- November 4, 2009
You might have your defense mechanisms lined up for why you can’t attend the opera.
Perhaps your suit is at the dry cleaners, or you have to wake up early tomorrow.
But what if you knew you could see an opera in the middle of the day on Sunday? And that you could wear shorts without anyone snickering that you’ve upset the dress code?
That’s the unspoken allure of Sarasota Opera’s HD at the Opera series, which puts you in the audience of a great European opera house without crossing the Atlantic. It’s the next best thing to being live in the house with a talented orchestra and cast of singers, and it will help you scratch your opera itch until Sarasota Opera is back in season.
This is the only form of opera performance where the ovations are optional; the cast is recorded and can’t hear you, but you might still wind up wanting to clap and give them their due. And several of your fellow audience members will probably clap along with you.
Interestingly, when you attend a filmed performance at the Sarasota Opera House, you’re more or less seeing the building in its original intended purpose.
The Opera House opened in 1926 as a silent movie theater, and although it’s now mainly used for live performances, it retains the elemental allure of an old-time movie house. Every seat is a good one, and the sound is worthy of a full orchestra backing a baritone.
Then there’s the matter of the performances, which are world class and come from a variety of venues including the Staatsoper Hamburg and the Royal Opera House in London.
The Opera House showed Verdi’s "Falstaff" on Sunday, and it was a rendering of a performance from the Staatsoper Hamburg recorded on January 19, 2020. Italian baritone Ambrogio Maestri starred in the title role, which was given a unique backdrop on the stage.
This "Falstaff," directed by Calixto Bieito, is a prisoner of his prodigious appetites. Before the overture, and before a single note is song, Maestri’s Falstaff sits on stage slurping oysters.
He will later have chocolate seductively smeared all over his chest, and at another moment, he will attempt to conceal his gargantuan frame with nothing but a lampshade over his head.
The comedy is broad and unrelenting in this opera, and there’s a giant cast of characters moving into and out of the story trying to catch Falstaff in a compromising position. How does it end? Either you’ve seen it already, or you should see it some day.
This isn’t your only opportunity to see a Verdi opera before the Sarasota Opera brings back "Ernani" in March.
The HD at the Opera series will show "La Traviata" from the Royal Opera House in London on Aug. 7, and it will show "Rigoletto" from the same venue on Sept. 11.
Tchaikovsky’s "Swan Lake" will be shown on July 24, and Dvorak’s "Rusalka" from the Teatro Real in Madrid will be shown in August.
The final performance of the HD at the Opera series — on Sept. 25 — will be a 1962 Strauss performance, "Der Rosenkavalier," from Salzburg.
What if you like the idea of beating the heat and seeing a movie at the Opera House, but you’re not really feeling the idea of an opera performance? There’s also the Classic Movies at the Opera House series, which packs the house for Hollywood hits on Friday evenings.
The Opera House will be showing "To Kill a Mockingbird" (July 22), "Fiddler on the Roof" (Aug. 5), "Double Indemnity" (Aug. 19) and "Harvey" (Sept. 23) before the building goes back to the business of rehearsing and staging live performances.
The next scheduled performance for the Sarasota Opera is "The Secret Marriage" in October, which gives you plenty of time to get your clothes from the dry cleaners and to make your arrangements for a reason to sleep late the following day.