Walter Mencken 1 p.m., May 1
The Met’s Live in HD Scales San Diego Movie Screens
Superstar soprano Anna Netrebko in Manon.
These days, going to the opera is as easy as going to the movies.
Give credit to New York’s Metropolitan Opera, the country’s largest and most prestigious opera company, for bringing works by major composers to the big screen.
I know about that. I’m one of the millions of ticket-buyers. And there are plenty of enticements in the sixth season of The Met: Live in HD. It includes new productions of Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Gounod’s Faust as well as Donizetti’s Anna Bolena and Massenet’s Manon (both starring big-deal Russian diva Anna Netrebko). A total of 11 live transmissions (plus encore presentations) are slated between October and May in San Diego and other cities around the globe.
On the list of participating local theaters are AMC Mission Valley 20, AMC La Jolla Village 12, Edwards Mira Mesa Stadium 18, and downtown San Diego’s UA Horton Plaza 14 as well as the Regal Oceanside 16, Edwards San Marcos Stadium 18 and AMC Otay Ranch 12. Though ticket prices can vary from location to location, the typical cost is around $24 for general admission, $22 for seniors, and $18 for children. The live transmissions are on Saturday mornings and the pre-recorded encores are held on Wednesday nights.
Tenor Richard Croft portrays Mahatma Gandhi in Satyagraha.
If you’ve never been to the Met, or are longing to return, here’s your chance. While nothing rivals the experience of hearing stellar singers in an outstanding opera house, Live in HD has its advantages. Because there’s no pressure to dress up, you can leave your tux and tiara at home. And if you like the idea of scarfing a hot dog during La Traviata or chomping popcorn in time to Götterdämmerung, go ahead.
By presenting productions in movie theaters, the Met isn’t dumbing down. It’s reaching out and expanding the audience for what is too often perceived as a snooty and elitist form of entertainment.
To Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, such efforts are crucial.
“As far as I’m concerned, it’s a matter of survival of an art form,” Gelb told me a few years ago. “Musical excellence is not enough to keep opera alive.”
The Met’s high-def movie theater series is boosting a venerable -- and vulnerable -- art form. Consider the stats. Roughly 7 million tickets have been sold since the innovative series began in 2006 and the upcoming lineup is slated for approximately 1,500 theaters in 46 countries.
Not everything is going as planned, however. Conductor James Levine, the Met’s ailing music director, cancelled his fall appearances at the company due to back problems and will be replaced in most performances by principal conductor Fabio Luisi. Not having Levine is a tough blow. At his best, he was extraordinary, as when he conducted the Met Orchestra’s sold-out San Diego debut in 1998.
Still, the upcoming series has much in its favor. I’m especially looking forward to “Faust” (December 10), the pact-with-the-devil romantic thriller. The staging is by Des McAnuff, the La Jolla Playhouse’s Tony-winning director emeritus who guided the hit revival of Jesus Christ Superstar that’s opening at the Playhouse in November.
Opera fans may recall that four years ago, McAnuff directed San Diego Opera’s stunningly imaginative production of Berg’s daring Wozzeck. So count on him to freshen up Faust for stage and screen.
Check out the 2011-’12 Live in HD lineup. For tickets and more information, click here.
9:55 a.m. (Pacific Time) Oct. 15: Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. Encore presentation at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 2.
9:55 a.m. Oct. 29: Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Encore: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 16.
9 a.m. Nov. 5: Wagner’s Siegfried. Encore to be announced.
9:55 a.m. Nov. 19: Glass’ Satyagraha. Encore: 6:30 p.m. Dec. 7.
9:30 a.m. Dec. 3: Handel’s Rodelinda. 6:30 p.m. Jan. 4, 2012.
9:55 a.m. Dec. 10: Gounod’s Faust. Encore: 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11.
9:55 a.m. Jan. 21: The Enchanted Island. Encore: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 8.
9 a.m. Feb. 11: Wagner’s Götterdämmerung. Encore to be announced.
9:55 a.m. Feb. 25: Verdi’s Ernani. Encore: 6:30 p.m. March 14.
9 a.m. April 7: Massenet’s Manon. Encore: 6:30 p.m. April 25.
9:55 a.m. April 14: Verdi’s La Traviata. Encore: 6:30 p.m. May 2.