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The Met: Live in HD

by Jill Norgren

At a recent press conference the Metropolitan Opera announced its 2009-2010 season. The continuing good news, especially in these harsh economic times, is that Met has not cancelled its movie theater simulcast program. Called The Met: Live in HD, this initiative has been part of an effort proposed by general manager Peter Gelb who wants to bring opera to more people living on limited budgets as well as to those enthusiasts who live far from New York City.

According to Gelb, The Met: Live in HD is intended to broaden the public appeal of opera and to reach new audiences by providing a front row seat to live opera through H-D simulcast. Now in its third season, in 2008-2009 Saturday matinee Live in HD performances have been transmitted to 17 countries including, for the first time this year, France, Australia, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Poland, Puerto Rico, and New Zealand. Traveling to Japan? Click on the Live in HD website and attend a Met Opera in Toyko (be prepared to read the foreign website information in local languages).

In the United States, Live in HD may be found at dozens of commercial movie theaters around the country as well at what the Met calls independent venues including local music and arts centers, and several universities. The price is right: $22 adult; $20 senior; $18 student; and $15 child. For $180 a senior would be able to hear and see six H-D Saturday performances. At the Metropolitan Opera House, a subscription series for six Saturday night performances costs $1755 in premium orchestra seating down to a low of $171 in the very last, nose bleed section of the family circle.

The underlying question is simple: is it pleasurable to watch opera on the big screen? The public has answered with a resounding Yes. This year a million opera lovers worldwide have bought tickets to The Met: Live in HD. A reviewer for the London Observer has written that it is like havingthe best seat at the Met, while the Los Angeles Times has described it as an experiment that has created a new art form.

The experience is not the same as being at the opera house. For starters, your seat may be significantly more comfortable. The performances are shot with a dozen cameras. True, your eyes are not free to roam the stage but the camera work is intelligent and artful, with stunning close-ups and sensible renderings of choral and dancing ensembles. At the opera house, members of the audience barely see the orchestra. At a recent performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, the orchestra was featured on several occasions including a lingering tight shot during an exquisite harp solo. It goes without saying that Live in HD would not be in its third season if the sound quality was not pleasing and consistent. As a bonus, the HD audience is privy to entracte interviews with the soloists and with the stage production staff. During these intermissions cameras reveal the technical and physical efforts necessary for a change of scenery. It is totally fascinating.

Is there is a negative side to Live in HD? It is possible to argue that there is a certain quiet that envelops an HD performance; the frisson that can accompany a live performance may be absent. While HD aficionados sometimes clap at the end of an opera, at many theaters the audience listens to the applause and watches the bouquets float onto the stage only as unseen and unheard by-standers. This is, however, a small price to pay to watch and listen, up close, to, among others, Stephanie Blythe, Anna Netrebko, Mariusz Kwiecien, Susan Graham, Thomas Hampson, and Renee Fleming.


List of theaters in the US:

Frequently Asked Questions:

How do I find Fathom events near me?

  • Use the Event Search feature found on each web page. Just select the event you want from the drop down list and click GO. You will be taken to the Event/Series Detail page. Then use the Find Theatres or Buy Tickets function — enter in the event date (if applicable) and your zip code and click GO. The Theatre Locations page displays a list of participating theatres closest to the entered zip code.

©2009 Jill Norgren for SeniorWomenWeb


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