Opera-goers are passionate about their métier. Ask them about a production, and they will weigh in on the singers, the roles, the costumes, the sets, even which performance of the same production was superior. So inviting the Opera’s most stalwart supporters to see a new supernova soprano perform a new production of Norma on Opening Night elicits a lot of passion. With the same intensity that bel canto diva Sondra Radvanovsky sang Bellini’s impassioned arias, the San Francisco Opera Guild hosted an opening night filled with beauty, elegance, and intensity. J. Riccardo Benevides’ of Ideas took the evening’s theme of “Passione” with a Venetian flair, transforming City Hall into a fantasy of winged lions, stylized stars, and ethereal moonrise. A phalanx of Etruscan soldiers welcomed the ballgowned and the white-tied into the Rotunda, where McCall’s waiters proffered deviled quail eggs on toast and Roderer Estate Brut as guests greeted each other like long-lost fratelli e sorelle, having been separated from one another since the Symphony starter two days hence. Seated dinner began with a magnifico menu Italiano, beginning with tomato, melon and burrata salad, followed by a truffled filet of beef with porcini cannoli, and the dramatic spectacle of chianti poached pears and roast figs atop a globe filled with zabaglione-mascarpone and mocha gelato. (Gelato goes very well with Bellini, grazie.) William Hill Estate provided Chardonnay and Cabernet to slake the inevitable thirst, and to float the passionate across the street to the Opera House in time for our heroine to sing her Druid blues away. The traditional welcome by Opera Board Chairman John Gunn and President Keith Geeslin, acknowledgement of abundant support by ace General Director David Gockley, and a rousing national anthem led by Conduttore Nicola Luisotti set the stage for the passion play to follow, wherein our soprano has the Gaul to be jilted by a conquering Roman soldier. Who would not feel passionately about that? Three hours later, when the bouquets were tossed onstage, old school, and the bows were taken, our impassioned partygoers could return to a revved-up Rotunda, where pasta and meatballs, biscotti, fragole, and molto cioccolato were dished up, and dancing dashed the memory of poor Norma and her Roman rogue. There’s passion, and then there’s party.
And here’s who was in passion and in fashion, the second great entertainment of the evening: Opera Ball Co-Chairmen Teresa Medearis (with her soldier Mark and Cynthia Schreuder, and Opera Guild President Karen Kubin, Opening Weekend Grand Benefactress Dede Wilsey in diamonds and Oscar, escorted by his able lieutenant Boaz Mazor and Trevor Traina, Pitch and Cathy Johnson, Billy andVanessa Getty, John and Cynthia Fry Gunn, Ann and Gordon Getty, Leslie and George Hume, Willie Brown and Sonia Molodetskaya channeling Grace Kelly in a fetching verdant Vasily Vein, Joan and David Traitel, Brian James and Shariqu Yosufazai, Garry Tramiel, Karen Turner Stanford, Dr. Susan Kroll and Mark Kroll, Nancy and Joachim Bechtle, Bandel and the beauteous Paula Carano, Olivia Hsu Decker, Sako and William Fisher, enjoying an evening ‘off’ after Wednesday’s rhapsody in Blue, Keith and Priscilla Geeslin, Gaurav Garg and Komal Shah, especially stunning in a cantaloupe-colored Oscar confection, Charlotte and George Shultz, Dr. Afsaneh Akhtari in beauteous black lace Oscar, accompanied by her gamine girl Jazmin Roper, Barbara Brown in emerald Oscar and mile-high-a Alaia sandals, Dr. Carolyn Chang in daffodil yellow, Daniel Girard alongside Guild Past President Ann Girard, luminous in silver and navy, Elizabeth Fullerton, Gregory Malin with a gilded Charlot Malin in Marchesa, Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman, Deepa Pakianathan in Andrew Gn gladiator goddess, Nancy and Paul Pelosi, Mary Beth and David Shimmon, Maria Manetti Shrem and Jan Shrem, Jim and Susan Swartz, Dianne and Tad Taube, Marie-Jose and Kent Baum, Carol Benz, Barbara Brookins-Schneider, stunningly svelte in a custom Bob Mackie, Clara Shayevich as a Grecian goddess in periwinkle Karen Caldwell, beauty Brenda Zarate in Nina Ricci, Joel Goodrich as a silver lame fox, Fati Farmanfarmaian in silver sequins, Bob and Chandra Friese, pretty in peach Marchesa, Jorge Maumer bucking the white-tie trend in a brocade Tom Ford dinner jacket, Oran and Maryam Muduroglu celebrating their sixteenth anniversary, charming Daniel Diaz , Jane Mudge, Karen Caldwell in Karen Caldwell, Lisa Grotts in gold Azadeh, Ovadia Kalev, John Finck, Joy Venturini Bianchi making a wild statement in zebra sequined Tom Ford, Amy Millman, Natalia Urritia, Lynn and Craig Lubbok, Kelly Carter in Badgley Mischka, Phoebe Cowles, Tanya Powell pretty in pink Vera Wang, Kristine and Jeff Shine, Jeanne Lawrence, Marybeth Lamotte in slinky Carmen Marc Valvo, Steve and Anne Marie Massocca, the dapper duo of Jack Calhoun and Trent Norris, Shelley Gordon in glorious lipstick red, Yuan Yuan Tan, Donna Sachet in winsome white, with Richard Sablatura, David and Natasha Dolby, Dagmar Dolby, Gretchen de Baubigny, Brad and Dorothy Jeffries, Athena and Timothy Blackburn, Susan Dunlevy, John and Judith Renard, Linda Kemper and Lily Samii, both in Lily Samii, Mira Veda, Nnena Ukuku, Sarah and Clark Winslow, John and Terri Mino, Alison and Michael Mauze, Susan Tamagni, the effervescent Lee Gregory, chic Chloe Harris, Patricia and Charles Sprincin, Linda Zider, Cynthia and Dick Livermore, Nancy and Joachim Bechtle, Victoria Raiser with celeb coiffurer Alex Chases, Mai Shiver and Charles Githier, Fine Arts Museums’ Colin Bailey and Alan Wintermute, Ivan Belichev, Elizabeth Fullerton, James Krohn, Lois Lehrman, Frank D’ambrosia, Christine Suppes, lovely and loyal in robins’ egg Rodarte, Genelle Relfe, regal in purple, Carolyn chandler, Patrick Devin, Mark Rhoades, and many more of the passionate and fashionate.