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.


Axel Feldheim said...

Lovely photos. Sounds like you had fun! I got out of another event a few blocks away at about the same time & tried to take a peek at the Grove Street set-up, but barricades & security guards kept me at a distance. Was the audience spared speeches from the Symphony board?

Civic Center said...

Dear Axel: No speeches from the Symphony board, thank goodness, unless like the opera opening. And yes, the security was rather insane. At the party on Grove Street afterwards, we counted about twenty San Francisco policemen standing around doing their overtime shuffle. "They are here to protect us as we walk home," I told Ella, which neither of us believed for a second.