Jake HeggiePiano Nicholas PhanTenor

Jake Heggie and Nicholas Phan

Gala Performance

Friday, October 4, 2024 |  7:00pm

Herbst TheatreVenue Information


About This Performance

Grammy®-nominated Nicholas Phan is “one of the world’s most remarkable singers” (Boston Globe), praised for his keen intelligence, captivating stage presence, and natural musicianship. The Wall Street Journal calls beloved artist Jake Heggie “arguably the world’s most popular 21st-century opera and art song composer.” Both of these prolific, sought-after artists have a long history with San Francisco Performances.

This special evening celebrates and supports San Francisco Performances’ award-winning music education programs.

Concert only tickets are available for $50. You may add tickets for this concert to your subscription now.

For information about the full Gala, which includes a pre-concert cocktail reception and post-concert dinner, please call (415) 677-0326.


To be announced

Artist Information

Performer Biographies

American composer Jake Heggie is best known for Dead Man Walking (2000), the most widely performed new opera of the last 20 years, with a libretto by Terrence McNally, and his critically acclaimed operas Moby-Dick (2010), Three Decembers (2008), and It’s a Wonderful Life (2016), all with libretti by Gene Scheer. In addition to 10 full-length operas and numerous one-acts, Heggie has composed more than 300 art songs, as well as concerti, chamber music, choral, and orchestral works. His compositions have been performed on five continents, and he regularly collaborates with some of the world’s most beloved artists as both composer and pianist.

Heggie actively seeks out projects that invite a wide range of perspectives and possibilities. A bold new Ivo van Hove production of Dead Man Walking opens the Metropolitan Opera’s 2023–24 season in New York City, starring Joyce DiDonato, Ryan McKinny, Susan Graham, and Latonia Moore, with Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium. Based on the iconic memoir by Sister Helen Prejean, this is a deeply human story of transformation and redemption—and though the death penalty raises the stakes at every turn, the piece never dictates how audiences should feel. Heggie’s new opera Intelligence is based on the true story of two women who infiltrated the Confederate White House during the American Civil War. Created with Jawole Zollar and Gene Scheer, this work receives its world premiere on opening night of Houston Grand Opera’s season, conducted by Kwamé Ryan and starring Jamie Barton, Janai Brugger, J’Nai Bridges, and Urban Bush Women. Elsewhere, Before It All Goes Dark, a one-act opera commissioned by Music of Remembrance and based on a story originally reported by Howard Reich in the Chicago Tribune, will premiere in Seattle and tour to Chicago and San Francisco, while The Elements: Fire, Heggie’s new commission for violinist Joshua Bell, premieres at Germany’s Elbphilharmonie and tours to major stages in New York, Los Angeles Seattle, Chicago, and Hong Kong.

Often blurring the storytelling lines between art, song, and opera, Heggie consistently champions women in his work. Songs for Murdered Sisters, his collaboration with the great Margaret Atwood, was created in response to the global epidemic of gender-based violence and premiered by baritone Joshua Hopkins. The album was nominated for Classical Album of the Year at the 2022 Juno Awards. Heggie is particularly drawn to the mezzo voice and has longstanding creative partnerships with Frederica von Stade, Joyce DiDonato, Susan Graham, Sasha Cooke, and Jamie Barton, whose album with Heggie, Unexpected Shadows, earned a 2022 Grammy® nomination for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. Heggie’s recent nine-city recital tour with Barton showcased What I Miss The Most, a song cycle with new texts by important voices, including Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sister Helen Prejean, and Patti LuPone.

Heggie delights in uncovering hidden stories, and his artistic relationship with Music of Remembrance has brought lesser-known perspectives from the Holocaust, including those of queer people and political dissidents, to the stage in MOR-commissioned works like Another Sunrise (2012) and For A Look or a Touch (2008), as well as in Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (2020), commissioned by Music at Kohl Mansion. Other recent premieres include Overture (2023) for the New Century Chamber Orchestra, Lake Tahoe Symphonic Reflections (2022) for the Classical Tahoe Festival, and Fantasy Suite 1803 (2022) for violinist Daniel Hope and pianist Lise de la Salle, commissioned by Beethoven-Haus Bonn.

Several Heggie works have established themselves in the classical canon. Dead Man Walking, lauded by the Chicago Tribune as “the most celebrated American opera of the century,” has received more than 75 international productions since its San Francisco Opera premiere in October 2000. In addition to numerous performances throughout the United States, Dead Man Walking has been received by enthusiastic audiences at major theaters in Dresden, Vienna, London, Madrid, Copenhagen, Sydney, Montréal, Calgary, Dublin, and Cape Town. Likewise, Three Decembers has received nearly 40 international productions, while Great Scott was recognized with a Grammy nomination for Best New Classical Composition. Moby-Dick was telecast in Great Performances’ 40th Season, subsequently released on DVD, and served as the subject of the book A Grand Opera for the 21st Century. A new production has been scheduled for a forthcoming season at the Metropolitan Opera.

Hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “arguably the world’s most popular 21st-century opera and art song composer,” Heggie is a long-time mentor of young composers, singers, and pianists. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Eddie Medora King Prize from UT Austin’s Butler School of Music, and the Champion Award from the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus. Heggie was the keynote speaker for the 2016 meeting of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM) and has given commencement addresses at SFCM, Eastman School of Music, and Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music. He is a frequent guest artist at universities and conservatories, including Eastman, Northwestern, Cornell, Boston University, Cincinnati Conservatory, Peabody Conservatory, The Royal Conservatory in Toronto, USC’s Thornton School, and Vanderbilt University. He has been a guest artist at SongFest for more than 20 years and is the proud recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Heggie has served as an advisor and mentor for Washington National Opera’s American Opera Initiative, CU Boulder’s New Opera Workshop, and Chicago Opera Theater’s Vanguard Initiative. His own teachers have included Ernst Bacon, with whom he studied composition as a teenager, as well as pianist Johana Harris and composers Roger Bourland, Paul DesMarais, and David Raksin at UCLA. Prior to composing Dead Man Walking, he was mentored by his friend, the late Carlisle Floyd.

Heggie continues to write all his work by hand, believing that a visceral, physical connection to the score is an essential part of composition. Since 1993, he has made his home in San Francisco, where he lives with his husband, Curt Branom.

Described by the Boston Globe as “one of the world’s most remarkable singers,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction. Praised for his keen intelligence, captivating stage presence and natural musicianship, he performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. Also an avid recitalist, in 2010 he co-founded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) to promote art song and vocal chamber music, where he serves as artistic director.

A celebrated recording artist, Phan’s most recent album, Stranger: Works for Tenor by Nico Muhly, was nominated for the 2022 Grammy® Award for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album. His previous albums, Clairières and Gods and Monsters, were nominated for the same award in 2020 and 2017. He is the first singer of Asian descent to be nominated in the history of the category, which has been awarded by the Recording Academy since 1959. His other previous solo albums, Illuminations, A Painted Tale, Still Fall the Rain, and Winter Words, made many “best of” lists, including those of the New York Times, New Yorker, Chicago Tribune, WQXR, and Boston Globe. Phan’s growing discography also includes a Grammy-nominated recording of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, Scarlatti’s La gloria di primavera and Handel’s Joseph and his Brethren with Philharmonia Baroque, an album of Bach’s secular cantatas with Masaaki Suzuki and Bach Collegium Japan, Bach’s St. John Passion (in which he sings both the Evangelist and the tenor arias) with Apollo’s Fire, and the world premiere recordings of two orchestral song cycles: The Old Burying Ground by Evan Chambers and Elliott Carter’s A Sunbeam’s Architecture.

A prolific concert artist, Phan regularly appears with many of the leading orchestras in the world, including the Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony, Bavarian Radio Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, New World Symphony, Philharmonia Baroque, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Boston Baroque, Bach Collegium Japan, Les Violons du Roy, Orchestre de la Suisse-Romande, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, Swedish Radio Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra of London, Israel Philharmonic and the Lucerne Symphony. He has toured extensively throughout the major concert halls of Europe and has appeared with the Oregon Bach, Ravinia, Marlboro, Edinburgh, Rheingau, Saint-Denis, Music @ Menlo, and Tanglewood festivals, as well as the BBC Proms. Among the conductors he has worked with are Marin Alsop, Harry Bicket, Herbert Blomstedt, Pierre Boulez, Karina Canellakis, Jonathan Cohen, James Conlon, Alan Curtis, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Charles Dutoit, James Gaffigan, Grant Gershon, Alan Gilbert, Jane Glover, Giancarlo Guerrero, Matthew Halls, Manfred Honeck, Bernard Labadie, Louis Langrée, Cristian Măcelaru, Nicholas McGegan, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, John Nelson, Yannick Nézet-Séguin, George Petrou, Helmuth Rilling, David Robertson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Masaaki Suzuki, Michael Tilson Thomas, Bramwell Tovey, Jaap Van Zweden and Franz Welser-Möst.

A passionate proponent of vocal chamber music, he has collaborated with many chamber musicians, including pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode, Jeremy Denk, Graham Johnson, Roger Vignoles, Inon Barnatan, Myra Huang, Gabriel Kahane, and Alessio Bax; violinists James Ehnes and Tai Murray; cellist Paul Watkins; the Brooklyn Rider, Jasper and Spektral string quartets; guitarist Eliot Fisk; harpists Bridget Kibbey and Sivan Magen; and horn players Jennifer Montone, Radovan Vlatkovic and Gail Williams. In both recital and chamber concerts, he has been presented by Carnegie Hall, London’s Wigmore Hall, San Francisco Performances, Cal Performances, the Aspen Music Festival, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Atlanta’s Spivey Hall, Boston’s Celebrity Series, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. Often working to build the vocal chamber repertoire, numerous new song cycles have been composed for him by many of today’s pre-eminent composers, including Lembit Beecher, Jake Heggie, Gabriel Kahane, Aaron Jay Kernis, Missy Mazzoli, Joel Puckett, Errollyn Wallen, and Nico Muhly.

In addition to his work as artistic director of CAIC, he also has served as guest curator for projects with the Bravo! Vail Music Festival, Laguna Beach Music Festival, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Merola Opera program, WQXR, and San Francisco Performances, where he served as the vocal artist-in-residence from 2014-2018.

Phan’s many opera credits include appearances with the Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Festival, Chicago Opera Theater, Seattle Opera, Portland Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Maggio Musicale in Florence, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and Frankfurt Opera. His growing repertoire includes the title roles in Bernstein’s Candide, Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Handel’s Acis and Galatea, Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Fenton in Falstaff, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and Lurcanio in Ariodante.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Phan is the 2012 recipient of the Paul C. Boylan Distinguished Alumni Award and the 2018 Christopher Kendall Award. He also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aspen Music Festival and School, and is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. He was the recipient of a 2006 Sullivan Foundation Award and 2004 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation.