Drama queens (and kings), start your engines: SF Opera's summer season is here

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Hey, Mary: Mark Adamo's 'Gospel of Mary Magdalene' premieres June 19

The annual SF Opera summer season is always a treat -- the programmers get a little wild, and the risks, like last year's extraordinary Nixon in China, always pay off in adventurous spirit. (Ticket prices, starting at $22, aren't bad, either).

Honestly, I have no idea how they manage to squeeze all the creativity of three whole productions onstage in the space of one month, but that's opera for you. Kinda magic, kinda crazy, all pretty fascinating.

Oh, and music. Incredible music.

This year's season opened June 5 and runs through July 7, It includes Mozart's cheeky Cosi fan tutte, a high-spirited tale of a "school for lovers," full of that lilting, chattery Mozartian goodness, where the characters excitedly (and excitingly) talk over one another, and if a particular song gets a good audience response, heck, they might just sing it twice.

Cosi fan tutte also contains a nugget of annotation that's pure genius: "Mozart disliked prima donna Adriana Ferrarese del Bene, [librettist] da Ponte's arrogant mistress for whom the role of Fiordiligi had been created. Knowing her idiosyncratic tendency to drop her chin on low notes and throw back her head on high ones, Mozart filled her showpiece aria Come scoglio with constant leaps from low to high and high to low in order to make Ferrarese's head 'bob like a chicken' onstage."

Also on the menu, Offenbach's grand Tales of Hoffman (Les Contes d'Hoffman) based on three psychologically resonant fairytale-like stories from E.T.A. Hoffman that twist from quasi-absurd to darkly tragic, but retain a strange, affirming liveliness in the music.  (So French!)

The buzzy highlight of the season, though, is new work The Gospel of Mary Magdalene by Mark Adamo. Mary is based on an apocryphal gospel found in 1896, "the Gospel of Mary," and sprang from six years of Adamo's own research. It gives a different spin on the Jesus tale, and it's bound to raise a few eyebrows.

Mary opens Weds/19 and stars Sasha Cooke and Nathan Gunn: the opera hasn't released any audio or video preview yet, but you can find out more here. And here's an interesting interview about the costumes:

SF OPERA SUMMER SEASON

Through July 7, various prices and times

War Memorial Opera House

301 Van Ness, SF.

www.sfopera.com

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