The San Francisco Symphony scaled down their lavish gala opening concert this year, eliminating the block-long, post-concert party on Grove Street.
The society folks who paid big bucks for a symphony fundraiser were still treated to a pre-concert party and post-concert dinner in the tent over the Lake Louise parking lot, but there was no mixing of the classes this year. This was a shame because half the fun was watching society ladies showing off outrageous designer dresses for their peers and a larger crowd.
It didn't matter, though, because there were still plenty of interesting people celebrating the orchestra's Opening Day...
...including symphony employees dressed to the nines.
The press were treated to an hors d'oeuvres and wine fest on the Van Ness balcony where my spouse Austin and I talked with blogger Lisa Hirsch (Iron Tongue of Midnight, click here)...
Even Broke-Ass Stuart (click here) showed up, looking dapper in a red suit.
The 7PM concert was weird though enjoyable. 59 Productions, a London-based design firm, provided lighting and video accompaniment for the musical works on the program that was visually pleasant but essentially banal. Gala symphony openings usually start with a fanfare or overture but Friday's concert started with a 20-minute Richard Strauss tone poem, Don Juan, an 1889 paean to the legendary male seducer. (All production photos are by Drew Altizer Photography.)
This was followed by the English baritone Simon Keenlyside singing Mahler's 1883 Songs of a Wayfarer. The 64-year-old singer was magnificent, and the early Mahler songs quite beautiful, but they are also dark and brooding and German, not exactly what one would expect at a festive gala.
The third work was Rap Notes, a 2000 work by Swedish composer Anders Hillborg. When commissioned to write a "crossover rap piece" by the Swedish Radio Orchestra for a youth festival, the composer quoted them an outrageous fee, thinking that would kill the project, but instead they paid up. The fifteen-minute piece was pleasant enough in the orchestral accompaniment, and Kev Choice and Anthony Veneziale are skilled freestyle rappers, but the whole thing sounded like a gala novelty act.
The final work was Ravel's 1928 Bolero, which I never need to hear live again in this lifetime. Music Director Esa-Pekka Salonen led a good performance, though, and was convincing in all the different pieces of music on the program. We left jubilant about the resumption of orchestral life in San Francisco, but it was strange leaving a Gala at 8:45PM.