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The Mystery of the Missing Opera Mural

October 24, 2017

After the Wilsey Center for Opera opened in the Veterans Memorial Building two years ago, a fascinating large mural went up in the John M. Bryan Education Studio, across from the Taube Atrium Theater.

A crowded group picture of great opera composers and singers, the painting was the work of Domenico Monteforte, much scrutinized and enjoyed by viewers trying to identify all the faces. Why speak of it in the past tense? Because it’s gone, and fans — led by Merola/Adler Fairy Godmother Suzanne Turley — asked me what happened, and I turned to SFO’s Director of Communications and Public Affairs Jon Finck.

He reminded me that both the Studio and the Theater are rented out by the War Memorial, and the Opera has use of these spaces only for limited times during the year. As to the mural:

It is my understanding the War Memorial recently had the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company in the Education space and they requested the mural be taken down; I believe MJDC was projecting imagery over the wall surfaces.

We always knew that there was a possibility a potential rental of the Bryan Education Studio could request the mural be taken down. At this time, I’m unaware of any plan to reinstall the mural. To confirm this you might reach out to Jennifer Norris at the War Memorial.

Reach I did, and as usual, the War Memorial executive who has nursed the Veterans Memorial through its recent big and eminently successful renovation, responded immediately:

“We had always planned to remove the painting between Opera uses, but the dance was the first time we truly needed the space and couldn’t work around it. I think its removal will make the space more versatile for all.”

Norris went on to mention some upcoming activities in the mural-free space:

We are excited to see the Education Studio become a space for performance with the workshop opera performances of Abraham in Flames Oct. 3–4 and then Margaret Jenkins Dance presenting her work in both the Education Studio and the Diane and Tad Taube Atrium Theater on Oct.  12–14. The spaces are available for rent by contacting [email protected]

So where is the mural? Finck says the painting, a property of the Opera, is likely to be stored in the company’s Burlingame scene shop. Will it be on view again? Alas, no plans for that. 

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].