HD: An Opera in Three Acts
Not too long ago, the only way to experience opera, if there was even an opera company in your area, was to pay up to hundreds of dollars to sit in a lousy seat next to a guy with a persistent cold trying to open the world's largest cough drop. Then came the world of simulcast performances. Feeds from the Met, La Scala and other major opera houses were transmitted to TV stations across the country. What's the next act?
Now, you can run down to your local cineplex and see live transmissions from the Met, in HD, on the big screen. Talk about stunning. Multiple cameras give you the front row view that you could only dream about affording. Typical cost of a ticket is about $22. In HD, I bet you can see every frame of glass in the Chagalls in the lobby.
What's interesting is the effect these broadcasts are having on the opera-going public. According to the Met, they've noticed no decrease in their sales. In other words, folks are still coming out to the opera even with other options available. However, the number of fans attending the broadcasts is far higher. So, these feeds are increasing the opera's exposure. What's more, local opera companies are noticing increased numbers too as more people are exposed to good quality performances.
The Met has been airing archived and live performances 24/7 on Sirius Satellite Radio and on the Internet as well, but without images. And, listening through your computer just doesn't compare to a theatrical presentation.
The 2008 series featured eight performances. It must have been successful, because the plan is to expand to eleven performances, all in HD, in 2009. Let's hope the fat lady doesn't sing anytime soon. Not all of us can afford to fly to the Met, and season tickets, and airline tickets, to La Scala are a bit pricey right now. High-definition opera broadcast - to homes or theaters is a trend that can only get better. -Leslie Shapiro
Met photo by Paul Masck