That Week With the Backs cross

Presented by the Ghiberti Center for Culture at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco in collaboration with the Merola Opera Program

FEBRUARY 16-18, 2023

That Week with the Bachs November 19th to the 25th, 1731

an iPad-in-hand staged presentation of

A New Musical

seven days in seven scenes
during which seven members of the Bach family collaborate
to create the seven movements
the great Cantata 140

Music by: Johann Sebastian Bach
Book and Lyrics by: William Kinsolving

Vocal Arrangements by Bradley Greenwald

No, The Bachs' story doesn't have a murder in it like Mozart's does, but there is more than enough tragedy, triumph, comedy, romance -- and above all, music -- to make their story utterly compelling.

That Week with the Bachs

A musical about the Bachs.

A pivotal moment occurred to this star-crossed family. Bach had composed hundreds of cantatas in the 1720s -- cycles of them -- then went on to other things. Abruptly, in November, 1731, he urgently rushed to compose a new cantata. Why? That mystery leads to worlds of revelations about the family. The perfect way to tell the story of that amazing week is with a musical.

That Week With The Bachs Set Rendering - Eliot Curtis

The Story.

Johann Sebastian Bach

THAT WEEK WITH THE BACHS draws the family away from the strictures of historical awe to present their humanity as they face the complexities of life and of genius (or lack thereof).

Bach, 46, and second wife Anna Magdalena, 30, have eight children in their crowded apartment. Bach faces censure from his employers, obliviousness from the citizens of Leipzig, and undermining by the city authorities working to get rid of him. His eldest child, Catharina, 23, falls in love with a trumpet virtuoso. Bach’s eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, 21, covers his terror that he must be his father’s successor with a snobbish conceit. Carl Phillip Emanuel, 17, is frustrated at being overlooked as a composer. Bernhard, 16, sees no future for himself. These three older sons despise their young stepmother. Over all is the pall of infant death, Anna having lost four babies, with two more upstairs, mortally ill. The family confronts with dread Bach’s God-ruled urgency to compose a new cantata, a process they all hate. Even so, each day, a movement of the great Cantata 140 is crafted, each involving the family in startling revelations.

That Week with the Bachs November 19th to the 25th, 1731

Working closely with the astonishing people of the Ghiberti Center at Grace Cathedral, and with Debbie Chinn, our ever-prescient Creative Consultant, we put together all the production elements for our presentation in February: lights, sound, supertitle projections, 4-camera videography, a stage, a concert grand piano and a genuine side-pump organ! And wonder of wonders, the fine musical director Daniel Lockert came aboard with his keyboard prowess and baroque expertise. (See below) Three days of auditions resulted in a cast that any production would die for. Just listen to what's on their websites:

Philip Skinner

Johann Sebastian Bach

Skinner has a long association with San Francisco Opera, with over 380 performances in 55 productions there. He's sung Verdi at Carnegie Hall and Beethoven at the Hollywood Bowl, as well as performing major roles all over Europe.

Marnie Breckenridge

Anna Magdalena Bach

Marnie Breckenridge has won acclaim internationally for a repertoire running from the Baroque to the Modern. From Jake Heggie’s "To Hell and Back" co-staring with Patti LuPone, to being chosen by Loren Maazel for his many performances of "The Rape of Lucrecia," she has appeared in major roles at most great opera houses south of the Arctic Circle.

Taylor See

Catharina Bach

Taylor See is the winner of The Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition (2022), and the First Place winner of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) Concerto Competition (2022).

Simon Barrad

Plays coffee-house entrepreneur Zimmerman, Rector Steiger, student Krebs, and trumpet virtuoso Reiche

A Grammy-nominated baritone, Barrad's recent performance highlights include debuts at Wigmore Hall in London, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, and Pacific Opera Project in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Smucker

Johann Gottfried Bernhard Bach
also plays Georg Philipp Telemann, Bach’s best friend

Jonathan Smucker has excelled in singing everything from musical comedy to the baroque. He is currently with the San Francisco Opera.

Kevin Gino

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
also plays Chancellor Weiss of the City Council

From Verdi to Mozart to Bizet, Gino's startlingly true tenor has shaken the foundations of opera houses where he has performed throughout the Bay Area.

Chung-Wai Soong

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach also plays Picander, Bach’s favorite librettist

Chung-Wai has been a soloist in the Requiems of Fauré, Mozart, and Dvořák, and made his solo debut with the San Francisco Symphony. A bass in great demand, he also runs The Pocket Opera Company in San Francisco.

Frederica von Stade

The Narrator

Internationally renowned and beloved throughout her continually astonishing career, von Stade defies any attempt to define her resplendent art, her effervescent charm, and her devoted philanthropy in this space.

Daniel Lockert

Musical Director

"As a soloist or collaborator, Daniel Lockert is equally versatile on the piano, organ and harpsichord. His chamber music performances have included appearances with the Alexander String Quartet, cellist Gary Hoffman and Brazilian jazz singer Luciana Sousa. He has been the musical director for many shows and theatrical productions, including I Do! I Do!, Fiddler on the Roof, Side by Side by Sondheim, You’re Gonna Love Tomorrow, Company, Into the Woods (twice), and the Light in the Piazza. In his role as coach and teacher, he has been on the staffs and faculties of the Juilliard School, the San Francisco Opera, Opera San Jose, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Chapman College, Oakland University, Cal State East Bay and the Aspen Music Festival."

About the musical's originator

William Kinsolving​

William Kinsolving sang Bach from the time he was six in a lot of choirs. When he was in drama school in London, he wangled his way into a chorale performance of St. Matthew Passion in Royal Festival Hall. He subsequently performed in a lot of musicals and a lot of nightclubs.

As a writer, he's published five novels (one a NYTimes best seller), wrote, adapted, and/or doctored some 54 screenplays for every major studio in Hollywood. And he writes plays, one that won him a Ford Foundation Playwriting Grant and was produced by the Shakespeare Festival in Canada.

Ticket Information

Thinking ahead, you can buy your tickets now!

click on the date for tickets

The Future

Rehearsals begin on February 1st, the iPad-in-hand staged presentations will be in Grace Cathedral's great nave, with opening night on February 16th, video night on the 17th, and 2 presentations on the 18th. Evening performances are at 7:30 PM, with the matinee at 2 PM.

It will be an event to be remembered, so it becomes absolutely necessary for you to be there! Yes, of course, if fate is kind, you may very well see a full production in the future in one or another venue anywhere in the world! But this is the first big step, and always the most fun. And what better place to be than San Francisco in February?!!

That Week with the Bachs November 19th to the 25th, 1731
That Week With the Backs cross