John Moore as Steve Jobs and Sasha Cooke as Laurene Powell Jobs in Mason Bates and Mark Campbell's "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs." Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera Stages “The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs” 

San Francisco Opera’s 101st season continues with the highly anticipated Bay Area premiere of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs opening on Friday, September 22. The San Francisco Opera co-commissioned opera by Bay Area composer Mason Bates and Pulitzer Prize-winning librettist Mark Campbell is presented in its original production directed by Kevin Newbury. Conductor Michael Christie leads the San Francisco Opera cast, Orchestra and Chorus, prepared by Chorus Director John Keene. Bates joins the Orchestra in the pit to perform the score’s electronic components.

The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is a 90-minute, electro-acoustic opera in one act which follows the titular tech mogul through a series of non-linear flashback episodes. Mason Bates said, “The story of Steve Jobs exists at the intersection of creativity, technology and human communication—a thematic crossroads that opera can explore unlike any other medium.” The work expands on the Wagnerian concept of leitmotifs—melodies assigned to specific actions and characters—as the persons in the story have their own soundworlds. “Each character in this opera walks onstage with not only a theme but an entire sonic identity,” said the composer. “As they interact, their musics collide, blending almost as if mixed by a DJ.”

Proclaimed “a winning opera” by the Los Angeles Times at its 2017 world premiere in Santa Fe, The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs won the Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording in 2019. The work has been presented by seven different opera companies and in multiple productions. San Francisco Opera’s performances, originally scheduled for June 2020 and delayed by the pandemic, will bring the work to the Bay Area and Silicon Valley environs that provide its setting.

The intersection of music and technology is a central tenet of Mason Bates’ creative work as a composer, DJ and curator. Championed by conductors Michael Tilson Thomas, Riccardo Muti and Marin Alsop, Bates’ symphonic compositions have receive widespread acclaim for their unique integration of electronic sounds. He is a former composer-in-residence for both the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and is the co-founder and artistic director for Mercury Soul, a presenter known for combining electronica and classical music. The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs is Bates’ first opera for which he collaborated with librettist Mark Campbell. At the forefront of the contemporary opera scene, Campbell’s libretti credits include notable new operas like As OneThe Shining and Elizabeth Cree. Campbell’s 2012 collaboration with Kevin Puts on Silent Night won the Pulitzer Prize for music.

San Francisco Chronicle critic, Joshua Kosman, notes that “Bates’ score, built around an eclectic pop sensibility, bounces and hums with theatrical fervor — now reflective, now breathlessly driven. Campbell’s libretto is full of tenderness and dry wit.”

Sung in English with English supertitles, the six performances of The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs are scheduled for September 27 (7:30 p.m.), 30 (7:30 p.m.); October 3 (7:30 p.m.), 7 (7:30 p.m.), 2023.

Ferry riders will appreciate that in addition to live performances, a live-streamed performance of the opera will also be available to watch online on Wednesday and on-demand through Sept. 28.

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