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Backstage with Matthew: The Return of Live Opera: It’s Here!

Matthew Shilvock

The Barber of Seville rehearsals

What has struck me most over the last few days as we’ve welcomed audiences to the Barber is how much of a festival feel this is! It’s spectacular and impressive, but it’s also casual, welcoming, and FUN! Imagine hundreds of people coming together to see opera for the first time in 16 months, in a relaxed atmosphere, with favorite snacks in the car, and glow sticks in hand ready to cheer on the singers! (We’ll provide the glow sticks when you arrive, along with San Francisco Opera masks!) This is a fun, festive environment full of anticipation for the music about to begin. 

It’s hard to imagine a more beautiful venue for outdoor opera. Nestled into the rolling hills of Marin, and part of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Marin Center, we’ve built our festival stage on the banks of a tranquil lagoon. Just 15 minutes north of the Golden Gate bridge and 5 minutes north of the Richmond Bridge, the venue is right off the highway yet protected from traffic noise.

When you arrive, you’ll be directed to a space in the Fairground Lot, or the Lagoon Lot depending on your ticket, and then you can settle back, tune your car radio to 92.7FM and listen to our curated playlist while you wait for the opera to begin! We have restrooms, a first aid tent, and radios you can borrow if you need one.

Stage Build

We don’t have food available on site given safety considerations, but you’re welcome to bring your own food and beverage and make a night of it! (There are also restaurants close by in San Rafael.) Or you can order food in advance through Burke & Black and have it delivered to your home, so you can pop it into the car and enjoy some delicious treats when you get here. Think about all of those wonderful picnics people bring to Opera in the Park! Opera and picnicking is a well-tested combination!

Snack box with fruit, cheese, crackers and nuts

Safety is paramount so this is a touchless Barber! Opera ushers will scan your tickets when you arrive (through your window—you don’t have to lower it). You’ll be guided to your “seat” (parking spot) and once you’re settled, you can check out our digital program book by scanning the QR code on the card you’ll be given. (If you’ve not scanned a QR code before, just hold your camera over the barcode and it will detect it! There are instructions here.) You’ll find great articles, a synopsis, a cast list, our new podcast “North Stage Door” with the first episode dedicated to Barber, and a pre-opera talk so you can fully immerse yourself. And you don’t need to wait until you’re parked—you can delve into all this now!

North Stage Door Podcast

Although the Barber is sung in English, we have supertitles on the top of the stage (which you can read from the very back). We’re also making available titles on your phone—go to www.sfopera.com/supertitles, pop your phone on your dashboard, and you’ll have live titles delivered to your car!

Talking of things being delivered to your car, let’s talk about the sound! Crystal clear sound will be sent to your car radio—just tune to 92.7FM and we’ll take care of the rest. Our sound team is live-mixing the singers and the orchestra together and, even though they’re in different spaces (the orchestra tent is behind the stage), through some pretty nifty technology, they are completely sync’d up. I’m in awe every time I hear it!

If you’re worried about draining your battery, most cars will let you play the radio with the engine off and your battery should easily last for the full show. However, just in case, please know we have jumper cables at the ready and will quickly get you on your way!

Opera orchestra rehearsals in a tent and everyone separated by glass partitions

I can’t begin to express how liberating it is to go to a live event after all this time! To experience the thrill of live opera, joined by hundreds of other people—this is the energy you feel in the Opera House, and now you can return to it safely in Marin while we make our way back to the Opera House stage.

Oh, and I should say that we’ve got plenty of references back to our beloved Opera House. In fact, the production is set backstage at the Opera House. So if you’re a regular opera-goer, you will feel very much at home! And if you’re new to opera, this is a fabulous way to see opera for the first time.

dress rehearsal

I hope you’ll come and join in this exuberant return of live opera. It is an experience not to be missed. I really believe this is one of those moments that will be talked about for years to come—the moment when opera came back to life.

Come and join us by clicking right here: www.sfopera.com/barber

With gratitude for your support of this incredible company. I look forward to welcoming you to The Barber of Seville!