The San Francisco institution’s second century dawns with the time-honored Opera Ball.

It’s that time of the year again, when the city’s best-dressed take over Van Ness Avenue with scene-stealing ensembles. At the top of every socialite’s list is the Opera Ball, presented by the San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Opera Guild. Kicking off the San Francisco Opera’s 101st season on Friday, September 8, this year’s gala event will feature a red carpet reception and lavish dinner in the Beaux-Arts glamor of City Hall, followed by a thrilling opening concert featuring a world-renowned, married operatic duo and a rollicking after-party.

Opera Ball 2023 co-chairs Francesca Gutierrez Amann and Sue Graham Johnston are keen to welcome guests to San Francisco’s biggest fête of the year. “Bringing focus to the world class arts that San Francisco has to offer is one of the sheer joys of co-chairing the Opera Ball,” said Johnston, also a member of the San Francisco Opera Board of Directors. “The event’s impact is far beyond the beauty and pageantry of the evening—it is one of the biggest philanthropic events in the Bay Area. The whole evening is a celebration of the arts and civic pride that echoes in San Francisco and beyond.” Amann, also a board member of the San Francisco Opera Guild, echoes the excitement. “Attendees will start the evening on the red carpet at San Francisco’s stunning City Hall, transformed by event designer Riccardo Benavides, and enjoy a 5-star culinary experience by McCalls. Following the concert by two opera superstars, the celebration continues with the after-party of the year. We hope you will join us!”

Headlining the opening night concert is superstar tenor Roberto Alagna—making his San Francisco Opera debut—and soprano Aleksandra Kurzak. They are joined by the San Francisco Chorus and Orchestra under the baton of Caroline H. Hume Music Director Eun Sun Kim. Opera’s power couple, Alagna and Kurzak, met during a 2012 performance of L’elisir d’amore at the Royal Opera House in London and wed between performances at the Paris Opera in 2015. Renowned on the world’s leading opera stages in their own right, the duo also frequently perform together in both opera and concerts.

“San Francisco Opera is known for showcasing the most renowned stars of the opera world, like Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak, and with music director Eun Sun Kim at the podium, San Francisco Opera is reaching even new heights of musical artistry,” says Johnston. San Francisco Opera’s opening night concert will mark Alagna’s first-ever appearance with the company and Kurzak’s return to the War Memorial Opera House stage, following her lauded debut as Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. If last year’s opening night recital—which ended in a lively rendition of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”—is anything to go by, it will surely kick off yet another unforgettable night of festivities. Following a delightful program of arias and scenes, guests will make their way back to City Hall, where the dance floor beckons and drinks will be free-flowing.

Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak (Lukasz Rajchert)

San Francisco Opera’s opening week will continue Sunday, September 10, with its longstanding “Opera in the Park” event at Robin Williams Meadow in Golden Gate Park. Free and open to all, audiences may enjoy a picnic as Kim leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in a delightful afternoon of arias, duets, and more performed by stars from the company’s fall season. On Tuesday, September 12, Kim will lead the company in Verdi’s passionate Il Trovatore, its first full opera of the season.

As always, proceeds from the Opera Ball will support the San Francisco Opera Guild’s excellent initiatives, which continually push the boundaries of opera and opera education in the Bay Area. “As San Francisco Opera steps into its second century, I am honored and thrilled to co-chair this event supporting the future of opera, including San Francisco Opera Guild’s award-winning education programs, reaching 50,000 students a year,” said Amann.

Maria Manetti Shrem, London Breed, and Dustin Sharpe (Drew Altizer Photography)

Innovative programs such as Opera for the Bay, a reduced-price ticket program for Bay Area residents offered in partnership with the Dolby Family, will also return this season. The company will also continue to share its performances with global audiences through livestreams of each opera in the repertory. Another worthy event you’ll want to add to your calendar—especially if you’re feeling withdrawal from all the fabulousness of the Opera Ball—is the company’s next installment of its experiential opera events.

On December 1, San Francisco Opera will host an immersive experience themed around The Elixir of Love. Expect the team to go all out once again, this time transporting the War Memorial Opera House to the 1940s Italian countryside setting of Donizetti’s playful and heartwarming comedy. (Last year’s event saw the venue transformed into the decadent setting of Verdi’s The Traviata Encounter, inviting audiences into the decadent world of infamous Parisian courtesan Violetta Valéry, complete with acrobats, contortionists, and burlesque performers.)

Robert Richards and Haute Living San Francisco Editor-in-Chief Teresa Rodriguez (Drew Altizer Photography)

“Our new season carries forth all the thrilling energy of the centennial as we welcome the community into a fascinating array of experiences and stories,” says Matthew Shilvock, the Tad and Dianne Taube General Director of San Francisco Opera. “I am so proud that we are telling so many new stories this season, and I’m excited to continue our innovation explorations as we chart a course for the future of opera. The Bay Area Community is discovering opera in fabulous new ways, and we look forward to welcoming many new audience members to immerse themselves in artwork that connects us, bridges differences, and speaks to the soul.”

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