San Francisco Opera Announces "Earn Your Wings" in collaboration with Community Housing Partnership and Compass Family Services

Release date: 10/30/2018    


#EarnYourWings Inspired by Themes of the Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer Opera, It's a Wonderful Life, Opening November 17 at the War Memorial Opera House

Earn Your Wings.pdf  Photos Available

San Francisco Opera announces “Earn Your Wings” (#EarnYourWings), a new initiative designed to promote civic engagement and which recognizes Community Housing Partnership and Compass Family Services—two organizations making an impact in the City of San Francisco by providing life-changing services and housing to families and individuals at risk of or who have experienced homelessness. The campaign is born from the Company’s focus on developing civic practices as part of a strategic framework to guide the organization into its centennial 2022–23 Season and beyond. With the launch of #EarnYourWings and similar programs in the future, San Francisco Opera renews its commitment to form responsive, long-term reciprocal relationships with community partners.

#EarnYourWings is inspired by themes in San Francisco composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s opera It’s a Wonderful Life (which is based in part on the classic Frank Capra film), opening at the War Memorial Opera House on November 17. In the opera, the angel-in-training Clara seeks to earn her wings by helping George Bailey recognize the profound impact he has had on the lives of people around him by giving back to his neighbors, colleagues and friends. In this spirit, and in recognition of National Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week (November 10–18), San Francisco Opera invites audiences to join the Company and ‘earn your wings’ by engaging in opportunities to support Compass Family Services and Community Housing Partnership’s programs, and by supporting holiday giving activities in their own communities. The Company’s long-term goal is to extend these partnerships through continued collaborative activities, co-designed programming, and residencies into the future.

“San Francisco Opera believes in creating impactful, reciprocal connections with our Bay Area community. With ‘Earn Your Wings’ we hope to promote some of the critical work being done in our immediate neighborhoods of Civic Center and the Tenderloin by forming relationships with Community Housing Partnership and Compass Family Services—two organizations who are making a direct impact in critical areas for our city right now, namely homelessness, affordable housing and social support,” said San Francisco Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock. “Our presentation of It’s a Wonderful Life this holiday season, with the opera’s themes of how individuals can make a positive impact on an entire community, provides an ideal lens through which to build these partnerships.”  

San Francisco Opera’s #Earn Your Wings campaign continues through December and includes:

  • Learn, give and share

San Francisco Opera partners with Compass Family Services and Community Housing Partnership to share stories from each organization and their clients at San Francisco Opera’s #EarnYourWings webpage ( and via the Company’s social media channels (@sfopera) and by using hashtags #EarnYourWings and #WonderfulSF. Audiences can engage with each organization’s year-end and holiday giving programs, such as Compass Family Services’ Adopt-a-Family campaign, which pairs individuals, families and groups with Compass families transitioning from homelessness who lack the resources to buy holiday gifts, and Community Housing Partnership’s year-end household donations drive. Visit the #EarnYourWings webpage for ongoing updates and more information about how you can make a difference.

  • Celebrate the angels in your community

San Francisco Opera, Compass Family Services and Community Housing Partnership invite their audiences and the broader community to celebrate the real-life angels in their lives. The opera’s George Bailey learns through the angel Clara that he has impacted the lives of those around him in ways he never realized. Recognize and thank individuals and organizations who are making a difference in your community by posting in our #EarnYourWings Facebook group and tagging them. San Francisco Opera will feature selected stories on the #EarnYourWings webpage.

  • #EarnYourWings special events

Compass Family Services and Community Housing Partnership will partner with San Francisco Opera for events and programming highlighting #EarnYourWings. Activities include a November 16 public panel discussion on the social impact themes of It’s a Wonderful Life. This event will explore how the arts community can help address the homelessness crisis in San Francisco and feature constituents from Community Housing Partnership and Compass Family Services’ network and members of the arts community. Additional private events are being planned, such as post-show ‘talk-backs’ with artists from the opera. Complete public event details will be announced at a later date; visit the #EarnYourWings webpage for updates.

  • It’s a Wonderful Life Family Day (Saturday, November 24)

In conjunction with the Thanksgiving weekend performance of It’s a Wonderful Life on Saturday, November 24 at 2 p.m., San Francisco Opera hosts a Family Day celebration. From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., the “Bedford Falls Makers Market” located in the War Memorial Courtyard (Franklin Street at Fulton Street) will be open to the public. Inspired by the setting of It’s a Wonderful Life (the town of Bedford Falls, New York) this outdoor marketplace will offer food trucks, handmade crafts from local artists and other family activities. Performance attendees will also have opportunities to support the work of Compass Family Services and Community Housing Partnership. Performance tickets for the November 24, 2 p.m. matinee of It’s a Wonderful Life are available at 50% off for children under 18 years of age; the performance is recommended for ages 8 and up. Learn more about Its’s a Wonderful Life and Family Day at

  • Community Housing Partnership/Compass Family Services go behind-the-scenes at the opera

Community Housing Partnership and Compass Family Services community members will go behind-the-scenes at San Francisco Opera, with invitations to activities including the final dress rehearsal of It’s a Wonderful Life. The by-invitation-only dress rehearsal audience includes 1,500 students from Bay Area schools.

“Compass Family Services is thrilled to partner with the San Francisco Opera. Not only are we neighbors, serving San Francisco for over 105 years, we share a deep and rich history in our City by the Bay,” said Erica Kisch, Executive Director of Compass Family Services. “The stories of our families are the stories of San Francisco; stories of loss, courage, hope and perseverance; stories about the road less traveled, winners and losers, and struggles that end in triumph and transformation. We look forward to sharing our stories with you and to working together with the San Francisco Opera to create a culturally rich and diverse community for all San Franciscans.”

“Community Housing Partnership is honored to partner with San Francisco Opera in spreading awareness—and hope—surrounding the most critical issues facing our city today. This partnership exemplifies the collective spirit of San Francisco, and what is possible when organizations from different sectors unite as a community to support our most vulnerable neighbors in need,” shared Community Housing Partnership’s Chief Executive Officer, Gail Gilman. “We are thrilled to share inspiring stories of hope and resilience from our residents who have overcome homelessness, and alongside the San Francisco Opera, empower fellow community members to earn their wings by being part of building a brighter future for all of San Francisco.”

It’s a Wonderful Life, by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer, is based in part on Frank Capra’s beloved 1946 film and the story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern. Synonymous with the holiday season, Capra’s classic of American cinema, which starred James Stewart, Donna Reed and Lionel Barrymore, tells the story of George Bailey, who on Christmas Eve is contemplating suicide until the angel Clarence grants him a vision that restores George’s vigor for life. Drawn to the subject for the enlightening journey of its central character, Heggie said: “The music and soundscapes attempt to capture both the otherworldly side of the story and the earthly music of each decade we explore with George—from childhood games and a high school dance, to soaring love scenes, a wedding, the despair of the economic crash of 1929 and World War II, the threat of a suicide and the extraordinary, transformative power of a community coming together to help.”

San Francisco Operapresents the West Coast premiere of It’s a Wonderful Lifein nine performances November 17 through December 9, 2018 at the War Memorial Opera House, including two Sunday matinee performances and a special Saturday family matinee on November 24. It’s a Wonderful Life is co-commissioned and co-produced with Houston Grand Opera and the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. To learn more, visit

#EarnYourWings and San Francisco Opera’s activities with Community Housing Partnership and Compass Family Services are created through a creative partnership with the Chicago-based Fifth House Ensemble, a national leader in collaborative, arts-integrated program design for educational and social impact. #EarnYourWings is made possible by an OPERA America Innovation Grant, supported by the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation.

*For the complete press release, please view the attached PDF.