French Recordings Featured in Newest Installment of San Francisco Opera’s ‘Streaming the First Century’

By Logan Martell

On October 10, 2022, San Francisco Opera launched the latest installment of “Streaming the First Century,” the company’s free online hub for historic recordings and interviews.

The new installment, titled “Parle-vouz francais?” features performances of French repertory from SFO’s first 100 seasons. Among them are operas by Massenet, Charpentier, Berlioz, Messiaen, as well as the company’s oldest recording: a piano roll of music from “Samson et Dalila” performed by company founder Gaetano Merola in 1925.

Other highlights will include archival interviews and discussions with figures such as soprano Bidu Sayao, former general director Terence McEwen, legendary lighting designer Thomas Munn, Dame Felicity Palmer, and more.

Among the complete recordings are their 1978 production of Massenet’s “Werther,” and their 1999 production of Charpentier’s “Louise.” Excerpt recordings include their 1939 “Manon” featuring tenor Tito Schipa and Bidu Sayao, their 1966 “Les Troyens,” their 1976 “Thais,” and their 2002 production of “Saint Francois D’Assise” by Messiaen and featuring Donald Runnicles and Willard White.

Sessions 1 and 2 of “Streaming the First Century” are available on SFO’s website.