Music lovers in San Francisco and Berkeley were in a lyrical tizzy last week with two season-launching galas.
On Thursday, Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, just back from a nine-city European tour, celebrated opening night with a program of popular songs from Broadway musicals, including a pastiche from “My Fair Lady” that had the audience singing along.
“I’m Italian but I don’t sing,” admitted Maria Manetti Shrem. “I support musicians, and I leave the performing up to the experts.”
Dede Wilsey, in the spirit of the evening, said sotto voce she has a great voice, soprano. “My dogs love my singing, and it makes them very happy,” she said. “My Maltese and my Norwich terrier are my chorus line.”
Komal Shah sailed into the tent wearing a white gown she’d dreamed up with Christian Siriano. It was encrusted with thousands of hand-stitched pearls and ostrich plumes and its full skirt, a complex sculptural construction, was worthy of its own Broadway musical.
“I hope I will be able to sit down,” she pondered as she gathered it around her to perch on a chair.
Also humming along were Dagmar Dolby, Yurie Pascarella, OJ Shansby, Alison Spear, Vanessa Getty, Juliet de Baubigny, Sako and Rose Fisher, and Trevor and Alexis Traina.
On Friday, across the bay, 6,000 Beethoven fans gathered at University of California at Berkeley’s outdoor Greek Theatre to hear Gustavo Dudamel and the 100-musician Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela, plus three choral groups and four soloists, perform a rendition of Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony (Ode to Joy).”
Patrons included Manetti Shrem; Jan Shrem, who underwrote the event; Ann and Gordon Getty; Sako and Bill Fisher; UC Berkeley chancellor Nicholas Dirks and composer John Adams, and Rolando Beramendi.
“Beethoven lifts my spirit and I could not live without music,” said Manetti Shrem as she greeted Dudamel. Nearby were Sandy and Joan Weill and Matias Tarnopolsky and Isabel Allende.
The orchestra’s performance was a dramatic launch and fundraiser for Cal Performances’ Berkeley RADICAL initiative, an educational program to enhance public artistic literacy and create cultural access.
“When I’m conducting, I’m inside a world of music, “ said Dudamel after a series of standing ovations. “I’m captivated by the music and I’m at one with the orchestra.”
He joined the Shrems for a fundraiser dinner and left soon after for New York, where he directed a performance for the United Nations. He then headed back to Los Angeles, where he opened the Los Angeles Philharmonic season on Saturday.