Meet This Year’s Social Chairs

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Lacob and Bowman (Illustration by Olivia Wise)

It’s not really autumn in San Francisco until two major events take place: the Opera Ball and the Symphony Opening Night Gala. Both celebrations promise spectacular pomp and circumstance this year, with the latter marking the end of an iconic era as Michael Tilson Thomas completes his 25th and final season as music director.

Nicole Lacob, who co-chairs the September 4 Opening Night Gala alongside her longtime symphony “date and bestie” Rachael Bowman, says many of the night’s details are top-secret, but attendees are in for a special experience. “I don’t want to say too much here as we are planning many vignettes and surprises for the guests and MTT,” she teases. “I will just say that making SF and the symphony come alive together again is in the cards. We say it will be the most fun opening night yet. In addition, guests will be able to participate in the many tributes made to MTT and his partner, Joshua [Robison]. Twenty-five years is something to be grateful for and celebrated.”

“Nicole and I are so grateful and excited to be chairing this year’s gala,” Bowman adds. “With the brilliant minds at Blueprint Studios, we’ve amped up the design and overall aesthetic befitting this monumental occasion. We hope to take the glamour and vibe to the next level and make it the most over-the-top celebration yet. Another major aim is to usher in the next generation of new blood to support this fabulous institution. We’ve invited many friends from the Peninsula that we hope might carry the torch going forward.”

While she has to remain tight-lipped about the details of the event, which benefits numerous artistic, community and education programs, Lacob can offer one important tip: “Bring your dancing shoes — we hope you stay up into the wee hours.”

Birka-White and Mudge (Illustration by Olivia Wise)

Just two days after the symphony festivities, the San Francisco Opera Guild kicks off the season with its annual Opera Ball. Elizabeth Birka-White says she’s particularly excited to co-chair her first Opera Ball along with Jane Mudge. “There will be a number of highlights this year,” she explains. “The first is director Matthew Shilvock’s choice to open the season with Romeo and Juliet. This opera by French composer Charles Gounod has not been performed in 32 years. Jane and I feel very fortunate with the selection of this romantic and beloved opera.”

Another unique draw is the American directorial debut of Opera de Monte-Carlo Director Jean-Lou-is Grinda, who has directed more than 40 operas and musicals throughout the world. “We’re excited to see what he will bring to a production here in San Francisco,” enthuses Birka-White.

The organization’s BRAVO! Club members — young professionals with a burgeoning interest in opera — will also get some special treats in the tented pavilion following the performance, including cocktails, savories and sweets. Quoth Birka-White: “We have not had a blended post performance party since City Hall in 2010.”

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