The San Francisco Opera, founded in 1923 by Italian conductor Gaetano Merola, has risen to become the second largest opera company in the United States behind New York's Metropolitan Opera (the Met). The San Francisco Opera's first performance in 1923 was La Boheme by Giacomo Puccini at San Francisco's Civic Auditorium (now known as Bill Graham Civic Auditorium). The Opera is now housed at San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House in the city's Civic Center and has seen the U.S. debuts of some of the world's greatest opera singers, conductors and stage directors, such as the sopranos Leontyne Price, Elizabeth Schwarzkoph, conductors Sir George Solti, Valery Gergiev and film director Francis Ford Coppola.
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