High Note at the Opera
Some days, you wake up and think that going for a walk is a terrible idea—walking, or doing anything, really, aside from going back to sleep post-haste. You think this because everything hurts, and you are sleep-deprived and worn out from working (and sitting—booooo, sitting…), and know that you have still more work to get through, and sleeping sounds like an infinitely better way to spend the next two of hours than going outside and hiking up that same stupid hill you hike up all the time (ugh, boring!), especially since you’re running on fumes as it is, and how on earth are you supposed to keep in mind and practice the half-dozen things about your posture and your carriage and the way you place your feet and hold your head and use your toes and pretty much take all of the automatic anything out of walking because you’ve been doing it wrong this whole time and it’s really a lot of effort all through your person to stand up straight and OH GAWD SO ACHY AND TIRED!
And then you tell yourself, “Walking will get you loosened up and un-do some of that desk-sitting, and you get to go see the person who will crack yer bones and make you feel a lot better, and the hill you have to hike up can’t possibly be out of new things to appreciate just yet—so screw your head on straight, make some coffee, and draw your eyebrows on. Bright side! Do it!” Sunscreen, shoes, keys, money, brain, phone, whatever, check 1-2 check 1-2-3, ready, set, go….
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And then you see:
This mural in progress; made me chuckle. I can’t tell if this is facetious, or if this is the actual intent of the artist? I love it that I can’t tell! So curious to know the story here, will have to check it out and see what’s happened by next time I pass…
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This fancy hand-lettered sign outside an art supply store (who’s huge windows are always full of art books and great to peer into), and this pretty public parklet that I never noticed before, because I always walk on the other side of the street it’s on… (note: walk down both sides of streets!)
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A view made possible by the overcast day, making all windows bright mirrors…
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Some good words to live by…
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Oh look, it’s my alma mater… Passing this building added thoughts to the “bright side” theme-of-the-day: I had a weekly class here in college, and remember thinking then that the walk back down to Market Street and BART was soooooo far, and a huge effort. But these days, I walk up hills one must ‘Park at a 90 Degree Angle’ on for fun. I may be sleep-deprived and achy, and have parts that require a lot of maintenance, but I’m healthy, regardless—bright side! (Also, now I get to eat piles or organic vegetables instead of having to survive on apples and ramen noodles! Ah college…)
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Almost home, back to work, feeling the blood moving. So far, so good; much better.
And then walking past the beautiful War Memorial Opera House, I noticed a small sandwich board sign saying there were 10-minute tours of the opera house happening just then for anyone with $1 to spare. I’ve seen ballet and opera performances in the theater a few times before, but never had the place mostly to myself and a guide to show me around. Bright side: If I had blown off my walk to the Doctor, I would have missed out on this…
I knew that the United Nations had roots in San Francisco, but I did not know that the charter meetings were held at the opera house…
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There used to be one more of these tapestries from the 1700s, but one was stolen—”It was an inside job”! Note, these things are about 20 feet tall x 30 feet wide; how does one sneak that out of the building?! Art heist caper at the opera house…
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Photos are not permitted inside the main theater during the tour, but a guide will take you inside personally and answer all of your questions. Apparently, I am the first San Francisco resident to have come inside and ask for the tour, and, having gazed around the space plenty of times during show nights, I had plenty of questions. (I think it made the docent happy!)
Fun facts to know and tell:
- War Memorial was designed in the beaux arts style by Arthur Brown, the same architect who designed City Hall (across the street and equally stunning) and Coit Tower.
- The massive chandelier is part of the original construction, and (brave) people still manage to venture out on platforms and clean it from time to time.
- The orchestra pit is usually lowered when there are performances on the stage, but it can be raised and lowered, as a whole and also in sections, and it is full of trap doors.
- There are seven cameras now in use, making video records of shows (for DVDs, for screenings in movie theaters, for posterity, etc.)
- The theatre holds 3,148 people
- And the enormous gold stage curtain weighs 3,000 pounds (!!!), and is made from 2,000 square feet of fabric and a mile of gold thread.
The guide had plenty more to tell, too… And for anyone else who always watches the behond-the-scenes features on their DVDs, or likes to watch art and music documentaries to check out the creative process behind work they’re into, the opera house offers more extensive backstage tours. (adds “Opera backstage tour” to to-do list…)
Where should I go tomorrow?
- MILES WALKED: 6.77
- ELEVATION INFO: ascent 543 ft.; descent 535 ft.
- NEIGHBORHOODS: Mission District, Civic Center, Russian Hill
- DESIGNATED LANDMARKS: War Memorial Opera House (no. 84), City Hall (no. 21)