Gala Dinner Honors Franklin ‘Pitch’ Johnson on Opera Stage

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Dinner on the opera stage
Dinner on the opera stage

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

On December 5, the San Francisco Opera Guild presented An Evening on the Stage 2016 at the majestic War Memorial Opera House and honored Franklin P. “Pitch” Johnson Jr., the legendary venture capitalist, for his lifetime dedication to the community and for 50-plus years of service to the opera.

Inside the opera, Pitch is best known as chairman of the San Francisco Opera Association from 1999 to 2008. As an honoree, he follows in the footsteps of previous illustrious honorees Charlotte Shultz, Dede Wilsey, and Gordon Getty.

Cathie Johnson and Pitch Johnson
Cathie Johnson and Pitch Johnson

Photo Credit: Ando Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography

The evening was my fourth year attending this gala dinner and serving on the host committee, and this event has become my favorite—I love the special venue, the intimate ambiance, and the fact that the crowd is not huge. Some 200 SF Opera patrons dined right on the opera stage, which was transformed into a elegant, flower-filled dining platform designed by Riccardo Benavides Event Styling.

The band Notorious provided live music for dancing, a pair of opera singers performed a gorgeous duet from Aida, and Stanford cheerleaders danced—all contributing to the festiveness of the evening. Hosted by Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock and cochairs Kathy Huber and Teresa Medearis, the dinner, a study in elegance, consisted of citrus-cured salmon, filet of beef aux morels, and a chocolate box with peppermint chocolate mousse prepared by Dan McCall Catering.

Mary Poland, Bill Poland and Olivia Hsu Decker
Mary Poland, Bill Poland and Olivia Hsu Decker

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

Among the notable guests were  major SF Opera donor and philanthropist Dede Wilsey; SF Opera Board Chairman John Gunn; the evening’s honoree, Pitch Johnson, and his wife, Cathie; President of BNY/Mellon Wealth Management Amy Millman; and leading Bay Area investor Paul Pelosi, husband of Nancy Pelosi, who was detained in Washington, D.C., following her recent victory for another term as minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives.

The proceeds from the night went to opera education and outreach programs that bring opera center stage into the life of the community and Northern California schools. This special evening was made possible through the generosity of presenting sponsor Neiman Marcus Union Square and several supporting sponsors: Amgen; Jurika, Mills & Keifer; Private Wealth Management; and TriplePoint Capital.

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