Monday, December 07, 2015


Over the summer of 2015, after the last opera performance of the 2014-15 season, San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet started replacing the seats in the War Memorial Opera House.

Unless you sit in the balcony, you may not have noticed! On the other hand, you may have noticed the small ticket price increase - $1 or $2 per ticket - that is paying for the new seats.

For my second performance of Die Meistersinger, I got a seat in the Balcony, row K, because for the first performance, I was in Orchestra, Row M. That's an orchestra-friendly location, where the SFO orchestra sounds like the greatest orchestra in the world, on purely sonic terms. But singers tend to be somewhat covered there, hence my choice of a balcony seat, since the Balcony is on the singer-friendly side.

Well, the orchestra still sounded damn good up there, and I still had a little trouble hearing the singers as well as I would have liked. So I think that Mark Elder could have dialed the orchestral volume back by 15% with no harm done.

But, to get to the point, the new seats are fantastic. They are wide enough for my sizable backside; the lumbar support is superb; they are high enough off the ground. Nothing is going to fix the complete lack of leg room in the Balcony, but I can't wait for the seat upgrades elsewhere in the house, because after sitting for....a very long time....my back and other body parts felt fine.


CruzSF said...

Did they reduce the overall number of seats in order to install seats with wider - er - seats?

Lisa Hirsch said...

Doubtful; I think there is probably something in SFCV about this. And see Twitter. :)

Darrick Chen said...

Hi Lisa,

I agree with you. The seats in the balcony are surprisingly comfortable. I think its because the armrest doesn't go up as high as the orchestra seats, thus giving one more room. But I do agree that the seats are surprisingly comfortable for us larger patrons. Some of the seats in the orchestra, especially toward the sides are cramped. I did not feel that in my balcony circle seat.

I think one hears better up there. Unfortunately ones view of the stage is rather stilted. I had no idea that the Meistersinger set had a fabulous design for the "ceiling" of the set. I did get a great view of the floor though.

I went to the Saturday performance of Meistersinger and Brandon sounded like a god from the balcony during the Prize Song. I actually teared up a little - when I sat next to someone at my first Meistersinger, and they cried during the Prize Song, I kept thinking, thank god this six hour monstrosity is finally coming to a close; I just didn't get it back in the 90s.

I hope SF keeps the Opera Vision thing on for all performances. It helps one see better and one gets the best of both worlds in the Balcony. I would continue to keep my seat up there if I could just get over my fear of heights. I still get a little green when I have to walk down to my seat. Exiting is much easier. Or I have to trade my subscription for the Sunday matinees.

Love your comments. Alas, the Fall Season passed oh too quickly. I am still upset that Krassimimira Stoyanova cancelled for Don Carlo. I am not familiar w/Martinez, so I'll have to wait and see. Fortunately the rest of the cast is still in place.

Happy Holidays!

Lisa Hirsch said...

I really hate those orchestra seats. They are too damn low and hard to climb out of. That is a great observation about the height of the armrests - I know that SFO and SFB were thinking of ergonomics when they spec'd out the new seating.

I saw my first Meistersinger from the orchestra, and the other thing you just can't see if you're too far back is the magnificent reproduction of a Renaissance painting on the back wall of the set. It might have been visible on OperaVision, which does make it easier to see certain stage details.

I agree with you about the sound, although the most beautiful orchestral sound that I have heard is when I'm in the orchestra around rows L to 0. (I have been there three times: once when I was standing and was handed a ticket to Queen of Spades, once when my mother was paying for seats for a special occasion, and for the Friday-after-Thanksgiving Meistersinger, when I used the trade-up card to get an orchestra seat.)

I just didn't get it when I saw it the first time myself. Now I do.

I was surprised at how much I liked OperaVision first time I saw it. It helped that I went for OperaVision and got one of the greatest performances I've ever seen of anything - Jovanovich was in it too, the now-legendary Butterfly of 2007 with Racette, Powell, Cao/Runnicles. I suspect they don't have budget to have the production staff there for all performances, though....

I don't Martinez either, sad about Stoyanova. Wish they had gotten Haroutounian for Elisabetta.

Darrick Chen said...

OMG. I thought it was just me, but I was fortunate to see one of the 2007 Butterfly performances with Racette and Jovanovich - it was perfect casting, visually and vocally. It was the first time I heard Brandon and have been his fan ever since. If I never see another Butterfly again, it will be fine, I don't expect to ever see another performance that could be better. This performance joins my list of "I am so fortunate to have been there that night."

As I walked to my car after the opera I thought to myself that I was so lucky to have caught this performance - I believe at the time it was an add on performance by SFO. I am not overly fond of Butterfly, but I have always liked Racette and read she was THE Butterfly of the time, so making the trip to SFO Was easy. James Valienti I think was the alternate cast and considered going to that performance, to see what he was all about, but Butterfly is about Butterfly, so I choose the Racette cast and was so happy I did.

Lisa Hirsch said...

It's not just you :) I feel exactly the way you do, down to Racette / not a big fan of the opera (as gorgeous as it is) / Jovanovich!!

I never wrote a complete blog post, just told people "Run, do not walk."