Musician Spotlights

Michael Severance, Bassoonist

Michael Severance, Bassoonist, San Francisco Opera Orchestra

Bassoonist Michael Severance (pictured to the right of colleague Dan MacNeill) says that one of the most enjoyable aspects of playing in the Opera Orchestra is the great sense of humor shared by his colleagues. Playing in the pit for hours on end can be very taxing, so a little humor goes a long way toward staying engaged through the end of a performance. Michael recalls a particularly groovy aria from Verdi’s Un Ballo In Maschera during which all of the back-row winds would dance in their seats. The boogieing […]

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Kay Stern, Concertmaster

What does a concertmaster do anyway? We asked our very own concertmaster, Kay Stern, to give us her perspective on the job. Each opera begins with hours of preparation, even if Kay has played it before. She studies the text and how the music illustrates and adds information to the singer’s lines. Then comes the bowing process. If you look into the pit, you’ll notice that often times all violin, viola, cello and bass bows are moving in the same direction. This can serve the visual purpose of looking coordinated […]

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Stephanie McNab, Piccolo

Stephanie McNab, Piccolo, San Francisco Opera Orchestra

Stephanie McNab is finishing her 12th Fall Season with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. You can’t miss the distinctive sound of her piccolo which is known to hold its own against an entire brass section in loud and rambunctious passages. As the daughter of a trumpet player, the piccolo just seemed like the natural choice for her. Stephanie loves the territory that comes with playing the piccolo, the color it creates riding above the orchestral texture in big tutti passages and the comical, puckish writing of Italian composers like Rossini. […]

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Dave Ridge, Bass Trombone

Principal Bass Trombonist, Dave Ridge, is in his 22nd season with our orchestra and loves performing with his fellow brass mates! Outside the pit, Dave is an avid performer and passionate teacher. Along with soloing and giving masterclasses around the country, he teaches privately and at Diablo Valley College. He is on the faculty at CSU East Bay, where he hosts the annual Trombone Day. We’ll be sure to let you know if there’s a performance attached to that, because who doesn’t love a trombone choir?! During his tenure with […]

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Patricia Heller, Viola

For 28 years Patricia Heller has been toasting the Tragedy Face in the Opera House with her viola before every performance. From Box A we were able to photograph the two of them together! Patricia was the first of three Pattys to join our orchestra and decided when the others arrived to un-abbreviate her name so as not to confuse everyone. Several years later, she differentiated herself again by stopping a show with a broken ankle. Not that anyone by any other name has done that either! Patricia loves experiencing […]

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Masha Borozina, Violin

Violinist Mariya Borozina (know to most as Masha) used to be a fixture in the opera house practice rooms, preparing solo and chamber music projects during all waking hours. Recently her focus shifted to practicing at home for a tiny, sometimes attentive, always adorable 4 1/2 month old audience. Masha still performs regularly outside the opera pit, but reminds herself daily to show up for work with a violin, not baby Anna! Speaking of Anna, she is already learning to swim in the bathtub. Probably because she takes after Mommy, […]

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Tony Striplen, Clarinet

Clarinetist and bass clarinetist, Tony Striplen, is in his 18th season with the San Francisco Opera. While Tony’s low bass clarinet sounds often represents operatic bad guys and general gloom and doom, if you listen closely during the Act 3 midnight scene in Falstaff you’ll hear a sonorous melody projecting from his instrument. In years past, you may have seen Tony on stage during the Don Giovanni banquet scene or as one of the tipsy musicians in Prokofiev’s Betrothal in a Monastery. In the world of education, Tony enjoys making […]

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Rick Kvistad, Principal Percussion

Rick Kvistad spends most of his time during any given Falstaff performance playing cymbals and bass drum, which he describes as “a wonderfully large target”. After 34 years in the opera, our principal percussionist still tries to make the best, most appropriate sounds out of the 36″ calf skin head (bass drum). Peer into the pit during a Barber of Seville and you might find him imitating the sound of the ancient sistrum using antique cymbal, tambourine or triangle. Away from the pit but still in the musical realm, Rick […]

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Kevin Rivard, Principal Horn

If you are seated in Box A for one of our upcoming Falstaff performances, don’t be alarmed when co-principal horn Kevin Rivard appears next to you, fully costumed, playing a La-flat basso natural horn. Never heard of it? Neither had we, so we asked Kevin to fill us in: The instrument was specifically requested by Verdi for this opera but is so rare now that Kevin had to drive all over the Bay Area borrowing parts from different people and put it together himself. If the horn were to be […]

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