Opera in the Park keeps a splendid San Francisco tradition alive and thriving


Looking farther down the road with current and recent Adler Fellows, soprano Sarah Cambidge whetted the appetite for October’s production of Strauss’ “Arabella” with a vibrant, muscular account of “Es gibt ein Reich” from that composer’s “Ariadne auf Naxos,” and bass-baritone Christian Pursell offered a splendid aria from Handel’s “Orlando” in advance of the production coming to San Francisco in June. JOSHUA KOSMAN

A Seventeenth-Century Embarrassment of Operatic Riches : Seen and Heard International

Seen and Heard International

Bass-baritone Christian Pursell crafted a fine Liberto, with a superbly stentorian voice ideally suited to the role of Nero’s bodyguard, and honestly portraying the contradictions of a soldier forced to carry out orders which he hates.

Christian Pursell wins Partners for the Arts Vocal Competition


American barihunk Christian Pursell won the 6th Annual Partners for the Arts Vocal Competition today in Alexandria, Virginia. Second Place went to tenor Brandon Scott Russell and Third Place to soprano Robin Steitz. 

The 2016 Metropolitan Opera semi-finalist performed "Aprite un po queli' occhi" from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and "O du mein holder abendstern" from Wagner's Tannhauser.  

Pursell is a first year Adler Fellow at the San Francisco Opera. This season he'll be performing a number of roles with the company, including Walter Raleigh in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, the Jailer in Puccini's Tosca, Count Lamoral in Richard Strauss' Arabella, and a fourth of the Angel Quartet in Jake Heggie's It's a Wonderful Life.

Two fairy-tale lovers and two singers in a Brahmsian cycle


Pursell, in a performance of impressive grandeur and depth, encapsulated each of these moments superbly. His singing was full of burnished colors, and he moved with assurance between the delicate lyricism of a song such as “Ruhe, Süssliebchen, im Schatten,” in which Peter sweetly sings Magelone to sleep in a leafy arbor, to the fiercely dramatic outbursts of the ensuing “Verzweiflung” (“Despair”), by which point things have started to go south for the two lovers. JOSHUA KOSMAN

An Opera About Gay Life in D.C. in the Fifties

The New Yorker

Gregory Spears’s opera “Fellow Travelers,” which is featured in this year’s Prototype Festival (Jan. 12-14), is a tale from the time of the “lavender scare”—the purging of homosexuals from federal employment in the nineteen-fifties. Around five thousand gay and lesbian people are thought to have lost their jobs; many never recovered from the ruin of their reputations, and an unknown number committed suicide. This shameful period is rightly associated with McCarthyism, but its most lethal instrument came directly from the desk of President Eisenhower: Executive Order 10450, which condemned “sexual perversion” and other amorphous improprieties. ALEX ROSS

A McCarthy-Era Opera and Other New Works

The New York Times

Jan. 12-14; prototypefestival.org.

This week marks the launch of a recent but essential addition to January’s classical calendar: the upstart Prototype Festival, a celebration of contemporary opera and music theater in all its forms. This year’s lineup includes audacious new works by a wide variety of composers, including Michael Gordon‘s deconstruction of 1940s horror movies and Alicia Hall Moran’s vocal work featuring ice skaters, at several New York venues.

One highlight is “Fellow Travelers” by Gregory Spears and Greg Pierce. Based on the eponymous novel by Thomas Mallon, the opera tells the story of an affair between two men during the McCarthy-era “lavender scare,” when the federal government purged gay employees from its ranks. Spears’s intimately lyrical score serves as the persuasive foundation for a wrenching, interiorized drama. WILLIAM ROBIN

San Francisco Opera Center Announces 2018 Adler Fellowship Recipients


"Sheri Greenawald, director of San Francisco Opera Center, announced the eleven recipients of the 2018 Adler Fellowship grant. Choosing promising young talent from the Merola Opera Program, recipients are given advanced training, via individual coaching and professional seminars, and a vast range of performance opportunities. The 2018 group of artists are comprised of eight singers, two pianists, and one director; no doubt all of them will benefit tremendously from this multi-year residency.

The singers include sopranos Sarah Cambidge and Natalie Image, mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon, countertenor Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen, tenors Amitai Pati and Kyle van Schoonhoven, bass-baritone Christian Pursell, and baritone Andrew G. Manea."

2018 Adler Fellows Announced

San Francisco Opera

"San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald today announced the eleven recipients of the 2018 Adler Fellowship. Eight singers, two pianist/apprentice coaches and one director will take part in the program. The multi-year performance-oriented residency offers advanced young artists intensive individual training, coaching and professional seminars, as well as a wide range of performance opportunities. Adler Fellows are selected from the artists who have participated in the Merola Opera Program. The prestigious fellowship has nurtured the development of more than 175 young artists since its inception.
The eight singers selected as 2018 Adler Fellows are sopranos Sarah Cambidge (Vancouver, B.C., Canada) and Natalie Image (Tsawwassen, B.C., Canada); mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon (Peachtree City, Georgia); Aryeh Nussbaum Cohen (Brooklyn, New York), who becomes the fourth countertenor to join the program after Brian Asawa, Gerald Thompson and Ryan Belongie; tenors Amitai Pati (Auckland, New Zealand) and Kyle van Schoonhoven (Lockport, New York); baritone Andrew G. Manea (Troy, Michigan); and bass-baritone Christian Pursell (Santa Cruz, California)."