San Francisco Opera | One Missed Cue, One Lost Shoe, And an Unforgettable Night at the Opera

One Missed Cue, One Lost Shoe, And an Unforgettable Night at the Opera

It has been five years. Some of my memories from my first San Francisco Opera production of Georges Bizet’s Carmen are long gone, but most I still hold onto dearly. My clearest memory is of one special performance that was broadcast live at the San Francisco Giants’ ballpark. It involved one lost shoe and one missed cue.

I was 9 years old at the time and the youngest in the production by two months — a fact I liked to point out because I wanted to make sure everyone knew that I was the youngest in what my dad called “the big leagues.” 

I don’t remember the specific date of this production, only that it was sometime in mid-September. Five other girls from the San Francisco Girls Chorus were also in the cast, and we had been told many times that this production was going to be broadcast live at the baseball stadium. Although I didn’t much care for baseball — and still don’t — I was absolutely giddy with excitement knowing that thousands of people would see me running around stage in my pigtails and red lipstick. 

I loved going to hair and makeup, even though I always had to stand in line for what seemed like an insufferable amount of time: We lined up by first name, and mine starts with a Z. But after a makeup artist rubbed fake dirt all over my arms and face and a hair stylist put my hair into tight pigtails, we were off.

My original shoes had broken in the performance before this. The costume department didn’t have any more sandals in my small size, so I had to size up. I didn’t think about that, though, as I pranced up all those stairs to the main floor with the stage. And I didn’t think about that as we waited in the hallway looking into a nearby office, hoping someone would give us a peppermint from the big jar on the desk. And I definitely didn’t think about it as I sneered at our rivals the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

So when I was all set to rush on stage for the start of "Les voici! Voici la quadrille!", I figured nothing would go wrong. Around 10 boys and 10 girls were supposed to scamper in from backstage with about 20 members of the San Francisco Opera Chorus when the bullfighters arrived. Then, we would all run together to the front of the stage and continue singing. As a 9-year-old, I obviously thought I knew everything, so I confidently started to run forward. Alone. Luckily it was only about one second before the rest of the crowd joined me, but it was long enough to make me feel mortified. I didn’t even notice until the end of the song that, when I ran forward too early, I had lost my shoe!

As we walked off the stage and into the hallway, I burst into tears. In my mind, every single person watching at the ballpark had just seen me humiliate myself. Though my director told me over and over again that nobody even noticed, I still found myself sobbing. Back in the dressing room, I started to feel better. I changed back into my normal clothes. 

Although at the time it felt like my worst nightmare, I now look back on this experience and laugh. Contrary to what I thought at the time, I was not banished from ever performing on the San Francisco Opera stage again. I went on to perform in two more operas: Turandot in 2017 and Tosca in 2018. I was going to have the honor of performing in my fourth opera this year with The Handmaid’s Tale, but it was sadly canceled due to the pandemic. I’m grateful to have been a part of this amazing community. I am almost 14 now and about to start high school. While it may be a long time before I am back on stage again, I am so glad to have found what I truly love: opera.

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