San Francisco Opera's Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera to Open February 2016


Release date: 11/16/2015

San Francisco Opera's Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera—A Newly Renovated 38,000-Sq.-Ft.-Complex Spanning Veterans Building Fourth Floor and Basement—To Open February 2016

Wilsey Center Will Feature 299-Seat Flexible Theater with Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System, Education Studio and Rehearsal Venue, Costume Studio, San Francisco Opera Archive, Exhibition Galleries and Administrative Offices

Programming for Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater to Include William Kentridge's Multimedia Setting of Franz Schubert's Song Cycle Winterreise with Baritone Matthias Goerne and Pianist Markus Hinterhäuser; Ana Sokolović's Serbian A Cappella Chamber Opera Svadba-Wedding; Deborah Voigt's Voigt Lessons by Terrence McNally; The Triplets of Belleville Cine-ConcertScreenings of Oscar-Nominated French Film with Live Music; Chamber Works with SF Opera Orchestra Members and Adler Fellows; and Schwabacher Debut Recital Series

Wilsey Center Announcement Nov 2015.pdf

Taube Atrium Theater Calendar.pdf

 Wilsey Center Sponsors.pdf

Meyer Sound Constellation Acoustic System at the Atrium Theater.pdf

Mark Cavagnero Biography November 2015.pdf  

Photos Available


San Francisco Opera today announced new details of its soon-to-be-completed $21million renovation of 38,000 square feet in the Veterans Building’s fourth floor and basement named the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera. Adjacent to the War Memorial Opera House, the Wilsey Center for Opera is scheduled to open in late February 2016, and consolidates most of the Company’s operations into a single campus in the vibrant and emerging arts district of San Francisco’s Civic Center. The 1932 Beaux Arts-designed Veterans Building recently reopened in September following a 26-month, City-financed $156 million seismic retrofit and renovation of the historic Herbst Theatre, Green Room, meeting rooms, offices and corridors throughout the first three floors.

Today’s press announcement at the Wilsey Center provided an update on the construction project and unveiled the programming for the inaugural season at the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater, operating under the newly formed producing division of the Company called SF Opera Lab.

“When I began my tenure with San Francisco Opera some ten years ago, I quickly realized the Company’s operations were strewn throughout the city creating a lack of efficiency at a staggering expense,” said San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley. “While we looked at a variety of alternatives, it was War Memorial Managing Director Elizabeth Murray who provided the most cost-efficient and viable solution with her proposal for us to consolidate the Company’s activities on the War Memorial campus by renovating the fourth floor.”

Mr. Gockley continued, “I am heartened by the overwhelming support for our capital campaign particularly by Dede Wilsey, who provided the lead gift and inspired so many others to generously participate.  In recognition of Dede’s leadership it is the Company’s great honor to name this new opera center after her. With three months until the official opening, I am thrilled this dream is coming true. In my final year with San Francisco Opera, it is my hope the establishment of the Wilsey Center will prove to be of great interest and curiosity to the community, and will help to develop new audiences for this art form.”

War Memorial Managing Director Murray said, “The City of San Francisco has a long and storied history of nurturing and celebrating arts and culture. Historically the fourth floor of the Veterans Building was designated for arts and culture, and it was always the War Memorial Board of Trustees’ intention to restore it for that use following the departure of SFMOMA in 1995. This innovative partnership between the City and San Francisco Opera combines the Opera’s urgent needs with ours and will result in a benefit for many groups who will be able to use the community-shared spaces of the theater and education/rehearsal studio.”

The award-winning and pre-eminent Bay Area architectural firm Mark Cavagnero Associates has led the design and renovation of the Wilsey Center complex, creating a series of modern insertions designed to complement and be deferential to the historic building. Throughout the fourth floor, offices have been kept low to allow the large vaulted ceilings to soar uninterrupted, providing natural light to the spaces through the restored historic lay lights. Cavagnero’s design calls for a use of glass walls to provide acoustic separation while accentuating the historic elements of the building.

San Francisco Opera will occupy 16,000 square feet on the fourth floor with administrative offices; the Norby Anderson Costume Studio; two public exhibition galleries, the Hume Family Gallery and the David Gockley Gallery; the Edward Paul Braby San Francisco Opera Archive, the Company’s new and public home for its archive collection; Taube Atrium Theater’s Barbara Moller Ward Lobby; and the William W. Godward Canteen. San Francisco Opera’s Norby Anderson Costume Studio will also utilize an additional 10,000 square feet in the renovated basement to accommodate artist fitting rooms and storage of the Company’s extensive costume collection. The Wilsey Center will provide offices and working space for approximately 130 members of the Company’s staff in Archive, Costume, Development, Education, Human Resources, Marketing and Teleservices.

The centerpiece of the Wilsey Center is an additional 12,000 square feet dedicated to two unique venues: the John M. Bryan Education Studio and the Dianne and Tad Taube Atrium Theater, a 299-seat flexible theater space boasting the internationally acclaimed Meyer Sound Constellation® acoustic system. In addition to both venues and the Barbara Moller Ward Lobby, there are three artist dressing rooms. Both the Bryan Education Studio and Taube Atrium Theater will be shared seasonally by San Francisco Opera and the War Memorial Performing Arts Center who will make both spaces available to community arts and cultural organizations. The Wilsey Center shared community space also includes rooms for theater storage and catering prep.


Beginning in late February 2016, the top floor of the Veterans Building will come alive once again with public performances in the newly established Taube Atrium Theater, a state-of-the-art performance venue designed to be configured in multiple ways, providing both performer and audience members with a very personal approach to the concert experience.  From traditional theater-style performances and seating, to cabaret settings with café tables and performances in the round, to more experimental configurations, the Taube Atrium Theater will offer intimate and adventurous experiences with its public offerings.

The Taube Atrium Theater will be distinguished by the Constellation® acoustic system from Berkeley-based Meyer Sound. The Constellation® system is an extraordinary innovation in acoustical science enabling composers, conductors and artists to customize different acoustic environments for their performances with the press of a button. Specialized acoustic zones enable performers to hear each other while audience members experience optimal acoustics from anywhere in the theater. Meyer Sound’s Constellation® system will use 24 widely distributed microphones and 75 small, self-powered loudspeakers mounted discreetly within the theater walls and ceiling. San Francisco Opera will be the first opera company to use this technology, providing a virtually unlimited palette of acoustic possibilities to create the most compelling sound experience.

According to Gockley, “SF Opera Lab programming at the Taube Atrium Theater has one directive—each presentation must combine a theatrical as well as a vocal performance aspect. I wanted the Wilsey Center to offer interesting programs that would appeal to individuals seeking more intimate and non-traditional encounters with opera and the performing arts. I’m hoping this will be an incubator for new ideas to infuse the opera art form and will serve as a gateway for younger audiences.” Tasked with producing SF Opera Lab’s inaugural season in the Taube Atrium Theater, Wilsey Center Director of Programming Elkhanah Pulitzer has curated five varying presentations including three internationally acclaimed programs.


The Taube Atrium will open to the public on February 28 with the first concert of the Schwabacher Debut Recital Series. A co-presentation of San Francisco Opera Center and the Merola Opera Program, the annual recital series features talented young artists who have participated in these training programs in a wide-ranging and eclectic repertoire of song literature. The series continues with three additional recitals through April.

The first season of SF Opera Lab launches with the San Francisco premiere of Winterreise (Winter Journey), a series of 24 animated short films as a visual response to Franz Schubert’s haunting song cycle, Winterreise. South African artist William Kentridge has created his own imaginary visual journey as a poetic counterpoint to the interpretation of Schubert’s lieder masterpiece performed by eminent German baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist (and new artistic director of the Salzburg Festival) Markus Hinterhäuser. This production originated in July 2014 at the Aix-en-Provence Festival. The three performances of Winterreise will be presented March 11–13.

Ana Sokolović’s virtuosic a cappella chamber opera for six women Svadba–Wedding, will be given seven performances April 2–10 in a new production directed by San Francisco Opera veteran Michael Cavanagh (Lucia di Lammermoor, Susannah, Nixon in China).  Sung in Serbian, Svadba-Wedding is set the night before a wedding as girlfriends prepare the bride-to-be in a ravishing and cathartic rite of passage.

The Triplets of Belleville Cine-Concert will be presented in ten performances April 14–23. Nominated for two Oscars, director Sylvain Chomet’s 2003 animated French film will be screened featuring live musical accompaniment by Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville with composer-conductor Benoît Charest and guest chanteuse.

Chamber Works, two concerts of chamber music, will showcase members of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra on April 7 and 20. The eclectic and intimate nights of music and song will feature the 2016 San Francisco Opera Center Adler Fellows, resident artists from the Company’s acclaimed young artist training program, and include multimedia presentations.

On May 6 and 8, internationally acclaimed soprano Deborah Voigt returns with her one-woman show Voigt Lessons, developed with playwright Terrence McNally and director Francesca Zambello. Voigt Lessons weaves songs and arias into a vivid and moving account of her life and career, with music direction by pianist Kevin Stites.


The 3,200 square-foot John M. Bryan Education Studio will be a center for learning, including family, student and adult workshops, activities and community events. Building upon the San Francisco Opera Education Department's current programs, expanded programming will include Exploration Workshops for Families, connected to stories and operas seen live or as Opera in an Hour movie screenings in the Taube Atrium Theater and Overture Workshops for Adults, delving into the opera process. The Opera’s Education Department will launch two new programs, one for middle and high school students focused on story creation and music composition, culminating in a community performance; the other as workshops for toddler-aged children and their parents. One entire weekend will offer a family community open house featuring presentations of Opera ARIA mini-operas by Bay Area public students. Additionally, the Bryan Education Studio will host the San Francisco Opera Guild and some of their education programs introducing school programs to family audiences.


The world renowned San Francisco Opera Costume Shop will find a new home in the Wilsey Center with the Norby Anderson Costume Studio, an active collection of more than 300,000 individual costume pieces and over 3,000 pairs of shoes; additional costume storage is located in the Opera’s warehouse in Burlingame. The highly professional staff includes drapers, cutters, tailors, milliners, dyers, craft artisans, shoppers, designers, production and workshop assistants. Dye room and craft workshop play an indispensable part in the studio. Christian Lacroix, Bob Mackie, Gianni Versace and Zandra Rhodes are among the noted designers who have collaborated with the Costume Studio. To create costumes for a single opera the Costume Shop may utilize up to 40 people working continuously for periods of nine months or more. On any given day, you will find the artisans of the costume shop surrounded by quilted petticoats, hoop skirts, huge turbans, jeweled crowns, armor, mud and blood—all in the service of grand illusion.


The Edward Paul Braby San Francisco Opera Archive will be home to San Francisco Opera’s vast archive, showcasing over 93 years of the Company’s history. The robust collection includes current and archival production photos dating back to 1923, recordings and radio broadcasts, performance videos, costume and production renderings, costumes, program books, posters, correspondence and more. The Braby San Francisco Opera Archive will open in spring 2016 and will be available to the public by appointment; complete details will be announced at a later date.


The Wilsey Center will have two public exhibition galleries showcasing illustrious artists and notable productions from the San Francisco Opera Archive collection. The David Gockley Gallery (South Corridor) will be distinguished by an exhibition of 56 exclusively black and white images from the Company’s first season in 1923 through the 1970s including rare and recently discovered images presented for the first time. In the Hume Family Gallery (North Corridor), 94 color images will be on display reflecting the Company’s more recent productions ranging from the 1980s to the present. Both galleries will be augmented by a display of ornate costumes.

The Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera is located on the fourth floor of the Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. Tickets for all Taube Atrium Theater performances go on sale Tuesday, December 1. For more information about the Wilsey Center and events, visit

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San Francisco Opera gratefully acknowledges The Sarah Ratchye and Edward Frank Family Foundation for their support of Winterreise, and Dianne and Tad Taube for their support of Svadba-Wedding.

Support for the Diane B. Wilsey Center for Opera is made possible by the following individuals and companies.

FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Norby Anderson, Mr. & Mrs. William K. Bowes, Jr., Edward Paul Braby, M.D., Jaquelin Hume Foundation, Leslie & George Hume, Bradford & Dorothy Jeffries, Franklin & Catherine Johnson, Peggy & Boyce Nute, Dianne & Tad Taube, Barbara Moller Ward, in honor of David Gockley, Diane B. Wilsey, and Anonymous (2).

BUILDER’S CIRCLE: Jane Bernstein & Bob Ellis, Donna Dubinsky & Leonard Shustek, William & Barbara Edwards, Jennifer Coslett MacCready, Meyer Sound, Mark W. & Mauree Jane Perry, Betty & Jack Schafer, Ann Classen Treadwell, in memory of Zelda Ann Classen, Webcor Builders, and S. Shariq Yosufzai & Brian E. James.