SF Opera Honors Gordon Getty On Eve Of His US Opera Premiere

Gordon Getty
Gordon Getty

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer Photography

San Francisco Opera Guild honored its longtime passionate supporter and composer/librettist Gordon Getty with a gala dinner on the stage at the War Memorial Opera House on Dec. 7, the eve of the American premiere of the renowned renaissance man’s opera The Fall of the House of Usher in the same building.

Event co-chairs Mary Poland and Courtney Labe worked tirelessly to produce this fabulous black-tie event with over 300 attendees. Event stylist J. Riccardo Benavides transformed the opera stage into a beautiful, festive dinner setting with a sub-stage for a live band, a pair of opera singers and a dance floor. The dramatic set of opera Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg, which just ended on Dec. 6, served as a part of the dinner decor before it was scheduled to be disassembled and shipped back to England tomorrow.

General Director David Gockley, who is retiring next season, introduced his successor Matthew Shilvock. Opera Guild President Charlot D. Malin thanked presenting sponsor Neiman Marcus Union Square and Ann and Gordon Getty, who sponsored the wines from their PlumpJack portfolio. Delicious 2014 CADE Sauvignon Blanc and 2013 Adaptation Petite Sirah were paired with the mosaic of Maine lobster and grilled Sonoma lamb chop dinner catered by Dan McCall.

Three live auction lots included a San Francisco Opera Opening Night Extravaganza, an Escape to Italy and The Heart of Europe and fetched $50,000 for San Francisco Opera Education programs. Bradley Smith, Rose Rosenberg and Stratton Poland were the winning bidders. Maria Manetti Shrem and Ann Getty served as the evening’s honorary chairs.

Tonight, San Francisco Opera presents The Fall of the House of Usher—an innovative double bill of Getty’s Usher House and Claude Debussy’s La Chute de la Maison Usher, both inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s chilling 1839 short story. The double bill provides two contrasting takes on one of the most transformed pieces of literature ever created. Director David Pountney’s eerie production, designed by Niki Turner, provides an “aptly evocative setting for the Gothic horror writer’s dark imaginings” (The Stage, UK) and features imaginative, otherworldly video projections filmed by video production designer David Haneke at Penrhyn Castle in North Wales. Conducted by Lawrence Foster, who led the 2014 world stage premiere at Welsh National Opera, this presentation marks not just the U.S. premiere of Getty’s Usher House but also the American professional premiere of Robert Orledge’s “truly seamless” (The Guardian, UK) reconstruction of Debussy’s unfinished score.

Baritone Brian Mulligan takes on the dual roles of Roderick Usher in both interpretations of the story. Tenor Jason Bridges makes his Company debut as Edgar Allan Poe in Getty’s Usher House; Bridges created the role for the 2014 world premiere. Tenor Joel Sorensen returns to the Company as Le Médecin (the Doctor) in Debussy’s La Chute de la Maison Usher. The casts also feature Jacqueline Piccolino (Lady Madeline) and Edward Nelson (L’Ami) in La Chute de la Maison Usher and Anthony Reed (Doctor Primus) and dancer Jamielyn Duggan in Usher House. A co-production of San Francisco Opera and Welsh National Opera, The Fall of the House of Usher runs for four performances on December 8, 10, 11 and 13, 2015 at the War Memorial Opera House.

Photos by Drew Altizer Photography and Olivia Hsu Decker