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Superstar soprano Anna Netrebko in Manon.

These days, going to the opera is as easy as going to the movies.

How come?

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.

  • Big Screen alerts


blueprl Sept. 27, 2011 @ 5:13 p.m.

This article has whet my appetite for opera, a far better choice than some of the goodies in my refrigerator. Knowing the right people, I have been able to occupy marvelous opera house seats, which enhanced my appreciation of the productions tremendously. Since the Met is now making live transmissions of operas available, we suddenly have something comparable -- and the best of both worlds. Let me count the ways: good seating with wonderful sight lines; expressions, settings, and costume detail visible; excellent acoustics; subtitles clear; reasonable prices as compared to exorbitant; available at local theaters; illuminating interviews included; and the pleasure of contributing to the support of a “venerable -- and vulnerable -- art form.” Also, according to Valerie Scher’s article, we won't be alone: “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.” And, finally, to top it all off -- like whipped cream -- we can wear jeans -- while losing weight in the meantime.


Scott Marks Sept. 27, 2011 @ 7:18 p.m.



Valerie Scher Sept. 27, 2011 @ 6:20 p.m.

Opera-going as a means of weight reduction? Why not? It could work, as long as we resist buying high-calorie treats at movie theaters during the Met's productions. Someone could even write a self-help book with a title like "The High C Diet: An Opera-Lover's Guide to Weight Loss."


Valerie Scher Sept. 27, 2011 @ 8:09 p.m.

Hey Scott. Looks like it's time to expand your operatic horizons. What shall it be? Verdi's "La Traviata," perhaps? Or maybe Wagner's "Siegfried"? See you at the opera!


Scott Marks Sept. 27, 2011 @ 9:47 p.m.

After exposing you to the Jerry Colonna songbook, it's the least I can do. Which one has "Take Me Out to the Ballgame?"


Valerie Scher Sept. 28, 2011 @ 4:32 p.m.

 Scott, I think you and I should do an opera duet. No, not singing. Online, as a blog post for The Big Screen.
 You've never been to an opera and I'm a veteran opera-goer. So how about we go to a Met production together in 2012 and write something about it?
 We'll figure out a format. Could be fun. 
 You game?

Scott Marks Sept. 28, 2011 @ 5:10 p.m.

I saw "Tommy" three times when it opened. Does that count?

Excuse me, Mademoiselle Opera-Goer, but shouldn't we actually go to the opera instead of a reasonable cinematic facsimile thereof? The situation reversed, do you think I'd choose my living room and a DVD copy of "How to Commit Marriage" for the setting of your maiden movie voyage? Of course not! I'd call my friends at Columbia Pictures, ask that they strike a new print, and arrange for a screening in the big Gaslamp!

If I watch an opera projected on a movie screen, I'll be paying more attention to film presentation than theatrical staging. (It's one of my habits.) I'll gladly see one of these canned operas with you, and I look forward to your upcoming review of "Faust." But if I'm going to see an opera, I want to see an opera. It's not official until I'm parked snugly in a seat at Copley Symphony Hall.


Valerie Scher Sept. 28, 2011 @ 6:49 p.m.

Just so you know, Scott, San Diego Opera performances are held at the Civic Theatre, not Copley Symphony Hall. That's why we had better go to one of the Met's live transmissions in a movie theater. Because it's at a movie theater, I'm sure you'll know how to get there!


Scott Marks Sept. 29, 2011 @ 12:50 p.m.

Wait. You mean there's a cultural venue in town that doesn't bear Mr. Copley's name?

First Burl, then "The" Telethon, and next dear Dolores. I can barely get out of bed in the morning. Is it any wonder my sense of direction has been violated?


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