Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

Fun in the Imperial Palace

Out There

Martina Serafin as Turandot and Brian Jagde as Calaf in San Francisco Opera's production of Puccini's "Turandot." Photo: Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera
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Part of the fun of being invited to the San Francisco Opera's opening gala is rubbing shoulders with famous socialites. Chilling at the cocktail reception in the War Memorial Opera House last Friday night, Out There spotted Paul and Nancy Pelosi nearby. Bravi to them! At the Bravo! Club Gala in the Loggia, and again at the Bravo! Club After-Party in the Veterans Building's Green Room, we partied with patrons, Merola Opera Program grads, and, in the case of tenor Brian Jagde , one of the stars of the show – that show being Puccini's "Turandot," in all the splendor of its David Hockney-designed production.

It was quite the festive affair. At performance's end, SF Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti, the official honoree of Opera Ball 2017, was presented with the San Francisco Opera Medal, the Company's highest honor, for his artistic leadership and distinguished career with SFO. After nine seasons conducting over 40 operas and concerts with SFO, Luisotti will step down from his post at the end of this season, though he is scheduled to return in future seasons as a guest conductor.

Luisotti was charming and gracious in his remarks upon accepting the honor. He credited coming to live in an open-minded city like SF with improving his character, and as for the country at large, he counseled patience and forbearance. Things will get better, he assured us. If only we could be so sure.

And so the 2017-18 opera season is officially kicked off with this sophisticated bash. Up next is "Elektra" by Richard Strauss, which SFO says, "with 100 players, has the largest orchestra in any production in Company history." Watch these pages for reviews of the entire season repertory.


In the Heights

Readers of this column know that Out There enjoys overnight stays at hotels all over the Bay Area and beyond, but sometimes the most pleasurable stayovers are closest to home. Recently we accepted an invitation from the Hotel Drisco, at 2901 Pacific Avenue in Pacific Heights, to stay over for a night in one of their one-bedroom suites. A stone's throw from the picturesque Lyon St. Steps and a rugged corner of the Presidio, the Drisco is in a residential neighborhood not far from where the Gettys and Larry Ellison bunk down – that is to say, swank environs indeed.

The Drisco has just re-opened after a six-month closure for renovations including a complete makeover to all 48 of its guestrooms, suites and bathrooms, and updates to all of the public areas and landscaping. General manager John Spear told us that the hotel flies the national flag of any foreign visitor who comes for an extended stay. Recently, they had to express-order a Thai flag; it arrived overnight.

The boutique hotel takes quarters in an old 1903 Edwardian rooming-house, so the rooms and hallways have those civilized early-century proportions and a genteel charm. There's a sitting room stocked with newspapers, and a dining room for breakfast and wine hours, but no restaurant on-site. The hotel does make a 24-hour room service available, with sous-vide offerings.

Out There arrived on a recent Sunday after work, an easy commute on the 1 California, then a trot up the hill, the last block to the top a doozy. The wine reception that evening in the Dining Room offered a selection of California wines as well as a sort of "Battle of the Roses" (our term, not theirs) between bottles of Oregon and Alexander Valley vintage. To match the wines, the social hour offered an array of artisan cheeses, charcuterie, fresh fruit and a serving dish full of piping hot meatballs.

Our one-bedroom suite was elegant and comfortable. A city view, a sofa and sitting area, a heated floor made of ceramic tile in the bathroom so our tootsies didn't get cold stepping out of the shower. And of course a bed that was quite inviting and luxe, with an adaptive-sound machine on the nightstand with settings like rainfall, brook and waterfall. It was like sleeping in a perpetual rinse cycle.

We enjoyed the European-inspired continental breakfast early in the morning before heading back to the arts desk. There was smoked salmon, French brie and a plenty nice spread at the buffet. Servers offered cups of Illy espresso, cappuccino or cocoa, but OT is more of a strong cup of tea boy, lemon no sugar. So that's how we got our caffeine buzz on.

Before the commute to work we strolled the hood, noticing that the neighbors included a number of consulates. A few days later, having received their walking papers from the State Department, the Russian Consulate nearby was observed burning something that produced a heavy black smoke wafting from the roof. Well, that was certainly suspicious!


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