San Francisco Opera: Girls of the Golden West at the Guggenheim

    September 21, 2017 – September 22, 2017 all-day
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    1071 5th Ave
    New York, NY 10128

    Works & Process at the Guggenheim


    San Francisco Opera: Girls of the Golden West

    by John Adams

    Thursday and Friday,
    September 21 and 22, 2017

    at 7:30 pm

    Works & Process at the Guggenheim presents San Francisco Opera: Girls of the Golden West on Thursday and Friday, September 21 and 22, 2017 at 7:30pm.

    John Adams and Peter Sellars, photo by Scott Wall

    Composer John Adams and librettist/director Peter Sellars discuss their newest collaboration with San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock. With a libretto drawn from original sources by director Peter Sellars, Girls of the Golden West explores the dramatic and often brutal stories of pioneers on California’s Gold Rush frontier during the early 1850s. This discussion will also include set designer David Gropman along with J’Nai Bridges and Hye Jung Lee, accompanied by pianist John Churchwell.

    San Francisco Opera was a co-commissioner of The Death of Klinghoffer and presented the work in November 1992; commissioned Doctor Atomic for premiere in 2005; presented Nixon in China in June 2012; and commissioned Girls of the Golden West to be presented in November 2017.


    $40, $35 Guggenheim Members and Friends of Works & Process
    Box Office (212) 423-3575 or
    Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum Rotunda
    1071 Fifth Avenue, New York 

    Lead funding for Works & Process is provided by The Florence Gould Foundation, The Christian Humann Foundation, Mertz-Gilmore Foundation, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Caroline M. Sharp and Evelyn Sharp Foundation with public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

    JOHN ADAMS (Composer)

    John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of American music. His works, both operatic and symphonic, stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Works spanning more than three decades have entered the repertoire and are among the most performed of all contemporary classical music, among them HarmonielehreShaker LoopsChamber SymphonyDoctor Atomic SymphonyShort Ride in a Fast Machine, and his Violin Concerto. His stage works, all in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, include Nixon in China (1987), The Death of Klinghoffer (1991), El Niño (2000), Doctor Atomic (2005), A Flowering Tree (2006), and the Passion oratorio The Gospel According to the Other Mary (2012). Adams’s 70th birthday is feted around the world during the 2016-17 season, with anniversary highlights including residencies with the Berlin Philharmonic and Orchestre de Lyon, and special programming focuses with the St. Louis Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony, Houston Opera, The Barbican, Philharmonie de Paris, and Zaterdag Matinee. Adams’s Violin Concerto won the 1993 Grawemeyer Award, and for composing On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic to commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11, he received the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Music. He has received honorary doctorates from Harvard, Yale, Northwestern University, Cambridge University, the Juilliard School, and the University of London. A provocative writer, he is author of the highly acclaimed autobiography Hallelujah Junction and is a contributor to the New York Times Book Review. As a conductor, Adams appears with the world’s major orchestras in programs combining his own works with a wide variety of repertoire ranging from Beethoven and Mozart to Ives, Carter, Zappa, Glass, and Ellington. In recent seasons, he has conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Wiener Symphoniker, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and the orchestras of Seattle, Cincinnati, Atlanta, and Toronto. Adams is currently Creative Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Recent recordings of his work include Scheherazade.2 with Leila Josefowicz and St. Louis Symphony on Nonesuch Records, the Deutsche Grammophon release of The Gospel According to the Other Mary featuring the Los Angeles Philharmonic, City Noirand Saxophone Concerto with the St. Louis Symphony, the Grammy Award-winning album featuring Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine and the premiere recording of Absolute Jest paired with Grand Pianola Music, both with the San Francisco Symphony, and the Nonesuch DVD of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Nixon in China conducted by the composer.

    PETER SELLARS (Librettist/Director)

    Peter Sellars is one of the most powerful forces in the performing arts, known for groundbreaking interpretations of classic works. Whether it is Mozart, Handel, Shakespeare, Sophocles, or the 16th-century Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu, Peter Sellars strikes a universal chord with audiences. Sellars has staged operas at the Glyndebourne Festival, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Netherlands Opera, Opéra National de Paris, Salzburg Festival, San Francisco Opera, Metropolitan Opera, and the Santa Fe Opera, among others, establishing a reputation for bringing 20th-century and contemporary operas to the stage, including works by Olivier Messiaen, Paul Hindemith, and György Ligeti. Inspired by the compositions of Kaija Saariaho, Osvaldo Golijov, and Tan Dun, he has guided the creation of productions of their work that have expanded the repertoire of modern opera. Sellars has been a driving force in the creation of many new works with longtime collaborator composer John Adams, including Nixon in ChinaThe Death of KlinghofferEl Niño, Doctor AtomicA Flowering Tree, and The Gospel According to the Other Mary. Recent projects include a production of The Indian Queen, combining Purcell music, text, and dance, and a concert staging of Pélleas et Melisande with the Berlin Philharmonic. In 2015 Sellars collaborated with flex dance pioneer Reggie Gray and a group of 21 dancers from the New York City flex community to create Flexn, a powerful work confronting issues of social injustice in America. Projects in 2016 included the 70th anniversary of the Ojai Music Festival for which Sellars was Music Director, and a concert staging of Orlando di Lasso’s Lagrime di San Pietro with the Los Angeles Master Chorale. Sellars is a professor in the Department of World Arts and Cultures at UCLA and Resident Curator of the Telluride Film Festival. He is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, the Erasmus Prize, the Sundance Institute Risk-Takers Award, and the Gish Prize, and is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.  He was recently honored by the American Academy in Rome and Opera News magazine.

    MATTHEW SHILVOCK (San Francisco Opera General Director)

    San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock has devoted his career to executive management in the performing arts. After early work with New Chamber Opera in Oxford, England, and PORT opera in Portland, Maine, he became a 2002 Fellow with OPERA America, the national service organization for opera companies in North America, with assignments at Pittsburgh Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Janice Mayer & Associates, and Glimmerglass Opera. In 2003, he joined Houston Grand Opera as the General Director’s Liaison for David Gockley who served as General Director for that company from 1972-2005. Shilvock came to San Francisco Opera in 2005 as part of Gockley’s transition team, serving as General Director’s Associate (2005-2007). He was promoted to Director of New Initiatives (2007-08), Assistant General Director (2008-2010), and in 2010, Associate General Director. In his positions at San Francisco Opera, Shilvock worked closely with David Gockley on all aspects of managing this institution and nurturing innovative new projects and initiatives. He became the Company’s seventh General Director on August 1, 2016.  For the Company, he has produced community events including San Francisco’s official remembrance of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in partnership with the City of San Francisco and San Francisco Interfaith Council, and a collaborative performance of the Verdi Requiem with the Teatro di San Carlo, Naples and the Italian Consulate in 2013. With oversight of cross-departmental senior teams in both stage and patron areas, Shilvock is a strategic leader and motivator who is passionate about connecting audiences with the emotional core of opera and empowering staff through a supportive, creative, and fiscally responsible workplace. Matthew Shilvock was born in 1976 in Kidderminster, England. He studied music performance and history, reading music at Christ Church, Oxford University. He also holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, with a specialization in nonprofit administration.

    J’Nai Bridges, Photo by Todd Rosenberg

    Mezzo-soprano J’NAI BRIDGES (Josefa Segovia)

    American mezzo-soprano J’Nai Bridges, known for her “rich, dark, exciting sound” (Opera News), is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after talents of her generation. Season highlights include her return to San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West and engagements with Opera Zürich, Los Angeles Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, and Kalamazoo Symphony. Recent highlights include leading roles at the Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Diego, Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Wolf Trap Operas and soloist engagements with the NDR Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, Oregon Symphony, and more. Bridges received a 2016 Richard Tucker Career Grant, won the 2016 Francisco Viñas and 2015 Gerda Lissner Competitions, was resident at Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Ryan Opera Center, and represented the U.S.  at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition. She is an alumna of the Curtis Institute of Music and Manhattan School of Music.

    Soprano HYE JUNG LEE (Ah Sing)

    Korean soprano Hye Jung Lee made her San Francisco Opera debut as Madame Mao in Michael Cavanagh’s 2012 production of John Adams’ Nixon in China. She returned to the Company the following year to sing Olympia in Tales of Hoffmann. In 2015, Lee joined the ensemble of Theater Kiel in Germany where she has performed Queen of the Night from Die Zauberflöte, Susanna from Le Nozze di Figaro, Ortlinde from Die Walküre, Amor from Orphée et Eurydice, and Woglinde from Das Rheingold, among other roles. Recent seasons have also taken her to New Zealand Opera for Madame Mao and Saarländisches Staatstheater in Saarbrücken for Queen of the Night. An alumna of the Merola Opera Program, Lee is a graduate of Indiana University, Seoul National University, and the Mannes College of Music. In 2013, she was a national semifinalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

    JOHN CHURCHWELL (Piano accompanist)

    John Churchwell began serving as head of music for San Francisco Opera in August 2011. Prior to this appointment, he served as an assistant conductor for both the Metropolitan Opera and San Francisco Opera for 14 years. He has worked on more than 100 productions with such conductors as James Levine, Nicola Luisotti, Donald Runnicles, Nello Santi, and Charles Mackerras.  A champion of American music, Churchwell participated in the world premieres of John Harbison’s The Great Gatsby, Jake Heggie’s Dead Man Walking, Stewart Wallace/Amy Tan’s The Bonesetter’s Daughter, Philip Glass’ Appomattox, Christopher Theofanidis’ Heart of a Soldier, and Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne. This season he leads the preparation for John Adams’ world premiere The Girls of the Golden West. On the recital stage, Churchwell has partnered with some of today’s most sought-after vocalists, including recent appearances at the Hollywood Bowl with Ellie Dehn, at the San Francisco Symphony with Michael Fabiano, and recitals with Lawrence Brownlee, Lisette Oropesa, Joyce DiDonato, James Westman, and Frederica von Stade.  He has also appeared frequently in chamber music concerts with members of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.

    Works & Process at the Guggenheim
    Described byThe New York Times as “an exceptional opportunity to understand something of the creative process,” for over 33 years and in over 500 productions, New Yorkers have been able to see, hear, and meet the most acclaimed artists in the world, in an intimate setting unlike any other. Works & Process, the performing arts series at the Guggenheim, has championed new works and offered audiences unprecedented access to generations of leading creators and performers. Most performances take place in the Guggenheim’s intimate Frank Lloyd Wright-designed 285-seat Peter B. Lewis Theater. In 2017, Works & Process established a new residency and commissioning program, inviting artists to create new works, made in and for the iconic Guggenheim rotunda.