R.I.P. Koraljka Krstic Lockhart, of the San Francisco Opera

Janos Gereben on June 5, 2017
S.F. Opera staff members at the unveiling of the plaque on the wall dedicating the new Archives Reading Room to Lockhart; she was too ill to attend | Courtesy: S.F. Opera

Kensington, California, resident Koraljka (“Kori” to everybody) Lockhart died on May 27, after a long illness, just three days before what would have been her 85th birthday. Associated with the San Francisco Opera since 1970, she was successively publicity assistant, press representative, publications manager, and archivist for the company. She created the Opera’s pathbreaking online performance archive, and published books about the company’s history.

Kori Lockhart | Courtesy: S.F. Opera

Born in Dubrovnik, Croatia, her maiden name was Krstic; she acknowledged her ethnic heritage in her email ID: Machka (Cat, in Croatian) or “Erda” from the Wagner Ring. She studied music in Dubrovnik, 1941–1951, and then at the University of Zagreb, 1951–1955.

She lived in Rome before coming to the U.S. in 1965, where she became music director of classical-music radio station KKHI until 1970. She married the Canadian-born radio announcer Keith Milton Lockhart, who died in 2015; they divorced in 1979.

Despite knowing her, working with her, and enjoying her friendship for four decades, I knew very little of the above until some determined research upon her death. For an accomplished, widely respected professional in information management, public relations, and publication, she was a blank slate when it came to herself.  

On all other subjects, especially having to do with opera, music, singers, international travel, and politics, Kori was the best source of information, something she generously dispensed upon request. Journalists at the Opera House relied on her, whatever the subject.

The distinguished music critic Martin Bernheimer, for many years representing the Los Angeles Times and reporting from the War Memorial frequently, calls Kori “a unique — smart, loyal, tough, yet sensitive — font of information, and not just about opera. She will be profoundly missed. And like most superior people, she loved cats.”

Kori Lockhart's books included San Francisco Opera: The Adler Years, 1954–1981
Composer Jake Heggie, at one time Kori’s colleague at the Opera, says: “She was a staunch friend, incredibly funny, passionate about opera beyond anything else, intensely private and always great, great fun. I loved her dearly. We were great friends from the moment I started at SF Opera in 1994. She will be missed deeply — there is nobody like Kori.”

Besides journalists and colleagues, members of the opera-loving public also benefitted from knowing her. Veteran regular, contributor, and Merola supporter Suzanne Turley was a friend and admirer: “Kori was always generous, full of info and warmth when I, a “civilian,” asked for her help. And her twinkly smile lit up any room.”

Kori hired photographer Larry Merkle, which started an acclaimed career of 19 years: “It’s the best job I’ve ever had in my life. I learned a lot from her, certain times to watch the singers to get good shots. She had a vast knowledge of past performances and could name singers who were in them. Thanks for everything, Kori.”

Singer Kevin Langan remembers Kori as “an enthusiastic supporter of the young artists at SFO in the 1980s and 1990s. She always alerted me very proudly when I got a nice review in the papers for a production I was in. R.I.P., Kori.”