Peter Gelb, the inspired and inspirational general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, really started something, when, a couple of years ago, he decided to send, via high-definition satellite transmission, live performances of operas from the Metropolitan Opera House, in New York City, to movie theaters around America. I doubt he knew what his idea would start, but, now, just a few seasons later, those performances are being transmitted to theaters all over the world. Here in Sarasota, there’s such a clamor for tickets both Hollywood 20 and AMC 12 have had to open at least two of their multiplex theaters and add reruns that have quadrupled the number of people jamming in to see the operas.
Now, there is nothing like attending a live performance. But these Metropolitan Opera HD transmissions take us places we couldn’t possibly go on our own. With the help of superstar singers, such as Renée Fleming and Susan Graham — who will never be without work now that they’ve found they can speak as well as sing — we are able to meet the singers as they come off the stage, dripping wet, exhausted but elated, and hear what they just experienced performing for us.
We’re taken on stage as the stagehands make miracles moving sets, ripping up miles of cobblestones, tearing down cathedrals and raising ballrooms and boudoirs in a matter of minutes before our very eyes.
We’re able to meet wigmakers, prop-keepers, costume designers and choreographers and hear the deepest, cleverest secrets of their crafts.
Nothing is cut, edited, pieced together or changed. These “reality” performances are turning former operaphobes into operaphiles who are, in turn, buying tickets to their local opera houses to see the real thing — in the flesh.
After seeing these HD performances, audiences will no longer tolerate “stand and sing” operas. And, perhaps best of all, they’re serving to inspire smaller, regional companies to spiff up, spruce up and give us what opera really is: the works.
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