San Francisco Opera to launch live drive-in performances this spring but not in S.F.

File photo of Anna Caterina Antonacci at San Francisco Opera.
Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cassandre in Berlioz’s “Les Troyens” at San Francisco Opera in 2015.
(Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera)

For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic last March, San Francisco Opera will perform live this spring, the company announced Tuesday, laying out plans for two drive-in productions in April and May.

What’s shaping up to be a long winter for arts lovers as the pandemic drags on will yield to something of a spring thaw, as San Francisco Opera moves forward with “The Barber of Seville,” director Matthew Ozawa’s new 90-minute adaptation of Rossini and “The Adlers: Live at the Drive-In,” which will feature the company’s 11 resident artists (the Adler Fellows) performing Mozart, Puccini, Verdi, Lehár and more in an open-air concert.

“There is an incredible reawakening of the arts ahead of us. As the pandemic recedes, we need that visceral energy of live performance — artists and audiences connected in magical moments of emotive expression — more than ever,” company General Director Matthew Shilvock said.

The live performances are being made possible through a collaboration with doctors at UC San Francisco. Consultations during the last nine months have resulted in safety protocols developed in tandem with state, local and industry guidelines, including rules regarding COVID-19 testing of company members as well as social distancing, masks and other precautions.

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“The Barber of Seville” will run for 11 performances, while “The Adlers” will be staged three times. The productions are set to take place at the Marin Center in San Rafael. Patrons can purchase tickets for one of two viewing areas: the Fairgrounds or the Lagoon. The first has a view of the set and the performers, while the latter allows audiences to watch live via a simulcast on a drive-in movie screen.


San Francisco Opera intends to keep up a robust program of online offerings as well. In March it will stream the company’s 2018 Ring Cycle along with live virtual events featuring special guests.

In Southern California, Pacific Opera Project staged drive-in performances, but Los Angeles Opera focused on streamed offerings and said it is banking on in-person productions to resume in the fall.

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