Siegfried pandemonium, and "One for the Techies"

The roof of San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House almost blew off of it’s trusses last Sunday evening (May 29) at approximately 5:55 p.m. local time–and I am not kidding!!!  Don’t just take my word for it; ask anyone who was there!!  Read on, and you will understand some of what may have contributed to this, over and above the outstanding performance given by a stellar cast!

Baseball has it’s “Bottom of the 9th, down by 3, Grand Slam”; Football has its “Hail Mary Pass” (a thing of real beauty when it works!); Soccer has it’s “Bicycle Kick Goal” during extra-time; Golf has it’s “Hole in One”, OR the “Sinking of a 30 ft. putt on the 18th Hole” to win the tournament; and Basketball has it’s “Mid-Court, Three Point Game Winner” as the clock runs out .

When any of these events occur, what accompanies/follows them, is sheer excitement and near spectator bedlam.  To witness these events ‘live’ is something every fan talks about for the rest of their natural lives; to see them happen on HD TV provides a unique perspective and a proverbial “front row seat” to the action.  But to combine these two separate POV’s–in real time–for the avid fan (and I ain’t just talkin’ jumbo-tron, baby….but real, true HIGH DEFINITION), is probably as close to nirvana as it gets.  Well, opera fans who attend San Francisco Opera’s Ring of the Nibelungen, and have secured balcony seats, will get just that…thanks to something called OperaVision!!!

I would like to think that the instantaneous, almost non-stop pandemonium that materialized when the curtain fell on the Siegfried premiere last weekend was the result of the wonderful performance that the audience had just witnessed; and of course it WAS.  However, I now know for sure that OperaVision provided a great assist in the proceedings!  You see, those who sit in the balcony of the enormous War Memorial Opera House now get a bit of a ‘distance benefit’ for their hard earned dollars: Several retractable video screens have been installed which provide absolutely first-class, live HD video transmission of the stage action.  So those loyal (and usually most vociferous) of opera fanatics get to survey our performances from the furthest AND the closest of viewpoints.  (SCORE, GOAL, SWOOSH, IN THE HOLE!!!)

I visited the 5th floor media studio during Act III of our premiere (after my character, Mime, is killed near the end of Act II), and what I was privileged to witness was beyond belief!  A control room of 30 state-of-the-art video monitors, more cable, couplers, and joy-stick remotes than I could count, a separate audio control room, and a phalanx of production assistants, directors, and support staff who produced an ‘on-the-spot’ video mix (from 10-12 camera angles) of the live stage proceedings that left my jaw dragging on the control room carpet.  This digital feed went right to our audience, and was the most mesmerizing operatic experience (other than the actual in-theater experience) I have ever witnessed.  The clarity, definition, and audio were beyond compare and FAR superior to any that I have seen to date anywhere in the world!  I was further convinced that there is a place for both POV’s simultaneously, when friends who attended raved to me about it afterward.  Perhaps that helped explain an unusually boisterous balcony (those closest to the roof!) when it came time for curtain calls!!

So despite what was a truly thrilling premiere, excellent individual performances (I like to think I provided one of them, too…) and one of THE MOST appreciative audiences I have ever come across; I am going to step up here and chalk one up for the “techies” who helped enhance a performance with the most modern of technologies for the benefit of our audience–whose post performance eruption actually frightened the onstage cast!!!  From what I am to understand, every Ring performance will have a live OperaVision feed for our balcony subscribers… so please enjoy, as this is a superlative treat!!!!

(On a personal note: I wish to thank my many friends who traveled from as far away as Alaska for coming to see what I believe was a truly historic performance.  I was thrilled, and truly humbled, by the overwhelming response. To carry on about it would smack of insincerity and/or bias; but those of you who were in attendance know that I am grateful beyond words or expression!!!!)