A Night At The Opera

A Night At The OperaSeptember 6th was the San Francisco Opera’s opening night Gala event. It was also my birthday, but that’s another story. I was down near the Opera House as people where arriving and it was kind of interesting to watch people in their finery walking down some streets of somewhat ill repute.

There is nothing so humorous as a woman in her finest Vera Wang gown drenched in jewels stepping around a homeless person with a cup and not even dropping a dollar in for him while trying to maintain her elegant decorum. I don’t normally feel so strong a need to help the homeless, but when you have someone wearing a $5000 gown that she probably won’t wear again who for some reason can’t afford to drop $1 or $5 in a guys cup there just seems something a bit wrong to me.

Of course that’s not the only thing that seems kind of wrong about the evening to me. All the the glitterati rich and famous come out for the opening night of the Opera and I was reading all about it. A lot of the people you don’t recognize who are along with the recognizable until you read their names and note that there were lots or people who’s surnames were either the names of big companies or streets in San Francisco [because they came from very old money that they’ve been living off of for a century or so].

The pictures of the Opera’s opening gala in the news were all about who wore what dress and jewelry, what food was served, how ornate the decorations were yet I couldn’t for the life of me find a single mention of what was being performed that evening. It’s like a tailgate party for the rich and famous where you never bother going in to see the game.

Mark Twain has a vehement dislike for the idle rich and even wrote a society column in San Francisco once were he just threw in several French words to make the people sound rather important. Madame wore a fine pate de foi gras lovingly draped in an amuse bouche of taffeta and chiffonade haricot vert. That line always stuck in my head just because I knew enough to laugh at Twain’s description of a woman dressed in goose liver and an appetizer of chopped green beans as being rather hilarious.

I’m not sure if any of these people show up for the rest of the season, but I have to admit that the men get off easy. They just need a tux which is pretty easy to fake. All you need is a black suit that you add a bow tie and cumber bun to a tux shirt and you’re done. You could probably do that for under $100 if you already have a black suit [hint: Goodwill store].

Overall I strongly believe the arts need support and if that means that you need to have a night where the rich get to dress up and show off so the rest of us can get some benefit I guess I’ll have to be OK with that as long as the rest of us do get some benefit from it.

OK and before I forget, the evening featured a monumental work of choral grandeur and melodic richness that was Mephistopheles by Arrigo Boito.



Bayview Opera House

My friend Angelina Armani was in town last night and contacted me to tell me that she and her boyfriend Robert Hall would be videotaping a performance by Kevn Kinney of Southern rock band Drivin and Cryin at the Bayview Opera House. That was enough to give me an excuse to check out a piece of San Francisco history few people know about.

The funniest part when I drove up and met everyone was that they were talking about chicken and waffles that they just had for dinner. Apparently, they didn’t know about the Bayview part of town. Kevn greeted me with a hey brother, you from this part of town? The first thing that popped out of my mouth was, you just had chicken and waffles for dinner, do I look like I’m from this part of town? Not being unaware of soul food [yet I still can’t figure out the combination of chicken and waffles] we both ended up having a laugh after my comment.

Built in 1888, the Bayview Opera House is small in comparison to other opera houses you might find elsewhere.It underwent a refurbishment recently and I can tell you that from walking around the outside and inside that it is definitely a centerpiece to the Bayview-HuntersPoint community. This area was originally considered to be a part of South San Francisco.

The odd part is that while it was called an opera house there was never any operas performed there. Built as part of a Masonic Lodge it was home to vaudeville acts like Pawnee Bill’s Medicine Show and other traveling type of groups, but it was a place that the people of San Francisco would visit for a night out on the town which would make sense since there was a brewery on the opposite corner where they could fuel up for whatever form of entertainment was happening that night. While I can’t find much  more about the history of the place it is today a place that serves the African-American community with arts programs, yoga and helps bring the community together.