Friday, September 09, 2011
San Francisco Symphony's 2011 Opening Night Gala
In celebration of its 100th anniversary, the San Francisco Symphony Opening Gala hosted a suitably lavish affair with a cocktail party in the San Francisco Opera House foyer, followed by two separate sit-down dinners in City Hall and a Stanlee Gatti decorated tent in the Davies Hall parking lot.
There was also a symphonic concert that was appropriately overstuffed for the special occasion, starting with multimedia waterfalls of historical imagery on the walls which set the scene for the first half's traditional Star Bangled Banner singalong, a beautifully played version of a suite from Copland's "Billy the Kid" ballet, followed by Lang Lang playing Liszt's garish First Piano Concerto in a good, fairly restrained performance.
The concert started about fifteen minutes late so the socialites could make their way from their dinners into the auditorium, bringing the piano in from the basement for Lang Lang took another fifteen minutes, and conductor Michael Tilson Thomas yakked quite a bit to the audience so it was close to nine-thirty before the first intermission even took place.
This didn't seem to bother the crowd, most of which were admirably attentive and quiet for the entire concert, which ended up clocking in at about three hours.
There were roving bands of professional photographers walking about taking photos of local celebrities and social register types, and since I was carrying my camera, various people kept mistaking me for one of them and requesting that I take photos. "Take one of that woman in the orange dress, which is the silliest thing here tonight," one elderly woman demanded.
The lady above on the left grabbed my tuxedo and said, "You have to take a picture of my granddaughter and myself," and then she dragged me almost the entire length of the lobby to do just that. How could you say no, particularly since the San Francisco Symphony had comped me to a ticket for the evening?
The second half of the concert featured superstar violinist Itzhak Perlman giving a dutiful performance of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, followed by Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," which I had never heard live before. As if this weren't all enough, MTT gave a speech thanking everyone in the building, especially local composer John Adams who was in the audience. Then the orchestra played Adams' "Short Ride in a Fast Machine" with a multimedia accompaniment (above) that wouldn't have been out of place at a Pink Floyd show.
The party tent afterwards looked festive, with live cotton candy spinning at the entrance...
...and bizarre monumental flower arrangements as decorative elements.
The most charming party was outside, though, on a closed-to-traffic Grove Street where pizza ovens had been built in the middle of the road, and lights strung up over a series of tables.
Charlotte Schultz above was co-chairing the evening's festivities and was still looking full of steam at midnight. I am not quite sure how the woman does it.