Saved by BRAVO! Club’s Opening Night Gala

Last night, over 300 BRAVO! Club members dawned their fanciest dresses and crispest tuxes to celebrate San Francisco Opera’s opening night  in style at the annual BRAVO! Gala. The evening was anything but ordinary for BRAVO!’s 21-40 year old opera patrons. Normally, the evening begins with a cocktail reception followed by a seated dinner in City Hall. However, in order to reduce the evening’s ticket price, BRAVO! spiced things up a bit by a change of venue to The Veteran’s Building (located next to the opera house) and by not doing a seated dinner. BRAVO!’s Board of Directors were a little hesitant that their members would be ok with such big drastic changes. However, with the rising cost of well everything, BRAVO! wanted to make sure their members could party like it was 1999 without having to break the bank—and party they did!

The evening began in the lobby of the Veteran’s Building with a two-hour cocktail social complete with tons of tasty morsels. Judging from all of the photo taking, clinking of champagne flutes and laughter, no one even noticed that there wasn’t a seated dinner. We chatted it up and admired everyone in their finest attire without being restricted to a time frame or their seat. It was just what we all wanted—time to catch up and meet new friends.

At little before 8PM, the party moved to the Opera House to see the opening production of Rigoletto. For me, this was definitely the low light of the entire evening. I always enjoy watching everyone come into the opera house all dressed up to the max, but there were private parties going on in all of my best viewing spots. I bet the bum begging for change in the middle of Van Ness had a much better view than I could find inside the opera house.

Eric’s catching up on the plot before the opera.

Once I took my seat with my dearest friends, we couldn’t stop talking about the twisted, drama filled story of Rigoletto. We were excited about the staging, costumes and most importantly the singing. But our excitement soon turned to disappointment once the curtain opened. The opening act seemed to take over 10 minutes for everyone to be on the same timing. And, instead of “new designer gowns came Michael Yeargan’s 15-year-old, fourth-run production; Harry Silverstein’s dismayingly unimaginative block staging; almost-there singing; and oft-thrilling conducting that rarely succeeded in lighting fire in the principals’ bellies.” via SFCV. I couldn’t wait to hear an aria that torn at my heart-strings and made me remember why I love Rigoletto so much. I’m still waiting…

Thank goodness the evening was saved by BRAVO!’s after party. We ventured back to the Veteran’s Memorial building and upstairs to the fabulously decorated, awe-inspiring Green Room.  Gala co-chairs Ileana Facchini and Eva Binda did a fabulous job kicking up the glitz and glamour of the Green Room. I’m sure there wasn’t one jaw that didn’t drop upon arriving for the after party. Lola, one of BRAVO!’s Board members, said that “it was an amazing evening with a beautiful ambiance throughout”. There were plenty of places to chill out with a group or make out with your loved one in private.

Sweets were in abundance, including mini-cupcakes thanks to Jen’s Desserts, and libations were flowing all night long thanks to the delicious wine from Black Stallion and Irony.

Barclay and Marie tearin’ it up on the dance floor

Usually in the past at BRAVO!’s Gala, it takes a while for the dancing to kick into full swing, but that was not the case last night. The dance floor was packed from the first ten minutes of the after party to the wee hours of the morning thanks to DJ Rukus from SF and DJ DK from LA.

Around 1AM, DJ Rukus took us all back to our prom with Six-Mix-A-Lot and other great hits from the 90s. Part of me wonders if we will all be grooving to Baby Got Back when we are in our 90s. Even a few Opera Guild party goers came over to our Gala because (and I quote) ours was better.

Can’t wait until next year’s BRAVO! Club Gala!

SF Opera Tweeters in Da Haus!

If I told you that I just watched a three-hour opera, and live tweeted during the entire time– you’d think that I was nuts! Right? Well, what’s even more nuts is that it was allowed. Cray! Cray!

San Francisco Opera invited 10 people out of 30 applicants to live tweet yesterday during the final dress rehearsal of John Adam’s opera, Nixon In China. They spread the news via their blog, Facebook Post and Tweets. San Francisco Opera BRAVO! Club also joined in spreading the news over their social channels. The application asked for the basics – Name, Email, Twitter and Blog. Plus, they wanted to know if you were part of an arts  organization. As soon as I knew about the program, I filled out my application — about an hour before the deadline. I received an email that evening that I was accepted and instructions on what to do on Tuesday afternoon at the dress rehearsal.

Even though I applaud the SF Opera for doing their Tweet Seat program, it needs a few improvements to reach a larger fan base.

1. Announcement of program:

There are many tech savvy opera-goers who don’t frequently read the SF Opera’s blog or social posts that would have liked to go. Historically, the SF Opera has used print and email marketing as their primary forms of communicating with their patrons. By only publishing the invite on their social media channels, they limited the program’s overall reach. Maybe this was their goal –  limit the reach of the program so they could have a smaller group to work with this time. But, I’m just guessing.

2. What you could or could not share:

Honestly, it played with my mind a lil’ to be able to tweet during a live performance. I usually go to an art performance to simply unplug. The very fact that I was live tweeting inside THE SF Opera house took some time to get accustomed to. However, once the novelty wore off, the tweets took flight. But once that bird had flown, it was hard to restrain it. And, unfortunately I had to show a lot of restraint. We were not allowed to post any photos or videos once the opera started. It took all of my will power not to Instagram or Social Cam during the performance. Apparently, the SF Opera could have been sued if we posted any multimedia of the sets. It’s really too bad that they restricted us to text only. Photos and videos have a greater chance of being shared throughout social networks. This would have helped their overall reach – their main promotional goal. In full disclosure, I did post one photo during the performance and then erased it after some scolding from my online networks. *facepalm*

Once I did get used to this Tweet Seat social experiment, I noticed a few things:

1. Paying attention:

It was difficult to really pay attention to the opera. I was looking for things to tweet, not sitting back to soak in the opera. You can tell in the tweet stream  when all of us were really involved in what was going on stage, because we all stopped tweeting. Madame Mao Tse-tung, played by Hye Jung Lee, had a very powerful and almost pissed off aria during Act 11. All of us stopped tweeting until the aria ended. During the Beijing Opera scene in Act 11, our tweeting stopped in it’s tracks. The dancing was so mesmerizing that I completely forgot everything except the beauty on stage. It’s a good thing it was a final dress rehearsal because I can always go back and see the opera again.

2. Online dialog:

Once we all got over the novelty of tweeting at the opera, we started tweeting with each other. Nixon In China has moments that reminded us of Phillip Glass. Even though John Adams and Phillip Glass are not exactly friends, it made us wonder where else his influence could come from if not his enemy. I personally also tweeted with my online friends about what I was experiencing.

With all that being said, I really enjoyed my Tweet Seats at the opera. They placed us in box seats – smack dab in the middle  – where we could see all the action. I even spotted John Adams and Donato Cabrera in the orchestra watching the performance.

It was also great meeting all my fellow tweeters- Christopher D. Lewis @NewHarpsichord, Alicia Johnson @UrbanAreaAlicia, David Newman @dnsf, John Boitnott @jboitnott, Michael Owens @mko, Susan McConkey @smcconkey, Nancy Roberts @leapingotter, Joseph M. Colombo @JMColombo, Jean Shirk @bean, @SFCV, and Steve Rhodes @tigerbeat.

I was tweeting from my own handle @amywhiggins and for the San Francisco BRAVO! Club @SFOBravoClub.

For a full twitter report- check out #NixonInSF on my Storify here.