S.F. Opera, Ballet seasonal delights

San Francisco Ballet and Opera patrons are enjoying some holiday magic this month — all for a good cause.

First off, the San Francisco Opera Guild hosts “’Tis the Season,” a holiday party on Thursday from 6 to 9 p.m. at Neiman Marcus in Union Square.

Proceeds from ticket sales to the event benefit the guild’s holiday outreach program, which funds free performances by guild-sponsored singers at medical facilities, hospices and retirement centers throughout the Bay Area during December.

John Capizzi, the store’s vice president and general manager, is the honorary co-chairman of the party.

Guild President Teresa Medearis says, “We’re honored to have John Capizzi … for all the right reasons, to have fun and serve the community. It’s kicking off the holiday season from Neiman’s Rotunda — with a bird’s eye view of Union Square and all the Christmas lights.”

“It’s a hip, upbeat party,” says co-chair Heather Rodriguez, who, with co-chair Mary Corroon, planned the soirée.

Among the gathering’s highlights will be a live auction conducted by Bonhams & Butterfields. Items up for bid include vacation packages to Punta Mita, Mexico; golf at St. Andrews, Scotland or at the El Conquistador in Puerto Rico; and a sojourn at the Four Seasons New York City with a backstage tour of the Metropolitan Opera House and tickets to “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.”

Hors d’oeuvres, a silent auction and socializing in the Rotunda will round out the evening.

Meanwhile, on Dec. 15, the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary presents a special children and families’ “Nutcracker” performance, luncheon and party at the War Memorial Opera House. Patty Rock of the Auxiliary says the event will be “like a Disneyland at the ‘Nutcracker.’ ”

The lobby will be transformed into a Victorian-themed setting for the celebration, where children can play “Nutcracker” games, meet and interact with “Nutcracker” characters, receive unique holiday gifts, nibble on special kid-friendly appetizers, then enjoy a catered holiday luncheon before the ballet performance, which starts at 2 p.m.

Chair Stephanie von Thaden, a member of the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary for six years, recalls attending the San Francisco Ballet’s “Nutcracker” every year as a child. She’s continuing the tradition, bringing her children Lauren, 8 and Ryan, 6, this year.

Founded in 1933, the San Francisco Ballet is the oldest, continuously operating private ballet company in the United States and the first to perform “Nutcracker” as a full-length ballet in 1944. Helgi Thomasson, artistic director since 1985, launched the new production of the classic piece in 2004, setting it in early 20th-century San Francisco.

During holiday “Nutcracker” performances, the ballet invites audience members to provide toys and books for children in need this holiday season. Those who want to donate may bring an unwrapped new toy or unused book to the Opera House, where collection barrels provided by the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program will be located in the lobby.

IF YOU GO

’Tis the Season

Presented by San Francisco Opera Guild

Where: Rotunda Restaurant, Neiman Marcus, 150 Stockton St., San Francisco

When: 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday

Tickets: $125 and up

Contact: (415) 565-3204 or www.sfopera.com/guild

Nutcracker

Presented by San Francisco Ballet

Where: War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Dec. 13; 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 14-16; Dec. 18-23, Dec. 26-29; 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Dec. 24; 2 p.m. Dec. 30

Tickets: $18 to $195

Contact: (415) 865-2000 or www.sfballet.org

Note: The Holiday Luncheon and Performance begins at 11:15 a.m. Dec. 15 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets are $400 and up. Call (415) 553-4658 or www.sfballet.org/support for more information.

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