Yesterday, April 30th, enjoying the briefest of breaks from our son, John Adams, who is visiting with his lovably zany grandparents in PA, my wife and I went to the opera. Specifically, Nancy and I went to the high definition live performance broadcast of the New York Metropolitan Opera’s production of Richard Strauss’s one-act opera Elektra. For the better part of two hours (this was a comparably short offering with no intermission) we were swept up in the grandeur and glamour of the NYC opera scene from the comfort of our local Regal Cinema. Introduced by soprano Renée Fleming and prefaced by a short interview with Elektra herself – soprano Nina Stemme – by General Manager Peter Gelb, this performance was the last one in their 10th Anniversary season; that is to say, for ten years the Met has been piping live performances into movie theatres around the world to critical acclaim and financial success. Nancy and I have been fortunate enough to have been partaking in the experience for the last nine years.
MetOpera Live in HD made its debut broadcast on Dec. 30, 2006,with celebrated Broadway director Julie Taymor’s production of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Season 1 consisted of six operas, none of which Nancy or I saw. By season 2, the Met had expanded its offerings by two, making that eight separate broadcasts, and we, in a fit of what must have been newfound glee, took in three operas – Macbeth, Manon Lescaut, and Peter Grimes – back to back in the spring of 2008. While we have never rivaled that consecutive track record since then, our selective opera going has been consistent and mostly memorable.
Over the last nine years we have been fortunate to take in Anna Netrebko in Lucia di Lammermoor, the late director Anthony Minghella’s visually stunning Madama Butterfly, the newly imagined entire Ring Cycle of Wagner, Puccini’s Turandot, Verdi’s Aida and Rigoletto, and many more.
Opera is not for everyone and not all operas are for everybody. But since the beginning each broadcast has included the opera itself, interviews with cast and/or artistic staff, intermission backstage camera work where one gets to watch the mind-boggling scenery shifting between acts as orchestrated by the army of Met stage hands, previews of other operas, and of course the creature comforts of popcorn, soda, and not having to go to NYC or pay in-person prices. This last outing cost us $27/ticket plus popcorn and soda, but the experience of seeing these professionals at the top of their game is worth far more than that.
As I said, opera might not be for everyone, but the Met and Peter Gelb have been trying to bring it to a whole new generation of enthusiasts for a decade now and their results have been impressive to say the least. The new season for 2016-2017 has been recently announced. Here’s the link to check it out, see clips of past performances, and plan your opera going year:
Here’s hoping we see you in the aisle seat next season.
P.S. What did I think of Elektra? Honestly, not my favorite opera. But Stemme’s performance was thrilling, electric, emotionally exhausting. There’s always something worth your time.