Sunday, August 30, 2009

At the Movies, Avoiding the Rain

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, last evening we went with our friends Ken and Nadja to the Filene Center at Wolf Trap Park to see a screening of The Two Towers accompanied by a live orchestra and chorus. It turned out to be an absolutely awesome evening.

Despite having lived in Northern Virginia for so many years, Agnes and I had never been to Wolf Trap, and we found it to be a wonderful place - a gem set in forests and green lawns in the middle of a major metropolitan area. There are basically two seating options: on the lawn (cheaper tickets, farther from the stage) or under cover (more expensive, but you don't get wet when it rains).

And did it rain last night!

Happily, we missed most of it. The sky was dark and forbidding when we arrived, but the rain held off long enough for us to commandeer a picnic table and finish off a bottle of champagne and some snacks and get to our seats before it began to pour. The people with lawn seats came prepared and didn't seem to mind - umbrellas and tarps were broken out and everyone just waited out the first of the two periods of heavy rain (the second came right at the start of the intermission, wouldn't you know).

Our seats were in the center of the Loge section, with a perfect view of the giant HD screen. The only problem was that the screen hid most of the orchestra and chorus, which was unfortunate when the show was over and all we could see during the (well-deserved) standing ovation was the conductor, the two vocal soloists, and the front row of the orchestra. Bummer.

The music was perfectly aligned with the film, which was shown with subtitles (necessary because the powerful live music tended to drown out much of the on-screen dialog). The conductor had a flat-panel computer display on his podium which allowed him to watch the film while conducting, thereby keeping the music synchronized with the action.

If you haven't seen The Two Towers before, it's an incredible movie, with matchless cinematography, solid acting, and fantastic special effects, and the addition of a live rendering of Howard Shore's musical score added to the overall effect. We loved it.

The downer, for those of you who have not been to Wolf Trap, is the parking...well-organized (and FREE!!) on arrival, but pretty chaotic once the show is over. We were parked in one of several huge parking lots in meadows adjoining the park, and it took quite a while for the traffic to funnel out of the various lots onto the roads leading back out to the main highways. It wasn't nearly as bad as the gawdawful scrum we were mired in after a Jimmy Buffet concert at the Nissan Pavilion some years ago, but we still learned a valuable lesson: a post-show tailgate party to kill time while the traffic thins out isn't a bad thing.


If you have the opportunity to see a show that adds live orchestral accompaniment to a great movie, do it! We loved it, and I think you will, too.

Just don't irritate the police who are directing traffic...

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Amanda said...

WOW! That sounded like an amazing experience. Its good that you didn't let the rain and the parking ruin your evening.

So, the live orchestra added to the plus side of the experience, but, did the fact that you had to watch the movie with subtitles take away from it?

Bandit said...

I've never been to Wolf Trap but have seen it many times. Winton Marsalis did a series of music education videos from there. I also have the Canadian Brass video titled "Live at Wolf Trap." It's an amazing looking place.

Mike said...

We have a similar place called Riverport. No wait.. It's now called "Some Corporate Name Amphitheater". And the after the show parking scramble is the same.

Wv: nonni - As in 'nonni nonni na na'.

Bilbo said...

Amanda - I don't usually like subtitles, but since I had already seen the movie several times, I didn't find them all that distracting. And if you've seen the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, you may know that much of the dialog is carried out almost in a whisper, which would have been lost without the subtitles.

Bandit - it's a wonderful place. We'll definitely be going back, parking problems notwithstanding.

Mike - Someday we'll all be able to go to the Depends Waterpark. And parking is the same everywhere...the only difference at Wolf Trap is that they don't charge for parking. Yet.

Gilahi said...

I had never done this before, but a friend recommended it. Last time we went to Wolf Trap, we took the Metro to the West Falls Church station. When Wolf Trap has an event, Metro runs a shuttle bus from that station to Wolf Trap, which you can ride for $3.00 round trip. The buses start 2 hours before the event and run every 20 minutes. It was terrific not to have to mess with the traffic after the show. Next time I go to Wolf Trap, that's the way I'm getting there.

Leslie David said...

I'll take Wolf Trap's parking over Nissan's any day! The show sounds wonderful--I loved The Two Towers and Return of the King--was tempted to put in the extended play version but would have kept my neighbors up--sound levels go down at 10.