June 28, 2018
San Francisco was officially incorporated in 1850, well after it’s founding by Spanish colonists in 1776, and only shortly after the population explosion that erupted at the time of the Gold Rush in 1848. While becoming a city-county a few years thereafter in 1856, those “Miners, 49’rs” set into motion a modern city that would see earthquakes, the birth of the United Nations, the hippie culture, gay rights revolutions, all forms of political activism, and enthusiastic tourism. Bridges, a very distinct Penitentiary, Fisherman’s Wharf, Bay Ferry Terminal, the Embarcadero, Chinatown(s), and Cable Cars only add to San Francisco’s allure. The City also has some extreme problems: severe homelessness, overt drug use and abuse, out of control housing costs, paralyzing traffic, and even some sinking buildings(!). What an incredible, if trying, 168 years it has been here in San Francisco.
This sentiment has been furthered once again in 2018, as it was in 2011, as it was in the 1990’s…by the invasion of Wagnerians from all over the world. As the San Francisco Opera is nearing completion of another iconic run of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, I am reminded of one of my favorite childhood jingles that touted a rice/vermicelli/herb-packet side dish that everyone knew as “The San Francisco Treat”.
Rice-A-Roni is as identifiable by side dish lovers, as the San Francisco Opera is to ‘Ring-Heads’.
To see the roughly 3,300 seat opera house filled to capacity every night over three weeks for 12 performances, or 3 full cycles (four individual operas per cycle)—not to mention a 4th cycle if we include our Final Dress Rehearsal package—is as satisfying to my eyes as that side-dish was when I saw it on my plate.
The monumental effort put forth by opera company administrators and their support team, and the eventual achievement by its singers, orchestral musicians, directorial and musical staff, stage-management/stage crews/lighting/costume/makeup/set designers is, as Maestro Donald Runnicles described it: “Like breathing the rarefied air at the top of Mount Everest.”
The real ‘delectable’ associated with this ‘San Francisco Treat’, however, has been the marvelous audience members who have packed the rafters of this august opera facility for seventeen hours over four days, to witness and experience the greatest musical and dramatic epic ever penned in the theatrical lexicon.
I have gone so far as to suggest to company administration that the house lights be brought up momentarily during the curtain calls so that—for just a few precious moments—the onstage talent could applaud our audiences who have made a pilgrim’s journey of tens of thousands of miles to share in this greatest of operatic spectacles.
We’re all in it together for the long haul. And while ‘Rice-A-Roni’ rarely lasted more than 17 seconds on my plate, the 17 hours of Richard Wagner’s impossibly complex and engrossing music-drama seems to disappear almost as quickly.
Der Ring des Nibelungen…its flavor can’t be beat!