First things first. I made a promise to fellow opera enthusiast Jeannette Winner that before I reviewed last Saturday's opera specifically, I would discuss how wonderful the experience of seeing opera broadcasts live from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City is, with the hopes of attracting more local music lovers to the events.
I've gone to about 20 broadcasts of operas at local movie theaters over the last couple of years and I am absolutely in love with the experience.
From the beginning of the broadcast, when the cameras scan the theater (sometimes hilariously catching opera lovers up-close and unprepared as they chat and get settled in), through the unscripted, behind-the-scenes interviews with the out-of-breath singers during the intermissions, and, of course, to the dramatic conclusions of the world-class productions, I love all of it.
The Metropolitan Opera’s new production of Verdi’s “Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball)” was broadcast live at the Digiplex Cinema Center, 300 W. Fourth St., and The Great Escape Theater, 965 Lycoming Mall Circle, Muncy, last Saturday.
The "Live from the Met" events let music lovers experience the operas almost as if they were movies, allowing them to see each expression on the faces of the singers (I swear I saw a blood vessel burst in Johan Botha's eye during the performance of "Otello"!) and to feel like they're onstage with them - things that people who are actually at the Met can't even experience. The programs also are elevating the level of culture across the globe by providing people with top-of-the-line opera productions that they otherwise might not have access to.
I'm not saying that you won't be bored, especially if you don't normally experience opera. But I'm asking you to risk being bored to expand your palette and open yourself up to a whole new world of brilliant art. Once you get used to the aesthetic, I promise that there are great rewards for your attention.
The next opera is Verdi's "Aida," which will be presented at 12:55 p.m. Saturday at the Digiplex Cinema Center, 300 W. Fourth St., and The Great Escape Theater, 965 Lycoming Mall Circle, Muncy.
'Un Ballo in Maschera'
The Met's new production of Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera (A Masked Ball)" began with a bang and one of the most lively opera scenes I've seen. It features a booming chorus, dazzling choreography, a mysterious, somewhat androgynous character with wings (performed by the refreshingly playful Kathleen Kim) and galloping songs that amounted to one fun and effective presentation.
Granted, the 20th century atmosphere of this 19th century opera is a little confusing, but once you get used to the '30s gangster attire and the stark, modern, surrealist sets, you're in for a forceful trip and ready to be hypnotized by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe as the satanic fortune teller, baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Renato, the king's right-hand man who is betrayed by his leader, versatile tenor Marcelo Alvarez as the lustful king, and soprano Sondra Radvanovsky, as Amelia, the woman torn between her two lovers.
The production's fantastic conclusion fulfills the promise of its beginning and its name, with a gothic masquerade ball that features a king hidden in a crowd, skull masks abound and an eventual murder.
"Un Ballo" apparently received boos during it's opening night at the Met - maybe due to its musical-like choreography? - but as David Patrick Stearns said for his review on WQXR-FM New York's website, the jeers weren't deserved. This was certainly one of the best times I've had at a "Live from the Met" broadcast and I can't wait to see "Aida" Saturday.