Cher Public

Screen and screen again

The New York Times sends cub reporter (Get it? Cub reporter! Oh, La Cieca is killing herself with the puns!) Zachary Woolfe to the movie palaces of the heartland to assess the impact of the Met’s HD program.

  • RosinaLeckermaul

    Other than dealing with the sound of popcorn munching, my main problem with the HD transmissions is the sound. I have watched/heard the transmissions in London and Atlanta and find the voices too closely miked and the orchestra too distantly miked. Woolfe is right that all the voices have the same level of volume. One doesn’t realize why the audience at the Met favors some singers over others because there is no sense of how the voice sounds “live.”
    Singers’ attitude toward operatic acting changed long before HD — it changed the moment live broadcasts began on television. Yes, everything is even more magnified on the big screen, but from the beginning of LIVE FROM THE MET telecasts, singers began thinking of their closeups.
    One aspect Woolfe does not address is the need for singers to be “personalities” as well as operatic performers. They have to charm the audience during intermission interviews which means they have to be fluent in English. Offstage charm, while nice, is irrelevant to an opera singer’s abilities onstage. Just once I’d like to see someone come on as a real diva or react appropriately to some of the dumb questions the host or hostess asks.

    • No Expert

      You must have missed that interview between Fleming and Zajick a while back. Sill memorable for its awkwardness.

      • Baritenor

        I think this may be an appropriate moment to repost this list, which I wrote for a parterre contest a while back. Enjoy!


        A brief pause for a set change occurs between acts three and four of Aida, run sans intermission. Since the HD directors can’t let his international audience sit there simply watching a set change for five minutes, he throws host Renée Fleming onstage with a microphone and the Met’s Production Manager to talk about watching a set change (Oh, Gary Halvorson, don’t you know the first rule of cinema is “show, don’t tell?”). He barely has time to talk about how efficient the Met’s set changes are when his very efficient set change is over and he whisked off back behind the scenes.

        After Act One of Manon Lescaut, Karita Mattila rushes backstage for the usual chat with Renée Fleming. The subject of Mattila’s upcoming high c/flat splits combo comes up, and the Finnish soprano, without a word of warning, practices the later half of the bit right there and then, giving Fleming the giggles.

        The choice of Natalie Dessay as an interviewer for the HD transmission of Lucia, in hindsight, was probably not a good idea. When she was standing next to Anna Netrebko, one couldn’t help compare the two singer’s highly controversial performances in Mary Zimmerman’s production. Both appeared aware of this and Netrebko, in particular, looked like she would rather be anywhere else. Piotr Beczala, stuck in the middle, was wise enough to keep smiling and speak charmingly in Polish as Dessay clung to her cue-cards desperately and Netrebko grimaced at the eleventh or so question about her new baby.

        After the Antonia act of Hoffmann, Anna Netrebko enters her interview with Deborah Voigt in high spirits. Talking about (plugging) her beautiful costumes in this production, she mentions that she is wearing a real chinchilla stole as Stella. Voigt, perhaps with an eye towards the fur-is-murder crowd, attempts to softly deny that claim, but Netrebko, oblivious, corrects her before Voigt hurriedly changes the subject. Awkward? Yes. Also? Hilarious.

        Since the interviews are held backstage or in the wings, there are always a good number of people milling about in the background. One of the funniest instances of an unintended observer came just before Act III of Peter Grimes. While Natalie Dessay read off a prompter in the foreground, plugging the many wonders of the Met, Felicity Palmer appeared in the corridor behind her, saw the cameras, froze, smiled sheepishly, turned around veeeeeeeery slowly and walked quickly the other way.

        As #7 demonstrates, Deborah Voigt can’t be described as unflappable. After Act one of La Somnambular, Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez headed backstage to chat with Debbie V. The mood was light and the two singers were obviously coming off an adrenaline rush. In response to a question about the production-as-rehearsal concept, Natalie Dessay revealed several of the costume pieces come from her own wardrobe. This prompted JEFF to crack a joke that he provided his own socks and underwear. While Dessay cracked up, Voigt went white, muttered something about “yes, underwear, ladies and gentlemen” and changed the subject. Because that solves everything.

        During the interviews, a certain amount of ass-kissing usually ensues, often from the host to the singers, to reinforce, if necessary the fact that everyone is very good. Sometimes, it backfires. During Aida, Renee Fleming shares an anecdote about being blown away by how loud Delora Zajick is when they sang together, and, hilariously, Zajick shoots her a look as if she’s grown another head. Fleming’s innocent comment was just insulting enough to make the great mezzo look like a perplexed twelve-year-old.

        Right before Salome, Deborah Voigt and Karita Mattila engaged in a highly congratulatory conversation about how hard it is to sing Salome. Apparently this is enough to get Mattila’s blood pumped, because as the interview ends, she blurts out “Let’s go kick some ass!” Voigt’s eyes bulge out comically as she realizes Mattila just said “ass” in front of an audience of millions. As a hilarious coda, when Mattila greats the supers and choristers onstage, she is not milked, but if you read lips, it is obvious she is telling each and every one of them to “kick ass.” Amazing.


        If you saw this without hearing rumors that the Alagnas’ marriage was in jeopardy or basically dead in the water, you heard them as soon as the interview was over. Alanga is all over Fleming, nothing too overt, nothing that can’t be construed as friendly banter among colleges, just enough to be a little…sleazy with his wife standing right there. And Gheorghiu looks totally DONE with the interview, and eventually just leaves. It’s squirm-inducing….and also slightly appealing to the sadist in each of us.

        Just before the Antonia act of Hoffmann, Deborah Voigt got Bartlett Sheer to discuss his production concept and goals for the opera. Unfortunately, they were upstaged by one of the most incredible sights ever caught on film: Anna Netrebko’s pre-show dance. As Netrebko walks to her place, she performs a strange mosey/shimmy/Charleston combo that will haunt my memory forever. I have no idea if she was aware she was in the shot, if she was off in her own little world or she was actually trying to upstage her director. Whatever the truth is, you can’t take your eyes off her. Later, Voigt ends the interview and then is told to stall for time. They end up waving hello to Netrebko. These things really are live.

        • Batty Masetto

          Seems like you can always count on Anya for some backstage hilarity. There was the Yellow Foil Bunny Incident when Debbie almost got to ask her what that thing was all about before it got unceremoniously whisked away. I also loved watching Netrebko and Abdrazakov mugging in the background while Renee(?) interviewed Costello during Bolena. Serves the camera people right for aiming the camera straight into the Green Room.

          • Camille

            Yes, that Bunny incident was one of highlights of the production and as I intend to hear Hoffmann this summer, having missed it, thanks for the tip about the Anna Shenanigans doing her dance. Since most of those interviews are so stiff, awkward, dull and inane, her antics enliven the boring flat PC politeness of it all. I wish they would feature that man, Chuck ?, the Master Carpenter, more often as he is a barrel of fun.

            I’m glad of the HDs for several reasons, one of them is Economy!! Even if one pays Top Dollar for Orchestra seats, one cannot see things for what they are intended to be, as one does in the HDs. The sound is rather dreadful, though, the closest I can liken it to is the instance in which one gets stuck far back under the “Overhang” in the Orchestra. I was stuck there for a Hamlet, and right next to an HD camera, to boot!! Would have done better to have gone to the HD instead, I suppose.

            The benefits far ouweigh the downside. As a part of the time I spend in the country, far from the Met, I appreciate the opportunity to be virtually “there”. However, there is much more of a rush “being there” for an old performance junkie(s), as my husband Keikobad and I both are.

          • Porgy Amor

            Maybe clowning in the HDs is Anna’s way of answering the ever-popular “Is it difficult to go from tragedy to comedy?” question.

        • Howling in Tune

          I think the Karita Mattila moments (nos. 9 and 3) weren’t unintentionally hilarious at all. I think she knew exactly what she was doing. God love her for it.

        • Donna Anna

          BariT, how could you have missed my all-time favorite intermission episode, starring Joyce Di Donato during the Walkure intermission. Das Machine had a hissy fit lasting 45 minutes, delaying the start. JDD interviewed the technical director about what went on. She concluded by saying, “Thank you for getting it up for us today.” She was totally oblivious, he was not (he looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights) and hilarity ensued in the theater.

          • Porgy Amor

            I roll my eyes as much as anyone does at the worst of the inane questions (“Like, OMG, Maestro, how does the orchestra play two different kinds of music ON THE SAME DAY?!”), but I wouldn’t want to lose the intermission interviews. Once in a while you get a good one, and not just for unintentional humor. I loved Maria Zifchak getting her own “star” interview as the prominent Suzuki of Minghella’s BUTTERFLY, and being sweetly nervous but getting through it fine. In the same afternoon, Racette adopting a faux grand-diva manner and saying of the 15-year-old Cio-Cio San, “Of course, it’s difficult to portray a character who’s *half* your age.” Radvanovsky (probably the smoothest mic skills of the bunch of them; I’d buy her as a legitimate media personality) visiting with the horses in FANCIULLA. Frittoli’s eloquent and perceptive remarks about Micaela, which made me think about that character in a way that I don’t always, and made me appreciate BF’s dramatic performance that afternoon more.

            But I’ll have to get my DVD of RONDINE out, after reading that great description. I remembered the Ghorghon cutting that interview short, but not what led up to it.

          • oedipe


            Regarding Alagna’s reply to Fleming: Baritenor’s interpretation of it is a typical example of cultural misunderstanding and preconceived ideas about the French. What Baritenor interprets as flirting was interpreted in the French blogosphere as awkwardness, being mal à l’aise on Alagna’s part. As for Gheorghiu, she was already in a lousy mood and she looked put off by the artificiality of the situation.

            Incidentally, with their stereotypical artificiality, the Met HD intermissions often provoke great hilarity in overseas movie theaters.

        • WeillFan

          Another one of my favorite backstage moments during an HD Live simulcast was during “Peter Grimes.” Patricia Racette corralled Jill Grove to march arm-in-arm with her past the camera during someone else’s interview in show of sapphic solidarity (and to suggest that Ellen would take up with Auntie after Grimes’ death at sea).

  • I am so glad that ZW is exploring this phenomenon. His statement about weak vs. strong productions being reflected equally whether in house or in theater, is especially telling. But, here on Parterre, we already knew that. Thank you ZW and thank you La C.

  • erica

    Honestly, these broadcasts strike me as neither fish nor fowl visually even more than musically. You don’t have the scale of the stage for which the production was designed, nor do you have any real cinematography that a film would offer. I’d rather go to a small live company that makes creative use of the space they’ve been dealt. This just feels like a grown up version of watching Great Perfomances on Channel 13 as a kid.

    (It goes without saying that I live in NYC, not Wichita, and I’m sure I’d be grateful for what I could get if I did live in Kansas. But the HD still strikes me as a second-rate substitute.)

    • brooklynpunk


      I feel very much the same way--and wonder if it just wouldn’t be better if The MET strived to return to having a greater presence , back on PBS-- at least THAT way, many many more people would have access to the broadcasts.

      The one or two times I went to an HD screening- I didn’t get much, if any feeling, or excitement of witnessing anything that felt “alive”

      Again- living currently in NYC, I realize I might be “spoiled”, since I don’t have to rely on second-hand opera performances at the Cineplex

      ALTHOUGH-- reading yesterday’s NYTimes -- with an article stating that The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is planning on slashing funding to PBS- I wonder if televised performances will be “gone with the wind”?

  • ardath_bey

    fun article, not really about the impact of HD on opera but about the impact of HD on the writer. We all know that microphones change the size of the voice, stage acting differs from screen acting, etc., and that a lousy production on stage will probably be lousy on the screen too, etc. No news here.

    But saying that Lucia’s subtleties might be perceptible only to HD viewers, now that’s nonsense. Lucia’s subtleties are all in the music and if you miss them in the theater a 20-foot tall close-up of Dessay’s poor acting won’t help.

    What ZW misses is that these adjustments to HD are a very small price to pay to have opera brought to the masses. The HD series made opera more accessible than it has ever been and we should all be ecstatic. Okay, the myopic fuddy-duddies on Opera L don’t like change, they’d rather see opera die than innovated. So they concentrate on masturbatory technicalities of how the presence of a camera is “corrupting” opera, etc. That’s like saying gay marriage is corrupting marriage, so let’s just ignore these old reactionary opera fuddy-duddies shall we. It’s the cameras that are adjusting to opera, not the other way around.

    Another common criticism the article fails to address is the casting of “hot” stars just because they look good on camera. Are they talking about Blythe, Botha, Zajick, Urmana or Voigt? Please, no one I’ve seen on the HD screen is really Las Vegas hot, Kaufmann maybe. Netrebko is chunky now and Dessay has always been a scary thing to look at.

    HD is helping keep opera alive, let’s be thankful and support it.

    • No Expert

      Obviously Live-in-HD is not the same thing as Live-and-in-Person. But, it has made it possible for me to see more opera performances and more operas than I ever dreamed I would have the opportunity to experience. I’m all for it.

    • RosinaLeckermaul

      I think ardath_bey is a bit optimistic about the audience building of the HD transmissions. I admit I’m no spring chicken (I’m old enough to have seen Zinka Milanov) but both at the London IMAX and the Atlanta theatre I have gone to to see the transmissions, the audience is decidedly and exclusively geriatric, mostly busloads of folks from the retirement homes who often seem more interested in an afternoon away from Shady Pines than the opera. You get a younger audience at the Met, the ROH or the Atlanta Symphony. So the HD transmissions certainly aren’t creating a younger audience for opera.
      No one yet has commented on the other problem at multiplex showings of the Met in HD — the noise from neighboring auditoriums. Quiet moments of opera with nearby explosions and gunfire.

      • brooklynpunk

        I think the ticket-price for the HD screenings might also be part of the problem in attracting a younger, or “newbie” audience for them.

        In the NY metro area- the pricing is about $22- now, that is cheaper then the cheapest seat in the House for a Saturday matinee, granted--BUT.. an AWFUL LOT OF MONEY , for a MOVIE ( albeit a “live” performance…)

        • Wrath of the Titans 3D cost $17 in Manhattan. A $5 surcharge for a one-time live event (not to mention that even the Lepage Gotterdammerung is infinitely better as entertainment than the above-mentioned GCI graveyard) doesn’t seem like all that much to ask. Kids spend that much on movies basically every weekend.

          • brooklynpunk

            with all due respect, La C… we must know different kids-- even my 14 year old niece who spends money like water, would be astounded ( and would think it pretty “lame”) at paying 17 bucks to go to the movies- especially since she knows they’re all gonna be on line or or video, a month later.


            Do you think that the same “dude” or “dudette” who will pay that money to see “Titans” is gonna say..” Aww.. fer just 5 more bucks, i can see “Manon”?

      • lorenzo.venezia

        yep, you have to pray they don’t have the latest Fast and Furious next door.

      • Yes, the LACK of noise from “neighboring auditoriums” is the ONE advantage to getting up and going to see a performance starting at 9 AM out here in the western hinterlands.

      • ardath_bey

        Not optimistic I just know how to read numbers. 10 million tkts sold, sounds like a success to me. And I bet these folks aren’t 100% geriatric, like you describe yourself.

        And even if we get only 10% of the audience in young, future opera lovers, I still call it a success.

      • ducadiposa

        This article was a long time in coming I think. A good summation of the pros and cons of the HD experiment. I’ve also been commenting for awhile now that the HD series does *not* reach the much-coveted “young audience” that every opera company seems to be obsessively courting. Just look around you at one of these things, and if you’re even in your 40s as I am, you still feel like you’re a good 30-40 years younger than the average age of the majority of the audience. What really gets my back up is when the celebrity host makes the requisite announcement about supporting your local company. In my city, every time this statement is made I hear people muttering around me about how much *better* and *cheaper* the Met HD transmissions are. Do these same people not realize that if we stop attending live performances, there won’t be any freakin’ HDs??? Increasingly, I’m disatisfied with the way the Met is filming these productions (never-ending close-ups, little sense of the overall stage picture) and as mentioned, the manner in which the microphone puts all voices on the same playing field with regards to volume. Of course, the HD transmissions have their positives, especially for those living in opera company-less cities and towns. However we can’t lose sight that this is an art form that must thrive with live performances. I’ve attended riveting, daringly-staged productions by small companies in all sorts of places and believe you me, they are often the experiences that stick with me much more than the overblown things we see “live” in HD.

        • armerjacquino

          I think the audience age must depend on where one watches the HDs. The audience at the HD transmissions I’ve attended have largely been in their 20s-40s.

          • ducadiposa

            That’s great to hear, if a bit surprising. I watch HDs in a downtown theatre, in a large city (Toronto) where you’d think the cachement demographic would be slightly younger at the very least. But it’s not…I was involved in tabulating some research/polling that was done a couple of years ago to determine just this sort of thing (i.e. the type of audience attending HDs) and I was quite shocked that the overwhelming percentage of the crowd ticked off, not the 40-60 box but by a huge majority the over 60 box. The HD transmissions may have opened up opera to a wider demographic but overall, I feel it mainly caters to people who already love opera, and just want more in their lives. It also does seem to be having an effect on patronage of actual, live opera companies…whether we like to say it or not. It may be slightly anecdotal but I often hear some of these HD patrons saying they’ve simply given up on their regular opera subscriptions now that they can see Met performances for $20 or so.

    • Howling in Tune

      “What ZW misses is that these adjustments to HD are a very small price to pay to have opera brought to the masses.”

      ZW doesn’t miss that at all; it’s clear from the article that he’s quite aware of it.

  • cosmodimontevergine

    I certainly agree with Zachary Woolf about the sound of opera in HD. I have a lot of trouble with it because no movie house sound system is set up to convey an orchestra realistically or even flatteringly. Having the voices all at the same volume makes the whole endeavor sound like a really bad live RAI studio opera broadcast. Having close-ups, especially for Met productions, is a definite plus however.

  • Batty Masetto

    The HDs are a bit of a lifeline for us, and we’ve been going to more and more of them, but I have my own share of gripes.

    My problem with the sound has less to do with the relative size of voices than with timbre – the treble at our venue is under-powered and makes even the string section sound slightly thin. Not great for sopranos especially. We’ve spoken to the management, but they tell us the mix comes straight from the Met and they have no way of influencing it. So there’s that.

    Even more frustrating, maybe, is the video direction. I can’t agree at all that the productions are designed for video; if they were, I would expect the HDs to give a far more seamless sense of the stage. Bad interplay between the live stage and video isn’t a necessity – the Châtelet Nixon in China and the Bayreuth Lohengrin generally did an excellent job of preserving a sense of the stage picture even with extensive close-ups.

    But the Met video directors just blow it a lot of the time. Satyagraha drove me absolutely nuts because the video direction consistently missed important stage events like the first entrance of those amazing puppets. Staging where the big picture was really essential to the dramatic effect, like the entrance and buildup of the scotch-tape-pullers, was completely fluffed with close-ups of singers who were doing nothing of interest. So I really felt cheated there.

    I had the same sense, though not quite as strongly, in Manon and Traviata. Much less so with the Ring, just because the singers almost always seemed more interesting to me than whatever irrelevancies The Machine was messing around with at the moment.

    • As usual Batty you make such excellent points. I cannot get used to the audio quality because of the tinny sound coming out of the speakers. Staying at home and listening on the radio is ultimately a much better auditory experience for me.

      I too enjoy the improved quality of video direction on the streams from Europe, and I would think that the geniuses at Arte and Mezzo have a lot to do with that style of directing. The Met approach reminds me of TV soaps, which I haven’t really watched for over 30 years now (albeit most of them aren’t on anymore). :)

  • thirdlady

    Sorry to vent here, but it pisses me off, as someone who has paid top dollar for an orchestra seat, to have to watch cameras zipping back and forth during a performance. But I guess these days the Met is more focused on bringing opera to the masses than providing a compelling--or even coherent--theatrical experience for its actual audience.

    • Howling in Tune

      I imagine the thing to do would be to avoid buying tickets to any performance being broadcast -- or the performance before that one, when the video crew will be rehearsing.

      • armerjacquino

        Yes, this is a total non-argument. Over half of the Met’s productions aren’t broadcast in HD. Of the ones that are, performances with cameras are easy enough to avoid (for example, performances AFTER the broadcast?).

        To say ‘boo hoo, I don’t like it when there are cameras in the auditorium for two or three performances of 12 productions’ and think it’s a compelling argument against the Met’s output being available to opera-lovers worldwide beggars belief.

  • armerjacquino

    “But I guess these days the Met is more focused on bringing opera to the masses than providing a compelling–or even coherent–theatrical experience for its actual audience”

    Yes, twelve broadcasts over an entire season proves that indubitably.

    • thirdlady

      Twelve operas out of 26 (or whatever it was this year) is half the season allotted to productions that will be effective in HD…and not overly “challenging” for the HD audience.

      • I assume Saturday matinees are the only performances you can make? If that is the case, I would understand.

        • thirdlady

          no…and i’ve never quite understood why there are cameras at evening performances when the HD is supposed to be “live.” if it were a question of just avoiding matinees, i would certainly do so…

          • The evening performance before the HD is done as a “dress rehearsal” for the HD telecast: testing the placement of cameras, choice of angles, levels of microphones and so forth. The recording from this earlier performance is then analyzed and discussed over the next few days in order to troubleshoot any problems and generally to make the quality of the HD the best possible.

            The recording made at the dress rehearsal also serves as material to be patched into future, non-live releases of the recording of Saturday performance: that is, if the opera is eventually released on DVD, the editor can substitute a shot from the earlier performance for one that was out of focus or badly framed in the official HD telecast. It is also possible to switch out shots or audio if a singer misses a high note or makes a musical or staging mistake. That procedure was most definitely followed during the “Metropolitan Opera Presents” era of taping operas for PBS telecast, and rumor has it that for some favored artists, additional looping sessions would be scheduled in studio at a later date to provide fresher-sounding high notes, etc.

            It is easy enough to avoid the HD cameras: just don’t buy tickets for the scheduled HD date or the one before it. Though of course that would rob you of the opera fan’s sacred entitlement to whine about everything.

    • peter

      I have heard from several people that the cameras are distracting and i would be pissed if they interferred with my enjoyment of a performance.

      I have enjoyed the few HDs I’ve attended and would probably go to more but the thought of actually going into a movie theater at 9 or 10 am (in California) is not very attractive. My wish would be to have more of the less mainstream operas. I would have loved an HD of Khovanshina and Makropoulos.

      I have some non opera friends who have absolutely loved the HDs but would never pay the price for a live performance and some opera friends who have no desire to go to an HD. At the few ones I’ve attended, this fifty something is chicken compared to the rest of the crowd.

      • Peter, it’s so wonderful to go in jeans, sneakers and feel so young and hip again, isn’t it? The last time I went, another single gentleman sat down beside me who was quite a bit older than I am and also had been smoking something very aromatic. He, of course, was a very “old hippie” from Taos, and was, of course, in Arizona for the winter. He was very interesting, having traveled the world, and, of course, insisted that he had once had an apartment in Milan near the opera house and heard, of course, the one and only Maria Callas singing in her kitchen. LOL :)

  • operarocksme

    Ciao! I’m a frequent lurker here and decided that now’s the time to join in the conversation.

    It’s true that for those of us who don’t live in New York (or other big opera towns) the HD broadcasts are a godsend. They may not be “the real thing,” but they are a way to see superstar singers frequently and relatively inexpensively.

    I had a revelation in just the past year that was a real shock when it occurred to me: “People who LOVE opera and live in New York go to the opera, like, at least once a week.” …Or so it seems.

    I was lucky enough to visit the Met in person for the fist time in my life this year, and can’t wait to make another trip. But for now, the HD broadcasts, (and the lame-ass, but usually well-sung productions of Washington National Opera) will have to do.

  • erica

    There’s also the pesky question of what they mean by “live.” Up in the Hudson Valley, where I spend my weekends, many movie theatres broadcast the HD performances at a completely different time and day. I’m afraid I got a little frisky with the theatre that called it “Live” when an entirely different opera was coming out of my radio on the broadcast. But beyond being a caped crusader for truth in advertising, it’s confusing. Is “Live in HD” just a branding then? And if these aren’t really broadcasts, but just taped versions for distribution, when might some judicious editing start sneaking in? I’m not an ambulance chaser, but if, for example, a singer pulls out mid-performance, am I going to get to experience that? Or is this just a superior form of watching a DVD on your television?

  • operadunce

    Interesting coverage from Radio New Zealand on the general topic of backstage at the Met. Episode 2 from the following site focuses on the radio and HD broadcasts.

    The production includes a short interview with Renee Fleming, who was hosting that particular day, in which she mentions that the backstage interviews can be “disorienting” from the singer’s point of view.

  • Constantine A. Papas

    Having seen the same opera (Romeo & Juliet) in the house, in an HD, and heard it on Sirus, the sound on the radio is the closest to the house’s with a good audio system and suround sound; and the size of the voice of the singers varies.

  • Simon

    Any reports from Makropulos Case tonight?

    • Batty Masetto

      Only got to hear part of it, Simon, but the consensus in the chat that it should have been an HD instead of something else. Terrific conducting, Mattila sounded deeply engaged.

      • Simon

        Oh wonderful. I’ll going to the last performance next month and am now even more excited. Unfortunately, I’m only getting off work for the day now and missed the broadcast.

    • oedipe

      In the house Mattila sounded and looked great, and her acting was wonderful. She got a very long ovation at curtain call (she came out alone at first) and seemed very moved by it.
      Belohlávek was excellent and got a huge ovation. I didn’t much care for Leech, too shouty for my taste.
      The production is not very interesting, but the worst thing about it is that set changes require two intermissions: a total of one hour of intermission for about an hour and a half of music!

      • marshiemarkII

        Yes oedipe, I was there and your assessment is spot on and I agree with every word. Karita had a sensational triumph on all accounts but what a pleasure it is to hear an opera singer who SINGS rather than shouts the music. A basically gorgeous instrument working gorgeously well, what a pity she is not singing Wagner in this period where there are no great Wagnerians sopranos anymore……
        But Janacek was very well served tonight. Emalie Savoy was also gloriously beautiful in voice and fashion-model-slim gorgeous looks, another triumphant debut at the Met!!!!!!

  • Bluessweet

    Let me start out by saying that my SO and I are completely captivated by the MET in HD (and just about anything else that’s similar.) As far as live, in the house experience, we have the opportunity to go to anything we want to see with just a day trip to NYC or Philly.

    We avoided the first year broadcasts on the grounds that it couldn’t be much different than seeing opera on PBS. Fortunately, in year two, I won two tickets by answering something from my vast opera knowledge. (I think it was: “Who wrote the piece we’re going to play?”- Answer: Rossini, since it was the William Tell Overture.)

    The opera was the Scottish one and we were blown away. Then we started to realize that we could see many more operas per year by ponying up the $22.00 bucks a head, which was, for senior citizens of limited means, the only way we could expand our viewing.

    We enjoy seeing the actor’s faces, impossible in the theater, even with 8x Leica opera glasses. We even see the sweat pouring off the singers from their exertions, which makes them all the more real to us. The entr’acte interviews, while often hokey, as some have noted, are still closer to the performers than we ever have gotten in the house. (But not at other times.)

    We still see all the live performances that we can afford but, with the cost per performance and the number of works that are rarely done elsewhere now available in HD, I’m afraid the tide, at least for us, is running strongly toward simulcast. Even warhorses such as Traviata are worth seeing in a unique production, like that of the Decker.

    The age of the audience? Seems to depend on the venue. Where we go to the broadcasts, mid-seventies is “the younger set.” It’s the same way at the local legit theater. I’ve gone there for 25 years and I’ll swear that no one younger has joined the crowd. Matinees, at least in Philly, are known for the buses unloading folks from the retirement communities. On the other hand, at other times and other places, you’ll see younger people.

    Where will the performers come from if only the MET is selling tickets? Well, if you’ll check NYC, you’ll find three or four small opera companies. Between New Brunswick, NJ and Philly, there are at least five schools doing one to five shows a year and, at the Prince Theater (The Hal Prince theater, that is,) in Philly, Center City Opera Theater is offering three productions between April and Mid June. This is a company with about ten years behind it and claims to have an Artistic director/Creative Development Projects named Albert Innaurato hard at work to help make things go and grow.

    I’m not too worried about opera or at least not any more than worrying about decent music in general. The Mann, the summer venue for the city of Philly has gone from 18 performances of real, honest-to-god symphony, to a schedule of popular and rock musicians and only a couple of orchestra works with such famous stars as that young girl, Jackie Evancho or whatever her name is, being the featured soloist. Ah for the days of Merrill, Peters and Levine being the feature. Even the MET no logger shows up with their tent show in the summer.

    Nevertheless, smaller, more rudimentary organizations continue to draw crowds. Just last week, at a church in Haddonfield, NJ, The New Jersey Master Choral performed, first, the Mozart Requiem and then, the fourth movement of the Beethoven 9th to a packed house and they used four AVA people (two grads and two students) in the solos, along with certain members of the Philly orchestra. The house was packed.

    There is hope for some kind of future but all music and all performances are changing. The MET and Broadway, which used to be places I’d easily get to several times a year, are now big ticket items for people on their big trip of the year. I can’t compete for those seats, believe me. You will see me at the HD broadcasts though. (With my senior discount tickets clutched in my hot little hand.)

    Sorry this is so long but I thuoght it worth the time to express what I see.

  • oedipe

    From what I could gather, US audiences for the Met Live in HD shows are very elderly. Not so in other places! For instance, in my experience French audiences for the Met HDs are much younger, fiftish or so on average. Why is there such a big difference as a function of place?

    • Porgy Amor

      My own experience, and I’m in the US Eastern time zone, matches Woolfe’s; the HD audiences at theaters I frequent are decidedly gray. Most attendees appear to be 65+; the relative youngsters are fortyish. I’ll see an occasional young couple, especially for an opera with name recognition such as CARMEN or TRAVIATA, but they’re the stark exception.

      I’ve had trouble getting friends to go to these, not because they’re uninterested in the music but because the matinee time is inconvenient for people who go out on Friday night and don’t crawl into bed until 4 or 5 a.m. While they may be awake by noon, they’re not raring to go for five hours of Wagner. Early afternoon in the Eastern US would be prime-time in France, wouldn’t it?

      • oedipe

        The Met HDs in Europe generally start at 6, 7, or 8pm, depending on the local time zone. Could this be the main factor determining the age group of the audience?

        • thirdlady

          With all due respect, esteemed doyenne, I don’t feel it’s some kind of “sacred entitlement” to whine about paying a not inconsiderable sum to attend a performance and then have to try to watch it while there is a camera rehearsal going on at the front of the stage (and is there some reason the camera rehearsals can’t take place at, say, a rehearsal rather than an actual performance?). But, by all means, when buying tickets in the future, I will pore over the Met schedule and attempt to figure out which performances are the performances before the HD broadcasts. Since, obviously, I have no better way to spend my time, and it’s clearly FAR too difficult for the Met to just indicate that on their schedule, for the convenience of those who are interested in seeing performances that don’t feature an unobstructed view of cameraman butt.

      • ianw2

        The one HD I went to- was prepared to haul myself out to the NOVA suburbs for- was Nixon in China, one of those operas which supposedly pulls in the hip young downtown youngsters to opera.

        I was the youngest there by, I’d guess, thirty years.

        I think the matinee- from memory it was a 1pm kick off- is a deterrent for anyone who either had a late Friday night or, for potential audiences who are a bit older, is spending their Saturday running errands or taking kids to soccer and little league.

        In my situation, the local audiences are probably generally older in the Virginia suburbs than they would’ve been for a screening in DC. I’ve heard though that the Met has enough regular patrons in DC who travel to New York that they aren’t interested in cannibalising that audience with more local HD.

        But matinees have always skewed older. When I was working as an usher as a student, the mid-week matinee of musicals and drama was always a much detested shift because of the fussy, older crowd and, no matter what was happening onstage at the time, their internal alarm that went off in the audience at 4pm to send them scurrying for their trains so they would avoid peak hour.

  • Liz.S

    I go to Lincoln Center and also watched some HD transmissions for the same production in the past. Although I disagree that Scholl was nearly inaudible in the house, I do agree that experience at the theatre nearby could be totally different from what you see and hear live in the house.

    Regardless, it’s still the second best thing (although, I agree also what we listen on radio is somewhat closer.)
    I watched Rigoletto from Covent Garden last weekend with some hassle of travelling to a theatre not so nearby. I guess my only complaint is -- yes, Met HD is great, but we should get to see more stuff from other houses, too!