On September 26, 1923, an Italian immigrant named Gaetano Merola raised the curtain on San Francisco’s first opera performance. The staging of La Bohème featured soprano Queena Mario and tenor Giovanni Martinelli, and kicked off a whirlwind season of 10 operas presented over the following 13 days. Although the War Memorial Opera House didn’t exist yet — performances were held at the Civic Auditorium (now known as Bill Graham) — the shows were a roaring success, and San Francisco Opera, the City’s first opera company, was an instant sensation.

Today, nearly 100 years later, SF Opera is internationally renowned for its groundbreaking new works by top composers, debuts of operatic icons and educational programs reaching generations of young artists. But it’s not content to rest on its laurels. The company is heading into its second century with a vision for the future that builds on the community’s enduring support, while undertaking initiatives, internally and externally, to make opera more welcoming.