October 1, 2008

Take Me Out to the Opera

The San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants baseball 
team have joined to bring free opera performances to crowds 
of 23,000 in AT&T Park

Video Director Frank Zamacona Brings the San Francisco Opera 
to the Home of the Giants.

     Photo by K. W. Jeter

   Today, when most people think about opera (if they think about it at all), they envision an elegant night out with fancy clothes, jewels and a stuffy be-on-your-best-behavior attitude. That's how it is in the movies, and even sometimes in real life.
   But that's a far cry from opera's beginnings, when these events were the rock concerts of the day. No politely sitting in their seats for 18th-century opera patrons — they wandered about the hall during performances, talking with friends and drinking and eating. And due to recent technical improvements in live simulcasts, opera companies throughout the world are bringing the art form back to its roots. While the opera house audience enjoys a fashionable, staid evening, other opera fans enjoy the same performance in civic plazas, art center courtyards and sports stadiums, often for free.
    Since 2006, San Francisco Opera has used these free events to bring world-class opera into the community. The first event was a simulcast of Puccini's Madame Butterfly in May 2006, which drew 8,000 people to San Francisco's Civic Center Plaza across the street from the Opera House. In September 2007, San Francisco Opera and the San Francisco Giants baseball team partnered to bring Saint-Saëns’ Samson and Delilah to a crowd of 15,000 at AT&T Park, followed by the June 2008 simulcast of Donizetti's popular Lucia di Lammermoor, which drew 23,000.
   Like the opera audiences of old, fans strolled between the stands and the field, munching on hot dogs, garlic fries and nachos, and kept the beer concessions busy on the unseasonably warm evening. The sounds and smells of popping corn, along with other ballpark noise, only added to the festive mood.