San Francisco Opera to offer global broadcasts in 2008

Georgia Rowe
Contra Costa Times (MCT)

In his boldest and most far-reaching move since taking the helm of San Francisco Opera two years ago, general director David Gockley has announced a new agreement to begin worldwide, cinema-quality broadcasts of six of the company's productions per year, beginning in March 2008.

The first round of broadcasts, all of which were recorded live at the War Memorial Opera House in 2007, will begin with Puccini's "La Rondine," starring soprano Angela Gheorghiu in the title role. Additional 2008 broadcasts will include Philip Glass' "Appomattox," which made its world premiere in a San Francisco Opera production in October; Saint-Saens' "Samson and Delilah," Mozart's "The Magic Flute and "Don Giovanni," and Puccini's "Madama Butterfly." Dates and venues are still to be announced.

The four-year contract between S.F. Opera and high-tech company The Bigger Picture, a subsidiary of Access Integrated Technologies, Inc., marks the first time that any opera company will employ a feature film-quality digital format, said Gockley, noting that the new technology is a vast improvement over systems currently used by companies such as New York's Metropolitan Opera.

"It's a new chapter in this company's life - and in the life of opera," the general director said in an interview Tuesday.

Gockley estimated that the initial broadcasts will be shown in 200 U.S. theaters. International broadcasts will begin in the fall, in theaters throughout Northern Europe, Japan and China.

Tuesday's announcement is the latest example of the ways technology is changing the way audiences gain access to opera - and the degree to which Gockley, who became the company's general director in January 2006, is a force for that change.

Since coming to San Francisco from Houston Grand Opera, where he was general director for 33 years, Gockley has instituted several innovations. In May 2006, S.F. Opera presented its first free Plazacast, showing "Madama Butterfly" to an audience of thousands on a giant screen in the Civic Center. This fall, the company presented another live broadcast at AT&T Park; in the War Memorial, meanwhile, Gockley introduced OperaVision, which simulcasts the live performance on stage on retractable screens in the balcony.

But the jewel in Gockley's crown is the Koret-Taube Media Suite, which the company unveiled in May. With all-digital, 2K capability and 5.1 surround sound, it is the first permanent, high-def broadcast and production facility installed in any American opera house.

The Koret Suite will allow the company to present the upcoming broadcasts in feature-film quality - a marked difference, says Gockley, from broadcasts such as the Metropolitan Opera's, which are played on projection systems designed for movie house advertising rather than features.

According to Gockley, audiences will be able to see, and hear, the difference. "Absolutely," he said Tuesday. "You'll be able to discern it right away."

The broadcasts will have an impact on multiple levels, he added. "I think in terms of imaging the company as No. 2 next to the Met, this clearly contributes to that," said Gockley. "It will also make San Francisco Opera a more attractive place for singers to work."

Perhaps most significantly, Gockley believes the broadcasts will attract first-time operagoers. "If people have seen our simulcasts, that's a bridge into the company," said the director.

This week's announcement has been in the works since summer, says Gockley. Paving the way was a labor agreement with the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA) and American Federation of Musicians (AFM); the contract, which is yet to be ratified, includes supplemental media fees and revenue sharing by union members.

Gockley, a native of Philadelphia, noted that his first opera experience was in a movie theater. He was all of 10, and the singer was Mario Lanza in "The Great Caruso." He says he vividly remembers the power of the great singer's voice - and the feeling that he wanted to hear a live opera as soon as possible.

"He sang `Che gelida manina' from `La Boheme' and `E lucevan le stelle' from `Tosca,' and I realized I was getting chills," says Gockley. "It was astounding. There was no basis for this in what I'd experienced before, and it touched me deeply."





12 Essential Performances from New Orleans' Piano "Professors"

New Orleans music is renowned for its piano players. Here's a dozen jams from great Crescent City keyboardists, past and present, and a little something extra.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.