There is something surreal about watching live opera while eating a hot dog and drinking a beer. But when 25,000 other people are joining you the surreal becomes sublime.
For those uninitiated with San Francisco there is world class opera in that city. For the last three years the SF opera has sponsored a free simulcast of one of their performances onto the big screen in AT&T park. Once I heard about this I decided that I had to go. Besides the obvious "If it's free it's for me!" rule of life this really seemed like a cool thing to do.
I really had no idea what to expect as I approached the gate. The event is was free so there were no tickets needed. With no tickets seating was naturally first come first serve, which at a sporting event could lead to a shanking or two but this is quasi theater crowd was probably a lot more tame. Turned out the crowd was tame enough to not require any frisking but still warranted bag checks. So that seemed reasonable and set the tone for the rest of the evening. Take the beast parts of a ballpark and mix it with opera.
Arriving to at the ball park only 30 minutes before show time my seating choices were limited. The park was very generous and let the early arrivers set up picnic plots in the outfield but I was way to late for that. As I started my way up to the upper level one of the attendants said "Sir, would you like to go to the club house level?". Life lesson I learned from Peter Venkman in 1984 is "You say YES!"
The Club house level of AT&T park is really nice. This is where they put all the good stuff. Not only do they have fantastic garlic fires, but it is here that they hide all the gourmet sandwiches and brick oven pizza. To think that the best that the casual fan can get outside this middle level of culinary excellence is a crazy crab sandwich. Which, contrary to popular belief, is actually more a wacky crab sandwich. With all the choices that I had I decided to keep it simple.
Settling into a seat with my beer and a dog I took a look at my surroundings. About 250,00 people had shown up and were snuggling in to ward off the typical SF evening chill. As the orchestra warmed up blocks away kids were practicing their hook slides down on the field and pretended to pull in home runs as they jumped against the outfield wall. During the first act there was a crazy fan that rushed onto the roped off infield. That fan looked to be about four years old but he proved quite elusive to the security staff that tried to apprehend him.
What surprised me most however was how much the crowd treated this as a real stage performance. People silenced their cell phones, and applauded at the end of each solo as if the performer could hear them. Then at halftime/intermission/3rd act stretch the stadium rolled out their version of “Take Me Out To the Opera”! Yes, very corny, but still unique.
Spoiler Alert: If you don't want to know how Il Travorte ends skip this next paragraph. But really, this is opera we are talking about, there is no happy ending.
The performance itself was really great. They put up Super titles tho help those that are illiterate in Italian understand what is going on. The lead Soprano was superb and you knew the moment she said “His fate and mine are eternally linked that bad things were going to happen to her. The plot after this was pretty quickly telegraphed. She falls in love with the local rebel leader who really is a good guy but is betrothed to the local count who is the bad guy, the good guy and bad guy happen to be brothers separated at birth and the only person that knows this is the crazy gypsy woman. From there on you can pretty much tell who is going to live and die. To cap off the night at curtain calls the cast came out wearing Giants hats, jerseys, and big orange foam fingers.
So this certainly isn't a typical event you might see at a baseball stadium. But if you ever get a chance to try out a hot dog at the opera house I recommend the experience.