Audra McDonald at the SF Symphony’s 2013 Opening Gala concert




Entering his nineteenth season, Michael Tilson Thomas now holds two notable distinctions: He is the longest-serving San Francisco Symphony Music Director, having surpassed the legendary Pierre Monteux (1935-52); and is also the longest-tenured active music director of any major American orchestra. But the journey doesn’t stop there, as MTT and the Orchestra take another leap forward with two vastly different theatrical projects that bookend the 2013–14 season.


Debussy’s Jeux, an SFS Media release recorded in 2013

Somehow, Somewhere: West Side Story

With music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story has been a sensation from the moment it captured America’s heart in 1957. The combination of Bernstein, MTT, and the San Francisco Symphony is a proven winner, as semi-staged performances of On the Town in 1996 and Carnegie Hall’s glitzy all-Bernstein gala concert in 2008 attest. The stars align in 2013 when MTT and the San Francisco Symphony and Chorus, and a winning cast of singing actors, including Cheyenne Jackson as Tony and Alexandra Silber as Maria, present the first ever complete concert performances of Bernstein’s score for West Side Story. It’s a revelatory hit and the resulting SFS Media recording goes toe-to-toe with Broadway’s best for Best Musical Theater Album at the Grammys.

MTT with the West Side Story cast and crew, 2013
MTT conducts Bernstein’s West Side Story, 2013
Michael Tilson Thomas
MTT at the sound board during West Side Story rehearsal, 2013
MTT and Rita Moreno, West Side Story recording launch party
Anthony Tommasini, New York Times, July 9, 2014

Seaside Turmoil: Britten’s Peter Grimes

Over the years, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony have quietly made their case for consideration among the world’s elite opera orchestras. Semi-staged performances of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes, part of the San Francisco Symphony’s season-long Britten focus in 2013-14, offer further evidence. Bringing Britten’s tormented fisherman to life is the great Stuart Skelton, while the astounding supporting cast is led by Elza van den Heever as Ellen Orford and baritone Alan Opie as Captain Balstrode. The striking production, capping worldwide celebrations of Britten’s birth centennial, reunites MTT and the Orchestra with stage director James Darrah and video designer Adam Larsen. The result is a deeply human exploration of the complex psychological underpinnings of Britten’s work.

MTT conducts Peter Grimes, 2014
Soprano Elza van den Heever as Ellen Orford and tenor Stuart Skelton as Peter Grimes
MTT with Audra McDonald and Bonnie Raitt
 George Lucas, MTT, Steven Spielberg, and John Williams
MTT with Sakurako Fisher and Goretti Lui

Jacob Nissly (Principal Percussion)

Zosha Di Castri: Lineage
(West Coast premiere, San Francisco Symphony co-commission with the New World Symphony)

Gordon Getty: A Prayer for My Daughter
(World premiere)


2013–14 Tours

Pianist Jeremy Denk was soloist on the November 2013 National Tour.

New York, NY, Carnegie Hall
Urbana-Champaign, IL, Krannert Center
Ann Arbor, MI, Hill Auditorium, University of Michigan

The March 2014 European Tour saw the European premiere of John Adams’s Absolute Jest and also featured appearances from mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Julia Fischer.

Birmingham, United Kingdom, Symphony Hall
London, United Kingdom, Royal Festival Hall
Paris, France, Salle Pleyel
Geneva, Switzerland, Victoria Hall
Dortmund, Germany, Dortmund Konzerthaus
Luxembourg, Luxembourg, Luxembourg Philharmonie
Prague, Czech Republic, Smetana Hall
Vienna, Austria, Grosser Saal

Tune in to KDFC at 3pm daily for “MTT Time”—special concert broadcasts from each year of MTT’s historic tenure, featuring commentary from MTT himself.

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