Much like baseball fans, we here at San Francisco Opera count down the days until the opening of the Fall 2012 opera season. But as we were strolling around the City, enjoying the last days of summer, we realized that San Francisco was practically tailor-made for the five fall operas. We found so many connections between our beloved city and the fall season that we had to share them!
First up: Verdi’s bust in Golden Gate Park
Maybe you were hoofing it over to the final days of the Jean Paul Gaultier exhibit
at the De Young. Or maybe you were desperately in need of your regular dose of cute at the penguin exhibit
at the California Academy of Sciences. But either way, you may have never noticed the gilded bust of Verdi that stands behind the music concourse of Golden Gate Park. This bust of Rigoletto
’s beloved composer was unveiled to much fanfare in March 1914, only months before the start of World War I. As reported by the SF Examiner, Italy’s Queen Elena was in attendance for the unveiling, as well as the Consul-General of Italy, San Francisco Mayor James Rolph Jr., and approximately 50,000 others. Madame Luisa Tetrazzini, frequently called the ‘Florentine Nightingale’ and considered the "best loved of operatic prima donnas by San Franciscans," sang the "Star-Spangled Banner” for the occasion. Nearly 100 years after the bust’s unveiling, we remain grateful to be in a city whose love affair with Verdi and Rigoletto
Next on the list: Golden Gate Park’s Garden of Shakespeare’s Flowers
Both Shakespeare and Bellini were captivated with the true-life story of the Capulet and Montague
family feuds, which tragically (and famously) ended in the deaths of Juliet Capulet and Romeo Montague. Bellini’s adaptation of their story is the second opera in our fall season, and there is no better place to go for inspiration prior to the show than Shakespeare’s Garden of Flowers in Golden Gate Park. With over 200 plants, an array of benches, and Shakespearean quotes and sonnets emblazoned in bronze throughout the garden, it’s a beautiful space that either the Capulets or the Montagues would have been happy to call their own.
Moving on to the Marina: The swans at the Palace of Fine Arts
Sure, Boston may have a fleet of Swan boats
, but we have a large family of real, honest-to-goodness swans that reside in one of the loveliest locations in all of San Francisco: the Palace of Fine Arts. Originally constructed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and designed by Bernard Maybeck, the Palace of Fine Arts was one of ten palaces at the heart of the Exposition, which also included the exhibit palaces of Education, Liberal Arts, Manufactures, Varied Industries, Agriculture, Food Products, Transportation, Mines and Metallurgy and the Palace of Machinery. Maybeck, taking his inspiration from Roman and Greek architecture, wished to create a fictional ruin from another time. Its fairy tale-like qualities have even been replicated by the most famous fairy tale architects of them all: Disney. When Disney’s California Adventure Theme Park opened, they made sure to include a miniature replica
of the Palace of Fine Arts in their park. So it seems only fitting that these gorgeous swans, so pivotal to the fairy tale opera Lohengrin
, would find themselves residing in the most fairy tale-like locale in the City.
Moving back ashore: Moby Dick
Captain Ahab may be disappointed that there is no great white whale inside this longstanding Castro establishment
, but he will find a 250 gallon salt-water tank above the bar and lots of friendly locals. Moby-Dick has been the site for weddings, parties, and general merriment since it opened in 1979, with nary a curse or storm in sight. Even Flask and Stubb
might enjoy a post-show drink here.
I’ll have a drink with my aria: Tosca Café
Often called the jauntiest of San Francisco’s gin joints, Tosca Café
in North Beach is considered a landmark San Francisco institution. Opened nearly 93 years ago and still retaining much of its vintage charm, it’s the sort of place where George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola, Harvey Milk, and the Cavaradossi would all feel at home. If you’ve got an artistic temperament like Tosca
, you’re always welcome here.
Bonus Offering: Specs Twelve Adler Museum Café
Kurt Herbert Adler was the second General Director of San Francisco Opera and the namesake for our distinguished Adler Fellow young artist program
, which has its annual Adler Gala concert
on November 30. And just around the corner from Tosca Café lies the Specs Twelve Adler Museum Café, a bohemian watering hole that lives up to its Barbary Coast roots. For many years, employees of the upstairs strip club would come through the door connecting the two floors to get refreshments (it’s long been sealed off). And while we don’t think Adler was ever a patron of Specs Twelve Adler Museum Café, we think he would have appreciated the artistic spirit that has kept the bar running since 1968.
We hope you take an afternoon to visit some of the locales that have such a strong tie to our fall season and that make our City so great. And once you’re done exploring, come join us
at the Opera House for a great night on the town (psst: did you hear we just made the list of Top 100 things to do in San Francisco before you die
? What are you waiting for??)