Enjoying the hell out of opening week
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Yes, San Francisco Bay Area socialites have long called the week after Labor Day "Hell Week," but really it's a type of cultural heaven. The San Francisco Symphony's season-opening Gala transpired last Wednesday night, followed just two days later by the San Francisco Opera's season-opening Ball. Going to either event is a commitment; attending both is not much short of crazy. Yet Out There was out there for both. Yes, they were very full evenings, including cocktail parties, the concert or double-billed operas, then elaborate afterparties, but we'd been training for them all summer. Of course, the socialites we partied with didn't have to get up and go to work the next day. But that's why they're socialites and we're not.
The SF Symphony opening began for us with a delightful Press Reception in the Green Room of Davies Symphony Hall. Then the concert, reviewed in this issue by music writer Philip Campbell, was appropriately festive, capped off by an indoor-outdoor afterparty in the Gala Tent and outside on Grove Street. The mood was upbeat, and OT was gay proud that this year's gala co-chairmen were James Hormel, former US ambassador to Luxembourg, and his husband, Michael Nguyen-Hormel. We love the spirit of inclusivity that's so readily apparent in San Francisco.
Two nights later, to open SF Opera's 96th season with the double bill of Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" and Ruggero Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci" (also reviewed in this issue), San Francisco Opera Guild offered "Opera Ball 2018: ¡Viva La Noche!" The gala benefit raised funds for SFO's education and outreach programs, and was designed by J. Riccardo Benavides.
After a cocktail reception in the Opera House foyer and nibbles in the Press Room, we made our way to the annual Bravo! Club champagne reception upstairs on the glamorous Opera House Loggia. Then after the double header, we rejoined the Bravo! Club festivities underway at the Green Room in the Veterans Building. The after-party began at 11 p.m., and went on into the wee hours.
"Cavalleria Rusticana" features Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as Santuzza, Italian tenor Roberto Aronica as Turiddu, and in his first performances in the United States, Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias as Alfio. "Pagliacci" stars Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian as Nedda, Italian tenor Marco Berti as Canio, and American baritone David Pershall as Silvio. They were all performing their hearts out on the Opera House stage, but we were also lucky to be introduced offstage to the glamorous Italian soprano Carmen Giannattasio, who will show us her "Tosca" later in the season. We can't wait.
One last thing about attending the dual high-profile season openings on either side of Grove Street: When they were introduced from the Opera House stage as being in the audience, San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Representative Nancy Pelosi and her husband Paul Pelosi were all given warm and hearty ovations. Demonized elsewhere by Vichy Republicans, in San Francisco we appreciate everything that the Pelosis have been doing to stave off the worst excesses of the off-the-rails Administration. That alone is worth celebrating with galas.