Backstage at San Francisco Opera > September 2012 > The Logistics of Opera in the Park
The Logistics of Opera in the Park
Planning for Opera in the Park begins a full year ahead of the event. The first (and maybe most important) step happens the day after the previous year’s concert, when we call San Francisco Rec & Park to reserve our date.

Soon after the New Year we sketch out our logistical requirements for the event and start contacting vendors. The most challenging aspect to Opera in the Park (from a Production point of view) is creating a venue from scratch in an open space. This requires us to rent and setup everything from the portable stage to the sound equipment and power generators down to the tents, tables, dumpsters, and restrooms. Additionally, we contract with a number of outside organizations—including the Red Cross, our concessionaire Tante’s, the San Francisco Bike Coalition and Green Mary—who help keep the park looking great during and after the concert.

[The crew starts unloading the equipment the morning of the event.]

Once the crush from the summer season is over in early July, we begin to work with our partners throughout the city—not only Rec & Parks but also the Police, Fire, and Emergency Management departments—to make sure we have all the permits and contingency plans necessary for an event of this size. We also hold the first of many internal company meetings to map out every detail and create a (wishful) timeline for the event.

[Getting the speakers ready.]

For those of us on the Production side, the weekend starts in earnest at first light on Saturday morning. The stage, sound system and setup crew arrive at Sharon Meadow, and we take delivery of 800 chairs, 180 steel barricades and 12 tents. In all, it takes approximately 40 stage hands, electricians, props and audio crew members to construct the stage and place all the tents and chairs. The sound system alone consists of nearly 50 loudspeakers and a 48-channel console to mix and record the performance. We work for about 12 hours on Saturday, then return at 6:00am on Sunday (sometimes lagging behind a few of the most dedicated attendees) to finish up before the Orchestra rehearsal that morning. Finally, by the 1:30pm downbeat, many of us can sit back for a few minutes and enjoy the concert along with the crowd.

[The crew setting up the stage.]

Fortunately, the teardown happens much more quickly than the setup. The load out crew descends upon the stage as soon as the last applause fades, and the deck, including all orchestra equipment, chairs, heaters, and lights, is cleared within about an hour. The stage, scaffolding and roof collapse to fit inside a standard 40-ft shipping container, and the meadow is mostly empty by 8pm. The last of the rented equipment is picked up later that evening or early on Monday morning, and with that Opera in the Park is history for another year…as long as we remember to reserve next year’s date!

Posted: 9/10/2012 10:45:34 AM by Jeremy Patfield (Production Administrative Assistant)
Filed under: 2012-13Season, operainthepark


Backstage at San Francisco Opera is a fascinating, fast-moving, mysterious and sacred space for the Company’s singers, musicians, dancers, technicians and production crews. Musical and staging rehearsals are on-going, scenery is loaded in and taken out, lighting cues are set, costumes and wigs are moved around and everything is made ready to receive the audience. From the principal singers, chorus and orchestra musicians to the creative teams for each opera, in addition to the many talented folks who don’t take a bow on stage, this blog offers unique insight, both thought-provoking and light-hearted, into the life backstage at San Francisco Opera.


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