San Francisco Social Diary: San Francisco Opera Celebrates its 90th Opening 2012

The champagne reception in the grand foyer of the opera house.


With the traditional opening night gala in September, the San Francisco Opera kicked off its 90th anniversary year and the city’s philanthropic social season. This night rates as one of the grandest opening evenings in the world and one not to be missed by those who love opera, theater, and glamour.

More than 3,000 opera aficionados showed up at the Beaux-Arts War Memorial Opera House (1931) for the performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

A lucky 850 fans also attended private festivities, a true test of party-going stamina: a Champagne reception in the Opera House foyer at 5 p.m., the Notte di Splendore (“Night of Splendor”) themed dinner at 6, the opera at 8, and a post-performance bash, a theatrical evening that went on until the wee hours.

Sculptures by Jun Kaneko welcomed patrons to the War Memorial Opera House.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Opera Opening 2010

Opening Night of the San Francisco Opera is always grand, and this year’s Aida was especially so. Egyptians “gods” greeted bejeweled and begowned guests for the Opera Gala dinners at City Hall.


Drama and intrigue, a fascinating and attractive cast of characters, a spectacular setting, and breathtaking costumes: the opening night of the San Francisco Opera’s 88th season had it all. And there was more of it onstage—plus singing!

Opera General Director David Gockley and Musical Director Nicola Luisotti’s pull-out-the-stops production of Verdi’s Aida was matched in crowd appeal and sheer excitement by the evening’s festivities: the Opera Guild Ball and the Bravo! Club Gala for the younger set at City Hall.

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San Francisco Social Diary: The Premier of The Bonesetter’s Daughter

The Bonesetter’s Daughter premieres at San Francisco Opera House.

The Premier of The Bonesetter’s Daughter Opera at the San Francisco Opera House

The San Francisco Opera (SFO) presented the world premiere of The Bonesetter’s Daughter, a new American opera adapted from Amy Tan’s novel of the same name, last fall.

Amy Tan, author and librettist of The Bonesetter’s Daughter.

Tan, the Bay Area author best known for her novels The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife, also wrote the libretto.

A weaving of the past and present, The Bonesetter’s Daughter is the story of three generations of women whose lives span 1930s China, modern day San Francisco, as well as the Chinese spirit world.

Stewart Wallace (Harvey Milk) composed the score, drawing inspiration from the novel’s Chinese roots. Steven Sloane conducted the orchestra.

The cast included Chinese mezzo-soprano Ning Liang as LuLing Liu Young, making her SFO debut. Mezzo-soprano Zheng Cao (The Peony Pavilion) sang the role of Ruth Young Kamen; Kunju singer Qian Yi (acclaimed by The New York Times Magazine as “China’s reigning opera princess”) was Precious Auntie; and bass Hao Jiang Tian resonated as Chang the Coffinmaker (his recent autobiography is Along the Roaring River).

Chinese-born, New York-based director Chen Shi-Zheng (The Peony Pavilion and Monkey: Journey to the West) energized the staging with dramatic multimedia visual displays, while the Dalian Acrobatic Troupe defied gravity.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 86th Opera Gala Opening

Opening Night at the Opera.


If there was an unofficial theme to the San Francisco Opera’s season opening it was surely glam, glam, glam. There were numerous reasons to celebrate, all of which seemed to inspire guests to glam it up.

First, there was an entire weekend of events: the Opera Guild’s Opera Ball and Bravo! Club’s Opening Night Gala on Friday, followed by the annual Opera in Park (Golden Gate Park) on Sunday.

Cynthia and John Gunn.

Second, was the announcement one week later that devotees John A. and Cynthia Gunn donated more than $40 million to the Opera—the largest single gift in the Opera’s 85-year history.

By comparison, the largest individual gift to New York’s Metropolitan Opera was $25 million from billionaires Sid and Mercedes Bass in 2006.

The SF Opera’s gala is a perennial sellout; the War Memorial Opera House seats 3,000, which says a lot about the city’s passion for the art form.

Such a grand occasion tends to bring back old world glamour and the ladies went all out with jewels, up-dos and ball gowns. A few of the men even waxed nostalgic, donning traditional white tie. I must say, they looked dashing.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 85th Opera Opening Night

Grand foyer of the War Memorial Opera House.


Each September, the divas of San Francisco society flock to the San Francisco Opera opening night to launch the social season.

Over 3,000 devotees sold-out the black-tie event! SFer’s take the dress code seriously – even some top hats came out of hiding – while ladies raided local designers for gowns and safe deposit boxes for jewels.

The gala ushered in a new era with General Director David Gockley’s first full season.

He personally welcomed each patron to the pre-performance cocktail reception in the Delilah Courtyard next to War Memorial Opera House.

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San Francisco Social Diary: A Trio of Openings

View from Presidio Heights near Swig home.


Some fortunate San Francisco Opera patrons got a sneak peak at the new American opera, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, at the home of art patron Roselyn Swig. Based on Amy Tan’s bestseller, this bold opus will premier in the fall of 2008.

At NY’s Asia Society Fall performance: Amy Tan and Stewart Wallace.

Catalyst and producer of the project is Shanghai-born Sarina Tang, who manages to keep in constant motion as she jets between her homes in New York, Italy, and Hong Kong for her many art related projects.

How did all this come about? Well, Sarina and Amy are long-time friends from their days at Yaddo, the well-known artists’ retreat in Saratoga Springs, NY.

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San Francisco Social Diary: San Francisco Opera’s 83rd Opening Night

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.

San Francisco’s fall season debuted on a high note with opening nights of both the SF Opera and SF Symphony in the same week! Summer travelers were drawn back to the city — like moths to a flame — with the greatest of expectations, and they weren’t disappointed.

The San Francisco Opera opened its 83rd season with Gioachino Antonio Rossini’s comedy The Italian Girl in Algiers. The production was staged in the magnificent 1932 ‘Beaux-Arts’ War Memorial Opera House, designed by Arthur Brown, Jr. (Coit Tower and City Hall, too), and seats about 3,000 people.

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