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?
Next: The explorations of seaside Mary
Yes, madeleines are those delicious buttery morsels that even Proust was known to love
. But did you know that their shape and name comes from Mary Magdalene? Madeleine is the French version of her name, and their shape—a scallop shell – is one of her symbols
. Few bakeries in the Bay Area do madeleines as well as Miette
, and we think she would love to enjoy a few of them before heading to the Opera House
Half Moon Bay
Mary was from Magdala
, an affluent fishing village on the Sea of Galilee
(hence the name Mary Magdalene). What is known of her is that she came from a prominent fishing family, and so we could see her easily feeling at home in the entire community of Half Moon Bay
. Excellent fishing, beautiful ocean views, and a small town atmosphere seem like just the sort of place she would enjoy.
Legion of Honor
Few women have captivated the hearts and minds of artists like Mary Magdalene. She has been portrayed as a learned disciple, a penitent sinner, a companion, and a prostitute (an incorrect myth which you can learn more about here
). On display at the Legion of Honor
, Mary could see one of her many iconic portrayals
, alongside the countless other female figures who have left an indelible mark on our history.
The Prayerbook Cross of Golden Gate Park
Like Mary Magdalene herself, the Prayerbook Cross in Golden Gate Park
has also been a source of controversy. Erected in 1894 and standing over sixty-feet high, the cross sits on one of the highest points of Golden Gate Park and was a tribute to the first English language sermon and use of the Book of Common Prayer in California. Many find the area surrounding the cross to be a place of quiet reflection, and Mary may find solace standing at the foot of this iconic cross.
Next time in our summer opera sightseeing: Brother, can you spare a beard?