It's a Wonderful Life

San Francisco Opera Co-Commission

Music by Jake Heggie


No one is a failure who has friends.

Meet Clara, a second-tier angel desperate to earn her wings by doing good deeds, and the man she chooses to save: George Bailey, a down-and-out businessman ready to leave this world behind. Based on Frank Capra’s beloved film, this timeless story of second chances debuts just in time for the holiday season. Come witness the magic as Clara sets out to change George’s life in this high-flying spectacle.

West Coast Premiere

Meet the Cast

Libretto by Gene Scheer

Sung in English with English supertitles

See a Performance

Great first opera!

Running Time

Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including one intermission

Who Should See It

Fans of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Death of a Salesman, Jake Heggie, Carousel, Holiday stories and operas in English.

Found in series

Full Series: A, D*, G, J, M, R*
Half Series: B, E*, I, L, N, RBW*, S*, W, X*
*Best Value Series

Invite a Friend

Saturday 11/17/18 7:30PM Buy Tickets
Tuesday 11/20/18 7:30PM Buy Tickets
Saturday 11/24/18 2:00PM * Buy Tickets
Sunday 11/25/18 2:00PM * Buy Tickets
Thursday 11/29/18 7:30PM * Buy Tickets
Saturday 12/01/18 7:30PM * Buy Tickets
Tuesday 12/04/18 7:30PM Buy Tickets
Friday 12/07/18 7:30PM Buy Tickets
Sunday 12/09/18 2:00PM Buy Tickets

Select three or more operas to save up to 15% off individual tickets and unlock exclusive subscriber benefits. Design Your Own package today.


* OperaVision, HD video projection screens featured in the Balcony level for this performance, is made possible by the Koret/Taube Media Suite.

Red Sparkles

Family Day on November 24

Join us on Saturday, November 24 and enjoy 50% off tickets for kids under 18, as well as special activities before the performance.


From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the “Bedford Falls Makers Market” located in the War Memorial Courtyard (Franklin Street at Fulton Street) will be open to the public. Inspired by the setting of It’s a Wonderful Life (the town of Bedford Falls, New York) this outdoor marketplace will offer food trucks, handmade crafts from local artists and other family activities. Performance attendees will also have opportunities to support the work of Compass Family Services and Community Housing Partnership.

Exploration Workshop: All About It's a Wonderful Life

Join us at 11 a.m. for an interactive family workshop to accompany performances of It’s a Wonderful Life. Learn about the story, music, production design and characters, and discover the inspiration for this new production. Attendance at an opera performance is not required to participate in this workshop. Workshop is for families with children ages 6 and older.

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Through the help of an intervening angel, a desperate man discovers the meaningful impact of his life.

Read Complete Synopsis ›


It's a Wonderful Life

Pre-Opera Talks

Free to Ticketholders

For every performance, join us in the Orchestra section 55 minutes prior to curtain.

The Expert: CLIFFORD "KIP" CRANNA with Jake Heggie and/or Gene Scheer

Learn about the opera’s music, characters, composer and historical background.

The Buzz


“Gene Scheer is such an accomplished librettist in his understanding of how words and music collude in the theatre … Heggie, for his part, is a born melodist, purveyor of the most grateful, ‘singable’ vocal lines and a word-setter of real eloquence.”

“Tenor William Burden brought searing conviction to the role of George Bailey.”
Opera News

"Soprano Golda Schultz was the true star… her voice buoyant yet substantial, creamy but never heavy."
The New York Times


Cast and Creative

George Bailey William Burden
Clara Golda Schultz *1
Clara Kearstin Piper Brown *2
Mary Hatch Andriana Chuchman *
Mr. Potter Rod Gilfry
Uncle Billy Bailey Keith Jameson *
Harry Bailey Joshua Hopkins *
Angel Quartet Sarah Cambidge
Angel Quartet Ashley Dixon *
Angel Quartet Amitai Pati
Angel Quartet Christian Pursell
Mother Bailey Catherine Cook


November 17, 20, 24, 25, 29; December 1, 4, 7, 9, 2018

Conductor Patrick Summers
Director Leonard Foglia
Set Designer Robert Brill
Costume Designer David C. Woolard
Lighting Designer Brian Nason
Projection Designer Elaine J. McCarthy
Choreographer Keturah Stickann
Chorus Director Ian Robertson

*  San Francisco Opera debut

1 Nov. 17, 20, 24, 25, 29; Dec. 1, 4, 7

2 Dec. 9

Based on the 1946 Frank Capra movie of the same name (by permission of Paramount Licensing, Inc.) and “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern.


A co-commission and co-production with Houston Grand Opera and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.


By arrangement with Bent Pen Music, Inc. Sole Agent: Bill Holab Music. 




In the spirit of fostering community, San Francisco Opera is asking you: Do you know someone who has "earned their wings" by doing good deeds? Find out how you can participate.

Learn More


Join San Francisco Opera, Compass Family Services, and Community Housing Partnership for a community conversation and discussion, as part of its “Earn Your Wings” initiative: SHARED SPACES: Addressing San Francisco’s Homelessness Crisis Through the Arts Friday, November 16, 2018.

Learn More


John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn; Kaiser Permanente; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; San Francisco Opera Guild; Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, through the Emerging Stars Fund; and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Photo (top): Houston Grand Opera production of It's a Wonderful Life/Karen Almond.