OCultural philanthropists and music lovers were out in force last week for two galas and a world premiere opera, proving once again that San Francisco socials like nothing better than the chance to wear a ballgown.
The San Francisco Symphony opening night gala at Davies Symphony Hall on Wednesday fell on a night hovering around 72 degrees, practically a heatwave in the city. The “heat” was the big topic of conversation, as men in black tie peeled off their jackets and women fanned themselves with their playbills.
“Too, too hot,” laughed Sloan Barnett, who opted for a tiny top emblazoned with a Misfits skull, inspired by the Seventies punk band, with her favorite Givenchy earrings. “I love it, Indian Summer,” said Allison Spear as Vanessa Getty, Samantha Buell, Yves Behar and Pia and Matt Cohler dashed past.
Blueprint Studio designed the patrons’ dinner tent in Art Nouveau Revival style, with a sculptural 75-foot long gold chandelier undulating overhead. In Symphony Hall, divas Renee Fleming and Susan Graham, close friends of maestro Michael Tilson Thomas, sang opera songs as well as Gershwin, drawing five encores.
On Friday night, San Francisco Opera’s gala at the War Memorial Opera House was themed “La Revolution et L’Amour.” Event designer Riccardo Benavides was inspired to bring on a brace of white standard poodles and models in Maria-Antoinette style powdered wigs. Boaz Mazor and Dede Wilsey mulled over more modern concerns, debating Instagram with Jack Calhoun.
‘Why should I look at pictures of people on vacation, when I have my own beautiful life?” said Mazor. “Well, you could follow @medora2014 and view wonderful vintage fashion images, or you could follow @bentoub, Karl Lagerfeld’s bodyguard. He’s very handsome,” said Calhoun.
Focusing on the evening’s opera, “Andrea Chénier,” were Stephanie and Jim Marver, Barbara Brown, Carolyn Chang, Gordon Getty, Jean Larette, and San Francisco Opera’s new director Matthew Shilvock and his wife, Kate.
Socials glittered again Saturday night with the world premiere of “Dream of the Red Chamber,” a newly-commissioned production based on an 18th-century classic novel, dubbed the “War and Peace” of China.
At a festive Chinese dinner at the new Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, a prelude to the performance, guests including Denise Hale, Akiko Yamazaki, Jerry Yang, Steve and Jamie Chen, Yuan Yuan Tan, and director Stan Lai, composer Bright Shen, and librettist David Henry Hwang munched on lotus root with cloud ears and Bi Luo Chun Prawns.
Later, the opera received a 10-minute standing ovation, and everyone buzzed about the spectacular costumes and sets. Then on Sunday afternoon, the opening weekend for San Francisco Opera’s 2016-17 season continued with a free outdoor open-air concert in Golden Gate Park, with artists from the company’s fall season performing arias. It was strictly BYOB and picnic blanket — no ballgowns required.