Sunday, September 11, 2005

Opening Night at the Opera, Part I

Jesus (pronounced "Hey-Zeus"), a handsome, charming opera queen originally from Venezuela, was in line at 10AM to buy $10 standing room tickets for the opening night of the San Francisco Opera.

It's probably the best deal in town, and hardly anybody seems to know about it. The price for opening night standing room got jacked up considerably some years ago, but then it came down again a few years back.

Whatever you might think about the soon-to-be-departed general manager, Pamela Rosenberg, at least it can be said that her sympathies were democratic, and under her reign the cheap seats got cheaper.

However, Opening Night has nothing to do with the peasants and everything to do with what the odious "San Francisco Chronicle" calls "The Swells."

The evening started for many of them at a cocktail party at the Arabian Nights-themed tent and courtyard.

On the Grand Tier level, there was a whole collection of gawkers at the window.

They were watching The Swells in the courtyard below.

The coolest detail was the live camel hanging out at the entrance.

On the Grand Tier level, you can hang outdoors on the front balcony.

Tonight it had been commandeered by the Bravo! Club, which is a group designed for the "forty-and-under" segment of rich society families and those who want to be part of rich society families.

Not all that much has changed since the time of Horatio Alger, Jr., the nineteenth-century "dime novel" author who wrote 130 inspiring books about boys overcoming diversity through pluck and hard work, and usually outrageous good fortune at the end.

As Gore Vidal pointed out in one of his better essays, most of the tales end with the marriage of the hero to the Rich Daddy Boss Figure's daughter, and then he ends up on top. You might want to check out the Wikipedia bio by clicking here to read more about Horatio's rather obsessive teenage boy-love inclinations.

Birth, sex and marriage are pretty much the only ways to enter this hermetic world.

Also in attendance were the people who service the rich, such as this young man who sells outrageously expensive automobiles at a dealership on Van Ness.

I have been coming to enough of these openings since 1975 that I feel like part of the tradition myself, and say "Happy Opening Night!" to everyone I know, particularly those who work there, such as this head usher/ticket taker at the central orchestra lobby door...

...or the right-hand lobby coat check lady...

...or Pam Kaye, the scheduling guru for the opera company.

There is usually a beautiful, major floral arrangement in the center of the orchestra level lobby, but this year it was, well, come up with a cruel adjective on your own. The flowers were paid for by Mrs. Alfred S. Wilsey (in other words, the Evil Stepmother Dearest herself from "Oh, The Glory of It All" by Sean Wilsey, which I reviewed here).

I did see Dede in a big red dress dripping with jewels hustling up the stairs from the lobby to the box level, but then she seemed to disappear for the rest of the evening. She must have known I was going to be there as paparazzi.


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