San Francisco Ballet Celebrates its 90th Anniversary

The 2023 San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala celebrated the Company’s 90th anniversary and the next@90 festival.

The Opening Night Gala of the San Francisco Ballet traditionally kicks off the winter social season. Founded in 1933, it is America’s oldest professional ballet company. In a nod to its nine-decade history, the theme of the evening was next@90…the future starts now.

The SF Ballet boasts a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts”—among them the American debut performances of Swan Lake, Nutcracker, and Coppélia.

During the Champagne reception in the foyer, The War Memorial Opera House was packed wall to wall with balletomanes strolling among friends.

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The San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 89th season in 2022 with the first in-person season gala since the Covid-19 pandemic began. Called “La Grande Fête,” the event honored Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson.

After a two-year hiatus, more than 3,000 patrons packed the sold-out San Francisco Opera House to attend “La Grande Fête,” as the evening was called. Once again, the gala upheld its reputation as one of the city’s most fashionable and magical evenings.

The evening grossed over $3.3 million, a record in the Company’s 89-year history and an astounding achievement.

The evening was held at the War Memorial Opera House.

The sold-out gala began with a Champagne reception in the foyer of the War Memorial Opera House before the performance.

Parisian-inspired floral displays designed by J. Riccardo Benavides embellished the lobby of the opera house.

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San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala

The San Francisco Ballet’s Opening Night Gala was a magical evening of brilliant performances plus socializing, dining, and dancing.

The theme of the San Francisco Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala and performance was “Spellbound” — inspired by the magical, fairy tale-like elements of its 87th season program, which includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella.

The gala celebrated Helgi Tomasson’s record-breaking 35th year as artistic director and principal choreographer. The company also welcomed new Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale and principal dancer Vitor Luiz made his final appearance.

The “Spellbound” theme was reflected in City Hall’s glittering décor.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Winter Art Events

San Francisco’s winter social season was in full swing with a glamorous pair of artistic events—a passionate Ballet Opening Night Gala and the FOG Design+Art Fair.

The San Francisco Ballet’s 86th Season debuted with the 2019 Opening Night Gala and Performance with the theme “This is Passion”—and the décor, the ballet attendees, and the performances all surpassed that lofty exclamation.

The most successful opening night gala in the company’s history, a sold-out crowd of 1,000 ballet patrons for the gala dinner (plus 3,000 at the performance and 2,100 at the after-party) broke a new record of raising $3 million.

This year’s chairs outdid themselves: Gala Chair Claire Stewart Kostic, Dinner Chair Lydia Bergman, Décor Chair Donna Bachle, and Honorary Chairs Kelsey and David Lamond.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Winter Art Events

San Francisco’s winter social season was in full swing with a glamorous pair of artistic events—a “celestial” Ballet Gala and the FOG Design+Art Fair.


Befitting the “Celestial” theme of the 2018 San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala, the ladies’ gowns sparkled, the décor set the room aglow, and the performance by the world-class SF Ballet dancers was heavenly.

It was all a spectacular success under the leadership of Gala Chair Kathryn A. Huber, Gala Dinner Chair Betsy Linder, DĂ©cor Chair Catherine Bergstrom, and Honorary Chairs Christine Russell and Mark Schlesinger.

Gala Committee members Jane Gazzola, Laura Miller, Pamela Bradley Preston, Rada Brooks, Andi Valo Espina, Lori Harmon, Catherine Bergstrom, Monica Moscoso, Kathy Huber, Claire Kostic, Betsy Linder, Ali Siever, Pam Zaragoza, Christine Desanze, Carolyn Koenig, and V’Anne Singleton.

SF Ballet General Manager Debra Bernard, Gala Chair Kathy Huber, SF Ballet Board Chair Carl Pascarella, and Yurie Pascarella.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 2017 San Francisco Ballet Gala

Thousands of guests attended the SF Ballet Opening Night Gala that included a magical performance by the dancers and musicians.


The San Francisco Ballet launched its 2017 season with the sold-out “Ever Magical”-themed Opening Night Gala. It raised a record-setting $2.9 million and drew a record setting-attendance of more than 1,300 guests for the Gala and more than 2,400 at the after-party.

What impressed me most this year was the number of attractive and beautifully dressed younger fans in the crowd. Charitable organizations are puzzling over how to entice the young people to be involved with the arts, and the SF Ballet seems to have found the way.

SF Ballet Auxiliary: Margaret Mitchell, Lori Harmon, Michelle Harris, Maria Hemphill, Brenda Leff, Rene Rodman, Claire Kostic, Blanca Aguirre, Ave Seltsam, Catherine Bergstrom, Monika Moscoso, Meg Ray, Debra Leylegian, Patricia Ferrin Loucks, Trecia Knapp, Rhonda Maehndroo, Jennie Golde.

DĂ©cor Chair Claire Kostic, Event Chair Ave Seltsam, and Dinner Chair Meg Ray.

Yurie Pascarella, in Marchesa, with Board of Trustees Chair Carl F. Pascarella.

The black-tie gala drew over 1,300 balletomanes from the Bay Area.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley, Part II

The 2016 Festival Napa Valley is coming up in July, celebrating music, performance, food, and wine, at stunning venues.


Festival Napa Valley, one of America’s premiere summer destination events, will offer a dazzling roster of cultural and culinary attractions from July 15-24, 2016, its eleventh year. Eminent classical, opera, jazz, and dance artists will perform, and intimate food and wine affairs will be hosted by the region’s top vintners.

Over the years, the Festival has introduced me, along with other visitors, to many artists, local vintners, and wineries that aren’t on the tourist route maps, which has given me an insider’s view of the California wine country lifestyle. If you want to share this experience, have a terrific time, and meet the locals, this is the way to go. Put it on your calendar for this year (and next, as well!).

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San Francisco Social Diary: The San Francisco Ballet & FOG Design + Art Fair

The San Francisco Ballet Opening Gala kicked off the winter 2016 social season with a dazzling selection of performances.


The San Francisco Ballet’s 2016 Opening Night Gala performance brought its theme, “Provocative,” to life! Balletomanes filled the War Memorial Opera House to see the company deemed “a national treasure” by the The New York Times.

This year’s chairs included Auxiliary Gala Chair Jennifer Brandenburg, Gala Dinner Chair Christine Leong Connors, and Décor Chair Rhonda Mahendroo, as well as Honorary Chairs Barbro and Bernard Osher.

The Gala was the first event of the current season, which includes three acclaimed full-length productions as well as a wide variety of world premieres and works by choreographers such as Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the prestigious SF Ballet Orchestra, considered one of the best ballet orchestras in the country.

Members of the SF Ballet Gala committee.

More members of the SF Ballet Gala committee.

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San Francisco Social Diary: San Francisco’s Winter Social Season 2014

San Francisco kicked off the winter 2014 social season with a collection of events, including the dazzling and completely sold-out SF Ballet opening gala.

Deciding to winter in San Francisco turned out to be a brilliant choice. New York City has suffered through record cold and snow, while San Francisco experienced an uncharacteristically warm and dry January. The social season was heated here, too, as you’ll see from the following reports.


The San Francisco Ballet’s 2014 Opening Night Gala performance on January 21 brought its theme, “Phenomenal,” to life! A record 3,200 balletomanes filled the War Memorial Opera House to see the company deemed “a national treasure” by the The New York Times when it appeared at Lincoln Center last fall.

The chairs of this wildly successful event included Auxiliary Gala Chair Tanya Marietta Powell, Gala Dinner Chair Patricia Ferrin Loucks, and DĂ©cor Chair Shelley Gordon, along with Richard Barker as Honorary Chair.

The evening’s glamour quotient could not have been higher. The ladies dazzled, gowned in rich jewel tones and many also adorned with Bulgari baubles in support of the jewelry house that underwrote the launch party. (Not hard to muster enthusiasm for this show of support!)

Ballet Gala committee members Marie Hurabiell, Shelley Gordon, Alison Mauze, Suzanne Thornton, Patricia Ferrin Loucks, Richard Barker, Tanya Powell, Betsy Linder, Cathy Goodman, Debra Taylor, and Judy Anderson.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Festival del Sole – Napa Valley Part III

In 2013, the annual Festival del Sole once again drew artists and audiences to the Napa Valley with unique venues and a tradition of vintner hospitality.


The annual ten-day Festival del Sole celebrates the fine arts in life, including music, dance, visual art, culinary arts, and wine making, with spectacular events held throughout the Napa Valley.

Part I and Part II of my coverage describe some of the food, music, and wine events. The story continues:


Credit Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi and Tatiana and Gerret Copeland with the clever idea of highlighting the culture of two great dynasties, Persia and Russia, to create one of the most exotic of the Festival’s parties.

The lavish experience took place against the stunning architectural backdrop of the Darioush Winery. Its founder, Darioush Khaledi, was raised in the Shiraz region of Iran, and the building evokes the ancient city of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of Iran (formerly Persia) from 550–330 BCE.

The entrance of the Darioush Winery, built of Persian straw travertine stone, is flanked by 18-foot columns topped with depictions of bulls.

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