Immediately following the June 4 opening performance of Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s fairy-tale opera Die Frau ohne Schatten, soprano Nina Stemme, who performed the role of the Dyer’s Wife in the opera, was presented with the San Francisco Opera Medal.
In the onstage ceremony with the audience present, San Francisco Opera Tad and Dianne Taube General Director Matthew Shilvock said: “Nina, you bring the sublime into our world with a generous artistry that reverberates to the core our very souls. You have taken us on some of the most heroic journeys this stage has seen, and today is no exception. Thank you for making this an artistic home over the last twenty years and for enriching our lives and our community. Today, we celebrate your two decades of transformational artistry on this stage and, with heartfelt gratitude from the whole San Francisco Opera family, it is a great honor to present you with the San Francisco Opera Medal.”
One of the world’s leading operatic artists, Nina Stemme is especially known for her excellence in the art form’s most challenging roles: Wagner’s Isolde, Brünnhilde, and Kundry; Puccini’s Turandot and Minnie; and Strauss’ Salome, Elektra and the Dyer’s Wife. Her 1993 triumph at the Operalia competition and being named a finalist at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition that same year propelled the Swedish-born soprano to stardom in opera houses across Europe and the Americas. Her rapid rise was further aided by the encouragement of Swedish opera icon Birgit Nilsson. In 2018, Stemme was awarded the prestigious Birgit Nilsson Prize.
Stemme made her San Francisco Opera debut in 2004 as Senta in Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer under the baton of then-Music Director Sir Donald Runnicles. Six years later, she took on Brünnhilde in the Company’s emerging new production of Wagner’s Ring, returning in 2011 to perform her first-ever complete Ring cycle, and joining the lineage of Brünnhildes who have defined the Company’s first century: Kirsten Flagstad (who also debuted her full Ring cycle with San Francisco Opera), Astrid Varnay, Birgit Nilsson, Eva Marton, Gwyneth Jones and Hildegard Behrens. In 2017, Stemme performed Princess Turandot in Puccini’s final opera on the War Memorial Opera House stage.
Stemme made her role debut as the Dyer’s Wife in the centennial production of Die Frau ohne Schatten at the Vienna State Opera in 2019. As part of San Francisco Opera’s Centennial Season, she brings her indelible portrayal of the Dyer’s Wife—the only time she has sung the role in the U.S.—to the War Memorial Opera House where Strauss’ opera had its American premiere in 1959.
The San Francisco Opera Medal was inaugurated in 1970 when former General Director Kurt Herbert Adler awarded the first medal to soprano and Company prima donna Dorothy Kirsten. The Opera Medal is the Company’s highest honor and has been awarded for distinguished service to San Francisco Opera. Past awardees include vocal soloists such as Samuel Ramey, Marilyn Horne, James Morris and Birgit Nilsson, former music directors Donald Runnicles and Nicola Luisotti, composer John Adams and artist David Hockney.
Performances of Die Frau ohne Schatten continue through June 28 and feature Sir Donald Runnicles leading the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and an international cast headed by Camilla Nylund (the Empress), Nina Stemme (Dyer’s Wife), Linda Watson (the Nurse), David Butt Philip (the Emperor) and Johan Reuter (Barak) in a production by David Hockney. For tickets and information, visit sfopera.com/frau. The June 20 performance of Die Frau ohne Schatten will be streamed live at 7 p.m. PT and available to watch on demand for 48 hours beginning on Wednesday, June 21 at 10 a.m. PT. For livestream tickets and information, visit sfopera.com/digital/livestream.
San Francisco Opera’s 2022–23 Centennial Season concludes this summer with a new interpretation of Puccini’s Madame Butterfly (through July 1); Richard Strauss’ momentous Die Frau ohne Schatten (through June 28); composer Gabriela Lena Frank and librettist Nilo Cruz’s El último sueño de Frida y Diego (The Last Dream of Frida and Diego), a San Francisco Opera co-commission (through June 30); and a star-studded 100th Anniversary Concert on June 16. To learn more about San Francisco Opera’s ongoing centennial celebrations and to discover opportunities for deep engagement with the Company’s history, visit sfopera.com/100.