Saturday, January 12, 2008

Be thou bloody, bold, and resolute

Or, as the Met subtitled it, ferocious, determined, and bloody.

I went to see the digital broadcast today of Verdi's Macbeth. This is part of the Metropolitan Opera's opera-for-the-masses project, spearheaded by their new manager, Peter Gelb. He's hired famous movie directors to direct operas (something that the LA Opera is doing as well), hosted a red-carpet opening for the Anthony Minghella Madam Butterfly, broadcast live to Times Square and Lincoln Center, etc. etc. This Met at the Movies project has been a huge success; a series of matinees get broadcast LIVE to theaters around the U.S. and Europe. We were informed during intermission that they are even being piped free to select NYC public schools. Last season was so successful that they added a ton of theaters this season, something for which I am very grateful, as I did not have to trek down to River East. Tickets are around $22.

One of my friends, and I genuinely cannot remember who, asked me what I thought was an odd question: Why don't you just go to the opera here? The answer is: I do, and whaaa? That's like telling a sports fan to go to Soldier Field "instead" of watching football on the TV. Every game is different.

But then I realized that most non-opera fans don't realize the extent of the difference between the Met and the other houses of the U.S., even the biggest ones. The Lyric Opera of Chicago is unquestionably a world-class company that gets world-class casts and conductors. It has its own lovely opera house and usually puts on excellently staged productions. But it puts on six shows a year. The Met puts on... what, twenty? I don't even know. Regardless, how could I have missed today's Macbeth, with Adrian Noble's direction?

They did a wonderful job with the broadcast, too, using a lot of angles and closeups, and bringing a camera backstage to show them changing sets, etc. (I love that stuff, but some might find it distracting). They even interviewed James Levine before the start and the rather stressed-looking Macbeths during intermission, at which point bass-baritone John Relyea strolled past in his bloodied Banquo ghost clothes and flashed a peace sign at the camera.

I think that this Met at the Movies series is one of the most brilliant moves the Met has made in a long time. It's helped to create a real buzz and sense of shared excitement. I hope that the Met keeps expanding on this. I want to see it all: YouTube snippets, production blogs, artist blogs, e-newsletters. Lyric has tried jumping on this bandwagon with podcasts, which I'm sure are lovely but I haven't even downloaded.

I'll review the actual production tomorrow. But this project is worth a post of its own.


avstark said...

I am the friend that posed the "colossally dumb question."

Heidi said...

Sorry about that. But please notice that I INITIALLY thought it was dumb, and then realized my error.