Venue Details

256 Star Starred
War Memorial Opera House
301 Van Ness Ave. San Francisco, CA 94102
Venue website Get directions
11 events
3 reviews
4 stars
Parking isn't too hard to find nor too expensive if you go to a night show. However matinee take public transit!
star this tip starred
7 events
3 reviews
6 stars
View all 194 tips

Reviews & Ratings

"Le Grand Macabre"
29 ratings
3.4 average rating
  • 4
  • 13
  • 7
  • 0
  • 5
More Information

Quotes & Highlights

“Mr. Ligeti’s music offers an arresting mix of grating harmonies, raspy singing and modernistic bedlam, periodically interrupted by disarming stretches of ethereal orchestral ruminations and wistfully alluring lyricism. … I can’t wait.” —New York Times


The Buzz: Consider this opera an adventure. As part of Animating Opera series, Seminal Works of Modern Times, Le Grand Macabre is a unique chance to hear a symphony of car horns – and to marvel over the velvety voice of Willard White (most recently praised for his commanding portrayal of Saint Francis), who was called “first-rate” for his Nekrotzar in Salzburg.

The Spark: In 1974 Ligeti set out to write an “anti-opera” but found himself reinventing operatic traditions in his depiction of a land on the verge of an apocalypse.

The Story: Nekrotzar ascends from the graveyard in the form of the Grim Reaper and along with the drunkard and the astrologer proceeds to the court of Prince Go-Go. A series of disjointed scenes raises the question of whether they have witnessed the apocalypse or whether it has all been a great farce.

The Stage: Hailing from Copenhagen, this vibrantly colorful staging, set in a contemporary city by designer Steffen Aarfing, artfully and provocatively shows that sometimes the only way to grapple with the fear of death is by using the absurd.

The Score: Encompassing a collage of sonorities ranging from an ensemble of urban sounds to snippets of manipulated Beethoven, Rossini and Verdi, Ligeti takes listening to the next level.


Piet The Pot Graham Clark

Amando Sara Fulgoni

Amanda Anne-Sophie Duprels

Nekrotzar Willard White

Astradamors Clive Bayley*

Mescalina Susanne Resmark*

Venus/Gepopo Caroline Stein*

Prince Go-Go Gerald Thompson*

White Politician John Duykers

Black Politician Joshua Bloom


Conductor Michael Boder

Director Kasper Holten*

Production Designer Steffen Aarfing*

Lighting Designer Jesper Kongshaug*

Chorus Director Ian Robertson

Sound Designer Roger Gans

  • San Francisco Opera debut

Cast, programs and schedules are subject to change

Approximate Running Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Sung in English with English Supertitles

Production by Royal Danish Opera

About the Ticket Supplier: San Francisco Opera

A leader among international opera companies for nine decades, San Francisco Opera was founded in 1923 by Gaetano Merola (1881–1953). Merola and his successor as general director, Kurt Herbert Adler, established a formidable institution heralded for its first-rate productions and roster of international opera stars. The landmark War Memorial Opera House has been the Company’s home since October 15, 1932.

After Adler’s tenure, the Company was led by Terence A. McEwen (1982–1988), Lotfi Mansouri (1988–2001), and Pamela Rosenberg (2001–2005). In January 2006 David Gockley became the Opera’s sixth general director after more than 30 years at the helm of Houston Grand Opera. That May, Gockley took opera to the center of the community with a free outdoor simulcast of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Subsequent simulcasts, including nine at AT&T Park, have collectively drawn nearly 200,000 opera fans. Created in 2007 the Koret-Taube Media Suite has enabled the Company to produce simulcasts and other projects including OperaVision (screens providing HD close-up shots for patrons in balcony seats), the Grand Opera Cinema Series in theaters and performing arts centers, an annual series of KQED telecasts and releases of DVDs and Blu-Rays of recent performances. Regular San Francisco Opera radio broadcasts returned to national and international airwaves in 2007.

Italian conductor Nicola Luisotti, one of the opera world’s most exciting conductors, has been music director since the fall of 2009.