ART hound

Geneva Anderson digs into art

San Francisco Opera honors its top scenic artist, Jay Kotcher, with the San Francisco Opera Medal, SFO’s highest award

Jay Kotcher (Left) gets an ovation along with the San Francisco Opera Medal, the Company’s highest distinction, for his work as a scenic designer at SFO for that past 35 years.  SFO’s David Gockley (Right) presented the award Sunday, at “Tosca’s” final performance.  Photo: SFO

Jay Kotcher (Left) gets an ovation along with the San Francisco Opera Medal, the Company’s highest distinction, for his work as a scenic designer at SFO for that past 35 years. SFO’s David Gockley (Right) presented the award Sunday, at “Tosca’s” final performance. Photo: Scott Wall

Those of us who attended the final performance of San Francisco Opera’s Tosca yesterday were in for a treat.  Right after extended rounds of applause for Patricia Racette, who delivered a scintillating Tosca, and for Brian Jagde, who played her lover, the artist Mario Cavaradossi, SFO’s fall season closed with a special ceremony awarding Jay Kotcher, SFO’s top scenic designer, the San Francisco Opera Medal.  The award was established in 1970 by former General Director Kurt Herbert Adler and is the highest honor the Company bestows in recognition of outstanding achievement by an artistic professional.  Kotcher is the first scenic designer to receive the prestigious award.

Kotcher was offered a position with SFO as a scenic artist in December 1977 and began work in early 1978.  He has since worked on nearly every SFO production in the past 35 years and has a hand in all the styles that have evolved in the past 4 decades.  Kotcher’s all-time favorite production to work on was SFO’s 1985 Ring Cycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen).  This was SFO’s third Ring Cycle, and it was directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff, designed by John Conklin and conducted by Edo de Waart.  This was the first time Bay area audiences experienced the Ring with Supertitles, then a new technology, and the experience of following the text in a language they understood was revolutionary.)

Kotcher was given the award by SFO’s General Director David Gockley and present on stage were members of the cast of Tosca.  Fittingly, the award was given against the dazzling backdrop of a set Kotcher had worked on—Thierry Bosquet’s recreation of the towering Castel Sant’Angelo in Pacrco Adriano, Rome, where Tosca takes her fatal leap in Act III.

In accepting the award Kotcher said that he was “here to serve the music, to enhance the music and never to overwhelm it.” The visual aspects of opera design have become increasingly important— and celebrated—and can make or break an opera.  I would like to hear more from Kotcher about his creative process.

The first SFO Medal laureate was soprano Dorothy Kirsten. While many vocalists (such as Leontyne Price in 1977, Joan Sutherland in 1984, Plácido Domingo in 1994, and Samuel Ramey (2003) have been so honored, other laureates have included stage director John Copley (2010), conductor Donald Runnicles (2009), chorus director Ian Robertson 2012.

San Francisco Opera Medal Recipients
1970 – Dorothy Kirsten
1972 – Jess Thomas
1973 – Paul Hager (house stage director)
1974 – Colin Harvey (chorister and chorus librarian)
1975 – Otto Guth
Alexander Fried (San Francisco Examiner music critic)
1976 – Leonie Rysanek
1977 – Leontyne Price
1978 – Kurt Herbert Adler
1980 – Geraint Evans
1981 – Matthew Farruggio (production supervisor and house stage director)
Birgit Nilsson
1982 – Regina Resnik
1984 – Joan Sutherland
1985 – Thomas Stewart
1987 – Régine Crespin
1988 – Philip Eisenberg (music staff)
1989 – Pilar Lorengar
Bidú Sayao
1990 – Janis Martin
Marilyn Horne
1991 – Licia Albanese
1993 – Walter Mahoney (costume shop manager)
1994 – Zaven Melikian (concertmaster)
Michael Kane (master carpenter)
Plácido Domingo
1995 – Charles Mackerras
1997 – Frederica von Stade
1998 – Irene Dalis
2001 – Lotfi Mansouri
James Morris
2003 – Samuel Ramey
2004 – Joe Harris (dresser)
2005 – Pamela Rosenberg
2008 – Clifford (Kip) Cranna (director of music administration)
Ruth Ann Swenson
2009 – Donald Runnicles
2010 – John Copley (stage director)
2012 – Ian Robertson (chorus director),  Jay  Kotcher (scenic artist)

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December 4, 2012 - Posted by | Opera | , , , , , , ,

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