May 19, 2013: Bike Ride to Klyde Warren Park
April 1-4, 2013: A Visit to San Antonio
Return to the Index for 2013


April 13, 2013
Attending the Dallas Opera Simulcast
at Cowboy Stadium in Arlington


 

Lynne Richardson contacted Fred and I some time ago to make plans to attend a free event- the simulcast of the opera Turandot by the Dallas Opera Company. The simulcast, instead of being made in a theatre, will be one the "jumbotron" at Cowboy Stadium. The huge screen, a hundred feet diagonally, has been the talk of the stadium since it opened.

Never having been inside the stadium (and not likely to ever be inside it), we thought this would be an excellent opportunity to us to see it for free. So plans were made for Fred and I to drive over to pick Lynne up from the house where she is staying as she recuperates from her ankle break a couple of months ago. She's been in a wheelchair for a while, but has recently been given approval to use crutches instead, but her foot is still in a bulky "boot" affair. Lynne had also coordinated with a friend of hers to be our fourth person for the four tickets Lynne had gotten. We plan to meet her at the stadium for a "tailgate" wine-and-cheese snack before going into the stadium for the simulcast.

 

Getting to Cowboy Stadium


Getting to the area of Cowboy Stadium was pretty straightforward. As luck would have it, I had given my friend Barbara Reynolds a ride out to her dentist in Arlington, and his office is on the same street as the stadium although a couple of miles further west. While Barbara was at the doctor's office, I went to do some shopping at Wal-Mart, which happened to be right across the street from the Stadium, so I already knew how to get there.

I simply took Inwood down to Stemmons Freeway west towards the airport, turning south on Loop 12 Walton Walker Expressway. Where that intersected with I-30, I took that further west to Cooper Street in Arlington.


Exiting there, we took Cooper south to Randol Mill Road, and the Randol Mill east to the stadium.

Lynne had coordinated with her friend, Maureen, as to what entrance we should meet at, and when we drove up to the parking area, I asked one of the attendants directing traffic where we could drop Lynne, as she would have difficulty walking from the parking lot. He kindly directed us to a parking area normally used by VIPs right outside the entrance to the stadium.

Lynne called Maureeen and in just a few minutes we were all together for our pre-opera repast.


We were so close to the building that I would have had to walk quite some distance away to get a good picture of it, and I didn't want to leave everyone. So you'll pardon me if I use the stock shot below to show you what the stadium looks like from the outside:

 

Pre-Performance


Of course, the first thing on the agenda was our little tailgate party. Both Lynne and Maureen had brought some cheese and dips and things, and wine; Maureen even brought wine glasses, plates and flatware. Not being a wine drinker, I'd prepared by bring some soda in a cooler. We had a nice 30 minutes or so sitting on the concrete wall by the car, snacking and chatting.

In addition to the picture at left that I took of Fred, Maureen and Lynne, Fred also took a couple of pictures of the rest of us, and there are clickable thumbnails for these pictures below:


Fred and I each took a couple of movies while we were here outside, and you'll be able to see the stadium.

Loading the player...

You can use the player at right to watch the movie I made.

And you can use the player below to watch Freds:

Loading the player...

The opera was to begin at 7:30, but there would be a showing of the classic Bugs Bunny cartoon "What's Opera, Doc?" at 6:45, so we wanted to be in our seats a bit before that. So at about 6:15 we put our stuff away and headed over to the stadium entrance to go in and find some seats.

When we entered the stadium we took the escalator in front of us to the second level. There, one of the attendants, noticing Lynne's crutches, directed us to the VIP elevator that would take us up to the mezzanine level- the middle level of stadium seating. As soon as we came out of the elevator and walked through the VIP lounge and out into the stadium proper, I stopped to take a picture of the stadium's interior. It is so large and only a movie can show it properly; all I got was a picture of one of the end zones.



We started looking for some seats with a good view of the screen; not immediately seeing any on this side of the stadium, we began walking around to the far side. Knowing that Lynne really didn't need to be walking that far, I quickly went back to the seating section nearest us and went down six or eight rows to see what I could find. Fortunately, I found a block of four seats that no one was saving; although they weren't in the center of the screen, the screen is so large that it didn't appear to matter. I got someone to hold the seats while I ran to turn the other three around and bring them back.

The seats turned out to be quite good, and we settled into them. Fred took a few pictures of us and the interior of the stadium while we were waiting for the program to begin; I have put clickable thumbnails below for the best of these:


There are two more items I'd like to include here. One is a stock shot taken from high up at one end of the stadium that shows almost the entire interior of the stadium.


This shot gives you an excellent impression of the massive nature of the stadium's interior- even better than our movies below. You might also be interested in just where our seats were, so I've found a seating diagram for the stadium and marked them:


As I said, while we were waiting for the program to begin, both Fred and I made a movie from our seats.

Loading the player...

You can use the player at left to watch the movie I made.

And you can use the player below to watch Freds:

Loading the player...

Right on time at 6:45, the screen, on which some pre-performance activities going on at the Winspear Opera House downtown had been displayed, changed to the familiar "Merrie Melodies" intro, and the cartoon entitled "What's Opera, Doc?" began.

Loading the player...

What's Opera, Doc? is a 1957 American animated cartoon short in the Merrie Melodies series, directed by Chuck Jones for Warner Bros. Cartoons. The Michael Maltese story features Elmer Fudd chasing Bugs Bunny through a parody of 19th-century classical composer Richard Wagner's operas, particularly Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), Der Fliegende Hollander, and Tannhäuser. It is sometimes characterized as a condensed version of Wagner's Ring Cycle, and its music borrows heavily from the second opera Die Walküre, woven around the standard Bugs-Elmer conflict.

Originally released to theaters by Warner Bros. on July 6, 1957, What's Opera, Doc? features the speaking and singing voices of Mel Blanc and Arthur Q. Bryan as Bugs and Elmer respectively. The short is also sometimes informally referred to as "Kill the Wabbit" after the line sung by Fudd to the tune of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries", the opening passage from Act Three of Die Walküre (which is also the leitmotif of the Valkyries).

In 1994, What's Opera, Doc? was voted #1 of the 50 Greatest Cartoons of all time by 1000 members of the animation field.

I thought the cartoon, which I had never seen, was very funny- it being a parody and all. There are plenty of places you can go on the Internet to watch it yourself. I've found the full cartoon, and if you would like to pause here in my photo album and watch it, I will pop it up in a new window if you click on the link below:

Watch "What's Opera, Doc?"

When the cartoon was over, the screen changed to a live feed from the Winspear, and we watched for a few minutes as last-minute arrivals came in and took their seats.

 

The Simulcast of Turandot

Greg and I attended a theatre-venue simulcast a couple of years ago of an opera being performed at the Metropolitan in New York City. I was fascinated at the way it was done. At times, you thought you were there watching the opera live. But there were also interviews before and after, and a whole backstage tour conducted during the spaces between acts and at Intermission. Those were perspectives that you would not have had were you actually in the opera house.

This simulcast was similar, although the illusion of being in the opera house was not so good since you couldn't ignore the fact that you were actually in a football stadium watching an admittedly huge screen. But it was enjoyable nevertheless.

 

Turandot: A Bit of Background


Turandot is an opera in three acts by Giacomo Puccini, completed by Franco Alfano and set to a libretto in Italian by Giuseppe Adami and Renato Simoni.

Though Puccini's first interest in the subject was based on his reading of Friedrich Schiller's adaptation of the play, his work is most nearly based on the earlier text Turandot by Carlo Gozzi. The original story based on the epic Turan-Dokht, from the 12th century Persian poet Nizami, in his book, Haft-Peykar. The opera story, set in China, involves Prince Calàf who falls in love with the cold Princess Turandot. To obtain permission to marry her, a suitor has to solve three riddles; any false answer results in death. Calàf passes the test, but Turandot still hesitates to marry him. He offers her a way out: he agrees to die should she be able to guess his real name.

The opera was unfinished at the time of Puccini's death in 1924 and was completed by Franco Alfano in 1926. The first performance was held at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 25 April 1926 and conducted by Arturo Toscanini. This performance included only Puccini's music and not Alfano's additions. The first performance of the opera as completed by Alfano was the following night, 26 April, although it is disputed whether this was conducted by Toscanini again or by Ettore Panizza.

There's no way I can duplicate our experience in these album pages. Yes, we took a few movies, but could not hope to capture more than a snippet. We took pictures, too, but again, these were but a poor imitation of the grandeur of the production. What I will do, below, is summarize the opera for you, and along with each Act summary, show you the pictures and movies that we took during that act. Perhaps this might prompt you to see the opera for yourself, sometime (although I must admit that by the time opera stars have the experience enough to act at least in this opera, they look way too old for the characters they are playing).

 

Turandot: Act 1 (In front of the Imperial palace)

A Mandarin announces the law of the land (Popolo di Pechino! – "Any man who desires to wed Turandot must first answer her three riddles. If he fails, he will be beheaded"). The Prince of Persia has failed and is to be beheaded at moonrise. As the crowd surges towards the gates of the palace, the imperial guards brutally repulse them, a blind old man is pushed to the ground. His slave-girl, Liù, cries for help. A young man hears her cry and recognizes the old man as his long-lost father, Timur, the deposed king of Tartary. The young Prince of Tartary is overjoyed at seeing his father alive but urges him not to speak his name because he fears the Chinese rulers who have conquered Tartary. Timur tells his son that, of all his servants, only Liù has remained faithful to him. When the Prince asks her why, she tells him that once, long ago in the palace, the Prince had smiled upon her (The crowd, Liù, Prince of Tartary, Timur: Indietro, cani!).


The moon rises, and the crowd's cries for blood turn into silence. The doomed Prince of Persia is led before the crowd on his way to execution. The young Prince is so handsome and kind that the crowd and the Prince of Tartary are moved to compassion and call on Turandot to spare his life (The crowd, Prince of Tartary: O giovinetto!). She appears, and with a single imperious gesture orders the execution to continue. The Prince of Tartary, who has never seen Turandot before, falls immediately in love. He cries out Turandot's name (three times) with joy, and the Prince of Persia echoes his final cry. The crowd screams in horror as the Prince of Persia is beheaded.

The Prince of Tartary is dazzled by Turandot's beauty. He is about to rush towards the gong and strike it three times—the symbolic gesture of whoever wishes to attempt the riddles to marry Turandot—when the ministers Ping, Pong, and Pang appear and urge him cynically (Fermo, che fai?) not to lose his head for Turandot but to go back to his own country. Timur urges his son to desist, and Liù, who is secretly in love with the Prince, pleads with him (Signore, ascolta! – "My lord, listen!") not to attempt the riddles. Liù's words touch his heart. The Prince tells Liù to make exile more bearable and never to abandon his father if the Prince fails to answer the riddles (Non piangere, Liù – "Don't cry, Liù"). The three ministers, Timur, and Liù try one last time to hold the Prince (Ah! Per l'ultima volta!) but he refuses to listen.

He calls Turandot's name three times, and each time Liù, Timur, and the ministers reply, "Death!", and the crowd declares "we're already digging your grave!" Rushing to the gong that hangs in front of the palace, he strikes it three times, declaring himself a suitor. From the palace balcony, Turandot accepts the challenge, as Ping, Pang, and Pong laugh at the prince's foolishness.

 

Turandot: Act 2, Scene 1 (A Pavilion in the Imperial palace. Before sunrise.)

Ping, Pang, and Pong lament their place as ministers, poring over palace documents and presiding over endless rituals.



They prepare themselves for either a wedding or a funeral (Ping, Pang, Pong: Ola, Pang!). Ping suddenly longs for his country house in Honan, with its small lake surrounded by bamboo. Pong remembers his grove of forests near Tsiang, and Pang recalls his gardens near Kiu. The three share fond memories of life away from the palace (Ping, Pang, Pong: Ho una casa nell'Honan) but are shaken back to the realities of Turandot's bloody reign. They continually accompany young men to death and recall their ghastly fate. As the palace trumpet sounds, the ministers ready themselves for another spectacle as they await the entrance of the Emperor.

 

Turandot: Act 2, Scene 2 (The courtyard of the palace. Sunrise.)

The Emperor Altoum, father of Turandot, sits on his grand throne in his palace. Weary of having to judge his isolated daughter's sport, he urges the Prince to withdraw his challenge but the Prince refuses (Altoum, the Prince: Un giuramento atroce).

Loading the player...
The Procession


Turandot enters and explains (In questa reggia) that her ancestress of millennia past, Princess Lo-u-Ling, reigned over her kingdom "in silence and joy, resisting the harsh domination of men" until she was ravished and murdered by an invading foreign prince. Turandot claims that Lo-u-Ling now lives in her and, out of revenge, Turandot has sworn never to let any man possess her. She warns the Prince to withdraw, but again he refuses. The Princess presents her first riddle: Straniero, ascolta! – "... What is born each night and dies each dawn?" The Prince correctly replies, "Hope." The Princess, unnerved, presents her second riddle (Guizza al pari di fiamma – "What flickers red and warm like a flame, but is not fire?") The Prince thinks for a moment before replying, Sangue – "Blood". Turandot is shaken. The crowd cheers the Prince, provoking Turandot's anger. She presents her third riddle (Gelo che ti da foco – "What is like ice, but burns like fire?"). As the prince thinks, Turandot taunts him "what is the ice that makes you burn?" The taunt makes him see the answer and he proclaims "It is Turandot!"

The crowd cheers for the triumphant Prince. Turandot throws herself at her father's feet and pleads with him not to leave her to the Prince's mercy. The Emperor insists that an oath is sacred, and it is Turandot's duty to wed the Prince (Turandot, Altoum, the Prince: Figlio del cielo). As she cries out in despair, the Prince stops her, saying that he has a proposal for her: Tre enigmi m'hai proposto – "You do not know my name. Bring me my name before sunrise, and at dawn (all' alba), I will die." Turandot accepts. The Emperor declares that he hopes to call the Prince his son come sunrise.

 

Turandot: Act 3, Scene 1 (The palace gardens. Sunrise.)

In the distance, heralds call out Turandot's command: Cosi comanda Turandot – "This night, none shall sleep in Peking! The penalty for all will be death if the Prince's name is not discovered by morning". The Prince waits for dawn and anticipates his victory: Nessun dorma – "Nobody shall sleep!... Nobody shall sleep! Even you, O Princess"


Ping, Pong, and Pang appear and offer the Prince women and riches if he will only give up Turandot (Tu che guardi le stelle), but he refuses. A group of soldiers then drag in Timur and Liù. They have been seen speaking to the Prince, so they must know his name. Turandot enters and orders Timur and Liù to speak. The Prince feigns ignorance, saying they know nothing. But when the guards begin to treat Timur harshly, Liù declares that she alone knows the Prince's name, but she will not reveal it. Ping demands the Prince's name, and when she refuses, she is tortured. Turandot is clearly taken aback by Liù's resolve and asks her who put so much strength in her heart. Liù answers "Princess, Love!". Turandot demands that Ping tear the Prince's name from Liù, and he orders her to be tortured further. Liù counters Turandot (Tu che di gel sei cinta – "You who are begirdled by ice"), saying that she too shall learn love. Having spoken, Liù seizes a dagger from a soldier's belt and stabs herself. As she staggers towards the Prince and falls dead, the crowd screams for her to speak the Prince's name. Since Timur is blind, he must be told about Liù's death, and he cries out in anguish. Timur warns that the gods will be offended by this outrage, and the crowd is subdued with shame and fear. The grieving Timur and the crowd follow Liù's body as it is carried away. Everybody departs, leaving the Prince and Turandot. He reproaches Turandot for her cruelty (The Prince, Turandot: Principessa di morte – "Princess of death") and then takes her in his arms and kisses her in spite of her resistance.

The Prince tries to convince Turandot to love him. At first she is disgusted, but after he kisses her, she feels herself turning towards passion. She admits that, ever since he came, she had both hated and loved him. She asks him to ask for nothing more and to leave, taking his mystery with him. The Prince however, reveals his name, "Calàf, son of Timur" and places his life in Turandot's hands. She can now destroy him if she wants (Turandot, Calàf: Del primo pianto).

 

Turandot: Act 3, Scene 2 (The courtyard of the palace. Dawn.)

Turandot and Calàf approach the Emperor's throne. She declares that she knows the Prince's name: Diecimila anni al nostro Imperatore! – "It is ... love!" The crowd cheers and acclaims the two lovers (O sole! Vita! Eternità).

 

Turandot: The Performance Ends

Loading the player...
The Performers Take Their Bows

The simulcast continued after the end of the opera as the performers came back out onstage to take their well-deserved bows. I filmed part of this, and you can watch that movie with the player at left.

I was pretty impressed with the arrangements for the simulcast, and I understand that the event will be repeated a few times during the Dallas Opera's next season. Perhaps we might all come out here again in the Fall.

You can use the links below to continue to another photo album page.


May 19, 2013: Bike Ride to Klyde Warren Park
April 1-4, 2013: A Visit to San Antonio
Return to the Index for 2013