Seeing opera in a movie theater instead of a concert hall is like watching football on TV rather than in a stadium: you gain some and lose some. The cameras allow us to see sights, like a coloratura's facial gymnastics as she navigates the intricate passages of her aria, that we'd probably never see even from front-row seats at the Met. But, as with sports broadcasts, I find the commentators intrude into the game/opera. I don't really want to hear even a super diva--previous commentators have included Deborah Voigt and Rene Fleming--interviewing a tenor off stage seconds after he's witnessed his lover's death on stage. (Though it was hilarious hearing prima donna Anna Netrebko's response when asked what's her favorite thing about her role in Les Contes d'Hoffman: "It's short.")
The Met's 2011-2012 eleven-event broadcast season began in October and will conclude this month with Massenet's Manon on April 7 and Verdi's La Traviata on April 14. Both plots revolve around strong, complicated, and ultimately tragic heroines and the men who fall for them despite their own fathers' objections. Both are wonderful vehicles for superb sopranos and will be portrayed here by, respectively, Netrebko and Natalie Dessay, two of the finest divas of our time.
[Originally published in April, 2012.]