Tickets went on sale today for the first season at the San Francisco Opera's new Wilsey Center, an intimate new theater upstairs from Herbst Theater, on the top floor of the Veterans Building adjacent to the Opera House. It's intended as a flexible space suitable for offbeat and experimental works. The building itself doesn't open until February 2016, but you can catch some glimpses provided by Michael Strickland over at Civic Center.
The first season looks eclectic and enticing, ranging from the Schwabacher Debut Recital Series, chamber concerts with members of the Opera Orchestra and the Adler Fellows, live music accompanying the French animated film The Triplets of Belleville, soprano Deborah Voigt in her new one-woman show Voigt Lessons, a Serbian a cappella chamber opera by Ana Sokolović called Svadba-Wedding, and – for me the irresistible offering – the great baritone Matthias Goerne and pianist Markus Hinterhäuser in Schubert's Winterreise, with film accompaniment by William Kentridge.
Here's the odd thing: I went to the Opera's website this morning to buy tickets, and couldn't find where they were selling them. I finally ended up calling the Opera box office, where the nice woman who helped me told me that they were not available on line yet but I could order them over the phone. Eventually, she said, the Wilsey Center will have its own site, on which tickets will be available.
And that's what I don't understand. This sounds similar to SoundBox at the San Francisco Symphony, which is not listed on their monthly calendar – like a private club, you have to know about it already to find it. (Anything to do with exclusive access and private clubs just rubs me the wrong way.) Apparently the Wilsey website will be similar. Why? If the purpose is to "rebrand" or reposition the Opera or the Symphony from "stodgy rich people with formal wear, lorgnettes, and grand marble bosoms" to "exciting adventurous hipsters in a happening scene" then wouldn't you want to associate the experimental stuff with your main site and its more (or less) traditional offerings? Why separate them? There are people who enjoy Lucia di Lammermoor as well as black-box theater (I mean, it couldn't just be me, could it?) – why not encourage each camp to try what the other one is offering? Why not make it easy?
Maybe I should be grateful for the separation, considering how awful the Opera's new website it. It used to be you'd open the site and right there on the left was a handy list of the season's operas, each clickable so you could check out cast, production, performance dates, tickets . . . now you open it and some random person who looks dressed for New Year's Eve (by the way, SF Opera: that's not going to help you attract the rest of us slobs) is grinning at me while a slogan assures me that some unspecified "it" is the perfect evening out. I don't care! For the love of God, where is the calendar? And not just "what's on" that week: where is the month-by-month season calendar?
There is some information on the Opera site about the Wilsey Center, and you can find it here, though you may need to dig around a bit to get performance dates (though I will tell you the Winterreise is 11 - 13 March 2016). In the meantime, for tickets you can call the Opera box office at 415-864-3330.