The War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco, California is located on the western side of Van Ness Avenue across from the rear facade of City Hall. It is part of the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center. It has been the home of the San Francisco Opera since opening night in 1932.
In 1927, $4 million in municipal bonds were issued to finance the design and construction of the first municipally owned opera house in the United States.
The architects of the building complex were Arthur Brown Jr., who had designed City Hall between 1912 and 1916, and G. Albert Lansburgh, a theater designer responsible for San Francisco’s Orpheum and theShrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
Completed in 1932, it is one of the last Beaux-Arts structures erected in the United States and employs the classic Roman Doric order in a reserved and sober form appropriate to its function commemorating all those who served in World War I. A colonnade of paired columns screens colossal arch-headed windows above a severe rusticated basement, a scheme that owes something to Claude Perrault‘s severe East front of the Louvre.
The San Francisco Symphony performed most of its concerts in the house, from 1932 to 1980.RCA Victor recorded the orchestra here, under the direction of Pierre Monteux, from 1941 to 1952. In later years the orchestra used a special acoustical shell that was placed around the musicians, greatly enhancing acoustics for concerts. The orchestra’s final concert in the house was an all-Beethoven concert, conducted by Leonard Slatkin, in June 1980.
In spring of 1945, the United Nations had its first conference in Opera House
In 1989, the powerful Loma Prieta earthquake that shook the Bay Area caused major damage to the Opera House.
The architectural firm of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and the theatrical consulting firm of Auerbach and Associates were retained in 1992 to oversee the building’s technical renovation and a seismic retrofit. At this time additional private donations were raised for extensive technical improvements