San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Night Gala

MTT conducting opening night
MTT conducting opening night

2500 patrons celebrate 25 years of MTT as San Francisco pays tribute to his final season.

BY NAVID ARMSTRONG | PHOTOS BY DREW ALTIZER

More than 2,500 enthusiastic guests attended the San Francisco Symphony’s Opening Night Gala, in honor of Michael Tilson Thomas and his husband Joshua Robison, held on Wednesday, September 4, 2019.

The Symphony celebrated the start of Thomas’ 25th season with a program that included Glinka’s overture to Ruslan and Ludmila and songs by Copeland, including Gordon Getty’s arrangement of “Shenandoah” and ending with the majestic finale of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9: Ode, “To Joy!”

Members of the Symphony Supper Host Committee gather at the San Francisco Symphony’s 2019 Opening Night Gala.
Members of the Symphony Supper Host Committee gather at the San Francisco Symphony’s 2019 Opening Night Gala.

It was touching when Thomas asked for those patrons who had been to the Symphony’s Opening Night Gala 25 years ago, to stand up.

At the end of the performance, Thomas and the orchestra were joined on stage by Joshua Robison and some of the most prominent figures in American politics, among them the Speaker of the House and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Paul F. Pelosi; California Governor Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom; San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed; San Francisco Symphony President Sakurako Fisher; and, Gala co-chairs Nicole Lacob and Rachael Bowmam. Rick Welts and Joe Lacob were among some of those who presented Thomas with a rose or a jersey from each of the Bay Area’s sports teams—San Francisco Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Golden Gates Warriors, and Oakland Athletics. Beach Blanket Babylon’s Jennifer Morrison sang “San Francisco” at the encore and brought the audience to their feet for a singalong, adding to the night’s excitement. The concert ended with celebratory confetti.

Paul Pelosi and Nancy Pelosi
Paul Pelosi and Nancy Pelosi
Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom
Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom

To pay tribute to Michael Tilson Thomas and his quarter-century tenure at the Symphony, many guests chose to wear blue, his favorite color, to the Opening Night Gala. San Francisco Symphony President Sako Fisher was a vision in blue; dressed to perfection in a Dior gown and an Alexander McQueen leather jacket.

Joe Lacob, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Charlotte Shultz, and Rick Welts.
Joe Lacob, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Charlotte Shultz, and Rick Welts.

Others in various shades of blue included Social Media Chair Catherine Geeslin in Roland Mouret; Natasha Dolby in Monique Lhuillier; Mary Beth Shimmon in an off-the-shoulder Carolina Herrera; and Allison Speer in Andrew Gn.

It was beautiful indeed, as a sea of blue walked into the Patrons Pavilion for a fabulous dinner prepared by McCalls Catering and Events. Carefully orchestrated lighting took patrons from a cerulean blue sunset to a twilight evening.

Co-chairs Rachel Bowman (in show-stopping Elsa Schiaparelli haute couture) and Nicole Lacob (ever so elegant in an Oscar de la Renta gown) set the tone for a night of glamour.

Opening night gala Co-Chair Rachel Bowman, Olivia Decker of Haute Living, and Co-Chair Nicole Lacob
Opening night gala Co-Chair Rachel Bowman, Olivia Decker of Haute Living, and Co-Chair Nicole Lacob.

Vanessa Getty and Katie Traina looked equally dazzling in their Vionnet gowns, while Karen Richardson was ethereal in a romantic Carolina Herrera tea-length gown, as was Jennifer Walske in a gold gown by Monique Lhuillier.

Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and his wife Nicole and Mike Krieger and his wife Kaitlyn (in Dries Van Noten) were also there to celebrate, as was Marissa Mayer, dressed in Carolina Herrera.

Josh Olshansky (in Lanvin) and Laurie Olshansky (in Alexander McQueen) looked camera-ready on the pink carpet!

The “Blueprint Studios” decor evoked an immersive and magical starlit spectacle and highlighted Jarrod Baumann’s black and gold Dolce Gabbana brocade tuxedo.

Todd Coyles in Paul Smith, along with his energetic team, represented Neiman Marcus, the night’s Signature Education Sponsor.

Guest Artist Underwriters Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem were one of the most impressive couples of the night, while Dede Wilsey was ever so regal in her Andrew Gn gown.

Michael Tilson Thomas, Maria Manetti Shrem, and Joshua Robison
Michael Tilson Thomas, Maria Manetti Shrem, and Joshua Robison

Among the ladies who wore stunning red gowns to the Symphony’s Opening Night Gala were Shannon Getty, Komal Shah, Holly Cuggino (Dolce and Gabbana), Ruchi Sanghvi (Valentino), Sara Steingart, Pia Cohler, and Nicole Systrom.

Following the concert, the guests enjoyed an “All Out” after party on Grove Street and in the Tented Pavilion. The 12,000 square foot space looked magical with over 3,000 lighted gold pendants cascading from colossal, illuminated fringe structures. They danced to entertainment provided by Conjunto Karabali, Salsamania, DJL!, Motown on Mondays, and VibraSON and enjoyed complimentary drinks and food from various San Francisco establishments.

Proceeds from the Opening Night Gala benefit the San Francisco Symphony’s myriad artistic, educational, and community programs, which serve over 100,000 students, teachers, and families in the Bay Area each year.

Music enthusiasts enjoyed the undeniable power of the event’s music, confirming Nietzsche’s thought: “Without music, life would be a mistake.”

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