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January 2013
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Andrew Patner on Arts and Culture

Critic's Choice: The Met’s Robots

Sure, The Metropolitan Opera’s HD broadcasts bring the pure experience of the opera to theaters across the globe–but do they also take it away from those at the opera house?  Andrew explores.

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  • Marina Kuznetsova

    Yea, we reluctantly started attending Metropolitan HD broadcasts last year and became addicted. Adding 10-12 operas a season to our Chicago yearly experience is a great opportunity! Chatting with friends all over the world discussing recent performance – priceless!
    Today’s Palumbo masterful choruses made me feel happy for him, though I am still somewhat bitter about his departure from Lyric, which led to significant slide of quality.
    I am very glad that you went today, especially to the same theater – I we are waiting to hear or read your comments and comparison with the live performances at the Met!

  • Merri B

    Interesting issue. My reaction is that they are doing things the way the broadcasts are done is because they don’t have enough money to do it a different way … in other words, that it costs too much money to do a broadcast “dress rehearsal” as a standalone dress rehearsal. I don’t know how you solve that issue in the short term. My assumption is that in the long term, they hope that the Met broadcasts will be successful enough that they will be more self supporting. When we are told at the Lyric that it costs $1 million more than ticket prices to raise the curtain on a production, this seems like an issue that is at the heart of any financial shortcuts they may be taking.

    I also would have been interested in hearing the difference between what you would see and hear in a regular performance versus the broadcast dress rehearsal versus the actual taping of the HD broadcast. I wonder if the excitement of the cast in doing the broadcast actually enhances their performances. Cast excitement is a huge benefit to the audience’s enjoyment of the opera. But we can’t know from this limited bit of information, since you reported on only the dress rehearsal.

    The point about the staging says to me that set designers and stage directors need to be more creative in creating an environment that’s compatible with both the live stage and the broadcast. If Met ticket holders vote with their feet and their money by, for example, boycotting the “dress rehearsal” performance, they will start to find a way to do this. It needs to be in their interest to make this better before they’ll take the time to think this through properly and come up with better solutions.

    But bottom line, I think opera’s future is in doing broadcasts like this. The audience they can capture by doing the broadcasts is huge, and includes people that have no access at all to any live opera. The technical details in converting from stage only to stage plus broadcast should not deter us from encouraging the Met, and later on, less well known opera companies, from investigating this new source of audience and support.

    About my opera attendance: I am a Lyric subscriber, and regardless of Met broadcasts or not, I will continue to attend the Lyric. I also attend Met broadcasts, especially for lesser known operas that I may never see at the Lyric. I have several friends who also attend both. The Met broadcasts give me a broader range of opera experiences that I appreciate getting. For example, Les Troyens with its requirement for huge forces is unlikely to be staged at the Lyric. So seeing the Met broadcast was a treat for me. (I’m a Berlioz fan.)

  • michael mccaslin

    Responding to article on “Live in HD from The Met”
    I attend 3 or 4 performances a season and enjoy the experience for several reasons:

    restrooms are on the same floor (maybe even next door) as screening room
    enjoy lunch in my seat (everybody does it)I think the Seniors in the vans, have lunch packed at the retirement center

    no season subscription required…pick and choose what I want to see and, the price is right…$20 a show vs [email protected] for my seat at Lyric.

    I’ve never been to The Met, and probably never will, so “Live” does not keep me from going to the opera. But, anxious to keep such programming alive, I make an extra $$ donation! So there!! AND, I get to see some things I might never see here, but Lyric is just as good, if not better (orchestra, chorus, etc) in many ways.

    It only takes five minutes to walk to the movie venue.

    OK….let’s here some more from you

  • Andrew, would assume that the Met would do the least invasive way to broadcast. Have been going to the HD performances for several years. Can’t duplicate going to Lyric, but still a thrilling, expanding experience of opera viewing. At Les Troyens yesterday, (thrilling) but about 15 minutes into act 3, the HD signal was lost. Sad not to see the complete opera and finale.

    Hope you’re have the good fortunate to be following the CSO on their upcoming Hong Kong, etc. trip. A profound experience for all.

  • Gasper Sciacca

    I’ve attended one Met HD Performance–Gotterdammerung, and it was disappointing. The quality I experienced was probably not up the quality presentations in large city theaters as my theater was a rather run-of-mill venue. The picture had less resolution than my HDTV and far less brightness. The sound was pathetic with bass loudspeakers rattling in their enclosures. The auditorium ventilating system was too loud and worst of all, the equipment cycled on and off making the noise even more conspicuous. Finally, since childhood, we have all been accustomed to the smell of popcorn in a movie theater–it has become part of the experience. However, with opera, the smell became most annoying.

    As far as the performance was concerned, the singing was marvelous. But, I can’t say much about the Met’s stage slats set. While interesting at first, they quickly became a bore.

  • Maria Moore

    I have been a subscriber to the Lyric Opera since I moved to Chicago and I have been reluctant to attend the theater performances since I enjoy very much the live performances, the orchestra and the entire ambiance, however, I would like to add more exposure at a more affordable price. I would expect to see close ups that are not possible from the distance at the live performance.
    Looking forward to hearing your comments and comparisons on this topic,

  • Elaine Murray

    So glad I turned on WFMT this morning so I can respond to Andy Patner’s request for comments about the Met HD broadcasts. I have been going to NYC yearly to enjoy the Met. Since 2007 I have been able to resee these operas in the closeup HD’s. While HD’s will never replace the pure wonder of being in an opera house and hearing the beauty of live music, the HD broadcasts have treated me to the details of the sets, the acting talents of the performers, and the experience of repeating performances that I have so enjoyed. To be able to closeup enjoy the humour of Le Comte Ory or seeing beautiful Anna Netrebko do her somersault in Don Pasquale or Donald Palumbo conduct the chorus offstage of this production is an added treat. I have introduced many friends to the HD productions and a new world has opened up for them. Two of these friends have now bought a 4-series subscription to the Lyric so they can attend with me. So being able to do the Met HD’s and also Opera in Cinema in opera houses around the world that I will never physically be in has definitely brought added pleasure and joy to my life.

  • Hello Mr Patner — I have already replied to your renpat address, but enjoyed seeing these other comments as well – but am now really looking forward to your further thoughts on the subject.