Sunday, May 28, 2006
Butterfly Under The Dome
The first audience members for the free 8PM simulcast of the opening of the San Francisco Opera's "Madama Butterfly" production showed up around 5PM. They had even brought a low table on which to gracefully eat and drink an early dinner.
In a nice touch, the trees on either side of the central lawn had been decorated with paper lanterns.
It didn't take long for the crowd to swell...
...to thousands of people who took up the entire central lawn...
...and were soon spilling over to the side lawns too.
A group of opera supernumeraries had set up a beachhead near the front of the crowd...
...not far from the giant screen resting on top of a large truck parked on Polk Street.
Even though the winds whipping through the Civic Center Plaza were bone-chilling, the atmosphere outdoors can best be described as both hopeful and festive.
At one point, the fine British director of the production, Ron Daniels (in the center), cruised by to check out the crowd soon before the curtain rose.
The colors on the video were a bit "hot," as in slightly too bright, and there was one very wobbly videographer all evening...
...but all in all the direction of the simulcast was intelligent and well-done.
My only real objection was with other photographers who kept using flashes on their cameras, which were completely unnecessary, particularly after the performance had begun.
There were also the ambient noises of sirens and airplanes to contend with, but that goes with the territory.
The huge audience in the plaza was great: quiet, attentive and thoroughly absorbed with the opera.
Patricia Racette, who had been battling a sore throat all week, sang poor, abused Butterfly with a no-holds-barred intensity and beautiful sound that made fans out of everyone.
Stephen Cole as the evil marriage pimp Goro was another standout, as was Zheng Cao as Suzuki.
Congratulations are in order to everyone involved (except for the dreadful emcee from the awful KDFC classical music station), and here is a request that this wonderful experiment be repeated for the fall opening night, which is in September, the real summertime in San Francisco.