San Francisco Social Diary: 13th Annual Festival Napa Valley Opening Weekend, Part I

Festival Napa Valley celebrated its 13th season with a record number of performances, including a spectacular light and music show during the opening Founders Dinner.


Festival Napa Valley recently “uncorked” its 13th season. I made my annual summer pilgrimage, one of a delighted 10,000 attendees who enjoyed wine, food, and cultural events over ten days at a multitude of venues throughout the Valley’s Wine Country.

A dazzling roster of musicians and singers participated in an unprecedented 70 spectacular classical music, opera, and jazz performances, and the region’s top vintners and chefs hosted intimate food and wine events.

The internationally recognized Festival Napa Valley gets better and more popular each year, with waiting lists for many of the 2018 programs. Bravo to all involved!

Napa Valley is considered one of the top viticultural areas in both California and the entire United States, with a history dating back to the early nineteenth century.

In Napa Valley, more than 400 wineries grow numerous grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, and zinfandel, among other popular varietals.

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San Francisco Social Diary: SFMOMA Modern Ball 2018

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s second biannual “Modern Ball,” after reopening in 2016, was a hugely successful bash.


The biannual Modern Ball at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA)—always high on my must-attend list—was once again a spectacular event, this year raising $4 million for education and exhibition programs, including free admission for all visitors under age 18.

The new SFMOMA Snøhetta-designed building (2016) is visible behind the original red-brick Mario Botta-designed structure (1995).

Some 2,000 reveler-supporters came to have a ball at the ball—a fabulous, international, festively attired mix of all ages and types: VIPs, museum dignitaries, directors, and curators; artists, designers, and gallerists; collectors and art lovers; techies; and the old guard and the new.

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San Francisco Social Diary: The SF Opera Opening Ball

Artist David Hockney designed stunning sets for Turandot, kicking off the San Francisco Opera’s 95th season and its Opening Night Gala.


At the 2017 San Francisco Opera Opening Ball, one of the West Coast’s premiere philanthropic evenings, more than 3,000 opera fans enjoyed a champagne promenade, dinner in an “Imperial Palace,” a performance of Puccini’s Chinese-themed Turandot, and a hopping after-party.

The Ball kicked off the 95th season of the SF Opera and the last season for which Maestro Nicola Luisotti will be company music director.

Though he’s leaving the SF Opera, Maestro Luisotti will return for future engagements as a guest conductor.

Opera Guild President Jane Mudge and Event Chairs Courtney Labe and Maryam Muduroglu hosted the Ball, along with Honorary Chairs John and Cynthia Gunn and Diane Wilsey. Alex Petalas and Victoria Weatherford co-chaired the BRAVO! Gala (for the younger set).

Opera Ball Co-Chair Courtney Labe (in Lily Samii), Opera Guild President Jane Mudge (in Marchesa), and Opera Ball Co-Chair Maryam Muduroglu (in Lily Samii).

Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock (wearing a vintage Armani suit from a SF Opera production of Lulu), Kate Shilvock (in Lily Samii), fashion designer Lily Samii, Rita Simonini, former General Director David Gockley, Linda Kemper, and Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

BRAVO! Board members Anjali Menon, Laurie Diab, Kari Coomans, Alex Jakle, Shannon Eliot, Xanadu Bruggers, Victoria Weatherford, Laura Della Guardia, Alexander Petalas, Katie Bryant, Susan Walker, Leah Fine, Rachel Lem, Aris Damji, and Nicole Jiam.

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San Francisco Social Diary: More Art Celebrations in The City by The Bay

Among San Francisco’s recent artistic events: the de Young Museum’s “Summer of Love” exhibition opening, kicking off a months-long celebration of the summer of 1967.

San Francisco’s de Young Museum seemed to be in a “flowers-in-your-hair” mood with a pair of exuberant parties, including a French garden motif for its annual “Bouquets to Art” launch, and a Bohemian-chic dress code for the opening preview of the museum’s “Summer of Love” 50-year anniversary.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Art Celebrations in the City by the Bay

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art celebrated with a Birthday Bash that featured Grammy-winning singer Solange Knowles.


Over 2,000 revelers showed up at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) to celebrate the first-year anniversary of its expansion with a lavish Birthday Bash night, which brought the art and tech worlds together.

The bang-up Birthday Bash included an installation by artist Judy Chicago, an actual tattoo parlor, and live performances by Helado Negro and Les Twins. The night ended with a Late-Night Bash with opening act Lil Buck followed by a headline performance by Grammy Award-winning artist Solange Knowles.

Asked to dress in monochromatic outfits, guests complied, adding to the spirit of this colorful, fun, and spectacular 7-hour celebration.

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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.

Décor 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: Winter Social Events

The grand opening of the Manetti Shrem Museum of Art was among the dazzling events I attended in the Bay Area this winter.

Three fabulous events bedazzled San Francisco this winter: Attilio Codognato’s extraordinary jewels went on display at the Sorokko Gallery, the much-anticipated Manetti Shrem Museum had a gala opening celebration, and Shreve & Company moved to a shiny new flagship store. And I have first-hand reports on all of them!

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San Francisco Social Diary: 94th Annual San Francisco Opera Gala

For its 94th season, San Francisco Opera’s annual gala featured a French theme to match its opening show Andrea Chénier, including lighting up City Hall like the French flag.


The San Francisco event you absolutely don’t want to miss is the annual Opera opening night gala in September, a thrilling kickoff for the philanthropic, social, and cultural season. I’ve seen many grand events in cities around the world — and none outclass this one.

In 2016, as always, opera aficionados packed the house, and the audience — bejeweled, begowned, and betuxed (if there isn’t such a word, there should be) — put on a show that for style and beauty was equal to the fabulous performance we saw onstage.

The season began with Italian composer Umberto Giordano’s Andrea Chénier. Musical Director Nicola Luisotti and Director David McVicar led an international roster of performers in the story of a tragic love triangle based loosely on events of the French Revolution.

The beaux arts San Francisco City Hall was built in 1915, with fellow beaux arts masterpiece the Opera House built across the street only 17 years later.

The stunning work by set designer Robert Jones and costumer Jenny Tiramani gave the performance a sense of grandeur and luxury reflective of pre-revolution France.

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San Francisco Social Diary: The First Lady of Napa

The Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, Napa Valley. The late vintners and philanthropists Margrit and Robert Mondavi were instrumental in transforming Napa Valley into a wine, food, and culture mecca.

NAPA VALLEY – “SALUTE, SANTE, CHEERS, MARGRIT! Tonight we raise our glass to you!” read the invitation from Festival Napa Valley, for a tribute to Margrit Biever Mondavi this past July.

The 91-year-old widow of vintner Robert Mondavi, who is credited with putting California wines on the world map, Margrit was honored for her more than four decades of dedicated work to help fine art, music, food, and wine flourish in the California wine country.

I flew in for the occasion to be with my dear friend, knowing she had been ill and fearing this Festival might be her last. Indeed, just weeks later, on September 2, Margrit’s remarkable life came to an end.

Though each of the ten evening events at Festival 2016 was extraordinary, the one honoring Margrit at the Far Niente Winery was to me the most extraordinary of all.

Margrit Mondavi, one of Napa’s most revered and influential figures, showcased fine food and wine, and encouraged and supported great vintners, chefs, artists, and musicians.

Robert and Margrit Mondavi celebrated his 90th birthday in June 2003, five years before he passed away. During their 28-year marriage, they traveled the world to promote California wines.

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San Francisco Social Diary: An Art Bash at Stonescape in Napa Valley

Norah and Norman Stone’s art-filled Napa Valley country estate, “Stonescape,” features artist James Turrell’s Stone Sky, which comprises an infinity pool, pavilion, and one of his signature “Skyspaces.”


One of the most creative and buzz-worthy events of the Bay Area summer “high season” is the biennial fete hosted by art collectors and philanthropists Norah and Norman Stone.

The party takes place at Stonescape, their country estate and retreat at the far northern end of the Napa Valley, near the Calistoga hot springs resort founded in the 1860s.

Norah and Norman Stone host a biennial summer art bash—which this year coincided with their 30th anniversary celebration—at their Calistoga country estate.

Every few years, the Stones curate a new show from their internationally acclaimed collection of modern and contemporary works and exhibit it in a unique gallery—an “art cave” excavated into the hillside of their Calistoga estate.

The private show, entitled “Convergence,” was exhibited in the Stonescape art cave, labelled a “must-see art museum opened by collectors” by gallerist Jeffrey Deitch.

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