While on our way to watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a sunny and warm Sunday afternoon at The Metreon (in San Francisco), my cousin, husband and I, chanced upon a most serendipitous performance that was about to take place at Yerba Buena Gardens. With time to spare before the movie started we walked over to the garden, found a sunny patch of green and basked in the heat for a good half hour. The stage was simple and casual. Empty mismatched chairs lined up into rows suggesting the spacial breadth of a symphony. There were no banners, no huge sponsor ads and as we were quite far, we had no idea who was perfroming. After a brief introduction, which I unfortunately didn’t pay attention to due to the pleasant sight of dragonflies buzzing alongside our little turf, I flipped through the booklet that was randomly being handed out and learned that the production was for the 2009 Summer Season of the Merola Opera Program. To my utmost joy and amazement, the symphony started playing the overture to Gioachino Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri, (The Italian Woman in Algiers) an opera in 2 acts that premiered at the Teatro San Benedetto in Venice on May 22, 1813.
The sun was a tad bit too happy that afternoon; the heat nearly unbearable (at least for us), so we picked ourselves up and sought after a cool shaded area. We were lucky enough to have finished listening to the overture when we realized that the movie was about to start (Okay, truth is, we still wanted to buy some popcorn. Don’t judge me!) Though we wanted to stay for the rest of the performance, we decided to heed the Autobot’s distress call. The performances we missed were Act 2 L’italiana in Algeri, Acts 2 and 3 of Orofeo Ed Euridice, and Act 4 of La Boheme.
Yerba Buena Gardens: Hiding in the shade gleefuly listening to the overture of Gioachino Rossini’s L’italiana in Algeri (The Italian Woman in Algiers)
being performed. Bravo!!!
Apparently, this FREE performance is part of the annual Yerba Buena Gardens Festival which generally presents music, dance, theater, spoken word, and exhibits (to name a few) that celebrates the unique cultural diversity of San Francisco. More info regarding the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival can be found at: http://www.ybgf.org/ Have I mentioned that all these outdoor programs are FREE!?! All the way through the entire month of OCTOBER!!! The Merola Opera Program collaborated with Yerba Buena Gardens by joining hands in its two long standing summer festival traditions.
Named after San Francisco Opera’s first General Director, Gaetano Merola; the Merola Opera Program is a comprehensive 11 week training program for artists all over the country between the ages of 20-34 that features classes and even public performances. The Program zeroes into the following categories: Musical style and interpretation, ensemble work, accompaniment, acting, conducting, prompting, stage technique, movement, maekup, fencing, role coaching, languages and diction. The coveted 29 slots are given to approximtely 24 singers, 5 apprentice coaches and one stage director. All participants of the program are given the oppurtunity to showcase their artistic growth through performances; ultimately leading to prolific careers with the San Francisco Opera, should they be accepted.
Although the only free performance the Merola Opera Program had was at the Yerba Buena Gardens, ticket sales for the remaining three performances will help ease the finances of accepted and participating artists, as their transportation, housing, training and a weekly stipend is covered for the duration of the summer program. More information regarding the SF Opera and the Merola Opera Program 2009 can be found here: http://sfopera.com/
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival:
San Francisco Opera/ Merola Opera Program