San Francisco Opera Salutes David Gockley

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David Gockley and Prisca and Keith Gesslin.
David Gockley and Prisca and Keith Gesslin.

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Last week, SF’s classical music lovers gathered to celebrate the San Francisco Opera’s retiring general director David Gockley. 450 chicly dressed guests assembled at the newly built Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera for cocktails. The Wilsey Center for Opera, which is in the Beaux Arts-style Veterans Building that is adjacent to the War Memorial Opera House, was one of Gockley’s most important projects during his 10-year tenure as director at the Opera. “Creating this wonderful asset will be our generation’s most important legacy for the Company and the Bay Area community,” Gockley told Haute Living. “For many years, I’ve wanted to consolidate San Francisco Opera’s diverse activities, which have been located in seven different locations throughout the city, and bring them together on the War Memorial campus. With the Wilsey Center for Opera, we’ll be able to realize much of this goal and create greater operational efficiencies and convenience for our artists, employees and public.”

Dede Wilsey and Lynn Wyatt.
Dede Wilsey and Lynn Wyatt.

Photo Credit: Drew Atlizer

At the champagne reception, main benefactor Dede Wilsey mingled with Houston’s grand dame, Lynn Wyatt, who flew in for the event. Gockley cemented his reputation as one of the world’s leading opera directors during his three decade run with the Houston Grand Opera, where he befriended Wyatt. Other notable Texas natives in attendance included Terrylin Neale, the senior chairman of Houston Grand Opera, longtime patrons Bobbie-Vee and Gerald Cooney, and composer Carlisle Floyd. Amy Tan, Trent Norris, Jack Calhoun, Charlot Malin, Karen Richardson, and Charlotte and George Shultz were some of the locals who came out to show their support for Gockley. The guests filed into the main theater for the three-hour “Celebrating David!” extravaganza that featured performances by opera favorites Renée Fleming, Nadine Sierra, Michael Fabiano, and Sasha Cooke. The tribute show highlighted some seminal operas from David’s career such as Porgy and Bess, The Trojans, Nixon in China, and Ring.

Matthew Shilvock, who is taking over Gockley's role at the opera, and his wife, Kate.
Matthew Shilvock, who is taking over Gockley’s role at the opera, and his wife, Kate.

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

A lavish late night dinner followed and as the evening wound down Gockley took to the stage, with a standing ovation, to give a heartfelt thanks to his supporters. “I am the luckiest, most grateful person I know,” he said. The exciting news of the evening was an announcement from SF Opera’s association president, Keith Geeslin. Stating that “great impresarios never truly retire,” Geeslin told the audience that Gockley has accepted the title of general director emeritus, the position is the first of its kind in the opera’s history.

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