Grace Cathedral Concert

San Francisco Opera Pays Tribute to Paris at Solidarity Concert

In a cathedral lit in the colors of the French flag, artists and musicians from around the Bay Area came together to pay tribute to San Francisco’s sister city, Paris, and the tragedy that befell it on April 15.

That was the day that the city’s crown jewel, its centuries-old Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral, was ripped apart by flames. The fire captivated the world, claiming centuries of artistry, history and heritage. Luckily, it spared the cathedral’s overall structure and the treasures that lay inside.

In the weeks since, other places of worship have likewise fallen victim to tragedy. At Monday’s solidarity concert, the cathedral’s dean, Malcolm Clemens Young, acknowledged the widespread suffering.

"It's important to remember the churches in Louisiana that were burned by arson. It's important to remember the people who died in Sri Lanka in the church bombings and now what happened in the synagogue in San Diego,” he told the audience. “This is for all people who recognize that we need sacred spaces in our world.”

The concert attracted an audience of nearly 5,000, which spilled into the courtyard outside, where video screens had been set up to ensure everyone could witness the event.

In the cathedral’s 170-year history, only two occasions have drawn so large an audience: the first occasion being when Martin Luther King Jr. preached there, and the second, a ceremony held in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Mezzo-soprano Ashley Dixon presented a moving aria from Berlioz, and her Adler Fellow colleague Kseniia Polstiankina Barrad offered accompaniment on the piano.

Opera legend Frederica von Stade, meanwhile, used her deep knowledge of the French operatic repertoire to serenade the audience. One of the evening’s highlights was a performance by a Notre-Dame de Paris organist, Johann Vexo.

In his speech, Emmanuel Lebrun-Damiens, France’s consul general in San Francisco, gave thanks to the outpouring of support his country had received. "In the midst of our dismay, messages of support from California came to remind us that in our love for [Notre-Dame], we had a sister — San Francisco, the Paris of the West."

From Basement Performances to Broadway, Francesca Zambello Traces Her Journey