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San Francisco Opera Guild Presents OPERA BALL 2018: VIVA LA NOCHE!

San Francisco Opera Guild Presents OPERA BALL 2018: VIVA LA NOCHE! Details were announced today for Opera Ball 2018: ¡Viva La Noche!, San Francisco Opera Guild's signature gala benefit inaugurating San Francisco Opera's 96th season on Friday, September 7. Presented in conjunction with the season-opening double bill of one-act operas, Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Ruggero Leoncavallo's Pagliacci (or Cav/Pag), Opera Ball 2018 is co-chaired by Shannon Cronan and Kathy Huber and features event design by J. Riccardo Benavides and a sumptuous dinner by McCalls Catering & Events. Last presented by San Francisco Opera 15 years ago, Cav/Pag returns next season in a staging by Argentine tenor, conductor and director José Cura that sets both Italian classics in La Boca, the Buenos Aires neighborhood known for its colorful architecture and live tango performances. Honorary Chairs for Opera Ball 2018 are John A. & Cynthia Fry Gunn and Diane B. Wilsey. The official wine sponsor is Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery.

San Francisco Opera Guild President Jane Mudge said: "Each year the bar for Opera Ball is set higher than the year before which is why I couldn't be happier to have Kathy and Shannon co-chairing Opera Ball 2018. Through their extensive work organizing brilliantly successful events, each has demonstrated the aesthetic eye, business acumen, management skill, grace under pressure and overall leadership that are needed for Opera Ball. What could be better than Kathy and Shannon working with genius designer J. Riccardo Benavides and the premiere society caterer in town, McCalls? This will be a night to remember."

Co-chairs Cronan and Huber remarked: "We are honored to take the lead on this year's Opera Ball and what a great theme we have! With opera's greatest double-bill on the stage and set in La Boca, you can expect this night to be filled with unforgettable culinary delights, passionate tango rhythms, glamour and no shortage of festive cheer. We look forward to welcoming all our guests to this celebration and toasting a fabulous new season of opera in San Francisco."

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery, one of California's premiere producers of luxury wines, is the official wine sponsor for Opera Ball 2018, its first collaboration with San Francisco Opera Guild. Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards and Winery, located on a 1300-acre estate in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley, will be serving its 2015 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and 2017 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

On the evening of September 7, Opera Ball attendees will promenade along the red carpet to the War Memorial Opera House foyer for a 5 p.m. cocktail reception. Dinner will be served in a tented pavilion outside the carriage entrance of the Opera House at 6 p.m. Benavides, known for creating immersive, experiential events, will channel the refined, Italianate style of Buenos Aires to the War Memorial campus and, within the pavilion, set a tone of excitement and elegance. Following dinner, more than 700 Opera Ball guests will return to the Opera House for an 8 p.m. gala performance of Cav/Pag. After the opera, attendees will process to the pavilion for cocktails, savories, sweets and dancing to the high-energy sounds and theatrics of Pop Rocks.

One of the premier philanthropic evenings on the West Coast, Opera Ball brings together local and national corporate, political, civic and charitable leaders all committed to the cause of music education and the transformative experiences San Francisco Opera presents on the stage of the War Memorial Opera House. The mission and distinguished tradition of Opera Ball in San Francisco have long attracted important collaborators and partnerships to the annual event, which benefits the community initiatives and education programs of the Opera Guild and San Francisco Opera Association reaching a combined 60,000 students in Northern California every year.

The double bill of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci, last presented in 2003, returns to San Francisco Opera to launch the 2018-19 Season. Cavalleria Rusticana features Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as Santuzza, Italian tenor Roberto Aronica as Turiddu and Greek baritone Dimitri Platanias in his Company debut as Alfio. Pagliacci stars Armenian soprano Lianna Haroutounian as Nedda, Italian tenor Marco Berti as Canio, Platanias as Tonio and American baritone David Pershall as Silvio. Italian conductor Daniele Callegari leads the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus for the first time in the United States premiere of José Cura's production, staged in revival by fellow Argentine stage director Jose Maria Condemi.

Opera Ball 2018 tickets are priced at $1,500; $2,500; $5,000 and $10,000 and are available at and by calling (415) 565-3204. Tickets for the double-bill performance of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci are sold separately; visit, the San Francisco Opera Box Office [301 Van Ness Avenue] or call (415) 864-3330. Casting, programs, schedules and ticket prices are subject to change.

About the Opera Ball 2018 Co-Chairs

Shannon Cronan has been an active member of the San Francisco Opera Guild since 2011 and served in various roles, including co-chair of the 2012 Spring Gala. A full-time agent with Paragon Real Estate Group, Cronan enjoys helping people fulfill their dreams in properties and housing. Her attention to detail, negotiating skills and personable nature have fueled her success in business and benefited the San Francisco community through her volunteer work. Cronan has served as President, Gala Chair and Student Showcase Chair with the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary. Along with her teenage son and daughter, she volunteers with the National Charity League and Service Corps. Her passion for volunteering and serving her community originated during her time at Santa Clara University, where she taught English as a second language to immigrants while earning her degree in broadcast journalism with a minor in French. Cronan is a Bay Area native who has spent the last two decades in San Francisco where she lives with her husband and two children.

Kathy Huber has focused much of her career leveraging her many years of commercial real estate experience, including her work as Director of Real Estate West at Gymboree, in aiding non-profit institutions. She was a founding partner and VP of Acquisitions for Alta Energy, Inc. and previously the founder and CEO of Market Insite Group. Huber is currently on the board of directors of San Francisco Opera Guild and co-chaired An Evening on the Stage in 2016. Her involvement with other philanthropic organizations includes San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary, where she chaired San Francisco Ballet's 2018 Opening Night Gala and the Student Showcase in 2013. She was previously president of the St. Francis Wood Women's League, a founding Board member of Children of Shelters and One Warm Coat, and she is a long-time member of the International Council of Shopping Centers where she served in key roles on the conference planning committee for the industry's sustainability conference. Huber graduated with a B.A. degree from DePauw University and lives in Belvedere with her husband, Larry Binkley.

Jane Mudge / San Francisco Opera Guild President

Jane Mudge, San Francisco Opera Guild president, is a co-owner of J.V. Staging, LLC, a property preparation and staging company, and a seasoned community fundraiser. Educated both locally and abroad, she received her B.A. from Santa Clara University. Her professionalism and integrity are rooted in her marketing and advertising experience and work with major clients including Visa USA, Dockers, Safeway, Inc. and California State commodity boards. She has served as San Francisco Opera Guild's Vice President of Fundraising and is a member of the Women's Board of California Pacific Medical Center. She has co-chaired numerous philanthropic events including Opera Ball 2015, San Francisco Opera Guild's 2012 Spring Gala, San Francisco Ballet's 2009 Opening Night Gala, French American Soirée des Arts and Celebrate Spring for Schools of the Sacred Heart. She resides in San Francisco with her two teenage daughters.

J. Riccardo Benavides / Opera Ball 2018 Event Designer

Renowned for his stylish taste, J. Riccardo Benavides melds sophistication with enchantment. His beautiful designs bring a personal touch and an air of whimsy to every event. From an opulent gala retrospective for designer Oscar de la Renta to an 1,800-person extravaganza for Netflix, Benavides' extraordinary and dignified work has made its mark. Constantly inspired by the latest trends and fashions, his original style is full of imagination, holding guests in a constant state of awe and intrigue. J. Riccardo Benavides' clients include San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Saks Fifth Avenue, British Motor Cars, The St. Regis Hotels, Churchill Museum in London, as well as intimate private client parties and events worldwide. For more information, visit

Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery

Located in Sonoma County's Russian River Valley, Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery is one of California's premier producers of luxury wines. The unique topography, climatic and geological diversity of Chalk Hill creates an environment that allows for a wide range of varieties to be grown on the estate including chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pinot gris, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot, carmenère, syrah and semillon. The 1300-acre Sonoma estate includes 350 acres of vineyards, a winery, a hospitality center, culinary gardens, residence, equestrian pavilion, sports fields, fishing and swimming ponds and a wilderness area.

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