First-nighter lights the lights
by Roberto Friedman
Thanks to the generous good graces of our friends in the press rooms, Out There attended the glamorous opening-night galas of both San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera last week, the so-called "Hell Week" for city socialites and canny culture vultures. We lived to tell the tale.
The Symphony's 102nd opening gala was a satisfying celebration of music and musical community. Arts writer Philip Campbell has the critical goods in his column. In his elegant company, OT grooved on the scene and the promise of the year to come. At a press reception in Davies Symphony Hall's Green Room, we caught up with music writers we know and read. As former SFO General Manager Lotfi Mansouri had passed away the week before, we invited pressies who had known them both to imagine his being greeted by the late B.A.R. critic Stephanie von Buchau when he arrived in heaven – or its counterpart down below – and their putting their feet up for a session of juicy opera-world gossip. In a Hell Week for eternity.
Back on this mortal coil, it was a joyous opening night at Davies, and not only in the press room. The afterparty in the Tent Pavilion erected over "Lake Louise" was all lit up – as was OT – in an eerie wash of watery blue. Outside, on the closed-off Grove Street, DJ and hot young composer Mason Bates was spinning discs for his partying music peeps. Young Master Bates never disappoints.
Just two nights later OT could be found chilling at the Opera opening, and this time we divided our time and our drinking energies among the cozy press room, the Bravo Club's pre- and post-performance affairs, and the Opera Guild 's Gardens of Good & Evil transpiring in City Hall. Styling in the open air of the Opera House's Loggia two flights up, we looked down upon the Van Ness entrance and cheered on the vigil for LGBT Russians. There flew a rainbow flag to go with the statement of solidarity from beloved SFO star Patricia Racette and her wife Beth Clayton.
It was Out There's first encounter with composer Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele in the spectacular Robert Carsen production, starring hunky bass-baritone Ildar Abdrazakov, mostly with his shirt off. Go to Campbell's wrap-up of both season openers for all the deets; we're just here to provide local color. The Bravo-ites' afterparty at Jardiniere was all sorts of elegant, then the Opera Ball nightcapper in City Hall got us bopping to the beat of a party band. Gee, it's exhausting and exhilarating to love classical music in this town. Special thanks from the bottom of our old jalopy heart go to pros Louisa Spier, Amelia Kusar, Oliver Theil, et al. at the Symphony, and Jon Finck, Julia Inouye, Gelane Pearson, Robin Freeman et al. at the Opera. You're all the tops, you're the cat's pajamas.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist and Gallery Wendi Norris
In-between gala openings, Out There and stalwart butchie Pepi made the scene at the first "First Thursday" of the season at blue-chip art galleries downtown. We saw famed photographer Charles Gatewood clutch a stack of Arts & Culture sections with his photowork on the cover at Robert Tat Gallery – CG's not gay, but he's definitely alternative. We recognized renegade collage artist Matt Gonzalez at Gallery Wendi Norris. Stand-outs from our art perusal included Pamela Wilson-Reyckman's watercolors and Xiaoze Xie's oils at Gallery Paule Anglim; Dawoud Bey's "The Birmingham Project" photographs at Rena Bransten Gallery; Mike Brodie's "A Period of Juvenile Prosperity" photographs at Stephen Wirtz Gallery; and Tomoko Konoike's "Earthshine" installation and Laurel Roth's "Flight of the Dodo" sculptures at Gallery Wendi Norris. Roth's peacock sculptures are made from iridescent acrylic fingernails, nail polish, barrettes, false eyelashes, costume jewelry and Swarovski crystal. Art from all that artifice: just like the gala audiences!