Berkeley Opera was founded in 1979 by baritone Richard Goodman, also an Engineering Professor at the University of California at Berkeley, who is now Artistic Director emeritus.
Berkeley Opera’s mission is to present opera as lively, compelling musical theater, fusing music and drama to delight, move, and challenge our audiences, while remaining accessible, affordable and engaging. To this end, its objectives include
Performances are moving this season to the beautiful new state-of-the-art Performing Arts Theater at El Cerrito High School. Located at 540 Ashbury Avenue in El Cerrito, the theater offers 450 comfortable seats with continental seating, a proscenium stage with full orchestra pit and other modern amenities.
Berkeley Opera productions are in English or in original language with English supertitles. Ticket prices are kept affordable, with discounts for students and seniors.
Artistic Director Mark Streshinsky joins the company this season. A native and resident of Kensington, California, Mark Streshinsky has been a member of the staging staffs of San Francisco Opera, New York City Opera, Dallas Opera, Los Angeles Opera and Seattle Opera. With Berkeley Opera he created critically acclaimed productions of Eugene Onegin, Handel's Acis and Galatea, the American premiere of Legend of the Ring and the world premiere of Chrysalis, by composer Clark Suprynowicz and playwright John O'Keefe. His major directing credits include productions at the Dallas, Cincinnati, Boston Lyric , Detroit, Sacramento and Seattle opera companies, and Lyric Opera of Kansas City. He also directed the world premier of David Carlson's and Colin Graham's Anna Karenina which opened the Ziff Opera House in Miami was also performed at Opera Theatre of St. Louis.
Mark has served on the faculties of West Coast Opera Works in San Francisco, Opera North in New Hampshire and Des Moines Metro Opera's young artist programs, staging opera scenes with young singers. He has also worked with vocal students at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music
Jonathan Khuner continues with Berkeley Opera as Music Director. He has been associated with the Company since 1984, and served in the dual capacities of Music Director and Artistic Director from 1994 to 2009 . He is a Berkeley native and a graduate of U.C. Berkeley. Mr. Khuner is also on the musical staff of the San Francisco Opera and the Metropolitan Opera, has assisted James Levine with Wagner's "Ring" Cycle at the Wagner Festival at Bayreuth, Germany, and has served in a similar capacity at Chicago Lyric Opera, among others.
Now in its 31st season, Berkeley Opera has presented 65 complete operas by 41 different composers. The company looks at opera in a fresh and innovative way, enhancing the experience for both performers and audience. Repertoire includes both the new and unusual as well as favorite and lesser-known works by well-known composers and has included world, American, and west coast premieres. The company has also commissioned several new translations and adaptations of classic works.
In the last few years the repertoire has included E.T.A. Hoffmann’s rarely-performed Undine, the world premiere of Serpentina, a new opera by John Thow based on Hoffmann’s novella, Der Goldene Topf, and Vivian Fine’s Women in the Garden.
Time-honored classics have been presented in new ways, sometimes reduced (the 2004 American premiere of Legend of The Ring, a special condensation by David Seaman of the Welsh National Opera of Wagner’s “Ring” cycle into one evening, and the 2005 condensed version by Jonathan Khuner and Yuval Sharon of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg), sometimes re-conceived to make them fresh for contemporary audiences (the brilliant libretto translations and adaptations of David Scott Marley, including his witty adaptation of Rossini’s Italian Girl in Algiers, called in our version The Riot Grrrl on Mars, and Bat Out of Hell, his adaptation of Johann Strauss Jr.’s Die Fledermaus). Marley has also made new translations for us that expand and illuminate our understanding, including Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedick, (restored in his version to the complete story of Much Ado About Nothing), and a critically-acclaimed new translation of Bizet’s Carmen. Our 2005 season included Il Trittico, Puccini’s three one-act operas (Il Tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi) written to be performed together but rarely done that way, and the 2008 season produced a critically-acclaimed double bill of Bartók's Bluebeard's Castle and Ravel's L'Enfant et les Sortilčges, both with commissioned art.
Videographer Jeremy Knight has made a great contribution to the company by way of digital projections, often making traditional set design obsolete. (Joshua Kosman in the San Francisco Chronicle called his video projections in Legend of the Ring "pure delight" and in Meistersinger, "beautiful.")
In 2004, Berkeley Opera was awarded a major grant from the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation to commission a new opera, Chrysalis, from composer Clark Suprynowicz with a libretto created by noted playwright John O'Keefe. Chrysalis premiered in April of 2006 and was a great audience and critical success. Chrysalis was also supported by grants from the Creative Work Fund, and the Argosy Foundation Contemporary Music Fund.
In 2009 Berkeley Opera made a decision to have each season's programming feature operas from three different musical eras — the Classic, Romantic and Modern.