Matthew Shilvock with Gordon Getty
SF Opera General Director Matthew Shilvock with composer and philanthropist Gordon Getty | Credit: Reneff-Olson Productions

On Dec. 19, the eve of his 90th birthday, Gordon Getty will be celebrated with a dinner at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he completed a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2014. The advent of Getty’s 10th decade has been extensive and reflective of his immersive involvement in music — as a composer, philanthropist, fan, and friend of those who join him in making and supporting the art form. (Among other achievements, he co-founded SF Classical Voice in 1998 with his longtime acquaintance, the late critic Robert Commanday.)

At a party at the beginning of his birthday month, Getty shared glasses of his PlumpJack wine with fellow opera composers John Adams, David Garner, Jake Heggie, Aaron Jay Kernis, Jack Perla, and Luna Pearl Woolf. And at San Francisco Opera on Dec. 9, extending the curtain call for the final performance of L’elisir d’amore, General Director Matthew Shilvock presented Getty with the Spirit of the Opera Award for his and his late wife Ann’s sustained generosity to the company and for his contributions to the repertoire, showcasing “a beautiful lyricism, with a profound appreciation of the human voice.”

Shilvock commemorated SF Opera’s 2015 production of Getty’s Usher House and hinted that “we may have other things up our sleeves in the future.” Conductor Ramón Tabor then led the cast and audience in a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday.” Getty’s most recent opera, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, produced as a film during the pandemic, will be screened on Feb. 2, 2024, at the University of San Francisco, where Getty completed a degree in English literature in 1956.

A collection of his poetry and librettos is in the offing. In the meantime, Getty continues to start his days early in his Pacific Heights studio, revising the orchestrations of earlier works and composing new instrumental and vocal pieces.