles Opera, King Herod in Salome with Florentine Opera, Pedrillo in Entführung aus dem Serail for Atlanta Opera and Mime in Siegfried for Opera Theatre of Pittsburgh and Longborough Festival.  Other companies with which he has sung include San Francisco Opera, Seattle Opera, Opera Company of Philadelphia, Portland Opera and Palm Beach Opera.


sikon_scottScott Sikon, Sacristano

Since his San Diego Opera debut in 1991 as Superintendent Budd in Albert Herring, American bass-baritone Scott Sikon has sung more than twenty roles here including Schaunard in La bohème, Dikoi in Katya Kabanova, Steve Hubble in A Streetcar Named Desire, Montano in Otello, Curio in Julius Caesar in Egypt, the Second Philistine in Samson and Delilah, the First Journeyman in Wozzeck, Antonio in The Marriage of Figaro, Reinmar von Zweter in Tannhäuser, Sacristan in Tosca, Count Monterone in Rigoletto, The Bonze in Madama Butterfly, a Mandarin in Turandot, Wagner in Faust and Morales in Carmen, Nazarene in Salome, Fiorello in The Barber of Seville, a Corporal in The Daughter of the Regiment, the Second Philistine in Samson and Delilah, Christian in A Masked Ball, and last season as Alcindro and Benoit in La bohème and as a soloist in the 50th Anniversary Celebration Concert. He has performed throughout the United States with Utah Opera, Arizona Opera, Houston Grand Opera, San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, The Dallas Opera, Hawaii Opera Theatre, Cincinnati Opera and Cleveland Opera. His European debut was at the Vienna Volksoper in the premiere of The Number 11 Bus. An active concert artist, Sikon has performed with the Spoleto Festival USA, the San Antonio Symphony and the Arkansas Symphony.

zanetti_massimoMassimo Zanetti, Conductor

Italian conductor Massimo Zanetti made his Company debut in 2014 conducting both A Masked Ball and the Verdi Requiem. He has collaborated for many years with renowned opera houses such as Berlin Staatsoper, Semperoper Dresden, Opernhaus Zürich, Bayerische Staatsoper, Hamburgishe Staatsoper, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, San Francisco Opera, Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Opéra de Paris Bastille, Teatro alla Scala di Milano, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Teatro dell’Opera di Roma, Teatro Regio di Parma, Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Teatro Regio di Torino and Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova. Zanetti recently held a residency in Japan conducting symphonic concerts with the Nagoya Philharmonic Orchestra. Other recent productions include A Masked Ball at Teatro Regio di Parma and Teatro las Palmas, Don Carlo and La traviata at Berlin Staatsoper, Turandot with the Royal Stockholm Opera and Macbeth at the Bayerische Staatsoper, where in 2007, he made his debut with Luisa Miller, followed by many revivals. Other notable performances include two concert performances of Simon Boccanegra with the Vienna Symphoniker that will subsequently be released on Decca. After a highly successful visit last season with the China Philharmonic and Guangzhou Symphony Orchestras, he returned to conduct these orchestras in a special Verdi/Wagner program for the 2013 anniversary. He also conducted Verdi’s Requiem in Linz and Otello at Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Over the last ten years, Zanetti has worked regularly at the Semperoper Dresden and has conducted productions of Otello, Carmen, The Marriage of Figaro, Norma, Don Carlo, Madama Butterfly, and La bohème as well as symphonic concerts with the Dresden Staatskapelle. He enjoys a close relationship with Opernhaus Zürich since his debut in 2008 where he most recently conducted Luisa Miller and revivals of La Fanciulla del West, Anna Bolena, Turandot, Otello and La bohème. As a symphonic conductor, he has worked with the Czech Philharmonic, Weimar Staatskapelle, Konzerthaus Orchestra (Berlin), Bamberg Symphony, Stuttgart Radio, NDR Symphony Hamburg, the City of Birmingham Symphony and the Hallé Orchestras as well as the New Zealand Symphony, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France and the Finnish and Swedish Radio Orchestras, among others.

koenig_lesleyLesley Koenig, Stage Director

American Director Lesley Koenig made her San Diego Opera debut in 1995 directing La bohème, returned in 1998 for The Marriage of Figaro, 2013 for Samson and Delilah and A Masked Ball in 2014.  Koenig has been a stage director of opera for almost twenty years in top houses and festivals worldwide.  She began her career at San Francisco Opera at 17 as a stage manager and was engaged as a stage director at the Metropolitan Opera when just 23 – the youngest director then hired to date.  She has directed over 30 productions at the Met, including a highly acclaimed new production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte with James Levine in 1996.  She holds three shared Emmy Awards from the Met for Outstanding Classical Program in the Performing Arts.  In 1998, Koenig took a sabbatical from her directing career to pursue further education and, in 2001, earned two Masters degrees from Stanford University, an MBA and an MA in Education.  Shortly thereafter, she joined San Francisco Ballet as General Manager in charge of all operations, including managing the opening of over 60 new productions. Koenig subsequently left the Ballet and returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Assistant Manager and Director of Production.  Most recently, she was General Director for Opera Boston, accepted a Fellowship at Stanford University in the Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society and consults with the Stanford’s Institute for Creativity and the Arts.

horn_andrewAndrew Horn, Set Design

San Diego Opera debut. British set designer Andrew Horn has designed sets for opera companies in Baltimore, Detroit, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Philadelphia, New York and Miami. He has designed for the Queen Elizabeth 2, and worked as an assistant designer on productions for American Repertory Ballet, Houston Grand Opera, Los Angeles Opera, Atlanta Opera, Berkshire Theatre Festival (MA), and others. He started his career as the Resident Design Assistant for the La Jolla Playhouse. In addition to designing for theatre he has been a commercial designer for Tomar Lampart and Associates, Douglas Derkin Design, and Timothy Corrigan, Inc. He is also owner and principal designer of Andrew Horn Design. He holds a bachelor of arts in fine art from the University of Notre Dame, including a year of studies in Rome, and a masters in opera design and production from Indiana University.

marder_garyGary Marder, Lighting Designer

American Lighting Designer Gary Marder made his San Diego debut lighting Norma in 2003, returned in 2009 for Peter Grimes, 2011 for Carmen, 2012 for The Barber of Seville, 2013 for Samson and Delilah, and 2014 for A Masked Ball.  He has been the Assistant Resident Lighting Designer for the Metropolitan Opera for the past 12 seasons.  He has designed The Makropulos Case and Samson and Delilah for Houston Grand Opera, and Dialogues of the Carmelites for Palm Beach Opera. He served as Associate Resident Lighting Designer with the New York City Opera for five years and has worked in many opera houses on the East Coast including Boston, Connecticut and Washington DC. Marder has designed plays and musicals for The New York State Theatre Institute including Big River, The Tempest, Pinocchio and Death of a Salesman. He designed the Off-Broadway production of A Terrible Beauty and served as Assistant Lighting Designer on the Broadway productions of Tru, Grand Hotel, Gypsy and Annie II.

Performance Schedule

Saturday           February 13, 2016                     7 PM

Tuesday            February 16, 2016                     7 PM

Friday               February 19, 2016                     7 PM

Sunday             February 21, 2016                     2 PM 

Additional programs

Stars in the Salon

Meet the singers, conductor and director of Tosca in this informal panel discussion on Thursday, February 4, 2016 at 5:30 PM in the Beverly Sills Salon, Civic Theatre. Free.

Pre-Opera Lectures

These 30-minute informative lectures take place in the Civic Theatre one hour prior to every performance and offer wonderful insights into the production audience members are about to see. These lectures are free to all ticket holders. 

Post-Opera Talkbacks – NEW

Join the cast, crew, musicians and artists right after the performance for an engaging, entertaining and informative Q&A session moderated by a San Diego Opera staff member. These lectures are held in the Civic Theatre and are free to all ticket holders. 

San Diego Opera Spotlight

Produced by San Diego Opera and UCSD-TV, the award-winning San Diego Opera Spotlight program gives viewers a unique and entertaining look behind-the-scenes of each of San Diego Opera’s mainstage productions. Viewers will see how the singers, directors, conductor and crew work together to create each opera, get a sneak peek at rehearsal footage and hear exclusive interviews with the stars. San Diego Opera Spotlight repeats daily throughout the run of the production. For a complete listing of schedules and where to view it, visit:

San Diego OperaTalk! with Nicolas Reveles ­

Join Dr. Nicolas Reveles, San Diego Opera’s Director of Education and Community Outreach, for these fascinating, half-hour overviews of our operas. He’ll take you on an intriguing journey though the story, music and history of each opera. You’ll pick up rich insight into the structure and composition of the music, along with recommendations of the best recordings. It’s a wonderful prelude to your opera experience and a great way to pick up some tidbits to impress your friends at intermission! For a complete listing of schedules and where to view it, visit:

San Diego Opera Video Podcast Series

In order to help audiences better appreciate the operas in our 2015-2016 Season, the Education and Community Engagement Department has developed a series of introductory podcasts hosted by Dr. Nicolas Reveles. These 15 to 20 minute “conversations” can be enjoyed by opera fans as well as those who are new to the art form. Informal yet informative, this is a great way to prepare for our season. These videos are also available on our YouTube Channel:

San Diego Opera on Twitter

Get frequent updates about San Diego Opera and opera in general by following us on Twitter. Follow tweets from backstage during a performance and learn about special offers and contests before anyone else by following us @SDOpera.

San Diego Opera on Facebook

San Diego Opera’s Facebook page offers a place for fellow opera fans to discuss performances, opera news, connect with other fans and get up-to-date information on upcoming events. Look for “San Diego Opera” at

San Diego Opera Blog: Aria Serious

Aria Serious is San Diego Opera’s official blog. It focuses on the serious and not-so-serious world of opera with behind-the-scenes looks at our productions, artist interviews and industry as well as pop-culture news. Come and join in the conversation at:

San Diego Opera on YouTube

Now viewers can watch a large portion of San Diego Opera’s programming at their convenience on YouTube. OperaTalk!, Stars in the Salon, Opera Spotlight, our video podcast series and much more can be found on the San Diego Opera channel at:

San Diego Opera on Instagram

A picture is worth a thousand words! Take a look at what happen backstage and in the office on San Diego Opera’s Instagram page.

Purchasing Tickets

Subscriptions range from $105 for a three-opera series to $1,305 for a full season package (Orchestra level subscription on Saturdays to the three mainstage operas, premiere tickets to René Barbera in recital, premiere tickets to Patricia Racette’s “Diva on Detour” plus reception, premiere tickets Ferruccio Furlanetto in Concert). Subscriptions can be purchased by calling (619) 533-7000 or online at

The 2015-2016 International Season

René Barbera in Recital
    September 19, 2015

Patricia Racette “Diva on Detour”
    November 14, 2015

Tosca, Giacomo Puccini
February 13, 16, 19 and 21 (mat), 2016

Ferruccio Furlanetto in Concert
    March 5, 2016

Madama Butterfly, Giacomo Puccini
April 16, 19, 22 and 24 (mat), 2016

Great Scott, Jake Heggie
May 7, 10, 15 and 15 (mat), 2016

San Diego Opera Mission Statement

The mission of San Diego Opera is to deliver exceptional vocal performances and exciting, accessible programs to diverse audiences, focusing on community engagement and the transformative power of live performance.

San Diego Opera Vision Statement

The San Diego Opera will be recognized internationally as a leading example of adaptability, innovation and sustainability in the operatic arts, promoting diversified programming and unique performance venues with world-class and emerging talent.

San Diego Opera Core Values Statement

Through excellence in innovative programming and education, SDO provides a lasting cultural service to the community.

  • Our tradition of excellence in fully staged opera is augmented with new models of opera and venues. Our unique and deep commitment to the community propels us to explore ways of increasing affordability and accessibility.
  • Through fiscal responsibility and nimble adaptation to the changing marketplace, we protect the future of San Diego Opera.
  • Our educational and community involvement coupled with relevant programming will build the audience of the future.

For more information, visit SDO’s website:

Leave a Comment

Verified by MonsterInsights