"Celebrating David!" Gala at War Memorial Opera House Honors the Career of General Director David Gockley

Release date: 6/17/2016  


Celebrating David! Gala at War Memorial Opera House Honors the Career of General Director David Gockley in His Final Season Before Retirement

Gala Chairs John A. & Cynthia Fry Gunn, Gala Honorary Co-Chairs Diane B. Wilsey and Lynn Wyatt Host Star-Studded Gala Concert and Dinner

Renée Fleming Performs and Is Awarded the San Francisco Opera Medal Honoring Service to the Company on the 25th Anniversary of Her Debut

David Gockley to Serve as Director Emeritus


    David Gockley Gala recap.pdf  Photos Available 

On Thursday, June 16, the San Francisco Opera honored Company General Director David Gockley with a gala evening and concert titled Celebrating David! Many of the leading artists from the world of opera gathered to honor one of the great careers in the modern history of the art form. Gockley, who in 2014 announced that he would retire from his position as General Director at the completion of the 2015¬¬–16 Season on July 31, has led a storied career of more than 40 years as an opera impresario.

Preceding the concert, a cocktail hour with 450 special guests was held at the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera on the fourth floor of the nearby Veterans Building. Once the guests filed into the War Memorial Opera House for the 7 p.m., Gala Chairs John A. & Cynthia Fry Gunn opened the festivities with remarks about Gockley’s 43 year-career and his legacy of championing new works by living composers. Honorary Co-Chairs Diane B. Wilsey and Lynn Wyatt, Vice Chairman of the Houston Grand Opera, then took to the stage and jokingly claimed Gockley’s accomplishments for the opera houses in their respective cities of San Francisco and Houston.

San Francisco Opera Center Director Sheri Greenawald spoke about Gockley’s cultivation of new talent in Houston and San Francisco and giving young singers, such as Greenawald herself, their first big break in opera. Acting as co-hosts for the evening, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and baritone Thomas Hampson exchanged anecdotes about how Gockley had impacted their careers, encouraged many young artists and shaped the landscape of American opera. Cecilia Bartoli, Joyce DiDonato, Plácido Domingo and Francesca Zambello, four artists important to Gockley’s career but who were unable to attend the concert, sent video tributes that were projected upon a large screen on the stage.

The concert portion of the evening featured works that reflected milestones from Gockley’s career or were important to him, and were performed by artists who had, in many cases, been given opportunities during their careers by the feted impresario. San Francisco Opera Music Director Nicola Luisotti, Principal Guest Conductor Patrick Summers, Jiří Bělohlávek and John DeMain conducted the San Francisco Opera Orchestra in a variety of works for orchestra, chorus and vocal soloists, which included sopranos Julie Adams, Renée Fleming, Ana María Martínez, Karita Mattila, Patricia Racette, Nadine Sierra, Heidi Stober; mezzo-sopranos Catherine Cook, Sasha Cooke, Daniela Mack, Dolora Zajick; tenors Michael Fabiano, Brian Jagde, Simon O’Neil, Pene Pati; baritone Edward Nelson; bass-baritone Eric Owens; basses René Pape and Anthony Reed. Composers John Adams and Carlisle Floyd were both in attendance and acknowledged from the stage during the concert following selections from their respective operas Nixon in China and Susannah. Among the many highlights from the three-hour gala performance was the presentation of the San Francisco Opera Medal to Renée Fleming.

Fleming made her Company debut 25 years ago this month as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro. In recognition of her silver anniversary with San Francisco Opera and her many memorable performances with the company, David Gockley presented her with the San Francisco Opera Medal on stage following the first part of the gala. Initiated in 1970, the Opera Medal has been awarded to individuals who have made their mark with San Francisco Opera through their devotion and artistic excellence. Past recipients include singers Dorothy Kirsten, Leontyne Price, Birgit Nilsson, Joan Sutherland, Plácido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, Frederica von Stade, conductor Charles Mackerras and stage director John Copley, among others.

Near the conclusion of the evening, San Francisco Opera President Keith Geeslin announced from the stage that the Board of Directors had appointed David Gockley General Director Emeritus for the Company, an unprecedented position in the Company’s history. As General Director Emeritus, Gockley will continue to lend his expertise and counsel the San Francisco Opera through the years ahead. The celebrated impresario offered his words of thanks to the many colleagues who had helped him throughout his career, ending with some heartfelt comments about General Director Designate Matthew Shilvock who has worked closely with Gockley for 15 years. “The toughest task Matthew will face in this job is one day having to replace himself,” Gockley said. A sextet of current and former San Francisco Opera Adler Fellows, members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus and conductor Maestro DeMain then concluded the concert with “Make our garden grow” from Leonard Bernstein’s Candide.

Following the concert, invited guests attended a dinner by Taste Catering in the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera, which was decorated with floral displays and banners showing productions from Gockley’s ten seasons with San Francisco Opera. Dianne & Tad Taube hosted the gala dinner and welcomed Gockley’s artistic collaborators, supporters and friends from throughout his extraordinary career in Houston and San Francisco.

Included in the program for the evening was a letter from President Barack Obama: “For over four decades, you have helped enrich the artistic heritage of America. From Houston to San Francisco, the works and performances you’ve brought to life—and your efforts to ensure they can be experienced widely—reflect your dedication to carrying forward the unique role of the arts in our collective imagination as a people.”