Last fall, we here at San Francisco Opera were struck by how many connections existed between sights in our beloved Bay Area and the operas presented in our fall season. This inspired us to think about where the characters in our three summer operas – The Tales of Hoffmann, Cosi fan Tutte, and The Gospel of Mary Magdalene – might sightsee while they spent their time in the Bay. Where would E.T.A. Hoffmann go to drink his troubles away? In what seaside community would Mary of Magdala (a fishing town on the Sea of Galilee) feel most at home? And where would Cosi's Ferrando and Guglielmo get their infamous beard disguises groomed?
First up: The Many Tales of Hoffmann
On his first visit to San Francisco, it seems only fitting that writer E.T.A. Hoffmann
would want to spend time in what is arguably the most literary watering hole in the City. Jack Kerouac
and the Beat Poets were regulars at Vesuvio
, and the saloon still retains its bohemian and artistic spirit. Hoffmann could even stumble across the alley into City Lights
to see if they have his short stories in stock. Or hit up the aptly operatic Tosca Café
across the street in search of yet another prima donna.
Occupying space in Pier 45, the Musee Mecanique
houses one of the world’s largest privately owned collections of coin-operated mechanical musical instruments, dolls, and games. While it doesn’t contain any mechanical dolls that can rival Olympia
, Hoffmann would nonetheless be fascinated by this strange and spectacular little San Francisco gem.
Hoffmann would feel right at home in Alameda’s charming Speisekammer
restaurant; if Nicklausse, his muse, could not find Hoffmann drowning his sorrows at Vesuvio, he would more likely than not be here. With a large German beer selection on tap and numerous Tyrolean touches, it feels like the sort of tavern in which Hoffmann would be a regular.
The Poetry Center
: Nicklausse, Hoffmann’s muse, would direct him to any of the numerous monthly Bay Area poetry activities organized or promoted by San Francisco State’s Poetry Center
. If she could get him out of a bar.
In our next installment: the seaside explorations of Mary Magdalene...