Thursday, September 20, 2012
San Francisco Symphony Opening Gala 2012
The lovely PR ladies at the San Francisco Symphony above played hostess to various jackals of the press at the Opening Gala of the 2012-13 season on Wednesday evening. (Forgive me for not identifying most of the people in the photos of this post but I neglected to ask anyone their names.)
The all-French concert started close to twenty minutes late, and Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas decided not to fight the steady stream of latecomers from the party tents, but instead gave an entertaining lecture on the various parts of the orchestra that Berlioz used for different narrative points in his Romeo et Juliette Symphony, complete with musical examples from the whole ensemble. It was a bit like The Old Person's Guide to the Orchestra.
Unfortunately, though MTT is a great conductor in all kinds of repertory, Berlioz is still not quite in his grasp. There's a certain lifelessness that's fatal for music that can easily become sleep inducing without the proper verve and sympathy.
The three movements excerpted from the longer symphony put my date Ella into a coma. (She is posing above left with a happy society woman.). However, she came back to life with the appearance of superstar violinist Joshua Bell, who put his heart into a couple of written-for-Ysaye baubles by Chausson and Saint-Saens before and after intermission.
Ella was the perfect date, smart and funny and honestly thrilled and amused by the spectacle of San Francisco Society strutting their stuff. Best of all, early on during the performance of Ravel's Bolero, she tried shifting in her seat on her very large heels and just about fell to the floor. We happened to be looking at each other at that moment, and for the next fifteen minutes we both did our best to suppress hysterical giggles, with varying degrees of success. I must apologize to all our neighboring seatmates for the occasional sputters that would explode out of nowhere.
The theme of the Gala Opening was something Gallic like Oh-La-La, and the event design didn't quite hold up to last year's centennial high standard, particularly at the street party on Grove that featured Cirque du Soleil types on stilts and small platforms.
Ella could hardly get enough of socialite dance floor watching, but we finally wound home, thoroughly entertained.