We at San Francisco Opera think of every person who comes to the Opera as part of our family. And our family, like any family, contains a wide variety of personalities and interests. But the undisputed ‘mother hen’ of our Opera family is Board Member Sylvia Lindsey, who this spring received the 2012 Spirit of the Opera Award, the highest honor the Opera Association confers upon non-artistic members of its community.
Sylvia’s dedication and passion are well-known in the Bay Area performing arts community. Not only has she been closely involved with San Francisco Opera for over three decades as a patron, donor, volunteer and board member, but she is also a highly active supporter and board member of the Merola Opera Program, Cal Performances and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Sylvia can often be seen at the Opera House, and when you do see her, she will often cheerfully inform you that she has just come from attending a non-profit board meeting or cooking for 100 people at a function. Or, after a four-hour final dress rehearsal of Die Walkure, she’ll be on her way to a concert, another board meeting, or fundraiser. These would be “light” days for Sylvia. [Right: General Director David Gockley can't hide his affection for Sylvia. Photo by Drew Altizer.]
Her passion for opera and the arts is not just about her own enjoyment; it’s about introducing it to others. For almost a decade, she has chaired the African-American Theater Party at San Francisco Opera. At this annual event, Sylvia brings together a diverse community in the Opera House while honoring an African-American artist from a mainstage opera production. Sylvia and her committee do everything, right down to licking the stamps for the invitations. And hundreds of new people (including students) have come to San Francisco Opera for the first time as a result.
Sylvia also is one of our greatest advocates for outreach to underserved schoolchildren. Each year she brings groups of kids to attend performances at the War Memorial Opera House. Most recently she sponsored a group of 40 children to attend last fall’s "Carmen for Families." This was the first opera performance for many of them. [Left: Sylvia accepts the Spirit of the Opera award, as well as a personalized apron signed by the staff of San Francisco Opera. Photo by Drew Altizer.]
As a retired Chief Nutritionist of Food Service of the Veterans Administration in Martinez, Sylvia knows food. She has many times graciously volunteered her time and talent to coordinate post-performance meals that she cooks—herself—for our artists, staff and crew. Everyone, from the residents of Catfish Row to the Gods of Valhalla, has been treated to Sylvia’s legendary South Carolina hospitality, barbeque ribs, and chicken.
Sylvia makes sure that everyone feels like a part of the family. Box Office staff member Marcy Bastiani recalls, “One year we had a performance on Thanksgiving night. Sylvia knew that those of us in the Box Office would not be able to have Thanksgiving dinner with our families because we would have to work. She surprised us by arriving with a complete homemade turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and we all enjoyed it together. All of us who worked that night will never forget her caring and generosity. She means the world to me.” [Right: San Francisco Opera staff enjoy Sylvia's famous barbecue following the final dress rehearsal of "The Girl of the Golden West."]
And she means the world to our Company. Congratulations, Sylvia!
To read more about Sylvia Lindsey, check out this great article from May 13 in the San Francisco Chronicle.