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Peter Sellars


Fleur Barron

mezzo-soprano (Adriana)

Axelle Fanyo

soprano (Refka)

Nicholas Phan

tenor (Yonas)

Christopher Purves

baritone (Tsargo)

San Francisco Symphony Chorus

San Francisco Symphony


Adriana Mater (staged)
[San Francisco Symphony Premiere]

Kaija Saariaho & Amin Maalouf


Davies Symphony Hall

Thu, Jun 8, 2023 at 7:30PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Sat, Jun 10, 2023 at 7:30PM

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Davies Symphony Hall

Sun, Jun 11, 2023 at 2:00PM

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If you would like assistance purchasing tickets for patrons with disabilities, please call the box office at 415-864-6000.


Event Description

Director Peter Sellars stages a new production of Kaija Saariaho’s opera Adriana Mater, part of a multi-year partnership between the acclaimed director, Esa-Pekka Salonen, and the SF Symphony. Set in a country on the brink of civil war, the opera explores the relationship between a mother and her son as they navigate a world rumbling with the threat of violence. Their gritty reality is offset by their hopes and dreams for a better future and as the music swells and recedes, the protagonists must decide between a life of revenge and one of forgiveness.

This production is set in wartime and includes depictions of sexual violence and assault weapons, which may be triggering for some viewers.

At A Glance


Act I

Tableau 1: Clartés (Light)

The time is the present, in a country about to be at war. Tsargo, a young drunk man, attempts to speak with the young woman Adriana. He reminds her that they once danced together but she rebuffs him. Adriana’s sister, Refka, sees all of this and reproaches Adriana for even speaking to him. A dream sequence begins as night falls, where Tsargo is ready to go dancing with Adriana. Adriana touches Tsargo and he turns into a bottle, which she drops and breaks. Adriana wakes, and a humiliated Tsargo rushes off uttering threats.

Tableau 2: Ténèbres (Darkness)

Tsargo, dressed as a soldier and carrying a gun, knocks on Adriana’s door, claiming to need to go onto the roof to see the enemy. She snubs him as before. He then forces his way in, and we deduce that he rapes her.

Tableau 3: Deux cœurs (Two Hearts)

Adriana is pregnant and argues with her sister, who condemns her for having the child. The night before, Refka had dreamt of her own worries about the unborn child, and also of Adriana’s own fears—will the child resemble Cain or Abel?

Act II

Tableau 4: Aveux (Confessions)

Seventeen years later, Adriana’s son Yonas finds out that his father did not in fact die heroically as he had been told by his family. He is furious and Adriana tries to explain that she would have told him when he was old enough to deal with the truth. This does not hold back his anger, and he swears to kill his rapist father. Another dream sequence ensues where Yonas kills his whole family, finally turning his weapon on himself.

Tableau 5: Rages

Refka looks for Adriana, but finds Yonas instead. He chastises her for having lied to him about his father. When Adriana enters, Refka tells them that Tsargo is in the country. With this, Yonas charges off vowing to kill him. Refka wants to stop him but Adriana says, “if he is meant to kill him, then he will kill him.”

Tableau 6: Duel

Yonas soon finds Tsargo, who admits his identity and what he has done. Yonas tells him that he intends to kill him, but asks to see him turn around. It is soon obvious that Tsargo is blind, and with this Yonas flees unable to carry out his task.

Tableau 7: Adriana

In the final scene all four characters are separate on stage, consumed with their own troubles. Yonas asks for forgiveness from his mother for not having killed his father. At this point, Adriana knows that Yonas is her son, because he has not killed, like his father did. “We are not avenged,” she tells her son, “but we are saved.”

Adapted from Wise Music Classical

Concert Extras

A pre-concert Talk with director Peter Sellars will be presented from the stage one hour before the concert on June 8 from 6:30pm–7:00pm. Free to all ticketholders.
A pre-concert Talk with director Peter Sellars will be presented from the stage one hour before the concert on June 10 from 6:30pm–7:00pm. Free to all ticketholders.
A pre-concert Talk with director Peter Sellars will be presented from the stage one hour before the concert on June 11 from 1:00pm–1:30pm. Free to all ticketholders.

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