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Parties: Take Me Out To The Opera

Written by Catherine Bigelow | Photography by Drew Altizer

“The Homecoming” Concert

Attendees: 2,000 at Opera House; 7,000 at Oracle Park.
Cause: Proceeds benefit SF Opera free music education.


The San Francisco Opera’s celebratory “The Homecoming” concert on September 10 rippled across the City. Over at Oracle Park, music lovers of all ages frolicked (for free) on the green or spread out blankets and supped from picnic larders as soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen and mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton belted out a program — live from the Opera House — that beamed across the Giants LED scoreboard.

Back at the mothership in the Civic Center, 2,000 supporters celebrated a return to the Opera House, the 1932 Beaux-Arts beauty refurbished with plush, new seats. Cocktail attire-clad guests clinked Champagne flutes at a preconcert toast prior to a performance of operatic faves, led by Music Director Eun Sun Kim.

This new format is a major departure for the opera, which for almost a century has dazzled with a traditional white-tie-and-tails opening-night ball. But, as they sort of say, “the music’s the thing.” And the opera opened the field for all-comers. Nor were deeppocketed donors denied a sprinkle of pomp and circumstance, postconcert, in the Green Room.

Sans gala chairs and numerous subcommittee members, the swells feasted on McCall’s Maine lobster, savored by stalwart sponsors including SF Opera Board Chairman John A. Gunn and his wife, Cynthia Fry Gunn, Gretchen Kimball, Louise Gund, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem.

And even though this 99th season opener was one night only, trustee Dede Wilsey continued her devotion as Opening Weekend Grand Sponsor, again wowing all Opera House guests with another knockout Stanlee Gatti-designed floral garland — a sunburst rendered in white, yellow and orange carnations — wrapped around the gilded horseshoe that encircles the opera boxes.

“The opening of any opera season is glorious, but this year is particularly heartfelt. Tonight we affirm the vital importance of opera in the life of this city,” toasted SF Opera General Director MatthewShilvock. “There has never been a greater need to gather, to share in emotion, to find catharsis. The arts play a critical role in allowing us to make sense of the world, and it is particularly meaningful to gather together, once again, in shared artistic experience. We need the restorative power of art.”

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