The annual “Rising Stars of Opera” has become an October tradition at the Mondavi Center. It’s also a bit of a birthday bash. And best of all, the tickets are free — but they are going fast, so don’t delay, because this popular concert always plays to a full house.
This year’s concert will begin at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, in the Mondavi Center’s Jackson Hall. Featured will be lyric tenor Brian Jagde, a former Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, who in 2012 made his debut at the Santa Fe Opera and also was featured at the San Francisco Opera as Cavaradossi in “Tosca,” a role that he also sang in March 2013 at the Deutche Oper Berlin.
The 2012-13 season also saw Jagde perform with The Pacific Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic, Opera Grand Rapids and Beijing Opera where he sang the title role in “Les Contes d’Hoffmann” in a production by celebrated director Francesca Zambello.
Jagde’s dance card for 2013-14 includes November performances with Minnesota Opera (Matteo in “Arabella” by Richard Strauss), January performances with Opéra de Limoges in France (Don José in “Carmen”), April performances with the Metropolitan Opera (“Arabella” again, but this time Count Elemer), and June/July performances with the San Francisco Opera (Pinkerton in “Madama Butterfly”).
Also appearing at “Rising Stars” will be current Adler Fellows Philippe Sly (bass baritone) and Ao Li (baritone). Li is a native of Dezhou, China, and studied at Shangdong Normal University. In the 2010-11 season at San Francisco Opera, he sang the role of Ascanio Petrucci (“Lucrezia Borgia”) and El Dancairo (“Carmen for Families”). His recent roles at the company include Lorenzo (“Capuleti e i Montecchi”), Sciarrone (“Tosca”) and Ben Weatherstaff (“The Secret Garden”). Local audiences also fondly recall Li’s performance in last year’s “Rising Stars of Opera” program.
French-Canadian bass-baritone Sly made his San Francisco Opera debut as Guglielmo in “Così fan tutte.” He also sang in the company’s world premieres of “The Secret Garden” (Mr. Archibald Craven and Mr. Lennox) and “The Gospel of Mary Magdalene” (Newscaster).
In recital, he has toured Canada with the Debut Atlantic Series and was heard at the Toronto Summer Music Festival. He was the first-prize winner of the 2012 Concours Musical International de Montréal and a grand-prize winner of the 2011 Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.
Pianist Mark Morash, who is director of musical studies with the San Francisco Opera Center, will accompany the singers on portions of the program. The UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will perform with the singers on other portions of the program.
Christian Baldini, conductor of the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, said he’s very pleased with the vocal lineup.
“Brian Jagde, formerly an Adler Fellow with the San Francisco Opera, will be our star,” Baldini said. “Jagde is a wonderful tenor with a gorgeous voice, deep and rich, with a vibrant resonance and a very powerful tone.
“He will be joined by two wonderful singers, Philippe Sly and Ao Li. With them we’ll do some dramatic and also fun scenes, such as the conspiracy duet from Donizetti’s ‘Don Pasquale,’ in which the Don regrets his recent marriage from Sofronia and wishes to be released from it. His friend, Doctor Malatesta, advises him to avoid a scandal and to try to repudiate his wife, catching her red-handed with her lover.”
And the birthday bash?
“This year, our wonderful friend and supporter Barbara K. Jackson is turning 95,” Baldini said. “I am so happy that these ‘Rising Stars of Opera’ concerts have become so popular, and that so many people come to fill Jackson Hall and show their love for opera, their support for our programs, and their appreciation for everything that Barbara has done for our community.
“She is a visionary. She wants more people to love opera, and what a great idea she had when she came up with this yearly event, in which we present numbers from some of the greatest operas, performed by the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, accompanying some extraordinary young singers.
“This will be the fifth time for me doing this concert (2013-14 is my fifth anniversary at UC Davis!), and I am really excited, year after year, to share this with our audiences. Opera is really one of my big loves.”
Tickets are free, but seats are reserved and tickets should be picked up in advance. Tickets picked up in person at the Mondavi Center box office or reserved online do not have a handling charge, but a handling charge will apply to telephone ticket orders. Call 530-754-2787 or visit www.mondaviarts.org.