It's a Wonderful Life

San Francisco Opera Co-Commission

Music by Jake Heggie


Experience how precious life really is.

George Bailey stands on a snowy bridge at Christmas and contemplates his end. An angel training for her wings hears his plea and journeys through his memories to save his soul. Based on Frank Capra’s beloved film, this timeless story of second chances debuts just in time for the holiday season.

West Coast Premiere

Meet the Cast

Libretto by Gene Scheer

Sung in English with English supertitles

See a Performance

Great first opera!

Running Time

Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes including one intermission

Open Curtain Intermissions

Sunday, November 25
Saturday, December 1

Who Should See It

Fans of Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, Death of a Salesman, Jake Heggie, Carousel, Holiday stories and operas in English.

Found in series

Full Series: A, D*, G, J, M, R*
Half Series: B, E*, I, L, N, RBW*, S*, W, X*
*Best Value Series

Invite a Friend

Saturday 11/17/18 7:30PM
Tuesday 11/20/18 7:30PM
Saturday 11/24/18 2:00PM *
Sunday 11/25/18 2:00PM *
Thursday 11/29/18 7:30PM *
Saturday 12/01/18 7:30PM *
Tuesday 12/04/18 7:30PM
Friday 12/07/18 7:30PM
Sunday 12/09/18 2:00PM

Select three or more operas to save up to 15% off individual tickets and unlock exclusive subscriber benefits. Design Your Own package today.



Family Day
November 24

Join us on Saturday, November 24 and enjoy 50% off tickets for kids under 18, as well as special activities before the performance. Recommended for ages 8 and up. 



Through the help of an intervening angel, a desperate man discovers the meaningful impact of his life.

Read Complete Synopsis ›

The Buzz


“Gene Scheer is such an accomplished librettist in his understanding of how words and music collude in the theatre … Heggie, for his part, is a born melodist, purveyor of the most grateful, ‘singable’ vocal lines and a word-setter of real eloquence.”

“Tenor William Burden brought searing conviction to the role of George Bailey.”
Opera News

"Soprano Golda Schultz was the true star… her voice buoyant yet substantial, creamy but never heavy."
The New York Times


Cast and Creative

George Bailey William Burden
Clara Golda Schultz *1
Clara Kearstin Piper Brown *2
Mary Hatch Andriana Chuchman *
Mr. Potter Rod Gilfry
Uncle Billy Bailey Keith Jameson *
Harry Bailey Joshua Hopkins *
Angel Quartet Sarah Cambidge
Angel Quartet Ashley Dixon *
Angel Quartet Amitai Pati
Angel Quartet Christian Pursell
Mother Bailey Catherine Cook


November 17, 20, 24, 25, 29; December 1, 4, 7, 9, 2018

Conductor Patrick Summers
Director Leonard Foglia
Set Designer Robert Brill
Costume Designer David C. Woolard
Lighting Designer Brian Nason
Projection Designer Elaine J. McCarthy
Choreographer Keturah Stickann
Chorus Director Ian Robertson

*  San Francisco Opera debut

1 Nov. 17, 20, 24, 25, 29; Dec. 1, 4, 7

2 Dec. 9

Based on the 1946 Frank Capra movie of the same name (by permission of Paramount Licensing, Inc.) and “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern.


A co-commission and co-production with Houston Grand Opera and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music.


By arrangement with Bent Pen Music, Inc. Sole Agent: Bill Holab Music. 

Dancing Group

Exploration Workshops for Families: All About It's A Wonderful Life

Learn about the story, music, production design and characters, and discover the connections to the film that inspires this new production.



John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn; Kaiser Permanente; The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; San Francisco Opera Guild; Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem, through the Emerging Stars Fund; and an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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Photo (top): Houston Grand Opera production of It's a Wonderful Life/Karen Almond.