Looking back at San Francisco Opera's 2009 Fall Season- watch as hell freezes over

San Francisco Opera's fall season concludes tomorrow night and I wanted to congratulate the company for a very successful run. Of the six operas offered, I truly enjoyed four of them, was ambivalent about one and only disliked the other. More impressive is that I can say three of the six were excellent and one was very good. 4 out 6- I'll take that average any day.

So here we go: nice job Mr. Gockley!

Gosh, that wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Below are links to my original posts on the operas, listed in order of my preference, best to worst:

Il Trovatore: An all-star cast, including the incredible Sondra Radvanovsky, made this the most satisfying Verdi opera on the War Memorial Stage since the Swenson/Hvorostovsky/Villazon Traviata a few seasons back. The sets were great. I saw it twice and could have easily seen it a third time.

La Fille du Regiment: This production made me realize I actually do like Donizetti- at least when he's done well- and this was a close runner-up for first place. Diana Damrau was simply superb and Juan Diego Florez was terrific. Pelly's production was a zany joy, resulting in one of the most enjoyable evenings spent in the house in recent years. I wish I'd seen it more than once.

Salome: Nadja Michael's voice and Luisotti's conducting of Strauss were not to everyone's taste, but I found Michael's portrayal to be one the most mesmerizing performances I've ever seen on any stage. I saw it twice, including the night when Molly Fillmore replaced Micheal.

Il Trittico: For many, this should be in the number one slot but I'm putting it at number four because while it was very good: A) Patricia Racette isn't Radvanovsky or Damrau in the vocal department, B) the staging for Suor Angelica was kind of dumb, C) having seen the fantastic production LA Opera put on last season, this one just couldn't compare to it on any level. I'll give Racette her due for pulling off all three roles and making it look easy, but there were three fantastic productions in this season- this one was only very good. Still- that's not a complaint.

Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Seraglio): Not prime Mozart, nothing really to get excited about. Mary Dunleavy was not her usual stellar self and the production just kind of rolled along in an amusing, slight way. Not bad, but really not good. Mozart-lovers (of which I am not one) probably liked it a lot more than I did. Once was certainly enough.

Otello: Sadly, my personal favorite among the six on the fall schedule was the most abused. This kind of disappointment was what I expected the entire season to look and sound like so I can't be too bitter about it and thankfully it only happened once. Unfortunately it had to happen to one of Verdi's greatest works. On the upside, this was the first time Luisotti truly impressed me as a conductor. I saw it twice- one time too many.

Overall, it was a fall season of surprising quality and delivered at least three or four performances people will be discussing and referencing for a long time. As one of Gockley's more vocal critics, I'll happily give the man kudos for pulling off a season that I thought was going to be terrible and as it turns out it was the best of his tenure so far. We'll see what summer brings, but for now, while one can safely say SFO is no longer as interesting as it used to be as far as programming goes, one can also say that on most nights what ends up on the stage is quality and worth attending.