News and Features

Pied Piper: 'The Magic Flute' Draws 15,000 to Cowboys Stadium

Saturday was a first for the Cowboys Stadium. Fifteen thousand people came there to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the Dallas Opera’s live simulcast of its production at the Winspear Opera House. KERA’s Jerome Weeks has this report.

  • Dallas Morning News review (pay wall)
  • Fort Worth Star-Telegram review
  • KERA radio story:
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{echoey speaker announcing ]: And some of you will have noticed we are presenting something unique tonight. We’re presenting the opera out in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.” [cheers, applause continues under]

There were basically two types of people watching The Magic Flute at Cowboys Stadium Saturday. Those who’d never seen an opera, and those who’d never been to Cowboys Stadium. Sometimes, that was the same person.

Elbert Walker: “I’m Elbert Walker. I’m from Austin, Texas.”

Weeks: “Have you ever been to Cowboys Stadium before?”

Walker: “This is my first time.”

Weeks: “Have you ever been to an opera before?”

Walker: “Nope, first time for that, too.”

More than 34,000 people put in requests for the free tickets to see The Magic Flute. Only an estimated 15,000 showed up. There was, after all, a Rangers game next door at the Ballpark in Arlington, and the Mavericks were in the playoffs on television. In fact, during The Magic Flute, some operagoers clustered in the stadium lounges to watch the two games on TV screens.

Saturday’s attendance didn’t break the national record of 32,000 for a single, live stadium simulcast. But Saturday was only the first time the Dallas Opera has presented a stadium simulcast (previous simulcasts were in the Arts District). It took the San Francisco Opera five simulcasts before it set the record of 32,000. And the Cowboys Stadium attendance was considerably scaled up from the Dallas Opera’s original plan for only 7500 tickets to be made available.

Keith Cerny is the Dallas Opera’s general director.

Cerny: “I’m not all that actually focused on the record. This has already enhanced the reputation of the Dallas Opera in the sense that it’s shown that there is a lot of community interest in opera.”

Two years ago, Cerny had the idea for the simulcast even before he was hired to be general director. He visited Dallas, saw Cowboys Stadium and wondered if its 160-foot wide video screens could be used to draw a broader, more diverse audience to the Dallas Opera experience.

It worked. Ninety-two percent of the stadium crowd had never bought tickets before from the Dallas Opera. The hope is that enough of these newcomers may now buy tickets to the company’s regular productions in the Winspear Opera House to make the outreach effort worth it.

But the evening held appeals other than just free admission, as Julie from Bedford pointed out.

Julie: “It’s the only opera I could probably go to that I could have a beer. What other reason would there be?” [laughs]

Cerny: “We tend to regard opera as this very sacred experience and, in fact, there is wonderful opera performed in other parts of the world where you can actually get a beer and a pretzel and it doesn’t seem to undermine the artistic quality one bit. And that was very much a part of the plan.”

[music and applause play under]

There were glitches with the supertitles. And the sound could be deafening at times. But it was  a relaxed, family evening with far more children, even toddlers than normally seen at the Winspear. There also seemed to be few walkouts. The vast majority of the crowd stayed to the very end of Mozart’s three-hour opera.

Celestine Byrd from Lancaster had never seen an opera before. She loved the comedy and the casual mix of food and music.

Byrd: “Really, this is good, this is good. Yes … it’s like going to a Studio Movie Grille.” [laughs]

Image outfront and the screen above from Luke McKenzie, Dallas Opera.

  • Jh1234

    Applause, applause, applause….Opera and Cowboy Stadium. The showing on the screen was spectacular! Oueen of the Night gave an outstanding preformance. In fact the whole event was phenomenal. Thank you for a delightful evening. Harris Family

  • Jh1234

    Applause, applause, applause….Opera and Cowboy Stadium. The showing on the screen was spectacular! Oueen of the Night gave an outstanding preformance. In fact the whole event was phenomenal. Thank you for a delightful evening. Harris Family

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