San Francisco Opera

San Francisco Opera War Memorial

So, you’re having one of those “I could have had a V8 moments — turns out, San Francisco Opera makes for a great date night. Gen Xers are giving it a listen — their opera attendance grew more than 18 percent in recent years. And more than 20 million people head back out to the opera every year. San Francisco Opera’s season now includes 75 performances of ten operas between September and July. So here’s a cheat sheet review so you you can experience opera in the city the savvy way.

Here’s my cheat sheet savvy review of what you can expect, so you you can experience more opera in the city the smart way. San Francisco Opera’s season now includes 75 performances of ten operas between September and July (see the upcoming performance schedule below).

SF Opera’s home venue is the historic War Memorial Opera House, worthy of an actual guided tour you can book through the San Francisco War Memorial Performing Arts Center (415-552-8338), and San Francisco Opera Guild, (510-524-5220). If you have the chance to go, you won’t be disappointed, but I highly recommend doing it with story and music — why would you not?

SF-Opera-BallparkWhile the opera house is the place for couples on a classy night out in the city, my favorite SF Opera dates for families are the free outdoor performances: Opera At The Ballpark (July 3, 2015) at AT&T Park; Opera In The Park (September 13, 2015) at Golden Gate Park; and occasional performances at Yerba Buena Gardens. Outdoor opera in San Francisco gives opera lovers, and the not so sure, a chance to experience opera in a casual setting.

Opera in Golden Gate ParkHow To Choose: If you’re new to opera and thinking about giving it a try, the SF Opera website has a fun and helpful chart for which classic operas you might enjoy based on which popular movies you like. For example, James Bond movie fans might enjoy Puccini’s Tosca or Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. If you’re more of a Pretty Woman and Princess Diaries fan, try something like Verdi’s La Traviata. If you go for movies like Bend it Like Beckham, they recommend Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Titanic = Orpheus from the Underworld by Offenbach or Thais by Massenet, and so on.

San Francisco Opera 2015 – 2016 Schedule

More info and tickets at

Summer 2015:

  • The Trojans — Jun 7 – Jul 1, 2015
  • Two Women — Jun 13 – 30, 2015
  • The Marriage of Figaro — Jun 14 – 5, 2015

FALL 2015:

  • Luisa Miller — Sep 11 – 27, 2015
  • Sweeney Todd — Sep 12 – 29, 2015
  • Lucia di Lammermoor — Oct 8 – 28, 2015
  • The Magic Flute — Oct 20 – Nov 20, 2015
  • Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg — Nov 18 – Dec 6, 2015
  • The Barber of Seville — Nov 25 – Dec 9, 2015
  • The Fall of the House of Usher — Dec 8 – 13, 2015

SUMMER 2016:

  • Carmen — May 27 – Jul 3, 2016
  • Don Carlo — Jun 12 – Jun 29, 2016
  • Jenufa — Jun 14 – Jul 1, 2016

SF Opera Tickets, Deals, Free Reservations

TICKET INFO: General admission ticket info on the opera website ticket page: or at the box office.

FREE: Take advantage of these SF Opera freebies …

  • Outdoor Opera Performances — San Francisco Opera performs free, annual outdoor concerts and simulcasts throughout the year, like Opera At The Ballpark and Opera in the Park.
  • Pre-Opera Talks —  To learn more about the opera you’re about to see, show up an hour early for the free Pre-Opera Talks (not available on Opening Night).

DEALS: When ticket deals and special offers are available, I always add them here. I’ve been told that coupon codes sumtix19 and code 38 may work for summer tickets on the SF Opera website, but they aren’t verified. (Anyone tried these?)

OTHER WAYS TO SAVE: These are available at the SF Opera box office.

  • Student/Senior/Military Rush — Day of performance rush tickets are sometimes available for students, seniors, and military personnel for less, (starting at 11am). Prices and availability subject to change.
  • Standing Room — War Memorial Opera House performances have a number of standing room tickets available for $10 (cash only) starting at 10am on the day of performance.
  • Group Discount — Opera Party anyone? Bring a group of 10 or more people and SF Opera will give you 30% off with seating benefits, flexible ticket purchase options, networking and socializing opportunities.
  • Subscription Deals — SF Opera offers an array of subscription plans, including student, teacher, and LGBT, among others.



San Francisco Opera performances at the Opera House take place from September through July. To help make your experience even savvier, here are a few things you might want to know before you head out.

  1. Location — The War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., at Grove St., across from City Hall.
  2. Pop-up Beer Garden — The Opera House has an outdoor Loggia terrace on the 3rd floor overlooking City Hall, and it opens an hour before curtain and at intermission. Cheers old chaps!
  3. Run Times — Check the run time of the opera before you head out. Operas typically run anywhere from 2 to 4 hours, and sometimes as long as 5 hours or more, and may include one or two 25-minute intermissions, depending on the number of acts. That can be quite a commitment, so if you’re an opera virgin, start with with a shorter opera or operetta.
  4. Language — San Francisco Opera always uses supertitles or surtitles, which means you’ll have the English translations of songs projected above the stage, and are always featured at all San Francisco Opera productions.
  5. The Cheap Seats — If you’re sitting in the balcony section, you’ll be happy to know that San Francisco Opera uses OperaVision screens, hung from the ceiling, giving you close-up and mid-range ensemble shots in HD video. Supertitles are shown at the bottom of each screen.
  6. Dress Code — There isn’t any. You’ll see everything from faded jeans to cocktail attire. People do tend to dress up more for opening nights.
  7. Social — SF Opera sometimes makes special ticket offers available via their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.


Opera in the Park — FREE. Sunday after Labor Day (September) — coming up: September 13, 2015, 1:30pm. Features stars from the fall operas, accompanied by San Francisco Opera Orchestra, conducted by Music Director Nicola Luisotti.

  1. Location — Golden Gate Park, Sharon Meadow, 320 Bowling Green Drive, San Francisco.
  2. Getting There — Public transit is highly recommended. See for directions and public transit info.
  3. Bicycles — Park your bike at the free bicycle valet parking area provided by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.
  4. Accessibility — The ADA parking and drop-off point is on Bowling Green Drive. (Take MLK Jr. Drive to Nancy Pelosi Drive to Bowling Green Drive.)


Opera at the Ballpark — FREE. Friday, July 3, 2015 at 7:30pm (Free) Mozart’s THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, simulcast live at the ballpark from the opera house.

  1. Location — AT&T Park, 24 Willie Mays Plaza, San Francisco.
  2. Make Reservations — This event draws huge crowds, so make reservations early.
  3. Field Seating — To sit on the field, use the Ballpark’s Marina Gate (behind centerfield near the Ferry Dock Landing). Get there early because it fills up fast. You’ll need to show your barcoded confirmation printout for early entry. No saving seats allowed. Bring blankets (no lawn chairs).
  4. Families — Best to sit on the grass or in the stands, so children can talk over the music (and you won’t need to shush them). Kids can also enjoy activities such as face-painting, art projects and singing will take place pre-performance and during the opera.
  5. About this year’s Opera — Mozart’s warmest, wisest opera The Marriage of Figaro is one of the composer’s most graceful creations—a tender comedy in which a countess and her servant join forces to punish her aristocrat husband for his philandering. In the process, two very different couples learn humbling lessons about life and love.
  6. More Info — Visit for photos, audio and video clips, cast listing and a full synopsis.


  1. The music at the beginning of an opera begins with a musical composition and the tex of the story, known as the libretto, which means “little book” in Italian.
  2. Opera singers’ voices are know by their range or “Fach”:
  • High — Female: Coloratura soprano/ Male: Countertenor
  • Middle — Female: Lyric or dramatic soprano, Mezzo-soprano/ Male: Tenor, Baritone
  • Low — Female: Contralto / Male: Bass (Basso profundo)

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