Ever since writing this post, I’ve had high hopes for Travis Park as a downtown cultural gathering place. Travis Park lived up to its promise with the recent Opera in the Park event, led by Opera Piccola of San Antonio and showcasing an array of local performance groups.
On a Saturday afternoon, October 10, we packed a backpack with sunglasses and some reusable water bottles. We parked nearby and walked a block to Travis Park. We set up our triple folding chair on the grass in a spot with a good view of the stage set up along the western edge of the park.
The stage was quiet when we arrived, so we explored the park. Southwest Airlines supports a kiosk full of books, games, and toys that you can borrow. Once you fill out a free membership application, you get a card that allows you to borrow toys from the kiosk for free. We played a little badminton, then tossed a ball between some velcro paddles. Later, my daughter, G.N., chose a purple hula hoop, and my son, F.T., borrowed a big bouncy ball, red with white polka dots.
Magik Theatre took the stage for an energetic, interactive Jack and the Beanstalk. The actors asked for audience feedback about whether the narrator (fan favorite James “Apollo” Bradley) was doing a proper impression of a cow, a giant, a goose, etc. Later, the the actors chased each other through the audience, followed by a crowd of bouncing and yelling children.
After Beanstalk, we took another opportunity to play with toys from the kiosk, and also to buy some popsicles from Pop’topia. G.N. and F.T. chose chocolate truffle flavor; I picked coconut. We settled down in our seats for the main event.
For Opera in the Park, Opera Piccola of San Antonio presented four singers: mezzo-soprano Jacquelyn Matava, soprano Elizabeth Herlitz Cortes, tenor Eric Schmidt, and baritone Heath Martin. Music Director Kristin Roach introduced each piece and provided accompaniment on an electronic piano. (I asked F.T. who his favorite singer was, and he said, “The piano player.” Pfft.) The program included arias, duets, and a final quartet, and represented composers from Mozart to Verdi to Puccini. It was like listening to a favorite highlights CD or digital playlist.
The beautiful singing was complemented by skillful acting that conveyed romantic hopes and disappointments, notwithstanding the minimal staging. The singers were amplified, which was not ideal for hearing the natural qualities of the voices, but suitable for filling the park (and that corner of downtown) with lovely sound.
Opera Piccola of San Antonio will return to its usual home, the Empire Theatre, for two more productions of the 2015-16 season: Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio with a Star Trek theme on February 6-7, 2016, and a double bill of British Baroque operas, Phaedra by Benjamin Britten and Acis & Galatea by George Frideric Handel, on May 21-22, 2016.
Roach acknowledged leaders and supporters, including visionary Opera Piccola founder Mark A. Richter, the Valero Energy Foundation, the City of San Antonio’s Department for Culture and Creative Development and Center City Development & Operations Department, and the San Antonio Parks Foundation. The chairs looked like loaners from the venerable St. Anthony Hotel, which faces Travis Park to the south, and is shining brightly due to recent renovations. Earlier in the afternoon, before we arrived, the park stage hosted performances from The Playhouse San Antonio, Woodlawn Theatre, Woodlawn Academy for the Performing Arts, and Trilogy Dance Center.
After the show, walking back to our car, I took a moment to appreciate the lively scene in downtown. At the Tobin Center, Ballet San Antonio was performing Swan Lake in the H-E-B Performance Hall, and on the Tobin Center’s plaza, at the San Antonio Fashion Awards, my friend Tori Johnson won Fashion Blogger of the Year.
Read more about Opera in the Park: “Head Outside for Opera in the Park this Saturday”, Joan Vinson, Rivard Report, October 7, 2015.
I hope Opera in the Park becomes and annual tradition. San Antonio is a busy place for arts and culture: get out there and enjoy it, and bring your kids.