In this new production of the classic holiday movie, George Bailey's guardian angel is a woman named Clara. (Courtesy of SF Opera)

San Francisco Opera hosts West Coast premiere of 'It's a Wonderful Life'

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Teetering on the edge of a bridge at Christmastime, family man George Bailey is ready to leave life behind. His business is in ruins, and his family ties threaten to unravel. George can see no way forward, no future—that is, until a real-life angel crosses his path.

That's the point of departure for San Francisco Opera's latest co-production, It's a Wonderful Life, a vibrant new take on the 1946 holiday classic. Just like Frank Capra's original film, this opera is a lush celebration of life's everyday pleasures—the love stories, trials, and triumphs that make each day worthwhile.


And this being a holiday story, there's no shortage of magic, with breathtaking music and high-flying stunts manifested before your very eyes. The production, however, is no mere rehash. Composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Sheer have infused the film's storyline with a fresh new vision, heightened by a splash of jazz-age beats. Notable among the changes is the creation of the character Clara, an angel whose job is to help save George's life.

Clara's got a problem, though: Unlike all the other angels, she's still a rookie with no wings to fly. But this character's also got sass and charisma, and she's willing to stop at nothing to earn those wings by showing George just how valuable life is.

With its message about unity and friendship in the face of economic hardship, It's a Wonderful Life remains as timely as ever. This production is a lavish tribute to what ordinary people can accomplish with grit and sacrifice—plus, of course, a little help from their friends.

In the spirit of community building, the San Francisco Opera is launching the Earn Your Wings campaign, in honor of all the real-life Claras and Georges out there in the Bay Area. This community initiative aims to recognize individuals who have made a profound impact on their communities, just like George Bailey did in It's a Wonderful Life.

Know an angel who deserves to be recognized? Nominate that person on social media, using the hashtag #EarnYourWings and tag @sfopera. We'll be featuring stories from our communities online every day at sfopera.com.

Then, on Saturday, November 24th, San Francisco Opera is inviting kids of all ages to attend a special performance of It's a Wonderful Life, as part of its first-ever Family Day. All tickets for youth under 18 are half off. The lobby of the War Memorial Opera House will be festooned with decorations and activities, plus we're hosting a Bedford Falls Makers Marketplace (11:30am to 2pm), complete with crafts, holiday gifts, and food trucks from Off the Grid in the courtyard of the War Memorial Opera House. Bring the whole family for an afternoon of holiday drinks, art and games.

Come join the Family Day fun, and revel in the joy of the holiday season! No matter how cold it is outside, It's a Wonderful Life will be sure to melt your heart.

// For more information and tickets, go to sfopera.com/wonderful.