Well, I've always wanted to see an opening night performance at La Scala, and now it seems my wish has been granted. Glamorous opening night of a new season at the world-renowned opera house in Milan? Check. A great work by a brilliant composer? Check. Amazing voices? Check. Ground-breaking artistic design by one of Europe's most innovative designers? An up-close view of all the action? Check and check. Oh, thank you monkey's paw! Thank you!
Did I mention I'll be watching this opening night at a cineplex in Snellville, Georgia on a Tuesday morning? (Noooooooo!! Damn you, monkey's paw!! Damn you and your irony... to Hellllll!!)
Such is the weird world of contrasts created by the recent trend in live broadcasts of opera, theater and ballet from the world's greatest venues to a cineplex (sort of) near you. It all started with the Metropolitan Opera's Live in HD series, which broadcasts Saturday afternoon matinees from the Met to theaters around the world. It's just a few years old, but the program has succeeded far beyond anyone's plans. Shows frequently sell out, popular productions like Carmen and Turandot often have to go on multiple screens, and every year more cineplexes across the nation and theaters around the world are added to keep pace with demand. Other arts organizations are now clamoring to get on board. Some ideas are terrific (live operas from La Scala, ballet from the Bolshoi, plays from Britain's National Theater and from Shakespeare's Globe); others seem less enticing (I won't be lining up to watch the live in HD versions of Prairie Home Companion or the LA Philharmonic. Um, bassoon players should be heard, not seen. And Garrison Keillor shouldn't even be heard.).
And although I joke about Snellville, the real truth of the matter is: if it weren't for broadcasts like these, broke-ass bitches like me would never get to see them. And that is really something if you think about it. (To give you some idea: nosebleed level seats with limited visibility for La Scala's famous, classic, glamorous Sant'Ambrogio opening night cost about $150 a pop. If you want to sit up close or near where Ms. Sophia Loren sits, you'll be paying about $3000 a seat). The whole concept of the broadcasts is pretty amazing and ground-breaking—no trace of monkey's paw irony in sight, honestly—and their huge success has been really gratifying and exciting. They're not just here to stay: they're growing.
Some of the new broadcasts are having to take sneaky routes into major markets, which explains the off-beat locations for our La Scala broadcasts. (Live is live btw, so while they'll be gathering for cava and canapés at La Scala on Tuesday evening in Lombardia: we'll be finishing our Tuesday morning Krispy Kremes and coffee in Conyers and Canton). The Met has some sort of deal with the theaters that broadcast their series that makes it difficult for other companies to broadcast similar shows outside of the official Live in HD umbrella in the same places. (They're sneaky, that Met). The National Theater's broadcasts have only shown in Georgia at the one-off, independent Douglas Theater in Macon. Emerging Pictures, the company which is broadcasting this Tuesday's Walküre, but also does the Paris Opera Ballet, Bolshoi, Shakespeare's Globe and many others, is slowly sneaking towards the Atlanta market via Carmike cinemas in Canton, Snellville, Newnan and Conyers.
The production of Wagner's Die Walküre from La Scala looks like a stunner, by the way. I thought the Met's recent Cirque-style production of Wagner's Das Rheingold was something of a dud—salvaged mostly by Eric Owens as Alberich and James Levine's conducting—and my affection for the production has decidedly not grown in hindsight: I think other critics and audience members felt similarly. It's actually a great time for La Scala to take on an innovative production of the second installment in the Ring before the Met takes a stab at it in 2011. (The Met is sneaky, but apparently La Scala can play a mean game of three-dimensional chess, too). Renowned artist Guy Cassiers takes on and deconstructs classics with his innovative designs and video projections . He sounds fascinating, one critic was saying his work is all about rifts in contemporary culture, which sounds like a perfect and thought-provoking match for Wagner. I wish I could tell you more about him. If his entire career had been broadcast, I'd be able to. That day will soon be here imho.
In the meantime, see you at the Carmike Snellville. And pass the Krispy Kremes.
La Scala's opening night production of Wagner's Die Walküre will be broadcast on Tuesday, December 7, at 11 am to the Carmike cinemas in Snellville, Canton, Conyers and Newnan.
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You care Eric.
You care and it sets my heart aflutter.
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