Citizen Staff Writer
You can pay $225 for a ticket at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City and not experience the Met as vividly as you can for $24 at Park Place or El Con Mall.
The Century theaters at both malls are into their second season of live transmissions of Saturday matinees at the Met. It’s like the closed-circuit boxing of the 1970s, except it’s opera – and it’s grand.
I’ve witnessed opera live at most of the world’s most prominent stages: the Met, San Francisco, Chicago, London, Vienna and many more. I was dubious about this “opera at the movies” concept when it arrived in Tucson a year ago.
How could a movie presentation possibly match what you get at a live performance? Easy: Let the Met run the show.
The only thing you miss is the real-life sound of the voices. Yes, that is a huge factor in opera, but if you can get everything else and more, and it’s only a short drive to the mall away, “The Metropolitan Opera: Live in HD” is an opera lover’s dream.
This is a great way for people curious about opera but not quite ready for a live experience to kick the tires, so to speak. You truly get a sense of what the opera experience is all about, and chances are anybody sitting next to you is an opera fan more than willing to chat you up during intermission.
For you opera lovers who didn’t give the Met at the mall a go last season: Go for it this year.
These transmissions add the visuals to the Saturday morning live radio broadcasts that have been beamed across the country since 1931. Some 935,000 people around the world saw live Met transmissions at the movies last season, with 1.2 million movie-theater-going operaphiles expected this season, says Charlie Siedenburg, the Met’s public relations manager.
The camera work is astounding, even including a camera on the proscenium that gives you amazing up-close shots, so close that the upward camera angle can be a touch distorting sometimes.
What about the sound? You don’t have to worry about the ear-splitting cacophony that comes with the typical action flick. The sound is adjusted to sound human in scale and coming from the “stage.”
The bonuses that people with the $225 ticket don’t get come at intermission and before the curtain rises.
Like sports on TV, as soon as the curtain falls, the star soprano or tenor steps over to a backstage interview. Soprano Karita Mattila in her interview last season even demonstrated the splits two minutes after stepping offstage.
They show you the stage manager calling the conductor to stage, and then they show you the conductor standing there waiting for the call, and then making the stroll into the orchestra pit.
Sometimes you get to see the sets being moved. Sometimes stage crews explain the challenges of a set. One time they interviewed the horse trainer with the horse standing right there backstage.
Some interviews are in hallways, others just off stage, some in dressing rooms.
I do hate the word “accessible,” but that’s exactly what these movie theater transmissions offer. They make opera accessible to anybody willing to shell out $24 – a pretty reasonable price for a live opera transmission.
Tucson Citizen downtown reporter Teya Vitu’s motto is, “opera has priority over everything.” He will travel to Berlin and Leipzig later this month to see seven operas at four opera companies.