Why San Francisco is such a shit-hole city
Just look at the faces and numb arrogance of these people:
Opera Guild President Charlot Malin, Opera
Guild Gala Co-Chair Jane Mudge, SF Opera General Director David Gockley,
and Gala Co-Chair Karen Kubin.
DAVID GOCKLEY TRIBUTE
Gockley took the helm as the sixth general director of the San Francisco
Opera on January 1, 2006, after 35 years with the Houston Grand Opera,
where, at 29, he became the youngest person to ever lead an American opera
company. When he retires in July 2016, he’ll be succeeded by Matthew
Shilvock, the San Francisco Opera’s Associate General Director
“For more than four decades, David Gockley’s singular determination,
constant innovation, and fierce passion have revolutionized opera in
America,” wrote Meyer Sound, in a tribute. “David has persevered with a
twinkle in his eye, a savvy sense of business, and a wicked sense of
San Francisco Opera General Director David
Gockley, who will retire in 2016, with Linda Kemper.
THE BLUE CARPET PROMENADE
One of the biggest society events in San Francisco, the evening
entertainment began as opera devotees arrived in a spectacular array of
stylish gowns and walked the blue carpet at the War Memorial Opera House
on Van Ness Avenue. The dazzling turnout establishes this event as San
Francisco’s answer to the Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles and the
Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute gala in New York
As a change of venue from City Hall, the chairs moved this year’s
Champagne reception to the Opera House Grand Foyer and the dinner to an
Opera Ball Pavilion. “It was a real thrill to see the guests’ delight as
they took in the magic,” exclaimed Opera Ball Co-Chair Jane Mudge.
The paparazzi were out in full force to capture
the fashion parade at what is perhaps San Francisco’s most glamorous
event of the year.
The fashionable crowd went all out for this grand occasion. In their
splendid designer gowns and dramatic baubles, with coiffure and maquillage
done to perfection, many were happy to pose for the photographers and
television cameras outside the Opera House.
I recognized gowns by international designers. So many featured trains
that I overheard, “Sorry, you’re stepping on my dress” more than once! For
this column, I thought it would be fun to focus on the glamour of the
Daniel Girard and Ann Girard, former Opera
Guild President, .in a gown by Rubin Singer.
Pamela Joyner in Monique Lhullier, Deepa
Pakianathan in Rubin Singer, and Tim Wu.
Venture capitalist Gaurav Garg with wife Komal
Shah, in Oscar de la Renta.
Local fashion designer Karen Caldwell, in her
own design, with Lisa Grotts in Monique Lhuillier.
Shanghai-born Yuan Yuan Tan, principal
ballerina for the SF Ballet, will perform with the company in her
hometown in October.
Brenda Zarate, Neiman Marcus GM Alan Morrell,
and Carolyn Chandler in Reem Akra.
Asim and Dr. Isha Abdullah, owners of French
fashion house Ungaro.
Robin Collins with Sallie and Leon Huntting.
Mark Medearis and Teresa Medearis, who has
chaired the opera ball several times.
Sara and Austin Hills sit in the same seats
that once belonged to Austin’s parents, who attended the Opera House’s
first opening night in 1932.
“A man should wear tails to the opera opening,” opined the evening’s
event stylist J. Riccardo Benavides,
“as it’s an occasion to up the glamour quotient.” Benavides was happy that
Vogue Editor Anna Wintour stipulated white tie for this
year’s Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum in NYC. That
means wearing a black tailcoat, waistcoat, wing-collared shirt, and white
Many of the gents followed what has been a San Francisco tradition of
wearing white tie and tails to the Opera opening night. The group included
David Gockley, the Honorable George Shultz,
former Mayor Willie Brown, Opera
Association President Keith Geeslin, Opera Board
Chairman John Gunn, Gregory Malin, Theodore
Brown, Bob Friese, Mark Medearis,
Giovanni Matter, and Richard Carpeneti.
Local politicians in attendance included former
SF Mayor Willie Brown, in white tie and tails by Brioni, with Sonya
Molodetskaya, in a gown by Russian designer Vasily Vein.
Former Secretary of State George Shultz sported
white tie, and his wife, SF Protocol Chief Charlotte Shultz, was wearing
Architect Theodore Brown in white tie and top
hat, with Ellie Killebrew Brown.
Debra and Richard Carpeneti.
Other gentlemen opted for evening attire, but a less formal and more
individualistic style, including a surprising number of blue dinner
Keith Wetmore, Greg Lopez in a black and blue
Tom Ford dinner jacket, and Andrew Hinek in a bright blue Tom Ford
David Laudon and Randy Laroche in matching top
hats and gold cummerbunds.
Inder Dhillon, Trent Norris, and Jack Calhoun,
in a tuxedo by Banana Republic.
The gentlemanly Alan Malouf in a blue dinner
jacket by Brioni, with Elisa Stephens.
The annual gala draws guests from everywhere. John Capizzi,
GM of Bergdorf Goodman, flew in from New York to honor Gockley, as they
became friends when he was manager of Houston’s Neiman-Marcus.
Capizzi chatted with Barbara Brookins-Schneider, who
wore an evening gown by New York-based designer Bibhu Mohapatra.
The Chinese-inspired YSL she wore to the 2007 Opera opening was included
in this year’s Metropolitan Museum couture exhibition, China: Through
the Looking Glass.
John Capizzi, VP and GM of Bergdorf Goodman,
with Barbara Brookins-Schneider.
Barbara Brown with Daniel Diaz, who recently
relocated from San Francisco to head the Italian Bulgari jewelry
boutique in Bal Harbour (Miami), FL.
Justin Fichelson, of Bravo TV’s Million
Dollar Listing, Stephanie Lawrence, Los Angeles-based Rick and
Kathy Hilton, and bi-costal Jeanne Lawrence.
New York-based Giovanni Mattera and Denise De
Luca, of the de Grisogono Jewelry team, hosted a reception to show their
exquisite collection at the private club Villa Taverna.
New Yorkers Jessica Hon and architect Jason
Weinbeck. Formerly of Ralph Lauren store development, he is now at D2A
Studio in trendy Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
A group who dresses creatively and ethnically
to have some fun: Larissa Archer, Afreen Wahab, NY fashion muse Tziporah
Salamon,and Jennifer Raiser, just back from Burning Man.
The “Moonlight and Music” theme created a romantic mood for over 800
opera devotees who enjoyed the evening’s events: a Champagne reception at
5 p.m., dinner at 6, the opera at 8, and a post-performance bash that
lasted until the next morning.
Though the Champagne reception started early,
guests arrived promptly, not wanting to miss the chance to see and be
seen and catch up with friends after the summer lull.
“What fun to see new, fresh faces interested in opera and curious about
opening night,” said 2007 opera ball co-chair Katie Jarman.
“We need them to sustain this art form in addition to the patrons, who
have been coming for years.”
Cindy Anderson, John Wied, and 2007 opera ball
co-chair Katie Jarman.
Navid Armstrong, Patricia Ferrin Loucks, and
Nazan Orr, Joel Goodrich, in a glittering
Stefano Ricci jacket, and Clara Shayevich, in a gown by Vasily Vein.
Alex Chases with Denise Hale, in a black and
white gown by Lily Samii paired with some of the evening’s most
James Nicholas, wearing a Ralph Lauren tuxedo,
Anna Weinberg, wearing Badgley Mischka, Mary Beth Shimmon, and David
Martin Camsey, Patricia Sprincin, Randy
Reynoso, and Charles Sprincin.
Philip Wilson, Linda Zider, and David Gockley.
Annie Calonico Schieding, Braeden Schieding,
and Fati Farmanfarmaian.
David Gockley with Opera Ball Great Benefactors
Paula and Bandel Carano.
Dr. Carolyn Chang, wearing Andrew Gn, and Komal
Shah, in Oscar de la Renta.
Barbara Fritz, Linda Kemper, Lily Samii, and
Alisa Burgess-Blajwas, Jacqueline Jacoby, and
Belinda Berry, in a gown made of neckties.
Alex Nazari, Simone Derayeh, Julia Zack, and
Mark Rhoades, Beth Townsend, Christopher Freye,
and Jerome Molles.
Opera Guild President Charlot Malin, in a
floral Carolina Herrera gown, with husband Gregory Malin and sons
Benjamin and Sebastian Malin.
US House of Representatives Minority Leader
Nancy Pelosi and husband Paul Pelosi often fly in from Washington DC in
support of the SF’s many charitable benefits.
Athena and Timothy Blackburn, newly appointed
chairman of the Napa Valley Festival del Sole.
Jim and Stephanie Marver.
Making it a family affair, Roselyne Swig
brought granddaughter Madeline Erhlich.
Afsaneh Akhtari, in a lace gown by Pavoni, with
daughter Jazmin Roper.
Jorge Maumer, Daru Kawalkowski, and Nazan Orr.
DINNER IN THE OPERA PAVILION
Event Stylist J. Riccardo Benavides and the chairs crated a new venue,
the Opera Pavilion tent, made possible by blocking off Grove Street, the
side street that separates Symphony Hall and the Opera House.
The women, in particular, commented how much easier it was to walk out
the Opera House side doors and directly into the Pavilion for
dinner—especially in their long gowns and stiletto heels.
Co-Chair Jane Mudge, in a gown by Marchesa,
event stylist J. Riccardo Benavides, and Co-Chair Karen Kubin, in
Monique Lhullier, at the entrance of the elaborate Opera Pavilion.
Fashion writer Christine Suppes, in an
Alexander McQueen frock, and Lucy Buchanan, in a floral gown by Milly.
Sabrina Baldieri, Giovanni Mattera, Suzanne
Levit, and Allison Speer.
Jeanne Lawrence in Tom Ford, J. Riccardo
Benavides, and Stephanie Lawrence.
Rita Simonini, Musical Director Nicola
Luisotti, General Director David Gockley, Dede Wilsey, in Oscar de le
Renta, and New York’s Boaz Mazor of Oscar de la Renta.
On their way into the pavilion: Renata
Anderson, Raj Singh, Debbie Muller, David Barber, Karen Richardson, John
DÉCOR IN A NEW VENUE
The “Moonlight and Music” theme was inspired by the Luisa Miller
hunting scenes and the Austrian schloss (castle) set in a village in the
Tyrol Mountains. Of the space, Opera Guild member Linda Zider exclaimed,
“I felt I was being entertained at an elegant private dinner party in a
castle with friends, as the atmosphere seemed so intimate.”
Elaborate table settings featured touches of
gold and crushed velvet table coverings. The white deer heads mounted on
the walls added to the Tyrolean hunting atmosphere.
The gold table settings glowed under the
chandeliers and the amber lights that Benavides discovered in
England—and so did the female guests!
The lighting was perfection, according to
visiting New York architect Jason Weinbeck—and if anyone should know,
The atmosphere was festive and fun, and the
noise level was a lesson to be learned, as guests noted approvingly that
they could converse at dinner without shouting over loud music.
DINNER IS SERVED
The dinner from McCalls Catering was perfection:
artistically presented, masterfully prepared, and accompanied by
impeccable service, a remarkable achievement considering the large number
The first course was roasted nectarine and
lobster salad with asparagus, tomatoes, buckwheat, sunflower sprouts,
and farmers cheese.
For the entrée, we dined on Tyrolean braised
short rubs with spaetzle, roasted apricots, and garden vegetables.
The standout dessert combined Italian and
Austrian treats: tiramisu and hazelnut roulade with salted caramel
Guests enjoyed chardonnay and merlot from Napa
Valley winery Grgich Hills Estate, donated by the Austin Hills family.
BACK TO THE WAR MEMORIAL OPERA HOUSE
As customary, the evening began with The Star Spangled Banner,
conducted by Maestro Nicola Luisotti, and a welcome from Opera Association
President Keith Geeslin, Opera Board Chairman John Gunn, and General
Director David Gockley.
“Opera transports us, moves us, inspires us,” said John Gunn, who added,
“This company rivals any in the world.” That the 3,000-seat house was sold
out is a testament to opera’s popularity in San Francisco as well as the
appeal and excitement of this gala event.
When the ushers played chimes, guests promptly
took their seats for the eight o’clock performance.
Gockley welcomed the crowd and talked of some
of his most cherished pieces, including Don Carlos and Sweeney
Todd, which was performed the following night.
THE GIFTING PATRONS
San Francisco prides itself on its outstanding civic responsibility and
cultural causes. Under Gockley’s tenure, the opera received such
significant bequests as John and Cynthia Gunn’s
gift of over $40 million. Additionally, the late Jeannik Mequet
Littlefield bequeathed more than $35 million, and her daughter
Denise Littlefield-Sobel continues to provide ongoing
Keith Geeslin, President of the SF Opera
Association, with Priscilla Geeslin, Cynthia Gunn, and John Gunn,
Chairman of the Opera Board.
Roman Gronokowski and Denise Littlefield Sobel.
Trevor Traina with mother Dede Wilsey, an
Opening Weekend Grand Sponsor of 10 years and a sponsor of the free
Opera in the Park on Sunday.
Maria Manetti and Jan Shrem founded the Great
Interpreters of Italian Opera Fund and the Conductors Fund, in support
of Maestro Nicola Luisotti and other Italian conductors.
Luisa Miller was made possible in part
by Dianne and Tad Taube as well as the Koret Foundation.
VERDI’S OPERA LUISA MILLER
First performed in 1849, Luisa Miller is less well-known than
Verdi’s Aida or La Traviata. The plot is classic: boys
meets girl, they fall in love, the parents don’t approve, and the ending
That didn’t dampen the enjoyment of the crowd. People were buzzing about
San Francisco’s favorite soprano Leah Crocetto in the
title role, opposite tenor Michael Fabiano in a
much-anticipated performance as her lover Rodolfo.
Following Fabiano’s breathtaking and moving aria “Quando le sere al
placido,” in which Rodolfo reminisces of happier times with Luisa, whom he
believes has betrayed him, the crowd rose in ecstatic applause.
PRESENTATION OF THE OPERA MEDAL TO FRANCESCA ZAMBELLO
Following the final curtain call, General Director David Gockley
presented celebrated SF Opera associate Francesca Zambello
with the coveted San Francisco Opera Medal. Since 1983, Zambello has been
involved in more than fifty SF Opera productions, including the current Luisa
Miller and the 2011 staging of the Wagner “Ring” Cycle.
SF Opera Musical Director Nicola Luisotti, SF
Opera General Director David Gockley, and Luisa Miller
Producer Francesca Zambello.
After the curtain call, patrons returned to the Opera Ball Pavilion for
the after-party, dancing, catching up with friends, and sampling from the
buffet laden with risotto, freshly carved charcuterie, cheese, sweets, and
more—plus the open bar!
The crowd grazed at stations heaped with
New York-based high society band Bob Hardwick
Sound played a variety of music for the after-party.
Lenny Eber, Former Opera Guild Ball co-chair
(2012) Diane Rubin, and Eugene Kelly.
Keith and Claudia Ross arrive for the after
party in the Opera Pavilion.
Maria Pitcairn and Robert Beadle.
Frank and Susan Dunlevy with Sobia and Nadir
Gary Drysdale, Gregory Malin, Janet Lamkin,
Paul Holm, Charlot Malin, Bill Lamkin, Anne Laury, Daniel Laury, and
Former president and current vice chairman of
the SF Opera Association George Hume, Cathie Johnson, Leslie Hume, and
Pitch Johnson, former chairman of the SF Opera Board.
David and Inger Golob, with Linle Froeb, Opera
Guild VP of Fundraising, and Jim Froeb.
Robert Arnold-Kraft, Susan Paganini, and Ryan
DANCING UNTIL THE WEE HOURS
Among the revelers filling the dance floor were many young people, a
tribute to the chairs’ success at attracting a future audience and
exciting them about this magnificent art form.
Jennifer MacCready kicks up her heels with
dance partner Randy Laroche.
Shanghai-born realtor Olivia Hsu Decker, who is
flying to Shanghai to watch the SF Ballet perform and to check in on the
Chinese luxury real estate market.