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San Diego Opera Presents Drive-In Screening Of 'All Is Calm'

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The San Diego Opera is planning a drive-in screening of its 2018 production of “All Is Calm” on Dec. 21. But it’s hard to plan with pandemic guidelines in flux as COVID-19 cases continue to rise.

Speaker 1: 00:00 San Diego opera is planning a drive in screening of its all is calm. The Christmas truce of 1914, that production was recorded by KPBS for broadcast back in 2018 KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando speaks with San Diego operas director. David Bennett about trying to plan an event as locked down. Rules are changing.

Speaker 2: 00:23 David, the opera has decided to play all is calm in a drive-in setting. Now, even though you made this decision, things have changed recently that are impacting you. So tell me, where are you at right now with the idea of presenting all is calm to audiences.

Speaker 3: 00:44 Well, calm is a good word, isn't it? So we are, we're trying to remain calm, uh, and it's shifting sea, right? Uh, circumstances. So clearly what we're trying to do is make sure that we can do this in a safe way, right. And, uh, guaranteeing the safety of everyone, not just the audience, but also our employees is paramount to us. Cause we had a huge success with lava whim in terms of safety. So we want to follow it up with another big success story. So we, we know that driving theater movies are an approved activity, even with the new announcement by the governor. So we have two of those that are two places that are holding those right now in San Diego. So we know that aspect of it is going to be approved and can be safe. We are still getting approval of whether we can have the 30 minute concert of live singing that we are trying to hold. And the plans for that is to have eight members of our course. So it's not a large ensemble, uh, spaced safely in the way that we did her in lava way, which is each singer having 120 square feet of their own territory. So they stay very far apart. So, so that's kind of where we are with it. Yep.

Speaker 2: 01:52 Now explain what people will be getting in terms of all is calm. This is not a live performance, but this is a performance that you stage.

Speaker 3: 02:00 That's correct. So we ha we did all his column in 2018 and it was, it had a live telecast on KPPs, which of course KPBS filmed beautifully. It's a very, very beautiful video capture of that performance. We had intended to do a live performance this year. Safety's not allowing us to do that. So we decided to try to take advantage of that beautiful capture that we have, and we're going to be showing it at a venue that has been built at Del Mar at the racetrack called concerts for cars. And it's around stage with four screens and cars parked all the way around it. So you have a lot of proximity to the stage. And if we're allowed to it be proceeded by about 30 minutes of live holiday singing by members of our course and a sing along portion. So encouraging people to be in their cars and enjoying that experience. And then the performance itself is about 70 minutes. So all in all an hour and a half seven o'clock to eight 30, uh, on 21st. And of course we know that's the first week that school is no longer in session. So by that Monday after the weekend, um, parents might be looking for a safe thing to do with their children, which this would be wonderful. It said he'll be a safe activity and also beautifully, uh, it's a family friendly, beautiful performance. So that's what you should expect.

Speaker 2: 03:23 And is this, the production of all is calm that you partnered with Bodhi tree concert.

Speaker 3: 03:28 It is, it was a co-production group, buddy tree and soccer profile when we did it two years ago. Correct.

Speaker 2: 03:34 And why do you feel that it's important to have a production of this in some shape or form in this particular time?

Speaker 3: 03:44 Well, you know, what we learned from [inaudible] that we did in October is we're missing not just seen live performance, but everyone is missing a communal experience, right? We spend so much of our time in a conversation like I'm having with you right now, where we're all in our own individual homes, right. And the opportunity to us, for us to find a way to be together as a community safely is a very important thing. And I think around the holidays particularly, right? So that's why I think it's important and it's a beautiful performance, right? It's a very, very beautiful production and we did a beautiful performance of it. And it's a family friendly story with music that you recognize telling, um, an experience it's, it's, uh, kind of an overwhelmingly moving, uh, story for this time.

Speaker 2: 04:33 And for people who may not be familiar with all is calm. This is about the Christmas truce where, you know, we're talking about having this communal experience and this is this very interesting sense of enemies at war being so close to each other, that they could literally like hear each other singing and talk.

Speaker 3: 04:52 Right. And it was, you know, when it was the warring factions, it wasn't the, you know, the commanders that made this decision, it was actually soldier, the soldier, Saint hearing the singing across no man's land and the opposite trenches and coming out and actually sharing the experience of Christmas Eve together and playing sports and ultimately burying them.

Speaker 4: 05:13 Yeah. For a single night. No man's land was every man's lamb. And we, the lowest of the ranks chief with the Pope himself could not the middle of the wall. We had all selves, a Merry Christmas.

Speaker 3: 05:35 So it really is a story about using Christmas as an opportunity for a collective communal experience.

Speaker 2: 05:42 And that's why you decided to try and do this drive and experience as opposed to just broadcasting it again.

Speaker 3: 05:49 Yeah. And again, that, that gives people in the safety of your car. So the people that you're with in your car or people that, you know, you can be safe with and you're parked four or five feet away from another car. And so, as I said, a LABA wham, and when I was on stage before turn and wave to the people next to you, because they are in effect your seat mates, like if you were in a theater, um, but you're experiencing this with them together. So there is a sense of community when you have a driving experience

Speaker 2: 06:19 And how was it for the opera as a company to have to deal with this constant pivoting, because not only have you come up with the solution of, Oh, let's do a drive and that's safe, but then we have this increased lockdown, which changes it yet again. I mean, you guys have to move fairly quickly.

Speaker 3: 06:38 And so I think with like all arts organizations, our time horizon for planning has become, you know, daily and weekly, as opposed to long range planning. And, you know, opera is inherently sort of a long range, uh, planning, uh, activity. We tend to book our main operas two to three years out, right with the artists. And we make commitments to the San Diego symphony of the dates. And so we've had to learn to adjust. Now, I will say that coming out of the near closure that we experienced five almost six years ago, now we've learned to be adaptive and nimble. That's actually, that's actually one of our core values that the company created, that it says through nimble adaptation to the changing marketplace, we preserve the future of San Diego opera. And that was written as a response to the New York closure. And I think in terms was really thought about financial changing marketplace, but boy are those words never more true than they are right now. And so we have to learn to be nimble and the word pivot is right. We just have to constantly be comfortable with them.

Speaker 2: 07:41 All right. I want to thank you very much for talking about this drive in version of all is calm,

Speaker 3: 07:47 But it can queue. It's going to be a wonderful experience

Speaker 2: 07:50 And let's go out with some of the music from all of them.

Speaker 5: 08:01 The San Diego offers drive in presentation of all is calm takes place December 21st at the Del Mar fairgrounds parking lot. [inaudible].

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.