Recreating ‘Pretty Woman’ opera scene

In a previous post I wrote about how unfortunately far San Francisco is from where I live in the Bay Area. On a good day it takes me about an hour to reach the southernmost tip of the city. So I don’t treat myself to many trips.

But when my mom was in town over Thanksgiving a few months ago, I shifted to a different mode — the mode I get into when anyone I love visits me. All of the sudden, I become this delirious tour guide, taking my guests anywhere and everywhere around me.

And when my mom is in town, I become a special kind of delirious. She lives thousands of miles away from me in Moscow, Russia. And we have lived apart from each other that way since I was 13, when I immigrated from Russia to the U.S.

Most of the time, I see her only two weeks at a time every year or so. I think the most time we spent together after I was 13 was when I lived with her during the 2011 summer for a couple of months while interning at The Moscow Times.

So I try to make sure our every moment together is as awesome as it could be. That’s where my mind was when I bought us last-minute tickets to see “Aida” at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.

My mom and I love “Pretty Woman,” so we decided to re-watch it when she was here. I actually did not realize that the scene where Julia Roberts’ character gets taken out to see opera was supposed to take place in San Francisco until that moment.

I guess when I watched the movie as a little girl, I thought they literally flew to Italy to watch the opera… Oh, young Sasha, if you only knew how long it takes to fly from California to Italy. By the time those two would have stepped off the plane, they would have already been married and the movie would have been over.

Fun fact: The War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco where the scene in “Pretty Woman” is supposed to take place was badly damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. So the 1990 movie had to be filmed partially at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles and Carnegie Music Hall in Pittsburgh. (Sources: the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, LA Weekly)

Anyway, once I put two and two together, I hopped online and, without much thought, splurged on a pair of second-row tickets for a 7 p.m. performance of “Aida”… on a work dayin San Francisco

My mom loves opera and classical singing, and I was so excited at the prospect of treating her that I completely forgot about the logistics.

The day of the performance, I managed to leave work a bit early, but that didn’t affect the traffic we had to sit through for about an hour and a half on our way to the city. By the time I finally found the garage we were supposed to park in near the Civic Center Plaza downtown, it was already 7:05 p.m.

As my mom and I ran across the plaza to the Opera building, I was a panicking mess.

The thing is our tickets said something like “we don’t seat late people.” And I’ve never been to the opera. So I thought that meant they literally kick you out, put you on a blacklist and never let you buy a ticket again.

“That’s it. It’s over,” I thought, tearing up, as we opened the front door.

The thoughts racing through my head were ridiculously dramatic.

And guess what? It turns out they let all the late people sit on comfy poufs in a room with a TV showing the live performance. Once a song or a number ends, they let all the late folks take their seats in the theater.

No blacklists.

My mom takes a selfie with her phone during the intermission of “Aida” inside the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. (Alex Shashkevich Photos)
Double selfie time.

Yeah, we didn’t get to see the beginning of “Aida.” Big deal.

I actually learned that I don’t really like opera. The music, the singing and the decorations were impressive, don’t get me wrong. But I definitely giggled at the stupid decisions the characters made more than I think I was supposed. My mom liked the story just fine, but she wasn’t too impressed with the main actress’ singing.

Neither of us ended up having that cinematic tear-jerking experience Julia Roberts had in “Pretty Woman.”

But, hey, here’s to trying to recreate the silly, cliché moments Hollywood movies feed us.

Also, I captured this epic photo of my mom with an ambitious photo bomber in the background.

So… worth it.

Mom tries to pose for a photo, but that photo bomber really stole the show.

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