SF Opera Borrows the Jumbo Screen at Oracle Park

Opera at the Ballpark 2016. Photo by Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

It takes a lot of people to put on a show, and that’s never more true than San Francisco Opera’s annual partnership with the San Francisco Giants for Opera at the Ballpark. Returning on September 21 to Oracle Park, this year’s simulcast will be Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet.

Transmitting in high definition live from the stage of the War Memorial Opera House to the new 71-foot high Mitsubishi Electronic Diamond Vision Board, the Romeo and Juliet simulcast will be 50 feet wider and 20 feet higher than the former board. Since 2006, the partnership between the Giants and San Francisco Opera has brought an incredible free arts experience to over 300,000 people of all ages.

To answer such vital questions as the best place to sit and the best snack to munch, we turned to San Francisco Opera’s Managing Director, Production and Simulcast Executive Producer Jennifer Good; Simulcast Producer and Content Coordinator Jeremy Patfield; and Simulcast Producer and Logistics Coordinator Jodi Gage.

Jodi Gage, Jennifer Good, and Jeremy Patfield. Courtesy of San Francisco Opera

Rosemary Jones: What are some of the technical challenges of doing a live simulcast to the largest movie screen in San Francisco?

Jennifer Good: At the opera house we always get to rehearse in the weeks leading up to the first live performance. So overall, we find that we have to exercise our “wing it” muscles since we have limited time to run through all the technical factors during our single load-in day and the day of the simulcast.  We’re really grateful to the San Francisco Giants for their expertise as we transition into their venue!

Do you change any of the blocking of the opera for the cameras?

Jennifer Good: Once a production opens at San Francisco Opera, we try to keep things as consistent as possible for the singers and other cast members. So though we may make some slight tweaks in the staging if absolutely necessary for the simulcast performance, we have to do that before we record the preceding performance as our back-up. We do make lighting adjustments to optimize the ballpark crowd’s experience, but we’re careful not to compromise the artistic integrity of what the audience at the opera house sees.

Sound is always a concern for opera lovers. How does this sound in the ballpark? Any suggestions on the best place to sit for the maximum effect?

Jeremy Patfield: We have to give a huge shout out to our generous partner, Meyer Sound!  They provide us with the highest quality sound equipment for use at Oracle Park, which we test for hours leading up to the simulcast performance. Also, many of our IATSE Local 16* sound crew have years of experience with live concerts in big venues along with their expertise with opera and the more intimate theatre setting of the War Memorial Opera House. We synchronize the sound and visual elements at Oracle Park so that they are aligned at home plate. We feel like every seat in the stadium is a great seat from which to watch and listen!

Opera at the Ballpark 2017. Photo by Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera

For the audience, how close is this to what they would experience in the opera house?

Jeremy Patfield: We’d like to think that the powerful singing, storytelling and production values are as intense and meaningful in the ballpark as they are at the opera house. It’s the live audience in both locations that amplifies the energy that the performers bring to the stage and screen.

So, what’s the best Oracle Park snack for pairing with Romeo and Juliet: garlic French fries or hot dogs?

Jodi Gage: Well, this is a French opera after all.  So one would think that people might lean toward the French fries. But we’ve heard that the Capulets won’t eat the same snack as the Montagues, so we think the hot dogs still have a fighting chance.

How family friendly is this opera and this event?

Jennifer Good: The opera Romeo and Juliet and the simulcast event are both perfect for families!  This is one of the most well-known stories in the world and it touches on many themes that resonate in today’s world. Parents can give their children an introduction to the story of the fated young couple in advance, in so many ways, since there are countless modern accountings of Shakespeare’s play.

Pene Pati and Nadine Sierra in Gounod's ‘Romeo and Juliet.’
Pene Pati and Nadine Sierra in Gounod’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’ Photo by Cory Weaver/San Francisco Opera

What’s the best part of this annual event for San Francisco Opera?

Jodi Gage: The audience! It’s really such an amazing chance for us to bring opera to our community in such a fun, casual setting at Oracle Park with our great partner, the San Francisco Giants!

*Editor’s Note: IATSE Local 16 is the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Picture Technicians, Artists and Allied Crafts of the United States, Its Territories and Canada.

San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Giants present Opera at the Ballpark, a free live simulcast of Charles Gounod’s Romeo and Juliet (Roméo et Juliette), on Saturday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Oracle Park. The event is free and open to the public, but advance online registration is recommended. Register at sfopera.com/simulcast. Entrance to the stadium begins at 5:30 p.m.

Rosemary Jones has written about arts and culture in the Pacific Northwest for the Cornish MagazineCapitol Hill Times, Encore, Examiner.com and others. Additional work can be seen at rosemaryjones.com.