From Stage to Screen: The Making of LA Opera’s Simulcast

In less than two weeks, Angelenos will enjoy the epic tale of Don Carlo live as we take the magic of LA Opera from the stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to audiences at the Santa Monica Pier and El Cariso Community Park in Sylmar. 

Audiences enjoying LA Opera's free, live simulcast of Bizet's Carmen at Exposition Park in 2017 (Photo: Forest Casey)

Audiences enjoying LA Opera’s free, live simulcast of Bizet’s Carmen at Exposition Park in 2017 (Photo: Forest Casey)

The first live simulcast took place at the Santa Monica Pier in 2014 with Verdi’s La Traviata, starring Eli and Edythe Broad General Director Plácido Domingo. At the time, Zev Yaroslavsky, former LA County Third-District Supervisor and huge promoter and supporter of arts, not only saw the value of access for all but also the importance of supporting arts and culture as an economic benefit for the entire county. It was through his efforts, in collaboration with LA Opera, that the company was able to offer that first live opera broadcast in Santa Monica. It was so well-received that when Sheila Kuehl was elected to replace retiring Yaroslavsky as LA County Third-District Supervisor the following year, she also maintained funding to make the simulcast an annual tradition at the Santa Monica Pier.

Following the success of that first simulcast, LA County and all five county supervisors committed their support to provide an additional, annual simulcast that would rotate to a new district every year, in addition to the broadcast at the beach. 2016 marked the first year of dual simulcasts, in South Gate Park, located in Supervisor Hilda Solis’ First District, as well as the Santa Monica Pier. The following year, the simulcasts took place in the Second District at Exposition Park, in collaboration with LA County Second-District Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and again at the Pier. This year marks the first year that both simulcast locations will be held in Supervisor Sheila Kuehl’s Third District, marking the fifth year at the Santa Monica Pier and the first year at El Cariso Community Regional Park. The simulcast will continue to rotate to the different districts throughout Los Angeles, with a live broadcast planned in the Fourth District in 2019 and the Fifth District in 2020.

The logistical endeavor of taking a live broadcast to a new location is quite an operation every year. It requires collaboration between several departments, vendors and union partners, and preparations begin months before the broadcast takes place. Many factors go into choosing where to host the event, including size, terrain and accessibility. With a flat lawn area perfectly situated near the basketball courts and bathrooms, El Cariso Community Regional Park fit the bill within the Third District for 2018. The team arrives the day before and spends approximately 13 hours building the 45-by-28-foot screen at each of the locations. 

In order to capture the performance, the camera crew arrives at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion the day before the final dress rehearsal to set up equipment. Eight cameras are placed within the house and a ninth camera roams backstage or in the orchestra pit. The camera feed transmits from the stage to the video truck outside the theater, where the simulcast director “calls the shots” (selects which cameras and angles to broadcast in that moment). That feed is transmitted via satellites to the video trucks at each of the simulcast locations and ultimately reaches the audiences at the Pier and the park on the big screens. Though the transmission travels many miles in various directions, the feed only experiences a seven second delay before it reaches the audience.

The live capture of the final dress rehearsal serves as a “practice run” for the director and crew to take notes and make any revisions before showtime. This footage, which is typically never seen, is run concurrently with the live feed in case the transmission fails, as can happen with any live event. Recording full rehearsals isn’t a typical practice and LA Opera is glad to maintain a strong relationship with many of its union partners, including the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the union that represents the artists in opera and allows for the recordings so that we can bring opera to the community.  

Overall, it takes a team of more than 90 at the various locations to delight thousands of Angelenos with the grandeur of LA Opera every year. Thanks to the help of Los Angeles County, and the collaboration between all departments and vendors with LA Opera, the company is proud to bring opera to live opera to the people of Los Angeles for the fourth year in a row.  Will we see you there?

This event is FREE to the public. Click here for more information on Opera at the Beach or Opera in the Park.

LA Opera is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the greater good.
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One Response to From Stage to Screen: The Making of LA Opera’s Simulcast

  1. Abby Wanamaker says:

    An open-air simulcast…how wonderful!
    Definitely a boon to our community!
    Hopefully it will encourage people to buy tickets in the future.

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