7 Things You Need To Know About SF Opera’s Opening Weekend

Leah Crocetto stars in Giuseppe Verdi's "Luisa Miller."
Leah Crocetto stars in Giuseppe Verdi’s “Luisa Miller.”

Photo Credit: ©Ken Howard/Santa Fe Opera

Whether or not you’ll be at San Francisco’s War Memorial House on Friday, Sept. 11 for the opening of the 93rd season of the San Francisco Opera season, you’ll want to know what’s going on because this is, after all, the most important event on San Francisco’s crowded social calendar. We’ve got all the details for you right here from what to expect at the gala and who’s performing on stage.

  1. Opera Ball 2015: Moonlight & Music is a gala benefit and opening-night performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Luisa Miller. Luisa Miller features three fast-rising, young international stars including soprano Leah Crocetto in the title role, tenor Michael Fabiano as Rodolfo and in his Company debut Ukrainian baritone Vitaliy Bilyy as Miller. Nicola Luisotti, distinguished Italian conductor and Company music director since 2009, will lead the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus in this vivid Francesca Zambello production. Six performances are scheduled through September 27.
  2. Produced by San Francisco Opera Guild and led by co-chairmen Karen Kubin and Jane Mudge, Opera Ball 2015 will be celebrated in a new venue this year with the creation of a tented Opera Ball Pavilion on Civic Center’s Grove Street between the War Memorial Opera House and Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall. Acclaimed designer J. Riccardo Benavides will create an evocative eighteenth century Tyrolean setting for the 800 Opera Ball patrons beginning at 5 p.m. with a festive cocktail reception in the resplendent Beaux Arts-designed War Memorial Opera House foyer. At 6 p.m., guests will make the short promenade through the Opera House south porte-cochère to the Grove Street Opera Ball Pavilion for an elegant dinner designed by Executive Chef Josip Martinovic of McCalls Catering and Events. Following dinner, patrons will return to the Opera House in time for the magnificent gold grand drape to rise for the 8 p.m. season-opening performance of Verdi’s romantic drama. At the conclusion of the performance, Opera Ball 2015 guests will be welcomed back to the Opera Ball Pavilion for cocktails, savories, sweets and dancing to the incomparable New York City-based high society band, The Bob Hardwick Sound.
  3. BRAVO! CLUB, San Francisco Opera’s group of young professionals dedicated to building a new audience for opera, also presents its annual Opening Night Gala tonight. BRAVO! CLUB begins the evening at 6:30 p.m. with a champagne promenade reception on the Outdoor Loggia of the War Memorial Opera House and concludes the post-performance festivities with dessert, hors d’oeuvres and dancing at Jardinière Restaurant.
  4. San Francisco Opera Ball, one of the premiere philanthropic evenings on the West Coast, brings together local and national corporate, political, civic and charitable leaders all committed to the enduring first-tier quality work produced by San Francisco Opera. Opera Ball 2015 is made possible through the generous support of Dede Wilsey, who serves as the Opening Weekend Grand Sponsor for the 10th year, and corporate sponsors TriplePoint Capital, Neiman Marcus Union Square, de GRISOGONO, Morrison & Foerster LLP, Baird, Wells Fargo, Wells Fargo Foundation, Bank of America, Bank of the West, Union Bank, Accenture, BNY Mellon, United Airlines, Abbot Downing and media sponsors The Nob Hill Gazette and Town & Country. Proceeds from this signature fundraising event benefit the San Francisco Opera Association and Opera Guild’s bold and innovative education and community programs reaching more than 60,000 students annually throughout Northern California.
  5. Tonight marks the beginning of David Gockley’s final season at San Francisco Opera’s General Director. Nearly a year ago, he announced that he’ll retire in July 2016, concluding a ten-year, seven-month tenure with the Company and capping an internationally acclaimed and award-winning career spanning 44 years as one of America’s most prominent opera impresarios. When Gockley, who will be 73 at the end of the 2015–16 season, became the Company’s sixth general director in January 2006, he said that he would be with the Company for no more than 10 full seasons. His replacement has yet to be named.
  6. Saturday, September 12 marks the long-awaited Company premiere of Stephen Sondheim’s Tony Award-winning musical thriller Sweeney Todd, starring baritone Brian Mulligan and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe in Lee Blakeley’s “brilliant” (The New York Times) production. Instantly recognized as a landmark in musical theater, boasting unforgettable tunes and dazzling ensemble numbers, Sweeney Todd has inspired productions in theater and opera companies around the world.
  7. Concluding the opening weekend of the 2015–16 Season is one of the Bay Area’s most popular musical events––San Francisco Chronicle Presents Opera in the Park, San Francisco Opera’s annual free concert in Golden Gate Park’s Sharon Meadow on Sunday, September 13 at 1:30 p.m. This year’s 42nd annual concert celebrates San Francisco Opera’s 93rd Season and features stars from the current season such as Leah Crocetto, Heidi Stober, Piotr Beczala and Michael Fabiano performing favorite arias and duets by Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Saint-Saëns, Lehár, Korngold and Mozart, culminating in Verdi’s Brindisi (Drinking Song) from La Traviata. Music Director Nicola Luisotti leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra. David Gockley, General Director of San Francisco Opera, serves as master of ceremonies, and Classical KDFC Radio’s Dianne Nicolini hosts the concert. Bring a picnic and enjoy this outdoor event; food and beverages will also be for sale at the event.
Jane Mudge, David Gockley and Karen Kubin
Jane Mudge, David Gockley and Karen Kubin

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer/San Francisco Opera