MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Celebrating San Francisco Opera’s Centenary at SFO

Company’s first production of The Ring of the Nibelung (1935)

SFO Museum at San Francisco International Airport have unveiled a new exhibition in connection with San Francisco Opera’s centennial titled San Francisco Opera: A Centennial Celebration. The curated installation in the Harvey Milk Terminal 1 (located post-security in Departures Level 2) showcases the Company’s first century and the art of operatic stagecraft.

The exhibition, on view through 13 August 13, 2023, captures San Francisco Opera’s rich history through a selection of costumes, stage props, set models, video and archival photographs from the collections of San Francisco Opera, the Museum of Performance + Design and the Metropolitan Opera Archives.

Costumes worn by operatic superstars who have graced San Francisco Opera’s stage during the past century are the focus of the presentation.

SFO Museum’s Curator of Exhibits Daniel Calderon said: “SFO Museum is delighted to feature the history of San Francisco Opera during the Company’s Centennial Season. San Francisco Opera is such an important cultural and artistic institution, and their story is both local and international. With their support, along with loans from the Museum of Performance + Design and the Metropolitan Opera Archives, SFO Museum has assembled a vibrant exhibition of costumes, photographs and artifacts that span almost a century of opera history. We know the exhibition will spur the interest of our traveling public and hope it will make new opera fans in the coming months.”

San Francisco Opera’s Director of Archives Barbara Rominski said: “Working with Daniel Calderon and the entire SFO Museum team has been rewarding on so many fronts, not least for the opportunity to share our archival collections with the airport’s enormous daily audience. Whether travelers have only a few seconds to spend with the exhibits or a long layover to really dive in, these remarkable garments and artifacts have a way of inspiring wonder at the creative possibility of this lively art form.”

Highlights include:

  • The cape and hat worn by famed Italian tenor Beniamino Gigli in Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette during San Francisco Opera’s inaugural 1923 season.
  • Legendary Norwegian soprano Kirsten Flagstad’s Brünnhilde costume from Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre in the 1935 Company premiere of the composer’s four-opera cycle, The Ring of the Nibelung.
  • The military outfit worn by French soprano Lily Pons in Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment during the 1940s.
  • A dress from Massenet’s Manon worn by soprano and inaugural recipient of the Company’s Opera Medal, Dorothy Kirsten.
  • American soprano Leontyne Price’s costume from the 1981 production of Verdi’s Aida. An iconic interpreter of the title role, Price sang her first Aida with San Francisco Opera in 1957.
  • Additional costumes from productions of ToscaUn Ballo in MascheraTannhäuser and Rigoletto reflect the work of designers Thierry Bosquet, John Conklin, Paul Brown and Constance Hoffman.

For more information and to view the Exhibition Image Gallery, visit

Filed under: music news, San Francisco Opera


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