Magazine article Opera Canada

Notebook

Magazine article Opera Canada

Notebook

Article excerpt

IT'S A SIGN THE TIMES THEY are a-changing that the last opera I saw in 2006 and the first in 2007 were both live, but played out a good hour's flight from where I saw them. Like thousands of others in movie theatres in North America, Europe and Japan, I couldn't resist the Metropolitan Opera's brave new experiment in audience expansion by way of live, supposedly high-definition transmission of selected Saturday matinees. This is perhaps the most high-profile digital innovation in the first season of the new Met General Manager, Peter Gelb, but it's not the only one. Quite apart from the well-established Saturday-afternoon matinee radio broadcasts, which have reached an incalculable audience over 76 years, you can now listen to live streaming of performances from the Met's website to a computer. For radio-users on the go, there's the new Metropolitan Opera Radio channel, launched in conjunction with Sirius Satellite Radio, which offers historic and current Met performances. In some ways, there's nothing new Satellite radio is still radio, computer streaming has been available for some time and even the move into movie theatres is an evolution of the familiar TV broadcasts. But opera is so much larger than life that, as Gelb put it in his introduction to the first transmission, it belongs on the big screen. This first season should tell him if there's an audience.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

After two transmissions (of Julie Taymor's reduction of The Magic Flute on Dec. 30 and Bellini's I Puritani, a showcase for Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, on Jan. 6) I have to say I'm enjoying the experiment a lot. It isn't like being in the audience in the theatre for a live performance, so there's no point making the comparison between actually being at the Met in New York and vitually being at the Met in a movie theatre in Canada. The performance seen in the movie theatre may be live, but you are viewing it in the same way you watch ... well, a movie. You may be totally engaged, but there's a detached, arms-length quality to the experience. As a result, the audience in my packed theatre mostly watched in silence as the Met audience screamed its collective head off for Netrebko's curtain calls. It's like watching a video, except it's big and alive with the excitement inherent in the risk of live performance. …

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