Opera performance to be simulcast at Stanford University

Working off success of event in May, San Francisco group hopes to draw new audience

Miles Davis, the Grateful Dead and other musical acts have played Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheatre over the years. Next month, virtual arias from the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco will fill the air.

San Francisco Opera, in its second free live simulcast ever, is bringing Verdi’s “Rigoletto” to Stanford University on Oct. 6. That means that as the performance gets under way in The City, satellites transmitting the sound and images to the Peninsula will allow the audience to experience the opera almost simultaneously.

“Rigoletto,” the opera named after its court jester character, will appear on screen in the tree-ringed, grass-covered amphitheater that seats nearly 7,000.

English subtitles of the Italian opera will help viewers follow the plot of one of the most popular operas performed in the United States. It begins at 8 p.m.

This marks the opera company’s first simulcast at Stanford and the first such event outside San Francisco, said Julia Inouye, a spokeswoman for the opera.

In May, the San Francisco Opera’s first free simulcast of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” drew approximately 8,000 people to Civic Center Plaza, where “Rigoletto” will also be simulcast Oct. 6.

The free simulcastsare part of General Director David Gockley’s mission to bring opera to a wider audience. Gockley took the reins in San Francisco in January.

Gockley, who described himself as a populist, said there is a misconception about opera that it’s only for the upper crust.

“It’s been revealed to me that people of all backgrounds can love opera,” Gockley said. “What keeps them from opera is the cost.”

Standing room tickets and student tickets are some of the more affordable ways in which people can pay to see a performance, Gockley said.

The free simulcasts serve as a good way to acquaint people with opera for the first time, he said.

In San Francisco, the free simulcast of “Madama Butterfly” on May 27 filled the Civic Center Plaza with applauding audience members who watched the performance on a 12-foot-by-24-foot truck-mounted screen across from City Hall.

The free simulcasts yield new ticket buyers, Gockley said, with about 750 people later buying tickets out of each 10,000 who attend the event.

“We are thrilled to partner with Stanford in bringing glorious opera to arts lovers in the South Bay, free of charge,” Gockley said. “Frost Amphitheater is a perfect venue for a simulcast.”

The bowl-shaped Frost Amphitheater, which dates back to 1937, hosted the Grateful Dead several times through the years, as well as Miles Davis and Benny Goodman.

“Our alliance with San Francisco Opera underscores a new era for the arts at Stanford,” Stanford President John Hennessy said.

mcarroll@examiner.com

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