The City’s Cultural Epicenter — Neighborhood Showcase

The City’s Cultural Epicenter: SF Symphony, Opera and Ballet

San Francisco is the proud home of one of the most dynamic, colorful, and intense performing arts districts in the world. With a world-class opera, symphony, and ballet, the historic San Francisco Civic Center has been the site of countless celebrated performances by world-class artists from around the world. For generations, SF performing arts have been synonymous with innovation and cutting-edge productions, creating a magnet for the world’s most acclaimed talent.

Photo courtesy of SF Symphony

The San Francisco Symphony

Founded in 1911, The San Francisco Symphony has made its home at the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall; the San Francisco Symphony Chorus and the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra are also part of this family of organizations. 

In the past 26 years, the symphony has won 15 Grammy Awards and an Emmy Award under the musical direction of the legendary conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, who took the helm in 1985. The Symphony is currently led by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Finnish virtuoso who also serves as conductor laureate for the Philharmonia Orchestra in London, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

The San Francisco Symphony goes on regular tours throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States. It was the first to feature symphonic radio broadcasts in 1926. It is also a world leader in music education. According to the organization, “The San Francisco Symphony provides the most extensive education and community programs offered by any American orchestra. It brings music into every classroom, K-12, in the San Francisco Unified School District, free of charge. The Symphony’s Adventures in Music (AIM) is the longest-running education program of its kind in the country.”

During the Great Depression, the organization faced bankruptcy, and the 1934 season was subsequently canceled. However, the citizens of San Francisco passed a bond measure that provided public financing to ensure the symphony continued, serving as a testament to the value and importance the symphony has to the city.


The San Francisco Opera

Since 1923, the San Francisco Opera has entertained audiences and currently resides at the War Memorial Opera House. This theater was built during the Great Depression as a memorial to San Francisco residents who served during World War I. 

The performing arts was and still is such an important part of San Francisco culture that the opera house became the first in the United States built entirely with funds garnered through community donations. A touchstone of the SF performing arts community, opera runs through the veins of San Francisco itself. Between 1851 and the earthquake of 1906, nearly 5,000 opera performances were given in San Francisco in 26 different theaters. Today, the Opera celebrates its centennial helmed by its newest Music Director, Eun Sun Kim.

The legendary tenor Luciano Pavarotti once claimed that San Francisco was his “second hometown” and that “musically,” it was his first. 

The War Memorial Opera House has played host to many historical events over the last 100 years, including the ceremony during which the United States restored Japanese sovereignty in 1951 and the drafting of the charter of the United Nations in 1945. 

Photo courtesy SF Ballet © Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet

Long heralded as one of the most innovative, forward-thinking ballet companies in America, San Francisco Ballet always finds a way to build upon its leading-edge artistic sensibilities year after year. Founded in 1933 — making it the oldest professional ballet company in America — the company rapidly began reeling off a stunning string of “firsts,” including the first full-length American productions of Coppélia (1938) and Swan Lake (1940) and, in 1944, the first full-length production of Nutcracker in the United States.

Led by acclaimed Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer, Helgi Tomasson, SF Ballet is accompanied by its own orchestra and operates one of the country’s most prestigious schools of ballet. The company’s eclectic roster of contemporary choreographers is world renowned, and was on full display during 2018’s 17-day “Unbound” festival, which featured all new work by 12 choreographers, including: David DawsonAlonzo KingEdwaard LiangAnnabelle Lopez OchoaCathy MarstonTrey McIntyreJustin PeckArthur PitaDwight RhodenMyles ThatcherStanton Welch, and Christopher Wheeldon.

On May 17, 2022, SF Ballet announced its 90th Season, which will celebrate the trailblazing company’s nine decades of pushing ballet forward through offering innovative new works and adaptations, highlighting the world’s leading and emerging choreographers and dancers, and performing beloved classical ballets at the highest caliber. The season kicks off with next@90—the company’s first new works festival since Unbound—which will feature world premieres by nine outstanding choreographers from across the country and around the world, including Nicolas Blanc (Joffrey Ballet), Bridget Breiner (Badisches Staatsballett Karlsruhe), Robert Garland (Dance Theatre of Harlem), Benjamin Millepied (L.A. Dance Project), Yuka Oishi, Yuri Possokhov (SF Ballet), Jamar Roberts (Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Danielle Rowe, and Claudia Schreier (Atlanta Ballet).


SF Performing Arts & The Hibernia

Woven into the fabric of the “high-culture” SF performing arts district, The Hibernia offers an unrivaled location for social, nonprofit and corporate events tied to the city’s beloved cultural institutions. Just a short walk from War Memorial Opera House and Davies Symphony Hall, The Hibernia offers guests the same glamorous San Francisco experience and period flare, providing a natural extension of the city’s cultural touchstones.

With four unique spaces and room for up to 2,000 people, The Hibernia is the performing arts district’s event venue of choice. Visit The Hibernia website to learn more.

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