At Home With Lee and Frank Goldberg
Posted on January 1, 2019
Lee Goldberg’s office in the expansive Rancho Santa Fe home she shares with Frank, her husband of 66 years, speaks to the couple’s passion: the San Diego Opera, which the Goldbergs have supported for more than three decades. The room is filled with memorabilia and photographs with such opera superstars as Jose Carreras, Renee Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, Beverly Sills, and Joan Sutherland, as well as signed photographs from the main stage productions the Goldbergs have underwritten: Carmen; La Traviata; Mary, Queen of Scots; Pagliacci; Salome; and more.
“The opera is a love,” says Lee. “It all started when some dear friends of ours invited us to have dinner and go the opera.” Over the years, the Goldbergs underwrote artists and performances, and chaired events and parties. Lee served as president of the Opera’s board of directors, and in 2017, was honored as a life director, one of only six in the company’s 53-year history.
That love affair between the Goldbergs and the San Diego Opera will continue on Saturday, February 23, when the company pays tribute to them at its “Lover’s Ball” at The US Grant Hotel. “Lee and Frank Goldberg’s passionate support of San Diego Opera has been instrumental to our success since the 1980s, and we continue to reap the benefits of Lee’s excellent leadership as past President and current Life Director,” says the organization’s general director David Bennett. “We certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without their generosity and dedication to the opera and the community of San Diego, and I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to honor them at this year’s ball. We are grateful for their support and for the continued belief in San Diego Opera.”
Relaxing in their art-filled home, the Goldbergs reflect on why the arts in general, and the opera, in particular, are important to community. “For a city to grow and expand, it has to have culture,” says Frank. “That’s how we attract people to San Diego. When we try to recruit professors and doctors, these are the things that a family takes into consideration. That’s why we are so dedicated.” Adds Lee: “We offer so much more than the weather here.”
The Goldbergs are especially enthusiastic about San Diego Opera’s educational outreach efforts aimed at a wider and younger audience for this centuries-old art form that will depend on new generations for its survival. For example, the company continues to welcome students, for free, to final dress rehearsals, and sponsors county-wide education programs, says Edward Wilensky, the Opera’s public relations director. Last season, it provided free, family-oriented performances of Little Red Riding Hood that attracted hundreds of new families to opera. And, in 2016, in conjunction with San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System, the company performed along city trolley stops, to promote Cinderella with an abridged version of the opera.
Artists also present free lunchtime recitals during the season on the Concourse in front of the San Diego Civic Theatre, the San Diego Opera’s home since 1965. Times, however, are a-changing. Two years ago, the Opera launched the Detour Series, exploring the unexpected and lesser-known works that depart from the company’s tradition. The sold-out performances are not only popular but a wonderful introduction to those who have been curious but perhaps, also intimidated by opera’s traditional pomp and circumstance. “Opera is for everyone,” insists Lee. So the Goldbergs are optimistic about San Diego Opera’s future. “What they’re doing now is so fantastic because they’re watching their budget carefully, they’re being transparent, and they’re trying to involve the community,” says Lee.
In addition to the opera, the Goldbergs give generously to many causes. They were instrumental in the development of Seacrest Village in Encinitas, a retirement community that provides a continuum of care from independent living to skilled nursing. Seacrest Village has since opened a second campus in Rancho Bernardo, and created Seacrest at Home, providing seniors with in-home care. Back in the 1940s, Lee’s parents, Frank and Goldie Winicki, were early supporters of the original Hebrew Home on 4th Avenue in Hillcrest. Husband Frank later served as president of the Seacrest Board of Directors and was a longtime board member. Last June, the Goldbergs were honored at the Seacrest Foundation Women’s Auxiliary Diamond Anniversary celebrating 75 years of service to San Diego’s Jewish community. Their daughters, Suzi Feldman and Anne Nagorner, served as co-chairs. The Goldbergs also support San Diego State University, UC San Diego, and UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, co-chairing the center’s grand opening celebration in 2005.
Single tickets to San Diego Opera’s Lover’s Ball start at $500 per person and include complimentary valet parking, the cocktail reception, and dinner and dancing. Special $1,000 per person tickets offer premium seating at dinner, as well as recognition as an honorary committee member. Tables of ten are also available for $5,000 and $10,000. Suggested attire is black-tie with a touch of Spanish flair. 619.533.7000, sdopera.org/opera-ball Andrea Naversen
Photography by Vincent Knakal