Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Opera at the Movie Theatre

Mom and I saw the opera at the movie theatre on Saturday morning. It was a live simul-cast from the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York. The opera was La Rondine by Puccini, a love story with comic sub-plot. This was my first opera (not counting ones I had listened to on CD) and I loved it.

The performance began at 10am. We brought our own coffees to the theatre, having heard that the concession wouldn't be ready for us. We arrived just before show time, and were surprised to find the large auditorium mostly full. On the screen, we could see the audience filing in to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City, for the matinee performance.

Just before the show began, we saw Renee Fleming, who is an opera star herself. She introduced the production with a short talk about background and history. Then we got a backstage glimpse of the maestro being called to the orchestra pit as the lights dimmed in the theatre, and the opera began.

The music was beautiful, and the performers were stunningly wonderful singers as well as fine actors. The story was easy to follow via an info sheet that we received on our way into the theatre and subtitles on the screen. Of course, the sets and costumes were spectacular. There must have been cameras everywhere, because it felt like we were on the stage, following every bit of the action up close. In this sense I think it must be a more intimate experience than actually being there, especially if you can't afford the best seats.

There were 2 breaks. During the first, short one, we saw sets being moved, and the performers moving offstage, then back into position for the second act. We watched them transform from their characters into ordinary people, then back again when the curtain came up. The second intermission was longer. It began with interviews with the principal performers. We saw Angela Gheorghiu and Roberta Alagna, who are married in real life, and played lovers in the opera, and also Marius Brenciu and Lisette Oropesa. They spoke about how they became opera performers and the experience of performing for the cameras and the audience for the live broadcasts. We also found out about a charitable program in the US that brings the opera to schools all over the country at no charge to the students. After that there was a 20 minute break during which many people in the movie theatre stepped out to the bathroom or got some popcorn from the concession stand.

I was impressed with the grand scale, and the friendliness, and the business sense that this all makes. It seems like, through the broadcasts, they are doing a great job of making opera more accessible, while they generate good will and a larger paying audience. I am more inclined now to go see a live opera performance. If I'm lucky enough to go to New York I will try to get to the Met. I am certain that I will go back to the movie theatre for more live broadcasts.

I had the image of opera as something performed in another language, for a specialized audience, by cartoon character performers. But it was nothing at all like that. It was exciting, and beautiful and filled up my senses and emotions.

question: have you seen opera?

mompoet - so much to discover

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