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San Francisco Opera commissions Huang Ruo’s `The Monkey King’ for 2025 premiere, based on novel

SAN FRANCISCO — The San Francisco Opera commissioned Huang Ruo to compose “The Monkey King,” based on an episode from the 16th century Chinese novel “Journey to the West,” for a fall 2025 premiere.

David Henry Hwang, whose “M Butterfly” won the 1988 Tony Award for Best Play, is writing the libretto with a mix of English and Chinese, the company said Tuesday. Diane Paulus will direct a production with scenic design and puppetry by Basil Twist. In the novel, a monkey born from stone acquires supernatural powers and seeks immortality.

San Francisco’s examination of Chinese literary tradition includes the premiere of “Dream of the Red Chamber” by Bright Sheng and Hwang in 2016.

The company said its 2024-25 season will open Sept. 6 with Leo Muscato’s production of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball)” first seen at the Rome Opera in 2016. Eun Sun Kim, starting her fourth season as music director, conducts a cast that includes Michael Fabiano, Lianna Haroutounian, Amartuvshin Enkhbat and Judit Kutasi.

Poul Ruders’ “The Handmaid’s Tale” has its U.S. West Coast premiere on Sept. 14 in a John Fulljames staging postponed from 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic. Irene Roberts stars and Karen Kamensek conducts in a co-production with the Royal Danish Theater, where the staging was first presented in 2022.

Kim conducts Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” with Simon O’Neill and Anja Kampe starting Oct. 19 in a Paul Curran staging first seen at Venice’s Teatro La Fenice in 2012.

Eve-Maud Hubeaux makes her American opera debut in Bizet’s “Carmen” starting Nov. 13 with Jonathan Tetelman and conductor Benjamin Manis in a revival of Francesca Zambello’s 2019 production.

The summer 2025 schedule includes a revival of John Caird’s staging of Puccini’s “La Bohème” (June 3) and a new-to-San Francisco staging of Mozart’s “Idomeneo” (June 14) by Lindy Hume, first seen at Opera Australia last year. The summer 2025 schedule is down from three productions in this upcoming summer.

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