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Opening Doors An Interview with Board Member and C o m m u n i t y Vo l u n t e e r S y l v i a L i n d s e y

“I am proud of the ways we are nurturing future

thankful for people who act as our ambassadors to the community at large.” – David Gockley General Director

Letter from David Gockley on page two


opera-goers, and

House,” she remarks. “And in 1983, I inaugurated the African-American Theater Party.” Through this annual event, about forty kids, mostly underprivileged, attend an Opera performance and dinner. “Last year we attended Carmen for Families and one girl, who is at risk of falling in with gangs, told me, ‘José didn’t have to kill Carmen. He could have made a different choice.’ She got that from the opera.” The Theater Party group has also sponsored several parties, most memorably during the 2008-09 run of Porgy and Bess. “A lot of those performers were from Sylvia Lindsey with David Gockley at out of town,” Sylvia recalls. “One day I saw a group the 2012 Medallion of them at a café, all homesick and counting pennies. Society Luncheon They needed some hospitality, so I got together some volunteers for an old-fashioned Southern barbecue. Everyone told me we were crazy to cook for so many an Francisco Opera has opened doors people.” It has gone down as one of the greatest cast for me,” declares Opera donor Sylvia parties in Company history. She has twice reprised Lindsey. “I’ve gotten so much out of the barbecue, and plans another for the fall. my involvement with this Company.” She’s given Having attended San Francisco Opera for over thirty back even more. years, Sylvia has more than a few “most memorable” Sylvia has been a member of the Opera’s Board stories. But one is especially tellof Directors since 1987, and ing. “It was Leontyne Price’s farealso serves on the Merola “It’s important to keep well recital [in 1992],” she reBoard. In February at the annual Medallion Society our school kids engaged.” members. “At dinner afterwards I sat across the table from her. She Luncheon, she received the got this look on her face and said, Spirit of the Opera Award ‘I’m a country girl from Mississippi. And I’ve sung – the highest honor San Francisco Opera can for kings and queens. Sometimes I have to pinch mybestow upon a supporter. “I was honored for self.’ I was so surprised to hear her say that.” something I enjoy doing,” she says. “I wasn’t sure Sylvia can sympathize. “I’m just a country girl from I deserved it. But David Gockley said, ‘This is North Carolina,” she beams. “That’s the beauty of the long overdue.’” Those who know of her tireless arts: you never know where they will lead you.” Ever efforts and boundless warmth would agree. modest, however, she can’t help but share the spotlight. Working with young people is near and dear to “I’m happy to do my part. But I thank our good friends Sylvia’s heart. “It’s important to keep our school who contribute, especially those who sponsor our kids.” kids engaged, or we are going to lose them,” she To learn about how you can become a Medallion explains. “For the recent Das Rheingold, I canvassed Society member, contact Nicola Rees, Director of Anlocal church groups to recruit kids as supernunual Giving, at (415) 551-6243 or meraries, kids who had never been to the Opera



Behind the Curtain is a publication for contributors to San Francisco Opera.


Nicola Rees Randi Lund Paul


Mark Hernandez w w w. b l a z i n g s t a g e . com D ESI GN:

Janette Cavecche w w w.c a v e c c h e g r a p h i c s.c om David Gockley General Director Nicola Luisotti Music Director Behind the Curtain is published semiannually by the Development Department at San Francisco Opera. If you have any address changes or would prefer not to receive this publication please contact: San Francisco Opera Development Department 301 Van Ness Avenue San Francisco, CA 94102

Part of San Francisco Opera’s mission is to take a leadership role in training, arts education and audience development. Building the next generation of opera-goers is one of my most cherished goals. When I arrived at San Francisco Opera in 2006, I saw an opportunity to make an even greater impact in the community through education. We hired a new Director of Education, Ruth Nott, formerly with the Metropolitan Opera Guild, to expand our outreach into schools and create opera education programs for adults. After just three years, our Education Department is making a huge impact on children, teachers, families and newcomers to the art form. In this issue, you will meet some of the people whose lives have changed through these extraordinary efforts. This issue also introduces you to special friends who are finding personal ways to share the joy of opera. Board member Sylvia Lindsey is a tireless advocate of our work and this art form, bringing kids from underserved communities like Richmond into the Opera House for rehearsals and live performances. Donors Bob

C O N TA C T U S :

and Laura Cory are personally underwriting tickets for groups of local teachers and students. And last fall, Board member Vivian Stephenson and her spouse Margarita Gandia purchased tickets for young people from Larkin Street Youth Services, a neighborhood organization serving at-risk youth, who, I have heard, left a performance of Xerxes “singing faux arias in falsetto con brio!” Truly we are blessed at San Francisco Opera. Those of us who love opera know that it is an art form with wide appeal. But it is also expensive, which is why we are fortunate to earn the generous support of people and organizations who direct their giving toward education and community outreach. Our endowment fund includes gifts to fund school programs and student ticket discounts. Nothing makes me more certain of this Company’s future legacy than our deep commitment to education. World-class organizations make an investment in the next generations. I am proud of the ways we are nurturing future operagoers, and thankful for people who act as our ambassadors to the community at large.

David Gockley, General Director

General Member: (415) 565-6416 Medallion Society Information: (415) 565-6401

Donor Benefits Hotline: o Opera 2010-11 Season (415)Financial 551-6308


1,094,620 Visit us on the web at: & Artistic* 77%sfoper Box Office 9% C O M P A N 8% Y SPONSORS ve & General Operations Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation 6%

Fundraising 6%

Marketing and Box Office 9% Administrative and General Operations 8%

John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Franklin and Catherine Johnson edia and Opera Center Mrs. Edmund W. Littlefield Bernard and Barbro Osher Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem 9,293,203

ns** 48% evenue*** Draw 12%



Corporations 5% Government 2% Foundations 19%

Guild 2%

In-kind 2% Individual Donors 70%

CO N T R I B U T I O N S $33,345,806

Contributions** 48%



include unrestricted bequests

Production & Artistic* 77%


Operating Revenue*** 40%

Endowment Draw 12%

$25M tickets San Francisco Opera is sponsored,

ns Detail $33,345,806 in part, by a grant from Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund onors 70% s 19% s 5% t 2% PA G E 2 % %

EXPENSES $71,094,620

REVENUE $69,293,203

* includes Media and Opera Center

** does not include unrestricted bequests *** includes $25M ticket sales

F O R M O R E F I N A N C I A L I N F O R M AT I O N G O T O S F O P E R A . C O M / F I N A N C E G O V E R N A N C E


Learning Opera for Life An Interview with Director of Education Ruth Nott


Together we create original coursework. hen asked to describe San Our teaching artists facilitate opera learnFrancisco Opera’s school proing in the classroom.” grams, Director of Education The Opera ARIA Network program reRuth Nott says simply, “It comes down to quires a major time commitment from the meeting needs.” schools involved. “Teachers undertake pro “When David Gockley made education a fessional development on their own time,” priority,” Ruth remembers, “I spent almost Ruth emphasizes. “On top of that, they allot a year talking to teachers and administraus precious class hours. This program can tors. They told us what they needed and involve up to 40 sessions per class per we responded.” year. But teachers see results: students After a semester of piloting programs unearth their own creativity, use arts with elementary, middle and high schools, learning to increase understanding of other the result was ARIA (Arts Resources in subjects, and show improvements in parAction), a unique suite of programs making ticipation, teamwork, empathy, mood and a real difference in local public schools. more.” Shorter, less commit “We don’t dictate exactly ment-heavy programs are what the program is,” Ruth “Students provided as well. explains. “Instead, we work “ARIA Network students with teachers to determine unearth their own write libretti, compose music, what will benefit their stucreativity.” and build sets, costumes dents. Every classroom is and props,” Ruth says. “And, different, and we tailor proof course, they perform. The way these grams appropriately. These multi-interaction elements are structured makes the proprograms teach the whole child, engage gram unique.” the teacher as a participant, use the Opera’s Each ARIA experience may vary but resources, and help teachers connect learning the techniques are familiar. Students work about opera to classroom curricula.” with the best in the business – mainstage “We start with professional development professionals at San Francisco Opera, for teachers,” Ruth says. “They learn about from Adler Fellows to Props and Costume what we do at the Opera and help us make Shop staff and trained teaching artists. connections with the subjects they teach.

Students enjoy a visit with scene shop staff.

Director of Education Ruth Nott

“We want the experience to be intimate,” Ruth says. Learning any art and connecting it with what the kids are already learning in class takes a hands-on approach. There are no shortcuts.” The Opera’s Overture workshops for adults are also hands-on. Ruth explains, “Overture participants do a writing exercise when we explore the journey from novel to libretto. We’ve sat in on a chorus rehearsal, but also learned an excerpt from an opera chorus by actually singing with our chorus. Participants tell me over and over how much more they get out of going to the opera after they take the four-session course.” There is a definable benefit to the Company as well. “After attending Overture, patrons tend to go to the opera more frequently, bring friends to performances and some increase their donations,” Ruth says. “They become ambassadors for San Francisco Opera.” “We have programs for families but we want to provide more,” Ruth says. “And I would love to connect with more university students.” “As for the future,” she concludes, “I want to see our programs grow, but at the same time maintain the level of high quality and intimacy. Any true love of art begins with discovering what speaks to you. We can help with the discovery.” PA G E 3


OPERA EDUCATION BY THE NUMBERS * Number of students (K-12 & University): 12,975 Number of schools (K-12 and University): 163 Number of Opera performers, production staff and teaching artists employed / Number of man hours: 46 / 2,046 Number of hours of professional development available to educators: 123 Number of original mini-operas created by students: 47 Number of family members served: 2,751 Number of adults at Pre-Opera Talks: 39,938 Number of adults at workshops and symposia: 1,404 Directions the program can take, depending on the needs of teachers and their students: Unlimited The impact on the lives of everyone who participates: Incalculable * T O TA L S F O R 2 0 1 0 - 1 1 (NOT INCLUDING OPERA GUILD PROGRAMS)

Inspiring School Partnership SFUSD Artistic Director Praises Opera Education


The professional develophen David ment required of participating Gockley came teachers “is a lot of extra work to town, he but most who participate end told us he wanted to create edup falling in love with the ucation programs that would be program,” Susan says. “All the envy of the nation,” Susan of them have stories – about Stauter recalls. “It was a grand how it was final exam week, statement. In my job, I hear a for example, but some-how lot of promises. I remember they made the time. And it was thinking it would take a lot to worth it.” keep this one. He did.” In 2006-07, the School As Artistic Director of the District adopted the Arts San Francisco Unified School Susan Stauter Education Master Plan. District, Susan coordinates arts “The central notion is that the whole city programs for all San Francisco schools. Her of San Francisco is a campus, and all of appreciation of opera is palpable. “Opera is our schools and arts organizations are eclectic, with applications for other kinds of parts of that campus,” Susan explains. “The arts and many areas of study,” she marvels. word you’ll see most often is ‘partnership.’ “Twenty-first century skills require thinking It’s not just ‘I tell you out of the box, solving problems, what to do and you do it.’ working together – all of this “The Opera’s Partnership means just that and more happens on the opera programs stand out – between organizations, stage. Consider this: when we schools, parents, principals, talk about how the arts can be for their depth.” teachers and students. With applied, all we have to do is -in the framework of the visit San Franciso Opera’s Prop Master Plan, the Opera’s programs stand Department. Within two minutes, it’s clear out. And increasingly they’re seen as a model how art and science merge.” for the nation.” “The Opera’s programs stand out for their Susan adds, “Even in hard times, the depth,” she observes. “We get professionals grand nature of opera remains an inspiration, at the top of their game working directly with a reminder of what we can accomplish our kids to help them learn the skills needed together. In that sense, the Opera’s education to create their own work. Students come to programs become the place for big ideas to view opera not as something someone else become manifest in a compelling way.” does, but rather as something they do.”

“This year we created a mini-opera set during the American Revolution. No lecture by me could have given Lighting crew finalize prothrough their own, self-guided research. I cannot imagine teaching without ARIA.” — EMILY DAHM, FIFTH GRAD jections during a technical rehearsal. PA G E 4

Student Rehearsals Madeleine H. Russell Night at the Opera


adeleine Haas Russell (1915-1999), the great grandniece of Levi Strauss, was one of San Francisco’s most revered philanthropists. She served on the San Francisco Opera Board of Directors from 1973 until 1998. In 1940, Mrs. Russell and her brother William established the Columbia Foundation, which continues to support a wide range of environmental, cultural and social causes. In memory and honor of Mrs. Russell, the trustees of the Columbia Foundation made a generous endowment grant to San Francisco Opera Mrs. Russell offering Bay Area students and educators was one of San the opportunity to attend – free of charge – a final dress rehearsal of a mainstage Francisco’s production in the War Memorial Opera most revered House. Since its inception in 2000, close to 22,000 students have attended philanthropists. Madeleine H. Russell Night at the Opera, the majority of whom experienced the dynamic art form of opera for the very first time. Endowment gifts offer a stable resource for the Company to meet current priorities as well as exciting new opportunities as they arise. They provide both immediate funding and long-term financial security for the Opera, benefiting future generations of operagoers in San Francisco. To learn more about endowment giving, contact Mark Jones at (415) 5653206 or email him at

ARIA students performing their own opera.

OPERA IN THE CLASSROOM Opera ARIA (Arts Resources in Action) integrates learning about opera into the classroom. • The Opera ARIA Network (K-8) covers one or more semesters. Teachers participate in professional development and collaborate with San Francisco Opera teaching artists to connect Company resources to their curriculum in highly personalized ways. • The Opera ARIA Residency (K-8) focuses on connecting one creative element of opera with classroom curricula over four to twelve visits. • PEAK (grades 9-12) integrates opera’s multi-disciplinary characteristics, for four to twelve visits, using a specific opera as a prism to explore the connection of a number of subjects to a single artwork. • Through Opera ARIA Professional Development for Educators, K-12 educators gain tools to connect the study of opera to their classrooms. Educators also bring students to select Dress Rehearsals.

LIFE-LONG LEARNING AT THE OPERA Throughout the season, the Education Department conducts programming for adults and families.

Students enjoying a Carmen rehearsal on Madeleine H. Russell Night at the Opera.

students the depth of understanding that they gained


• Overture Workshops (including one-time workshops and a four-part series) help adults understand opera by investigating specific aspects of the creative and performance processes, including libretto writing, composition, stage direction, singing and costume/set/prop making. • Interactive, multi-generational Family Workshops help prepare people of all ages to attend family-oriented performances. • The Opera in an Hour series, featuring edited movies of San Francisco Opera mainstage performances, is a perfect introduction to the magic of opera. Movies are screened in K-12 classrooms and at free family events. Titles include: The Magic Flute, The Elixir of Love and Girl of the Golden West. Carmen will be next! • Pre-Opera Talks, Symposia and collaborations with community partners on lectures and events take participants deep into specific works and topics. • University Programs foster connections between opera and coursework with partner universities and professors. PA G E 5


Spreading the Joy Donors Find Personal Ways to Draw Newcomers

life and be deeply meaningful.” Bob and Laura enthusiastically support the initiatives launched by the San Francisco Opera Education Department. But they also know that outside of school, live opera remains unreachable to many of the people who participate in these programs. They are making a habit of purchasing groups of tickets for students and teachers, at a discounted advanced rush rate. Last fall, thanks to the generosity of the Corys, small groups enjoyed performances of Don Giovanni and Carmen, and this summer, a group of thirty teachers and students have enjoyed Attila, Nixon in China and The Magic Flute. Recent stories about bullying moved Youth from Larkin Street Youth Services Vivian Stephenson, another San Franattending an Adler Fellow master class led by cisco Opera Board member, to consider countertenor David Daniels. whether opera might offer a ray of hope to a ot everyone comes from an operayoung person with profound questions about going family. With arts programs cut life. In particular, Vivian wanted to reach out from school budgets, and an exploto at-risk LGBT youth, to provide for them sion of new entertainment options, a young not only role models in the opera world, but person might find going to the opera about an opportunity to enjoy the thrill of an art as unlikely as catching a rocket to the moon. form that deeply draws people together. San Francisco Opera presents a variety “Handel’s Xerxes might not be your first of education and community outreach prothought as a way to engage at-risk LGBT grams – and is fortunate kids in the community,” “Not everyone comes from to have loyal donors who Vivian says. “But our believe in them. But somefriends in the art proan opera-going family.” times, the best way to ingram at Larkin Street troduce a young person Youth Services were to the opera is simply to invite her. willing to give it a try. It all started with Board member Bob Cory and his wife private access for the youth to an Adler Laura are longtime supporters of opera and Fellow master class led by the amazing classical music organizations. They also have David Daniels.” a personal commitment to arts education, Mr. Daniels chatted with the youth after the which they show through their support for class, and they left the Opera House on fire with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and excitement. Vivian knew they were primed for especially, San Francisco Opera’s Education live performance, and with her spouse MargaProgram. “Being exposed to opera in the rita Gandia, purchased ten tickets to Xerxes. schools is the best way to start a lifelong love The experience for these young people was of the art form,” Bob says. “School programs so powerful, there are plans to further involve provide a fundamental grounding in an art Larkin Street Youth with Rigoletto this fall. form that is truly elemental. The stories, char “It’s easier than we think to engage a acters, music, visual artistry: opera can conyoung person with opera,” Vivian says. nect up with everything in a young person’s “And when we do, it can be pure magic!”


PA G E 6

Community of Support San Francisco Opera is grateful to the following individuals and organizations who recently have provided major support for Education Department programs and initiatives: Robert and Laura Cory S.H. Cowell Foundation Gap Foundation Walter & Elise Haas Fund The Kimball Foundation Michelson Family Foundation San Francisco Foundation Singh-Anderson Foundation Union Bank Wells Fargo Zellerbach Family Foundation If you would like to learn more about designating your contribution to a specific program or initiative at San Francisco Opera, please contact Judith Frankel at (415) 551-6226 or

UNION BANK SUPPORTS ARIA San Francisco Opera is proud to welcome Union Bank, our newest multi-year sponsor for the Opera ARIA Program. Through its generous support, this suite of K-12 educational programs brings opera into the classroom and expands the collaboration between educators, Opera teaching artists and students.


Meeting the Mission Partner Organizations Make an Impact in Artist and Community Education

San Francisco Opera Guild

Melody Moore and Thomas Hampson: two Merolini in the Heart of a Soldier world premiere.


he Opera is fortunate to partner with many organizations to help advance its commitment to training, arts education and audience development. Here are three extraordinary examples: Merola Opera Program Named for San Francisco Opera’s first General Director, the Merola Opera Program seeks out the finest young opera talent and develops those singers into professional artists of the highest caliber. Following a rigorous annual audition process of more than 800 young hopefuls from around the world, the program invites approximately 23 singers, five coaches and one stage director to participate in its summer apprenticeship. Training includes both classes and public performances that provide a rigorous, comprehensive education. Many graduates of the Merola program have gone on to international careers, including renowned artists like Anna Netrebko, Patricia Racette, Deborah Voigt and Thomas Hampson.

San Francisco Opera Guild brings K-12 education programs into nearly 200 schools throughout the San Francisco Bay Area each year. Teaching artists visit classrooms to present interactive music and theatre experiences that introduce students to classic operas as they learn about storytelling, singing, stage practice and the social relevance of art. Students are also guided in the process of imagining, writing and performing their own original operas, based upon classroom curricula or current world events. Summer Conservatory gives teens an intense opera camp experience to deepen their musical and performance skills while learning acting, movement, language and history. The Guild also provides adult education programs including regular insight panel discussions, preview lectures and tours of the War Memorial Opera House.

Engaging deeply with education.

ENGAGE WITH US. Like us and leave your comments on our tweet back on on our

Conservatory students perform for kids at George Peabody Elementary School.

San Francisco Conservatory of Music San Francisco Opera’s Education Department will be offering for the first time this fall a course for San Francisco Conservatory of Music students called “Teaching Artistry 101.” Students will be introduced to the arts education field, learn the skills required of a teaching artist and put those skills into practice by assisting San Francisco Opera teaching artists working in schools. Education Director Ruth Nott says, “We are thrilled to be partnering with SFCM and to provide students with information and skills about a job, and possibly a career, that they can perform in addition to their music-making.” For more information about the Merola Opera Program and the Opera Guild, go to To learn more about the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, go to

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Twitter (, watch opera previews and interviews with cast members and production staff

YouTube channel (, and read what our singers, supers, staff and David Gockley have to

say on the Company blog,

Backstage at San Francisco Opera ( PA G E 7

Photo by Drew Altizer

Recent Event Highlights

upcoming events JULY


JULY 1, 2012 KDFC radio broadcast of Car men by Georges Bizet 8pm – 90.3 in San Francisco; 89.9 in the North & East Bay; 104.9 in the Peninsula and South Bay online

Photo by Betty Kershner

Board member Sylvia Lindsey with Conrad Sweeting at the 2012 Medallion Society Luncheon.

AUGUST A U GU ST 5 , 2 0 1 2 KDFC radio broadcast of Listener’s Choice 8pm – 90.3 in San Francisco; 89.9 in the North & East Bay; 104.9 in the Peninsula and South Bay


Photo by Betty Kershner

Julie Dickson with Adler Fellow Sara Gartland at the 2011 Adler Gala.

Left to right, Adler Fellow Maya Lahyani with Marina Nelson, Liza Vakhrusheva, Brian Gustafson, and Board member Ben Nelson.

online A U GU ST 1 9 , 2 0 1 2 Opera at Ster n Grove Festival 2pm – Sigmund Ster n Grove

SE PTE M B E R 2 , 2 0 1 2 KDFC radio broadcast of Attila by Giuseppe Verdi 8pm – 90.3 in San Francisco; 89.9 in the North & East Bay; 104.9 in the Peninsula and South Bay online Photo by Drew Altize

Photo by Drew Altize


SE PTE M B E R 7 , 2 0 1 2 Opening Night Gala 5pm – War Memorial Opera House SE PTE M B E R 9 , 2 0 1 2 Opera in the Park 1:30pm – Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park SEPTEMBER 15, 2012

CAROLANDS Board member Joan Traitel and husband David with mezzo-soprano Susan Graham at Carolands. Board member Ann Johnson with countertenor David Daniels at Carolands.

Opera at the Ballpark Simulcast of Rigoletto 8pm – AT&T Ballpark

Membership events are subject to change. Go to calendar at for updates.

Behind the Curtain Spring 2012  

San Francisco Opera's Spring 2012 Donor Newsletter

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