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A Night of Glamour and Opera Magic: SF Opera's Opening Night Ball Launches its 101st Season

September 18, 2023

San Francisco Opera kicked off its 101st season with a glamorous opera ball on Friday, September 8th. This is always one of our favorite events of the year because everyone comes looking and feeling their best in anticipation of the upcoming season at the War Memorial Opera House. And this season is one for the books!

Scroll below to see some of our favorite Red Curtain Addict highlights from the night and get a peek into which operas we’re most looking forward to…

The highly anticipated Opening Night Ball was a grand affair that blended elegance, artistry, and a profound appreciation for opera's timeless beauty. This year's event was spectacular, setting the stage for an equally exceptional season.

Held at the iconic City Hall and War Memorial Opera House, the event was a true showcase of opulence and grandeur and, most importantly, the incredible sense of community, with everyone coming together to support and celebrate the legacy of San Francisco Opera. The "blue carpet" was ablaze with dazzling gowns, sharp tuxedos, and glittering accessories as guests made their way into the breathtaking City Hall that Riccardo Benavides and his team transformed into “The Elixir of Opera,” which was this year’s theme of the opening night.

Click above to watch our exclusive coverage on the blue carpet!

Before the festivities began inside City Hall, we had the opportunity to catch up with a few VIP guests and notable artists on the blue carpet, including Gala Co-Chairs Francesca Gutierrez Amann and Sue Graham Johnston. “This whole party is a love letter to our city,” said Francesca. “We wanted this year’s gala to be a celebration of opera and the whole season because we are presenting a concert tonight, not a specific opera,” said Sue.

We also spotted Jack Calhoun, the newly appointed San Francisco Opera Board President. We were so excited to hear more about what he’s most looking forward to in his new role. “One of the things that we’ve been doing in the last year and will continue to do this year is expanding our audience and getting new people who haven’t experienced opera to come and experience it at the opera house and in their community…” We are all about this and are excited to continue supporting their efforts in creating unique and meaningful experiences throughout the year.

After speaking to many of the guests and asking which opera they are most excited about this season, we heard many share their excitement for "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs," composed by Bay Area composer (and DJ!) Mason Bates, which will premiere at the War Memorial Opera House on September 22nd. Others that were mentioned were Verdi’s "Il Trovatore" and Abels’ "Omar," which won a Pulitzer Prize this year!

Which operas are you most looking forward to? Click HERE to see more about San Francisco Opera’s upcoming season!

Click here to view our official photo gallery from the blue carpet! Photos by Avery Wong.

We were so thrilled to see such an amazing turnout at the opening night, and it was amazing also to spot other arts leaders in the Bay Area who attended to show their support for the San Francisco Opera. “I used to be an opera singer!” expressed Olivia Hsu Decker, who is on the Festival Napa Valley Board of Directors and Publisher of Haute Living San Francisco. We also spotted Broadway & Vine CEO Jacob LangFelder and SFGMC Artistic Director Jake Stensberg, along with many others!

We loved seeing new faces at the Opera Ball, including Alliana Lili Yang, a Child Super at the San Francisco Opera. We talked about her excitement about sharing the stage with legendary opera stars. “I get to meet a lot of my role models!” said Alliana. “I want to be an opera singer when I grow up, so seeing them on the big stage is a big inspiration for me.” Alliana has such a great heart and great style. She wore a beautiful dress designed by Evaro Italia.


Throughout the night, we were wowed by the beautiful gowns and suits showcased on the blue carpet, including Navid Armstrong’s beautiful couture gown designed by local designer Jad Racha. You know us, we’re suckers for red, and she wore Jad’s look beautifully, inspired by the stunning gown Scarlett O’Hara wore in Gone With The Wind.

Red Curtain Addict Founder and Host of the blue carpet, Kari Lincks Coomans, wore a dark green velvet gown paired with elegant and glamorous accessories from Bulgari featuring the iconic Serpenti collection. What were some of your favorite looks from the evening?


After enjoying a cocktail reception and dinner in City Hall, guests made their way to the War Memorial Opera House for a beautiful performance featuring opera stars (and a couple!) Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak, who were accompanied by the San Francisco Opera Chorus and Orchestra at the baton of Eun Sun Kim. The husband-and-wife duo performed a program brimming with operatic arias and duets, featuring selections from iconic works like Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana," Saint-Saëns' "Samson et Dalila," Leoncavallo's "Pagliacci," and Puccini's masterpieces "Tosca" and "Manon Lescaut."

Adding to the magic of the evening, San Francisco Opera Adler Fellow, Olivia Smith joined the couple for a spellbinding excerpt from "Cavalleria Rusticana." Throughout the concert, General Director Matthew Shilvock spoke passionately about the lineup for the upcoming year. The season promises to be a harmonious blend of traditional favorites and innovative productions that push the art form's boundaries. Here! Here!


Afterward, we headed to the after-party, one of our favorite parts of the night. “This is amazing! Just look at the energy in here,” said Matthew Shilvock, San Francisco Opera’s General Director. We loved seeing how pleased he was with the terrific turnout and overall night because it truly was a beautiful night celebrating an amazing cause. “The Opera Ball benefits both the opera’s artistic work and some of the exciting and innovative things that we’re doing. So tonight is both a great party and funds great arts and education.”

As the night concluded, it was evident that the Opening Night Ball had successfully ignited the passion for opera in all who attended. This night of celebration was a true testament to the enduring power of opera to inspire, move, and unite people in celebration of the human spirit. As the 101st season unfolds, it is clear that this cherished organization will continue to enchant and enrich the cultural fabric of San Francisco and beyond.

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