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A major new local arts series begins here this fall.
by Mort Levine

A sizable number of music lovers who have experienced the High Definition full screen versions of operas brought to the comfort of a nearby local movie house are convinced it’s even better than witnessing the performance “live”. While the jury may still be out on that question, there is little doubt that the success of the concept is shaking up the traditional opera world.

Beginning September 22, Monday afternoon at 3:30 p.m., there will be 11 transmissions of exactly what the audience back in New York’s elegant Metropolitan Opera House is seeing from about the 10th row center on the orchestra level. Those seats will cost you about $250 a piece if you can get them. But at the exact same time, you can be seated at San Jose’s Santana Row movie house for under 10 per cent of the Met’s price.

The line up of operas on offer range from 18th and 19th century masterpieces by Gluck and Rossini to the 21st century creation by Bay Area composer John Adams of Dr. Atomic. This latter is in a new production which will be closely compared with the premiere which took place in San Francisco Opera two years back.

Except for the opener of the series, the remaining productions are mostly on Saturday mornings here at 10 a.m. because the New York matinees usually begin at 1 p.m. Eastern time. Exceptions are Thais at 9 a.m. and La Cenerentola which starts a 9:30 a.m..

Opening the series is a tour de force gala for the Met’s primadonna Renée Fleming. She will sing the soprano lead in a fully staged act from each of three opera show pieces: La Traviata (Act II), Manon by Massenet (Act III) and Richard Strauss’ Capriccio (Final Scene). This event opens the season for Metropolitan Opera goers so it is likely to resemble the fashion conscious academy award shows except for what goes on the stage.

The series of 11 operas may also be repeated on the Sunday following if ticket sales warrant. That was the case in at least four of the eight shows given this past year. The tickets can be obtained at the Santana Row box office, but advance purchase might be advisable. The number of theaters which will be showing this series has been growing. There were about 600 worldwide last season. There are theaters in Redwood City and in the East Bay as well, and perhaps one day a Milpitas movie house will join in these offerings.

There is, by the way, a distinct comfort advantage in viewing opera this way. The seats are much more comfortable and roomier than in virtually all opera houses, and you have your drink cup holders, and you can munch your popcorn, and you have broad arm rests. Also, new movie theaters have far better sight lines compared to opera houses.

For music lovers who like to schedule their arts intake way ahead, the dates and names of the upcoming HD simulcast Met operas are listed below:

  • Monday, Sept. 22, 3:30 p.m. season opening gala.
  • Saturday, October 11, 10 a.m. Salome by Richard Strauss.
  • Saturday, November 8, 10 a.m. Doctor Atomic by Adams.
  • Saturday, November 22, 10 a.m., Le Damnation de Faust by Berlioz.
  • Saturday, December 20, 9 a.m. Thais by Massenet.
  • Saturday, January 10, 2009, 10 a.m. La Rondine by Puccini.
  • Saturday, January 24, 2009, 10 a.m. Orfeo ed Euridice by Gluck.
  • Saturday, February 7, 2009, 10 a.m. Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti.
  • Saturday, March 7, 2009, 10 a.m. Madama Butterfly by Puccini.
  • Saturday, March 21, 2009, 10 a.m. La Sonnambula by Bellini.
  • Saturday, May 9, 2009, 9:30 a.m. La Cenerentola by Rossini.

To find a complete listing of Theaters showing the Met HD broadcasts, with dates and times, please see Fanthom Events.

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Banner photos by Bob Shomler
©San José Opera Guild   2008