Live at the Met

Went with Mom to see Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra.  On some Saturday afternoons, NPR does a simulcast of an opera at the Met with an HD presentation in selected movie theatres.  It has some distinct advantages over being at the Metropolitan: you get close-ups of the faces and costumes and sets, and you get subtitles.  During the intermissions (there were 3, each 15 minutes long), you are treated to brief interviews with cast members, camera tours of the opera house with all its glorious architecture, and watching the scene changes backstage.

That’s the trade-off.  You can fully appreciate how massive an undertaking it is, watching 150 set crew changing out 50-foot-tall pieces of scenery (for Act II they had a villa with a balcony and stairs, for goodness’ sake) on motorized platforms that fit together tight as the pyramids.  However, that crushes suspension of disbelief.  It began with seeing the orchestra, and the conductor’s entrance and first beats.  But then the camera focused on the curtain, which opened to reveal the set and characters, and they began singing.  I had more belief in the story than I do at most movies–until the first intermission.

This was actually the first time I’ve watched an opera all the way through.  Placido Domingo was going outside his comfort zone to sing the baritone lead, a lifelong dream, and he did fine.  In fact, I didn’t dislike any of the singers even though the vocal style is not to my liking; in context, it worked for me.  I’ll say this for the opera itself: the plot was good and surprised me more in avoiding cliches than in anything it did; and the music was pleasant all the way through but left me with no memorable melodies.

I want to go see a live opera production, and such things are available in Atlanta; but this is a good experience and a heck of a lot cheaper (plus one of the theatres happens to be just a few miles from home).

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