The San Francisco Opera opened its 2018–19 season with its annual weekend of celebratory affairs, including two sold-out galas—Opera Ball 2018: ¡Viva La Noche!and the BRAVO! CLUB Opening Night Gala, one of the grandest and most opulent events in the city.
Opera aficionados enjoyed a double bill of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (or Cav/Pag), set in Argentina, which inspired the theme of the evening.
OPERA CHAIRS AND DIVAS
Opera Guild President Jane Mudge and Gala co-chairs Shannon Cronan and Kathy Huber, adorned in unique pieces crafted by official jewelry sponsor Shreve & Co. (established in 1852) welcomed the 700 attendees on a gold carpet at the Grove Street entrance of the War Memorial Opera House.
THE PROMENADE AND CHAMPAGNE RECEPTION
Kicking off each year’s opera season, the evening is one of the city’s—perhaps the planet’s—most glamorous and grand events. Some say it can hold its own against the Academy Awards red carpet parade.
Many arrived promptly at 5 for the cocktail reception in the grand foyer of the War Memorial Opera House, considering this part of the evening second only to the performance itself. When we got there at 5:30, we felt the excitement in the air.
THE FASHION PARADE THAT RIVALS ALL OTHERS
The colorful pageantry was lovely to behold. The gorgeous ladies and dashing gentlemen arrived in the most colorful, glamorous, and exotic styles to date. I noticed a profusion of bright red outfits and several whimsical headpieces, a nod to the Argentinian theme.
Many of the bejeweled women sparkled thanks to official jewelry sponsor Shreve & Co., established in San Francisco in 1852. Kudos to them for keeping the tradition going.
ARGENTINA PAVILION FOR DINNER
Guests lingering at the cocktail hour had to be cajoled into the pavilion adjacent to the Opera House when dinner was announced. Perhaps next year they should forego the sit-down dinner for a two-hour cocktail party (though we ladies might get tired standing in our stilettos!).
DINNER IS SERVED
THE TRADITIONAL WELCOME
The curtain at the Opera House rose at 8 p.m. for the three-hour performance, with one intermission. To be honest, I would have preferred a shorter opera for opening night.
It is customary for the performance to begin with the singing of our national anthem, and the presence of some very outstanding voices in the audience made it especially moving. When local politician Nancy Pelosi was acknowledged, the audience gave her a long, loud applause.
The night’s performance was a double bill of Pietro Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci (or Cav/Pag), a typical operatic tale of love lost, betrayal, and death, in this case involving rural villagers and members of a small theater troupe.
The opera is sung in Italian but set in Argentina. The gala’s theme was further inspired by Argentinian producer José Cura and Argentinian revival director Jose Maria Condemi. Conductor Maestro Daniele Callegari was one of several conductors debuting at the Opera this season after Music Director Nicola Luisotti departed last year.
After the last curtain call, patrons rushed back to the pavilion tent for the 11p.m. after-party to catch up with friends, dance, and enjoy the sweets and savories on the buffet table.
The dance floor was packed with dancers gyrating to the sounds of the band Pop Rocks. This year’s party seemed even more spirited than last, with guests staying until they closed it down.
In keeping with the Argentinian theme, a Tango Lounge was set up. With the atmosphere of a private VIP space, it was fringed with banquettes where guests could sip after-dinner drinks and watch tango dancers. The brave ones could put on their own performances, accompanied by the sultry music.
Photos by Drew Altizer and The San Francisco Opera.