Article by special correspondent, Sari Cohen.
Photography by Drew Altizer
Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but the opera has never left. On September 9th, 2016 at the War Memorial Opera House, the San Francisco Opera’s latest season began, with the indomitable, Andrea Chénier. The upcoming season promises a fantastic mix of classics and new productions including the great masterpiece, Don Pasquale. Destination Luxury’s Rosalina Lydster and David Christopher Lee was there to talk with some of San Francisco’s most fashionable citizens about this – the 94th season of the San Francisco Opera, style, and what makes the City by the Bay so wonderful.
Opera President, Charlot Malin stated, “The Opera Ball is what I call the ‘Jewel in the Crown’. [It’s] San Francisco’s premiere fundraising gala. …while it is one of the most highly anticipated events on the social calendar, it’s important not to forget the ‘mission’ behind it – and that is to raise funds for an art form we are passion about and to underwrite arts programs that are rapidly disappearing from our schools’ curricula. The proceeds are split between our support of the San Francisco Opera, and the support of the Guild’s world renowned K-12 educational programs – which helps to ‘give voice to potential‘ to close to 60,000 Bay Area students each year.”
Incoming Opera Guild President Jane Mudge was also on hand to discuss the importance of the Gala and what it brings to the community: “The Opera Ball and the opening of the season is a very important event for our city,” said Ms. Mudge. “The San Francisco Opera Guild works very hard to bring Opera education to the youth in our community. It is my hope that our community can recognize and share in the joy of voice and Opera – it really is for everyone.”
One of the biggest society events of the year , the Gala is a veritable who’s who from the SF scene. PhD and venture capitalist, Deepa Pakianathan, was stunning in a dress by Keyna Hoff of Norway, made of vintage McQueen fabric emblazoned with McQueen accessories, and jewelry by Rosalina. “The dress is custom made and one of a kind with a big draped skirt,’ Pakianathan said. “I chose this look to fit the occasion as Opera Ball is the most formal evening in San Francisco.”
Equally radiant was Clara Shayevich, wearing a gown made by Vasily Vein, the Russian couturier. For the last 23 years, Shayevich has worked as a clinician and researcher at the Department of Public Health, serving people in need and providing services to the Russian speaking community in their native language. She also runs a successful private practice, helping singles and couples to bring trust, respect, understanding and love back into their lives. She translates that same love of life into her own sense of style. Ms. Shayevich told us, “My favorite thing about fashion is that you can’t pretend. It’s how you are seeing yourself and how other people will see you. Fashion, music, art, poetry all is your vision, dreams, your feelings. It’s your way of expressing yourself.”
The fabulous fashion expressionism evening didn’tstop with the women. The men in attendance donned their best looks, looking devastatingly handsome in their selected attire as well. Alan Malouf, known as the “Dapper Dentist,” said that to him personally, “Style is expressing who you are in a natural and comfortable way. Everyone should have their own unique style, because everyone is unique. Never copy anyone or their style. As Oscar Wilde once said, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.”
He went on to discuss more about the city of San Francisco itself and said, “As a third generation San Franciscan, I am very proud of my city. I love its intimate scale, contrasting neighborhoods and fantastic cuisine. I also love its entrepreneurialism and joie de vivre.”
David Costello – who happens to be a fourth generation San Franciscan, focuses on the luxury home market. When asked what makes this city so special, David mused, “San Francisco, in relation to other destination cities, is really small and intimate – just 7 miles across – so you are always running into familiar faces. It is also really easy to meet up with friends on short notice for dinner or an event. There are so many unique things about the city, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, distinct neighborhoods, and being surrounded by breathtaking views and the Bay. Cuisine is off the charts amazing – not to mention having access to the Napa Valley just an hour away.”
Joel Goodrich knows a thing or two about that as well. As one of San Francisco’s top luxury real estate agents who can be seen on Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing,” he explained, “Even though San Francisco is a very cosmopolitan and increasingly international city, it still very much has a feeling of community. The Opera is definitely a part of our community’s traditions – a very glamorous part.” When it comes to what the City of San Francisco and fashion have in common, Joel said, “They’re both very individualistic and with a definite point of view”. He expressed the most exciting thing about fashion is, “It’s always changing and yet certain things never go out of style”. As far as style tips for men, Joel told us, “Don’t be afraid to step out of the box sometimes, while still being appropriate for the occasion. It definitely makes you memorable”.
From the glamour and sophistication behind the detail of every wardrobe, to the lavish and perfectly designed décor, to the wonderful hearts of the guests in attendance, the Opera Ball embodied the very definition of uniqueness. The luxurious evening captured not only the artistry that goes into an event like this, but it also told the story of San Francisco – the ultimate small city with a big heart.
Special Thanks: Carole Middleton, Hillary Clark, Victoria Hitchcock & Jon Finck.