If I Were You

Merola Opera Program Commission

If I Were You

Jake Heggie, composer
Gene Scheer, librettist

Don't miss two talented Merola casts:
Pearl Cast (P) and Emerald Cast (E).

Thursday, August 1 at 7:30 PM (P)
Saturday, August 3 at 2:00 PM (E)
Sunday, August 4 at 2:00 PM (P)
Tuesday, August 6 at 7:30 PM (E)

Herbst Theatre
401 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco

Nicole Paiement, Conductor
Keturah Stickann, Director

Buy Tickets Here
Pearl Cast

Brittomara: Cara Collins
Fabian: Michael Day
Diana: Esther Tonea
Selena: Patricia Westley
Putnam: Rafael Porto
Paul: Timothy Murray
David: Brandon Scott Russell
Rachel: Edith Grossman
Jonathan: Edward Laurenson
Two Women: Chelsea Lehnea, Amber R. Monroe
Emerald Cast

Brittomara: Brennan Blankenship
Fabian: Nicholas Huff
Diana: Anne-Marie MacIntosh
Selena: Elisa Sunshine
Putnam: Rafael Porto
Paul: Timothy Murray
David: Brandon Scott Russell
Rachel: Edith Grossman
Jonathan: Edward Laurenson
Two Women: Chelsea Lehnea, Amber R. Monroe
Learn more about If I Were You from the creative team working
behind-the-scenes in these videos

Creating If I Were You

The Story of If I Were You Part One
The Story of If I Were You Part Two

Creating the World of If I Were You

For a list of events associated with If I Were You, Read Here
In 2019, San Francisco’s acclaimed Merola Opera Program will present its first commissioned work in the program’s 62-year history, the world premiere of the new full-length opera, If I Were You, by distinguished American composer Jake Heggie and noted librettist Gene Scheer. This ground-breaking work will be presented August 1 – 6, 2019, at San Francisco’s Herbst Theatre.

Called “arguably the world’s most popular 21st century opera and art song composer” by The Wall Street Journal, Heggie says, “It has long been a dream of mine to write a full-length stage work especially for the Merola Opera Program to celebrate its legacy and spotlight its important place in the world of opera. I’m absolutely over the moon that the time has come with If I Were You.”

The world premiere of If I Were You would not be possible without the generous support of these lead sponsors. If you are interested in making a gift in support of this special project, call Jean Kellogg at (415) 936-2321 or email her at this link: Jean Kellogg at merola dot org. For another article on our commission, read this link to newsletter article.

Betty Poetz Ferguson Foundation
Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation
Jack H. Lund Foundation
Ululani Foundation

Donna and Nordin Blacker
Barbara Bruser and Richard Clark
Carlyn Clause and Alexander L. Brainerd
Jayne and Peter Davis
Robert A. Ellis
Mary and Craig Henderson
Franklin and Catherine Johnson
Bernice Lindstrom
Scott and Susan Lord
James A. Noe III
Bruce and Fran Walker
Mrs. Diane B. Wilsey
Susan York

Jake Heggie

Jake Heggie picture
Jake Heggie, Photo © Ellen Appel
Based in San Francisco, the internationally renowned composer has a long and successful history with both San Francisco Opera, and the Merola Opera Program - many of whose participants have starred in his operas on stages around the world. “Throughout my career as a composer and pianist, I’ve had the great opportunity to collaborate with an array of dazzling singers. Time and again, I’m delighted to discover how many of them have a connection with the great Merola Opera Program.” said Heggie. “What an indelible difference Merola has made as the standard bearer for young artist programs! Just consider its history and the number of brilliant careers that have begun with Merola. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of composing roles and songs for Merolini, and the pleasure of seeing them inhabit and create characters in my operas.

Jake Heggie (web site: jakeheggie.com) is the composer of the acclaimed operas Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally), Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), It’s A Wonderful Life (Scheer), Great Scott (McNally), Three Decembers (Scheer), The End of the Affair (libretto by Heather McDonald), Out of Darkness (Scheer), To Hell and Back (Scheer), and The Radio Hour (Scheer). He has also composed chamber, choral and orchestral works, as well as more than 250 art songs, many for today’s most revered singers, including Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming, Audra McDonald, Susan Graham, Joyce DiDonato, Jamie Barton, Sasha Cooke, Frederica von Stade, Stephen Costello, and Bryn Terfel, among many others. His operas have been produced extensively on five continents with major productions in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Chicago, San Diego, Washington DC, Dallas, Houston, Dresden, Vienna, Cape Town, Sydney, Adelaide, Montreal, Calgary, Dublin, Malmö, and Copenhagen. Dead Man Walking has received 50 international productions since its premiere in San Francisco, as well as two live recordings. Moby-Dick was telecast nationally as part of Great Performances’ 40th season and released on DVD (EuroArts).

Gene Scheer

Gene Scheer’s work is noted for its scope and versatility. With Heggie, he has collaborated on many projects, including the critically acclaimed 2010 Dallas Opera world premiere, Moby-Dick, starring Ben Heppner as Captain Ahab; Three Decembers (Houston Grand Opera), which starred Frederica von Stade; and the lyric drama To Hell and Back (Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra), which featured Patti LuPone. Other works by Scheer and Heggie include Camille Claudel: Into the fire, a song cycle premiered by Joyce DiDonato and the Alexander String Quartet. Scheer worked as librettist with Tobias Picker on An American Tragedy, which premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005. Other collaborations include the lyrics for Wynton Marsalis’s It Never Goes Away, featured in Marsalis’s work Congo Square.
Gene Scheer picture
Gene Scheer

With the composer Steven Stucky, Scheer wrote the oratorio August 4, 1964, for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, nominated for a Grammy in 2012 for Best Classical Composition. Other operas include Everest (Joby Talbot), and Cold Mountain (Jennifer Higdon), which won the International Opera Award for the best world premiere in 2015 and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Classical Composition. In 2016, Scheer and Heggie premiered an operatic adaptation of It’s a Wonderful Life, which will be presented by San Francisco Opera in November 2018. Also a composer, Scheer has written songs for talents such as Renée Fleming, Sylvia McNair, Stephanie Blythe, Jennifer Larmore, Denyce Graves, and Nathan Gunn.
Loosely based on the novel Si j’étais vous by the French-American writer Julien Green, If I Were You is a contemporary story of identity with echoes of classical literature, from Faust to Jekyll & Hyde. The lead character is Fabian Hart, an aspiring writer who yearns for adventure and a way out of his stifling existence. Brittomara, a shape-shifting devil, appears to him in many guises, finally offering Fabian a supernatural power that will allow the writer to transfer his soul into other people’s bodies, living their lives as their own souls languish in a shadowy netherworld. Thus begins the journey of If I Were You as Fabian moves his increasingly lost soul from person to person in search of a better identity, leaving a trail of human wreckage and hollow shells. When the promise of profound love compels him to return to his original body, he must face the great existential question: live an immortal but lonely existence as someone else, or face imminent death while deeply loved as yourself?

“After composing It’s A Wonderful Life, I was hungry for a very different kind of project: one that would demand a dark, complicated psychology and poetry and a musical language to match,” Heggie says. “A modern-day Faust story seemed just the thing: something in the world of magic realism that I have not yet explored. This score has pushed me into new territory as a composer and allowed me to find new levels of expression. It’s always difficult to describe music in words. The whole point is for the music to take us to places that the words alone cannot. I feel the score to If I Were You does this. It creates an eerily beautiful soundscape filled with the arching, long-line lyricism I love and allows for great characters and deep drama to unfold in operatic terms. I can’t think of an opera that is quite like it – which is both exciting and terrifying. But I feel it is very much an essential story for our time, and I’m on fire with the possibilities.”

If I Were You will receive additional development in San Francisco in January 2019, with private workshops at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, before receiving its fully staged world premiere the following August.

Nicole Paiement picture
Nicole Paiement
Conductor Nicole Paiement has an international reputation as a conductor of contemporary music and opera. She is the Founder, Conductor and Artistic Director of Opera Parallèle in San Francisco and has helmed the world or American premiere of many new works. Under her baton, OP has earned rave reviews for its innovative work in opera. She is Principal Guest Conductor at The Dallas Opera where she also mentors for the Hart Institute for Women Conductors. Recent productions in Dallas include the American premiere of Van der Aa’s Sunken Garden, and the world premiere of Talbot’s Everest. In 2016, she was awarded the American Composer’s Forum “Champion of the New Music” Award for her outstanding contribution to New Music.
As guest conductor, she recently appeared with The Washington National Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Lyric Opera of Kansas City and Seattle Opera. Upcoming engagements include debuts at Lyric Opera of Chicago, Opéra de Montréal and the BBC Symphony at the Barbican London. In 2019, Paiement will also conduct the world premiere of Jake Heggie’s If I Were You with the Merola Opera Program.

Director Keturah Stickann's directing and choreographic work has been seen in countless opera houses across the United States and Canada, as well as in Chile, Japan, France, Germany, Hungary, and Australia. A champion of new American opera, she has directed and choreographed multiple works by Jake Heggie & Gene Scheer, as well as works by Robert Aldridge, Anthony Davis, Ricky Ian Gordon, Jennifer Higdon, Laura Kaminsky, and Jose “Pepe” Martinez. Recent productions by Ms. Stickann include As One (Eugene Opera), Candide (Michigan Opera Theatre), Rusalka (Madison Opera), It’s A Wonderful Life (San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera), Pelléas et Mélisande (West Edge Opera),
Keturah Stickann picture
Keturah Stickann
Orfeo ed Euridice (Florida Grand Opera), Turandot (San Diego Opera), Norma (Opera Southwest), Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo (Chautauqua Opera), Lucia di Lammermoor (Opera Colorado), Don Quichotte (San Diego Opera), and The Seven Deadly Sins and Pagliacci (Virginia Opera). Before becoming a director, Ms. Stickann was a classically trained dancer, performing in opera and concert dance around the country.

Merola Opera Program is widely regarded as the foremost opera training program for aspiring singers, coach accompanists, and stage directors. Each summer some 29 Merola artists, selected from more than 800 international applicants, participate in master classes and private coaching with opera’s most accomplished singers, conductors, and directors, and then present concerts and fully-staged operas to the public. Participants also receive training in foreign languages, diction, acting, and stage movement. Offered free of charge for all participants, the Merola Opera Program is entirely unique in the industry in many ways.

It is the only young artist program to provide financial support to developing artists for five years following participation, offering financial aid for essential career development costs including coaching, language classes, and audition travel. In addition, only Merola graduates are considered for participation in the San Francisco Opera Adler Fellowship Program. Merola has served as a proving ground for hundreds of artists, who have gone on to extensive careers in opera, including Anna Netrebko, Ailyn Pérez, Patricia Racette, Nadine Sierra, Elza van den Heever, Carol Vaness, Deborah Voigt, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Dolora Zajick, Brian Jagde, Stuart Skeleton, Rolando Villazón, Thomas Hampson, Lucas Meachem, and Patrick Summers among many others.

Merola Opera Events Related to If I Were You

Grace Cathedral Forum

Jake Heggie will sit down for a conversation about If I Were You. Curated by Grace Cathedral, the Forum is a series of stimulating conversations about faith, ethics and culture in relation to the important issues of our day. While guests range from artists, inventors and philosophers to pop culturists and elected officials, the point of The Forum is singular: civil, sophisticated discourse that engages minds and hearts to think in new ways about the world.

Sunday, May 5, 9:30 am
Grace Cathedral, 1100 California Street, San Francisco, CA 94108
Jake Heggie, Composer
For more information CLICK HERE.

If I Were You - Preview Lecture: San Francisco

A 90-minute exploration of the music and development of If I Were You, led by lively opera experts.

Tuesday, July 16, 7:30 pm
USF Fromm Institute for Lifelong Learning, 660 Parker Ave, San Francisco, CA 94117
Gene Scheer, Librettist
Kip Cranna, Dramaturg

If I Were You - Preview Lecture: East Bay

A 90-minute exploration of the music and development of If I Were You, led by lively opera experts.

Saturday, July 20, 2:00 pm
Lafayette Library, 3491 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549
Gene Scheer, Librettist
Kip Cranna, Dramaturg

If I Were You - Preview Lecture: Palo Alto

A 90-minute exploration of the music and development of If I Were You, led by lively opera experts.

Monday, July 22, 2:00 pm
Palo Alto Library, Rinconada Branch, 1213 Newell Rd, Palo Alto, CA 94303
Embarcadero Room
Presented in partnership with the San Francisco Opera Guild – Peninsula Chapter.
Gene Scheer, Librettist
Kip Cranna, Dramaturg

If I Were You - Preview Lecture: Los Gatos

A 90-minute exploration of the music and development of If I Were You, led by lively opera experts.

Monday, July 22, 7:30 pm
Addison-Penzak JCC, 14855 Oka Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032
Gene Scheer, Librettist
Kip Cranna, Dramaturg
Presented in partnership with the San Jose Opera Guild.
Admission: $10. Free for Opera Guild and JCC members. For more information CLICK HERE.

If I Were You - Opera on the Couch

Opera on the Couch provides a forum where psychoanalytic insights deepen the meaning and experience of opera. Our discussion of If I Were You will occur immediately after the show on Sunday, August 4, when the immediate visceral experience of music, drama and spectacle will enliven a fuller and deeper understanding of the emotional and psychological aspects of the work
Presented in partnership with the San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis.

Sunday, August 4, 5:00 pm
Books Inc., 601 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94102
Dr. David Stein