War Memorial Opera House
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The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House, located at 301 Van Ness Avenue and Grove Street, rivals Old World theaters with its elegant lines, vaulted and coffered ceiling, marble foyer, and sweeping balconies. The War Memorial Opera House is the 3,146-seat home to the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet.
The War Memorial Opera House opened in 1932, along with the Veterans Building as part of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. Performing arts patrons are accommodated amid plush velvet seats, elaborate Beaux Arts detailing, and state-of-the-art technology.
On October 17, 1989, at 5:04 p.m., Loma Prieta, one of the century's strongest Bay Area earthquakes, jolted San Francisco. As flames shot up into the sky over the Marina District, many thought that most of the destruction occurred there.
However, it was discovered that many of the city's cultural treasures, including the Geary Theatre, the Main Library, and the War Memorial Opera House, had received serious blows as well.
Most San Francisco buildings are earthquake-proof; the Opera House was not. The San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet, which share the Opera House, made do with the damaged building and equipment. However, in 1996, both companies moved to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium for a season.
The resulting seismic retrofit, which shut down the building for the 1996 season, provided an opportunity to bring the antiquated theatrical systems up to date. The theater consulting firm of Auerbach and Associates, which oversaw the theatrical renovation of the Opera House, retained Ceitronics to install audio-video systems. Auerbach also hired the firm of Paoletti and Associates to test reverberation time and background noise in the Opera House. For the house system console, Auerbach contracted Euphonix to custom program their 2400 unit.
For a year and a half following the quake, the opera and ballet were left homeless. The city supplied $56.5 million, and the Committee to Restore the Opera House raised more than $30 million in private funds. After hard work, some patience and of course, lots of money, the Opera House eventually recovered from the quake's destruction. After years of renovation, the refurbished War Memorial Opera House sparkles with pride.
Founded by Gaetano Merola in 1923, the San Francisco Opera has become one of the finest opera companies in the world. The San Francisco opera gave its first performance, Puccini's "La Boheme", on September 26, 1923, at the Civic Auditorium. It was later established at the War Memorial Opera House when it officially opened its doors on October 5, 1932. The San Francisco Ballet was founded as the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1933.
The San Francisco War Memorial Opera House re-opened its doors on September 6, 1997. The War Memorial Opera House, one of the most beautiful and technologically advanced performing arts centers in the world, is a true San Francisco jewel.
As the performance hall for the San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Opera, the War Memorial Opera House is an architectural gem.
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