The ninth year of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series recently began with a majestic performance of Verdi’s Macbeth, followed by Mozart’s masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro.
By Paul Hicks
The ninth year of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series recently began with a majestic performance of Verdi’s Macbeth, followed by Mozart’s masterpiece, The Marriage of Figaro. However, the 2014-2015 season includes ten HD operas with twenty screenings, so many opportunities still remain before the HD season ends next April. These high-definition videos of live performances are transmitted via satellite from the Metropolitan Opera House to movie theaters and other venues in the U.S. and sixty-seven other countries around the world.
There are some opera purists who will not settle for anything other than watching live performances in person at the Met, and are, therefore, prepared to pay the high prices that seats at the Met Opera House cost. But for a growing number of opera lovers and those who are exploring the genre, the HD performances have many attractions, including low costs, proximity and informality (you can bring popcorn to your seat).
The sound and visual effects of the HD videos are excellent, as the cameras move from close-ups of the principal singers to the orchestra and back to the action on the stage. Supertitles on the screen allow you to understand the words being sung and spoken, and a plot summary is often available at the theater (or online). During the intermissions, there is time to restock your favorite junk food and to watch some interesting interviews on the screen with cast members and others involved in the production.
We are fortunate in this area to have a choice of two multiplex movie locations where the HD performances are shown. One is in New Rochelle at New Roc Stadium 18 and the other is in White Plains at City Center 15 Cinema Deluxe. Tickets, which generally cost less than $25, can be purchased at the box office or online.
A useful place to begin your research is with the Met’s website page: http://www.metopera.org/ metopera/liveinhd/live-in-hd-2014-15-season. It lists the operas with the names of conductors and singers for each production as well as the dates of the first live HD performances on Saturday afternoons. Also shown is the “encore” date for each performance, which is screened on the evening of the following Wednesday.
For example, the live performance of the next opera, Carmen, is Saturday, afternoon, November 1, but the seats at both local theaters are sold out. However, seats for the encore performance on Wednesday evening, November 5 (the times differ) were available at the time this was written. An advantage of the White Plains multiplex is that you have a choice of two theaters showing the operas simultaneously. Tickets to one theater are general admission, but in the other there is reserved seating, and you can select your seats from an online chart. It is best to avoid the seats in the front of the theater.
The online system is not a very user-friendly, so if you have the time, you might prefer to purchase your tickets at the box office. Either way, you will need to plan ahead, as many of the performances sell out early. Once you have coordinated the opera dates with your calendar, which opera(s) will you choose to see among the eight that remain?
Among those operas, there are several new productions. These include Lehár’s operetta The Merry Widow, starring Renée Fleming in the title role, and the very popular double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. If you missed the great diva, Anna Netrebko, in Macbeth, you can enjoy her in Tchaikovsky’s fairy tale Iolanta, presented in a double bill with Bartók’s Duke Bluebeard’s Castle.
There is continuing debate about the long-term effects of the Met’s successful Live in HD productions. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager who launched the series in 2006, has acknowledged that the decline in ticket sales at the Met Opera House is partly due to the HD screenings. There is also concern about their effect on regional opera companies.
One opera critic, however, pointed out that if all of the four thousands seats at the Met were sold out for the entire season, it would amount to less than 80,000 people in the seats. In comparison, more than 200,000 people see some of the HD performances around the world. That adds up to millions of viewers, introducing opera to many who would otherwise not have an opportunity to experience it. The answer to the problem lies partly in the Met’s ability to persuade more of us who enjoy the HD series also to become donors to the Met.