Audiences watch Don Giovanni Friday night at Annette Strauss Square.
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Opera Under the Stars

We sent a music lover to the outdoor live simulcast of Don Giovanni. Here's what he experienced.

published Sunday, October 24, 2010

Friday not only marked the opening of the Dallas Opera’s season, with John Pascoe’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, it also was the first run for the Opera’s new simulcast event.

It's a simple concept: allow people to watch the live opera on a big screen, outside under the stars. The admission was free with only the small requirement of printing out an electronic ticket to gain entry onto the lawn of the Shannon and Ted Skokos Pavilion at the recently opened Annette Strauss Square. Some sat in chairs close to the screen, while others were on blankets further back on the lawn.

It was a T-shirt-and-jeans type of crowd, in sharp contrast to the black-tie audience members attending the opera inside the Winspear Opera House. The atmosphere outside was relaxed, lending itself more to something of a picnic than a red-carpet event. However, no outside food or drinks were allowed, and the prices of the drinks alone seemed to make up for the lack of collecting an admission―soda was $3 and a disappointingly small glass of wine was $6. Hotdogs and hamburgers were also available, catered by Wolfgang Puck.

The show was broadcast on a large modular LED screen with an impressive sound system. The screen was robust, but was obviously not chosen for a superior picture quality. The video was blurry, with faces being nothing but a blob, unless the camera was filming a close-up―and even then the details were lost.

The same problem affected appreciation for the set. In a particular scene that took place in a church, there seemed to be a large Virgin Mary statue. However, since it was only ever shown in the establishing shots of the stage, I was never completely sure that that's what I was seeing. It appeared to be only a white silhouette.

Despite not having a clear picture, the video feed was well-done and ran seamlessly.  There were a good number of cameras, which were always able to focus on a scene and guide the viewer into the action.

It’s an opera, so the sound quality is of utmost importance. Gladly the Dallas Opera holds this same opinion. One would imagine that an outdoor theater situated in the Arts District, alongside Woodall Rodgers Freeway and in the flight path of Love Field Airport would not be the best place to appreciate an opera. Thanks to the high-quality sound system, though, Dallas Opera solved those problems. On average, a plane flew overhead about once every ten minutes, with there was never more than a faint rumbling, and it didn't distract from the music. The only major distraction was when a helicopter flew over the lawn from a lower altitude.

This experience would make a wonderful romantic evening for someone trying to impress a date―without having to shell out the big bucks for the real event inside. The atmosphere is relaxed enough that hugging and holding hands are completely acceptable. Due to the picture quality, the back lawn is better and more comfortable, provided you bring pillows and a blanket.

All in all, it’s a great time provided the weather cooperates. The Dallas Opera provided free emergency ponchos, just in case.

And you can’t beat the scenery, surrounded by the Dallas night skyline, listening to wonderful music. Thanks For Reading


Suzanne Calvin, Dallas Opera writes:
Sunday, October 24 at 2:47PM

Just FYI: "big bucks" aren't strictly necessary to enjoy future performances inside the opera house. Dallas Opera subscriptions for five performances begin at under a hundred dollars (total) and for students with a valid school ID, we offer a $25 best available ticket 90 minutes prior to each performance. You can get your ticket and then nip down the street for a drink or a bite to eat, or enjoy the Joy and Ronald Mankoff Opera Overtures pre-performance lecture in Hamon Hall one hour before curtain.I was both inside the performance hall and outside at the simulcast and found both to be marvelous experiences. I especially loved the big ovation for the cast when they came outside to the Skokos Pavilion in Annette Strauss Square to take their final, final bows of the evening.

E writes:
Wednesday, October 27 at 2:14AM

Be wary about opera student rush offers -- you'll often end up in the grand tier, with seats priced at that level originally. Perhaps how they handled student rush last year (where you could guarantee orchestra level seats for $50 instead of $25) would be more successful.With that said, the Grand Tier is terrible. You'll truly be more frustrated than anything else, because you cannot truly experience the opera in all its majesty. Opera is something to be consumed, not watched, and you can no more consume opera at such a vantage point than you could a Snicker's bar. A wasted opportunity, guaranteed.

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Opera Under the Stars
We sent a music lover to the outdoor live simulcast of Don Giovanni. Here's what he experienced.
by George Abbott

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