Free opera in the park? Bravo! |

Free opera in the park? Bravo!

A cheer erupted from Wagner Park on Sunday night. It wasn’t the nail-biting conclusion of a rugby match. It was curtain call for “Carmen,” one of the Aspen Music Festival and School’s opera productions this summer.During the performance of the opera by Georges Bizet inside the Wheeler Opera House, a crowd watched the show just across the street in Wagner Park, where it was broadcast live on a JumboTron screen. Older couples sipped wine in lawn chairs, young families picnicked on blankets, and passers-by stopped and stood along the park’s edges, transfixed by the music and drama on screen.This community benefits from a number of free and low-cost events, thanks to the nonprofits that offer lectures from visiting scholars, experts and world leaders. In fact, a number of us on The Aspen Times editorial board frequent the listening lawn that surrounds the Benedict Music Tent, where you can stretch out on the grass and enjoy a world-class concert without spending a dime.So what makes Sunday night’s free showing of “Carmen” worthy of this mention? Community spirit out in force, that’s what – a park crowded full of people riveted during sweeping arias and duets, who stretched their legs and chatted to neighbors during intermissions, and who applauded wildly at the end of the show, even though they knew the singers, orchestra, conductor and stage manager couldn’t hear them.One simple, altruistic act like this free showing goes a long way in our hearts, especially at a time when we’re all worried about Aspen losing pieces of its soul. We may moan and complain about the Entrance to Aspen and affordable housing, but the fact is, we love living here – an event like this is one of the reasons why. “Love stays away, you wait and wait; when least expected, there it is!” Carmen sings, in the opera’s most famous aria. We commend the Aspen Music Festival and School and its president, Alan Fletcher, for this unexpected gift in the middle of the summer, and having the vision to host a simple community event all could rally around. Bravo!

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