Inside The San Francisco Symphony’s Stunning Opening Gala

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Itzhak Perlman
Itzhak Perlman

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

On Wednesday afternoon at FaceWest makeup salon in the Marina, there was a palpable excitement in the air. Three makeup artists and one hair stylist were hard at work beautifying four females for the thrilling night to come—the opening of the San Francisco Symphony (SFS). The sold-out event is the official start to the whirlwind fall season, a time when SF’s socialites come out in full force. Although 2018 marks the 107th year of the SFS, the gala ushered in a new era of inclusivity for the orchestra. For the first time, the event was chaired by a gay male couple, James Hormel and Michael Nguyen-Hormel. The exciting evening was the Symphony’s coming out party.

Atmosphere at City Hall
Atmosphere at City Hall

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

The festivities started promptly at 5 p.m. when 1525 revelers descended on the corner of Van Ness and Hayes Streets. SFS hosts four different pre-performance dinners. The most exclusive one, the Patrons’ Dinner, takes place in a tent adjacent to Davies Symphony Hall. An intimate dinner for 50 select guests occurs in the Wattis Room, while two other options, the Symphony Supper and Symphonix Dinner, happen in City Hall. Blueprint Studios handled the decor for all aspects of the evening. City Hall was awash in gold and white with touches of pretty pale pink. A thick white carpet covered the grand staircase and made a popular spot for snapping Instagram selfies.

Michael Nguyen-Hormel and James Hormel
Michael Nguyen-Hormel and James Hormel

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

After a cocktail reception where martinis were flowing like water and countless champagne bottles were popped, the guests sat down to a multi-course meal prepared by McCalls Catering. The Symphonix Dinner included a light little gem salad with strawberries, manchego, and Marcona almonds and elegant saffron and leek crusted salmon with horseradish potato puree. For dessert? A delicious chocolate raspberry pillow with chocolate nougat wafer and fresh raspberries.

Michael Tilson Thomas
Michael Tilson Thomas

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Then came the real fun: the parade from City Hall to Davies for the show! To begin, SFS music director and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas asked guests to rise and sing the National Anthem. The performance that followed, featuring world-renowned violinist, Itzhak Perlman, was moving and passionate. Perlman’s rendition of the theme from Schindler’s List brought tears to the eyes of many a guest while his love them from Cinema Paradiso was heartwarming and lively.

Sonya Molodetskaya
Sonya Molodetskaya

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

After the party, guests headed to a tent adjacent to the building for a dance party and snacks from Hayes Valley restaurants. The donut wall was the hottest place to be at the party. Notables who relished the revelry included Vanessa Getty, Marissa Mayer, and Sabrina Buell. Who was the best-dressed? These looks stole the show: Sonya Molodetskaya’s blue gown, Buell’s disco-inspired number, Mary Beth Shimmon’s elegant polka dot dress, Whitney Hudak’s sleek white look, Katie Traina’s graphic sheath, and Carolyn Chang’s navy ball gown.

Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar
Sabrina Buell and Yves Behar

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Kevin Yeh, Catherine Meng, Jerica Lee and Ariel Anaya
Kevin Yeh, Catherine Meng, Jerica Lee and Ariel Anaya

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Sakurako Fisher
Sakurako Fisher

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Allison Speer
Allison Speer

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Katie Traina
Katie Traina

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Carolyn Chang
Carolyn Chang

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Marcia Goldman and John Goldman
Marcia Goldman and John Goldman

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Lynne Benioff
Lynne Benioff

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Meredith Tan and Whitney Hudak
Meredith Tan and Whitney Hudak

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Yurie Pascarella and Carl Pascarella
Yurie Pascarella and Carl Pascarella

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Bob Hill and Dede Wilsey
Bob Hill and Dede Wilsey

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Tara Dollinger
Tara Dollinger

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Komal Shah
Komal Shah

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Chrisa Pappas
Chrisa Pappas

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

George Shultz and Charlotte Shultz
George Shultz and Charlotte Shultz

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer

Atmosphere
Atmosphere

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The after party
The after party

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer

Atmosphere
Atmosphere

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Sloan Barnett
Sloan Barnett

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - September 5 - Michael Tilson Thomas attends San Francisco Symphony Opening Night Gala on September 5th 2018 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA (Photo - Drew Altizer)
SAN FRANCISCO, CA – September 5 – Michael Tilson Thomas attends San Francisco Symphony Opening Night Gala on September 5th 2018 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, CA (Photo – Drew Altizer)
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