“Opera” is certainly an inclusive term, and the MetHD series this year certainly covers a gamut. From Dr. Atomic, composed in this century back to Gluck’s 1762 opera Orfeo ed Euridice, the oldest opera for which the original score is still available.
This past week was a busy one for me operatically. On Wednesday I saw La Rondine for the second time. As seems to be usual for me, I enjoyed it more than the first. Unlike in a good mystery (book or play) plot surprises are really no part of opera’s appeal. Seeing an opera for the first time before noon, I find it difficult to fully appreciate the music, the plot, and the acting. Eleven days later at seven in the evening and with some memory of what to expect, I seem to get quite a bit more out of it. I’ve already written you about the glitches in that performance.
Next was Orfeo on Saturday. The music was nice, but unexciting. I prefer more emotional content, but chacun à son goût. The plot, rarely a strong point in opera, was more than usually banal in that Gluck saw fit to contrive a happy ending to the originally tragic myth. There are several scenes where the orchestra is playing and the chorus is dancing but there is no vocal music. But with all that blandness, the production was fantastic. I won’t try to describe it, but the staging was a definite a high point. And I do plan to see it again next week.
Although the program lists 3 acts, it is a relatively short opera and is presented without intermission. However, the MetHD performance begins with two interviews (which came through perfectly!). I found the one with James Levine particularly interesting.
Now for the exciting news (news to me, that is; you may already know about it). The Met is not the only outfit creating and recording HD performances and showing them in selected theatres. It is also being done from Europe. And Sunday I capped off my opera binge by seeing Bellini’s Norma performance from Teatro Comunale, Bologna as part of “Italy’s Grand Opera Series”. There is also La Scala series, a Salzburg Festival, and a Glyndebourne Festival. All are distributed by an outfit called “emergingpictures”, but the list of venues is much shorter that for the Met. Go to emergingpictures.com for a list of theatres. It you are lucky enough to find one near you, click on it for more information. You may have to keep coming back every month because some theatres don’t seem to program far in advance.
I can’t generalize, of course, but Norma at least came with English subtitles. I’ve seen the opera a couple of times before, but I enjoyed this performance more than my memory of any of the live performances I’ve seen in the past. It was dramatically staged and beautifully sung and acted. The particular theatre I went to also does a second performance but only 4 days later. I had a conflict last night or I would have gone to see it again. Some of the other theatres I’ve checked out only seem to give one performance.
And as if all those opera performances weren’t enough, Monday I went to a stimulating meeting of the Pocket Opera Board, of which I now find myself a Vice-President.
Long live opera!
– – Philip