“It was truly a memorable evening reminding us of the power of music in our lives and the future generation.” – Maryam Muduroglu.
Photos by Drew Altizer
San Francisco Opera Guild’s An Evening on the Stage gala dinner honored mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and composer Jake Heggie on Tuesday evening, November 29, at the War Memorial Opera House. Von Stade and Heggie each received the Crescendo Award, bestowed by the Guild upon individuals who have demonstrated extraordinary support to the Guild and San Francisco Opera.
Now in its ninth year, the sold-out benefit presented by San Francisco Opera Guild offered 275 guests the opportunity to dine on the War Memorial Opera House stage, surrounded by the set of the Company’s acclaimed new production of Verdi’s La Traviata.
Frederica von Stade continues to be extolled as one of the music world’s most beloved figures. Known by her nickname “Flicka,” the mezzo-soprano has enriched the world of classical music for over five decades. Her long and distinguished history with San Francisco Opera began in 1971 (Spring Opera Theater) as Sesto (La Clemenza di Tito), returning the following year for her mainstage debut in the role with which she is famously associated, Cherubino (Le Nozze di Figaro). Over the decades, she has returned in a wide range of repertoire, from Il Barbiere di Siviglia and La Cenerentola to Der Rosenkavalier to the creation of roles in new works such as Conrad Susa’s The Dangerous Liaisons and Heggie’s Dead Man Walking. In addition, she is devoted to her work with local organizations, including Oakland’s St. Martin de Porres Elementary School, the Young Musicians Choral Orchestra, and the People’s Choir of Oakland.
Composer and pianist Jake Heggie’s acclaimed works include the San Francisco Opera world premiere commission Dead Man Walking (libretto by Terrence McNally) and co-commissions Moby-Dick (libretto by Gene Scheer), It’s a Wonderful Life (Scheer) and Three Decembers (Scheer). He served as the Company’s first composer-in-residence from 1998 to 2000, which led to his first opera, Dead Man Walking (2000), in which von Stade created the role of Joseph de Rocher’s mother. In addition to nine full-length operas and numerous one-acts, Heggie has composed nearly 300 art songs and concerti, chamber music, and choral and orchestral works.
“Watching Jake and Flicka perform on stage together that evening made the event even more special for all involved,” praised Lisa Zabelle.
San Francisco Opera Guild President Maryam Muduroglu, whom San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed just announced as the city’s new Chief of Protocol, noted: “Music and art can have transformative influences in the lives of children. Self-expression, empathy, self-esteem, collaboration, global curiosity, compassion, critical thinking, a sense of purpose: these are all the lifelong skills we strive to foster in the thousands of students we reach every year throughout the greater Bay Area. Each of the performers tonight, including Jake and Flicka, was inspired by a mentor, experience, or program that ignited a spark to help them discover and explore their passions. That’s why we do what we do and are so grateful to Flicka and Jake for being such inspiring mentors and extraordinary supporters of our mission.”
Co-chaired by Afie Royo and Lisa Zabelle, An Evening on the Stage included a cocktail reception in the War Memorial Opera House foyer, followed by dinner, musical performances, and dancing on the opera house stage. “It was a magical evening, and SF Opera Guild was delighted to honor and celebrate two of the most wonderful contributors to the music and opera world!” shares Afie Royo.
Musical guests included San Francisco Opera Guild’s Opera Scouts, students from the Young Musician’s Choral Orchestra, mezzo-soprano Catherine Cook, and performances by the guests of honor, Frederica von Stade accompanied by Jake Heggie. Event stylist and frequent Opera Ball designer J. Riccardo Benavides reunited with San Francisco Opera Guild for this event, and McCalls Catering & Events created a sumptuous dinner. The Cheeseballs provided the music for the dance floor.